RF: So the breast cancer was some kind of physical manifestation of sin within her body?
Interviewee: Yeah –
RF: How did that – did you believe that?
Interviewee: Umm I started to sort of think well maybe yeah there’s something wrong, we’ve done something wrong in the eyes of God. And I heard some women talking about my mum at Church and they kind of said derogatory sort of things and umm yeah I started to kind of believe it, I guess, in some ways.
RF: Did she survive it?
Interviewee: Yeah she did survive it yeah. She survived it twice, so umm that was, pretty amazing. I think that was her sort of – beginning of her journey out of the church really because she didn’t get any of the support that she thought she would from that community and it was kind of like they, they, not turned on her but they just had a weird idea about cancer back then as well and I think there was just a lot of fear and they were really kind of scared like you could catch it or something. I don’t know, but I remember her coming home from hospital and nobody visited, and like for weeks I was there you know, as a 10 year old kind of doing all the washing and all the cleaning and cooking and everything and, and nobody came near and that was a real kind of eye-opener for my mum I think.
RF: Did you start rebelling?
Interviewee: I left sch – school when I was 14 and I worked full-time on the, in the market gardens. I guess my rebellion, like I decided in that year that I wanted to go to school and to continue my schooling later on at some stage and I remember my mum and my uncle sort of trying to talk me out of that. Cause there’s no point you know, university was seen as this kind of Satanic sort of [laughs] institution that was full of you know, bad ideas [chuckles] and I guess like my pull was to sort of go and you know get an education and umm and I didn’t want to be working on a farm for the rest of my life. I didn’t want to get married and have kids at that stage. I didn’t want any of that.
RF: So how did you get out?
Interviewee: I remember one night I ran away, and this was kind of the beginning of my mum really saying she needs to kind of go to school or something outside of the community and so umm we had like a, someone’s car on the property, a spare car and I took that car and I drove to Perth and my mum followed me I remember and she ran out of petrol half-way [laughs].
RF: She was stranded?
Interviewee: She was stranded in the middle of no-where and then I went to Perth and I slept in the car and then you know my mum was really worried and called the police and everything. And anyway sheepishly you know came back and then they sort of prayed over me and umm –
RF: Made you feel bad.
Interviewee: Made me feel bad and asked me to sort of I guess repent and not umm have these you know ideas that I wanted to go and get an education [laughs] which was seen as just this terrible bad thing. And then, so that was sort of the beginning and then umm I ended up, I moved to ahh Grandma’s and then I, I so I did sort of like a year 10 bridging course and then I did year 11 and 12 and then you know later on I, I, I went to university and –
RF: So getting out of that community and going to Perth and going to Uni I suppose was like stepping off the edge of the known world in some ways for you?
Interviewee: Ohh I it was and I kind of –
RF: Columbus going to the Americas or something you know –
Interviewee: Yeah, I didn’t know how things worked. Like I didn’t know how to enrol in university [laughs] even basic stuff like that. I didn’t, I didn’t know what to sort of say or how, how to be umm and I didn’t want to tell anyone that I’d come from this community because I was just it was I was so ashamed and I thought, people are going to think you’re an idiot.
RF: Now that you’ve made that leap into university did you sort of plunge headlong into the world of sin, of you know sex, drugs, boyfriends, rock’n’roll?
Interviewee: Ohh I was dying to you know. I was looking for any opportunity, like I’d never been around people that smoked or drank and I was really annoyed about it and it all looked so exciting to me and, and that’s when my grandfather passed away and left me some money and umm then I went to New York.
RF: From a little religious community to Perth, then you get some money and then you go to New York. Wow. That must’ve seemed very, very strange for you stepping off the plane in, in uhh in New York and going into Manhattan. What kind of work did you find while you were in New York?
Interviewee: I, you know, I realised my money was gonna umm run out pretty quick and I didn’t have a green card and I, I met this, I had a new Israeli backpacker friend and we were reading the paper one day and he goes ‘If I was a tall blonde girl, this is what I’d do’ and he pointed to this ad and it said Dominatrix, role playing and sexual fantasies, no sex required. And I though oh, that’s interesting yeah, yeah.
RF: Did you know what a dominatrix was?
Interviewee: I said what does a dominatrix do? That was my next question. I went to the you know, I got an interview with this woman and I went and met her. She was down like in the Fisherman’s Wharf and the dungeon was actually upstairs in this two bedroom apartment [laughing]
RF: Upstairs dungeon.
Interviewee: Yeah [laughing] an upstairs dungeon. So this woman, she was this morbidly obese lady. Never left the apartment. Basically from 11 – 5 we waited for clients in her bedroom, sitting on her bed while she watched daytime television ahh and ordered food n stuff in. And the other room, the front room was the –
RF: The dungeon itself was it –
Interviewee: Dungeon yeah.
RF: What was in the dungeon?
Interviewee: There was like some boards where you tied, what you tied people up to. And there was all kinds of implements and like this is what was hard for me, cause I was always using the wrong implement or something. I never knew what implement I [laughing] should be using. Somehow I’d get it wrong and –
RF: And what did you have to wear? Did you have to wear that classic dominatrix outfit?
Interviewee: Yeah. She had this amazing wardrobe actually that umm filled up half her room and so we would like spend a lot of the time we were waiting for clients like dressing up in these outfits. And there was uniforms and –
RF: What kind of men would come to be given a hard time by you? [laughing]
Interviewee: Yeah well it was near Wall Street so a lot of them were from the Wall Street district, finance. Really kind of looks like you know normal finance guys and then they’d want to be, you know, put in a nappy and pretended they were a baby or something like it [laughing].
RF: That really does happen does it? That’s not just some kind of movie cliché?
Interviewee: No, no that’s the thing. It, it really does happen and it was kind of good for me because I lacked a lot of confidence and I had no knowledge especially sexual knowledge and stuff and so and also cause I was so ashamed of my weird upbringing seeing these guys that wanted to sort of re-enact [RF laughing in background] some bizarre thing that happened in their childhood, or lick the sole of your foot or something was like, I’m not that weird after all.
RF: After all. Did, did, were you always successful in restraining laughter? I mean because I would’ve thought there would be moments there where you just had to explode with laughter.
Interviewee: Yeah well you know, I wasn’t a very good dominatrix, I have to say it. It was all a bit beyond me [RF laughing in background] it was like the bumbling dominatrix umm and I remember like we used to have sort of regular clients and there was this one guy that was sort of like a Tony Soprano type of guy from New Jersey and he would come in and every time he’d come in he had this one scenario he wanted to re-enact and it was like a shooting scenario. So you’d be hopping into your car and he’d come with a gun and he was gonna shoot you and you’d have to be scared and go ‘No don’t shoot me’ [laughing] and then he’d shoot you and you’d have to die in this certain way and he would just get so annoyed when you wouldn’t die right. He’d go ‘Haven’t you seen anyone get shot?’ Oh and it was with a machine gun which was even extra hard to die cause you have to do that whole shaking thing [RF laughing] and I’d go ‘No I haven’t seen anyone get shot with a machine gun’ and he’d go ‘Don’t you watch television?’ and I was like well it’s a long story [both laughing] and he, he’d just get so annoyed and then so he’d re-enact it.
RF: So, so with all this madness going on, you said when you saw the job ad it said you know dominatrix no sex required but was that the truth of it? Were you required to have sex with these men?
Interviewee: No. There was no sex and, and then the head Dom, [name] her name was and she was really adamant. And you know sometimes you were like the guardian of a lot of secrets I guess. And you know some of the stories you’d hear, I mean everything would be laid out on the table and guys would talk about their families and their wives and their kids and sometimes a lot of the sessions would be you know, talking and them trying to figure out why they wanted to do these things and cause they were wondering themselves you know and –
RF: What do you think it says about people that, that and these are often men who are coming to you who, who are high-powered, high income Wall Street types why it is that sometimes such people need to feel helpless or need to be chastised?
Interviewee: Yeah well that was what I sort of had trouble understanding cause I thought, I would look at them and I’d think wow you’ve got so much power you know, you’re so and there they were wanting to be powerless. I mean what does that say? I guess that it’s a lot of pressure having power and –
RF: They were like acting out a role in their powerful jobs.
RF: and this, this allowed them to just to put the mask of that down for a while.
Interviewee: Yeah, I think so, yeah.
RF: Did you have a boyfriend at the time all this mayhem was going on?
Interviewee: I did yeah umm –
RF: Did he know, did he know what you were doing?
Interviewee: No he didn’t. He was a nice Jewish boy and–
RF: Did he find out what you were doing?
Interviewee: He did umm and you know by that stage we’d sort of fallen in love and all of that and he umm I didn’t tell him because I kind of thought, it was one of those jobs that I thought oh I won’t be doing this very long and oh it’s really kind of, and part of me couldn’t believe I was actually doing it. I had trouble telling him obviously cause I didn’t tell him and, and also he sort of put me on a little bit of a pedestal I think. This kind of a naive country girl coming from some born again Christian community to the middle of Manhattan like and all this time you know I was beating up you know –
RF: Businessmen in nappies–
Interviewee: Stockbrokers ‘n [laughing] stuff.
Interviewee: So the way he found out. I kind of had told my mum and well I told my mum. Well cause my mum would call me every other day you know and I, I was working in this Italian restaurant which I didn’t think was far from the truth because there was an Italian restaurant under the, the dungeon –
RF: The dungeon.
Interviewee: He tried to call me at work one day at this restaurant and then he got the message bank, you know the recorded message and it said the restaurant wasn’t open that day that I’d said I was going to work and then so he confronted me when I came back and he said “You weren’t, you don’t work in a restaurant. Where do you work?” And I had to explain it to him and he was really hurt, he was really devastated. We were –
RF: Were you going to get married?
Interviewee: Yeah we were going get married. And that’s how my umm interest in Judai – , well you know I was going to convert to Judaism at that stage and then –
RF: Were you studying to con- to become Jewish?
Interviewee: Yeah, yeah.
RF: So at this point [Interviewee] you’d grown up in a fundamentalist Christian ahh community, you’d gone to New York, you’d become a dominatrix at the same time you were converting to Judaism [Interviewee laughing] and, and studying the Torah
Interviewee: Yeah umm –
RF: Did the sheer weirdness of that ever strike you at any point?
Interviewee: Well it was very hard sort of pulling that structure down, that I’d been, I’d, I’d grown up with. And once you try and pull that structure and that belief system down it’s like you’re left with I don’t know. The world looked desolate, I didn’t know what, that kind of belief system was so rich and ingrained and so intense. And then you know I see orthodox Judaism and [laughing] that’s kind of, I don’t know it kind of looked almost natural in a way or something. You know I was really struggling with my belief in God and I had a lot of anger towards God and then so you, you see a Jewish God and it looks a whole lot umm better and, and, and more benign and forgiving and umm its sort of, it doesn’t seem like a natural progression but in some ways like uhh we grew up with, it was very old Testament base so you sort of learnt you know we were always learning about the Jewish people and watching Israel all the time and there was this great sense of like the narrative of the Jewish people and uhh it just felt like you know we even celebrated Passover and stuff like that so it kind of seemed almost like a natural progression for me at the time.
RF: But could your appearance be anymore Shiksa like than what it is?
Interviewee: [laughing] I know. I know.
RF: Tall, blonde, pale, anglo –
Interviewee: Yeah –
RF: Girl. So you’re studying that and did that give you a kind of more control over your own spirituality?
Interviewee: Yeah, it, it did. Sort of like I was reclaiming it for myself you know. You know and it seemed like a more intelligent belief or something to me because there wasn’t this finality of heaven or hell and there wasn’t the amount of fear that was so inherent in what I believed growing up and it sort of seemed like something you could integrate into a sort of a more normal life and –
RF: Did you go through with it? Did you actually fully convert?
Interviewee: No. I mean I broke up with that guy and then I continued it and I moved to Melbourne and I went to ahh an Orthodox Synagogue and I did you know, I studied a lot. But then it ended up umm I studied umm Hebrew and a Jewish, ancient Jewish course or something at Monash University and I turned, I sort of started turning it in to a theology degree.
RF: A theology degree?
Interviewee: [laughs] Yeah. My thesis which I was doing was on umm ahh Abraham and Isaac and the sacri – sacrificing of Isacc.
RF: What did you conclude from that, cause that is one of the most intense and weirdest parts of the Old Testament where Abraham is commanded by God to slaughter his son Isaac as a sacrifice to him.
Interviewee: [in background] Yep.
RF: Abraham is a good Godly man so he agrees to do it, holds the knife to his beloved sons throat and then an angel intercedes at the last minute as says nah -
Interviewee: Here’s a ram in the bush –
RF: Yes you don’t need to do it after all. What do you make of that story now?
Interviewee: You know I got into –
RF: Cause it’s such an illustration of unquestioning obedience to, the word and the law of God isn’t it? That’s what it’s really about that story, or not –
Interviewee: Yeah, well yeah. I mean I don’t know. It’s funny how I went from, I went into the theology degree still a believer and then I came out [laughs] it’s like the more I learnt, the more I studied, the less I believed in God and umm –
RF: Do you still pray?
RF: What happened when you got back from New York?
Interviewee: I ran into umm a friend ahh at a church shindig umm a friend that I grew up with. Like she was the sister of my other friend, who I, it was the only person I told what I was doing in New York, and that I was, that I was working as a dominatrix. And so she had somehow told my mum, cause my mum and like the last thing I wanted in the world was for my mum to find out-
RF: That you were a dominatrix?
Interviewee: What I was doing. I felt like I would just rather die. And my mum rang me up one day, when I was in the you know the, the dungeon waiting for clients and she goes “ohh” and I could tell straight away she was in you know a tizz and she said “You’ll never believe what [name’s] been saying about what you’ve been doing in New York.” And I just, I felt so sick, like and I said “What did she say?” and she goes “I can’t even. I can’t even tell you it’s so disgusting that [name] you know she’s got a, err what a mind she’s got you know she’s telling all these terrible things. Where does she get these ideas from?” And like so my mum doesn’t even believe what [name’s] told her, you know [laughs] that I’m working as a dominatrix and just –
RF: What just cause it’s too wildly improbable –
Interviewee: It’s too bizarre and it’s too – she can’t even comprehend it. And also she thinks I’m working in an Italian restaurant [laughs] too. And so then when I went back to, I came back to Perth and I saw [name] at this church shindig and I go “[name], why did you tell my mum that I was working as a dominatrix? You’re an idiot you know”. And she goes, she goes “Ohh you weren’t really, nobody believed that we just thought you were trying be all cool and nobody believed you were a dominatrix”. Like it was just so far off the, the, it was too unbelievable really.
RF: Tell me about Mr [X].
Interviewee: Well he umm when we were growing up in the Church he was like the fashion police you know. If you didn’t wear long sleeves and a long dress and if he didn’t think your dress was modest enough he would give you this, this talking to. Like you know you needed to help the sinful nature of men by dressing appropriately so they could keep their thoughts pure [laughs]. And so one time I went to bible study and I was wearing jeans cause I’d been I don’t know some camp, rounding up cattle or something on my horse and he took me aside and he said “[Interviewee] those jeans are not appropriate, they’re making me have improper thoughts.” And I just was like –
RF: Oh what a creep [laughs].
Interviewee: Ohh, ohh I felt so disgusted and ashamed like this old man, he’s married and everything he’s having these and I was like 15 you know, and, and then, oh and then he like took out the bible and went to Mathew 5 and it says even if a man lusteth after a woman it’s as if he’s already committed adultery. So it’s like ohh we’ve committed adultery eww [laughing] and anyway umm then like after I’d left the church and after I’d been to New York as a dominatrix and all of this kind of stuff you, you know and I’d felt like really empowered as a woman and all this kind of stuff. My friend [name], I caught up with her and she’d grown up in the church as well and she’d remembered Mr [X] and all of that. And anyway she’d got an apartment in Northridge in Perth and it was just like so exciting like she’s you know, and anyway we went out we bought a bottle of Irish Cream cause that’s what we thought people drank back then and, and we went back to her apartment and it was kind of a seedy block of flats really and the elevator opened and there he was. The elder, Mr [X] from the church, with this woman that was wearing like an outfit that was just designed with unclean thoughts in mind, like –
RF: Wow. Was she a prostitute?
Interviewee: Yeah she was, she was a prostitute yeah. But my feeling was, when I saw him I straight away went back to this feeling of just, I looked down I was wearing jeans, I hid the bottle of Irish Cream I just was like Oh my God I’ve been caught you know and I hopped in the elevator and I just had this sick kind of feeling like ohh. But he didn’t even see us because he was busy with the, the prostitute [laughing] And, and then I you know we were up in [name’s] little apartment and I was kind of pacing you know my shame kind of turned to anger and I was getting really riled up and I think cause I thought hang on here’s this guy who made me feel so bad about how I dressed about you know and made him think in a certain way and here he is fornicating with a harlot you know and umm –
RF: So what did you do with this knowledge [Interviewee]?
Interviewee: So well I was pacing around the apartment for a while and then I looked out into the car park and I saw his ute and I knew it was his ute cause he always had the same Toyota dual cab ute and I said to [name] “We cannot let this sin go unpunished” and we starting coming up with ideas and you know we’d had a bit to drink and stuff and ahh and she said “Let’s uhh you know we’ll fill his car full of bibles, like we’ll highlight every verse that deals with fornication you know [RF laughing in background] and then we’ll steal his car” and [name] is wanting to ring his wife and tell his wife and I was like no, no that will hurt her more than it will hurt him and what we really want to do is make him feel ashamed. Like he made us feel ashamed. So I had my most badass idea yet and that was to write him a note [laughs] but the note I had planned to sign-forge my uncle’s signature who was you know someone he would’ve respected and you know been scared of. So we wrote this letter and it started off ‘the eyes of the Lord are everywhere’ [laughs] and, and it was all you know we quoted all these bible verses about fornication and you know basically told him he was gonna go to hell and in the end we signed it from my uncle and we put it on his car and found out you know, a couple of years later he got divorced from his wife and there was rumours going round that he was seeing prostitutes it the city. I don’t know, I don’t know where they came from [laughs]
RF: So from this life then you do a theology degree and then you complete that and, and here you are now. When you think of that life that you used to have and the life after that, the life kind of before and after the fall if you like. Is it, is it like moving from a black and white world into colour or is it the other way round? Was that life in that closed Christian community more colourful or was it more black and white? Or do you even think of it in those terms [Interviewee]?
Interviewee: Well umm I don’t know cause there was some really good things about it like I said before. And like sometimes in my life I’ve had periods where I kind of long for that certainty you know. There was so much certainty, and there was so much umm like it just sort of makes it easy to believe a story like that and you get told that story and the story becomes your truth. It makes life kind of easy you know. I sometimes find my brain wanting that you know one extreme black and white view of the world. And that’s kind of been my journey since then is to try and I don’t know get my thinking back, get my mind back and all of that and umm it takes a while cause you know my thinking has changed but then it takes a while for your feeling to sort of catch up to that. It’s almost like I think there is no hell and there’s no heaven but there is still that those feeling that come back from the past that you know [gasps] you’re doing something wrong that there’s going to be some punishment. It’s kind of, it’s very hard to un-train your brain you know.