How Former Dominatrix Venus Cuffs Is Topping The Nightlife Industry

Photo: courtesy of Venus Cuffs.
​​This story includes sexually explicit and graphic language.
Welcome to Don’t Yuck My Yummm, Unbothered’s sexual wellness column and digital diary aimed at destigmatizing Black womxn’s intimate experiences. Trust us, this ain’t your mama’s how-to-guide. From the policing of our bodies, the antics of respectability politics, and the rise of toxic male "dating coaches", Black womxn are in need of a safe space for storytelling, education, and advocacy when it comes to sex. Don’t Yuck My Yummm is an opportunity to amplify the voices of folxs who are doing the work. We encourage you to turn the mirror on yourself and join us on our self-discovery experience.   
Advertisement
It's hours before the clock strikes midnight. Outside of one of Bushwick, Brooklyn’s most popular event spaces, kindred spirits of kink, including yours truly, gathered outside for the much anticipated opening of House of Screams, a franchise hosted by award-winning nightlife producer Venus Cuffs. With a rapidly growing audience on social media and countless years of experience in the BDSM realm, Venus has been a leading voice in the world of kink for years. The empire she’s building today started off as a career choice for survival and after countless clients, lucrative partnerships, dungeon ownerships, and a grocery fund to support POC sex workers, this former Dominatrix has her eyes set on the boys club that is the nightlife industry
Bringing her business and finance know-how to the field, Venus is anything but a bottom. This night of debauchery filled with dirty confessions, moaning contests, and mind-bending kink performances was a testament to her ability to create an environment that is equally safe and sexy for all to come and enjoy (pun intended). Venus glided across the room greeting her guests and immediately set the tone when her sultry voice cut through the silence of an anticipating crowd. The overarching theme of the event was consent and absolute freedom — two things that are often overlooked when it comes to Black women and our intimate experiences. Showgoers of all gender identities, races, and sexual orientations were able to lay bare their inhibitions and experience a night of kink tasting and intrigue.
Advertisement
Venus’s no nonsense attitude towards tolerance and respect radiated all throughout the event and it made me want to know more about the woman behind the latex. As someone who has followed her platform and work over the years, I was pleasantly surprised by what I found behind the alluring persona. And just like the world of kink, there was so much more than what meets the eyes. After a night of chills and thrills, I had the pleasure of connecting with Venus via Zoom a few weeks after  the House of Screams opening. Here, we delve a bit deeper into her early beginnings in the kink industry, the hardships of entrepreneurship as a Black woman, and her hopes for this often misunderstood space. 
DashDividers_1_500x100
Unbothered: You've mentioned in previous interviews that you started working in this industry out of necessity. Do you believe in some way you always knew your purpose would be bigger than your beginning?
Venus Cuffs: For sure. I was a Dominatrix and it was fun, the money was great, but there were a lot of things about the industry that never sat well with me. A lot of the stuff that was happening behind the scenes lived up to some of the stereotypes about certain things. So on top of all of the stuff I was seeing that I didn't agree with, I was also thinking, “How long do I want to do this?” I think for most people that start off anywhere in the adult industry or BDSM work, you have to have some sort of out plan. There are people that are older that are Dommes and that is beautiful, but that’s not really what I saw for myself, especially because I started out from a place of necessity. It wasn’t something that I just entered into because it was my calling. There’s a difference. 
Advertisement
I wanted more in life. I didn't want to have to be on clients’ time. I wanted to be on my own time. Real empowerment for me was truly being on my own time and doing something that I truly loved and enjoyed through and through without the extra stuff that rubbed me the wrong way.  It didn't feel like my real purpose.
You have an extensive resume after pivoting from the world of finance, business, and corporate event planning into night life and BDSM. Which, if any, of these skills have served you in building your community, platform, and brand? 
VC: One of the things that I never actually got a chance to talk about in other interviews is that I was doing all those things while being a Dominatrix at the same time. So when I look back on all the things I have accomplished, especially with events and nightlife, I think people believe that it has to be mutually exclusive. Two different things, two different lives. They think there's no way they can happen at the same time.  
I worked at Black Ink and I wasn’t paid. For jobs like that where I wouldn’t be paid and being a Dominatrix was used against me, I had to have my Dominatrix work as a backup plan. So while I was doing those other forms of work and being a Dominatrix at the same time, I applied all the entrepreneurship skills I learned from being a Dominatrix into my business plan—things like learning how to schedule myself, do outreach, write pitches for events, and contact venues. 
Advertisement
In BDSM, we have something called negotiations. My client and I would have to sit down and negotiate what we wanted to happen in a session. Do you want to be spanked? How hard do you want to be spanked? We’re consenting and having a flow of conversation. So taking that plan and making it happen in real life is kind of the same with events. With events I have a plan, I’m negotiating with venues, and I am taking that plan from my head and bringing it to life. And that’s very hard. 
A lot of people don’t understand that part. Half the battle is taking something from your mind and bringing it to life. There are so many businesses that fail because they can’t make that connection. 
VC: Oh yes! Oh my gosh, one of the biggest things was the financial part. I don't have investors. A lot of people throw events and when they start out they have sponsors or money that they can pull from. But I had to take money from doing sessions as a Dominatrix and apply it to my first couple of events. Black folx are less likely to get a loan, so a lot of times we have to finance these projects ourselves, crowdfund, or hope that we can get a loan without stupid high interest rates. I had to build up my capital before I just went crazy spending and trying to throw lavish events. 
One of the ways I learned how to do that was from being a Dominatrix. I was able to charge depending on what I invested into outfits or what I invested into my dungeon space. If I have a certain amount of rent every month for my dungeon space, each session has to cost over a certain amount for me to keep running that space. I used all of that, including having my degree in business management and finance. 
Advertisement
When did you know it was time to leave the adult industry and transition into nightlife and events full time?
VC: I’m going to be honest, I was very nervous for a long time. I had approached a couple of venues with ideas that I had, and for a while I threw events for other people. Bachelorette parties were a big one, and throwing those was the first time I actually made over $1,000 to plan someone else's event. That was the time I realized I could definitely do this on my own. But I didn’t feel comfortable enough to leave the industry until I started getting yeses from venues instead of no’s. And it was always easy when I was planning someone else's party and doing behind-the-scenes work; however,  when I was ready to transition out, which was around 2018-19, I was a fat Black woman. People hyper-sexualize Black women, especially fat Black women. [In my case], it was like I was always good enough to be behind the scenes, plan things, or make other people's events sexy, but when I wanted to be the face of my own hyper-sexual fest it was a problem. It was okay for other people to hyper-sexualize me, but when I wanted to take that agency it was a problem. I had a lot of venues tell me, “No, your image is literally too risque for us.” One venue in particular—and it is funny because they are reaching out to me now—was nervous. I had interviewed and I was open about the fact that I was a Dominatrix and support other sex workers financially and through food drives. I wasn’t ashamed of my past, and I believe a lot of people expect when you transition out of any kind of adult work that you will begin trashing that part of your life and will regret it and be ashamed of it. I didn’t want to do that.I’m not ashamed of it. I’m still kinky in my personal life. I still like playing, so what do I look like being regretful for it? 
Advertisement
I felt like when I first started hearing from venues is when I had a real shot at this. It’s not just me having a DIY space, or a dungeon space, or renting a space for a house party. These are big, multimillion dollar venues with budgets coming to me and wanting to try this. So that’s when I knew for sure. It wasn't an event specifically, but rather being given the opportunity because I knew once that door was open I got it. I’m going to show out and I’m going to show these people what I’m made of. I just needed the opportunity. 
Photo: courtesy of Venus Cuffs.
You operate by a tight code of ethics when it comes to partnerships and brands. What is it that you are looking for when vetting?
VC: Oh man! I am not going to give everything away because I like catching people off guard. However, I’ll give you an example. I hired a performer a while back who was well known for an event.I found some old tweets of theirs that were very anti-Black, to which I responded, “You want to work in a Black-owned event and make your money under a Black woman, but you have these anti-Black tweets?” That’s when I knew I had the power to shut shit down. If it doesn’t look right or sound right, I will go somewhere else. This is why I look at people’s social media. I want to see what you are about, what you support, what you think is okay, and I’m not looking at it in a weird or scrutinizing kind of way. It is more about how ethically and morally I am not going for certain things, but also as a business how this could reflect on me just like any other brand or business out there. With certain things there is wiggle room, while other things are an absolute no-go. I’m just not going for it. 
Advertisement
I also like to talk to people and have conversations.I like to look at other places they’ve worked with. What did you do there? Do you have references for these places? But the biggest one is that a lot of people who don’t align with what I believe in or what I say will typically avoid me and that’s great. I have a loud, clear brand voice and I am to the point about the things that I believe in and what I want. 
Since you brought up your brand voice and community, let’s talk about it. There seems to be a common thread of intersectionality in your work. How do you carry this across all your career endeavors?
VC: It’s very important to me because I sit at many intersections. I sit at the intersection of someone who was once homeless, being Black, being queer. I sit at all those intersections and I feel like there is no way to fully love and embrace people if you cannot accept certain parts of them. You can’t accept me as a woman and not take the Blackness with it. You can’t accept the Blackness and not take the queerness with it. 
I apply my own personal experiences to working with people. Everyone is going to come from a unique walk of life and has their experiences. The only way to make people feel comfortable in any space or event I curate is to understand that they are sitting at multiple intersections. That could be someone who is low income, or trans, or non-binary. I feel like that is the only way to be able to have a safe space. And it can be tricky having all these different kinds of folx show up.
Advertisement
But it also speaks highly to the work you do that you are able to have folx from all walks of life come together and feel safe. 
VC: Yes and that is why I borrow a lot from my personal experiences. One of the things that would really bother me when I went into other “sex positive” spaces was that they were promoted as sex positive and inclusive, but when you arrive you only see one kind of person over and over again. I never fit. I was welcomed to the space, but I truly didn’t fit, nd those experiences for me made me feel like I didn’t belong. Sometimes it wasn’t even what people said to me but how they didn’t say something to me. Or being there standing by myself because no one would talk to me. Or if I did have an issue, nobody would do anything about it. 
I feel like the only way for people to feel safer  is to acknowledge that people are there. That is the sexiest thing ever. Talk to people, mingle, and let everyone know that they can show up as they are. Have a bunch of different kinds of people in the room. Because when you put all those different kinds of intersections together, that’s when you really get this magical sexiness—all different body types, skin tones, and sexual identities. With the right lighting and music, that’s the real vibe. If you just leave people alone to let them roam and exist the magic always comes. 
Advertisement
As a Black woman who wears many hats and sits at multiple intersections, what are some of the common misconceptions about Black women in business? 
VC:  Whhhheeeewww! This first one, believe it or not, is that I am going to show up to work with an attitude or angry all the time. I’ve heard the whole “bad attitude” thing so many times with all this creative wording and I think there is this idea that Black women are always going to be bitter or have an attitude. The other, which is the oldest misconception in general, is that we are lazy. I think the misconception people have is that people in adult industry lines of work do brainless work. They think there isn’t a lot that goes into it and that we are all just dirty whores. But some of the most successful people are some of the most hardworking people in this field. They have business plans, they self-finance, and they raise capital from their income—marketing, promo, advertising, everything. 
I think a lot of Black women in general want to be able to go to work, have a peaceful day without the microaggressions, and actually be trusted that we are going to get the work done. I think trust is the biggest part. 
How do you go about dispelling these myths through your work?
VC: I think it is exactly what you said, through my work. I let the work speak for me when people doubt me, which still happens all the time. They either think I can’t produce or I won’t bring in the “good crowd”. Like the one venue owner who asked me, “Does your crowd fight?” [pause] I’ve never had a fight at my events. But again, it goes back to letting the work speak for you. Anytime people doubt me, I go harder. ]. And once I do that thing and execute it really well, the next you come to me, keep that same energy because the price just went up. 
Advertisement
What is your mission and how does that show up in your business and your platform? 
VC: My mission at this point is growth. I want to do things that I was always told I can’t. For example, “You can’t turn a hoe into a housewife.” I’m married and this is the second year of my wedding anniversary so thank you. I remember someone early on in my career saying, “I don’t think people are interested in attending a Dominatrix’s event.” Now I am well known in night life and working with very successful venues. Right now my mission is to just keep growing, keep glowing, make my paper, mind my business, advocate for those who need it, and continue to make it better for everybody. 
I feel like as a Black woman our labor is taken for granted. We’re always seen as the help, the coordination, the behind the scenes. It’s nice that I am the face of my own brand and it’s doing well. It’s rare in nightlife that a Black woman is the face of her own brand. There are plenty of us behind the scenes, but there are not a lot of seats at the table for us to be us. 
As you continue to grow your empire, what are you hoping people walk away with after experiencing one of your events?
VC: I’m hoping people feel sexy in the truest sense of the word. I want you to walk out feeling like you were a part of this amazing event. That you saw this amazing show or went to this amazing dance party. Or that you got fingered in the back room! Whatever it is that happened, I want you to walk away from it feeling good and like this is something you can come back to and be yourself.  If you want to be a cross dresser but you don’t have anywhere else in the world to do that, I want you to come to one of my events and do it because you know you are safe to do that there. If you are a Black person that wants to experience kink or dip your toes in being a Dominant for the first time without judgment, this is the space you can go to. That is what I mean by feeling sexy. Being yourself unapologetically and living your best life. 
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

More from Sex & Relationships

R29 Original Series

Advertisement