Dr. Breckenridge had been up since 5:30 preparing her look, but looking in the mirror, now, it was worth it. A long look at her profile to check for the appearance of any turkey neck, which is the first thing to show up in her family. She knew to play to her strengths: her strong Mediterranean jawline and her porcelain complexion. She knew it would challenge assumptions to dress up as an English schoolmistress with her curly Italian hair, but it drove a certain percentage of the boys wild and she knew it. The corsets, the harnesses beneath a tight-but-modest bow blouse, the lace-up leather knee boots; Saint Lauren had a price tag of $1,495, but you couldn’t tell she was wearing knockoffs, all indicating both to her and her students that her classroom was a sales funnel to her growing small business as a professional dominatrix. The glasses—completely unnecessary—and cherry lipstick were icing on the cake. Her salary at the school was poor, but for her branding, it was pitch-perfect’ she taught the Psychology of Deviance, an easy A elective that regularly seated 200 students. She practiced her Paxil pout one last time before heading to class.

She would always open the first lecture introducing herself with the line: “My name is Dr. Amanda Breckenridge, and I am A-man-ta Reckonwith.” She was Rubenesque and lively. On the rare occasions that students showed up for office hours she asked them to call her Mandy.

“Oh, call me Mandy,” she would say to the ardent feminist and/or proud queer students that would show up to discuss an upcoming exam or homework assignment. When the girls working on the “Mrs. Degree” or the non-curious straight male took her course (she usually had a couple of each per semester), she asserted the formal role of teacher.

“I’m sorry, it’s just that I’ve worked so hard to get this degree, and I’d appreciate it if you’d call me Dr. Breckenridge,” she would say.

She did work hard on her dissertation in women’s studies, mainly because she had to triage her initial stab at her thesis, which had been entitled, “Crucifixion! The Ultimate Case Study of Autoerotic Asphyxiation by Cop.” Mandy had argued that Jesus had a breath play fetish, which was the true reason he chose to die on the cross. Furthermore, she argued that the phallic imagery of the penetration of Jesus in the side by a spear suggests the two-spirited (and perhaps hermaphroditic) nature of Jesus. A zealous atheist, Mandy perused the New Testament with revisionist fervor to illuminate the many latent fetishes therein. Mary Magdalene was a fag-hag. Jesus had a foot fetish. Paul, with his strict adherence to gender roles and marriage, was a sadist and misogynist of the highest order, a throwback to Old Testament Judaism which should be excised from progressive discussion of theology. The miracle of fishes and loaves was an allegory of a pedophilic orgy, representing vaginal and anal intercourse, respectively. In her conclusions, Mandy reimagined the Last Supper as a first-century bug-chasing party.

 

A month afterwards, Mandy submitted the first draft of her manuscript to her advisor, Dr. Joey Cheekdragon, the kind of associate professor with eight piercings in each ear. He asked her to recant.

“Look, Mandy, I understand what you are trying to do with this thesis, and I like to rock the boat. You know that or else we wouldn’t be working together. But, I don’t think you can get this through the committee and I don’t want to see you spin your wheels on a thesis that at best is a lightning rod for the religious types that use any excuse to cut state funding to the university. We just can’t give them that ammo, Mandy. I think this is an important and useful interpretation of the New Testament; I just don’t think a dissertation is the right medium for this. Try to work within the constraints of the goals and guidelines set out by the department.”

What a repressive, stifling institution.

Two arduous years later, Mandy cranked out her new thesis, a dry and boring documentation of the importance of using lubrication to reduce STD transmission entitled “The Ass is Not a Pussy.” Her PhD in women and gender studies complete, she taught as an instructor in popular courses on sexual fetishes. She was a high priestess in the secular church of coital contractions, her chapel the psychology department of the largest school in the Midwestern U.S. The students were mostly seniors, and the ones that were still awake do not laugh at her little joke.

She understood. When she started college, she laughed easily; by the end of her first year, Braylon Walker changed all that. Tall and swarthy, he was a junior that just broke the single season receiving record for a big ten athlete. His long lean legs and gap-toothed, charismatic grin caught her eye at a dorm party, after the last of the snow had finally thawed. His catching of her eye caught his eye and he sauntered over confidently after class. She had been curious and was flirtatious, but when she realized Braylon wanted her right then and there, she just didn’t want it in the classroom, not in public. She began to make excuses, and when she tried to pull away, Braylon knocked the wind out of her with a swift right hook and with a quick, sick crack, he drove her head into the chalkboard. Mandy went limp before Braylon caught her and leaned her over the teacher’s desk like a perfect gentleman.

“Hold still,” he said.

It was soon over, and he left without a word. What happened next is sadly all too common a story. Mandy made it back to her dorm clutching her side; each inhalation bringing so much sharp pain. She made it to the dorm shower before sobbing openly, each sob hitching her side, each pang from her bruised ribs reminding her of how violated Mandy felt and how disgusted she was at herself for laughing easily. Mandy was a perpetual motion machine of pain. She soon cut her hair short, took three birth control pills (her face was swollen for three days), and threw herself into her studies until she retreated to the safety of home. She starved herself for three months and kept her hair short. Her large head sat on a gaunt, big-boned frame for nearly a year. She stopped attending football games and no longer laughed so easily.

Since then, even the idea of being on the receiving end of penetrative sex traumatized her. It didn’t help that the Paxil turned her nether regions into cobwebs. As a professional dome, she put her vagina in mothballs; Ann Arbor was a small town and she couldn’t let it get around she was getting laid, and all her customers would try to talk her down. She was no tourist. She didn’t perfect her Seroquel stare to be budged in negotiations. She charged a reasonably high rate, but consider her expenses: flogs, riding crops, nipple clamps, Ben Wa balls, strap-ons, a ping pong paddle, and a variety of oil- and water-based lubrication. Her disinfectant bill alone was $85 a month.

She experimented with lesbianism and found too much evidence in support of the null hypothesis. Mandy was a natural top and dominating a woman was like shooting salmon in a barrel. No matter how much she made her fem-subs suffer, she couldn’t help but be jealous of all the attention she was giving them. If there was one thing that stuck in Mandy’s craw (in a way she did not find pleasurable), it was when a bottom tried to top her. She, Mistress Reckonwith, was the top. She did partake in public leash play with women at parties, which was excellent marketing for straight men, Mandy’s primary demographic. Her current leash partner and personal assistant (though Mandy preferred to call her a secretary) Olga was a skinny, doe-eyed Russian. Any attempts to make conversation with Mandy would be followed by a wiggle of Olga’s leash.

“Please state your name and purpose for the mistress,” said Olga, with a thick accent. It was a challenging enough task to talk to Mistress Reckonwith while she and Olga were standing. As the evenings progressed, the mistress would ask Olga to crouch down and cover herself with a red velvet blanket so that the Mistress could use her as a footstool, or if a proper chair were not available, sit on Olga full-weight. All inquiries and conversation was still required to be mediated through Olga, whose frail voice was further muffled by velvet.

“You are to speak to me face to face if you wish to discuss the services of Mistress Reckonwith.”

New clients were always caught off guard by this gambit, but Mistress Reckonwith would not acknowledge anyone beyond the gentle wiggling of the leash. Other BDSM providers and old clients would make small talk with Olga to keep face. The routine was simple: anyone willing to peek under the velvet and speak to Olga while Olga was under Mistress Reckonwith’s ample feet or posterior would be willing to pay the rates Mistress Reckonwith set. Blessed with such bountiful gifts, the more inaccessible Mistress Reckonwith made herself to her possible clients, the more elusive she made her charms, the more she was sought after and the more she could charge. Olga was also quite capable as a personal assistant.

“Don’t forget your office hours, Mistress Reckonwith.”

Office hours were usually quite fun; she spent most of the time honing her TikTok page, but today Tavaris, a tall, thin, but muscular black man in a dress showed up. He had always been male-presenting during the semester. The sleeveless summer dress showed off his well-defined triceps. He was wearing a bralet of a sort with a sort of uneven couple of socks balled up underneath.

“Dr. Breckenridge?”

“Yes,” Mandy replied, peering over the nose of her reading glasses.

“I have a concern about the final. Theys a p-p-problem I have with an oral exam. I-I—“

“You have a stutter. So what? You can still give the oral, can’t you?”

“B-b-but there’s a time limit. I-i-i-I can’t p-p-possibly finish in time.” His lip started quivering. “I-I—”

Mandy gave her best Seroquel stare.

“Tavares, have you prepared a speech, some possible answers that you can script out ahead of time?”

Tavares stared back in a sprinolactone scowl. “Don’t you dare deadname me. I’m Tamantha now, and you need to respect my lived experience!”

“Okay, ‘Tamantha,’ but you must forgive me; you come here during office hours and this is the first time I see you in a dress, si you can’t blame me for using the name I’ve been seeing since the beginning of class. But I will respect your decision.”

Tavares seemed on the verge of hyperventilating, his fists clenching.

“Tamantha, I take Gender Studies very seriously. I studied hard to earn the degree of Doctor. And while I am very encouraged that you are exploring gender fluidity, and I’m sympathetic to your situation, you can’t let your perceived differences allow you to shirk your duties as a student. I mean, I’ve noticed you often come in rather late to class.”

Tamantha sneered, “Why you always gotta bring that up. Punctuality is just a bestige of colonialism!”

“Bestige?” Mandy asked, “Do you mean vestige?” Mandy knew she was on thin ice.

“You come up in here, you put on yo airs, but you just like every other white woman around here wanna watch us squirm,” said Tamantha.

“Tamantha, listen, I know about toxic masculinity, and that’s as much a vestige of colonialism and slavery as anything else. And I’ve been a victim of toxic masculinity, too. I’ve been raped.” She neglected to mention it was by a black man, but she didn’t want to confuse the issue.

But Tamantha had a sense and pounced. “Oh, was it a white man?”

Mandy paused just long enough at the initial question for Tamantha (her stutter completely gone now) to slide in the knife.

“No, right? You white women always cry rape after you get a little attention from a brother. Ain’t no one get lynched if it warn’t for white women playin’ the victim.”

Mandy leaned back, trying to maintain eye contact, her face scrunched in confused fear.

“You can’t talk to me like this, Tavares. Are you threatening me?”

“Listen, it’s simple. This is the oral exam; this is MY oral exam. I don’t wanna come back here groveling to you. You make a decision on my grade or I go to BLM and claim you a racist.”

Mandy, for once, was at a loss for words. The gender studies department were already on a shoestring budget, and she was merely an instructor. She thought about her sales funnel to her business, and her health insurance. She acquiesced.

“Okay, Tamantha, as you know, we are accommodating of people of all ability levels. Given your current gender transition, I can provide credit for the final. You can consider this the oral exam during office hours on the same day as the final. I’ll waive the time limitations.”

“All right then,” Tamantha said, maintaining the spironolactone sneer.

Two weeks later, Mandy suffered through oral exams from her students and boring and endless presentations on (for example) the safe and no-rough-edges proposal to end felony charges for spreading HIV. She begrudgingly gave Tavaris an A.

In the middle of the next semester, Mandy, walking to her office, spots Tavaris on the quad, goofing around with his buddies, freestyle rapping about girls throwing panties at them. He had apparently backslid to his birth gender. She learned over the years to actively ignore and look the other way at student behavior out of the classroom. But she began to imagine Tavaris going to law school and becoming a diversity czar and wondered how many teachers Tavaris pulled this ruse on. Over the course of the day, she rued missing her opportunity as a gatekeeper to keep this kid in line, to make him toe the line, and soon he’ll be making twice her salary and OnlyFans income combined.

She may even have to downgrade to making regular Pornhub videos.

Mandy calls home during office hours. “Olga, cancel my website shoot.”

“Today? Mistress Reckonwith. Vince and Travis have already confirmed.”

“Not today, Olga; I need some alone time and am in no mood to be trifled with literally or figuratively right now. That means you need to clear out, too.”

The seething anger Mandy felt, the dishonesty; the power-bottoming little cishet got the best of her. Mandy turned out the lights, put on the soundtrack to Koyaanisqatsi, pulled out a heavy duty Hitachi, the kind that plugs into the walls, and through a veil of hot tears, vibrated her bean to oblivion while watching slow motion videos of 9/11 victims falling from the Twin Towers on a loop.