Berlin - The slave slumps on his master's couch and gasps for air. The beatings, having his arms bound or the joint beforehand - something was too much. For about seven years, Geri [not his real name] has been a client of Sir Mad, a professional sadist. Geri, 64, regularly visits him in his private flat in Weißensee to be beaten, tied up and humiliated. Normally Geri, who is a politician, has business to take care of in Berlin, as he did this weekend. Sir Mad opens a window. Air flows into the cramped living room. A techno beat throbs in the background. “Fetch some water,” the master orders his assistant, the maid Miss Mad Donna.

The tall, dark-haired woman goes into the kitchen, her red patent heels clacking on the tiled floor. The 42-year-old hasn't been Sir Mad's maid for long. This is her first encounter with Geri.

Miss Mad Donna gets ready again. She swings the whip and rolls needle wheels over Geri's body. “She's doing quite well,” praises her master. The spikes on the wheels - which are usually used in medicine - are not pain-inducing but stimulate the nerve endings. “A lot of people are not quite themselves when they come to me,” Sir Mad explains. A physical stimulus, he says, can bring people back into balance. It can help them feel themselves again, says the master.

Together, they work on the slave's body. Miss Mad Donna wraps a whip around Geri's neck and guides a ball-like massage vibrator up against his anus. Sir Mad strokes his penis with strings of small steel balls. Moan. “Not that you have to pay for the carpet yet,” says Sir Mad, playing with the bound man's imagination.

Geri the slave doesn't orgasm on the day I visit Sir Mad and his assistant. Nevertheless, he sports a broad smile when his master unties him for the second time. How does he feel? “Totally relaxed,” Geri says and sighs. Miss Mad Donna seems less satisfied. “I'm just getting into the mood,” she says as Geri dons his coat. You have to be on your guard, Sir Mad reminds her, slipping her a banknote. The trio were bonded in intimacy for two hours. But in the end they pay up and go their separate ways.

Approaching the limits

When I meet Sir Mad for the first time, he apologises for his sleepy face and his untidy flat. He doesn't sleep much, has a lot to do and his girlfriend is moving out. He corrects himself: ex-girlfriend. The 37-year-old is pale and seems agitated. His blue eyes are sunken in their sockets, yet he maintains direct eye contact for a long time. He contacted me through a Telegram group in response to my question if someone would be willing to share their story about sex or love. Sir Mad speaks clearly and soberly explains his side hustle. He tells me the slave has more influence on the game than is apparent: “It's about sensing what the clients' preferences are. And how far you can go. About action and reaction.”

In reality, he serves the slave rather than the slave serving him. After all, the slave can completely relax and let himself go, while the master has to be constantly creative. Variety is important to him, he says. "Many who practise BDSM do so with clear rules and know exactly what's going to happen. What's much nicer is whatever arises spontaneously in a situation," he says. In contrast to the usual procedure in many professional BDMS studios, nothing is precisely defined with Sir Mad. None of his clients have ever used a safe word, the signal to stop. He prefers to carefully approach the limits.

Sir Mad discovered his proclivities at an orgy

“Shame, guilt and sex are very closely linked,” Sir Mad explains to me over a beer in the living room. His clients include both men and women. “Many female clients get all wet when you humiliate them.” Of course, this is not the case for everyone, he says. The prejudice that a taste for BDSM is connected to experiences of abuse is true in some cases, Sir Mad says. Allowing oneself to be humiliated in a controlled way can be a means of self-empowerment, because in a consensual situation the person being humiliated still has the upper hand.

Sir Mad also likes to play the dominant role in his private relationships. During an orgy about seven years ago, he realised that he enjoyed torturing others. He'd been turned on by women's moaning after he whipped them. Friends in the scene taught him how to use S&M gear properly. Otherwise, the risk of injury is too high, he says.

He says you can tell if someone can handle a whip by whether they are able to hit small objects accurately from a distance. Caution is advised. Especially with a leather whip, you can accidentally hit the kidneys, spleen or testicles and cause serious injury. For Sir Mad, being an SM master is a side gig. Geri visits him every two months. Here and there something comes up. The tormentor's going rate is about €150 per hour.

A youth spent on the streets

Sir Mad's three-room flat has low ceilings, and pictures he painted himself hang close together on the wall. In the corner behind the front door is a painted mannequin with the Berlin coat-of-arms painted over the crotch and a hat instead of a head. Next to it hangs a life-sized picture of a burlesque dancer. Apart from some metal chains stretched across the wall above the sofa, at first glance not much else hints at a passion for BDSM.

Two cats creep through the room, one cuddly, the other shy. Everything about Sir Mad seems contradictory, including the fact that, apart from BDSM, he also offers Tantra. The trained IT systems engineer also likes to paint and tinker, like the lamp hanging above us, made from a Bubbles children's sparkling drink bottle with integrated miniature disco ball.

He quit his job at a well-known search engine shortly after the pandemic began. His parents had tried to talk him out of the job. “They thought I was too stupid,” he says. He grew up in Lichtenberg. After spending five years on the streets as a teenager, to get his life on track he finally enrolled in vocational training. BDSM is just one of his many sides, Sir Mad says, a side that developed in a city where relationships are often fast-moving and interchangeable. A sentence that itself feels like the gentle lash of a whip.

This article originally appeared in German in the weekend edition of Berliner Zeitung and was adapted for the English Edition by Maurice Frank