Why you should care

Because being hunted goes both ways.

Fifteen men stagger through the English countryside, naked apart from their shoes, paintball masks and groin guards. Their thighs are scraped and bruised from falling, their bottoms striped in red. When a whip cracks behind the men, one of them stumbles and falls. Dominatrix Mistress Medulla stands above her capture. At first he cowers, and then he submissively nods his head. He belongs to her for the rest of the weekend to trample, whip, gag and abuse as she likes — or at least up to the hard limits written on his leather collar.

Human foxhunts are an esoteric fantasy, even for the sexually adventurous BDSM crowd. Many involve corseted dominatrices chasing their prey through woodlands, their submissive quarry eager to be caught. The stalking takes place across the world — recent hunts were held in England, Australia, Florida and California. It’s a niche but growing area of female domination (femdom), where (mostly) men pay for the right to be subservient. But interested parties can’t just show up. To join the hunt, you must fill out an application, come with a recommendation and have an established presence in kink communities like Fetlife. For genuine submissives, working for it is part of the process.

I don’t love the idea of a paintball hitting my cock. But being under a mistress’ control so completely — well, that would be worth it.

Thomas, submissive

“The first time we did a slave hunt, we pelted them with eggs,” says Mistress Natalya Sadici, a participant in the Florida-based weekend retreats of the Order of Indomitus, a group of dominant women. “The slaves are given a head start on the property — we have five acres for them to run around.” Eggs proved sticky and smelly in the Florida heat, so the order’s creator and organizer, Mistress Michelle Lacy, and the other priestesses changed the ammo to paintballs launched with slingshots. Slaves wear protective goggles, footwear — there are alligators in Florida — and a collar. Nothing else. And they follow strict rules. “We have a system of how a slave should conduct himself,” Mistress Natalya says. “They don’t speak unless spoken to. We keep them on point the whole weekend.”

The Order of Indomitus was founded in 2010; their hunts began in 2013. Slaves pay $2,200 for a weekend of worship, which includes floggings and sleeping in locked cages (no extra charge). The order has so many applications that they limit the number of participants on the receiving end. Their biggest event involved 12 slaves (a total haul of $26,400, for those of you doing the math). Thomas, a 35-year-old customer service rep from England, who asked that his last name not be used, is considering attending a hunt next year. He finds the idea very exciting — and the beauty of it is that any reservations he has about participating only add to his arousal. “Of course, I’m worried about being hurt and struggling,” he says. “I don’t love the idea of a paintball hitting my cock. But being under a mistress’ control so completely — well, that would be worth it.”

Though every slave hunt is different, I’m told repeatedly that they’re all inspired by Other World Kingdom, a Tolkienesque place that sounds like some perverted fairy tale. But here truth is stranger than fiction. In 1996, a group of dominatrices banded together to establish a micronation in a remote part of the Czech Republic. “You can’t be in the industry and not know of OWK,” says Mistress Ayn, an Atlanta-based dom. “It’s like saying you’re a football fan, but you’ve never heard of John Elway.” The femdoms resided in a 16th-century castle, serviced by male slaves who slept on straw, bowed to every woman they met and lined up for daily lashes. It was a femdom utopia governed by latex goddesses. Financial difficulties forced OWK to disband around 2008, but millennial femdoms keep the beacon alight with modern-day hunts.

For those who can’t attend in person, there’s a Second Life alternative. The avatar-based world has lost followers since its 2003 launch, but BDSMers have found its manufactured spaces perfect for virtual slave hunting. The Dominion, Roawenwood and other groups run hunts where captured slaves submit to every whim of their mistresses. There are enough of them that the blog Second Life Hunt was set up to chronicle the pursuits, the captures, the punishments.

Of course, the real-life version is infinitely more satisfying — but it also remains more elusive, as many doms don’t have the resources or the demand to run a pursuit. “I have never received a request for a scene involving hunting,” says Mistress Selina Raven. The Northern California–based dom is intrigued by the concept, but says it would be a challenge to do professionally — a responsible dominatrix needs to think about venue safety, permissions and medical facilities. Atlanta-based Mistress Ayn scoffs, “The idea of hunting [men] in the woods seems farcical. It’s not part of being a professional dom.” She adds, however, that she’s not an outdoors person. “Getting scratched, dirty and bug-bitten has no appeal to me,” she says. “I like a nice, clean dungeon.”

Bay Area sexologist Dr. Sandra Lindholm doesn’t see slave hunts becoming mainstream for BDSM play. She thinks the sociopolitical implications — such as the African-American slave experience — deter many people. However, as long as hunts are safe and consensual, she doesn’t have a problem with them. “Feeling free to not be in control can be very erotically exciting,” she says. “[Just be sure that ] participants are able to decipher between fantasy and reality.”

For those who fantasize this way, Mistress Natalya Sadici says it’s often a reaction to today’s patriarchal society: “A lot of men find women who embrace their power very attractive.”

Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated the name of the organizer of the Order of Indomitus event. It is Mistress Michelle Lacy. In addition, the earlier version of the article did not specify that participants in the event wear protective goggles as well as footwear and collars.

OZYFast Forward

New trends and breakthrough thinking in politics, science, technology, business and culture. It’s futurism at its best.