Worldwide icon-chevron-right South Pacific icon-chevron-right Australia icon-chevron-right Sydney icon-chevron-right Meet the mistresses who reign over the Kastle, Sydney's last full service BDSM dungeon

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The Kastle1/2
Photograph: Daniel BoudMistress Lucilla in 'The Red Dungeon'
The Kastle2/2
Photograph: Daniel Boud

Meet the mistresses who reign over the Kastle, Sydney's last full service BDSM dungeon

How much do you know about this legendary institution of the local fetish scene? Photographs by Daniel Boud

By Alannah Maher
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Tucked away on a street corner mere walking distance from the centre of Sydney and not far from the busiest stretch of Cleveland Street, an unassuming terrace house dating back to the 1860s belies one of the city’s not-so-well kept secrets. The Kastle is legendary in the fetish scene as one of Sydney’s most well established public BDSM dungeons. It's also the last of its kind.

There’s a lot of hearsay and intrigue surrounding the Kastle and its decades-long legacy. So we sat down with its owner, Mistress Scarlett, and one of the Kastle’s star mistresses, Mistress Lucilla, to sip tea in the parlour and do some dispelling. 

“It's not all whips and chains. You're not going to end up bloodied and bruised and battered – unless you want to be,” explains Mistress Lucilla. “We are here to help you uncover your fantasy in real life, and what that looks like could take any way, shape or form as long as we practice safe, sane and consensual kink.”

Portrait of Mistress ScarlettThe portrait of Mistress Scarlett that hangs in the Kastle's parlour

Behind the caged facade of the building, the interior walls are painted a deep, rich red. There are vintage velvet lounges and a cage in the welcome parlour, which is overlooked by a large painted portrait of Mistress Scarlett, complete with a regal silver up-do atop her head and a fluffy white companion sitting on her lap. The Kastle’s interior design could be best described as a meeting of the Addams Family’s mansion and a Jackie Collins boudoir, splashes of leopard print and chandeliers hanging from every available light fitting. The stairs leading to the upper floor have that particular steepness you only find in Sydney terraces of a certain vintage; there’s a slight slant to the walls and a historical charm that only enhances the risqué fantasy of the period decor. Before Mistress Scarlett took over in 2000, the venue was run as a dungeon for fifteen years by Mistress Emma Peel, who was said to have learned her trade from the “British aristocracy”.

To be clear, this establishment is not a brothel offering typical sex work services, although Sydney has several across the city. As a professional BDSM venue, people seek out the Kastle for the services of its professional mistresses (or dominatrixes) and to hire its custom facilities. The Kastle contains five themed rooms over two levels and the staff of mistresses are specialised in catering to their clients' desires and fantasies. There are three dungeon rooms including the quintessential ‘Red Dungeon’ containing all means of restraints and ‘torture’ devices including a rather imposing Saint Andrew’s Cross. There is also the ‘Medical Room’ where clients can live out health examination fantasies, and a rather pink and frilly room called the ‘Pussy Parlour’ equipped with all the frocks, locks and accessories for cross dressing or ‘forced feminisation’ fantasies. The Kastle team are also quite chuffed about the facelift to what they’re now calling the ‘Rockstar Bathroom’, which has been furnished in gold and black during lockdown.

The 'Pussy Parlour'.A selection of wigs in the 'Pussy Parlour'

With two psychology degrees, a two-decades long career, and international reputation under her studded leather belt, Mistress Lucilla is more interested in the why rather than the what when it comes to her clients’ needs: “I've always been fascinated by people, and I think in this job you need to be able to read people… And I've always been very fascinated with the why, the what is inconsequential. But if you understand the motivation, or the why, I think it can help uncover certain parts of people's fantasies that they didn't necessarily know themselves.”

Mistress Lucilla describes the process of booking in for an appointment at a BDSM dungeon  as like booking in for a flight to an exciting destination. “The client is the passenger and the mistress would be the pilot,” she says. Much like flying, when booking your proverbial journey, you may well be experiencing some anxiety as well as anticipation. “You get to the airport, you check in, you assume that the flight crew are qualified, the pilots are qualified, and they've done all the safety checks. There's the excitement of taking off, there's a plateau of the flight, and then there's the descent – and you can't necessarily enjoy the destination unless you enjoy the journey.” 

In the more clinical aspects of the initiation and booking process, mistresses will discuss their client’s fantasy and how it can be actualised, talk through the pillars of “safe, sane and consensual BDSM”, and make sure they’re aware of any physical issues or mental triggers. 

Mistress Lucilla in the 'Red Dungeon'.Mistress Lucilla in the 'Red Dungeon'

Speaking as the “pilot”, Mistress Lucilla adds: “If you don't do safety checks, you can have a rocky road. You need to have the experience to pull the flight back to a safe destination.”

The Kastle’s BDSM practitioners have the passion, experience and training to administer BDSM rituals like bondage, torture, piercing and medical play in a safe and controlled yet deeply immersive environment. 

But it’s not just punters who come seeking experiences. The Kastle often fields enquiries from people interested in making a living in the dominatrix field. While the role of a mistress can be alluring to people from as many walks of life as that of the customers that seek their services, Mistress Lucilla says that it pays to remember that BDSM work is a service profession: “I guess there's an assumption that there's a lot of glamour in this industry. But let me tell you, after eight hours of cleaning up – you know, blood, sweat and cum – no one's coming in a helicopter to take me home.”

If your interests have been piqued, there’s one word of advice Mistress Lucilla and Mistress Scarlett have for first time visitors: do your research. The Kastle’s website has plenty of detailed information about who the in-house mistresses are (there are several with varying specialities, as well as submissives and one master listed) and examples of what sessions can entail. Once you have an idea of which practitioners you’re vibing with, you can call the venue to find out what their schedules look like and make a booking. Walk-in appointments are technically possible, but booking in advance is recommended to get the most out of your experience.

Statuettes and hand sanitizer in the dungeon's hallway.Saucy statuettes and hand sanitizer found in the dungeon's hallway.

Another golden rule is to not be afraid of using the ‘safeword’ – this is a code word or signal that can be used when a physical, emotional or moral boundary is being approached or crossed. At the Kastle, the house safeword is framed on the wall in every room (it’s ‘mercy’, FYI) and the establishment prides itself on adopting the values of ‘safe, sane and consensual BDSM’, a motto which means that the practice is based on safe activities, that all participants are sound of mind to consent, and that all participants do consent.

Mistress Scarlett has been the owner of the Kastle for some 20 years and a professional mistress since 1991. With all that experience up her delicate lace sleeve, including time at the famous Pandora’s Box in Manhattan, she has some insightful knowledge on the BDSM industry and what she calls “the true expression of the human spirit”. Whether customers are coming to her establishment for “sexy fun”, a “cathartic experience”, “to push their limits” or simply “to cross something off their bucket list” she says: “I want them to get whatever they came for, and it varies from person to person… All of those people could have exactly the same session, the same components, and it can mean a different thing.” 

“I want them [the customers] to have the confidence to come back, because I think the hardest part is getting through the door,” added Mistress Lucilla. “I would want them to have a long lasting experience that would help them grow on whatever journey they've embarked on… it's a unique experience and not everybody has the courage to try.” 

The 'Red Dungeon'..The tools of the mistresses' trade hanging on the wall of the 'Red Dungeon'

The Kastle is currently operating with some adjustments after the lockdowns, however the venue already follows strict sanitizing procedures between bookings. Shutdowns aside, this unique business already faces economic fluctuations and hurdles. A BDSM dungeon also doesn’t enjoy the same kind of word-of-mouth recommendations that businesses like hairdressing salons might benefit from. As with any business, the key to survival is innovation, so in addition to its tried and true mistress services, the Kastle also offers dungeon rental for couples to enjoy intimate encounters, and telephone sessions for those who aren’t able to visit in person.

The Kastle has its own important place in the elaborate puzzle of Sydney’s social history, and also serves as an important community and safe place for the mostly women who work there. It describes itself as “a portal to the imagination”, and in the strange times we’re living through, this outlet for escapism, fantasy and human intimacy could be more beneficial than ever. If the gloomy forecast of the impending climate apocalypse has you ready to throw caution to the wind, or the feeling of the swab from a virus test kit tickling the back of your sinuses felt a little too good, maybe it could be time you visited this hallowed ground of Sydney’s underground fetish scene.

The Kastle is open seven days a week. Current opening hours are 10am-6pm from Monday to Friday (evening appointment available from 6-10pm), and noon-midnight on Saturday and Sunday. Find out more here.

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