Author's Note: This concept story is in the form of a news article about a FemDom city state. It is an attempt to build a vaguely plausible fictional reality in which other stories could be written. This mostly sets the scene for stories to follow.
Following months of requests I was the first international journalist to be granted access to secretive city state of Femina. Femina was one of the many small states to appear following the collapse of the former Russian Federation. It's apparent stability and prosperity meant it outlived most of the others that appeared in the vacuum of power. However it's secrecy has led to wild stories and speculation backed up by precious little evidence.
The city is served by the nearby airport that is owned and operated by the commonwealth of small states that surround Femina. The area is one of the most stable in the former Federation, due, in part, to the economic influence of Femina. A 40-minute taxi ride takes me through the starkly beautiful hills to the broad valley where the state is located. A tall border wall comes into sight peppered with surveillance and monitoring equipment. My cell phone, the GPS and radio in the taxi stop working - this is normal according to the taxi driver.
In fact attempts to surveil the state have proved very difficult. Drones, planes and even satellites are temporarily blinded by powerful lasers whenever cameras are directed within the walls.
Buildings protrude from the border wall; trucks are directed toward large warehouses while we travel onto a small glass and steel building with the Femina flag flying from it. The building is guarded by armed men and women in uniform, they, and the staff inside, wear the insignia of the state, but these are not citizens, they are employed from the local area and have almost certainly never set foot across the border.
Security is courteous but tight, my belongings are thoroughly searched and my electronic devices are confiscated, as per our agreement. My passport and visa are checked, phone calls are made. Finally I'm allowed to pass through a heavy door, down a corridor, and through another armoured door where I see the words 'Welcome to Femina'.
I am met by a young woman who introduces herself as Sarah, the government representative - my minder for the visit. Smartly dressed in a tailored pin-stripe suit, she looks every part the modern business woman.
She starts with the basics. Femina is a city of over 200,000 citizens, the government is a democracy with a parliament and president directly elected by the citizens, an independent judiciary, universal healthcare, a low crime rate and a small professional military. But then comes the information that I'm waiting for - all the citizens are women. There are men there, lots of men, but they are 'looked after' by the citizens.
"They need not worry themselves with the complexities of life, they must only do what their citizens ask of them," says Sarah.
"So they're servants, slaves?" I ask.
"We refer to them as 'chattels'," she replies.
"As in property?! We're talking about slavery, right?", surely I couldn't have heard her correctly.
Slightly tersely Sarah responds, "They're here of their own free will."
To explain she tells me about the history of the state. In the days of the Federation this area was only sparsely inhabited and largely left to its own devices. Fringe groups, cults and sects found it a place to live away from the glare and judgement of the world. Among them was a group of wealthy BDSM practitioners who wanted to escape the increasingly conservative populism of the times and live their lifestyle openly. They bought the land, built houses and created a small community. In time it grew large enough to support jobs and attracted middle and lower income practitioners.
As the community grew to become a small town there was a need for some official governance. The male dominants had collected on the east bank of the river and the female dominants on the west bank, which led to a polarisation of the politics and eventual split into the towns of Femina and Masculum. Despite the difference in gender roles, the two towns shared much in common and enjoyed friendly relations, working together on water, power and security.
But the social politics of the time would catch up with Masculum. Despite the reportedly consensual nature of the relationships, the public and the press equated it with abuse, the wealthy men could no longer support the town and it went into rapid decline. Eventually the properties were bought by citizens of the expanding Femina.
"We call that district Emasculum", jokes Sarah.
We stepped outside and into a waiting car. It's driven by a woman, a task considered too important to be done by men. There is a surprising amount of farmland surrounding the city along with other signs of industry, factories, warehouses etc. In the distance the tall buildings of the city can be seen. I am told that although the state was originally dependent on its wealthy benefactors it is now a major exporter due to its cheap [slave] labour. However it is also well known that several multinationals are officially headquartered here with minimal staff, attracted by tax breaks and the secrecy.
As we reach the city rickshaws appear on the road, rather more comfortable and well built than the kind of contraption you see on holiday. Driving these does appear to be a job for the men. I'm told that an app called 'Unter' is used as a taxi service.
I press Sarah on the issue of slavery and she doesn't shy away from it.
"The chattels are just that, possessions. Rather like a pet dog. They can be bought and sold, used as desired."
"So they have no more rights than a dog?"
"No, in fact they have fewer. If you were to beat a dog that would be a crime, but there is considerable room for disciplining a chattel. Don't forget the origins of this state was a BDSM community. Of course there are limits; blood sports, unlawful killing - these types of things are crimes.
"Please don't miss-understand me, we love our chattels. We feed them, care for them, look after them. They don't need to concern themselves with anything other than the task they are given."
The car slows down and I can see people on the street. They are dressed in all manner of clothing that would be considered unusual in even the most liberal city. Soft flowing dresses clash with harsh leather clad dominatrixes, a latex blouse is combined with jeans, a woman in a full tuxedo is talking to another wearing only skimpy panties.
But the men are even more unusual. Most are restrained in some way, many harshly gagged. Led on leads they follow their owners carrying bags, coats etc. Some almost naked, many covered in leather, a few dressed in exaggerated feminine clothing, but one or two are dressed relatively normally. I spy one holding hands with his owner, looking like a couple in any street anywhere else in the world.
"There's a huge range of people here," says Sarah. "Don't think of it as just whip-carrying mistresses and gimps - although we do have quite a lot of those. People come here for all kinds of reasons and relationships. For many it's a full-on BDSM relationship, for others it's simply a female led relationship. But in most cases the citizens like to keep their chattels restrained because they are responsible for their actions. If a chattel breaks the law the citizen owner will also be punished. That's also why they're usually gagged, it's against the law for chattels to speak in public."
I see a woman leading another woman whose arms and chest are bound with rope, in turn behind a man shuffles along in chains and a gag.
"This is a good example," says Sarah. "Both women are citizens, both have full rights, so the relationship must be consensual. We have a lot of lesbian and bisexual citizens. The chattel however has forfeited its rights and is not a matter for the state."
"But you told me the men are here of their own free will."
"Oh, they are. Although we consider it up to them to educate themselves before they enter Femina, we make sure by explaining their future status to them in some detail. Only if they sign their new rights do they pass into the state.
"Most arrive with their owners who are already citizens or becoming citizens. But some arrive on their own, looking for a simpler life."
"What happens to these unowned men?"
"They are checked medically. There's no desire to burden the state with sick chattels. If they're healthy we take them in, give them basic training and sell them at the market. They're bought variously by citizens, businesses and training houses. Some are kept by the state for civic tasks such as cleaning and garbage collection."
"What if they change their mind?"
"It's made clear to them that this is a one way street, not something to be taken lightly. Once they make that decision they have to live with it."
Sources tell me that an attractive, young, well educated and well trained chattel can fetch many 10s of 1000s of dollars at the markets. Most citizens have a few, particularly wealthy citizens can have many more. The farms and factories take many of those who are difficult to train to the norms of the state and are kept in check with brutal discipline by the employers. The old and infirm usually end up in a state run hostel to live out their days, but there are reports that many are euthanized. The state fiercely denies this and the stories of citizens kidnapping men or coercing them. The chattel market is not on our itinerary.
I ask if we can take an 'Unter'. Sarah seems pleased by the suggestion. We pull over and she brings up the app. Within minutes a rickshaw arrives. 'Rickshaw' does not do it justice. The passenger compartment is more like a car; weather-proof and quiet with comfortable seats. Sarah taps the destination into the interface and we set off. Outside sits the athletic looking rider, hands locked in metal spheres where the handle bars would be, feet secured to the pedals. He's wearing a form fitting garment that covers his whole body, only a small opening for his eyes remain. Tubes and wires connect him to the body of the vehicle, I presume for water and urine - I doubt they get comfort breaks.
"He's very fast, and smooth,'' I say, noticing that he's avoiding the gutters and other bumps.
"There's an incentive. There are accelerometers on the vehicle, bumps and knocks result in correctional shocks. On the other hand, the faster it goes an increasing amount of genital stimulation is provided to keep it well motivated."
There's a range of ages, colors, shapes and sizes on the streets but no children.
"It is a school day," Sarah reminds me. "We don't have many children, most of our population growth comes from immigration. But some citizens do choose to become pregnant, either with another citizen (thanks to our advanced medical research) or with a chattel. Most chose to have females thanks to our screening program, but a very few decide to keep the boys. Beyond two months old the boys must leave the state. Of course they're free to return once they're an adult."
We arrive at city hall, the seat of political power. They have maintained minimal contact with the outside world although they do participate in the politics of the local commonwealth to allow the free flow of goods to and from the city state. Their economic power and technological development serves them well and analysts suggest that it's this that keeps the loose commonwealth together.
We enter the chamber gallery. A debate is taking place on the question of taking chattels outside the state. The law currently allows citizens to take chattels beyond the border, but if the chattel does not return with the citizen then she has her citizenship revoked. One group argues that as owners they have every right to take them beyond the border and leave them there if they so desire. The other is concerned that these chattels may be effectively freed once outside which would place a dangerous precedent. Sarah tells me that this topic has been discussed many times over the years, although support has slowly been gathering for this to be relaxed.
"Quite a lot of the citizens travel regularly. Of course there's a lot of business travel but many travel to see family, afterall not many are born here.
"They don't often take their chattels with them. The outside world is not very understanding of our way of life. But they can be leased to businesses or placed in kennels while they are away."
I ask about crime.
"Given the size of the city, it's very low. Violent crime is particularly low; theft, property damage, social disturbance. We have some white-collar crime; tax dodging, fraud etc. But there have been a few cases of serious assault and even an attempted murder, but these are extremely rare.
"We have a modest police force, judiciary and a small prison. In most cases we prefer to deal with the punishment through fines, community service or, for repeat offenders, we find public humiliation to be very effective."
"Yes, an old fashioned pillory works wonders! Don't forget that the citizens are dominant by nature, it's not an experience they quickly forget."
"What about the chattels? You say they are forbidden to speak in public."
"Chattels, by definition, are the responsibility of their owner. The owner has to answer for crimes of the chattel. Chattel related crime is taken very seriously and repeat offences can lead to time in the pillory. Hence owners are careful to train their slaves and keep them under control."
And with good reason. The men are estimated to outnumber the women here by more than three to one. An open rebellion would be unstoppable.
"Are the chattels punished?"
"The state does intervene in such cases with severe public corporal punishment. But I expect that to be mild compared to the disciplining they'll receive from their owners."
I ask to see the pillory. The square is a couple of blocks to a square, but on the way we pass through a retail center. I want to stop and take a look - I'm told it will have to be quick. The street is full of the usual clothes stores, coffee shops, phone retailers. Other than the unrecognisable names and unusually popular fashion of leather and latex it seemed quite normal. Except that is for a store called 'Pimp my Gimp'.
"Great name isn't it!" says Sarah. "This is a store of accessories for your chattels."
Sarah goes in a had a word with the owner.
"Can I show you what we do here?" asks the shopkeeper, a petite woman in her 30s wearing an ankle length dress who seems more like she should be selling me the latest spring fashion than hardcore bondage equipment.
She presses a button and a man enters and stands in the middle of the room. He's slightly older than her, thin with closely cropped hair and is covered in all manner of metal restraints.
"Let me talk you through it.
"First we have the four cuffs, one per limb with a couple of attachment points each," she says while using a chain to link his hands together behind his back and then connect them uncomfortably close to his collar.
"Then we have the collar with built in shock mechanism. Unless you're really zapping a lot, the battery only needs charging weekly. The remote range covers all of Femina and can deliver a gentle buzz to a fully disabling taser action."
She motions to the remote for me to try, but I decline with a smile and a shake of the head. Next she removes the small towel covering his genitals to reveal yet more metal.
"This chastity belt is inescapable, with shock and reward options. It also has a dildo holder so if you use your chattel for sex there's no need to unlock it anymore.
"Finally we have the pièce de résistance," she says, pointing to his head and the metal that had caught my eye as soon as I saw him.
"It's a long term gag. A broad pipe forms a tongue depressor, breathing tube and feeding tube. Above and below form-fitting gum shields hold the jaw in place. This is all connected to a metal shield that sits behind the lips and in front of the teeth. The shield connects to metal bands that wrap around the head and under the jaw. The feeding tube bypasses the teeth but there are also tubes for introducing pressurised mouthwash directly onto the teeth and tongue for cleaning. There's just enough movement for regular shaving without removing the gag."
"Can he speak at all?" I ask.
The shopkeeper presses a button on the remote causing the man to double up in pain. Quiet grunting noises and heavy breathing is all that can be heard.
"Ok, ok!" I say, filled with remorse.
"The gag has microphones and will shock it if it tries to make a noise"
"How long do you keep these locked on?"
"These aren't locked, they've been welded!" she replies gleefully. "We developed a technique to weld metal close to the skin using special insulation materials. It's been like this for over four years now."
"Isn't that right?" she asks the man. He nods meekly. "Before we moved here you were quite the chatter-box, eh?"
We continue on the pillory. It's not quite as 'old fashioned' as I had imagined. A woman is held in a metal pillory on a platform some 5 meters above street level. She's a tall, commanding woman with strong facial features, wearing a smart trouser-suit but she's dwarfed by the enormous screen behind her showing a close up of her face. She's gagged with a large red ball, drooling and her eyes are filled with shame. Passers by point and stare. The screen lists her name and also her crime: 'Repeated Tax Evasion'.
"It's a pity it's a state case," says Sarah. "In private cases the other party often leaves suitably ripe ammunition."
"We're a modern state, but sometimes the old ways are the best!"
With that we have to get back underway to visit one of the state's much vaunted high tech companies.
The glass front and marble floor look much like any other headquarters, but I don't recognise the name of this one. After an extensive, jargon-filled sales-pitch I'm taken on a tour of the factory floor. Over 50 men are chained to workstations, restrained and gagged while producing complex parts for cell phones. Others shuffle around in chains bring parts to the benches. All are wearing heavy duty metal collars. The floor is patrolled by uniformed supervisors. One man looks over in my direction, distracted for just a few seconds before convulsing in pain from his collar. A nearby supervisor holding a remote control makes sure he learns his lesson.
The work is repetitive but intricate, labour intensive and difficult to automate. It's easy to see how they can undercut other factories. This combined with the inherent secrecy of the state makes the production of high-tech hardware the largest export of Femina.
I ask to speak to one of the men. To my surprise I'm allowed and one is brought forward and the network of leather straps holding a deep gag in place are removed. He's a skinny man with a receding hairline dressed in a close fitting jumpsuit. He's also wearing heavy duty wrist and ankle cuffs and, of course, the collar. I ask about his life.
He works a 12 hour shift, then participates in a training programme. He is allowed a few hours to read or watch TV before being locked in a cage for the night.
"I arrived with my girlfriend, but I found it difficult to adjust to my new life. After less than a year she sold me - I can't blame her, I'd caused her problems. Because of my record of disobedience, only the companies were interested. My work and the training here has helped force me to accept my place and, in time, they offered me on the time sharing market.
"I was lucky enough to be bought by a wonderful citizen. I work four days here and then spend two days serving her. She's all I think about every day."
He says he never regrets his choice to come to Femina. Of course he knows he's being listened to by state officials but seems surprisingly genuine. After years of slavery perhaps it's all he knows. Sarah tells me that the time sharing arrangement is very common. The companies take cheap chattels and train them to become suitable for citizen ownership. It stops the chattels becoming demotivated and provides another line of income for the company.
The final stop on the tour is back at the border. They wanted me to meet a new citizen. She is only 24 and had been headhunted by the same tech company I had just visited. It's a huge opportunity for her to take charge of R&D projects with an impressive pay packet and subsidised housing. Her excitement is clear to see as she tells me about her new role. I ask how her husband felt about it.
"He's excited for me. We've always given my career priority, I have better qualifications and prospects. He's been able to pick up jobs but never really a career."
I ask about the question of his rights.
"Our relationship has always been female led, not BDSM or anything like that, but I've always been in charge. I'll look after him. I'd never sell him.
"Well, not unless he became really annoying!" she laughs then suddenly stops, as if it was a thought that had escaped accidentally.
I want to meet the husband, soon to be chattel. I'm taken to the registration facility. He's been through the introduction course and is waiting to sign his rights away. He looks slightly shocked.
"How are you doing?" I ask.
"Not so bad. It will only be a day or so before I'm out of here," he said quietly, glancing around his small cell. "It's such a great opportunity for her. This kind of senior position at her age is one hell of an achievement."
"Aren't you sacrificing an awful lot for her career?"
"She was going to take the job anyway, it was my choice if I wanted to join her. I chose to stick with my wife."
"But in there you will have no rights, you will be just an object, a pet."
"I'll be her pet," he smiles. Then more seriously, "I trust her with my life."
"And if things change, if she changes? People do. She could sell you. Sell you to goodness knows whom."
He pauses, perhaps taken aback by the starkness of the words.
"Then I'll have to change with her," he says quietly.
Part of me admires his commitment to her, but more of me wonders if young love has blinded him to the reality of what was about to happen.
A guard takes him to the registration room. He only pauses for a moment before signing the document. He is photographed and tattooed with his registration number on his left shoulder. They chain his wrists and ankles to his waist and gag him before transferring him to a cage on the Femina side of the border. The look in his eyes as they gag him tells me that the enormity of his decision is hitting home.
I leave the state, riding back in the taxi to the airport. The six hours I was there had produced more questions than answers. I suspect they're using this article to see how public opinion reacts, knowing that without photos or video evidence they can dismiss it as wild fantasy if things go badly. Still it is a sign that Femina is beginning to look outwards, confident in itself.
On a personal level I was struck by the brutality of the law and the absolute power of the women there. But I was also taken by freedom of the citizens to live their lives openly as they see fit and the intensity of the love of the men for their owners. I cannot, must not condone what they are doing, and yet I can't bring myself to condemn it.