When it comes to career aspirations, most women don’t think whips, ropes and handcuffs. But word on the street is that many women are turning to freelance fetish work to keep up with their expenses.

With “kink” more mainstream than ever, educated, professional women are putting on their leather. And they have many wondering: What’s the appeal of being a dominatrix?

“The toughest job you’ll ever love” has taken on a whole new meaning. When it comes to sex work, being a dominatrix is no walk in the park. After all, they do have to wear spiked-heeled, thigh-high boots.

Far from the fantasy figures they enact, some are moms, employees with day jobs, consultants and freelancers looking to supplement their income for a more affordable lifestyle. Others are unemployed professionals or students needing money for food and tuition in a tough economy.

Becoming a dominatrix — a female who takes a dominant role in bondage, discipline, domination and submission — is an attractive option for these women because:

— It offers the convenience of early or nightshift work;

— It enables cute women with bodies bigger than the Barbie-esque figure desired of strippers to work in the sex industry;

— It provides a woman with the opportunity to flog some of the bankers responsible for the current financial mess.

But the fact that they are able to avoid intercourse is the main reason your “average” women in need of cash are going this route.

Plus, the money isn’t bad (though nowhere near the $500 an hour call girls rake in). A dominatrix makes up to $200 a shift, and the hours don't have to be steady. But these are definitely “don’t quit your day job” gigs. While we do hear of a few women making a killing at a fetish party ($1,000 a night), these stories are the exception to the rule.

With a number of them not even interested in kink, this is a temporary situation for many. Being “glamorized hookers,” as they’re often called, is not easy money. These women work hard. While they do get to run around in black lingerie, garter belts, and stilettos, this is no lounge-around-Victoria’s-Secret fashion shoot.

First, they need to be trained in techniques like whipping and caning. They need to learn how to use the tools for sex acts involving bondage, paddling and sexual torture.

Once with a client, there’s an interview process. They need to find out more about his expectations beyond any initial booking requests. This requires a skill set. The mistress must be:

— Sensitive to others’ sexual fantasies, thoughts and emotions;

— Open-minded and self-confident;

— Empathetic to others’ wants and desires;

— Good in the art of seduction.

And this goes for all of her clients. While many dominatrices have regular clients, they also field men who are up for the occasional sexual adventure. Clients from all professions and all walks of life come through their “dungeon” door. The one wish they all have in common: They want the full, deluxe service.

Following the interview, there’s a warm-up foreplay component. But this isn’t your typical woo me, touch me, talk sexy pre-game. The dominatrix becomes a counselor of sorts with clients who like to talk about their sexual needs, desires, fetishes and the experience to come. For most clients, she is the only safe space where they can confide their most private sexual thoughts.

It is also during this time that the dominatrix works with the client in figuring out how she can best indulge the fetish.

You can imagine that the intensity of focusing on another person — the individual’s feelings and body language — with behaviors labeled atypical by most, is exhausting. While offering the glorified, Hollywood-style dominatrix experience, these women handle what some call girls and prostitutes can’t or won’t. So is it any wonder that many mistresses and clients consider this a bonding experience?

Being a dominatrix or “pro-domme,” as they’re know in the industry, is nothing new. Some have been in the industry for years. They either freelance or work regular shifts at a commercial dungeon.

The industry stands to expand if the economic crisis doesn’t end soon. And with that, some women, although it may sound strange to others, are perfectly fine with going to a job where they're actually called “ma’am.”

Dr. Yvonne K. Fulbright is a sex educator, relationship expert, columnist and founder of Sexuality Source Inc. She is the author of several books including, "Touch Me There! A Hands-On Guide to Your Orgasmic Hot Spots."

Click here to read more FOXSexpert columns.