Updated: Nov 15
MASTER WILLIAM IN CONVERSATION WITH PENELOPE DARIO
PHOTOGRAPHY by DIA DYNASTY
A master of many trades with the humility of an eternal student, Master William is a true gem in the BDSM world. Since co-founding Temple in 2019 they have been providing safe spaces for play parties and educational workshops open to anyone who desires the sacred knowledge of consent-based kink.
So let's begin with your villain origin story. What are your first memories related to kink? And how did you eventually find yourself working in this space?
As a kinkster I've always been attracted to materials. And one of my earliest memories of getting to play in a kinky way was tying up all my toys and dragging them around in the yard. I used to really enjoy making a little rope parade out of all my little toys: trucks and dolls and whatever. So I think the first things I tied up were toys.
And then, of course, Victoria's Secret catalogs started getting sent to the house and I always really appreciated that and I think that was my first recall of fetish wear— something that I could fetishize, these beautiful women in these lacy elegant forms. Victoria's Secret definitely played a major role.
I think getting to the tactility of rope started with tying things up and making rope sculptures between the railing in my living room and other parts of the house where I grew up. I would make little rope sculptures and suspend stuff from them. There was something about the visual tactility, getting to see stuff like lace on bodies, and the way that lingerie kind of cuts up the form and makes these sculptures out of bodies really turned me on.
I feel like a rope fetish is a really interesting thing to start so young. I love that because you hear about people even doing things like puppy play with their friends in the neighborhood and it makes sense for it to evolve into a fetish later in life. And not that rope doesn't make sense, but it feels very sophisticated for a kid.
I guess with the rope thing, it's such a simple toy. It's the kind of thing that you'd find laying around, it's not something that you have to have some kind of special access for it to show up in your life. It quickly evolved to doing Boy Scouts and learning knots and learning how to make structures out of rope and whatever you'd find in the woods. We were pretty feral kids in the 80s. We’d just find something and go wander off and make a game out of it. Sure, lighting things on fire and doing more dangerous things happened. But I think there was something about building forts and having somewhere to go hang out away from adults by making your own little world in the woods was really fun. That led to being a sailing instructor when I was in my adolescence, and that exposed me to a whole different level of what rope can do. I also got into rock climbing and the feeling of suspending your body over a dangerous thing. Rope always was, quite literally, a common thread through a lot of different activities that I liked. So I think it was an easy in, in terms of availability, and then became something that escalated very gradually in terms of how it could be used and what level of danger or type of scenario you could get into with it.
Yeah, that's really interesting. Just the idea of rock climbing and suspending yourself has that connection with rope and shibari. And then applying that to a sport or sailing shows a deep affinity for this material. I love hearing you talk about exploring all the different modalities of rope ever since you were really young. What about the rope itself? What is it that drew you to it then? And what is it that draws you to it now and still keeps you engaged?
It's a good question. I love the malleability and the serpentine-ness of it.
I'm a materialist, I work in a material world and I make things out of different materials, and each one of them has their own language and everything has its own way it wants to be touched and ways it wants to respond to that touch.What you can coax it to do and what it wants to do naturally. Rope has this really lovely way of sometimes being a puzzle, like trying to undo of a big mess of rope is kind of like its own game where you're like, “if I start from here, how much do I have to get out before I can run it back through.” It's the kind of puzzle that wants to be unraveled. And it likes to be pulled, it doesn't want to be pushed. And at the end of the whole game, you can just coil it up and toss it aside and not feel bad about it. It lacks a preciousness where if you have to cut it in half, fine, there's probably more at a store somewhere nearby. It's not like you're making jewelry or carving something out of stone, you can start over and hit reset. And that's kind of a fun thing about it, too, is that it's very temporal.
It's just spaghetti.
Yeah, it's just spaghetti, but you don't want to eat it. Probably.
I love what you said about the materials having their own language. They also have their own personality. One of the things that I began exploring in art school that was most fascinating to me was getting to know materials. If I had all the money in the world, I would literally buy an airplane hangar and play with shit and get to know all of the materials and what they want to do. I think the greatest art oftentimes is when someone really understands the medium that they're working with and the work becomes a conversation between the artist and the material. And it's a constructive conversation where they're working together. Because the artist understands the material so well, that it's almost like they're just guiding the substance to do its thing and do what it wants. And then it comes together in this beautiful way. I've never thought about this in relation to rope. I think it’s really interesting how versatile it is. And I think even through your own journey, like going from tying up toys to rock climbing and sailing and then Shibari; it's still the same material in really different but fascinating applications.
The big aha moment with Shibari was when I was working at the Mandarin nightclub in Cambridge, Mass and Midori was launching her Japanese rope bondage book. That was the first time I saw somebody applying it to a body in a constructive way and an artistic way. I bought that book, read it through 1000 times, and totally absorbed as much as I could while she was doing these demos in space. That was somewhere around 2003 or 2004. And that was the big moment of realization where I was like, Oh, my God, this is the whole next phase of what rope could mean for me. That's when it became part of my sex life, and something that could be applied artistically that was about connecting to a human being as opposed to more inanimate objects or experiences.
So up until that point, you hadn't really explored Shibari at all?
I didn't even know what it was. This was when the internet was barely even a thing. I was really tech averse, so I wasn't somebody who was figuring out how to use a phone line to tap into websites. I was handwriting papers through high school… so in 2004 I had an email, but I was like, why? I don't know anybody else with an email. You know what I mean? What is this for? I had it for school. It wasn't until I saw a publication like a book, a physical thing and somebody saying, “this is what I do.” There was no internet, there was no Instagram, there was no outlet to find out about it until it showed up in my real world.
Sex work and pornography and kink has proliferated so much with the internet and I think has been one of the main incentives for the development of the internet.
Thinking about what it's like now, even with all the shadow banning, people still are getting to understand all these things much more easily, and it's a lot more accessible not only to find out what your kinks are but how to be safe with them. There's a lot of education out there. But I'm thinking that it must have been all community-based back then. I didn't know anybody where I grew up who tied. And once I found it, it was just me and my willing partners who would explore; it wasn't like there were rope jams. It wasn't like there was a space for it. I think Shibari and impact play are still illegal in Boston. Growing up in an extremely puritanical place made things happen behind closed doors, and I was lucky to work in a club that was kink, gay, queer, everything forward, a super art fag kind of spot. I was lucky to have that, or else I wouldn't have even had the exposure to Midori, and I count my blessings for that. Had there been more of a community, then my trajectory would have been a lot different in terms of how readily I got to expand on my Shibari or kink journey.
So tell me a little bit more about that trajectory. In 2004 you discovered Shibari, and then what happened after you found out about Shibari?
I was going to art school studying sculpture and started doing a lot of performance for video to make projections and installation spaces. I was making work that I would then digitize and present back into a real space. That was the big arc. For me, it was going from 3-D objects to more experiential style artwork. I wanted to create spaces that people would enter into, and have some kind of an elevated experience based on what I was trying to create. So I had an art club space to go to where they did performance art regularly, and I started getting to produce small kink performances at that club and worked with other producers who were doing the night promotions and adding in a piece here or there or whatever, or I helped with the decor for an evening. I got to start using one of the rooms as a gallery and that brought my art and nightlife worlds together. That was part of the arc of the early 2000s for me.
But Shibari was something that I had been teaching my young perverted self who had a lot of internalized repression, that I actually almost consider a kink. There was a level to which I was fantasizing long before I knew what sex was. I was fantasizing about these theatrical moments and making other people do things for my pleasure as if I was the director of a theater. Fantasy was first, and then fantasy as it relates to other people started coming in, and then came playing erotically with partners, and realizing that spanking and choking and all kinds of other things that were really exciting to me and made sex more fun. Then when Shibari came in, I was like “now can I tie you up and do these things.”It was always a layering game of new things coming in getting added into more of a private erotic place. I didn't get to publicly enjoy that stuff except for places like that nightclub. I think there was a level of promiscuousness behind closed doors that became more exciting for me. Then to button up and go out into the world and be like, “you don't know what I'm into,” was fun.
I moved to New York City in 2008, and I didn't really make inroads into the kink community or adjacent spaces. I went to a few things but didn't really feel like I knew my place in it. There was a period of time where I was just wandering, feeling unfulfilled and not connected, except for these very few, peak moments where I got invited to a certain performance, or got invited to a rope night at some random loft, or went to a sex party. It wasn't really until I found a partner who was involved in the poly and kink community that everything started to swirl back into place. Previously, I had been with a vanilla partner, so after we broke up I feel like things shifted quite a bit. There was a latent period of going back into repression, and then having that come back into what I'm feeling like now is more of a golden era.
I feel like everybody goes through these personal renaissances with their sexuality, and what people might consider dry spells are more of an internalized repression. Maybe it's not the universe, maybe it's your own blockages. I think that having access to a community that is really open minded, and can encourage healthy play, is really important.
I also didn't get sober until 2000. So there was a period of time where I'm probably glad that I wasn't involved in things. I really do believe that if you haven't done enough personal work, you're probably dangerous in the kink community. And I think that especially goes for the modern kink community: the ethical, forward, progressive version of kink that I like to be a part of. I think that my sobriety led me to doing all kinds of work that has been an incredibly good foundation for my kink practice. And prior to that, I might have been more of a dangerous player and might have made a mess of things had I not had the presence and wherewithal to really behave the way I want to. I probably would not have shown up as my best self, and now I feel like I'm in a much better position to bring that kind of ethos of intentionality to the people that I play with and help create a spaces like the Temple that can spread that kind of gospel.
It's important to acknowledge the dangers of not having done the internal work before entering into kink spaces, and any sex working space, whether you are more submissive or dominant. How can you tell whether a dom is safe or not?
Firstly, I like to distinguish between topping and domming, and I think it's worth talking about the difference between bottoming and subbing. Oftentimes when it comes to rope people talk in terms of top and bottom. It's sort of like everybody's on an equal standing, but one person's giving and one person's receiving the experience. I think domming and subbing is more when you enter into power dynamics, even though those are inherent to everything. When there's an understood D/S relationship and a power exchange happening, you're talking about domming and subbing. Some people only identify as a bottom and not as a sub, some people only identify as a top and not a dominant. I am a dominant and a top, sometimes I get to be somebody's dominant, and sometimes I'm just their top, and not in a pejorative way.
That's a worthy distinction to talk about in terms of how people identify. Something that I found recently that I think is really useful is the idea of top vulnerability. To come back to Midori, who I think is an amazing resource— They were talking about how exposing yourself to things that you like to do is vulnerable. Me being like, “Hey, I would love to tie you up and torture you and torment your body” is me exposing myself to you, right? The same way that if you were like, “hey, I want to come in and take off most of my clothes, if not all, and have you do these things where I'm incapacitated,” is a very vulnerable position to be in both physically, emotionally and psychologically. What I think is less frequently explored is the fact that both people are coming into a situation from a very vulnerable place.
When it comes to trust, and finding a person that you want to play with, whether that's the dominant top or bottom sub, there's tons of red flags that come up. I think chemistry is a huge thing: I want to know if I like the way you smell, I want to know if I like the way that you communicate, I want to know if I like the way that you show up—did we make an appointment for seven and you came at 7:30? I'm much less likely to want to deal with you in general as a human being if you don't respect my time. People who know themselves well enough to answer a question when asked, or say I don't know if they don't know something. But if somebody's making up something on the spot, I'm like,, “why are you feeding me bullshit?” You can just say “I don't know,” and then we can actually constructively explore something in a way where you might find out.
At Temple, we do a whole event where we talk to people about identifying red flags and talk through a lot of this stuff. The Dunning Kruger effect is something that comes up a lot with people who know the least, and have the least amount of experience, but who have the most bravado and believe they know the most. Whereas people that have more experience will be like, “yeah, I've got some experience.” Like, “yeah, I've done some things.” And it's that humility and humbleness that to me is an indicator of experience.
I think for a lot of folks it's about how well somebody can communicate ahead of a scene. How well do they negotiate, how much time are they willing to put into getting to know me? Letting me get to know them is a major indicator of how much I would trust them. Setting up a tea date with somebody and spending an hour just talking about what their life is like, what they're interested in, their experiences, what they're looking forward to getting out of kink goes a long way. And if somebody starts saying a bunch of stuff that doesn't feel good to me, it's probably best that we don't play together. That's not to say that they shouldn't be playing. But it just might mean that I'm not comfortable with them, or we don't align, or there's no chemistry, so maybe we should just keep looking.
I have a lot more experience picking up new play partners than I do dating, which is a funny one. Because in dating there might have been a past paradigm of like, “maybe I shouldn't be asking these questions.” And in kink, it's like, that's exactly what you should be doing. Let's be totally transparent and clear about our intentions. “I want to tie you up and do twisted things to you,” great, “I want that too,” great, let's go! As opposed to having to dance around the reality of what people want out of a situation. And when I think about my neurodivergent challenges with society and insecurities and all the stuff that I experience, kink is a perfect salve for that because it encourages talking about the things that people normally don't.
I can only speak from my own experience, but I think sex work liberated me in so many ways to advocate for myself that translated into my personal life because there's actually a price on my discomfort now. And there is a limit to what I'm willing to put up with for money. If I wouldn't allow someone to speak to me this way if they were paying me, why would I allow someone to speak to me this way for free? Or touch me this way, or refer to me in this way.
Do you feel that your experience in kink has helped in your personal life? Whether it's negotiating work contracts or interpersonal relationships with family members that were difficult. Do you feel that your experience in kink helped you understand how to negotiate boundaries and desire and the limits of transgression?
That's a really good question. For one, I would say that I think a lot of negotiation is an emerging practice. I don't think that's something that's been inherent to kink for very long. Maybe in certain circles, but definitely not as a norm. People are starting to open up more space to talk about more complicated things, for instance, letting people go over the risks inherent in a certain activity. Rope, for example, is edge play and people don't talk about that much. It is a gateway to a lot of possible harm, depending on what you're doing. And not necessarily just physically: taking away somebody's agency in bondage is an extremely vulnerable place to put somebody in. If you mistreat that, whether it's taking a photo that they didn't agree to, despite how it might be used, touching them in a way that they didn't want, any of these are very volatile spaces that we get into. For everybody's feeling of safety, I think the more you talk about the inherent risks in a thing: physical, psychological, spiritual, and any other way mental, helps prepare people for this kind of elevated, edgy space that we're getting into.
As it pertains to boundaries:
Boundaries are one of the biggest discussions where people think like, “oh, well, I don't do anal. That's my boundary.” My partner likes to say, “So you don't mind if I remove a kidney while we're playing then?” And they're like, “whoa, wait, hang on a second. I have more things to say.” And it's like, yeah, you should, you should have more things to say. I think that's one of those interesting ones, where people assume too much, and assuming in general, leads to something that wasn't communicated or was implied but not actually articulated. And that is where you get into danger zones.
People are like, “I want to do CNC, I don't want to know what's happening, I just want to do whatever.” Okay, but you have to recognize that you're consenting to things going terribly wrong. And if you're going to take responsibility for things that you haven't communicated through, and you've just let it slide, that's taking on a shit ton of responsibility. And as somebody who presents masc, even though I identify as femme, that's an extremely dangerous place for me to get into with somebody who could go out tomorrow and be like, “I went to the scene with William and he raped me.” And it's like, life over. I couldn't imagine being in a position where due to not communicating something, and they felt so strongly about what happened that hadn’t been discussed prior, that they could potentially just destroy my life with a word. That is a very vulnerable place to get into with people. So for my safety, I have to state really clear boundaries, I have to say, “I'm not here to touch your genitals,” I'm not here to sexualize you in a way that you're not asking for. That's my baseline. Before we talk about anything else, these are my rules. I have partners that I've been playing with for over a year, where we've done enough negotiating, enough experiences between us, and enough trust has been built that like other things can happen.
I primarily play with femmes, queers and trans folk. All of these people have been systematically denied choice, denied voice, denied the capacity and agency in their lives. Thank you capitalism and patriarchy. So a big part of my job is to give people back agency where they have not had any, and a part of that is stating boundaries. And another part of that is stating that we are going to get into this very vulnerable situation. I want them to feel safe and confident that if they say something, that's the law. As soon as something doesn't feel right, we're going to stop. We're going to change and pivot and figure out what we can do better.
It's about operating on a level of trauma awareness: literally everybody that you interact with has trauma, and if you're not playing and communicating in a way where you recognize that, to me, you're doing everybody a disservice. When people say “no” to something, it makes me trust the “yes” that they will give me elsewhere. If somebody says, I have a boundary around this thing, I say, Thank you for letting me know, let's work around that. If that's something that they want to approach in a constructive way, where we can focus our energy and see if we can tease it apart, I'm not just gonna be like, “Oh, you got a problem with that, let me hit that button 1000 times.” Who wants that?
When you choose to approach something in a very intentional way, it's a lot different than if somebody's just like, well, I'm gonna make this choice for you. Don't we have enough of that in this society? I think I might have danced around your question, but I think you asked about how it really cements relationships, whether it's your primary partner or somebody you're meeting for the first time. I think it’s about being really clear about your intentions, what you want out of something. I could say “Hey, I only want you for sex.” You might not like that answer, but at least I'm being honest. And you now get to make a choice as to how you relate to that information. That's a much better position to be in than somebody being like, “no, that's cool. I just want to like, you know, get to know you,” when all they want is to have sex with you. Give me the responsibility of making my own choices based on accurate information that I can appreciate a lot better.
Being completely honest about what we really want for ourselves to the people we talk to and learning to clearly state boundaries has improved my life. Saying, “Hey, I'm willing to talk about this, but not right now. I could talk in three hours.” They could be like, “Well, I'm busy.” And I'm like, “Well, that's what I got.” Energetic boundaries are a whole thing that people don't talk about. If you come into my space and you want some kind of cathartic release, is that my job to take on? Now, if I choose and consent to get into a situation, then yes, I have made a responsible choice where I get to state how I relate to the thing that we're going to be doing. That's a consent based society.
In my primary partnership, I try to especially hold really strong boundaries. “I need more space than I'm getting right now.” Or “I want to spend this time with you, because I feel like we haven't gotten done that enough.” Saying when you haven't had enough or need more are all ways of maintaining healthy relationships in general.
Lately I’ve been exploring the idea that boundaries aren't really a conversation. They're just a statement. How does that play into a negotiation in terms of negotiating those boundaries and finding the limits? Sometimes you're just gonna find that you're just at odds with somebody, it's just not gonna work, and that's fine. You can't just force a square peg into a round hole.
No, nor should you want to. I think, honestly, what I experienced more often is people not knowing. And so when you're asking somebody what their boundaries or limits are and they're like, “I don't know”. That's a perfectly valid answer. That doesn't mean you get carte blanche to do whatever you want because somebody hasn't stated what they have for boundaries. It means, “Okay, well, what are we willing to take on right now?” Because now you're in a position to educate somebody about themselves. And you're like, “Do you want to try this and try that? And then we'll see how it goes?” How are you going to structure checking in about how you're responding to a thing that you don't know about yet?
I’ve played with a lot of people that don't have any experience in what they want, and maybe they’re coming to me because they know how I approach things. And it's more likely that by the second session, they're going to have a lot more to say. And by the third session, they're going to have a hell of a lot more to say. And hopefully, somewhere in there, if they went to somebody else, who asked ”What are your boundaries and your limits?” they might be like, “I am down for this, not down for that. I'm willing to experiment with this. But I need this kind of check in about it. And if you're not communicating with me this way, I'm not comfortable.”
“Educating your audience” is a term I learned from curating or art shows. If people don't know how to talk about a thing, it doesn't mean they're dumb, it means they don't have the education or the experience to articulate things that matter about their opinion or about their thoughts. They don't have the vocabulary. And so it's your job at that point, as somebody who's asking those questions, to help somebody get to the place where they do have that vocabulary to be able to answer clearly. If I went to an escort, I would have a totally different mode of interacting, because I've never paid for service to just get what I'm asking for from a person who's willing to do that with me. So I would be coming to that as the daft person who's like, “I'm allowed to just ask for what I want? And maybe I'll get it, maybe I won't?” I'm usually the one who's asking somebody like, “well, here we are. What would you like to do?”
Sometimes I do put myself in the client position and realize that most of the time they are a lot more scared of me than I am of them. And people tell me all the time that, “your job must be so dangerous.” And if you do proper screening, you can mitigate a lot of the risks, but oftentimes, the clients I end up with are guys who are scared shitless. This was just a fantasy in their head, and now it's real, so what do they actually want to do with it?
I think that especially post Me-Too there is a lot more awareness of what transgression is, but there isn't necessarily a lot of education around how to state desire in a healthy way. Or how to approach women. Even if you’re paying for an escort, that doesn't just mean carte blanche to do whatever you want. Oftentimes, it's similar to kink where the clients that I have the most fun with are ones that have seen a lot of escorts. They've made mistakes, they've learned from them, and they've gotten feedback. They've also explored this adult playground demi-monde, and they have an idea of the ballpark of what's acceptable. They've explored enough to know what they really like to do and how they want that interaction to feel.
It's really funny, at our last launch party you and Dia were running the spanking bench and I was like, “Yeah, you can bruise me. It's fine. Like, I'm a brat. I'm just gonna ask for all of it and then tell you when to stop. I'm just letting you know right off the bat, I'm the worst.”
Which is actually giving more information than some can, right?
In reality it’s like putting somebody in a boat facing them towards the ocean and being like, “here you go!” and they have no compass, and no bearings whatsoever. They're fucking scared of the waves, they don't even know how to swim. And how much success are you setting somebody up for with that? I think that's why it's really great to know that there's a lot more education out there. There's a lot more people online sharing vocabulary and stating things that people need to hear like, “you can always take back your consent in a scenario.” There's so many great resources now. But that doesn't change the real life experience of talking to somebody about getting into a play scenario, and realizing that we're all just children with adult privileges, thank you Shen Lee for that one. And we set the rules, and we determine how those unfold over time. So knowing that people are coming in with less experience than me doesn't mean I'm better or worse than them, it means that I have more responsibility. If you're willing to recognize that and be like, “listen, let's get some bearings. Here's what we're talking about doing. Maybe we should only do one thing, maybe tonight's not the night where we're going to hang you from the fucking ceiling and do a vicious caning. Maybe you need to understand what it feels like to be in rope. Let's just start there. Maybe next time, we'll complicate it a little bit. And the next time, we'll complicate a little bit more.”
Until you get your bearings and actually have a breakdown between the fantasy reality paradigm, there's a massive divide. Even with very experienced people there are moments like, “Wow, this sounded like a good idea in my brain and I was really turned on. I could masturbate to this all day, but doing it feels different.” And there's another phrase that I really loved by Midori which is, “your body doesn't necessarily know what your mind consented to.” And that's a really powerful concept to me, where I might agree to do something with somebody and then I might feel like oh my God, I feel disgusting. This feels wrong. They chose to do a thing. They signed up for it. Then when they're engaged with it, their body rebels against it. That is a very real experience. As real as you saying: “let's do this thing.” And until those two things align, you're going to be dealing with a lot of friction. I've talked to many people about this experience where they're like, “I am freaking out in my mind right now. My brain is trying to tell my body that we chose this, we're safe, we're comfortable, we like it, maybe it's discomfort, but I want to be here right now.”
When I’m getting tattooed, I sometimes have that moment where I think, this is excruciating, I hate this, but I chose this. I want to be here, I'm gonna find comfort in this, I'm paying to have this experience and there's going to be something I take away from this that I'll cherish forever. It’s really interesting to remember that our bodies and our brains, though we are the same entity, often because of the way the society works, are cleaved apart. And that work of getting somebody into their body in a mindful way is as big a part of the challenge of BDSM.
From my understanding, I think a good domme is able to tell the difference between somebody who's really ready to do what they say they want to do, and someone who's just fantasizing about it. I think that comes up a lot in the professional sphere, and probably a lot in the lifestyle space as well. I hear from a lot of domme friends that a guy wants to do forced-bi, or this guy wants to do XY and Z. They love the fantasy of it, and sure, a domme could just say, “Okay, this is what you asked for, I'm gonna call a rent boy, we're gonna bring him in, and he's gonna fuck you, or I’m gonna make you suck his dick. I'm gonna give you what you asked for.” But in reality, you're dealing with a guy who's deeply repressed, married with kids, and just has this fantasy. The real dopamine rush is him actually getting a space to say that out loud, that he would maybe want to do this thing, but actually having the male escort show up and drop-trou could be way beyond what he is ready for.
It can be that way with anything. The domme needs to know that if they bring this person to their fantasy, that they can send them home and know that they can live with themselves afterwards. I think that the best dommes build those relationships over time, where you keep playing with the fantasy, and start teasing with the fantasy, and then get to understand the psychology of the sub until you see that they are someone who's mindful: their body and their mind want the same thing, and now six months to a year later, present them with that opportunity. And when the male escort shows up, gets paid for his time, but still the domme may not allow the full fantasy to transpire. They’re still gonna tease this out until it's actually safe for this person to do it. That's something that people don't really understand about BDSM. The domme should let you fantasize without actually pushing you until you're ready.
How do you know the difference? How do you know that this person is actually ready to do that thing that they say they want?
In my case, I don't get to do that level of play with a lot of people. The edgier stuff that I get to do with people is breath play, and the nature of threatening somebody to choke them out until they pass out and actually doing it is like a huge difference. Getting to set somebody up with a psychological experience like CNC, where this doesn't stop until I say it does, is something that you can imply long before you actually do it. Or set somebody up for the psychological experience where you may never actually have to do the physical thing because the psychological experience of being exposed to that threat is so great, that you might not require the actual end goal thing to happen.
Being able to tell when somebody's embodying an experience versus when they are stuck in their brain becomes really evident the closer you pay attention to somebody. Something that I think about a lot is dissociation versus subspace. I like the idea that when you do certain things that are so intense, that you get so pushed into your body, you come out the other side, which I've gotten, in some cases from flesh suspension or biking for like 10 hours straight, really pushing myself gives me that feeling. Some people think of that as a runner's high, but that's different from doing stuff where you might be stepping on trauma buttons, and triggering somebody into a trauma response.
It's important to pay attention to the presence that somebody has. Are they just having a new experience, and they haven't figured out how to be a brain in the body at the same time? Or are they feeling like they need to look around them like they’re in their nerves? Ideally the person is what I would call “falling into an experience,” where you can see them settle down.
There's a very palpable difference between somebody being so there that they're not there, and somebody not being there at all. Are they responsive? Or is their breathing a certain way? Are they at ease? Are they sweating profusely? If you're whipping somebody, are they just letting it go through them like the surface of water with drops on it, or are they clenching against every single strike? You can really start to become more aware of how somebody's processing things and where they're at. The more you're able to focus on them and how they're responding, or how present they are within the activity–that to me is an exciting place to get to with somebody, where when you play you can pluck them like strings and hear this beautiful resonance come off of it. Or instead it can sound like it's landing on a rock, like nothing is coming of this. I would worry at that point that they're not there versus being so there that they're in that other place inside themselves.
I love the way you describe that difference in terms of resonance. I have one more big question: As a dom, a kinkster, an artist, and just a person living in this time period in this body, what does control mean to you?
Man, that has so many negative connotations, and a lot of ways. I guess, to speak to both sides of it:
Positively, I would like to believe that I have some agency and control over my response to things. I don't have to fly off the handle when something doesn't suit me. I can reflect on it and respond in a responsible way. I have control over the small spaces that I pay rent for and I'm allowed to control what goes on in the space, or control how I interface with a human being in terms of what I would allow or what I would not allow, in some cases. But I think so much of the system that we live in is designed to control us in a really negative way. And that is to restrict, deny, gate keep, repress, and maintain a lack of control over what goes on in the world around us. I don't get to wake up today and be like, we're not gonna operate in a capitalist society. That's not a control I have. Can I build a small space in which money isn't the point? Yeah, I have some control over that. But I have to serve this other thing that does control me in order to achieve those kinds of spaces.
Unfortunately, I think there's a lot of cases where people don't have any control. Maybe they can choose what they wear, but only in certain spaces. Or choose what they say, but only depending on who they're with. Maybe they can control their access to some things, but not to most things. I think control is extremely subjective. And effectively, way too rare a thing for us to actually enjoy, what I do have control over, and maybe this is sobriety talking, but I have control over my side of things to some degree. Which only means that, depending on what shows up to me, I might be able to have some control over how I respond to it. It doesn't necessarily mean I control what comes at me, but I do have control over my way of dealing with it.
Within kink, I can create a space and set some of the rules that determine how I think things should operate. I have some control over what goes on at Temple. I can control who we put on and support. And I can say, we don't support these other things, so we're not gonna make space for that. I'm a space holder, so I can control who I give my support to and who I don't. I can, to a degree, vet who comes into a space and try to control it for safety. But it's like the Jurassic Park theory, the more you try to control something, the more likely it is to go into chaos mode and subvert whatever efforts you're making to control the thing.
I think oftentimes the best kind of way of exerting control over something is to recognize that you don't have any, to plan accordingly, and recognize that probably the majority of life is dictated by much more chaos energy than it is by order energy. I can put things in a nice arrangement, and two seconds later, it'll all go to shit. But knowing that means maybe I can control how I respond to when things go to shit. I don't know if that's a good answer but it's the most honest one that I can offer.
That's a great answer, and I think goes along with having an anti fragile state of mind, where you're flexible. I think control often feels like this very rigid thing that could easily be shattered by the chaos of the world. Oftentimes, the people that I find are typically more miserable than others are the ones that feel like if they can just find the right formula of behavior, or sequence of words, that they can get the outcome that they want, and they fixate on it, and when it doesn't go their way, they go back to the drawing board and try to find another variable. I think that it's really important to accept that and be able to still function without the expectation of a fixed outcome.
You're also asking a Virgo, so my natural propensity is to be like, No, this is how things are, this is how they're going to be, and this is what I will allow for. And I think it gets into perfectionism, to where if you really strive for this very rigid approach to what things have to be, you're gonna be fucking miserable. And I think that, in a creative perspective, the stuff that has gone the best for me has been when I set up parameters and create a form that I think will make sense, and then effectively the best thing I can do after is shut the fuck up and sidestep, and be like, now what does this thing want?
Going back to the beginning of our discussion: what is this thing and what does it want? When people have a kid, and they think, “it's gonna be a doctor, and it's gonna be like this,” God bless you, you're gonna have a fucking terrible life. If I can have the good sense to accept the things I can control, then it's my job to foster these things and the way they want to go. I will have an easier time relinquishing my belief in control to the natural order of what's going to come. If nobody wanted to show up to Temple, I would have to deal with the fact that this thing was a failure, and that it didn't want to exist. The fact that it does, means that I have to now listen to everybody who's interested in that thing, find out what it means to them and foster making that a reality for the folks that are coming. That's a different kind of approach. I love Taoism where it says, be like water, take on different shapes, you have to be in a continuous and fluid exchange with the things that are coming and going. That, to me, looks more like an order and having control over things than forcing something to maintain a certain shape. That’s no way to go about life.
Just like with kids, we can't control who they're going to be, and that also applies to ourselves. A lot of us have different aspirations of who we want to be and whether or not those are informed by our parents that have this idea of who we were supposed to be or what society tells us we should be. I think that there is a balance between being ambitious and wanting to see things happen in the world and also being true to what you're good at, thinking of yourself as a material and asking what your body wants to do. Yes, you can force yourself and try to control yourself into doing or being this thing, but is that going to be as rewarding? And as beneficial? In some cases, pushing yourself is totally rewarding, but is that going to be as rewarding and beneficial as maybe doing something that you have a natural propensity towards? It's almost always better to swim downstream.
I think that's a really salient one for me, because I'm in the middle of having developed a bunch of different things over the course of my life and I'm now finding myself in a place where I'm not only self identifying, but to a very big international community I am seen as somebody who does a certain thing, and my joy in that thing has evaporated. I find myself now wondering if I have to let go of something that has defined who I am for so long, in order to allow myself to just be happy, and recognize that letting this go does not necessarily mean I'm a failure, but can I instead give myself the out to say, I don't know who I am right now. And maybe this other thing means a lot more now and makes more sense for my future, whereas this thing that I’ve put on myself and other people want to hold up, no longer holds the same level of meaning to me that it did. And as somebody who finds themselves in that spot, I think it's really a valuable question to ask who I am now, versus who I've told myself to be.
I guess to wrap it all up, I'm really curious about some things up your sleeve in terms of using your traditional expertise in fabrication and in metal work for the kink spaces, and I'd love to hear a little bit about what you have planned for that.
So Temple is an example of me, building an interactive installation space that other people can make creative work in. I also like getting to make things like functional objects. I don't like objects for objects sake. Getting to build equipment, toys, and spaces where the experiences are created in, that's the stuff that I really want to do. And instead of me making stuff for museums and storefronts using architectural metalwork, my interest is now getting back to my sculptural roots and installation space mode, where I get to implement metal work, wood work, leather work and other materials. Getting to provide spaces and equipment and objects for kink play and for kink. To that end, I'm going to be working on our website for booking sessions and experiences with me to buy custom equipment and toys. Serving my own kind of needs and seeing who else resonates with that and putting it up for sale.
That's excellent. Well, I can't wait to see what else you have in store. Your work is so beautifully polished. You can tell you're a Virgo by the finish of the things that you build. I'm super excited and hopefully we'll get to use some of them in some of our productions in the future!