Recently I've been teaching classes on some of the different psychologies of people within the BDSM scene and who report to Dominatrices and lifestyle Dominants; submissives, slaves, masochists and fetishists. I feel that this is one of the areas least understood, and which in Dominatrix training is remiss in being taught.
Today I want to write a bit about "slaves".
UNDERSTANDING THE DESIRE TO BE A SLAVE
ANNE'S QUALIFICATION AND CLARIFICATION OF "CONSENSUAL VOLUNTARY SLAVERY"
Firstly let me qualify the term "slave". I am of course speaking of consensual voluntary BDSM slavery in which the aspiring, desiring and self-identifying slave has sought out a slave position with a BDSM Master, Mistress or Dom, because they want to be a slave and to serve. (And not in other words been coerced, trafficked, involuntary or anything else of that nature.)
As David Schachter put it in the Introduction of his co-written book on Master/slave relationships: "this is a consensual relationship, and either can quit at any time. The Master has to make sure the slave is happier serving than not. Therein lays the drama and the difference between Master/slave and other relationships." (David Schachter "Introduction" in Ask the Man Who Owns Him: The real lives of gay Masters and slaves Perfectbound Press, New York, 2009, p.13)
Some slaves live in what's known as a "24/7 live-in relationship", which is an abbreviation for a 24 hours a day / 7 days a week relationship, living with their Mistress / Master / owner in their house.
While others live separately, and are only able to engage in their relationship part-time or sporadically due to other life or work commitments. For example some "slaves" seek training and service under a Dominatrix or lifestyle Mistress, which is fitted in within the rest of their life.
The "ideal" for a slave is typically to want to be in a 24/7 live-in full-time relationship, even if that seems a distant dream or fantasy for many.
Some will attempt to seek out a would-be owner / Mistress / Master / Dom(me), and negotiate a relationship, and even move locations geographically and change work places or quit their work in order to try and make it work. It would be folly though to do so without having really got to know and understand fully each other's needs and motivations, and the practicalities of how such an arrangement might work in the real world. It also takes a skilled Mistress / Master / owner / Dom(me) to manage well such a relationship due to the responsibility and skills required to make it work.
There are also practicalities (such as how are they going to be able to afford to live) which can get in the way of such desires, and other challenges which I will go in to within Part 2.
For this reason, many will practise such a dynamic on a much smaller or short-term scale, such as a day's slavery, weekend or week's slavery. In doing so, they learn more about their needs, capabilities, and about themselves and the Mistress / slave relationship dynamic.
Meanwhile, I want to talk about what's in it for both parties?
WHAT'S IN IT FOR THE (consensual voluntary) SLAVE?
Everyone and every relationship is different, however some of the common themes which come up when slaves are asked about what's in it for them.
- Fulfils a need to serve and obey.
- Some (but by no means all) see it as a "calling".
- They may perceive being a slave as their identity and role, and holding deep / life meaning.
- Structure to their day and life, and a sense of purpose.
- Sense of security and belonging.
- Feeling of being cared for / protected.
- Love (may be qualified as love in a spiritual sense rather than romantic sense).
- Enjoy to be developed / trained / given direction and purpose / guidance by Mistress (Master / owner / Dom(me)).
- Excitement / play, and in some relationships this may be sexual use.
- Happiness and / or a sense of fulfilment.
From the other side, it's of course a huge responsibility for the owner / Mistress / Master / Dom(me) to take on, and many underestimate just how much is involved in keeping a slave happy, their needs fulfilled, and setting up their duties and structure in order for a M/s relationship to work.
So on the other side...
WHAT'S IN IT FOR THE MISTRESS (OWNER / MASTER / DOM(ME))?
Again every individual and relationship is different, however some of the things that Mistresses (owners / Masters / Dom(mes) say they get out of the relationship with their slave is:
- Helps them in some way in life, for example service and support, cooking done, house cleaned, etc, with their slave as servant / caretaker / cleaner, etc.
- In some cases, a slave for BDSM activities / or sexual use of slave (but in some or many M/s relationships, the Mistress or Master does not have sex with their slave, nor do they necessarily have to engage in BDSM activities)
- Receiving slave's love and full devotion.
- Challenge and development of self-mastery and mastery of another person to understand them and to be able to operate and manage such a relationship. (Some see it as a sense of vocation to be a Master / owner, just as some slaves see their slave-calling as a vocation.)
- Entertainment / amusement
- A sense of achievement / accomplishment in being a successful Mistress / Master / slave owner over a prolonged period, working through issues and problem-solving as things in life come up for both parties.
- Happiness and / or a sense of fulfilment
Just how the Mistress / Master / owner / Dom(me) and slave make this type of relationship work is the topic I will explore for the next post. (Clue: A lot of communication, honesty and openness about their needs, clarity and structure around slave's duties, ability to potentially have to make some compromises to their fantasy for reality and make adjustments as needed to make it work in real life, values such as respect and understanding the other's needs, and more.)
Best, Anne O Nomis
Author of 'The History & Arts of the Dominatrix'
Host of Villa Domme
Titian’s painting ‘Venus with a Mirror’ which was inspiration for Leopold von Sacher-Masoch's novella 'Venus in Furs'.
This is part 2 of a two series blog I wrote for Passionfruit Sensuality Shop. You can read Part 1 Female Domination: What Women Want by clicking here
PART 2: Leatherfolk and bringing discipline and clarity into Dom/sub relationships
In the 20th Century USA, returned servicemen and gay BDSM-loving men were amongst those who became part of a sub-culture known as "leathermen", or rather "leatherfolk" to take the more gender-diverse term. (As indeed it came to include a number of queer / feminist identifying participants, as well as heterosexual participants and diversified further over time.) One of the ways they signified their belonging to the sub-culture was in wearing leather - such as motorcycle leathers, as well as chaps and leather strap harnesses, and of course leather boots.
The writings of these leathermen / leatherfolk are very interesting for those who are interested in maintaining discipline and protocol within a Dominant / submissive relationship. The fact that there were so many returned servicemen amongst the 'Old Guard' which meant that their background influenced the high discipline, training and protocol tradition that a number of them extolled and practised. While for others amongst them, BDSM was about getting pleasure and getting off, with less formality and more clubbing. It is often said that there emerged something of a generational and cultural divide, between the Old Guard and the younger generation.
Knowing what you want.
Formal and disciplined, or informal and playful?
Role / activity?
For those pursuing FemDom relationships, these considerations remain relevant.
Are you wanting your own FemDom relationship to be quite formal, strict, clear roles, with discipline and respect? Or are you wanting a FemDom relationship which is less formal, with more joking around and skipping casually into play, and only being in "role" for playtime and events and that be the basis of what you train your partner for, and after orgasm the play is over and roles dropped? (Or by all means a different nuanced understanding which fits neither of these.)
Another interesting thing which came out of the gay S/M scene predominantly, was the use of hankie colours worn to indicate what an individual was in to. If only the world could be so clear about their desires!
It developed into a long list, but to abbreviate some of the key colour hankies and identities:
Black worn in left pocket = S/M topman
Black worn in right pocket = S/M bottom or Masochist
Red worn in left pocket = S/M fistfucker topman
Red worn in right pocket = S/M fistfucker bottom
Dark blue worn in left pocket = Wants to fuck another guy
Dark blue worn in right pocket = Wants to be fucked
Light blue worn in left pocket = Wants to have cock sucked
Light blue worn in right pocket = Wants to suck cock
Yellow worn in left pocket = Wants to give piss
Yellow worn in right pocket = Wants to take piss
Green worn in left pocket = Hustler / wants money
Green worn in right pocket = Wants to hire a hustler
Orange worn in left pocket = Top, into anything
Orange worn in right pocket = Bottom, into anything
Gray worn in left pocket = Bondage Top (does the tying / bondage on someone)
Gray worn in right pocket = Bondage Bottom (wants to be tied up / receive bondage)
(Reference: Larry Townsend 'The Leatherman's Handbook' Updated Second Edition, 1989, p.27, abbreviated further and selectively by me for this blog)
For my 'Art of FemDom relationship training' course, I've included a number of texts from the key figures of the leatherman / leatherfolk scene, as I think they're very useful for thinking about BDSM play dynamics, about discipline and about pleasure, and pursuing and expressing one's own desires.
Tragically, many of the influential writers - such as Geoff Mains, died during what became known as the HIV and AIDS epidemic, which swept through the gay community. It's lovely though that their legacy lives on in their writings, their role and contribution to BDSM, and the changes to society in respect of LGBTQ rights and more awareness and inclusiveness.
Training your dragon (slave): slave positions, protocol, training and reinforcement
One of the other major areas of FemDom relationships is that of slave training. This area owes much to an area known as "classical conditioning", which came out of experiments and writing such as the famous Pavlov's dogs. (Ring a bell, feed dogs a morsel of meat, and the dogs will over time begin to salivate in advance in anticipation of the food coming.)
Knowledge of classical conditioning and behaviour modification is very helpful to training slaves. It is a common discipline of dog training books to include discipline, rewards and punishment, amongst training strategies for reinforcement of behaviour, alongside the use of tools such as collars. However one of the best (in my view) authors on the use of animal training reinforcement and "shaping", is Karen Pryor, who was a former head dolphin trainer at Sea Life Park.
She advocates an approach which is responsive to the individual psychology of the animal you're working with, and their individual behavioral responses - including those which are idiosyncratic and unexpected. I utterly agree, and indeed the best Mistresses are those who don't have a one-size-fits-all approach and get irritated by any aberrant response of a "slave", but rather those who maintain psychological curiosity and interest to get to know their submissive / slave, their quirks, and things that work on them.
Essentially, one can use lessons from dog and dolphin training psychology and practices, to train one's submissive or slave. I've synthesised these practices into three areas: slave training (to reinforce desired behaviour) , slave shaping (teach old dogs new tricks, as it were, wink), and how to un-train annoying behaviour (yes you can thank me later).
Within the class, I also seek to provide ideas and inspiration as to what you might want to train your submissive to do. What's going to please you? (A glass of your favourite wine presented to you on arrival home after work? A bath run to the perfect temperature with bath salts? A foot massage done perfectly the way you like? Oral sex performed the way you like?) What's important to you? (Respect shown in particular ways? Giving you your space at specified times when you need? Devotion and consideration towards you displayed in thoughtful ways? Or something else?) And what does your submissive / slave long for, want and need? (To know their place? To know how to please you? To get their fetish "fix" every now and again? To get respite from being in charge, or counter-balance to their work responsibilities and role?)
Managing masochists and the fantasy of a Venus in Furs.
One of the most common confusions I see as a Dominatrix and BDSM educator and consultant, is a woman who has a partner who presents as a submissive but is actually a masochist.
What's the difference? Well people often mistakenly think that a masochist is someone who's into pain, and that's partly true but it's not the whole truth. Some of the differences in my view between a true "submissive" and a "masochist" is the following (with some sweeping generalization for lack of space to go into it in too much complexity or depth in a short blog post).
A submissive - wants to please you, and gets gratification from knowing they've pleased you. Is typically very grateful to their Dominant. They may be anxious to know whether they've disappointed you in any way, or if you're displeased with them, following play. They are generally happy to go along with most of what you want, to make you happy. They want to learn how they can please you.
A masochist - will want specific activities that they are into, and will often try and prescribe and script the play they want. They will often send you or leave out particular material as guides or hints to what they want done to them. They will have particular fetishes and fantasies they want fulfilled. They can be grumpy and complaining and negative if they don't get their way, or you disappoint their desires of what they envisaged. In their fantasy, the woman is above them and just out of reach, and is cold towards them and punishes them cruelly and her investment in punishing them shows that she is invested enough to bother spending time and energy on them. However she must seem above them and a bit out-of-reach, and too much proximity and familiarity will result in them devaluing her and getting bored.
In short, a masochist can leave the female dominant (or aspiring female dominant / partner) feeling really unconfident about herself and her abilities, and down that she can't seem to give him what he's wanting.
I would estimate that around 85% of all the consults that are booked privately with me, turn out to be women who are trying very hard to try and dominate their (self-identifying) "submissive" partner - who is not in fact a submissive but a masochist.
The term masochist comes from an author named Leopold von Sacher-Masoch who wrote the novella 'Venus in Furs', based on his fantasy desires for a beautiful cold woman to punish him cruelly, wearing furs (which was his fetish), and to demand he sign a contract to be her slave, and later cuckold him - sleeping with another man. The psychology is that of an inverted narcissist who wants his ego squished down, through cold punishment and humiliation, but is feeding off the attention that she cares enough to bother doing so. After dominating, he will inevitably complain or have some negativity that you didn't do something "right", ie the way he wants.
Sacher-Masoch was in real life a masochist, and tried to get exactly this fantasy from his mistress or wife, throughout his life.
Above: Vintage photograph of Masoch with Fanny Pistor
It is the woman who too often ends up tortured by the masochist, feeling like a failure at dominating him. So if you're reading this - and in this situation - know that it's the masochist, and not you(!).
So how does one deal with this? It seems an impossible situation - no?
It need not be. There are a range of strategies I recommend and discuss in my class, but among these and as "Cliff notes" summary, include:
a) Expectation management - setting expectations low, not promising play and then them getting annoyed if you can't execute on it due to a commitment clash, tiredness, illness or any other reason.
b) Filling up your own cup / energetic tank - as dealing with a masochist can be quite tiring, and psychologically intense, it's very important to take time to look after yourself, and time out doing what you want with your friends and pursuing your own interests separately, take off on holiday sometimes without them (and ironically will see them hold you in higher esteem for being a bit out-of reach and periodically ignoring them, which will have them fantasizing what you might be up to without them). You will need other people, friends in your life, you will help fill needs that your masochist living so much in their fantasy - won't be able to meet.
c) Batting off their greedy / needy fantasy desires, which will come constantly at you if you let them, and warning them of consequences (warn them that you're upping their punishment for the next weekend or event for them being so grumpy, as doing so will keep you elevated and on top of the horse / dragon and in control, and don't let them top from the bottom.)
d) Wearing and wielding their fetish periodically but unpredictably - as it suits you - will keep them ga-ga. Whatever your masochist has a fetish for - be it leather, or boots, or whatever, - if you periodically and unpredictably wear them at your own whim, it will have them go into ga-ga land. And you can grant them some gratification, or deny them to torment them if they've been badly behaved. However don't get into a predictable pattern that will result in expectation that you're going to wear the thing so that it becomes onerous on you, or boring and predictable for them.
It can basically feel like you are in a psychological chess game, if you're with a masochist. The benefits? A masochist will tend to be very loyal to their Mistress if she is meeting their masochistic desires (and is on the horse above them), and if you can manage a masochist - you can manage anything in life.
And if you have a submissive, rather than a masochist, who just wants to please you? Ah well then you're going to have a much easier time. As they're all about pleasing you.
For learning actual BDSM activities, my Dominatrix 'Seven Realm Arts' class is best for that, which I've been running successfully for four years now. (My goodness how time flies.) I have received so much positive feedback from those who have done the course, and their close friends observing them, that their confidence has increased, their knowledge and way they walk and hold themselves, which is lovely to hear.
I hope my new course on the Art of FemDom Relationship Training will help fulfil that gap though, for those that are wrestling with a personal relationship in which they are seeking to dominate a submissive / slave / masochist or other identity (sissy / puppy-dog or numerous other identities, etc).
Happy dominating and training your partner(s) to your pleasure, and practising Mistressery over all areas of your life.
x Anne O Nomis
There was something of a Dominatrix Twitter storm a few days ago, when Mistress Evilyne (@MsEvilyne also of London Dominatrix School) asked what educational books newbie Dommes should read.
'The History & Arts of the Dominatrix' came top amongst her book picks, and those of many others.
It's so nice that my years of hard work putting this volume together has been so appreciated and well-received by Dominatrices around the world.
'The History & Arts of the Dominatrix' is also picked out for an entire blog post on the website of London Dominatrix School. (I believe this blog post was written by Governess Elizabeth.)
A much beloved possession of Mine, Anne O Nomis' The History & Arts of the Dominatrix is the first book of its kind: it is the first book to cover the history of the art of Female domination.
Thoroughly compiled over the course of four years, Nomis travelled the world, encountered ancient texts, myths and legends, painstakingly trawled through centuries of clandestine advertising in papers and private letters between confidants, researched famous Dominatrices of years passed and interviewed renowned Dominatrices of the present era. This historical perspective sees her tracing Female domination from the practices of and rituals to the Goddesses of Mesopotamia, to the Governesses of the seventeenth century English flagellation schools, to the famous and controversial Dominatrics of the early-mid twentieth century and their interactions with law enforcement to the Dominatrices of the current period sessioning with their submissives in domestic settings and dungeons.
The illustrations are breath-taking and, through this wealth of information and artistry, Nomis crafts a spectacular text that takes a nuanced and informative look at power, beauty, gender, sexuality, sensuality, intimacy, D/s and the variations inherent in Female domination. Her pattern of practices of Dominatrices, which she coins the 'Seven Realm Arts', are certainly worth reading and considering, particularly for those considering female Domination as a profession.
The History & Arts of the Dominatrix is one of those books that, once you start reading it, you will not be able to put it down. It gives you a sense of the history and lineage you enter into once you take your first lesson and become involved in Female domination. A must for every (aspiring) Dominatrix's book shelf.
Thank you Mistresses for that recommendation. I feel very honoured.
Anne O Nomis
I will be giving a one-off talk at the Freud Museum on Wednesday 5th June 2019.
The talk will be a rare "double bill" on both Dominatrix History, and on Ancient Goddess Sex Rituals.
I had previously posted a survey on Twitter to gauge what topic I should give my Frued Museum talk on. However voting ended up being very even between them, see-sawing throughout the 24 hours of the survey, and ending up at 46% to 54%. Hence my taking the decision to speak on BOTH topics.
I am a real fan of the Freud Museum, which features Freud's psychoanalytic couch and his antiquities collection, which is so aligned to my own work and research on sexuality, theory and ancient art and Goddesses.
Freud's psychoanalytic couch, at the Freud Museum London.
Cabinet featuring ancient Goddess figurines & sphinx, Freud Museum London.
I am looking forward very much to catching up with friends and followers during my brief visit. I fly out the following day to Florence in readiness for teaching Villa Domme in Tuscany. (https://www.villadomme.com
Tickets to my London talk are strictly limited due to capacity, so get in quick if you are wanting to attend! Tickets here
I recently wrote a blog post for Passionfruit Shop, on the topic of Female Domination. (With my upcoming new course on 'The Art of FemDom Relationship Training' beginning on 1st April 2019 - which is totally sold-out, so sorry for those of you who missed out.)
Female Domination (Part 1 of 2): What Women Want
Our resident Dominatrix, Anne O Nomis, is the author of the first book in the world on the Dominatrix's history and arts. In her book, she developed a framework of the "Seven Realm Arts" to break-down what it is that a Dominatrix does in her secretive dungeon lair. It has gone on to become highly influential around the world, and used by training institutes such as the world’s oldest BDSM training chateau, La Domaine Esemar located out of New York. ‘The History & Arts of the Dominatrix’ is recommended as curriculum text, and is a prized possession at London Mistress School.
Anne O Nomis has been teaching her Seven Realm Arts course for four years now at Passionfruit, and we've watched enrolees go through a journey while taking her course of growing in their confidence and the way they stride through their world, alongside the knowledge they gain.
In a blog post divided into 2 parts, we've asked Anne to talk about her brand new course 'The Art of FemDom Relationship Training' and reflect on her four years of teaching the 'Dominatrix Seven Realm Arts' course.Whilst the current FemDom course is sold out, we've managed to squeeze in one more Dominatrix Seven Realm Arts class beginning next week on Thursday April 4th from 7 - 9 pm.
The next 'The Art of FemDom Relationship Training’ course won't run again until 31st October 2019 as Anne is on a 4 month research project from July.
PART 1: Coming to the topic of lifestyle and sexual Domination
For the past year, I've been working on research for a part of Domination that I hadn't previously turned my focus to, and that is to lifestyle FemDom (Female Domination). That is women who are dominating as part of their actual lifestyle and sex life.
Part of that started with trying to track down a decent manual or guide for aspiring lifestyle Mistresses. That might be someone who feels that they are dominant by nature and wanting some guidance on how to channel that and integrate it successfully within their relationship(s). Or in some circumstances, it's that their partner has shared with them that they identify as being submissive. Or rather their partner might want to be their servant, or their slave. Sometimes that may be mixed with particular "kinks", fetishes or fantasies; for example, they enjoying wearing women's hoisery and lingerie and being feminised, or perhaps they have a particular fetish for a powerful dominant woman wearing leather or latex, or high heel boots.
In either case, the woman is seeking some guidance and ideas; and has questions like:
"How do I manage Domination and submission within my relationship with my partner? Do we stay normal and some how click into playtime, or do I try and somehow integrate dominating him as a fulltime thing around-the-clock"?
"How do I work out what I want from the relationship? What should I do to dominate my partner and to keep things fresh and interesting? I need ideas!"
"I'm wanting to train my partner who is submissive, but I'm unsure how to do this."
"My husband has just sprung on me that he's into being dominated and he has particular kinks for being put in bondage and kept in chastity, and punished. This has come as a bit of a surprise to me, but I regard myself as an open-minded person and I want to fulfil his desires, and he says he was attracted to my natural dominance, but I feel like I don't know what I'm doing."
These are by the way literally requests and emails I've had. So I've tried to proffer advice as I could.
The limitations of existing books and manuals
Initially I'd sought a good manual to be able to recommend people, but I haven't found any one book that "does the job" as it were. There are various books that are potentially useful - that for example introduce the basics of lifestyle domination aimed at women who've been sprung by their partner or husband saying he's submissive. They are often titled to I think alleviate women's perceived concern or nervousness about being harsh, cruel or uncaring, with titles or sub-titles which incorporated reference to "nervous beginners" or "FemDom for nice girls", "for nice girls", "caring Mistress", which speaks to all the cultural baggage we grow up with as women, having to be pleasing and appeasing, kind, polite; and to the way in which the word "bossy" tends to be directed culturally at assertive girls or women but not commonly used for men in our society. Amongst these guides those written by Janet Hardy or under her various aliases - which I regard as good just for those looking for something to get them started.
I also tracked down some notorious underground Mistress training manuals, that were rather extreme. Dating from the turn of the 21st Century, some of their content seemed implausible to my trained eye, or encouraging frankly illegal and unethical strategies.
One really useful writer on Female Domination is Elise Sutton, whose self-published books are amongst those that have ended up recommended on the reading list for my new course. She advocates male submissives as being in search of "loving female authority", which is I think an idea and ideal that many can wrap their head around. One could say her views are a little idealized or romanticized, but nonetheless they will be helpful to many who align with the idea of "loving female authority".
And in one of Elise Sutton's books, Searching for Wanda (the last of her trilogy, this third book specifically on the topic of masochists), she included results of a survey she ran with 43 of her FemDom acquaintances filling it out. So not strictly scientific, but nonetheless the results were interesting and completely in line with what I've experienced in the lifestyle scene.
Sutton's findings were reported across just 3 pages of her 250 page book, but I felt they deserved more attention, and I've turned them into a bar graph for easy referral, dear readers. Actually I lie. Truth be told I had my slave do me a bar graph and then corrected his errors, and counted these for cane strokes he'll receive. (Wink)
So what women want when they get their own way?
Turns out - help with housework, being pampered, getting oral (cunnilingus)....
There were 21 activities that Sutton had her 43 female Dominant acquaintances rank, described by her terms used in her book, which were turned into a percentage. They are biased to heterosexual relationships, and there were 31 lifestyle FemDoms, 3 active pro-Dommes, 5 retired pro-Dommes, and 4 phone counselling FemDom/BDSM Dommes who filled in the survey.
See if you're surprised by this:
Domestic servitude (man doing household chores) - 92
Personal servitude (man giving women massages, pedicures, manicures, baths) - 89
Body worship (male orally servicing the woman sexually) - 87
Orgasm control (male masturbation forbidden, male must gain woman's permission before receiving an orgasm) - 79
Control finances (woman makes financial decisions) - 76
Final authority (woman has final say in most if not all areas of relationship) - 75
CF/nm activities (Clothed female / naked male) - 73
Spankings (light to firm discipline upon male buttocks with bare hand, hairbrush or paddle) - 73
Cuckolding (woman has right to have other lovers, male must remain monogamous) - 59
Strap-on play (penetrating male anally with strap-on dildo) - 52
Fetish outfits (woman wears leather outfits, boots, etc) - 51
Forced feminization and/or sissification (feminizing male, dressing up male in feminine attire, having male do chores while dressed as maid, etc) - 48
Light sadism (woman likes to inflict slight pain on male - scratching, biting, pinching, clothes pins, clamps, etc - 45
Male chastity and long term denial - requires male to wear chastity device, his orgasms are restricted and rare - 43
Water sports (golden showers, enemas) - 42
Bondage (use of restraints, hoods, gags, etc) - 40
Corporal punishment (harsh discipline of male via whip or cane) - 38
Humiliation play (woman likes to humiliate the male, verbally, publicly, objectification, other) - 31
C/B torture (inflict pain on male genitals) - 28
Hard sadism (woman gains sexual pleasure in seeing a man suffer- inflict pain, hear male scream, leave welts, marks, bruises, etc) - 25
Extreme play (psychological abuse, blood sports, scat, other extreme activities) - 16
(Source: Elise Sutton 'Searching for Wanda' (2010), Lulu Books, pp.171-173)
Were you surprised by any of this, dear reader?
Elise Sutton noted in her book that professional Mistresses were more likely to enjoy the activities at the end of the list: corporal punishment, humiliation play, CB torture, hard sadism and extreme play. (Sutton, p.173)
While married women were primarily interested in having their husbands serve them domestically, personally and sexually. (Sutton, p.173)
Which is why I knew I wanted my new course on The Art of FemDom to focus on relationship training with these particular areas in mind. That is, how to train and manage your partner doing domestic chores, personal servitude, and how to ask and get what you want sexually, and be the figure of authority within the consensual relationship.
However I also wanted my FemDom guidance to be extended to queer communities and not only traditional heterosexual relationships. And 20th Century BDSM history was rich on this, I knew from my past historical research. As indeed in the USA in particular, there was a fascinating history of "leatherfolk", which developed as a form of identity with their own values and protocols, which included a large contingent of gay men, returned servicemen from the war with military discipline, as well as queer / feminist practitioners and a wider more inclusive BDSM community.
(To be continued in Part 2: Leatherfolk, Protocol, and Training derived from dogs and dolphins and how it's useful to slave training, Masochists and the fantasy of a Venus in Furs)
The United Kingdom's Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) have just made a landmark announcement that they will no longer prosecute material made by consenting adults in legal acts under British Obscenity Law. This, dear readers, is big news, particularly for those who read / watch or make BDSM films or books.
By way of background, the Obscene Publications Act (1959) in the UK was designed to protect the public from material that could quote "deprave and corrupt" their minds. Prosecutors tried to prosecute the publishers of D.H Lawrence's famous book Lady Chatterley's Lover for "obscenity" in R v Penguin Books in 1960. And failed. It was a win for literature, and a win for the expression of sexuality, desire and humanity. The trial outcome was seen as heralding a new wave of sexual morality, and indeed by the mid-1980s Lady Chatterley's Lover was even on the school syllabus.
Lady Chatterley's Lover, First edition hardback, and popular paperback edition.
And that tradition had continued into the modern era, in which Crown Prosecution Service prosecutions of audio-visual material on obscenity charges were mostly failing.
A landmark case in 2012 was the trial of male escort Michael Peacock for DVDs promoted under the title "Sleazy Michael", in which he depicted male fisting, water sports (urination) and BDSM activities, in I might add - a consensual sexual context.
The general adult public - represented by juries - recognize increasingly that people's sexual interests and proclivities are their own to enjoy, provided that its between consensual adults and no-one is seriously injured or dies. And in the case of R v Michael Peacock, the jury found him not guilty of obscenity.
What's interesting to me also about that particular case of R v Michael Peacock, is the length that the CPS (Crown Prosecution Service) went to in order to prosecute Michael. He sold his material by advertising it on Craigslist, and it was acquired by the CPS by sending and undercover police officer around to his home in Finsbury Park London to purchase some of the DVDs in what was essentially a "sting operation". And to put this in some perspective, the sexual and BDSM acts that are depicted are not illegal or criminal in UK law. So in other words you had undercover police officers going to great lengths to seek out DVDs on gay BDSM sexual acts, in order to prosecute "Sleazy Michael" for activities which were consensual and legal and between consenting adults. While the buyers of the Sleazy Michael DVDs are adults who want to see this material and have sought it out because - presumably - "they're into it". So quite where the harm is, I don't quite see. Nor did the jury, who found him not guilty of obscenity.
Male escort "Sleazy Michael" Peacock, celebrating his win with a fisting-fist raised, following his win in R v Michael Peacock (2012).
The case is quite representational of the stupid lengths that the CPS "obscenity hunters" were going to to try and seek out "obscene" material and spend much public money prosecuting independent makers of pornography for acts which were in of themselves perfectly legal.
That has all changed now, finally, with today's announcement from the CPS in the UK. Following public consultation, the CPS has announced:
“It is not for the CPS to decide what is considered good taste or objectionable. We do not propose to bring charges based on material that depicts consensual and legal activity between adults, where no serious harm is caused and the likely audience is over the age of 18. (See Guardian article 31 Jan 2019)
The CPS will, however, continue to robustly apply the law to anything which crosses the line into criminal conduct and serious harm.”
And with that announcement, makers of consensual BDSM material around the UK will let out a sigh with collective relief.
Common sense - and consensuality - has won.
I have had over recent years repeatedly turned down requests to offer Skype tuition / consults. Why? Well I wasn't sure I could deliver my energy over the realm of the internet call in the same way I did in classes and talks, and I was busy and my home life and other commitments were not ideally conducive to Skype calls. And meanwhile my classes were going so brilliantly, and I was fulfilled, that I didn't feel the need or desire to offer Skype consults.
So what changed?
Well my curiosity was piqued by a few recent inquiries from very interesting people / potential students, that I felt very tempted or even compelled to want to offer Skype lessons.
Over the Christmas holiday period away, I pondered on it, and decided I would offer Skype consults in 2019. That I would dedicate myself wholly to writing as an author, and teaching, which I'm in a privileged position to be able to do, thanks to the success of my classes and demand for my teaching, alongside book sales and royalties.
So this year is all about my fulfilling myself through my true calling, of passing on knowledge through my books and teaching on the history and arts of the Dominatrix, and continuing my research on ancient Goddess cults - with several overseas research trips tagged onto the end of my teaching Villa Domme in Tuscany.
Within days of my decision to offer Skype consulting, and before I'd even broadcasted that decision, I received an intriguing query from a very interesting woman in the UK, seeking to find her power and to dominate her partner. Her timing could not have been more fortuitous, and she became my first Skype student and I look forward to helping her greatly in her journey.
Our call was scheduled for what ended up being one of the hottest days ever in Melbourne history where I live, with a heatwave and temperatures that day reaching 44 degrees Celcius and power outages around the city. Nonetheless the power was restored and our call was able to go ahead, and I enjoyed it thoroughly, and I was able to help her as I'd hoped; her journey successfully begun in my view by exercises to tap into her authentic dominant self, interests and style - rather than a cliche image of a Dominatrix that she'd found off-putting and no connection to.
I won't post any more on her journey, other than the generic information mentioned, as I protect each person's confidence and privacy. But her journey will be interesting, and I feel privileged to be able to share my knowledge and act as a kind of torch-bearer to illuminate a path for her.
I look forward to connecting with and helping others too. Whether that's aspiring Mistresses, practising pro-Dommes and subs wanting to be their best.
I feel I have this wide-ranging erotic wisdom from the Dominatrix realm, an open-minded and empathetic understanding of different psychologies, and a depth of knowledge informed by archaeology and history from my research. And it's lovely that I can use all this knowledge sitting around in my brain to aid, assist and empower my students.
For those of you reading this who are interested in private tuition, I've put together a page on my website here: https://historyofthedominatrix.com/pages/private-tuition with pricing.
There is also a live calendar in "Beta testing" currently, which is tracking my availability and enabling people to live-book a time slot, which should (fingers crossed) show the times on their local timezone. It is here: https://historyofthedominatrix.com/apps/book-an-appointment/appointments/new
I begin teaching a new Seven Realm Arts class next week in Melbourne, which was fully booked out weeks in advance; and further classes scheduled for later this year. And when I'm not teaching by private lesson or class, I will be finishing my new book and seeing to its release into the world.
It's lovely to feel so calm, confident, peaceful and "on (life's) purpose", following my true calling in doing this work. Thank you to all my students who've been so supportive of my work and classes, and sent all their friends on recommendation, which has enabled me to dedicate myself wholly to it.
I wish you all a happy and abundant 2019.
x Anne O Nomis
The "vulva petition" - asking the House of Representatives to review its Guidelines under Australian Classification laws is finally through the Petitions Committee - is now up online.
I am hoping it will attract 1000 signatures within the timeframe - which ends on 17th October 2018.
Update: The petition exceeded 1000 signatures, and was presented to the House of Representatives. The relevant ministers have three months to address and reply to the petition.
Thank you so much everyone who signed the petition, tweeted and shared with their friends. I'm so appreciative of all your support for this important cause.
Top image photo credits: Photographer Lucky from Hustle & Bunk. Parliament House Wikicommons image by Con Tassios.
I was recently interviewed by Passionfruit Shop, where as an historian and author - I give talks and teach on sex history, and most particularly on the Dominatrix's history and arts.
Interview with Anne O Nomis - Our Resident Educator of Dominatrix Arts
1. Has your experience of the Dominatrix given you confidence in other areas of your life?
Absolutely - yes. Dominatrices are often among the first to challenge male authority and ridiculous and prejudiced laws and views around sexuality. Mistress Absolute in the UK has taken on porn laws around face-sitting, with her protest outside parliament face-sitting her partner in tweeds, drinking English tea and singing Monty Python's "Sit on My Face". I found her protest absolutely inspiring.
Other Dominatrices around the world have such as Terri-Jean Bedford in Canada have successfully challenged sex work laws.
"I want to become more activist this next year and join forces to defend the sacred vulva and labia, and take on the ridiculous Australian laws which are causing magazine editors to have to airbrush the external labia of their models in order to comply with classification and censorship laws in Australia." Anne O Nomis
This is leading to a documented rise in labioplasty procedures, and the rise in women feeling insecure about the appearance of their vulva and labias because magazines do not display prominent labia due to Classification law. I'm sure many other women feel outraged also, but perhaps don't feel they can publicly campaign.
As an archaeologist, historian, BDSM and sexuality educator, and as mother to my young daughter, I can't stand for these laws anymore and I plan to take them on. I plan to launch a 'Sacred vulvas' campaign against the laws banning visible female air-brushing on September 1st this year.
For publications, the Guidelines for the Classification of Publications in their 'Unrestricted' section has that: In practice
“Realistic depictions may contain discreet genital detail but there should be no genital emphasis.”
Genitals which are "indiscreet" are restricted under law. That is, vulvas which appear conspicuous, discernible, clear, flagrant, striking, eye-catching, glaring, apparent, visible, noisy, loud, prominent - to take the various words which are antonyms - the opposite - of "discreet".
In practice, the Classification Board is applying this law to visible prominent protruding labia, so that all soft-porn has labia airbrushed in order to pass cenorship.
Vulvas were sacred in much of the ancient world. The earliest so-called Venus figurine in the world, the Venus of Hohlefels, has prominent breasts and an explicit indiscreet vulva.
Ancient Goddess literature on the Goddess Inanna of Mesopotamia, cited in my book 'The History & Arts of the Dominatrix', reads: "her vulva was remarkable. She praised herself full of delight at her vulva."
While artwork and figurines of the naked Goddess across Mesopotamia, Levant and Cyprus featured prominent vulva and darkened pubic hair triangle emphasized.
Women and girls should have body confidence around their vulva, not be shamed by its "indiscreetness", by its explicit visible features of labia. They should not feel they need to minimise their vulva, its protruding lips, its pronounced features out of a warped view of what they think is normal from only seeing airbrushed images. Their vulvas in all their visual visible features are sacred and should be viewed as beautiful and with confidence.
Venus from Hohlefels, carved from mammoth ivory, c 35,000 - 40,000 BCE. Wikicommons image, by Thilo Parg.
Aphrodite figurines with pronounced pubic triangle from island of Cyprus. Photograph by Anne O Nomis.
I am also putting together a new book on ancient sex Goddesses in archaeology, their literature which emphasizes the vulva and the active sexual desire of the Goddess. There are beautiful ancient songs as texts with explicit erotic content about the Goddess, which are not in the easily accessible public domain, due to their subject matter. So I am busy putting together the ancient art work, rituals and songs - which were played to the lyre, for my new work which will be titled 'Flight of the Goddess'. I think the bravery of writing that book with explicit sex songs has also been emboldened by my work on the Dominatrix. I intend to teach the ancient sex rituals and sex songs also. I'm currently learning the ancient lyre harp instrument to sing the sex songs.
2) You give talks on the history of the Dominatrix and teach on the secretive Dominatrix arts here at Passionfruit. What changes do you see in your students?
I think my students have their views around sexuality expanded through the course, and become more open-minded, and conscious of the wide range of activities that form different areas of exploration of human sexuality. The course challenges ideas of the narrow definition of normative sexuality. Students learn about sexual power-play games and dynamics, the appeal of bondage, the huge variety of fetishes, subversion of binary gender roles, transformation and ecstasy.
Students often tell me they've gained much greater confidence as a by-product of being on my course, and sometimes that causes dramatic life changes as a result of feeling more empowered.
3) Historically, Dominatrixes have been a closed society. What led you to reveal the Art through your book and teachings?
The Dominatrix was a taboo of a taboo (of a taboo), as I wrote in my book. Because women under the major patriarchal religions were meant to be submissive and obedient to their husbands. As such, the Dominatrix as a figure challenges and overturns that underlying societal structure. She was also a figure of the underground sex world, of repressed sexualities, non-conforming sexualities.
When I was researching and writing my book, 'The History & Arts of the Dominatrix', very little had ever been published on the topic of the Dominatrix. I wanted to gather her story, her history, and tell it for the first time, gathering together all the rare primary source material and images from museums and galleries and libraries around the world. It was a hard project, but that's what I accomplished.
The arts of the Dominatrix have been secretive because the activities themselves were stigmatised by society, and people carried a lot of shame around their desires. Their desire to submit to a powerful woman. Their desire to be put into bondage. Or their desire to cross-dress. And so on.
The arts are also quite complicated to explain. I've had a lot of Dominatrices tell me that they're grateful for my book, because they find it hard themselves to explain what they do to others. They're pleased to have a book with their sacred history and arts recorded, and in academic libraries, and available to pass to someone to explain what they do.
I feel like it's been an important part of female erotic wisdom, practiced by these women who are playing this complex role which is kind of part-psychologist, part-actress, part-healer, part-sex worker, and so on. I feel a calling to uncover this important history which has been buried within underground texts and museum vaults, and share that story of the women themselves, and something of the sacred erotic wisdom they carry and practice.
4) What makes a good Dominatrix?
Hmmm... I think someone who manifests sexual power and confidence, is open-minded, in command, is intuitive in reading a person's mind and desires, has the ability and knowledge to play with those desires, and has deep empathy and understanding, and is merciful. The latter often surprises people when I say it. But of course, the Dominatrix grants mercy. From the ancient world rituals to the modern-day, the submissive makes their plea for mercy which is granted by the Goddess and by the Dominatrix. And I can't tell you how higher a percentage of Dominatrices are vegetarian due to their concern for animal cruelty, but it's very high and famously complicates catering at any Dominatrix event.
Link to original blog post: https://www.passionfruitshop.com.au/blogs/news/interview-with-anne-o-nomis-our-resident-dominatrix
I have been featured in Archer Magazine's History Issue, with an article 'Mistress of the Underground' on writing my book on the Dominatrix across time.
Archer Magazine focuses on Sex, Gender and Identity, and it has been a pleasure working with the team including Adolfo Aranjuez (Editor-in-chief, Archer).
For more information or to purchase Archer Magazine, go to: https://archermagazine.bigcartel.com
I have just arrived back this week from teaching a week at Villa Domme in Tuscany. The course was The Mysteries of Female Domination™ diploma course.
Attendees came from the Netherlands, UK, USA, Canada, Australia, Sweden and Australia, and we had an absolute blast. While I teach a number of courses in Australia, this was the first-time I've ever run an intensive week-long course and in such a spectacular location.
One of the ways this course differed from others I've taught, as well as the length, is that I aimed holistically to get transmit the essence of Female Domination from ancient sources, ritual, history, lifestyle D/s, the professional craft, and to attune the different psychologies of subjects who present to the Female Dominant. To encourage open conversations about interests and blocks to stepping into Dominance. I also had opportunity to share my new research on the ancient Goddess sex ritual for the second time ever, and developed further on when I first presented on it.
You'll see some of the attendees posted on Twitter during the course:
The course submissives were playfully (and sometimes more sternly) bossed around and punished, and used for practice. I ate my breakfast to the spectacular view of two Mistresses in fetish attire brandishing a single tail whip in front of the rose bushes. On the final day, all kinds of activities took place also outdoors, in this very unique setting, the nature of which I'm unable to go into - but trust me it was quite something.
Many on the course made life-long friendships, and have expressed a desire to come back again next year. The women, in case you're interested, came from diverse backgrounds and included one of New York's top Dominatrices, women involved in advanced sexuality education and practices, lifestyle Mistresses, and those keen to step into their dominance.
I have received emails from many of those who came, Mistresses and subs, reporting positive feedback and ways in which it's affected them.
All-in-all it was a delicious experience, and I must admit I am suffering Domme-drop from returning home after such an amazing time at Villa Domme in Tuscany.
Thank you to all those who were a part of the trip and made it so magical.
x Anne O Nomis
PS Yes I plan to run a course again next year in June 2019.
It will be limited to 16 people, as I feel that's the right amount for me to manage well and teach at such an event.
Last year in 2017, I wrote about the passing of slave david stein (spelt in lowercase, as he liked to be known), who co-developed the ethical framework acronym of SSC or Safe Sane Consensual, in 1983 in New York.
David was the last living member of the three member New York Gay Male S/M Activists (GMSMA) committee; Martin Berkenwald, Bob Gillespie and david stein - who published a committee report with the phrasing of Safe, Sane, Consensual. The members would have little idea at how influential those words would be come. As Stein would later reflect:
"Tens of thousands — maybe hundreds of thousands — of kinky men and women all over North America and around the world, many of whom have no idea what “GMSMA” stands for, know “Safe Sane Consensual” (SSC)."
Given the significance of the SSC (Safe Sane Consensual) code to BDSM, and the later challenge of RACK (Risk-Aware Consensual Kink), I thought I would devote a blog post to discussing these.
I'm writing more on this in my new book (Mistressery) in progress, but the need for this material seems required in the very "NOW", so I'm putting some of the resources online straight away.
I hope this may prove helpful...
Anne O Nomis
Author of 'The History & Arts of the Dominatrix'
SSC (Safe, Sane & Consensual)
Challenging pathology and abuse;
A Framework of Fireworks !
Safe, Sane and Consensual grew out of small gay S/M groups involved in education and activism, in 1980s Chicago and New York.
Gay S/M clubs experienced a small number of predatory so-called "Dominants", who might prey on the younger and/or new-to-the-scene attendees and push them into activities without the individual's full awareness of or agreeement to the activity or risks; without in other words informed consent. There were also people who had good ethics and concern for others, but their level of technical know-how in activities such as bondage and whipping may not match their level enthusiasm. At the same time, S/M play would often throw up emotionally complex responses which were aided by good communication and discussion.
The S/M community met these concerns with education, advocacy and discussion of ethics. Their members were also concerned with the image of gay S/M to the wider public, and the perception of S/M as being as psycho-pathological destructive or neurotically self-abusive behaviour.
In today's arguably more kink-friendly world, we may also forget that the term S/M had its roots in the German psychiatrist Richard von Kraft-Ebing's "Psychopathia Sexualis" in 1890. For much of 20th Century history, people who were into BDSM and kink activities were at risk of being viewed as pathological, psychologically damaged or as sexually deviant.
Above: Psychopathia Sexualis by Kraft-Ebing with portrait of author.
The legacy of psychiatric pathology tradition prevented S/M being seen for its erotic lifestyle potential - as activities and interaction towards pleasure, experimentation, excitement, fun and fulfilment between consenting adults.
The response of the gay S/M groups was to seek to build a community which would help advocate for education, communication between people, consent, and safe and sane play.
For the historical record, and because my blog seems to get found by a lot of scholars and journalists, I'm reproducing the original 1983 GMSMA newsletter wording as a historical resource:
"GMSMA is a not-for-profit organization of gay males in the New York City area who are seriously interested in safe, sane, and consensual S/M. Our purpose is to help create a more supportive S/M community for gay males, whether they desire a total lifestyle or an occasional adventure, whether they are just coming out into S/M or are long experienced.
Our regular meetings and other activities attempt to build a sense of community by exploring common feelings and concerns. We aim to raise awareness about issues of safety and responsibility, to recover elements of our tradition, and to disseminate the best available medical and technical information about S/M practices. We seek to establish a recognized political presence in the wider gay community in order to combat the prevailing stereotypes and misconceptions about S/M while working with others for the common goals of gay liberation."
Source: Emphasis my own. August 1983 report of that Gay Male S/M Activists committee; reproduced in david stein Safe, Sane and Consensual: The Making of a Shibboleth
Above: Gay Male S/M Activisits publication and logo on T-shirt
The original wording of the New York Gay S/M Committee newsletter is telling of the spirit in which the Safe, Sane, Consensual code came about.
The committee's chosen wording is very likely influenced by the familiar American exhortation around Independence Day fireworks; “Have a safe and sane Fourth of July.” Indeed david stein acknowledged this relationship in his own writing on how Safe, Sane and Consensual came about:
"Every year while i was growing up, i heard that phrase ("Have a safe and sane Fourth of July") on TV, or saw it in the newspapers and on billboards, and it stuck."
Left: Vintage Pin 'A Safe and Sane Fourth"; Right: Seal of State of California State Fire Marshall for Fireworks with "Safe and Sane" at its top.
Over in Chicago, the infamous Hellfire Club produced its statement of purpose for their club using "safe and sane" in 1980, predating New York's GMSMA committee newsletter.
The unsigned essay by Tony DeBlase for Chicago Hellfire Club’s Inferno 10 (1981) run book sets out Hellfire Club's stated purpose:
“. . . to provide education and opportunities for participation in S&M sex among consenting adult men and to foster communication among such individuals. Responsible S&M has become more popular and less feared in the gay community and Chicago Hellfire Club continues to serve its community — striving always to educate and promote safe and sane enjoyment of men by men." [Emphasis my own]
Above: Chicago's Hellfire Club in 1970s with John Preston in centre, and Tony DeBlase on right. Source: Leather Archives & Museum
From a historical point of view, did the New York Gay S/M activitists in fact emulate / copy / borrow or appropriate Chicago Hell Fire Club's wording of "safe and sane", to which the third term "consensual" was added? Or were the two groups independently borrowing from the 4th of July fireworks slogan?
Although slave david stein narrates a version in which they both happened to come to the same wording independently, I believe they (the GMSMA committee members) may have borrowed or taken up Hellfire Club's wording - whether it having been sewn into their subconscious from reading the Chicago material or interacting with its members mentioning "safe and sane", or whether more consciously referring to Hellfire's statement when developing their own.
Certainly david stein attended Hellfire Club, and wrote about his experience there. He posed as a model for bondage there. He viewed any and all writings and reports from the SM scene with a keen interest in ideals of S/M relationships.
In his own writing he acknowledges this possibility:
"Inferno 10 was the first i attended, and it made a big impression on me, so Tony’s [Tony deBlase's] words may have suggested the application of “safe and sane” to S/M, and even the association with “consensual.” But the GMSMA statement of purpose was the first place all three terms were jointly applied to S/M."
Like a lot of inventions, the origin is not as clear-cut and traceable to one individual as one might like. Both the Chicago and New York Gay SM scene in the early 1980s can claim a role in the use of the terms, and they evoked in people's minds the association with 4th of July phrase around fireworks.
Fireworks - exciting, special, exhilarating, fun, bright and colourful, powerful, explosive, magnificent but also potentially dangerous if not supervised with some caution - was an apt metaphor for S/M.
It made the motivations of S/M players more immediately understandable also: people who sought excitement, exhilaration and enjoyment in their sexual interactions.
As stein recounted,
As a kid, what i took “Have a safe and sane Fourth” to mean was, “Have a good time, but don’t be stupid and burn the house down or blow your hand off.” More than two decades later, that seemed to fit S/M just fine. What we meant by “safe and sane S/M” in 1983 was, “Have a good time, but keep your head and understand what you’re doing so you don’t end up dead or in the hospital — or send someone else there.”
How SSC came into popular usage
The Safe, Sane and Consensual slogan was solidified into BDSM history when it was used as the slogan for marches on Washington by the Lesbian and Gay Rights and the S/M-Leather-Fetish Contingent in March 1987 and March 1993.
The pre-march planning sessions had debated various options, as well as weighing up the pros and cons of Safe, Sane and Consensual, before deciding on it as the most effective slogan. Once agreed upon, it went out on the top of all newsletters and press releases, and gradually onto T-shirts and stickers. For the 1993 march, the effect was magnified. Safe, Sane and Consensual was emblazoned onto the S/M-Leather-Fetish Contingent's 20 foot banner, which hung the day previous across the grand entrance of the government building on Constitution Avenue, that hosted our huge S/M-Leather- Fetish Conference.
"Thousands of men and women from all over the U.S. and many foreign countries saw those three words, identified with them, and took them back to their local communities." (david stein)
Above: Example of a modern day "safe sane consensual" T-shirt.
Safe Sane Consensual came to define the S/M community as its code, its ethos. With benefit of hindsight, we can now see how significant this 1980s gay S/M movement was - and is - the to the BDSM scene today.
It was these activists and educators who were helping form ethical codes for BDSM players, to look after their members. They were writing and marching against prejudice and ignorance of towards their community and practices. Their legacy to the SM-leather-kink communities was considerable.
RACK - Risk-Aware Consensual Kink
A Framework of Risk Acknowledgment
Close to the turn of the millennium, a critique of Safe, Sane and Consensual was simmering amongst BDSM writers such as Laura Antoniou, Joseph W. Bean and Phil Julian. Whilst amongst community web messaging and forum boards, alternatives were being debated.
One of the challengers was Gary Switch, who would later develop the term RACK as Risk-Aware Consensual Kink - which would become the chief alternative slogan of the BDSM community.
Gary Switch requests his account to be reproduced in the whole:
Above: Avatar of GarySwitch
During a discussion of SSC (Safe, Sane and Consensual) on the TES-Friends list on 11/25/99, I proposed RACK (Risk-Aware, Consensual Kink) as an alternative. Here's my motivation:
Nothing's perfectly safe. Crossing the street isn't perfectly safe. Remember that it's technically called "safer sex," not "safe sex." If we want to limit BDSM to what's safe, we can't do anything more extreme than flogging somebody with a wet noodle. Mountain climbers don't call their sport safe, for the simple reason that it isn't; risk is an essential part of the thrill. They handle it by identifying and minimizing the risk through study, training, technique, and practice. I believe that this approach will work better for us leatherfolk than claiming that what we do is safe. We want to foster the notion that we develop expertise, that to do what we do properly takes skill developed through a similar process of education, training, and practice.
Negotiation cannot be valid without foreknowledge of the possible risks involved in the activity being negotiated. "Risk-aware" means that both parties to a negotiation have studied the proposed activities, are informed about the risks involved, and agree how they intend to handle them. Hence "risk-aware" instead of "safe."
The "sane" part of SSC is very subjective. Who's making the call? Person A might think fisting is insane; persons B and C might enjoy it very much. "Sane" always reminds me of Pat Paulsen's campaign slogan from the old Smothers Brothers show: "Vote for Paulsen; he's not insane!" If you go around constantly reassuring folks that you're not crazy, they'll start to wonder.
I've heard "sane" interpreted as: "able to distinguish fantasy from reality" and "not intoxicated," which are both perfectly valid, though the latter is similar to the above -- you don't go around constantly reassuring folks that you're not drunk, either.
"Consensual" is the crux, implying negotiation which implies being able to distinguish fantasy from reality, as well as dealing responsibly with risk factors. If you don't know the risk factors, if you don't know what will happen in reality, then you don't know what you're consenting to. Meaningful negotiation must always take place on the common ground of consensus reality.
The "kink" part went in to make a snappy acronym and because SSC doesn't tell you what you should be SSC about. Safe, Sane, and Consensual trout fishing? Alluding to the rack, an archetypal torture instrument, has been criticized, but to me it signifies our transformation of atrocity into ecstasy, and admits that though we may enjoy some dark fantasies, we realize them harmlessly.
RACK is admittedly more confrontational than SSC. It's defiant, the same way the GLBT community uses "queer." RACK allows us the freedom to have non-PC fantasies. Don't a lot of us enjoy non- consensual fantasies, either from the top side or the bottom side? We enjoy them in our literature; we may very well enjoy them while we play. But we act them out responsibly and consensually.
(Reference source: Gary Switch, Contributing Editor, Prometheus magazine, GarySwitch@aol.com )
Gary's account is both articulate and understandable. It promotes quite a realist attitude towards BDSM with its inherent risks, and suggests that participants focus on identifying the risks in order that they can be discussed and play their role in consent and in risk management.
For many who enjoy more extreme forms of play, referred to as "Edgeplay", with higher elements of risk of harm, RACK provided them with a framework which emboldened their right and defence - to indulge in their preferred play.
Edgeplay is a kind of subjective term for anything that has significant risks and is regarded as more extreme activities in BDSM circles; from breathplay, to fireplay, to knives and cutting, to barebacking, and so on.
In practice, and in fetish clubs, I would often hear conversations that go something like this:
"Stop nannying us" - the Edgeplayers would say to the players admonishing them about dangerous play.
"Nothing's safe. We get that our kinks can be risky or dangerous, but so is life. It's our choice. This is how we get off. We're aware of the risks. We're educated. We know what we're doing. It's our life."
If SSC Safe, Sane and Consensual had a flavour of idealistic ethical romance about it, RACK Risk-Aware Consensual Kink was about realism of risk, individual responsibility and the right to choose to take risk for our kicks or kinks.
Both these acronyms of SSC and RACK are the most common batted around within the BDSM community and by individual players. As such, I hope this blog post will provide food for thought and a place of resources to access and refer to the original work. I've listed the most accessible and recent articles below.
Bibliography / Resources
* Richard von Kraft-Ebing (1890) Neue Forschungen auf dem Gebiet der Psychopathia sexualis ; translated in English as New Research in the Area of Psychopathology of Sex.
* david stein (2002) “Safe Sane Consensual”: The Making of a Shibboleth by slave david stein under the Guardianship of Master Steve of Butchmann’s. Published in 20th Anniversary issue, September/October 2002, of VASM Scene, the newsletter of Vancouver Activists in S/M of Vancouver, British Columbia. Viewable at: http://boybear.us/ssc.pdf
NB: An early draft was also presented at Leather Leadership Conference in Washington, D.C, in April 2000: www.leatherleadership.org. Other versions published in The Sandmutopia Guardian and later reworked for the Spring 2001 issue of NewsLink, the GMSMA newsletter.
* Gary Switch (c 2009) Rack Essay and Interview posted by author as Fetlife post: https://fetlife.com/users/53355/posts/25734 (Viewable only by Fetlife members)
Villa Domme 'The Mysteries of Female Dominance - Realm Arts™ course' in Tuscany, 9 - 16 June 2018.
In June 2018, I am teaching a course in the 'Mysteries of Female Domination - Realm Arts™ course' in Tuscany in Italy. I am naturally very excited about this.
I have been teaching a Dominatrix Seven Realm Arts course in Melbourne which runs over 8 fortnightly classes, which has been very popular and run repeatedly due to demand. However it's prohibitive for people to attend from overseas, due to the way it's spread out 16 weeks with fortnightly classes, and the geographical location of Melbourne Australia being very far to fly to from the UK and Europe.
Accordingly I have put together an intensive and immersive retreat style certificate course in domination, which runs over 7 days with accommodation on site in a Tuscan villa.
Within a month of announcing and offering this course, I've received bookings from female dominant women (and in some cases submissives) people in the Netherlands, UK, USA and Australia, who will all be flying over to attend.
Villa Domme has 10 bedrooms, of which 8 are now booked and confirmed, and the course is going ahead. There is still place for a couple more people to fill up the villa and course, if anyone who reads this blog entry has the desire to attend - I suggest you contact me promptly.
The course includes teaching in all the main areas of the Dominatrix's craft, which I conceptualized in my book as the "Seven Realm Arts" (Chapter V, 'The History & Arts of the Dominatrix'). This framework and my book has become the curriculum used by Mistress training in various places around the world.
I have been putting together domination literature through the ages, which elucidate the Dominatrix / Mistress in power and command, as well as the interplay with her subject - whether he be submissive, slave, servant, schoolboy, cross-dresser or other role / identity.
I will be taking the course participants on a day tour of the Uffizi in Florence taking in artwork on the theme of the "power of women" in art. This was a specific genre of Renaissance art, in which men are brought down by female allure and womanly wiles, and thus ripe for viewing and discussion.
In addition, I am keen to integrate material which has come from my new research on ancient Goddess rituals practised in the pre-Christian era. These includes preparation for the quršu - the "fucking ritual" quite literally translated from Akkadian, which included bathing and beautification rituals, setting up the bed with flowers and incense, sacred music and songs of desire, and the erotic coupling of the Goddess with the King-God, followed by a procession and revelry in which the community joined in the feasting and celebration.
These sacred rituals practised for three thousand years - offer insight into the ritual energetic of fuelling female desire and power.
I am also interested to expand on the notion of the sex Goddess as "Lady of the Largest Heart" as she was known in the literature. As a figure who attracted people of diverse sexual identities to her, with special roles offered within her cult, including for people of third gender, gender ambiguity, the cross-dressed / transformed and sex workers (or perhaps better put - sex specialists, in which the "kissing of the phallus" was one of their craft arts).
There is also evidence that the Goddess (likely played by her priestess) practised a "dance (or game) of domination" as part of her rituals. These practises appear to have been culturally transmitted to the cult of Artemis Orthia on Sparta, which although used upon the "ephebes" in a context of military training, in my view had their roots in sexuality and fertility rites. Aspects of mystery religions also included whipping, as seen in the wall fresco in the Villa of Mysteries in Pompeii.
The course includes accommodation in the villa, all breakfasts and lunches and dinner on 3 nights (with the remaining nights allowing some freedom to explore local restaurants or cook at the villa, with eateries and supermarket just a few minutes walk away). It also includes equipment needed for the course, and a mobile tool-kit of items which I have personally selected. And of course the art tour.
Full information is on the website https://www.villadomme.com/
For any inquiries relating to the course, you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact email@example.com
Today I heard the sad news of the passing of David Stein. (Or, as I should write - slave david stein - in lowercase, as he would self-identify.)
As a BDSM historian I tilt my cap to david. (A leather police cap at that.) For david stein was one of the original NY gay male activists behind Safe, Sane & Consensual (SSC). I didn't know david stein personally. I was active in some of the same online groups as him, and we posted on each others' threads, including on BDSM history.
He began his interest in bondage at a young age, writing in his biography:
"Perhaps because i was granted too much freedom as a child and was largely ignored by both parents until i was of school age — i made an unconscious association between bondage (or any kind of restraint/constraint) and love. (It was only a few years ago that i realized this.) For me, to be bound is to be loved; to be confined is to be wanted."
Coming out in his late 20s, david abandoned a PhD Northwestern University in Illinois - with his thesis on the subject of truth, in order to step into his own truth. He moved to New York in 1977, worked as a volunteer for the National Gay Task Force (now the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force) and worked for Christopher Street magazine in its heydays. As well as writing on SM, he edited some of its star writers, including Edmund White.
Writing about his experience at Chicago Hellfire Club's infamous Inferno, he inadvertently ended up the bondage model illustrated on the cover of New York Native.
david stein as bondage model
In the era of Old School code of the leathermen, leather-wearing was "earned", and david sought to honour this by wearing denim when he attended Spike (bar) . When he finally did buy his first leather jacket, he succeeded in attracting a leatherman that same night, performing particular acts which he frankly discusses in his biography.
In 1980, he attended the first meeting of what became Gay Male S/M Activists (GMSMA). He served as Chairman of the steering committee, and held a number of positions over the years - including President and Program Chairman, editing the newsletter and publications.
As david stein would recount:
"GMSMA not only gave me opportunities to learn about s/m — it became the teaching outlet that my departure from academia had denied me, and i used every opportunity it afforded to spread information and ideas about safe, responsible bondage and s/m between consenting adults."
In 1983, the GMSMA committee which david sat on, published a report that contains the earliest use of the phrase Safe, Sane and Consensual in relation to SM activities.
Some eleven years after he began his involvement with GMSMA, he had to cut back due to a series of serious health concerns. These included arthritis in both knees, which as david noted was "a real handicap for a submissive bottom, let alone a slave", alongside a life-threatening bout of pneumonia. He ruptured two spinal discs in his neck from the coughing. The pneumonia he notes was not related to HIV. His distinction underplays the contextual events of the era, in which the gay scene was being ravaged by a then mysterious disease, which we now know as the AIDS epidemic.
Alongside writing in magazines, david began writing a story which would eventually be published as Carried Away: An S/M Romance - published in 2003 by Daedalus, as its first fiction title. He had several long-term positions as a "slave" within SM relationships.
Cover of Carried Away: An SM Romance by david stein
My understanding is that slave david stein - as he liked to be known - passed away yesterday morning, Thursday 12th October 2017, after a long battle with cancer. The news came through his leather family on Fetlife, from "slave kirk".
slave david stein will be best-remembered for his contribution to developing the BDSM code of "Safe, Sane and Consensual", and for his fictional ideal of slavery in Carried Away. However his body of writing and editing for the SM community in grassroots newsletters and magazines was considerable, and through this he had a role in influencing a whole community of people, with the ripples of the ideas he advanced still felt today.
He sought to live his truth, as a self-identified "slave", and to share the knowledge of S/M he had acquired with others, with generosity of exchange as well as self-introspection on consensual (voluntary) slavery.
slave david stein - thank you for your incredible contribution to the BDSM community.
you* will be remembered.
Anne O Nomis
Author of 'The History & Arts of the Dominatrix' book www.historyofthedominatrix.com
*I have used lower-case in keeping with david's own preferences of address, rather than grammatical error.
Articles for further reading:
david stein biography http://boybear.us/me.htm
david stein "Carried Away: An SM Romance": https://www.amazon.com/Carried-Away-Romance-david-stein/dp/0991048334
The 'Education Salon' is nearly finished, apart from a few flourishes to be added at a later date. (Such as art prints on their way over from England).
It's a space hat has been set up above Passionfruit Shop - for teaching the Dominatrix's arts to budding students, some with a lifestyle interest in BDSM, and others with professional aspirations to learn the secretive craft practices.
Amongst the furniture is an antique Georgian cabinet - full of interesting accoutrements. There's a custom-made steel spanking bench with padded adjustable top. (Just out of the camera frame.) A throne chair owned by Passionfruit Shop's owner Michelle which was a family heirloom takes pride of place in the corner. Within arm's reach is a copper pot with handle which has lap canes and other implements kept at hand. Across the floor is an antique Persian rug from the Shiraz region.
On the right side of the salon is a custom-made Berkley Horse, crafted from the 1828 design by Victorian Governess Dominatrix, Theresa Berkley. (A photograph of the original design alongside a short biography of Theresa Berkley features in my book, 'The History & Arts of the Dominatrix'.) Also in her honour, is a China vase full of English canes and birch branches.
There is also a genuine vintage stainless steel hospital trolley, and a Dutch-made vintage medical bench, in honour of the 1960s Dutch Dominatrix - Mistress Monique Von Cleef.
There's also a wonderful spanking bench by Michelle which is out of the frame of the photos and video. Some artwork is still to go up, along with flogger hooks and a few more flourishes, but the basic format of the Education Salon is established. A new generation of initiates will gain learning in an environment which honours the Dominatrix's history and craft.
I'm meanwhile onto planning for Villa Domme in Tuscany, where I'm teaching a week-long intensive retreat course on 'The Mysteries of Female Dominance' in a 19th Century villa owned by a Countess.
This weekend I have been invited to speak at Oz Kink Fest on the topic of kidnapping. Adult kidnapping as adrenaline experience enacting fantasy, I should clarify.
It's a subject I know intimately from the Game of Gambol, a secretive live action roleplay game, which integrates in and around (and with some respect for and consideration to) their "real lives".
So why would anyone want to be kidnapped?, some might ask.
There are several elements to it. For one, it's similar to any kind of adrenaline experience that people pay money to go through, just a little less mainstream. We don't bat an eyelid from people choosing to go on roller-coasters, or sky-diving. We know the popularity of horror and thriller movies. So on one level, kidnapping is a step-up in intensity of adrenaline experience.
In London, there are various experiences such as Escape Rooms, based at London Bridge and Angel, which is based on the Japanese Tagakism. ClueQuest (which has 9 escape rooms, and can accommodate 54 people), Archimdedes Inspiration, Escape London, Enigma Escape, and many more. These games are based on the notion of being locked in a room, invoking some adrenaline and fear, you are to find clues and solve puzzles, in order to escape within a set time window of usually 1 hour. Most are designed so that you succeed in finding the clues, solving the puzzles, escaping, and experience the rush of relief in release, and victory.
However comparatively, kidnapping varies in several senses. There is much more unknown. You don't escape, but rather are "released", and experience a far higher degree of vulnerability, entrapment and posited danger. You are taken-down by your kidnapper, overpowered, tied up or otherwise restrained, and held. Held physically and psychologically. You are not in a reassuringly controlled environment, subject to reasonable expectations on how things will operate and socially acceptable bounds of behaviour. Rather you are pulled away from security, from the safe law-abiding world you inhabit. You are taken away, into the unknown, at the mercy of and reliance upon your captor.
One of the well-known psychological aspects of kidnapping is what's known as Stockholm Syndrome - in which the captive forms a close bond with their abductor. This is absolutely an aspect of the kidnapping experience, and so closely overlaps the feelings which a submissive has towards a Dominatrix from BDSM session.
One of the most famous kidnapping bloggers, appropriately self-named as 'Mr Stockholm' writes:
"When a captive experiences unexpected kindness from their captor, an emotional bond can form. The result of this can range from a feeling of empathy to outright conversion to the captor's cause, but the chemistry is clear: being kidnapped can make you fall in love with your captor. The risks are palpable. If you now throw into the mix the tantalising possibility of being kidnapped by beautiful and powerful women as part of a fantasy that you've had a hand in creating then perhaps you can finally see the allure of abduction."
Thinking through the kidnapping experience, there is the risk-taking aspect to it, or as one participant describes - the insanity of it. In the sense that your are investing - paying - to be put into a situation of ultimate risk. Your body, well-being, and in the greatest extreme - your life - is in the hands of your captor.
The anticipation is enormous. The what, when, how...? There are various types of consensual kidnapping. In some, you go to a particular location at a particular time, where you are to be kidnapped from, but you don't know the how. In some, you know the broad timeframe and day, but not the exact location or time. At the most extreme end, is a kidnap in which you don't know when or where you will be kidnapped, having given all choice over to your kidnapper (who may for example have been given access to your diary and understand limitations around your work and family and so forth). Mr Stockholm describes these as static, semi-static and fluid kidnaps.
Alongside the enjoyment of fear, danger and thrill, there is something else, dangling at its depths. I was pondering this today, thinking more of the psychologies of the people who have come to me - seeking out such experiences.
I don't know that I have got it entirely succinct, but it is the pleasure of escape from one's "real" life. The purported force provides the excuse, the alibi. "I was kidnapped. This was done to me."
The kidnapping opens up a kind of parallel universe, one in which the victim is taken away from their life of responsibilities, their work pressures, their family life, the person they have to be - provider, professional role, family man - by obligation and expectation to everyone else. To be "taken away" is to be removed from all that responsibility, from the mundane everyday role.
There is too an aspect of being chosen, as select prey. In being wanted by the kidnapper, being subject to the beam of their gaze, their study and attentions. In order to kidnap you and hold you, your abductor inevitably inspects you, explores your sensitivities and psyche, your reactions.
The huntress plays with her prey, as a cat with her caught mouse.
Assuming the abductor is also a Dominatrix, skilled in the psychosexual realm, there is also an erotic frisson to the fear. She has the skills to adeptly torture, torment, tease, toy with her victim. To penetrate your mind - or indeed your body, by peg or point, to violate your normal boundaries of self in the context of a (consensual) adult kidnapping.
It is no surprise to me that alien kidnappings so often involve stories of being taken, up into a spaceship that represents a different (alien) world, and experiments which often involve anal probing or other such activities (which belong commonly in a Dominatrix's realm).
Forbidden pleasures (such as anal probing) are given excuse and raison d'etre (reason for being) by the kidnapping scenario. You were probed at the will of another.
And interestingly, it's also under the spell of another. For the psychology of subject and victim has them often go along with the will of their abductor as if in a magical spell, or a stupor of submission.
In consensual adult BDSM kidnappings, the abductee is given reason, excuse, to go along with will of his kidnapper. He experiences a break from his "real life" with erotic possibilities mingled with fear of the painful possibilities also. Can he withstand her treatment? What will she do with him? The experience is also very much one of psychological play and exchange, for in and through the experience, he learns more about himself, observed and tested and reflected through the eyes of another, whose attention and concentration is on him. The abductee also learns about his kidnapper, through her methodology of capture and treatment, the flavour of any questioning and interrogation, the activities they lead - which expose something of their motivations, give insight into her ideas and ideals. The kidnapper reveals part of themselves through their words and will. And the abductee studies these closely, for the risk posed to them, their safety and wellbeing are in the hands of their abductor. Understanding their kidnapper is the best shot they have at aiding their own security and being able to affect somehow their treatment and release. Kidnapping is in this way an intimate experience.
After the initial fear, anticipation and adrenaline rush, there is typically a reassuring safety in being held, by one who the consensual abductee has put his life over to in trust. This is I think one of the key differentiations of fantasy consensual abduction, is that the captor has wanted to be captured, to be taken away. He knows the stay will come to an end at some point, and he will return to his everyday life. But in the meantime he enjoys being held by her.
There is indeed something romantic about the scenario. As an archaeology major, I think of the story of Odysseus and Circe. She as a goddess, sorceress and enchantress. Living on an island - Aiolos - in a large house in a clearing of dense wood. The location is away from, separate and distant from the captive crew's home and their everyday lives. Her role is different from everyday women; she is magical, can make fierce animals docile, and turn men into swine through her sorcery. On the other hand, she is a weaver and a nurturer. Odysseus and crew are set free once she falls in love with Odysseus, but stay on her island for a year, feasting and drinking wine. She gives sound advice for the next part of his journey, which will end with him returning home, to his faithful wife.
Émile Lévy Circé (1889)
The role is in many ways akin to the Dominatrix, who herself is a kind of sorceress of the psycho-sexual realm. Arranging a kidnapping with a Dominatrix combines elements of fear, the unknown, of putting oneself in the hands of a powerful attractive woman, being held for a period by her, but ultimately being released and freed to return home. The period of take-down and captivity lingers on in the mind, is replayed and revisited in fantasy, and remains a ripe parallel universe. A portal in which one could have stayed, continued living with their captor, and maybe they even long for that on some level.
However the experience is something like the experience of a new place on holiday, and the come-down after as the person returns to earth with something of a thud.
Through the kidnapping experience the abductee briefly and for a period lives out a new identity, away from their everyday life. They are studied with intensity and probed by new eyes, seeing themselves in a new way, and gaining the intimacy of a new bond and relationship with their attractive captor - who has explored the responses of their body and mind, and knows them in some ways better than those closest to them.
The kidnappping experience is a victory of escape not from the claustrophobic locked room of Escape Room scenarios, but rather the claustrophobic room of real-life - that has felt locked and inescapable.
"Take me away, forcibly", is the request of the consensual abductee.
"With pleasure", is the answer of the Dominatrix abductor.
For a person walking into a Dominatrix's dungeon, their eyes are typically met with all manner of large-scale dungeon bondage equipment. Cages, Medical bench, St Andrew's Cross, spanking bench, and other such items. However one of the smaller pieces that most captivates the eyes and imagination is most certainly the violet ray machine.
This is the go-to apparatus frequently used for Dominatrix's (fantasy) interrogations and electro-play.
It makes a buzzing sound when switched on, with glass electrodes that glow with a surreal-looking violet purple (hence the name Violet Ray). When in use, they also spark across a small gap - seen most effectively if you hold the electrode with just a short gap from a sensitive body part!
They also make a very attractive item of display. Violet rays are housed in a little suitcase box, lined with fabric or velvet, with glass electrodes of different shapes (typically made of pyrex glass or soda lime glass), a cord attached to a phallic or cucumber-like handle (often made of bakelite), with a dial, and a power plug lead.
I have recently acquired a vintage c1930s era "Kosmosan I" Violet Ray device for the Education Salon, which featured a built-in vanity mirror likely aimed at female buyers. I was lucky to find a device in close to original condition, with all the original electrodes and manual (written in German) included. The cables and plugs have of course been replaced, as the original old cables were brittle and dangerous.
Anne O Nomis's "Kosmosan I" Violet Ray Wand for the Education Salon.
Original manual (in German) for the "Kosmosan I" Violet Ray Wand.
Different glass electrodes in the Violet Wand case.
And here's what one of the electrodes looks when attached to the handle and switched on, glowing its distinctive violet colour...
Violet ray 'comb' electrode when glowing violet.
The History of Violet Rays
Violet ray devices used to be manufactured in the thousands for medical / theraputic use known as "Electrotherapy". They were marketed to treat a range of medical ailments, with different shaped glass electrodes for purpose.
The technology was based upon the development of the Telsa coil, named after Nikola Telsa (1856-1943), a Serbian-American inventor, physicist, mechanical engineer and electrical engineer. Telsa's patents and theoretical work form the basis for the modern alternating current (AC) electric power supply systems.
The first prototypes were designed in the late 1800s, and introduced by Telsa at the World's Columbian Exposition in 1893.
Over in France, a physician and physicist Jacques-Arsene D'Arsonval was experimenting with the physiological effects of electrical stimulation. Together with his collaborator, Paul Marie Oudin, they would modify Tesla coil apparatus to create the "Oudin coil" (connected to an autotransformer), and experiment with its potential health benefits.
Wikicommons / Public domain image: Oudin coil being used for Electrotherapy treatment of a patient's knee, 1907. (From Roentgen Rays and Electro-Therapeutics, J.B. Lippincott Co., Philadelphia, USA, Page 168, Figure 67)
It was out of these technologies that violet rays were designed to be small boxed devices able to be used at home for theraputic use. They were meant to be beneficial to all kinds of medical ailments, from insomnia to asthma to catarrh to gout.
Above: Part of advertisement for Renulife Violet ray.
From the historic advertisements I could find, their marketing was designed to appeal to three areas: Beauty, Vitality and Health.
Above: Part of advertisement for Vi-Rex Violet Ray.
Violet ray with "comb" attachment in use in domestic setting. Advertised to arrest the progress of any scalp disorder and quality of the hair itself.
The violet ray devices were manufactured in large quantities in the early 20th Century, with many devices which survive today dating from the late 20s, 30s and post-WWII. In the USA, they were subject to numerous lawsuits and seizures, and in 1951 their manufacture was prohibited after a case directed at the last US manufacturer, Master Electric.
Their popularity in any case dwindled as claims for their health benefits were disputed. However vintage violet ray machines frequently popped up in flea markets, auctions and the like as a "novelty item". Their erotic use was well-enough known that they were experimented with in bedrooms (and dungeons) for decades beyond their manufacture.
Modern-day "Violet Wands" manufactured specifically for erotic electro-stimulation (known as e-stim) are sold in specialized sex stores and online in the contemporary era.
Science / nerdy stuff on how they work
Violet ray devices are high voltage, high frequency, low current, electric current.
The electrical control box controls the interrupter (set of contact breakers), a magneto coil and capacitor. Nick and Morphia note that when the violet ray is turned on, "you hear a buzzing sound - a noise made because the contact breakers are snapping open and shut around 55 times a second. It is when the contact breakers are open that the electrical circuit is cut off, and the energy stored in the coil oscillates between the coil and the capacitor at a much higher frequency."
I've read frequently that the wand handle contains a coil, but Nick and Morphia who recondition numerous wands, who I've met personally in London, and trust as a highly reliable source - write that the violet ray wand handle contains two coils:
"The first, a primary is made of thick copper wire and consists of ten or so turns around the high voltage coil underneath. The hv coil consists of 12 -15 layers of fine copper wire wound to a width of 3/4 inch - the rest is insulation.
This hv coil is like a transformer stepping up the voltage to between 30,000 and 50,000 volts and this flows out directly to a glass or metal attachment and applied to the subject. Thankfully the old established laws of energy conservation mean that current is significantly reduced as total energy remains the same (less losses such as heat)
The return end of the hv coil connects back to the mains to complete the electrical circuit - if it did not, it would not work. Interestingly it does so in one of several ways -
- Directly - in which case there is mostly a physical gap at the business end - usually mica - which isolates the user from the mains - but sometimes not - which is why you need to get any new acquisition checked out by an expert.
- Indirectly - two metal plates separated by a layer of mica - again to isolate from the mains - and normally buried in the outer layers of the coil
- Indirectly, layers of electrical insulation (most often Mica and waxed paper) between the primary and secondary coils - and can often be seen glowing in the dark
- Indirectly - via a capacitor - wax paper ones are not acceptable by modern standards
The effect of this high frequency high voltage current to to jump small gaps and to travel along the surface of a conductor rather than straight through it. This is useful because it means you cannot fry your innards or stop your heart from beating and makes the whole idea of using one of these devices - less scary. The muscles also tend not react to this high frequency oscillating current." (from Nick and Morphia site)
Violet ray with wand (at left), glass electrodes (top compartment & taken out at right side), dial (centre) and electric cord (bottom compartment).
How Violet Rays came to be used by Dominatrices in a BDSM context
I think Violet wands were ripe for use by Dominatrices for a number of reasons, which I'm going to argue for the first time here, based on my research on the history of the Dominatrix.
REASON 1) THE MEDICO-EROTIC SPECIALIZATION
Firstly, historical domination has long had an intersect with medical play and nurse roleplay. I could write an article separately on this subject alone.
Nursing is a common background for Dominatrices to come from. The famous mid 20th Century Dominatrix Monique Von Cleef was one of many Dominatrices whose background was medical nursing. (see p.145 onwards in 'The History & Arts of the Dominatrix' book.)
From the beginnings of electrotherapy, the erotic possibilities lay within their potential use. And indeed the design of the violet ray kits for private personal home use, and the devices and electrodes designed for the rectum and vagina (purportedly for health and vitality) were included in the kits.
The advertisements subtly allude to the erotic potential, cloaked in metaphors that engage the imagination:
"make very fibre of your body tingle with a new vim and vigour".
And elsewhere use the same specific vernacular used in association with the female complaints of nervousness and hysteria.
"Violet Rays have a soothing effect on the entire system - as a relief for exhaustion and nervousness they have no equal".
Above: Historic image of Violet Ray in use on the back.
So it is unsurprising that Dominatrices would be drawn to historic, vintage and quack medical devices - with many even having a medical bench or clinic set up in within their dungeon or as a separate room.
One of the Dominatrix's arts is the 'Art of the Bodily and Out-of-Body', utilizing techniques which emphasize the corporeal / bodily, and utilizing techniques to drive Out-of-Body experiences. (See Realm Art V in 'The History & Arts of the Dominatrix' book, pp.255). It is to this realm specialization that the Violet Ray device is aptly put to use.
REASON 2) DRAMA & MIND-FUCKERY
The Violet Ray machine looks to many like something that belongs in a stage performance or an historic interrogation.
The device buzzes, glows purple (particularly effective in a darkened room), and releases an ozone smell.
As such, these devices are ideal for "mind-fuckery" - playing with fear. For submissives unfamiliar with what these devices are, scared of what level of harm they might do, the Dominatrix's use of the device drives a hormonal cortisol fear response, alongside the psychological anxiety and acceptance of what will come with their application on the person.
One of the violet glowing electrodes from my Violet Ray set.
Violet ray devices are likely to have been part of the torture equipment used by wayward Chicago police commanders (including John Burge) in the 1970s and 1980s, for interrogating / torturing suspects.
In the 1985 court case, Leonard Hinton described being taken to the basement at Area Two... his hands were handcuffed above his head, his pants and shorts were pulled down, his ankles were handcuffed to a pole so his legs were spread, and then "the officer with the mustache and with the glasses with the black hair, he came in with a rod, and one was carrying a box, a black box. . . . There was a cord to the long rod. . . . The handle on it was black and they plugged the wire into the box. . . . Then they put something in my mouth . . . it was cloth . . . and they tied it so I couldn't holler. . . . Then they took the rod, long part, and they placed it under my genitals. . . . [It was] a pain out of this world. I couldn't describe it. . . . They said, 'Are you ready to talk yet?' The other said, 'I don't think he's ready to talk yet.' He hit me with it again. . . . Then . . . he touched it in the crack of my rectum. . . . Then he took that [cloth] out of my mouth. I said, 'I am ready to talk. Tell me what you want me to say, sir. Please stop."
(From John Conroy 'The Mysterious Third Device' in Chicago Reader: https://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/the-mysterious-third-device/Content?oid=917880)
One can imagine similar ways in which the Dominatrix puts the Violet Ray device to use for fantasy interrogation and torture play. The Violet Ray device having the ability to be able to be "dialled up" in intensity, literally by dialling the nob on the device to its highest setting. Or it can likewise be dialled down, and used for more sensory or teasing effect.
REASON 3) MISTRESS MAGPIE COLLECTORS
Dominatrices are consummate collectors. They love their Christian Louboutin shoes, their exquisite boned corsets, their rare smoked dragon canes and hand-crafted whips. Many have long 'Wishlists' of coveted items - to be bought and brought to them by their devoted slaves.
So it should be unsurprising that the Violet Ray should appeal to their magpie impulse. Bright - tick, shiny - tick. Beautiful objects within their own right, which are also held by major museum collections - tick.
Disclaimer note: If you are so inspired reading about these vintage devices that you decide to get one, please do ensure that it's really thoroughly checked-over by a qualified electrician or expert in these devices. It's very likely parts of it will need replacement, careful testing and regular servicing to ensure their safety.
Victorian school room inspiration.
Sometimes I get the hardest gigs...(with sarcasm). I've just recently been brought on to convert a space into an Education Salon for teaching BDSM and kink in Melbourne.
I have in the past been contacted by a couple wanting to my design skills on setting up a dungeon-style room in their home. And I regularly get asked for advice on the best portable equipment for travel bags. (Including forewarning of airport security scanning embarassment and confiscations... that's a whole other post.)
However this is quite different in that the room is dedicated to education. And as such, I am taking inspiration from Victorian flagellation school rooms, museums of curiosities, and the traditional Parisian salons of intelligentsia.
Flagellation being carried out by an historic Governess, Library of Congress collection.
I am eager for the room to have a version of English Governess Theresa Berkley's 1828 design of a flogging frame, named 'The Berkley Horse' (or Berkley Chevalet). A high quality image of the device features in my book, 'The History & Arts of the Dominatrix', from the original print reproduced in 'Index Librorum Prohibitorum' by Pisanus Fraxi - the psuedonym of the 'Victorian erotomaniac' Henry Spencer Ashbee.
As far as I am aware, this will be the first Berkley Horse in Australia. I know of one other modern adaption of it in the world, in the collection of USA Dominatrix Irene Boss.
Left: Berkley Horse, designed by Theresa Berkley 1828. Right: USA Dominatrix Irene Boss's modern version of the Berkley Horse.
Melbourne is already blessed to have a number of devoted BDSM and kink spaces in existence, which speaks to the rich local scene. The suburb of Brunswick in Melbourne features Splinter Cell - a BDSM, Fetish and Alternative Education Center, Rope Bite and other events held at Pulse Studios, and Tantra Rope Bondage held at AKA Studio in East Brunswick. While other BDSM and kink events regularly feature in various hotels, bars and coffee houses in Collingwood and Melbourne city on any specified night, from munches and meet-ups, to events like Provocation. However such events are designed to best serve the more socially extrovert, lifestyle players and people who are 'out' in their kink interests.
The Education Salon is designed to cater to the desire for 1-on-1 lessons for women on how to dominate an intimate partner, rather than public play. Such is the strength of interest in BDSM and kink learning - driven by women, that the Education Salon is now to be set up for purpose. To which I am being given opportunity to apply my skills in design, history and education, to help create an Education Salon for women to learn.
I look forward to posting photographs of the in-progress or finished Education Room. Watch this space, as they say!
Oh and yes I welcome any historic equipment or contribution that anyone wishes to make to the Education Salon collection...
With thanks, Anne O Nomis.
Above: Governess Elizabeth of London Dominatrix School
Back when I was writing 'The History & Arts of the Dominatrix', I wanted to follow the history with a discussion of what it was that Dominatrices "do" with their clients.
Up until that point, the main manner in which to describe their activities was an alphabetical A-Z of each activity. This seemed not the best approach to me, so I instead attempted an ambitious project - or theorizing their activities as 'Seven Realm Arts'©. (To which I can now add a © "copyright")
I was in Hanoi, Vietnam when I was writing the book. I had journeyed there for three months with the express intention of finishing putting all the research and images on the Dominatrix's history together into a narrative. And I shall never forget the anxiety and concentration I felt on the week I began to write the chapter on the Dominatrices art, for I knew the Dominatrices themselves all over the world would read it and have their own interpretation. And, by way of context, many Dominatrices have degrees in psychology, or even PhDs in psychology. (It's become something of a cliché that Dominatrices end up becoming expert psychologists, Dr such-and-such under their real name, but having gained much of their experience and knowledge through domination.)
So... no pressure right? I'm writing about what a Dominatrix does for the academic and historical record in my book, which is going to be in essence - peer-reviewed by Dominatrices.
What I came up with was 'The Seven Realm Arts' which is Chapter V of my book:
Realm Art I - The Art of the Sublime & Powerful Woman
Realm Art II - The Art of lowering the man to submission
Realm Art III - The Art of bondage, entrapment and enclosure
Realm Art IV - The Art of discipline, training and punishment
Realm Art V - The Art of the bodily and the 'out-of-body'
Realm Art VI - The Art of cross-dressing and subversion
Realm Art VII - The Art of fetish and fantasy
This was my best attempt at a framework to theorize and describe what a Dominatrix 'does' in her dungeon or playspace.
I was rightfully very nervous when the book came out, as to how the Dominatrices themselves would receive this. Women who I had never met, who were highly intelligent, highly trained, many with very advanced educational and academic backgrounds.
Well they liked it. In fact they liked it so much that it's become the major curriculum book at most dungeons and Mistress training establishments around the world. And the interest of Dominatrix training centres is centred not merely on the history but specifically on that Chapter V - 'The Seven Realm Arts'© within 'The History & Arts of the Dominatrix'.
Governess Elizabeth (who I've never met or been acquainted with) has just recently written a blog entry on her website about my book, recommending it for her London Dominatrix School. And she describes my book as a "much beloved possession". Awww - bless. :)
Miss Couple who is Head Mistress of the world's oldest BDSM training chateau, La Domaine Esemar, located just out of New York, also utilizes the book for her Mistress training course. The structure of the Mistress training course has been developed from 'The Seven Realm Arts' structural understanding of BDSM (which Miss Couple has developed to her own needs for training).
I've also recently been contacted by Simone Justice in the USA, who trains Mistresses through her Dommecraft Mistress training school.
Above: Simone Justice of Dommecraft
While Chicago Mistress Simone (not the same Mistress as Simone Justice - they both just happen to share the first name Simone) also offers BDSM education and undertook the significant review 'The History & Arts of the Dominatrix'. (It was published on the major BDSM site in the USA, Leatherati.)
I can see I need to put together a future blog post on where people can do Mistress training around the world....
In Virginia Woolf's 1929 essay, A Room of One's Own, Woolf noted,
"For most of history, Anonymous was a woman".
Her essay was based on a series of lectures delivered the previous year at Newnham College and Girton College - two women's colleges of the University of Cambridge, England.
The issue of anonymity - and pseudonymity (use of a pen name) - is a very relevant one in relation to my own work. I published The History & Arts of the Dominatrix under an author pseudonym of Anne O Nomis, a word-play on "Anonymous".
In doing so, I was following in a long history of female authors that chose to use a nom de plume - a pen name - rather than their "real" name.
Jane Austen is one of the most noteworthy of the 19th Century women to publish anonymously. Beginning with 'Sense and Sensibility' in 1811, with the cover page listing the author only as 'BY A LADY'.
The Brontë sisters, afraid of their work being judged differently it was revealed they were women, chose to use male pen names for their work, with a book of poems with the names Currer Bell, Ellis Bell and Acton Bell.
Charlotte Brontë published her works (including her well known novel Jane Eyre, 1847) under the psuedonym Currer Bell. Emily Brontë published Wuthering Heights (1847) under the name of Ellis Bell. While Anne Brontë wrote Agnes Gray (1847) and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (1948) under the name Acton Bell.
For astute readers, their choice in pen name retained the same initials - C (Charlotte --> Currer), E (Emily -->Ellis) and A (Anne--> Acton), with their last name initial B (Brontë --> Bell).
Aside from the gender considerations behind the historical use of pen names, the other relevant driver of psuedonyms has historically been by authors writing on sex.
The Victorian Memoir of a man's sexual initiation was published as My Secret Life by Walter in around 1888 and reprinted repeatedly in subsequent years. The author's real identity is often ascribed as likely being Henry Spencer Ashbee, referred to as a Victorian gentleman and erotomaniac due to his extensive collection of erotica.
Henry Spencer Ashbee did certainly write Index Librorum Prohibitorum (Index of Forbidden Books) under a psuedonym of Pisanus Fraxi. This pen name was a conglomeration of "Fraxinus" (meaning Ash) and "Apis" (meaning Bee), so cleverly referring to Ashbee's surname. While the book is a bibliography of the erotic and "forbidden books" known to Ashbee, including a section entry on Flagellation.
Above: Frontispiece with illustrations of putti whipping (top) and burning books (centre), of Index Librorum Prohibitorum by Pisanus Fraxi. The name is the psuedonym used by Victorian erotomaniac Henry Spencer Ashbee.
Story of O, one of the most famous fictional works involving BDSM, was published in 1954 under the pen name Pauline Réage. Many people believed the book could only have been written by a man. However the writer's true identity and gender was not revealed until some four decades later. At an interview with a British journalist for The Observer in 1994, an 86-year-old intellectual called Dominique Aury acknowledged herself as the author of the book. That was not to be the end of the story of psuedonymity however. As Dominique Aury was itself a psuedonym, of Anne Cécile Desclos, born 23 September 1907 in Rochefort-sur-Mer, France. She died two years later, on 26 April 1998 (at age 90) in Paris, France.
The Intimate Adventures of a London Call Girl by Belle de Jour was published in 2005, based on her web diary blog of Summer 2003 to Autumn 2004. The pen name was taken from the famous French film 'Belle de Jour' starring Catherine Deneuve. Many journalists thought the blog was written by a man, with various names (of both sexes) put forward as the likely author. However when tabloid journalists finally did get onto the correct trail towards identifying and outing the real identity of the author, (tipped off it would seem by an ex-boyfriend,) the author beat them to the punch - outing herself, as Dr Brooke Magnanti.
My own choice to use a psuedonym was driven by concern to avoid limiting my job opportunities - due to the stigma attached to the dungeon apprenticeship, work and subject of the Dominatrix as a niche within sex work. Alongside the concern for my family coming from a small town, and media interest in reporting the book.
Dr Brooke Magnanti considers that once outed it has affected her not getting jobs within her field, due to stigma around her being a former call-girl and the publicity of her book, although it cannot be proved with certainty.
It's an issue on my mind as I am currently writing a second book within the field of sexuality. This time covering some three millennia of Goddesses of sexuality, their rituals, ancient sex songs and hymns, artwork and artifacts. My new book in progress crosses into material that will be controversial to fundamentalist Christians and Jews, in dealing with God's consort Asherah and biblical passages on Lady Wisdom and the foreign adulteress, and argues 'Song of Songs' as being derived from the tradition of ritual sex songs used in Goddess cults in the Middle East, Levant and Cyprus.
Some of my claims will rile some people, clashing with their beliefs and internal shame relating to sexuality and religion. However I feel it's an important contribution to make to the field of sexuality and history, and it's a history which is largely known only to archaeologists and ancient history scholars. I've recently had a baby daughter and cancer, and it's a book I want to complete and get out / birth into the world.
So whether to publish under my pen name or real name, there are pros and cons of each. And myriad concerns, for one's own livelihood, ability to work freely, safety, academic and social reputation, credibility, family to consider... it's not an easy decision.
A podcast featured on 'Stuff Mom Never Told You' explores the Dominatrix, and does it very well. It's a 48 minute podcast with dialogue between Cristen and Caroline as part of Kink Week. They discuss the Dominatrix image in fashion, in photography from Man Ray, Helmut Newton, through to the history of the professional Dominatrix and what she does for her clients. (Length: 48 mins, 33 secs)
My research on the Dominatrix (from 'The History & Arts of the Dominatrix') is mentioned a number of times within the segment, including on erotic flagellation, along with that of other academics - including Danielle Lindemann.
You can listen to the Dominatrix podcast at: http://www.stuffmomnevertoldyou.com/podcasts/the-professional-dominatrix/
I was sitting in the library in Melbourne, Australia, when a review of 'The History & Arts of the Dominatrix' dropped live onto the the major American website 'Leatherati'. For those of you unfamiliar with Leatherati, it's one of the most significant websites in the USA for the BDSM community and "leather people" - a more inclusive term for the community which expanded from "leather men" of the mid-20th Century.
'The History & Arts of the Dominatrix' was reviewed by Mistress Simone, one of the USA's most well-respected Dominatrices and herself an author and writer.
To read the full book review of 'The History & Arts of the Dominatrix' at Leatherati go to:
La Domaine Esemar, World's oldest BDSM Training Chateau, USA
I am delighted to report that the world's oldest BDSM training chateau, La Domaine Esemar, has sought permission to use 'The History & Arts of the Dominatrix' as part of their curriculum for training Mistresses.
La Domaine Esemar was established nearly two decades ago, in 1993, by Master R. It has a reputation as one of the premier training establishments in the world. La Domaine Esemar is located around three hours drive from New York, and under an hour from Albany, in the foothills of the Berkshires. It takes 'MITs' (Masters-In-Training / Mistresses-In-Training) lengthy training - typically of a year or longer - to develop the arts of BDSM and hone their skills.
Of late years, Master R has been joined at La Domaine Esemar by a talented Mistress known as 'Miss Couple'. Her name reflects her identity as a 'walking dichotomy'.
Portrait of Master R and Miss Couple at La Domaine Esemar
Miss Couple has a degree in psychology and choreography, reflecting her many talents, and began her training at La Domaine Esemar in 2010. Her own journey took her from exploring submission to eventually qualifying as a professional trained Mistress. Now as Head Mistress of La Domaine Esemar, she passes on the batten of wisdom to others on their own journey, from a full 360 degree knowledge (having herself experienced the full circle of submission and domination).
Miss Couple has organized for the first time in 2015 to have a 'Weekend Intensive' of Mistress training, for those who wanting to expand their knowledge base of BDSM and learn Dominant skills. It will be run on January 23rd - January 25th, 2015 at La Domaine Esemar's training chateau.
'The History & Arts of the Dominatrix' books are being couriered over by DHL to La Domaine Esemar, forming part of the curriculum taught there for the course. Miss Couple shares my belief that getting to know the history of the Dominatrix helps understand the Dominatrix's role and her 'arts'. Indeed the 'Seven Realm Arts' section of my book will also form part of the framework for the training itself.
I plan to get over to La Domaine Esemar myself sometime in 2015, to see Miss Couple & Master R. In the meantime I send all my best wishes to them and the new Mistresses-in-training.
Mistresses practicing their arts, with 'The History & Arts of the Dominatrix' book now on the curriculum.