Episode 11: Conscious Kink: Debunking BDSM Part 2 of 2

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In this interview, Beth Crittenden interviews Cleo Dubois, BDSM Educator, ritualist and founder of the Academy of SM Arts. BDSM is a path that allows individuals and couples to embrace creativity, sensuality, spirituality, and fantasy, and supports the breaking free from the rigid cultural stance on sexuality. Cleo shares frankly and clearly about everything from safety and negotiation to the freedom and deepening that happens from this type of play. Safe, Sane and Consensual BDSM brings together the spiritual with the erotic and allows a space for individuals and couples to fully express their sensuality and fantasy life. There is no one better to learn from than Cleo Dubois, who has been teaching since the late 1980s when the scene just began to get organized! Cleo also talks us through a hot collar ritual, and provides us an idea of a common fantasy between a couple that will, if you are honest with yourself, probably touch a fantasy you have had at one time or another. You will come away with a desire to test your own boundaries and perhaps redefine what is possible in your life. More details on this episode go to http://personallifemedia.com/podcasts/taste-of-sex-interviews/episode011-cleo-dubois-conscious-kink-part2.html

Transcript

Conscious Kink: Debunking BDSM Part 2 of 2

Intro
This program brought to you by personallifemedia.com is suitable for mature audiences only and may contain explicit sexual information.

[Music]

Announcer: This is part two of a two-part podcast. If you’d like part one, you’ll find it at PersonalLifeMedia.com.

[music]

Beth Crittenden: Welcome to “A Taste of Sex: Guest Speaker Interviews” on Personal Life Media. I’m your host Beth Crittenden, and I’m coming to you from One Taste Urban Retreat Center in San Francisco. We have a lecture series every Tuesday night out of the Urban Retreat Center, and tonight’s guest is Cleo Dubois. Cleo is a BDSM educator. She is a ritualist. And she founded the Academy of SM Arts. So, in today’s episode, we’ll be hearing lots about BDSM, about Cleo’s work and practices, and we will tie that back in to orgasm. And one of the things that I noticed on your website is that you bring together the erotic with the spiritual, and that really appealed to us here, and we are so honored to be hosting you.

[music]

Beth Crittenden: Join us today on “A Taste of Sex” as Cleo Dubois fills us in on what is safe, sane and consensual BDSM. You’ll hear her describe a collaring ritual that will definitely turn you on. And we also talk about how you can connect your sensuality with your spirituality.

[music]

Beth Crittenden: Welcome back to “A Taste of Sex: Guest Speaker Interviews.” I’m your host, Beth Crittenden, and we’re speaking with Cleo Dubois, the founder of the Academy of SM Arts, a ritualist and BDSM educator. Cleo’s also made some films called “The Pain Game” and a movie called “Tie Me Up.” And we’re getting ready to hear more about her background and her practices and more about the BDSM scene here on Personal Life Media. Cleo, welcome back.

Cleo Dubois: I’m glad to be here.

Beth Crittenden: So would you share with us what got you into the scene?

Cleo Dubois: Ah, I stumbled into the scene when the scene was barely, barely getting organized. It was the early 1980s, and I had a bisexual boyfriend, and I turned out to be quite dominant over him; he tended to go for it. And we didn’t know about negotiation, and some of my behavior could have been a bit abusive. And I was referred to a group called Society of Janus, which was founded by a woman named Cynthia Slater who was part of the budding leather community and it was time to have a gay man, the leather man were the first out kinky people in San Francisco, and her and some of her friends had some dialogue together about creating a safe environment for play, and we didn’t have the mode of “safe, sane, consensual” things in the ‘90s; this was in the ‘80s. So I went to a meeting, a Janus meeting, and I never left! I went to all of the meetings after the first one I went to, and I also went to Kat’s, hosted by a woman named Kat Sunlove, who was a self-proclaimed dominant woman with a partner—her husband, actually—and a light went off in my mind that this was the kind of sexuality and interaction that I’d been looking for. You know, I’m a child of the ‘60s, so free love and lots of sex and having a blast, I did that for years and years and now I was missing the psycho-erotic connection: There was too much body, and not even enough of that who the person already is and their spirituality, and that’s what I found in BSDM. And I was lucky enough to be accepted by a group of men that became my mentors, they were gay men, along with Cynthia, who is no longer with us, and my journey started there. And the funny thing for me was, at that time you could not say you were a top unless you bottomed. So I bottomed first, but within six months I grew up, my dominant energy back, and I wanted a top at the same time as I would bottom to certain people and top with others. And then I started playing with women, so it was a process for me: Playing with gay men, bottoming to them, then playing with straight men, topping them, then playing with women, every which way it would go. And that play would be erotic, but it was not necessarily sexual. It can be sexual, but doesn’t have to be. So it could be intense scenes where there were some form of sex, and it could be very intense scenes when they were one sex, where there was a different intimacy created and a different communication, a different all-over-the-body sensation created, and that’s how I started.

Beth Crittenden: And then how did you come to found the Academy of SM Arts?

Cleo Dubois: Ah, I became a professional dominant at a time when the work was not very well understood, and eventually, as I—not eventually, pretty soon thereafter—there were cultural differences. In 1990s, BDSM people or SM folks or kinky people started getting seriously organized. There was a huge leather conference, there were huge leather conferences in Washington that I went to, and they were on that, mainly women out there that were waiting to talk at leather conferences, so I was asked. And those were actually really hard times for me to talk about, because a lot of wonderful leather folk died of AIDS during the early ‘90s. Lots and lots. And I had a lot of grief, and I really wanted to give back to the community. So whenever I was invited to teach, I would teach about what I knew, about what was it that made BDSM safe, sane and consensual; a technique class on whipping; how would you do a ritual BDSM, a BDSM ritual? How do you negotiate with a new partner? I started creating all of these classes. And when I, in 2007, saw I had created many, many classes through the years, and then whenever I had a client, being a professional dominant at the time, and I would always ask, you know, you’re married. Can you come out to your partner? Do you have a partner? Does she know? And I was like, totally honest with people. My intention was not to keep them just being my client; it was to empower their life. I would say, “You have not spoken with me. We’re here! Read that book. There’s a book by Grainery Press on topping, and there’s a book by so-and-so on the pleasure of BDSM; why don’t you read this book, come out to your wife, and I will help you both? And pretty soon I started having couples coming to me. And I would help the woman feel comfortable; usually she’d be, you know, she’d be the dominant one. And I started acquiring the skill of teaching couples. After many of these sessions were all very different, I thought, “Hmm…maybe I could create a weekend workshop!” So in ’95, I started creating the Academy of SM Art, and then in 2000 I got together with my friend Sybil Holiday, who wrote this beautiful book called “Consentual Sadomasochism: How to Talk About It and Do It Safely,” which you can already find on the net everywhere, and with a psychotherapist named William Henkin.  And with Sybil, we created the weekend course. It’s running: First we created it and presented it for dominant women, and women would switch; they wanted to feel empowered about their dominance. And then, three years ago, we presented for the first time the first sort of work for dominant men and men who would switch. And then last year, I was invited by, actually, a presenter of One Taste to present a workshop for couples. And now I’m making those three workshops available. And they’re a weekend workshop, and they’re small, so that what I want is that everybody can share about their fear. Because you have to get over your fear to explore your fantasy. And when you can speak your fear and it resonates with others, then you get over it. And also, share the things they find that work for them. So, the workshop became very small; there are like nine people, maximum. And it’s concentrated work to empower people who want to play with lots of players to have the skill to do so. And of course, I go into polyamory; different people playing with different partners, with different sets of rules and boundaries, and that’s why the boundaries are so important—the whole concept of boundaries. But for me there’s more than just the concept of boundaries. It’s empowering people to feel that their intuition, what they are inside, what they are at core is what to follow, not just the boundaries that are set up; to follow the energy. And I guess that’s why I call myself—I am a ritualist. I look at everything as a ritual. I also hold community rituals that involve body piercing and other shamanic exploration. I look at the work I do very much as shamanic work, which is, you know, helping people connect their sexuality, their spirituality and their mind, that they all work together as one thing; so that’s why I created the Academy of SM Art, to keep that work going.

Beth Crittenden: Hmm. And what are the common practices that you teach? You mentioned a couple in there; what’s some of the language that you want people to know?

Cleo Dubois: The language of the scene is huge. If any of you are interested in the language of the scene, please, get that book: “Consensual Sadomasochism: How to Talk About It, And Do It Safely.” It is about learning to negotiate; we have a set of safe words that we use. If you are bottoming and receiving, good; if something doesn’t work for you, you can use the safe word “yellow,” which means to your dominant or your top, “Please slow down. This is not working for me, I need to talk to you.” If you have a real emergency, a medical, or something is really wrong, using the safe word “red” which means, “Stop right now!” Of course, when you use the safe word “red,” you take the power back. And at times, you want to take the power back. If what is delivered to you as a bottom is abusive, you want to say, “Red! This is not working!” Now people wonder, “Why do you say ‘red’ or ‘yellow’?” Well, that’s because in play sometimes you want to say, “No no no, stop stop stop!” but you really don’t mean it; then you’re disappointed when you stop. So we have this concept of negotiation, the concept and the use of safe words, and then all of the skills that you take the negotiate this erotic play, psychological play are important, because they deal with your internal persona, with who you are inside, you’re not just one thing, you’re many things inside; so that’s a skill that we teach.

[commercial break]

Beth Crittenden: So, describe for us an SM ritual.

Cleo Dubois: Well, let’s say maybe Joe and Susan have been talking about their fantasy, and she would like to be dominant over him, but of course she’s afraid to hurt him, because, you know, we tend to be afraid we could hurt people—for good reason; we could hurt them! So they negotiate a little bit about his fantasy; and he says, “You know, I would really like to get a sound spanking, and actually I went to the leather store, I got a paddle!” and like that. So they have a little scene set up of what they’re going to do. So she gets herself all centered, and then she calls him into the room and she puts a collar around his neck—it doesn’t have to be a huge expensive leather item, it can be a little dog collar for a big dog, and she says, “Well? Do you accept my collar?” And he says, “Yes.” “And during the time my collar is on your neck, you are to do what I say. Do you understand?” He says, “Yes.” “I want you to call me ‘madam.’” He says, “Yes, madam.” “Okay, do you know your safe word, boy?” And maybe she calls him “boy.” And he says, “Yes.” “What are your safe words?” “Yes, madam; my safe words are ‘yellow’ for slow down and ‘red’ for stop.” And then maybe she says, “All right. Are you ready to play now?” And he will say, “Yes.” And she gives him a simple order, and sees how he responds to it. And maybe he’s, boy, maybe he doesn’t do it quite right; and she starts teasing him about how if he doesn’t do it any better he’s going to get a spanking. And then he doesn’t do it any better! And then she knows he’s really playing, and he really wants a spanking! And then she bends him over her knee, or bending over the couch, and she starts spanking him, gently, and warming him up, and then rhythmically, and then harder and harder until he’s making a bunch of noise and maybe just begging for her to stop. And she says, “I don’t hear the safe word. Matter of fact, I notice that you are getting really turned on! Look at this, what a bad boy you are! Which, of course, when you’re a good boy, you know it’s play! You’re getting really turned on; I’m noticing this look on that—show me, between your legs!” And he has a big hard-on. And she’s like, it’s working, she’s thinking, it’s totally working! And she says, “Bend over.” And then she spanks him some more, and he says, “Please stop, please stop!” And then eventually he might say, “No really, yellow, this is too hard.” And she says, “Oh, poor baby; now let’s see what else we can do with you.” And then, take on your own imagination…she might, you know, want service from him, she might want…you know, who knows what they want? As an adult, they would love their own scene. But that’s my little idea of what came to my mind at the moment of a real simple scene. And then at the end, when they’re done, she would take off the collar; he would not. She would take off the collar and find a real nice closure for that scene, and then she would stop calling him “boy,” she would call him back to his name, and he would stop calling her “madam,” and  he would call her back to her name, and they would have a nice, maybe, love-making in the bedroom, or maybe they could have a break and have a snack, hold each other or have a massage, or who knows? Like that. That’s a sort of really, really basic scene that I think a lot of people know about.

Beth Crittenden: That sounds great! Thank you so much. We’re getting ready to wrap up the show, but I wanted to ask you, just to end, what’s your take on the connection between spirituality, intimacy, ritual, eroticism, all of these different things that you bring into your work; how do they connect?

Cleo Dubois: I think they just do. I mean, if you look at the Shakra system in the body, it’s all connected. I mean, you start at the Wu-Shakra, you move through the sex, you move through your power center, you move through your heart, you move through your voice, for communication, and you move through your higher self, it is connected! We just don’t think about it because of the Judeo-Christian world we’ve all been raised with. But it’s refining that connection, so it’s there. It’s just a way to plug into it. If you want to know more about me, I have a website and that’s www.sm-arts.com, or sm-arts.com.

Beth Crittenden: So people can study with you in classes, can they study with you individually? What’s the range there?

Cleo Dubois: So the range is, if they’re out in the community, I teach classes in the community in San Francisco and other places; I’m getting ready to go on a big London trip with my partner; in May, in Europe, all of May; in the privacy of my private dungeon in the Bay Area, I receive couples for three-hour guided play, and we have time spent on negotiation and guiding people of all sexual orientation in the privacy of my dungeon, and then the big thing that I do is a weekend workshop, where I’ll alternate between dominant women and women who switch, and dominant men and men who switch, intimate knives; we do that workshop for an entire weekend.

Beth Crittenden: That’s great. Is there anything you want to add about your work or your practices before we end?

Cleo Dubois: I am so blessed that the work that has colored my life until now is being more readily understood and accepted, and that people find value that helps them connect better with someone they may have been with for 15 years, and things are kind of like not working so well, and then when the kink comes out of the closet they’ve found a whole new way to relate with each other and rekindle their sexuality, and I feel very blessed and honored to be able to bring that work out, so thank you for inviting me on your show.

Beth Crittenden: It’s been a pleasure. Thank you. So, this has been “A Taste of Sex: Guest Speaker Interviews” on Personal Life Media. I’m your host, Beth Crittenden. We’ve spent a lovely time with Cleo Dubois, ritualist, BDSM educator and founder of the Academy of SM Arts. If you’d like to learn more about the One Taste Urban Retreat Center and the community of about 50 people who run it, and study sensuality through the auspices of orgasmic meditation, you can visit our website at www.OneTasteSF.com. Also, for text and transcripts of this show, please do log on to www.PersonalLifeMedia.com. You can also e-mail us with feedback or questions or comments at [email protected] Thanks so much for tuning in, and join us next time.