Can you briefly tell us your story?
I've been working in the field of Sexuality, BDSM and Tantra in all sorts of ways (including through art and music) for the last five years. I moved to the U.K. in 2015 from the Czech Republic, which is really behind on sexuality. There is a lack of progress around gender issues, feminism and a general lack of openness. When I realised I wanted to be a pro-domme in the Czech Republic I had to fit the cliché, wearing high heels and latex - firstly, I am really clumsy in heels and secondly, I found the whole latex thing really difficult to get in and out of. These expectations made me feel very paralysed. Then I was travelling to the U.K. and found these communities where you can be yourself, express yourself as you are and do whatever you want. That led me to work with some people professionally who were really open to trying something new and something real. Soon I found this persona that is actually me and I didn't change my name – I was still being Marti but I was a pro-domme and I became famous for not dressing up or wearing heels. Recently, I merged everything I learned about myself as a dominant woman and decided to put it out there and show other women - and all people with other identities, such as non-binary and gender fluid, who are also subject to the challenges associated with being read as female in the world - how they can be themselves, how they can be in charge of their life (in leadership) and in flow (in surrender) at the same time. How they can learn about themselves and their power in an authentic way that really suits them, away from the male gaze.
How did you get into this work?
I was always curious about people and bodies. In my family, sex and connection was very taboo and I guess that the more taboo something is the more you want to explore it. Even though my education was traditional, in my corporate job I was always searching for something that would satisfy the longing for exploring and playing. I did a tantric massage course when I was about 20 or 21 years old and I remember being a young girl, really. It was quite strange because I thought everyone should be doing this, this is so basic – to know how to touch and how to talk about things. I was quite shocked that there was almost no one my age there. Soon I started to work as a tantric masseuse, but there was this deep desire to explore more. Then I got into BDSM and I thought 'Oh My God! This is the bit I was really searching for!’ There is more playfulness, a bit more depth and, most importantly, more boundaries, because back then in the Czech Republic the Tantra scene wasn’t a safe space. I must admit though, my first encounter with BDSM freaked me out. I combined the presence and connection from Tantra with what I learnt in BDSM about boundaries and power and I realised there was empowerment for me and therefore for other women. That was when everything started coming together into who I am right now and who I want to be.
Who do you work with and how does it help them?
At the moment I'm facilitating workshops, evening classes and individual trainings for women, and everyone who is read as a female in the world, to learn about their power patterns through BDSM, which is such deep work, with so much fun. It allows people to bring this topic to their lives and explore it, play with it. If you want to understand your trauma around power or perhaps look at it from a different angle or you just want to find out how it feels being dominant/submissive, then this is the right space for you. What is important is that, while being dominant, you will also learn how to be submissive. This may be a bit too daring to say, and I know some might disagree with me, but I believe that all of us actually switch and that everyone has the potential to be either dominant or submissive. If you prefer one more than the other then there is something worth exploring underneath. I am shifting my work at the moment and focusing more on women - I get much more satisfaction supporting women than dominating men, even though men can be beautiful and supportive as well. Despite being authentic as a pro-domme, I still played the game of being affected by the male gaze and I don't want that anymore. I feel like it’s OK to retire and let others have that journey. Being pro-domme definitely transformed me as a women who had a history of power abuse in the past.
What excites you most about this work?
The liberation. The realisation when someone comes to a workshop or class and they say ‘Oh my God, I wasn’t expecting that! I didn't know this could be BDSM! I thought BDSM was going to be dark, with a lot of pain, power abuse and humiliation. You made it so different. You made it so real.’ I love surprising people. This whole segment of sexuality can be so tender, deep, intense, sexy and playful on top of all the pain and darkness, which definitely is part of it, just not the main part, as it is often misrepresented.
How does playing with domination in the bedroom affect day-to-day life?
Most things in life get better with practice. It’s like learning to play an instrument – I play guitar and I sing and I don't like the practising bits much, but I have to practice to improve. It’s a process of learning and making mistakes but gradually getting better - and that’s vulnerable for me. I wish to avoid it because it is sometimes uncomfortable. Practising and playing with power in the bedroom allows you to explore and make mistakes, which then allows you to be more compassionate to yourself in real life and generally get better at living life. For example, five years ago I was too scared and intimidated to stand up to men catcalling me on the street and now, after years of practice telling men off and not tolerating any bullshit as a pro-domme, I can walk up to them and tell them off - on a good day. The gap between my professional life as a dominant woman and my personal life kind of merged together. In normal life we don't really allow ourselves to practice much because we want to get it right all the time. I want to encourage people to be adventurous, communicate and try things out in the bedroom. It brings a huge amount of intimacy, therefore better connection and better sex. Most importantly it allows them to be real, authentic and empowered as they become more confident. They will develop better understanding about power, vulnerability and their life.
Do you think nurturing femdom in society can heal gender wounds?
This is such a beautiful question and I'm really excited you asked that. All of the first clients who came to me were white, privileged men who had been sent to boarding school as little boys and who were really drawn to this warm, feminine part of me, which was very nurturing and very caring. I was often moved to tears by some of the stories of how they were sent away from their families and mothers to become ‘real men’. These men, who are ruling the world, need love and compassion. They need to be held, accepted, and told that everything will be OK and that it’s allowed to be scared and weak. They crave the comfort of that acceptance they never properly received. That’s exactly what I did in my work back then and I'm a strong believer that femdom can really help bring this healing. At the same time, I've been in spaces where things got out of hand and I saw a darker side of femdom where women just want to punish men for all the pain they cause. I'm not proud of it but I can relate and I would be foolish not to admit that sometimes I get really angry and I wish I could do something really nasty to satisfy the great pain and injustice. Including these emotions and desires in boundaried play can be cathartic and a better place to allow ourselves to be vulnerable – for both men and women.
You've got a couple of workshops coming up – one on communication and one on authenticity. We're wondering what happens at your workshops?
As women, we are conditioned to compete with other women and to get men, jobs or just for ourselves. In sexuality workshops lots of women quite often feel threatened by someone who is conventionally more beautiful or has bigger breasts, a slim waist or blonde hair or is younger/older/wiser. This creates tension and excludes women who feel they can’t fit in. My workshops are an antidote to this culture. We're going to be equal, playful, sensual, vulnerable and learn together. Most importantly we can be allies and support each other. That is why I decided to create female dominance, women-only spaces. My evening classes are the foundation for any BDSM play. I was recently challenged that they sound a bit boring, but for me, starting with basics is essential. The first class in my programme was about 'Desires' where we explored the real motivations behind wanting to be dominant. The second class is on ‘Communication’, exploring how we set boundaries and negotiate and also how we find our own voice to command and be heard, respected. Something that many struggle with. The third evening is ‘Authenticity’ which is about who is the real you who wants to be dominant. I’m helping women understand who they are and turn it into an advantage - to accept their vulnerability and stop wanting to be someone else. Generally all my workshops are an invitation to explore more about yourself in a theoretical, thought-provoking, but also practical and experiential way.
Some of our readers may be thinking about playing with femdom but have zero experience - how can they start?
Well, just come! All you need is desire and a bit of courage. Desire is such a potent and strong force, there is a lot behind it. You might think it’s so weird and outrageous to be kinky but actually, you are not alone. If it helps bring a friend with you. Once you’re there you will meet many more.
There are preconceptions that dominants always need to be in control. What are your thoughts on this?
Any kind of play in sexuality is full of paradoxes or contradictory situations/thoughts. In BDSM play there are situations where you, as the dominant, kind of need to take care of everything, but it doesn’t mean you need to do everything. It’s more about being in charge, knowing what’s going on. Above everything it is crucial to make sure you and your submissive are safe. I had a question at a workshop about whether you can be penetrated as a dominant woman and I replied that of course you can. It’s a paradox – something is happening to you (you are receiving) while you are in charge, but you can tell him how to do it and be precise in your instructions or just say ‘Look I want you to make me feel good. Surprise me.' I often use the comparison of being the queen. She is in charge but it doesn’t mean she has to do everything herself. She knows what must be done and there are people who take the work on, serve her and fulfill her wishes.
How does this work support people negotiating consent and boundaries?
Hugely, it's really fascinating that lots of people say to me 'Yeah, I know boundaries, I know consent. Done that, it’s fine' and they are reluctant to discuss it further. I'm really passionate about consent and boundaries, but what I’m most passionate about is that people are not passionate about this! There is a misconception that negotiating kills the flow and doesn't support spontaneity. That’s simply not true. Boundaries and desires change constantly. It is a never-ending process of communication and negotiation. You might say ‘Today I'm feeling a bit vulnerable, I'm not going to do this’ or ‘Today I’m feeling courageous and I want to try this.’ Every moment you’re in a different place, meeting people who are also in a different place. Fear of rejection and low self-esteem, not being sexy, beautiful, dominant or submissive enough creates huge stigma that holds people back from exploring what they want or don’t want. A lot of traditional kinksters, in my opinion, lack warmth when they are negotiating. So I’m trying to bring a human touch and encourage people to negotiate as equals and come out of dominant/submissive roles and meet each other as human beings first. It really helps people relax and, with practice, brings great results.
What is the role of self-care in BDSM?
Any kind of sexuality work requires people to show up and be real and vulnerable - this requires a lot of self-care. A lot of people are very surprised by how they feel afterwards and that they need to take time out to look after themselves. When people pretend they are OK, and keep a mask on to hide what’s really going on, this sets off alarm bells for me. They are going to crack at some point and experience something big and, when that happens, they won’t have any idea how to actually take care of themselves. Again, self-care is all about practice and a habit worth having.
What are your top tips for women looking for BDSM play partners?
Maybe I can start with where not to look for BDSM partners. I don’t recommend going to fetish clubs on your own, or places where you might easily feel out of your depth. For example where there are big crowds or loud spaces where you can’t stand up for yourself or can easily be misheard or misunderstood. I would love to say workshops are a great space, but it’s not that straightforward. It happened to me a few times, when I’ve run mixed gender workshops, that some participants came with the expectation that they were going to hook up with someone. That’s a very difficult expectation which I’m always trying to manage and challenge right at the very beginning. It creates a certain pressure and women feel targeted and unsafe, sometimes even unconsciously. I have often witnessed men going to workshops or classes or festivals expecting they will find sexy fun because they are paying money and therefore, as a facilitator, they expect me to provide it for them. It comes from a privileged male standpoint and I challenge it.
At the same time, attending a well-held and safe workshop is probably the best place to meet like-minded people. This is another paradox and it’s about really analysing your impulses, intentions, and desires and communicating them clearly. Make sure you take time to research, to find an event or workshop which is right for you. Look for a clear description. If it contains nudity and sexual contact, trust your instincts. You can’t always predict who will participate but do some research on the facilitator and their testimonials, and if you have some questions, just ask. Personally, I'm not really a big fan of dating profiles or dating sites - I don’t have the patience to keep telling privileged men to treat me as a human. Going to festivals, talks and classes with a friend works well – it’s much easier than going alone.
Where do you see this work going in the future?
I'm excited, and optimistic. I have a strong belief that we need a place where women can come together to learn about themselves and be empowered in a true feminist way. There is a lot of potential in creating safe places to liberate sexuality and desires and learn more about power. I try to make my work accessible and affordable, yet still acknowledge the value of the content, based on my personal story, of woman affected by abuse and assault recovering while exploring the depths of BDSM. It actually works and I am doing it! My work includes the mind and body in a holistic and transformative way. We don’t just talk; we actually get to have a real experience, often with a lot of fun. The permission created in my spaces, to be free of the male gaze, male judgement and male approval, is essential for equality in all different aspects of life. And in the future? I would love to create or develop an interactive and sexy consent app to reach a wider audience and normalise talking about desires, what we want and how to get it. Also, I regret not having more of a foundation of boundaries when I was younger, so perhaps working with young adults would really bring this work, for me, to another level - but Rome wasn’t built in a day.
More information about Marti's work can be found on www.soundofbirch.com
Photography credit: Grace Gelder