We wondered what happens when a woman takes on the dominant role in a BDSM relationship with another woman. What is there to learn from this dynamic that falls directly outside heteronormativity and the mainstream depictions of kink? We talk to Majaeste about her many years of experience playing with women in the London BDSM scene.
What drew you to BDSM?
I had no choice. From a very early age I was in boarding school and I already had the girls with me in the dorm doing tasks and protocol by the time I was fourteen. I couldn't have walked away from BDSM even if I tried - it's always been part of me.
What journey took you from where you began to where you are now?
Everything about me is not what you expect. I came from a wealthy family, I went to private boarding school from an early age and we lived in Chelsea. It started this feeling, that I think is actually amazing, that I don't fit in any box. I don't fit the lesbian box - in those days everyone looked really butch and there I was in my black dresses walking into clubs constantly being asked if I was a lesbian. Nothing about me fitted. It made my journey into accepting BDSM as an active lifestyle choice easier because I already felt alternative. My journey started off quite bumpy because of my family situation. It made it so much easier when I was disowned by them.
The very first time I went into a club I was twenty one and I didn't know what I was doing. I was already poly - it felt very natural to me to be poly - and I had one girlfriend who was very much D/s. I was an avid reader but, because I was being watched at home, I couldn't pursue it and research it properly, so I went with my gut instinct. As I went into the club I thought the Lord was going to strike me down dead. I felt I was diving into a den of iniquity and wrongness. I stood there, nervous, a lesbian in a heteronormative BDSM club. Thank goodness for the wonderful mentoring system that used to exist in those days. People used to take you under their wing. I had a lady who looked after me, who took me to the right clubs and who taught me the broad strokes. At that time I was very much a fantasy black domme who likes women and therefore the men would let me be their unicorn. I got to try a lot of the physical aspects of BDSM. It was in relationships that I started bringing in a lot more of the mind, ownership, worship and adoration - that is very much the essence of my dominance. I would recommend starting with the physical to learn the basics.
You've given talks on consensual non-consent, how do you define this?
My journey towards creating this is built on so much cooperation, collaboration, conversation. It is created on a bedrock of rules, or it is unsafe. For me, consent is an agreement between two people who take active responsibility for their own individual choices as well as for the both of them. Consent means you need to understand your boundaries and, when you're not sure, speak up. Then consensual non-consent happens where consent is already agreed and it is known and that at any point in time there can be acts that occur that are non-consensual. The act of non-consent is implicit in how the D/s relationship is built - constructed around protocol and tasks that are consensual. This isn't a fast process because we need to put all these things in place so that we can go crazy in the middle of it. You create the framework - individual responsibility, collaboration, co-creation - all those wonderful co-words. It is under my direction, but it is our story, under my direction. That means there is active participation in everything we are doing.
How could our readers start exploring this in a safe way?
There are many different routes that people can take. FetLife can be quite daunting so I wouldn't necessarily get too invested in FetLife other than registering for events. I would say go to as many munches as possible knowing that they are just a bunch of people hanging around in a pub who happen to have BDSM as a connection. You have to persevere - like with joining any group it can take a little while. I would encourage not doing edge play until you have really learned some of the basics and read, read, read! Research, check and develop in yourself an understanding of what your actual desire is about - as much as it is scary. I found some of my desire that I didn't want to look at, but the only way to safely play with it is to understand it yourself. BDSM is a complex lifestyle - start unpicking what is it you really like about it? What are the bits that really turn you on? What are the things that you're not sure about? Bear in mind that for everyone you meet it will feel different.
This type of play can bring up a lot of trauma for both people involved. How can we work through this if it happens?
I've only had two really triggering experiences in all the time that I've played. You just have to stop and talk through it. You do have to get back on it - if you leave too much of a gap it becomes a big story – I've seen this happen. So you have to be careful. It's going to happen - play goes wrong. I've heard some really terrible, sad stories.
In mainstream narratives the D/s relationship is usually between a man and a woman. In your opinion what are the rewards of playing with women?
Everything in the world. I feel very lucky that I get to play with women, but really we need to be non-binary. The dynamic exists outside the genitalia, therefore whether I'm with a woman wanting to be a dominant shouldn't matter - it is just about what our dynamic offers. I have friends who play with men and we agree we are lucky people - someone will kneel down beside us and wet our knickers with arousal. A glance can put us there, a statement can put us there, maybe a brush of each other's hands can put us there. That is what the BDSM world offers everybody regardless of their gender. It offers the ability to take the most ordinary thing that's about connection and experience it in an enormous, extraordinarily complex, fun way.
In BDSM 101 I was taught to 'own her pleasure', when I was 21. Watching my friends who have male subs I understood that to 'own his pleasure' you deny him it and there tends to be a higher service element with male subs. My experience with women is that 'own her pleasure' means giving her as much, over and over, as many times as you can. That already seems like a binary difference, but I have had conversations about male subs who didn't follow the rules. Over the years I'd say I think it was a man designing the rules. I found myself listening to the rules thinking 'that is not my experience of women!' Women will go weak at the knees if you are wanting, without any pressure on orgasm, their pleasure. I never say go to orgasm. It is about the two of you, it's not about genitals - it is about the story of your dynamic.
Traditionally BDSM has focused on force and pain. Can you share something about the more subtle landscapes of mind and energy?
I live in that world. In a D/s relationship these things have always been there, but are not the most obvious in commercial and societal representation. It is really hard to demonstrate the energetics. Sometimes I know that what I've done is send out a thought right at my girlfriend - I can feel the wave of power that I've just sent and I can feel hers come back to me. All of that has always existed in BDSM, but it is hard to demonstrate, so what everyone picked up was the pain, the marks, the tools you use. There is nothing like knowing that, for you, a person has handed over themselves completely. When it works right it is heady and intense. My only caution is that it is not sustainable. Everything I am saying is what I love doing, but you can't live on caviar for the rest of your life.
Let me give you examples. If you are starting to plan something around the mind aspect of BDSM you have to start it from a moment of emotion so there is a motive. Maybe that is something about adoration – ‘lick my feet, don't use furniture’ - already you are building that energy between you and there's a whole feeling, a mindset, that you have the emotional-worship-adoration part, with these physical actions to bring them to life. The energy transfer stuff is just wonderful and the moment when your sub totally submits - the energy that washes over you is unbelievable. It's not going to happen all the time, and that's fine, but there are times when it does happen in play. I feel like I have wings that stretch right behind me and I'm flying when it happens.
How do you navigate the interplay between fetishisation and desire?
My definition of the word fetish is that a fetish is the desire of an object or thing that wouldn't normally be sexualised. I love chains. My reaction to chains is a fetish. There is an ongoing yearning that you have for a fetish. Over the years I've really stripped down how much I let it take me over so that now I just have to walk around with a bit of chain.
I have a friend who is into umbrellas and he could only have orgasms wrapped up in a Mackintosh - he had the best macs ever. I think it was when I watched him, and I saw how his girlfriend struggled with it that I realised I shouldn't let my fetish for chains override my desire. It is a very hard thing to balance well if you have a real fetish. A lot of people say that they have a fetish but they don't. If you have a real fetish it can override your desire to play. Now I balance it out so that I am in control of it rather than it controlling me so that I can do the interplay between fetishism and desire. I started trying to not have it so readily near me, so I moved my chains from next to my bed into a box in another room and then I would introduce them only if it was part of a scene that I was creating, rather than letting the fetish rule what the scene would be.
BDSM can be used both as a vehicle for intimacy and transformation? Do you think it also contributes to societal growth?
If everyone did BDSM then, yes, I really do. If you are in a real BDSM relationship you have to be able to communicate your desires, so communication increases a billion fold. I'm constantly asking my vanilla friends why they can't just tell their men that something is not making them happy. I desire to have feedback when we start and after we've finished - it's naturally a constant conversation about desires. Even if you're with a stranger and they're giving you a flogging you have to stop – you need to find out the safety bits, what part of my leg doesn't really work for me or what might make me giggle. If everyone in society was genuinely owning up to what they wanted - knowing there wouldn't be judgement, no matter what their desires were, I wonder what our society would be like. When I speak to my vanilla friends they have no channel to communicate the most basic information on pleasure, power, energy, desire. There is a vacuum of desires that are not met, ones that are not realised. I try to advise these friends to set up a system for feedback and they say 'Oh no, men don't like it' but I say 'Bollocks, they need to like it. Feedback is good.'
You've talked about a system that you use for building a scene. Would you be able to share some of this with our readers?
Sometimes with a basic SM type scene people don't plan it and it's quite spontaneous, but even then a scene should be planned, especially if it is with a new person. I would advise anybody that the first step is to have a conversation to get an understanding of the level of experience - what has worked, what hasn't, why it worked, what tools have been used. You need to know what the basic set-up of their body is. I always think the first scene is a warm up scene and I have all my tools out and I use them with a lot of observation to see how she reacts, to see what gives her goosebumps, the sound of her cry, what that cry means and, of course, you need to have your safe words. Don't push your first scene. It should be about both of you finding out what your energy is, what is your connection, what does that feel like? Slowly warm up the body - always warm up the body because there is a lot of sensitivity all over. I call this the 'tie and tease'. You can tie the person up in one place and you can have all the tools to hand. You can put on that wonderful blindfold so that they can't see you hesitate or whether you are using your momentum. Afterwards, ask for feedback. For an intermediate sort of scene you can start adding an element of humiliation, of ownership, of worship. You could still do a 'tie and tease' but while they are tied get them to count every stroke or put them into stress positions and, as you do that, build it up a little bit more.
How do you see this lifestyle evolving for you in the future?
I'm on a journey with my BDSM at the moment where I have been through wanting ownership and all that heavy stuff. I'm trying to find a way to sustain that energy that is healthy, that doesn't drain either of us, but that is still sexy. I want to be careful with it because, as with anything that gives you that heady pleasure, too much of it isn't always a good thing. I will always be a D/s Domme. I'm going to die with it. I'd rather have the heavy protocol scene sometimes and then have a different version of it where it is light touch, not so intense. Something that doesn't take up so much time but still gives you that shiver and thrill. It want to keep on developing balance, alternating between the two and weaving around it.
What is your favourite prop and how do you use it?
My mind! I do not have any tools that I could deliberately work as superbly for me as my mind. I sometimes don't use any tools when I play, just my voice, my mind and my hands.
You can contact Majaeste through FetLife. She is available for talks or workshops.