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Goddess Aviva And Sophie Saint Thomas Answer Questions You've Always Wanted To Ask About BDSM And Consent

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Meet Goddess Aviva and Sophie Saint Thomas, two powerful women who have made sex and talking about sex, particularly BDSM, a life passion and career. Goddess Aviva strongly believes in the advantages of BDSM, likening the practice to a kind of therapy which allows people access to repressed emotions, providing a cathartic release. As a professional and lifestyle dominatrix, she travels both domestically and internationally offering femdom and fetish sessions, and she teaches classes and workshops which promote sex positivity, debunking harmful myths associated with BDSM.

Meanwhile, Sophie Saint Thomas, an influential N.Y.C-based writer, takes on taboo topics with an unmistakable openness, irreverence, and biting wit that has garnered international recognition. Her accounts chronicle sex and relationships in general, but also include personal sagas which are oftentimes as relatable as they are shocking. Her writing continuously pushes boundaries by being unapologetically honest and has won her a place on Brooklyn Magazine’s annual 30 Under 30: The Envy Index. Her work has appeared in major publications such as Vice, Refinery29, Cosmopolitan, GQ and more.

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Though the two women may identify with different roles on the BDSM spectrum, both believe in the inherent power of BDSM as a deeply transformative practice which, when done in a safe and consensual setting, can awaken hidden powers and even launch a profound spiritual awakening. BDSM, they argue, is a practice that requires great focus, mutual respect, patience, and maturity. Their teachings promote BDSM as a particularly helpful way to way to work through repressed issues and even traumas.

For someone who might be interested in BDSM but doesn’t know where to start, what’s a good introduction?

Goddess Aviva: Research and educate yourself! There is a lot of information on the internet, in podcasts, and books. Consider joining FetLife and seeing what local events might interest you. A “munch” is a meeting of kinky people in a public place (like a bar or cafe) where you can be social in an environment where nothing kinky is going to happen. Be respectful of the spaces and events you attend, and understand that you are there to learn and explore.

Sophie Saint Thomas: I agree that joining FetLife can be a great way to explore online. You can also watch ethically made kinky porn to help learn what turns you on. Read up on consent and I would suggest masturbating to BDSM fantasies first before finding a partner to consensually try them out with. If you live somewhere with a BDSM community I would attend something such as an impact play demo to familiarize yourself with the scene, while, as Aviva said, acting respectfully.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how people get to liking the stuff they like. How do fetishes begin? With a particular memory? A particular experience?

A: Fetishes form differently for different people. I've been able to ask a lot of people about their own relationship to fetishes. Many say that they can remember liking something as a child, and then sexualizing it as they go through puberty. For example, many people with a foot fetish remember liking looking at feet, but only getting sexually aroused by feet later on in life. For other people, they can be introduced to something (like latex for example) later on in life and develop a fetish as they explore. It can certainly help to have a very sexually-charged or pleasurable experience where something is introduced.  The link to that something made in that moment can evolve into a fetish.

S: I think it's different for everyone, but I agree with Aviva. For some, they do seem to be linked to childhood memories. For instance, I've met men with foot fetishes with specific memories that correspond to seeing a family friend in stockings. For others, and I would include myself in this, they emerge simply from exploration and growing into your sexuality.

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What about the function that role reversal plays in BDSM? It seems that sometimes people's kinks are so far from their actual lives, like the men who come to Goddess Aviva asking to be dominated but don’t get that opportunity normally. What makes the reversal of a norm so attractive to some people?

A: People can feel trapped by routine or societal norms that they have adopted to fit in, so the relief of reversing roles or expressing yourself outside of your day-to-day can be a huge relief and very exciting as a taboo. We all need moments of freedom to express our deepest desires and fantasies, otherwise we feel unsatisfied and unfulfilled.

S: As someone who expects to be treated with respect professionally, but enjoys being consensually degraded during play, it can indeed be extremely blissful to surrender and submit and get spit on and whatnot in a setting that requires consent and communication. Kink allows you to explore all the facets of yourself in a (when done correctly) safe space

 Speaking of a safe space, I’ve read quite a bit about how you both view the act of of BDSM as a spiritual experience when done in a setting that is safe and consensual. Can you tell me more about that?

A: BDSM requires so much vulnerability, trust, and focused attention. At its best it opens people up and allows for deep connection (both with your partner and with yourself) that I have not experienced elsewhere. At its best, it is a truly beautiful experience of people connecting on physical, emotional, and spiritual levels. It can also be very therapeutic as a safe space to work through trauma or uncomfortable emotions and explore the shadow-side and depths of oneself.

S: I think any form of sexual play can be spiritual; you're connecting deeply with your partner(s) and returning to a primal nature. BDSM often can involve more extreme mental or physical experiences which allow you to tap into energies and endorphin bursts in a healthy manner, or take you to a point of meditation that can feel like an altered state of conscious. I often experience this in "subspace" (an altered psychological state entered in the submissive/bottom role, brought on by endorphins from play). Taking ownership of your sexuality is also very powerful, and therefore can be a healthy tool for becoming aware of your spiritual power.

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Are there certain kinks you’ve come across that are not particularly sexy in theory (or don't necessarily have to do with sex or pleasure) but that you have been asked to perform?

A: I don't like the wording “asked to perform.” Personally I approach BDSM and sessions as an opportunity to channel what is inherently a part of me and connect to a sub's energy, not as a performance I am putting on to appease a client. With that approach, I have held space for clients’ kinks which from the outside have very little to do with sex or sexual pleasure. One example is a submissive who gets satisfaction from being treated like a piece of furniture. Much of BDSM exists outside of conventional ideas of sex and pleasure, and many submissives find pleasure and satisfaction from these experiences even if physical arousal is not occurring. What is pleasing and exciting to your mind may be different than what gets you off. Many people find that "getting off" mentally is more fulfilling and valuable than getting off physically.

But can “play” ever be taken too far? When is it too far?

A: Respecting boundaries and obtaining enthusiastic consent is paramount, so "too far" means going past a hard limit. You must always be practicing BDSM that is SSC: Safe, Sane, and Consensual.

Goddess Aviva, I’m wondering if you can tell us what the greatest thrill of dominating is for you?

A: For me it is feeling a deep connection to my sub, and witnessing the great heights I can guide them to. Seeing someone blissfully lose themselves in the moment through your control and power is exhilarating.

And on the flip side, Sophie, can you tell us what the greatest thrill of subbing is?

S: I can only speak for myself, but having a partner who understands it's a power exchange rather than having power over me, who can respectfully and consensually treat me like an object while loving and respecting me as a person is where I want—and have to be.

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How do you justify certain things that may go against what you’re supposed to believe is ‘feminist,’ like a powerful woman who enjoys being humiliated, punched, or called a “good girl or slut”?

S: This is something horribly misunderstood; there’s nothing anti-feminist about enjoying being consensually degraded in the bedroom. It's extremely feminist to address and meet your sexual needs without shame with a partner who respects you.

A: I believe true feminism is about the equal treatment of women and men by society and the government, which includes freedom of sexual self-expression for all. Feminism is about not policing women's desires. Personally I enjoy expressing myself by dominating men, particularly in the face of a patriarchal society that trains women to be accommodating and modest. It's all about discovering what works for you, and embracing those desires without judgment or shame.

I completely agree that it is horribly misunderstood and still seems to be a very controversial topic in some circles. And for my last question, I'm going to bring it back home. What makes the taboo so irresistible?

A: The appeal of the taboo is the chance to live outside of rules or expectations. I believe as humans we inherently want freedom and struggle with authority and control. It can be irresistible to explore something you're not "supposed" to, and gives you relief from the norms and expectations of society.

S: Secrets are hot, right? I think kink should become more normalized so we don't have to keep it a secret, but having one is indeed sexy. It's just also hot to do what you've been taught you're not supposed to do, and take ownership over what has been forbidden for the wrong reasons, such as society being so kink and whorephoboic.

 *You can catch Goddess Aviva and Sophie Saint Thomas at this year's BUST Holiday Craftacular where they will be holding a joint workshop, "BDSM for Beginners: Lessons on BDSM From Both the Domme and Sub Perspective." In this workshop they will discuss tips and techniques of BDSM and how to navigate it safely while exploring your kinks.

Stiletto images supplied by Goddess Aviva, rope images supplied by Sophie Saint Thomas

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Rachel Angel is a Brooklyn-based writer, singer, and bandleader. Her band has previously released an EP, Revelations, and is currently preparing their next release. Angel has played venues across the East and West coasts, and works regularly at the acclaimed venue National Sawdust. Her work has been described as "songs that tell a story with genuine heart and just enough edge to keep the listener on their toes. She moves effortlessly between alt-country and rock, mixing tender moments with a quick wit."

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