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The true power of kink – Interview with Auntie Vice

Auntie Vice, a kink educator I had just a passing familiarity with, had a problem: the guest of her upcoming podcast episode had stood her up. So I did what any respectable cis-het man does and jumped to the rescue – too late, it turns out. Yet we had struck a connection, and I soon was invited for another episode where we ended up discussing politics, mental health and more besides kink history. I loved discovering a great human being and a unique author, with a similarly original and questioning view of many things most kinksters take for granted.

Naturally, I immediately asked her to be interviewed for my website – and here we are. 

 

Hi, Rebecca! Would you like to introduce yourself to my readers?

Thanks for inviting me for the interview! I am better known as Auntie Vice, although I do have some publications under my government name Rebecca Blanton. I’m a kink educator and writer and run the podcast Fat Chicks on Top.

 

How did you come to devote your career to kink education?

This was not what I went to grad school for. I have a background in research and politics. I studied civic identity formation in graduate school and have always been fascinated as to how people come to be who they want to be in the world. I also have a long history working as an advocate for the LGBTQ+ community. My first job out of undergraduate was as the Executive Director of an AIDS foundation in California in the mid-1990s. My last 9-5 job (so to speak) was as the Executive Director of the California Commission on the Status of Women and Girls, a government agency dedicated to the betterment of the lives of women and girls in California. I worked extensively on programs for women veterans, women being released from the prison system, and women living in poverty. My understanding of the best way to lift everyone is to start with the most disenfranchised folks and support them first. My board of directors disagreed and wanted to focus on women executives and rich women, since they support politicians financially. So I quit.

I became very ill with an unknown condition (later diagnosed as a group of rare autoimmune conditions) and could not return to research full time. I wanted to contribute somethings. I am a big believer that empowering people to enjoy pleasure and sex is a key to freeing them from the confines of late-stage capitalism and the oppressive forces of the right wing politicans which have such a strong influence here in the US as well as many other countries. At the time, the first 50 Shades movie was coming out and it is a poor representation of healthy kink. So I put together a series of essays about how kink is lived, what the kink community can contribute to the wider society, and the intersection of kink and thrid-wave feminism. Beta readers also suggested I include a chapter which depicted what a real kink scene looked like. I thought I may have a few friends read it. The book took off! It has been used as a textbook in human sexulity classes and a lot of book groups read it. The chapter about the BDSM scene also got a lot of attention. This introduced me to the whole world of professional kink educators and writers. Because much of this work can be done from home and does not require a strict 9-5 schedule, it also accomodated my disability. I started my blog, and later started teaching. I base my approach to kink on my academic training, so there is a lot of reasearch and psychology which informs my writing and teaching. Turned out, I have a knack for this.

 

We largely share the same history, then! However, your work clearly focuses more on the less-represented categories of people in the kinky scene. Why did you choose this field in particular, and why do you think it usually tends to be marginalized even by otherwise supposedly very inclusive educators?

It goes back to my understanding of the best way to lift everyone is to start with the most disenfranchised. To be really nerdy about it, I think Rawls was right with his birth lottery theory. If you are going to create a society from scratch and you have no idea what position in this new world you will be born into (you could be wealthy, able-bodied, and white but you could also be born disabled, poor, and First Nations) you would design a society where everyone, regardless of money, race, gender, or sexual orientation would have their basic needs met. When it comes to pleasure activism and teaching, I start with the groups who have the least voice in the conversation. Listening to them and providing a platform for people to talk about their experiences allows us all to consider how we conduct ourselves and structure our communities. In the kink world, there is a growing awareness of how race and racism impact our play and our communities. There is still very little conversation about making spaces accessible (both physically and emotionally) to folks with visible and invisible disabilities. These are critical conversations to have if we are going to create an open and welcoming kinky world. Additionally, I can have some very fun conversations with absolutely amazing people!

 

Auntie Vice

Auntie Vice

When you interviewed me for your podcast, I immediately noticed a big affinity between the two of us. Some of it may derive from our somewhat longstanding participation in the BDSM scene, which also gave us the perspective to notice a change of attitude among kinksters through the years. What are your impressions on that subject?

We do have an affinity! Yes, I think part of it is that we have been in the BDSM scene for a long time. I came into the BDSM world in the United States at a time before the internet. I had to get magazines and free newspapers and look at the ads in the back, send letters, and it was a slow process to get into the community. At the time, “Safe, Sane, and Consensual” wasn’t even an acronym. This meant local communities could slowly educate newcomers to the norms and basic safety. In some ways, it was a more cohesive group then we have today. I understand today’s generation coming in and having an intense focus on discussing consent, triggers, and skills. Part of that is because our generation and the generation after us had a tendency to play fast and loose with some of this and some people got hurt. However, I find the intense focus on long-form negotiations, constantly worrying about triggers, and creating bucket lists of things to try take out the magic of BDSM. For me, its always been about the connection and spirituality of kink.

There are fewer people today who experience what you refer to as ‘transcendence.’ I love that term, by the way. There is something incredible special which can happen in a BDSM scene where the frontal cortex shuts down and you feel like you become one with everything. In Buddhism this is sometimes referred to as ‘entering the void.’ I think that is missing from so much of what the play people experience today. Sure, elaborate rope is beautiful, but are the people feeling the deep connection which can be fostered by rope? Impact is a lot of fun, but where does it take you at the end of a scene?

 

Differently-young people are supposed to be cranky curmudgeons and termagants – yet do you think that our common perception of superficiality in the scene is simply caused by age, or are there other reasons actually at work here?

Some of it is age, definitely. The scene is much younger now than when we entered it. Things change as you age. You move from being a bundle of nerve endings that need a ton of stimulation to a person more focused on connection with others and the universe. I also think its a reaction to a changing understanding of rights and needs. There is a new study out that shows as women become more aware of equality and learn to spot abuse, they are less likely to stay in long-term relationships with men. Of course they are! Once you start to believe the world can be better and you deserve better, you will seek it out. Some of things which would be acceptable 30 years ago in the kink world are no longer tolerable to younger folks, and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I think another part of it is social media and the internet. Look at Fetlife. They have the Kinky and Popular page. This is mostly pretty people showing off expensive toys, extreme bruising, and elaborate rope. People want to recreate what they see online and miss the deeper connections fostered by kink and leather culture. It’s not about the rope or the knife. Kink and BDSM is about the connection, the spiritual aspect, and the community for me. That doesn’t photograph well for your social media.

 

I guess the inevitable follow-up question now is: what would you do to promote a different, deeper way of exploring and experiencing kink?

I do try to promote a different approach to kink. I design my classes and books to help people answer the question, «What do I really want from kink/BDSM?» and «How will this fulfill me?»

We need to move from just skills classes to classes about connection, spirituality, and community. I teach classes about adding mindfulness practices to your BDSM as a way for people to connect more deeply. I use a lot of work from the HeartMath Institute here in the States. This is a reseach organization which looks at energy between people and organisms. They have demonstrated things like the effects of syncing heart rate and breathing through electromagnetic fields we all have and how that impacts our physical and psychological well being. There are simple exerecises anyone can integrate into BDSM which will help sync breath and heartbeats with a partner and create a much deeper connection, even if you are just doing pick-up play.

I try to get folks past “newbie frenzy” – that desire to do all the things with all the people – when you first discover the BDSM world and get them to figure out what they need and desire from these interactions. I also try to provide people with multiple ways to explore the same concept. I wrote my Big Workbook for Submissives for that reason. I saw so many people embracing the first form of submission they tried, even when it didn’t fully work for them. We get stuck in a routine and we stop exploring once we find some relationship style and play that mostly works for us. I want people to ask themselves, «Am I getting what I need from this?», «How does this help me become who I need to be?» and seek out the activities and discussions that will get them closer to their desired being.

 

Another very interesting aspect of your work is the political interpretation of alternative sexualities, which around here is something that more or less disappeared from the public discourse around the 1980s. Can you tell me your ideas on this topic?

Living honestly as the sexual being that we all are is an act of political rebellion. People didn’t hate the lesbian doctor married to the lesbian lawyer, living in the nice home in a monogamous marriage and adopting a small child. They hated the leather daddy who wanted to go to the bars and fuck. They hate the butch woman who demands respect while working as a shift boss at a manufacturing plant. In the United States as well as a lot of EU countries, the conservative politicans want LGBTQ+ folks, kinky folks, and non-monogamous folks to disappear. Here in the US, under Trump, these groups were literally removed from government websites and our rights were taken away. Anyone who is LGBTQ+ in the United States can still be denied medical care if their doctor doesn’t like gay people.

It is risky to live openly in an alternative sexualiity. In some countries you can be jailed or executed as such. So for people who can live openly, and in-your-face, it makes it harder for the hate-mongers to make us disappear. Plus, the reality is, even the most flamboyant gay man or butch leather dyke has a pretty boring life most of the time. We have jobs. We have families. We have to get groceries and walk our pets. The more people see that we are safe to them, just different, the more comfortable they become.

In undergrad, I worked on a study with Greg Herek. He was looking at how people feel about LGBTQ folks. He found that it takes knowing three people in a group before bias starts to break down. If you only know one or two gay people, your bias can stay because you tend to think «well, these two are not like the rest of the queer folks I hate!» Three or more people in a group makes it much harder to make that argument to yourself. So, living openly as a queer, kinky, disabled person means that people see at least one person in that group. I only need them to see two more before the fear of us starts to break down.

 

Auntie Vice

Auntie Vice

As seen from this side of the Atlantic, people in the United States seem prey to all sort of extremisms – both in fighting (and sometimes whining) for sexual minorities’ rights and in trying to utterly erase anyone non-conforming to frankly insane pseudo-evangelical, patriarchal ideals. Would you please offer a much-needed reliable view of the matter and its causes?

You are not wrong. America is all sorts of extremism right now. Its been the long-game of conservative politicans in the United States for more than 50 years.

So in the 1960 and early 1970s the United States saw movement toward more equality and protection of women’s rights, black rights, and gay rights. We had the passage of the Civil Rights Act (1964) and the Voting Rights Act (1965). Laws demanding people wear at least three pieces of “gender-appropriate” clothing were being eliminated. We had the Stonewall Riots in 1969. Roe v. Wade (a court case which made abortion legal) passed in 1974. These changes terrified the more conservative and religious groups in the United States.

Beginning with Richard Nixon’s campaign for President in 1970, the Right developed what is called the “Southern Strategy” which basically created coded language telling poor white people that they should vote republican because they were being “robbed” or their “rightful place” because of black people and women. They also began to attack education, demanding that we stop teaching about slavery and discrimination and attacking experts and making science “a set of opinions.” Flash forward to today, we have two generations who have grown up with education which teaches evolution as “just one opinion” along with creationism. We have allowed Christian prayer into some schools. And we have two generations of poor white people raised to believe that if one group gets rights, it means they have to lose things like their jobs or position in society. This has allowed extremist politicians to get elected based on fake assertions that LGBTQ+ people want to have sex with their children, that black people want to enslave white folks, and other crazy things. So many Americans lack the education to read a newspaper critically or are able to tell what is a reliable source and what is crazy internet nonsense. That, coupled with the massive amount of poverty and financial insecurity, empowers a big group that likes to believe if they can just make queer folks, black folks, and immigrants disappear then “America will be great again,” meaning they will be rich like they believe they deserve.

It’s insane. Couple that with the love of guns here and it is terrifying to be an out queer dating a black man.

 

I have one more question on another matter we seem to share an unpopular view on. In my three-decades-long exploration of BDSM, I concluded that what lies at the heart of it all is radical honesty: in questioning the “proper way” of embracing certain sensations and emotions, for example, or in accepting socially divergent relationship types – or generally in dealing with one’s Shadow, which is what Jung called the darker sides of our unconscious mind. Still, I don’t see many kinksters applying the same approach to kink itself. The BDSM scene and its people are usually described in very idealized ways, disregarding problematic individuals, personal troubles, and all the issues that you can reasonably find within such a large community. What is your take on that?

I think you are right on all of that!!! There are a few folks who offer the approach you talk about. Midori is a great teacher in that sense. But I think that most kinky folks, like most vanilla folks, do not want to deal with the Shadow. Its scary to look at our darker emotions and desires. It is risky to play with these (both physically and emotionally). I think people want to avoid looking at the deeper truth to some of their needs and desires.

I also see a lot of people trying to make BDSM palatable to others not in the community. That is why sayings like, ‘The submissive has all the power and can stop this at any time,’ or ‘Everything is always negotiated and consensual’ appear so often. It makes it seem less risky to people not as familiar with BDSM.

For me, taking time to explore the underpinnings of my desires and look at my Shadow self has deepened my BDSM and my connection to my Dominant. Learning go to really let go of control, to give him power over me, took a long time. It was more than 5 years in of playing with him and having a relationship before I could say I really let go of all my power in our dynamic. That level of trust in another person, and the vulnerability it takes to say, «This is what I want and need. It may be squiggy or upsetting, but could you be open to exploring it,» is both terrifying and freeing. To get to that point, someone has to really understand themselves. There are plenty of things that are not pretty or nice about me. I had to get somewhat okay with that before I could let anyone else see it. I get why most people shy away from this type of personal work. However, the joy and freedom and connection that comes when you are willing to do it are unparalleled.

 

I am pretty sure that both my readers and I will treasure your insights. Where can we find more of your wisdom and works?

I have a lot of links! My Linktr.ee collects them all.
My books include: The Big Workbook for Submissives30 Days of Kinky Self-Discovery, and Love Letters to a Unicorn: A book about BDSM, Kink, & Non-monogamy.
My podcast is Fat Chicks on Top and is on most streaming services. Right now its just in English: luckily, my host site is developing a translation service which should be available by the end of the year.
My blog, Love Letters to a Unicorn can be accessed anywhere and I am told Google Translate does a pretty decent job. I am working with WordPress to get it into a form where it will be automatically translated for folks.

Thank you so much for inviting me to your site. I am thrilled we connected and we must stay in touch!

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