I sat down with Arcane and his slave Daphne on a sunny afternoon in Hollywood. As an educator and founder of the Crow Academy, Arcane has experience coaching couples on D/s relationships and BDSM techniques. We talked about all things kinky, his new book, and kink around the globe.
anniebear: So you have a really original life story. It seems like you’ve kind of been everywhere and seen everything.
Arcane: I haven’t been to Antarctica… yet.
Haha, some day! I wanted to start at the beginning. What is your origin story? How did you get into BDSM in the first place?
When I was five years old I was tying up all of the neighborhood girls. For some reason I just really, really liked that and enjoyed it a lot, and found that was how I always wanted the games to go. Then the ironic part was that because I was the only little boy on the street with the little girls, to evolve the story I had to play both the hero and the villain. So I’d start off the first half of our games playing the villain and I’d tie her up, and then switch half way through it and play the hero and rescue her. I noticed that I’d delay the switching to the rescue part. So my initial kink has been a part of me pretty much as long as I’ve been alive.
My first girlfriend, real girlfriend, was also my first bottom. She actually came out of the closet to me on prom night and asked me to tie her up and “treat her roughly.” And I looked up at the sky and I said thank you (laughs). So BDSM has been, you could safely say, a part of my entire adult life since my first girlfriend. The other thing that actually shaped me quite a bit is that my first girlfriend and I also began to explore Tantra together, so my entire adult BDSM life has also paralleled my entire adult Tantric pursuit. It kind of runs through everything.
So do you teach Tantra as well?
Only to my partners, although when I teach a BDSM class I’ll drop Tantra in there because I think it’s actually super important for people to learn. I wouldn’t teach a Tantra class by itself but I have written articles on how BDSM and Tantra overlap nicely. The whole fetish world is a perfect canvas for Tantra and the reason is because one of the principles of Tantra is to get you to engage all five senses, and we have all these extra things: the smell of leather, the look of the submissive in their bondage, the sounds they make, the sounds of the whip, the flavors you can bring in any way you want, and a lot of people play with specialized lighting… candles, light bulbs and all these things so it really is a perfect ground to practice Tantra and it makes the scenes better.
And everyone is more open anyway. You teach a lot of different things but you specifically seem particularly interested in D/s dynamics and relationships. We don’t have time to go way into it, since it is such a complex subject could you pick three key components that are most important to a D/s dynamic?
No problem. Well number one, absolute number one, if someone comes up to me and tells me they want to be a Dom, I will look them straight in the eye and I will say, “how comfortable are you with Capitol-R Responsibility for another human being’s well being?” And if they tell me that’s not what they thought it was about, that they just want to control someone and boss them around and have good sex… I tell them, “if you don’t want the responsibility for another person, then you don’t want to be a Dom. Go find a different hobby.”
Number two, D/s does have a lot of variety. I can talk all day and night about the Crow Academy system but it’s not the only good school of D/s in the world. There are other perfectly respectable D/s schools that are very different and in fact those Doms and I talk and we share ideas and my style evolves and their style evolves. D/s is absolutely an Art Form and it will evolve. It’s meant to be practiced like anything else. If you want to be a better painter then paint, and if you want to be a better Dom, practice your domination. Always pursue to get better, to grow, to become good at it.
Number three, one of the main things about the Crow Academy and the D/s style that I teach is that it’s very specifically about building a romantic D/s relationship, a connecting, bonding relationship between the Dom and the sub. There are people out there with perfectly good reasons for saying “oh well I don’t like to be romantically involved with my sub” and that’s fine, that’s just not what the Crow Academy is about. The Crow Academy style is really aimed at couples who want to have all the bondage, all the passion, all the BDSM, all the D/s alongside and parallel to building a really great relationship.
And beyond that do you teach classes on skills?
Yes, flogging, bondage, animal play… one of the things I really want to teach again soon is a class about constructing a scene. So when you do a scene, the way I teach it every scene needs to tell a story. It needs to have a beginning, a middle, and an end. The beginning, the light toys and tools, is kind of the introduction to the characters, which are the various sensations. The middle of the scene is the build up, and the up and down and the switching of sensations given. I’m a very strong believer in switching the sensations, except during Fire-play as that’s a pretty monotone sensation but even then we start off with some flogging to get the blood up to the surface of the skin and wake her body up and what not, and then in between some of the fire I still bring out the fur creating a dance of sensations. If you understand how skin is constructed with all of the different nerves for temperature, pressure, texture, and all of these different sensors, then if you really want to get a sub into her bliss you will want to get as many of those sensors activated as possible. So you can activate a pressure sensor with flogging and you can activate a texture sensor with rabbit fur. You can activate those but if you then get the temperature one to go way too high then the other ones will almost shut off because they become lesser, irrelevant information. And the hypothalamus part of the brain will say, “sorry the pressure and the texture doesn’t matter because right now all that matters is the temperature that is triggering an emergency-alarm’s level.” So really good S&M is about balancing all of these different sensations and doing it in such a way that, say by the end act two in a three act play, you’ve built a dance of all of these characters on stage going back and forth speaking their lines of sensation. The fur speaks its line and then the floggers speak their line and a little bit of knife play speaks and all of that is what makes her skin go crazy.
(to slave Daphne) You live a tough life I’m sure
Daphne: Yes it’s just so hard (laughs).
Arcane: And then in act three, when you go from act two to act three of your scene, you want to build and build to the hardest, heaviest, most intense sensations…. and then you start to land the scene, to bring it back home. This is where I think a lot of people really don’t get in there enough. You need to kind of land everything and gently bring it back down. You can’t just stop, unless of course you have a very good reason to do so, but you want to bring it back down and go back to lighter sensations… heavy to medium, medium to light, then super light and then the scene ends.
Yes, it can be very jarring to go from bam bam bam to we’re done. Times up, gotta go!
I just taught an enormous workshop series in Australia that was all about beginning, intermediate, and advanced D/s and a lot of safety. I emphasize safety because this is a person I love so her safety and well-being is going to be paramount.
And that tends to get glossed over for the sake of being more “Domly” I think.
In newbies. There’s a lot of good education going on right now. A lot of people have access to find out how to be better and understand these basic safety principles. Almost everybody knows what a safe-word is. If they don’t they have some studying to do.
You seem particularly interested in bondage. Probably your most favorite thing? What is it about bondage that kind of gets you going?
Because that’s where I started. When I was five years old.
It’s your roots.
Yes, my roots were bondage and role play. So I never get tired of role play. Daphne and I come up with the crazy roles plays all of the time. I’ll tell you about a fun one, this is really cool because this just happened. So we’re both Star Wars fans and for Christmas I got her these really sexy Boba Fett leggings and a little crop top. And she owns these really awesome spike heel boots and we put together this whole role play where she was a bounty hunter and I was working for Darth Vader and captured and kidnapped her. Here I am, I’m a grown man but I honestly have to tell you that I could not believe how turned on I was and how that role play filled my head. As far as I was concerned we were there on the Death Star.
And it was right here in your apartment?
Daphne: Oh yea!
Arcane: It was super hot. And my point being that it’s a hell of a lot of fun for me to just open my imagination and bring in all of the things that I love into our role plays. We’re both pretty active-imagination people.
(to Daphne) And what’s some of your favorite stuff?
Daphne: Because he’s got the long hair and beard and kind of looks like a pirate I love the pirate and duchesse role plays. It’s my favorite.
Arcane: We have ongoing role plays about it.
Daphne: We seriously do! Its like ok we stop and we’re done and then our next role play we pick it right back up and I feel like I’m on a ship.
Arcane: But also I do love fire play. I don’t even know why… it’s just like the generic little pyromaniac in me. It’s edge play because fire. But just watching her reactions and how the fire dances across her body and knowing that I have enough control and experience with the fire… and fire is fire. You talk to anybody who ever works with fire professionally. There’s a great movie with Robert DeNiro where he talks about fire as a beast and you have to know how the beast lives and works and breaths and its really true. So when I’m doing this – putting fire on her to guide it and dance it around her body – I seriously feel like an artist at a canvas. In all BDSM really I feel that way.
(to Daphne) And do you feel safe or scared?
Daphne: You know honestly you say edge play Master, but I trust him so much and it just feels good I just feel… he puts it as a hot feather gracing your skin. Sometimes there is a very slight burning sensation. It’s not enough to hurt but it’s enough to wake me up because sometimes the fire is very soft and you get all relaxed and then it kind of bites and then I’m back in my body again. So it’s incredible. I highly recommend it to those who know how to do it.
Arcane: That’s one thing that I definitely have to say – Only if you’re taught it. I had someone teach me how to use it. I’ve taught fire play workshops and at least 30% of the workshop is just safety and really understanding what it is. That’s kind of how it is with any edge play. You really have to be taught by somebody who knows how it works before you start messing around.
And it looks like you have a new book out? That’s exciting! Can you talk a little bit about that? Is it your first book?
Well I’ve done a lot of writing but this is my first fully formed completely crafted, designed book. Igniting the Fire is an Ebook right now, been out for about a year selling purely by word-of-mouth which makes me super happy, and we just got another 5-star review on Amazon. It’s designed to be a hardcopy coffee table book. Every single page is a colorful plate and when its published in its full hardback form it’s about 400 pages.
(Arcane has Daphne bring the hard copy prototype. It really is a gorgeous book!)
It’s a complete A-Z system of how to do the Crow Academy style. It’s the first in a series of books so this book is aimed at the submissive. I speak to the submissive but there’s so much stuff in there that any Dom can pick it up and use the technique and the protocols described. The voice that I use when describing a protocol is the Dom speaking to the sub but any Dom could try these and decide, “this is a cool protocol,” and add it to their personal repertoire. The mechanics are spelled out. It’s written for people of all levels, absolute beginners as well as people with a ton of experience and everyone in between.
It looks like you got Ken Marcus to do the photography.
Yes, Ken Marcus and Perry Gallagher both.
It’s divided into four sections. The first section is your basic physical protocols and slave positions, and the second section is more on understanding some of the psychological elements, commands and signals. The third section goes really into the headspace of the submissive. The fourth part delves into the traditions and where it all comes from. A lot of stuff has been written about BDSM, which is great, and a lot has passed down by word of mouth. I had people and information coming at me from all sides in my own evolution and so I took what I learned from them all, what I tried and tested that became the Crow Academy style, and put in a ton of modern, utilitarian emphasis to make it real, to make it contemporary and useful.
It’s a beautiful book. I like that its written geared towards the submissive. I think that doesn’t happen as often, for written text. There’s some but not a lot.
Book two, which is in outline form right now, is going to be the exact opposite. I’m going to speak to the Dom because one thing that’s happened in the course of the Crow Academy being around is that I get a lot of letters from submissives saying, “I met up with this man who said he was a Dom and this terrible thing happened and now I feel like dropping out of the scene but you seem like you know what you’re talking about so what do you suggest?” And if I was to summarize the greatest need that I would like to provide for the world is to make a ton of really good, smart Doms out there. I’m tired of getting those letters. I want to get letters from people who say, “oh my gosh I met this man I gave him your second book and now he’s become the Dom of my dreams.” That would make me extremely happy.
So I’m curious in your travels to different places and lands far and beyond, have you explored many of the kink scenes in other countries?
Which one is your favorite?
Well my first public community scene was in Amsterdam and when I stepped into my very first fetish club there was a very strict dress code. The entrance was like something out of a Bugs Bunny cartoon. They had the big guy at the door and the sliding eye-slot thing and they look at you then open the door and say, “can I help you?” It was a blank building down by the ocean. And you’d say, “yea I’m here for the kinky club,” and if you weren’t dressed in fetish gear right there you’d better have a bag with you that had the fetish gear to change to show the doorman. Then they had a changing room and you weren’t supposed to be in the club unless you were in full fetish fashion. You’d pay your money and open another door and boom, you’re in the club. And the first word that popped into my head that day was, “Home.” And it’s been that way ever since. I was like, “oh my god I’m home.” It was like stepping into the Star Wars cantina, an intergalactic zoo of wonderful weirdness. Just so much stuff going on and everywhere I turned something new or different or bizarre and it absorbed me instantly.
I went on to start producing my own fetish club called “Iniquity” here in America, and Amsterdam had a big influence on me. London has always been fantastic. Different cities have a different emphasis. In London I was once told while I was there on vacation that I was one of twelve Doms in London, which I don’t think that’s true but the point was there were so many Fem-Dommes, it was overrun. San Francisco is very male Dom heavy. Los Angeles is pretty balanced. Obviously San Francisco has a huge gay leather scene, Chicago as well. Although I’m not personally gay myself, I attended IML (International Mister Leather) because one of my friends was the son of the owner of Mister S Leather so we all went. There was a small hetero group there and of course we all spotted each other across the convention floor in this gigantic BDSM toy market. The market was amazing, and my point being it doesn’t really matter if it’s your thing or not because there’s amazing stuff to be found everywhere. At one of the parties there at IML there was a needle play scene that was art. It was just art. It wasn’t the typical thing where they stick the needles and make a little pattern. They did it bi-laterally on the person’s whole body inside of this wooden frame that was a permanent structure at this dungeon and then they had fishing line going from each needle to the frame so each needle was being tugged microscopically in every imaginable direction. It was mind blowing, creating a visually stunning art piece. There’s something for everyone in the world.
You do some stuff with needles too?
Not really. I will use acupuncture needles moderately – its kind of fun and again it’s edge play. If you’re doing something like that where you break the skin then you have to know your STD status and your partner’s. If you’re doing it on a stranger you should wear rubber gloves… all this kind of stuff. An acupuncture needle put in the right spot… and I don’t suggest you experiment with this…
If you put in the right spot you can make it stop movement like rope and the person can’t move… if they move there is a little shoot of pain.
No you don’t understand (laughs)… it’s so awesome. I did a scene on stage in Australia where the girl was tied to a St Andrews cross by her wrists and then I put the acupuncture needles on her so she really couldn’t move and then I did fire play.
You’re a mean man! (laughs)
No no no I’m a generous man! (laughs) She was very happy. The amount of endorphins you get through these situations… there is no purchasable drug on Earth that can compare.
Sure! I believe it. I’ll take your word for it (laughs). So the scene internationally do you favor Amsterdam mostly because that’s where you got your start?
It’s actually the variety you find around the world that is a lot of fun for me. In Australia right now one of my best friends, Master Thorn, an amazing Dom, is the center of the Brisbane BDSM scene. He teaches classes every week and has parties every week and it’s a younger crowd that are super enthusiastic. Now is it as sophisticated or polished as the London or Amsterdam scene? No, not even close, but the enthusiasm, the raw enthusiasm is fantastic. Also another example there in Brisbane is that they have an enormous emphasis, one of the best in the world, on pet play and animal play, hosted by the Sanguine Pack, and that’s exactly the point. The fact that all over the world you find these pockets where the kink goes a little this way or a little that way. That’s awesome! My goal with her (to Daphne) – she hasn’t been travelling around the world with me yet – would be to take her to some of these places to show her what its like in London and Brisbane.
How the other half lives.
The other tenths. (grin)
From your experience what do you think the biggest problem is affecting the community as a whole?
Fifty Shades of Gray! (laughs) Not really. When Fifty Shades of Gray was first written people were really split. Ok here’s a fun statistic for you… because of the number of books that are known to be sold plus the number of expected illegal downloads when it was an Ebook, it works out that approximately one out of every thirty seven literate adults in the world over the age of 18 has at least obtained a copy of this book. That’s crazy. And what that did is it helped open the conversation massively. You can talk about BDSM anywhere now. And people have some idea what you’re talking about. Now if people take Fifty Shades of Gray as a guidebook they’re in for a very rough, dangerous and probably destructive road. So that is really the problem. Well not so much a problem – and I was kind of joking when I gave my answer – it’s not really a huge problem with BDSM, its just that so many fresh minds are out there who want to learn and what I’m doing and what my friend in Australia is doing is just trying to get good information out there. So is that a problem or is it just a need that needs to be filled? Good information, we need a lot more good information
Better dissemination of information.
And funny you should ask this exact question. I literally just got done talking with one of my clients. I do training for couples and so one of my clients was telling me that she was in some shop and she told the person, “my Master…,” and the guy knew them by association and said, “he can’t be a Master because he hasn’t done it long enough… you can’t call him Master.” And she wrote me and asked is this true? And I said, no that’s nonsense. He’s your Master, you can call him anything you want. He can tell you what he wants to be called by you, Master, Sire, My Lord, whatever. Doesn’t matter. If he was to step into a room full of BDSM people and say “I’m a Master!” than yes they might expect him to have a ton of experience, but he is your Master and you are his slave and that’s beautiful and you should embrace that. So another possibility with this need for information is to correct bad information or overly politically-correct information, which is not always going to help the situation, or highly opinionated information. People who are in the scene long enough know that when someone starts saying, “my way is the only way and everybody else is wrong,” then you need to walk away. Outside of that, I think we’re in a time of incredible opportunity to educate the world.
Yea, Dexx always says we’re in a “BDSM Renaissance.”
Yes, but its really true! And there are enough people out there that really know.
Out of curiosity, have you ever bottomed?
Funny you should say that. I have a running joke that I’m only 99% Dominant. I’m 1% submissive to chiropractors, deep tissue massage, acupuncturists and myofascial-release which makes ordinary deep tissue massage look like you sneezed. It’s very intense. The running joke, as Daphne has been here one time when the lady was working on me, is the question of how few times will I scream the word “Fuck!”
Daphne: It’s pretty entertaining (laughs)
Arcane: But that’s about it. One time way back with my first bottom we tried switching and my brain was just like, “there is no point, this is doing nothing for me,” and she agreed that she also didn’t want to be in control or be mean (laughs).
(To Daphne) Have you ever topped
Daphne: Ummmm, no (laughs). I’m trying to think if I ever really did? There’s just something about being a submissive that’s just so freeing and relaxing that I don’t know if I could handle the responsibility of somebody else.
(to Arcane) What advice would you offer someone just starting out besides reading your website and book of course!
Just read and educate yourself. My first clubs were in Amsterdam and London, then I came back to America. Very soon thereafter I moved to the San Francisco bay area and joined the Society of Janus up there. Janus, like Threshold in Los Angeles, is very politically correct in their BDSM. And what they teach is going to be very almost white-bread BDSM. Nonetheless I joined Janus and I took every single workshop they taught for two years. I never missed one unless it was you know, how to feminize your slave or what not. And that’s huge to get in the community. I tell my clients, “come with us to a party because you need to see the way other people do it.” Not just to be amongst peers and get that peer acknowledgment and acceptance for being into it, which is important and easier now than it was ten years ago because of Fifty Shades of Gray and the openness its caused, but also because like I said at my first time in my very first club, you see these things and you think, “well I never thought about doing that,” and you learn something new.
Ask questions, obey club etiquette, don’t interrupt someone’s scene. Get educated. One of my first martial arts senseis was a generous man because a lot of the schools back in the day did the whole Karate Kid thing where they would say, “our school is the best school!” I was lucky enough to have a sensei who one day turned to the whole class and said, “ok I’m going to teach you a secret now. If you want to get good at martial arts then you will have to study many different styles.” That’s exactly what I would say. The Crow Academy style is very couple-oriented with romance, high protocol, high etiquette, and those are with traditions from hundreds years ago that we’re revamping. But if you’re attracted to someone else’s style, read their book, learn it. Learn about different ways of doing what others do in their BDSM style that might be just as good.
Be aware because you want to avoid many stereotypes that are two-dimensional. And this is why I take the ball and roll with the whole romance angle. Yes a Dom can love their slave, yes a Master/Mistress can love her sub. In both directions. Don’t ever think that this is just some random act devoid of emotion. I would say go the opposite direction. Put your emotions into it. Be an artist. It’s a creative process. Make it your own.