Dexx: Mr. Orpheus Black. You’re a BDSM educator, Pro Dom, lifestyle speaker, adult video star; you seem to have your hand in a lot of different projects. I read one of your quotes, “I only started doing bondage after a guy told me I was too old to start doing bondage and be really good.” So I’m curious to know… how old were you when you first started with BDSM and how did you become involved in the community?
Orpheus: I started BDSM when I was about twenty two. I was going to school for paraphilia and a teacher asked me, “how could you actually try and delve into that field without having any frame of reference knowledge? Why don’t you go out, get some experience in paraphilia, fetish, kink, BDSM and then come back.” That was one of my motivators and unfortunately I never went back. That was my first foray into committing to this lifestyle. I also had a girlfriend who I was in a poly relationship with for five years. She left me for a Dom and I’m thinking, who is this guy “Dom” and when I see him I’m going to kick his butt! (Laughs).
She left, moved to a different state, took my stepson with her and then came back and said that didn’t work, but you need to know what this lifestyle is about. She walked me to a dungeon for the first time and I had my powder blue sweat suit on and the Georgetown visor, total hip hop moment and we walk into a Goth/industrial club and I swear the whole party just stopped. This big black guy and his girl in the matching blue outfit coming in. I saw everything there. I saw people being choked and the guy who would become my mentor, Sir Nik in high heels, lipstick, and mohawk wearing a skirt and he’s choking this girl out who’s tied to a crucifix. Just going at it and I was like, yea I could do this, this is me I’m home. That was how I actually walked through the door.
It seems like you’ve come a long way since then. You were named the Southwest Master/slave titleholder for 2016?
What is that, and how did you come to be awarded?
The Master/Slave titles started off as a leather title and grew to encompass all that embraced the M/s lifestyle. The idea is that they want to pick someone who has the education and background to be able to go out and speak on Master/slave relationships. I’ve been with my wife and slave for twenty one years, and we live in an M/s lifestyle. But we’ve had to go through every facet of it as Dominant and submissive, Top and bottom all the way up to trying to accept the title as African Americans, “Master and slave.” We had to go through that whole cathartic process, going public and transforming our lives around this. Southwest Leather Conference as well as the SoCal Leather title felt that we were able to represent that as a couple and wanted us to go out and teach the practices. That’s what we do.
You touched on an interesting point. How do you think issues of race and ethnicity factor into people’s journey into BDSM?
That’s a good one. Depending on what your nationality is and your relationship dynamic it can be either a wonderful thing or a horrible thing. When I first entered this lifestyle, I was one of two black guys in a Goth club doing BDSM with a black woman. Immediately we started getting racial comments. “Her butt is obscene, we don’t want to see N-words doing this, that and the other. What has this community come to when we let N-words in here to do this type of thing.” It was at that moment that I said “I’m not going to let these people bully me off of the stage. I’m not going to let them curb how I play.”
For a while, my wife and I -and one other black person – we were the black community. We were the only people out and proud and as I started taking more photos and doing things more publicly, I started getting information from other black people who said, “I thought I was the only one, I thought I was alone” or “something was not normal with me.” That isolation that we feel as sexual minorities translates horribly into a social disorder, it translates into emotional disorders and some people even commit suicide depending on their level of sexual minority. For example, African Americans have the lowest rate of suicide in the country but as soon as they become a sexual minority, they have the highest rate. So that in and of itself should tell you how hard it is to acclimate as a sexual being as an African American. So that’s a really, really hard thing.
In the industry of sex it’s is a very racial battle ground because if you’ve ever been to a sex shop and you look at the walls, they have porn that’s boy girl and then there’s the black section. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing in it, as long as it’s black on black it’s niche, it’s nuanced. Why is the sex partitioned? So that tells you that black sexuality is a taboo. In BDSM, it becomes even harder because we’re a sub group of that niche community. To give you an example, one of the things I created was a little social experiment. I go to people and say “I want you to imagine the freakiest thing, the hottest kinkiest fantasy. Do you have it in your head? Ok, what nationality are they?” White guys would say white girl, blonde or red hair, etc. I’d ask black people and they would say the same thing. And I say, how come you can’t even see yourself in your sexual kinky fantasy? It’s because we have no frame of reference. It’s never been normalized and if you look at it from a historical standpoint, African Americans didn’t get the opportunity to say who they were as sexual beings until recently. So you get here around the 1500s and you’re just surviving, you’re acclimating after that. The next generations are accepting their role, and being defined by whatever society is doing and then you get into the next few generations and people are trying to find freedom, and then the next ones you’re trying to find a job because you’ve been released, and the next one is civil rights but when do we get a chance to say who am I as a man and who are you as a woman? So what we’ve done is kind of just cobble together this sexuality of the oppressor through religion, who religion has told us we’re supposed to be, through art, television, and other mediums but when you can’t see people who look like you being diverse, when you cant see people like you engaging in the type of thing you want to engage in, you feel you need to hide and suppress it.
It seems like this is a much bigger issue than just in the BDSM community, with society at large. Encouragingly though, I’ve entered the BDSM community much more recently, and it seems like now some of the top educators and leaders now are African Americans; Sir Valentino, Kane, Master Obsidian.
Your social media is a wealth of inspirational BDSM related advice and quotes. I found a few; “BDSM is an erotic ritual that’s designed to bring two people closer together not only in a primal understanding, but in a caring and loving manner.” That speaks a lot to me personally in the lifestyle and I imagine to many other people. There are a lot of people who pay professionals for their BDSM experiences. How do you this statement applies to those types of situations where it’s less about an ongoing relationship and more of a service?
But every service is a relationship. Customer service maintains the relationship between the company and the individual. As a professional, my whole goal is to create a relationship no matter how fleeting it may be. I have to give you literally what you’re looking for, how you want it, and which way you want but I also have to supply you with what you need and that’s where it becomes an issue because you may want to feel a certain way but you may need this specific thing. When a person gets what they need there’s a type of vulnerability that goes on with it and you need to be able to be trusted, assume that you care for them and that you are acting in their best interests. That can only be done within the context of a relationship even if it is just for this moment.
You’re a regular BDSM teacher at classes around LA. I was fortunate to attend one of your spanking classes last year at The Lair. What do you think the secret is to a great spanking?
Anticipation. You don’t just jump straight into the spanking. You’ve got to take your time and deal with the whole body as opposed to just the area. I think one of the common complaints from women with big boobs and butts is that’s the first thing everybody goes for. There’s a whole plethora of other things here so let’s work with the other things first and then go to that. That can get you into trouble with consent; “You said you were going to spank me but you did all these other things.” So if you’re going to give a good spanking, not a disciplinary spanking you have to know what it is you want to do convey that to your partner and then stick within the guidelines.
But to me without all of the other constraints, being able to say I’m going to enjoy every moment of this, and you, and then I’ll choose to hyper focus on one area, that’s really the key to pretty much anything.
One of your classes that you’re teaching here at DomCon and elsewhere is about bondage and meditation. What is the premise of the class?
The premise of the class is not to teach people how to tie, but to teach people how to connect. I think what’s lost in BDSM is the difference between touch and connection. Touch is something I do to you, connection is something I do with you. In this space we do too much acting on the other person. I hit you, I do this to you, I’m touching your body. But how often do we get a chance to really perceive our partner, to really embrace ourselves? To create a moment that is all about them, and their experience and taking them out of the world that they live in, the rat race, the job, the kids, all the other shit that they normally can’t shake.
As a Dominant I have to be able to give them that freedom to be in that space because they have a lot of things that they need to metabolize. There’re a lot of things that they need to work through. By giving them these moments to just sit and be in their nature, I think its just easier for them to reconnect with who they are and the person that we fell in love with. So that’s what I’m trying to do when we do this meditative bondage. It’s not about suspending and how cute my tie is, its about providing containment for another individual and holding space so they can either release whatever they’ve been holding or just let go of themselves.
It sounds fascinating. And I guess, spirituality as it relates to sex and BDSM seems to be a theme of some of your teachings and musings. Do you see that there is an intersection between BDSM and spirituality?
Yes. I wish it was more common and that it wouldn’t even be a question. So one of the things I try to reference is a play by Ovid called Pyramus and Thisbe and in the book it pretty much is Romeo and Juliet but these two kids fall in love through this hole in a wall. They can just see each other and listen to each other through this wall and its an analogy about how we live our lives now. Everyone puts these walls up and we only give just enough room to hear the other person or just enough to look through these walls, but the wall is still up. They avoid true deep meaningful connection. But that wall is literally ego. You’re afraid. Any time you make a decision out of fear it’s the wrong decision. What we need to do and what I’m hoping these conversations about spirituality do is allow a person to be vulnerable. We need to start loving and caring. The self doesn’t get thirsty or hungry, you can’t make love to it or beat it. The self requires care and concern, tenderness, safety. Those are things you can’t provide for yourself. The self needs another person to provide it.
Do you think that for Dominants in BDSM it can be particularly difficult to show that true vulnerability, when at the same time they’re trying to present themselves as decisive, capable and strong to appeal to submissives who are looking for that aspect as well?
And that’s the problem. That’s ego! It’s for both people. Because if she cant accept you as being vulnerable, what happens the moment she sees you cry. If you’re worried about her leaving you when you’re in an emotionally vulnerable part, she can’t see all of you. She is not the person that you need to be with anyway. You have to let go of all of the ego that’s involved and just be you. I don’t need them to fall in love with Orpheus. I need them to be in love with Ron Neal. If they’re too attached to the labels or roles and not the individual then its nothing.
To me a slave will do anything you want, including walk away from this if that’s what the master wants. If I say I don’t want to be kinky anymore I’m going to go be vanilla, I’m pretty sure my wife would be right there with me being vanilla, she’d be a soccer mom baking cookies on the weekend. That’s real connection and that’s what we’re all looking for. I hope that in these conversations, I try to express myself in an open and vulnerable way to encourage other Dominants to be open and vulnerable as well because it’s a lonely place being a Dominant. It’s like being middle management, (laughs) the boss doesn’t want to talk to you and the workers won’t talk to you and you’re just stuck there in the middle with your own problems. A good Dominant creates emotional protocols for himself. He tells his, When I’m breaking down this is how I need to be talked to or held, this is how I need to metabolize the feelings I’m going through, this is how you’re going to help me get through these moments. That’s honest, that’s transparent and if you can do it, they can do it.
I noticed you’re doing a class called Black Tie Bondage and Fireplay. Sounds fascinating, what’s that all about?
I have a penchant for inventing things that I need and bondage wasn’t providing me with a method for doing fireplay and bondage. So what we had to do was create a way of being able to make a safety protocol that would enable all the rope to come off in the event that the rope caught fire. So what I did was invent a way of creating a quick release and that quick release, you pull it-everything comes loose. But we also found that people were more inclined to do Black Tie Bondage because they could released instantly. The idea is if it takes ten minutes to put someone in [to bondage], it takes ten minutes to pull them out but if they’re panicking, that ten minutes is the longest ten minutes of their life. So we’ve been able to use it in other methods. I’m teaching this to people as a way of a safer method of tying someone for the first time, like an introduction to bondage. Then fireplay as well.
And aside from teaching classes, you also do private coaching for individuals and couples who are interested in learning more?
Yes. That is the thing that I love to do most. Working with people, specifically couples who are looking to grow closer together as a unit. When I came into this I had my partner and she was everything to me. She was my bottom, my sub and she learned right next to me and we grew together. I think in that way we match each other’s expectations. Any time I see a couple who wants to start this journey together I think that really, really says something to me, it encourages me to want to work with them closer. Because a person is humble enough to say, I don’t know how to do these things but I want to learn and the other person is humble enough to say if it means that much to you I’ll be there with you.
It sounds like it’s a form of relationship guidance. Do you incorporate practical teaching as part of that? How to use implements, toys and such?
Yes, we do an intake, we find out what they want to do, what they’re interested in exploring, why they want to explore it, how each of them feels about this process and then we go into specifically into what they want to do. So if they want to go into an M/s dynamic, we talk about protocols, rituals, and how to do it We’ll talk about the best way to use safe words, negotiation, even in the context of their relationship. We’ll create a language around what they’re doing because it’s one thing to say I want to flog. You hear flogging and we start interpreting your own ideas. I might think rubber with spikes. You might think bunny floggers. And then we get into the implements. I’m always there to follow up too. I include a phone call or a Skype to see how they’re doing and if they have additional questions.
I saw that you’ve done shoots with some of the kink.com sites. How did you enjoy those experiences?
(Laughs) Kink.com was awesome. I was provided with the opportunity to run through the castle. It was great. I shot on a Friday, I left Sunday and I was there pretty much by myself. I had the whole damn place to myself. And I went to every room. I ran through the whole place. I saw all of the sets. It was absolutely wonderful. I think anybody who’s in this industry wants to shoot with them. They are like the playboy of our industry.
Do you think that BDSM porn is a positive influence in terms of people’s education about real BDSM?
It depends on how you frame it. People have this opinion that porn doesn’t represent real sex and sexuality. Well, yes it does, it just doesn’t represent what you envision real sex and sexuality to be. That being said, BDSM in porn is done at such a high level it’s very hard to emulate. Also because we don’t see all the safety measures, all the negotiation, all the things that are done behind the scenes, some people may feel motivated to try and do this without a staff. Or they may do it without realizing that this one woman has done this ten times for different people and they just change her hair. So BDSM porn is good and bad because it can introduce you into something that you didn’t know existed and you’ll investigate it but for those who just don’t want to get any education and just want to attempt what they see on TV, I think that becomes a problem. I would really love to see Kink do a behind the scenes.
All of the preparation that goes into it.
Like, we’re behind the scenes with Katie Morgan and they just finished their negotiation and this is the guy who’s going to rig her up. For the people who are looking for that to really round down expectations and if they ever need anybody to do it, I want to do it! So that people say, “oh, they’re fucking in a barbershop” but it’s actually a set. You actually can’t do this in real life.
I noticed you had a couple of comments relating to depression on your Twitter. Do you think that there’s an intersection between those in the BDSM community and depression?
Yes. BDSM is just a cross section of society. Someone took a chunk out of the Venn diagram of America, or whatever country you’re from, and then pulled it into a small section. So we have suicidal people, homicidal people, idiots and geniuses but the thing that we have to all acknowledge is that mental health is a big factor in what we do. Its one of the biggest red flags that we can see if we know how to diagnose it. If we have subs that we’re responsible for and they suffer from depression, that may be a problem. They may go through depression with you and have never gone through it before. They may be horrible by themselves and not with other people.
I personally suffer from depression. It was something that took me a long time to admit to myself. Depression and anxiety; so I personally try to write only about what I go through. When I post something about depression it’s my personal issue I feel at that moment. It’s really important to sit and talk to people about what you’re going through because someone else may be going through it too. Aside from mental illness, that I’m aware of we’ve probably had three people that commit suicide in our community a year. I think if you look at it as a microcosm, and you say how many people are kinky versus how many people are committing suicide, the percentage would be enough to cause some alarm but because we’re not as connected as we should be and no one’s looking at it because its kind of like the bastard of our kinky house, it’s something that we just let go. If they’re a result of depression I don’t know, if it’s a result of someone who is just mad, I don’t know but it’s very important that someone look into it.
Yes, it appears to be a sad reality of the community.
You shot an episode of Undercover for Playboy TV recently. Are you able to talk about that?
Yes! So Undercover with Kate Quigly is a show where she goes out and meets people doing all kinds of sexual acts that are outside of the norm. She interviewed me and she engaged in a little fire play with me, just a taste and then we bring in other people who are capable of going deeper and further. From what I understand, the fireplay was an awesome segment. The knife play is supposed to look really great too.
It seems like there’s been a general proliferation in recent times of kink coming into more mainstream media.
Right, it is. I like to say it’s the normalization of our darker sexuality. People think kink is like rubber and hoods but I’ll ask a woman, “have you ever been spanked in bed before” and they say “yeah but that’s not kinky”. (Laughs) Why is it not kinky? I’ll say “has anybody ever sucked your toes” and they say “yeah but that’s not kinky.” Then what do you call spanking and foot fetish? I think everybody has been somebody’s bitch at some point in time. We’re so into this person and they could have told us to do anything and we would have done anything for them. What’s the difference between that and being in service to someone? If we really want to expose kink to the world, we have to reframe the way it looks, normalize the verbiage, and stop using the coded language that we do in order to seem sexually superior to everyone else. Because what vanilla has that kink doesn’t is the relationship component. We downplay the relationship component to the point that it seems to be nonexistent, but at the core of any interaction there’s a relationship there.
Ok, and do you think that will start to happen in terms of the verbiage evolving?
I hope so because I need new customers. (Laughs) There’re always going to be jerks. The people who perceive themselves at the top want to stay there so if they don’t have this language to use then anyone can do what they do. Anyone can say “oh you mean this, in the vanilla context that’s what this could mean. So I could technically teach your class to the vanilla people you know and cut you out? I can do that.” And it does happen. We use this coded language to protect our position in the community, it’s just an inherent fear of social and financial obsolescence. I think if you’re gong to die out just die out. It’s going to happen to me, it’s going to happen to everyone in this community. But we’re not doing anyone any good if we’re trying to hold these spots and reserve them for us. Everyone is regurgitating everyone else’s information so I hope that we start seeing more open arms, less cliquish behavior, more reaching out into the vanilla community and a general acceptance for all the people who want to be a part of this.
Some of your posts touch on the psychology of submission, one that particularly stands out: “Dominants must remember that no one can punish a loving submissive as much as she can punish herself.” I think that can resonate with a lot of submissives including anniebear, my sub. How did you get such an insight into the psychology of what’s happening on the other side?
So I told a sub to put her hands on the table and bend over [to punish her] and she broke down crying. She said, I’m so sorry, I’ve been thinking about this all day I know I was wrong. I couldn’t punish her on top of that. And then I started approaching the psychology of it because there’s a perfectionist in every sub. They don’t want to be coached, they want to do everything right, right off the bat and when they don’t they let down themselves. And then they beat themselves up about how disappointed you’re going to be.
It’s really interesting mitigating actual punishment with allowing them to fail. Sometimes allowing them to fail is the punishment. Not creating a scenario where they fail but oh, you think you know the best way to do it? Do it and lets see and if you get it right, we found a new way to do it, if you don’t then we’ll discuss it. Those discussions have been more punishing in my opinion than anything I could really do.
At some point in time, where’s that boundary of abuse? It’s really a deterministic thing. Abuse happens in the mind of whoever is receiving the punishment. A person will only allow themselves to be punished to the extent that they feel they deserve. If they felt that they’ve punished themselves up to a point, you hitting them once could be abuse in their eyes. So in trying to extrapolate these scenarios, in my mind I’m seeing them over and over again, I realized that no one can punish them worse. Even some punishments may even make them feel repentant. They may feel free from this.
It’s almost like a means of them being able to put it behind them sort of case closed, you’ve been punished, now we can move on and not talk about it again.
Right, come down off the cross, someone else needs the wood. (Laughs)
Do you have any other projects in the works?
Yes, I’m trying to work more in the context of spirituality and my bondage and meditation classes are the flagship for that. As I said before, I’m not just teaching people how to tie but how to connect; with themselves, their partners and really using it as a metaphor for submission. In doing that, what we’re going to start training people to do this online and then those people who want to go further, we’ll offer courses on how to facilitate these actual endeavors. I’m also working on another book, my second. Right now the working title is The Tale of Nawashi and Bakushi and it’s going to be a BDSM version of the Tao of Pooh. So I created these two characters and it all about philosophy as it pertains to BDSM and bondage. It’s just my philosophies and art for a coffee table book. If I could get some guy to read this to his little, like a story time book, I’d be so happy! (Laughs)
Orpheus Black – Southwest Master/slave titleholder – is also a published author and erotic educator, specializing in hierarchical dynamics, non-monogamous relationships, and erotic meditation. This two-time Bawdy Story telling champion has been traveling the country teaching his fun and light-hearted educational events for more than a decade.
During this time, Orpheus has become one of California’s most respected educators as well as a favorite interviewee and contributor, lending his expertise to shows such as “Chocolate Radio”, “Night Calls”, “Love, Sex, and Hip Hop”, “The Sex Nerd Sandra Show”,”The Dr. Susan Block Show”, and “The Inner Circle with Neil Strauss”.
Orpheus is also a regular presenter at DomConLA and is the founder of Cirque de Sade—a high profile Dominants group whose mission is to advance the art of BDSM through a commitment to innovation, excellence, and active leadership in the D/s, Ms and fetish communities. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.