How did you get your start in the Kink Community? What drew you to this lifestyle?
I came into the kink community in 2003, when my partner Stefanos and I were living in Minnesota. Prior to that, Stefanos had been involved in fetish event production, and we’d both done kinky bedroom play for pretty much as long as we’d been having sex. We were also both Live Action Role Players (LARPers), which is how we met, and that’s pretty damned kinky in our books! We started to go to Minnesota munches and play events, and met our mentor Koroban. That was very much the beginning of my time in the kink community.
Can you elaborate on your work in the community? What projects are you currently working on?
I recently finished getting selfsuspend.com up and running, and my biggest project right now is working on writing a book on self-suspension… which is incredibly time-consuming! I’m very inspired by “creating the work I want to see in the world” – when I first started with self-suspension, there were very few online resources, and no classes or mentors in my area. I ended up taking content from a partnered suspension context and adapting it myself, and basically being self-taught in a lot of areas. I try to think about what content would have been helpful for me when I was a curious beginner, and working on getting that information out there in a more accessible way.
You teach a wide range of subjects – can you talk about your process for developing classes?
Most of my classes are co-taught with my partner Stefanos, and our class list has developed slowly over the years. We were first inspired to present when we came back from Shibaricon (a large rope convention in Chicago). At the time we were part of a small Minnesota community that didn’t have much by way of formal classes available. Members of the youth group we were part of asked us to share our bondage knowledge, and our Remedial Ropes classes were born. Many of our classes have come about this way – a friend will tell us that they love watching us do cutting, or playful BDSM scenes, or pick-up play, and will ask “hey, can you teach me how to do that?” Due to my professional knowledge, I’m asked to present on medical and safety topics pretty frequently.
Generally our process has been that we start with broader classes, and then divide them into more focused classes as we hone the content. We presented locally, first in Minnesota and then in San Francisco, starting in 2005. We didn’t travel to present at our first convention until 2011, so we really took our time presenting and developing our classes on the local level before taking the “show on the road” as it were!
What is your favorite class to present, and why?
I’ve been super into presenting self-suspension, especially when I can make an afternoon intensive of it. I’ve worked really hard to make the content as accessible as possible – my goal is for everyone in the class to self-suspend and feel really good and accomplished having had that successful experience. My first exposures to shibari-style rope suspension made me feel really crappy and inadequate, like I wasn’t a worthy rope human, and I’m trying to give folks and experience of success and fun in their own ropes!
When I’m presenting with my partner Stefanos, our favorite class is It’s a Trap: Playful Scenes and Non-Bondage Predicaments. It’s a very demo-heavy class, and we usually have at least three stunt bottoms working with us, which always creates a fun and unique energy.
Do you structure your classes or just go off the cuff?
Our classes are ridiculously structured! I have detailed, pages long outlines that I print off and work from, which even includes the amount of time to spend on each subject. Of course, within that there is still quite a bit of space and each class is still unique and different – it’s an outline, not a script! For example, the outline might list that we have ten minutes to demo and discuss a toy ordering game as a negotiation tool, so that’s the broad strokes, but the exact execution of that will vary each time.
You’re known for your self-suspension performances, as well as curating shows that include kink and bondage performance. In your opinion, what makes for a great performer?
The biggest thing I’m always pushing performers to do is to create shorter acts. Less really is more! It’s hard to do a short performance, because it makes you really hone down your presentation, but putting in the work makes you really polished and focused. I always think about this quote from Woodrow Wilson, when he was asked how long it takes him to prepare a speech: “It depends. If I am to speak ten minutes, I need a week for preparation; if fifteen minutes, three days; if half an hour, two days; if an hour, I am ready now.” I’m interested in the TED-talks of bondage performances, and it takes a different level of preparation. If you’re doing a scene on stage and want to take 45 minutes, that’s fine (and some folks certainly prefer that type of performance, I’m not here to Twue Way on this), but that’s a very different type of performance than the acts I do, curate, and enjoy as an audience member. IMHO, there is a difference between “scene rope” and “performance rope” and I enjoy pushing the boundaries of that distinction.
What keeps you coming back to perform within the community?
There’s something so satisfying about coming up with a concept, music, costumes, and routine for a performance, just creating all that out of nothing at all and then getting to execute it on a stage is just incredible. When I first started doing rope performance, the vast majority of what I saw in terms of bondage on stage was shibari-style, men topping women… and I wanted to represent something outside of that. I’ve been performing (and creating performances) since childhood dance classes, so it’s something that’s always been part of my life. In addition, I’ve come to embrace that my “core kink” is exhibitionism. I don’t do much private play at all – I love being watched, so being on stage also feeds that!
How would you recommend that newcomers get started with learning bondage?
For folks just starting with rope, we do think that you can get a lot of basic safety information online, including sites like RemedialRopes.com. Mentoring and taking in-person classes is optimal, once you start to actually tie – many areas have rope classes, munches, or peer-led events. To supplement your in-person instruction, consider sites like KinkAcademy.com, which is a great place for tons of videos. Many instructors offer private lessons, as well, which is a great option if that is affordable for you. Get references on specific instructors and classes if you can – not all bondage instructors teach or tie in a style that will be a match with your bondage and/or learning preferences. I really recommend self-tying as a way to start – it teaches you about both rope topping and rope bottoming, and is a wonderful way to learn!
Can you give advice for individuals that want to learn new hard and soft skills? Dos and don’ts?
Don’t be afraid to learn online and from videos. I got most of my early suspension bondage education from YouTube – don’t let the rope snobs tell you that’s not a valid resource! I always recommend in-person instruction, but it’s not possible or accessible for everyone all the time, so videos can be a great way to supplement that. Also along those lines: DO get your information from multiple sources! Having someone mentor you in person, and also taking a few classes, and also reading some books, and also watching videos is optimal IMHO. You want to get a variety of perspectives and approaches!
What events are next on your schedule?
I’m producing the bondage and kink performance event Twisted Windows on the Friday of Folsom weekend (9/28) here in San Francisco, as well as numerous other local events (BENT, Self-Suspension Open Space, Master’s Den, etc). I help with programming for Dark Odyssey: Surrender, which is a weekend hotel kink conference in San Francisco, and am getting geared up for that event, as well as starting to plan 2019 travel!
About Shay and Stefanos
Stefanos & Shay are a vivacious, unconventional D/s couple whose entertaining, information-packed classes have been called “better than a Vegas act.” They identify as pansexual polyamorous playsluts, purveyors of perversion, and alliteration fetishists! They are based in San Francisco, where they host over 60 events a year (including BENT, Twisted Windows, Master’s Den, Self-Suspension Open Space, & Bondage-a-Go-Go) and were named King & Queen of Pervert’s Prom in 2006!
Shay is a medical professional by day, education director for Dark Odyssey: Surrender and writer/creator of bondage safety repositoryRemedialRopes.com by night, as well as a prominent self-suspender known for unique, dynamic rigs and prodigious performances. Stefanos is all kink all the time as DM & CEO of Bondage-a-Go-Go, event manager at the SF Citadel, and former Producer/Steward of The Upper Floor on Kink.com.
Stefanos & Shay have performed, presented, and hosted around the country and internationally, including at Dark Odyssey (Winter Fire, Surrender, & Fusion), Rome BDSM Conference, Thunder in the Mountains, KinkFest, RopeCraft, Northwest Leather Celebration, Westcoast Bound, San Francisco State University, Stanford University, OpenSF, Kinky Kollege, Beyond Leather, the SF Citadel, Mission Control, Center for Sex and Culture, the Exotic Erotic Ball, International Ms Leather, BayCon, COPE, Mischief in May, Folsom Fringe, and Cum & Glitter. They’ve also been featured on KinkAcademy.com, PassionateU.com, BehindKink, Discovery Channel’s Oddities, Skin Two, KinkUniversity, and in over half a dozen documentaries across the world.
Shay also created a self-suspension web site! If you’d like to learn self-suspension, you can check out articles, video tutorials, and much more. Contact Shay for more information about self-suspension.
Stefanos was interviewed by Vice regarding Bondage-a-Go-Go and the SF kink scene — watch the interview here.
Interested in booking Stefanos & Shay to present or perform at your event? Contact us!
Be sure to check out their website too!