Power, Pleasure, and Pain: An Interview with Nicolle Hodges

Nicolle and I sat down to talk about all things power, pleasure, and pain for the launch of the Girls Who Say Fuck club on Clubhouse–a new drop-in audio app. We dove into our journeys discovering what dominance and submission look like in, and out, of BDSM dynamics, and the ways that these relationships foster a clearer understanding of our communications with others.

Click the link to listen to the interview on my YouTube channel!

Blunt: I’m really happy to be here with you today.

Nicolle: Thank you, I’m so happy you said yes and I can’t wait to have this conversation about power, pleasure, pain. Your website is incredible. When I was reading through it, it read like poetry. I was like, “This person has managed to encapsulate so many important things and so many things that I’m also discovering.” I mean, we’re at wildly different points in our journey. I’m about three years into this and you said you are 15 years into this, is that correct?

Blunt: I think more like twelve personally, and ten professionally. I’ve been involved in the BDSM scene since I was 18, I’m now 31. I started working professionally, dabbling a little bit, and then becoming a full-time professional dominatrix around 21.

Nicolle: Wow. I mean, when I read about your foray into the world at 18, there was a part of me that was envious that goes like, “I feel so alive, so myself through discovering this and allowing it to shed a lot of shame I had around my desires, I wish I had discovered this, these communities, and this way of being at 18.” But that just wasn’t my path. I’m really excited about yours.

Blunt: Yeah, so many different paths. I think about that a lot too. I feel like there are definitely pros and cons. I found an Old Guard BDSM training house when I was 18. And so, for folks who might not know, that’s kind of like where you earn your leathers, you train as a submissive in the household, and are part of a leather family, and kind of like earn your place. And I was learning skills at the same time as part of a Mistress-in-training program.

I think some of the pros of me being 18, just turning 19, when I found this space, was that I was really excited and young, and I felt like I didn’t have too much shame to unpack at that point. I sort of dove in deep. But I feel like the other part of being pretty young is that I have a complicated relationship with how power was handled at the place that I trained. I often say that I learned a ton, I’m very grateful for the experience, but I definitely learned a lot about power through the misuse of power.

Nicolle: I really want to get into that, and that’s really why I wanted this to be called power, pleasure, pain, not just because it’s a fancy alliteration. I am actually wildly suspicious of people who force alliterations.

Blunt: I love alliteration, I was pleased.

Nicolle: Power is something that I think is misunderstood, especially in the context of Dom/sub dynamics and BDSM communities. I think that comes from ignorance though. I think a lot of people who might be, let’s call them “on the outside,” look in and say, “Well, aren’t you abusing power? Aren’t you making somebody do something for you, for you to feel a certain way?” I want to get into that with you, but I want to start with an Oscar Wilde quote from your website, “Everything in the world is about sex, except sex. Sex is about power.” What is power to you in the context of BDSM?

Blunt: It’s funny when I hear that quote again, I just want to be like, “Actually, Oscar Wilde, everything’s about power.” I think power, to me, in the context of BDSM is a matter of agency, and knowing what you want, and being able to articulate those wants and needs.

First of all, I’m a switch occasionally. I like to switch every other year. I don’t want to actually be more powerful than the people that I top or that I dominate. I’m not interested in dominating people who I’d see as weaker than myself. I’m interested in someone who is on my level, and we’re communicating and they are willingly giving something to me rather than me talking. I have no interest in wielding power in a way where I’m taking something from someone.

Nicolle: Yeah. I love that you said “switch” because I really do believe that everyone has a dominant and submissive side, and dominant does not mean masculine in the same way that submissive does not mean feminine. Dominant also does not mean barking orders and submissiveness does not mean powerlessness. If you lose your voice, that’s not being submissive, that’s your power being taken away or not having an understanding of the fact that you, as a submissive, really do guide the Dom/me into giving you what you want. I look at dominance and submission almost as a dance or a symbiotic relationship where one can’t exist without the other. What are your thoughts on that?

Blunt: I was just having this conversation with someone last night about whether or not they could fall into top space or subspace without another partner. I think I agree that they play hand-in-hand, but I think fantasy is a very powerful tool. So, I think to that extent, they can kind of exist on their own, but from a fantasy perspective. I also know that nothing really beats having it in the flesh.

Nicolle: Fantastic use of the word beat there.

Blunt: Thank you.

Nicolle: What can we learn about the ethical use of power through BDSM? How can we apply that to the world outside of a dungeon or a play scene? The reason I ask a question like this is because I feel like when we play at the extreme end of roles, such as dominance or submission, we can almost identify nuances better in everyday interactions, all of which are quite complex. 

Blunt: I mean, there is a whole lot there. Can you start with the first part of that question again? And then I would love to tap into that second part.

Nicolle: Absolutely. Also, I’m a Gemini so I can talk and talk and talk.

Blunt: Gemini rising, so here we go!

Nicolle: If someone here can hold the thread, we’re going to be alright. What can we learn about the ethical use of power through BDSM and then how can we apply that to “the regular world”?

Blunt: I think what’s so interesting for me about BDSM is that it’s so honest and it’s part of where I got the name Blunt from. I was told that I had the subtlety of a metaphoric sledgehammer. It was just very honest. I was like, “Why would someone not want to know this painful truth about themselves?” And so, I sort of learned when and where to use that and how to play with it within the context of a BDSM scene in a more consensual and exciting way.

In any relationship, there is a power dynamic at play. Within BDSM dynamics, you’re choosing to and consenting to the power dynamics that you want to inhabit and embody for that particular experience rather than having those positions of submission or dominance thrust upon you.

I’ve been doing and exploring a lot of Mommy play and Mommy/Little play. I’ve personally found it really cathartic to take on a mommy role in some of my domination style because it feels like, in so many other instances of my life as a woman and as a femme, I’ve had these mothering roles thrust on me non-consensually or have had emotional labor just thrown at me. Being able to set up a scene where I am caring for someone, hurting them, maybe torturing them and teasing them a little bit, but largely in the arena of a caring and loving nature, it’s been really nice for me to create that container and to negotiate that scene of mothering.

Nicolle: I love that. I think cathartic in the way too where you can almost rewire certain associations that you have with events in your life or roles that have been thrust upon you, as you said, or assumptions that have been made of you based on your gender. I know you and I are both interested in feminization or sissification. By fucking with what gender is “supposed” to look like or be, or how we’re supposed to behave within the context of that gender that allows us to see, one) how ridiculous it all really is — 

Blunt: Totally.

Nicolle: —and two) that we can find so much freedom when we allow ourselves to use play as a way of healing.

Blunt: I used to be so opposed to a BDSM scene being called play. I’m like, “No, this is serious.” It wasn’t until I was studying psychology and reading about the purpose of play in development that I was like, “Oh my god, this makes so much sense.” I think of it very much as playing with intense archetypes to play out our own psychodramas or our partner’s psychodramas and to recreate new scenarios where there is an element of control as well as an element of aftercare.

I come to BDSM with a background in psychology and my training as a yoga teacher. When you ask the question of what can you take out of the dungeon, I think of it very similarly to taking my yoga practice off the yoga mat. I feel like so many of the lessons and the things that I’ve learned in BDSM scenes are so applicable to everyday life, including how to communicate, how to negotiate, how to figure out what’s going on to take care of each other when someone fucks something up.

I’ve also studied pretty extensively some of the neuroscience behind what’s happening in a BDSM scene or what’s happening in an intense ritual pain scene. It’s literally offering the potential to create new neural pathways through the practice of play. I hear this misconception that BDSM scenes are about replaying one’s trauma, but I feel like is a stereotype that gets thrown around.

I don’t think that’s true from my personal experience, but I do think that people play with things that are relevant to their lives. Through that recreation, they can create subtle changes in their acute stress response. Through negotiation, creating the scene together, structuring it, and creating a space for aftercare, you can actually create a new outcome and come to new meaning through that process.

Nicolle: I also really like looking into what’s happening in the brain within these dynamics. How is our nervous system actually responding? Transient hypofrontality is the flow state, and this can happen when a Dom/me and a sub are truly engaged and locked in. It’s almost like you’re in a trance, like you are kind of hypnotized and experiencing the same feeling of like, running, or sometimes I get it if I’m writing and all of a sudden, all this time has passed and the words are just coming out of me. That’s the same thing with this art of dominance and submission. It’s almost like everything else falls away, and it’s allowed to fall away, and you’re okay with it falling away because you are so grounded and present. I think that’s what’s really beautiful about some of these interactions where it actually brings you into your body.

Blunt: It can be a very embodied practice at its best and I think flow state is the most useful way I found of describing subspace or top space. I think of it in a way like finding that attunement with a partner. I think a lot of people who don’t think that they’re into BDSM are doing some pretty fucking kinky things and playing with power in ways that maybe they could acknowledge. What’s so interesting about flow state is that it’s something that’s so hard to access especially in a hyper-connected life.

When I’m playing with someone, we’re setting aside the time to create this hyper-focus and attunement to reach that state, which is a state that our bodies love to be in. It makes you feel fucking high. It makes you feel amazing. It makes you feel like time is slowing down. All of your attention is on one sensation, that nothing else exists besides the connection between you and your Dom/me or you and your submissive. I think that one of the things that makes life worth living is being able to tap into those flow states with each other.

That transient hypofrontality is this plastic space within your brain where you are able to come to new endings. I’ve studied a lot about rituals of pain and religious rituals of devotion and surrender, and so much of it makes people feel good to just be surrendering. 

Nicolle: I feel like many of the people that I come across and that I work with tend to be men who are, I guess, of high status by our societal standards. They’re making a lot of money. They tend to lead teams or be in leadership roles. They have a lot of responsibility, so they spend a lot of their time telling other people what to do. They seek balance and find liberation through being told what to do. I think maybe one of the misconceptions is that it has to be this big elaborate setup when, really, telling someone to get the fuck on their knees in front of you and kiss your feet, can really feed someone’s soul. Tell me, in your experience, why would someone willingly choose to do that?

Blunt: It’s interesting because I’ve found people of all different genders and economic backgrounds come to see me for sessions and play. I think it might just be because of some of the language and phrasing on my website and having had women’s submissives in the past that are prominently displayed and photographed as part of our dynamic. I feel like a lot of what’s portrayed is this powerful cis man coming to surrender to a dominant woman, but lots of different types of people come to see me and to submit. I think it’s going back to our conversation that everyone could maybe benefit from switching a little bit.

I think there is something really peaceful about knowing what to do in a social situation or in a sexual situation. I think for a submissive, knowing that your partner knows what she wants, knows how to get it and knows what to do and how to orchestrate it so that she’ll get her pleasure however she wants, I think that that’s something that relieves a lot of stress from a situation. When I was first engaging in BDSM communities, it wasn’t even as much of a sexual thing for me, so much as like, “Oh, I love to know the roles that happen at a BDSM party. I know how to interact. I know what to do with my body. I know how to interact with this type of person.” It was just a very calming experience for someone who normally experiences a lot of social anxiety. I think some of the rules and structures of a scene really just allow people to tap into that hyper-vulnerable state and get their needs met.

Nicolle: You said that you have a lot of female-identified clients, is that correct?

Blunt: Yeah, I have a lot of queer folks who come to see me. A lot of women see me. A lot of non-binary folks come to see me as well.

Nicolle: I’m starting to find that many women are reaching out wanting to work with me “Why? What draws you to this?” A lot of it is wanting to find dominance or power within themselves. Do you think that there’s a particular reason why women seek to work with a Domme?

Blunt: I think it’s just more socially acceptable now. I’ve noticed after Fifty Shades of Grey, I hate to bring it up, I’m sorry, but a more diverse clientele started reaching out. I think it’s really fucking cool when women want to spend their money on making sure that their needs are met. And definitely, a lot of the women and queer folks who have come to see me have had negative experiences submitting to cis man, which isn’t to say that a cis woman is not going to fuck something up, but I think that there’s an element there that’s related to it that some folks feel safer submitting and being vulnerable with a woman in that type of capacity.

Nicolle: Coming back to eliminating ambiguity in roles. There’s a dominant and there’s a submissive and you get to expand into the space of that defined role. You say this on your site as well, “if you’re not coming to me knowing what you want or ready to submit, I don’t have time for you.”

Blunt: I do say that on my website and that’s something I can say on my website, if you want to check it out, it’s mistressblunt.com. I can say that because I’m in a position in my career to be turning down the majority of people who contact me. I am very specific about the type of people that I like to play with and I’m very aware that that’s a privilege. I’m happy to figure out what someone wants together within the context of the scene but what I don’t like is when people know what they want but want you to be a mind reader. I’m like, “I don’t have time for that.” Both of us know that you know exactly what you want and if you’re not telling me, you’re just making this more difficult for both of us and I don’t have the time for that.

Nicolle: I love that because if you took that interaction and you zoomed out into how that applies to other areas of their life, it’s like, you’re not getting what you want because you just won’t fucking say what you want.

Blunt: It’s so true. I think it really does apply to other parts of people’s lives. I think something that I’ve also seen, and this is not all people but some of the people who have worked with me, is an element of potentially not having their needs met in other aspects of their life. I think that there’s something like really, A) hot and, B) practical about being like, “No one gets to do this to you besides me. No one gets to hurt you besides me and the only reason that I get to hurt you is because you’re letting me.”

I do a lot with forced self-care practices with my submissives. I’m sitting here doing air quotes in my living room right now because I think some people really want that type of accountability to begin doing this process of exploration and care under the guidance of someone else. But right in the end, that exploration is for you and that exploration that someone does with me in my dungeon, or in my yoga studio, or in some sort of like breath-based practice that we’re doing together, is for any future intimacy that they have, they can bring that with them if it serves them.

Nicolle: It’s almost like you’re an arbiter of truth or a catalyst for them to be able to own up to the things they want because if they’ve made it as far within themselves to seek you out, they’re standing in front of you already vulnerable, already in a sense submissively saying, “I’m here.” But you’re not doing the work for them yet. They have to close that gap just a little bit more and be able to tell you exactly what it is that they want.

Blunt: I really enjoy the psychological play. I love playing with whips. I have a really intense leather fetish but I don’t need any toys to play with someone or to play with power. I simply like the sound of my voice, if not, body language, I think, goes a really long way. I don’t need all of those toys and those props necessarily.

Nicolle: Psychological domination is something that is also really fascinating to me. I refer to it as tying somebody up by their mind. 

Blunt: Yeah. What a really good scene is, is like holding up that fucking mirror to someone. It’s like the name Blunt that I was given, I’m not saying anything that’s not there, it’s like the thing that you don’t want to see about yourself. I think this is particularly useful or poignant in scenes that involve light levels of humiliation or when even just putting yourself in a submissive position might feel humiliating to you. I like calling those things out. It’s almost like narrating what’s going on, and having done this for like 10-12 years, I’ve gotten really good at reading people and reading people’s body language. It’s so interesting because it becomes this somatic practice of speaking things out loud, like sexy talk as a somatic practice of helping people articulate and realize what’s going on in their bodies in these vulnerable and aroused states.

Nicolle: Right. Under the umbrella of shame, which encapsulates many things for many different people, and there are so many definitions of shame, but let’s say that shame, in general, is, as a somatic experience, is a feeling through your body that you can’t pinpoint. I think that’s what makes shame so fascinating. It almost doesn’t originate from one spot, yet it spreads. And so, embarrassment, let’s just call that “shame light,” is when you’re walking down the street and someone waves and you wave back excitedly only to realize they’re waving to someone behind you. And you’re like, “Oh, fuck, I hope nobody saw that.”

Then the farther end of the spectrum is humiliation, which is what we’re talking about, which is this deep feeling of wanting the earth to open up and just swallow you whole because you cannot believe that this thing has happened to you. Now, what if you can explore humiliation in a safe space? So something like, and from personal experience, telling somebody to get down on their knees and kiss your feet. What psychological barriers do they have to overcome in order to do something so simple? Every step of the way in that process, you get to check in with them as they check in with themselves to ask, “Well, why? Why do you think this humiliates you? What about this hurts you so badly and where does it hurt in your body?”

Blunt: Yeah, and what I think is so interesting about humiliation is that it taps into this deep primal need to be in community with other people. When people are playing with intense humiliation like you’re talking about, the fear on the other side of that is rejection. I think a lot of people who hold shame around their sexuality or around specific desires have histories of being rejected or perceived rejection for those desires as well.

What I think is so important to remember about this type of play is, or at least when I talk about my work, I love the idea of a safe space but I don’t think that I could ever guarantee someone that they’re playing in a safe space. I’ve found it makes it harder to talk about conflict when things happen or when something goes wrong because it’s like, I can do hours of negotiation for a scene but I’ve triggered people through the way I looked at someone or a word that I said that they never thought to bring up to me.

So, when I think about that, I think that you don’t know what will be humiliating for someone else. For someone who really wants to kiss your feet, Nicolle, they’re getting on their fucking knees. For someone else, it could be like fucking three or four sessions before they’re ready to accept that that’s their desire and put it into their body and practice and embody that desire.

Nicolle: Yeah, absolutely. I think one of the things that I want to touch on that you’ve kind of said as well, and I think this is so important, is this idea of a safe space. This might be a bit controversial, but in a way, it’s okay not to guarantee a safe space, but a place to take safer risks. When you say that you don’t actually guarantee a safe space, what does that mean to you?

Blunt: I actually think I say, “This is not a safe space,” somewhere on my website. I just feel like that language has been weaponized to hide where things go wrong. If you’re introduced to a space that is a “safe space,” when something goes wrong, I feel like there’s that moment of pause and it’s like, “Oh, well, this is a safe space and I don’t know, maybe that’s not how I should be feeling.” I think I’d much rather enter into a situation where I’m like, “We are two intersubjective human beings, we can do our best to care for each other, and to be in community with each other, and to take care of each other’s needs but what are we going to do when something goes wrong?” To me, it’s not if, it’s when?

In ongoing relationships, there’s always some form of conflict at some point. It’s this idea that I’d rather work collaboratively to know what safety means for someone else and for them to understand what safety means for me because I think that what I define as a safe space and what you define a safe space could be completely different. We could be saying the same thing and be like, “Sure, sure, this is a safe space,” but we might be on completely different pages. I’d much rather operate from a place of, what are the things that make you feel safe and what are the things that you need if something goes wrong?

Nicolle: Which, I think, is a much more honest conversation about safety because you’re not just making a blanket statement that everything you feel is going to be a good feeling especially when you’re working with pain and everything that pain is attached to.

Blunt: I don’t particularly subscribe to the “safe, sane, and consensual” model of BDSM, I’ve heard different ones, and RACK, risk-aware, consensual kink, is what I feel I’m more subscribed to. I think when we’re playing with emotions, vulnerability, and physical pain, nothing about that is safe. You have to be aware of the risks and are willing to reap the repercussions.

I have a friend who was asking her tattoo artist where she chooses to get her tattoos. She said, “I only get tattoos from artists that I’m willing to live with the mistakes of.” I think that that’s a really interesting concept to keep in mind when choosing partners or play partners. Of course, you never know what someone is capable of. This is in no way meant to victim blame, but I think that being able to have those conversations with partners is super important. It’s like, “Do I trust that this person doesn’t have ill-intent? And if they fuck up or if I fuck up, can I live with that?”

Nicolle: Yeah, that’s beautiful. That also reminds me of something that I overheard at a party once which totally changed my perspective, “I would never have sex with someone that I wouldn’t want to become.”

Blunt: Interesting.

Nicolle: I would like to use this as an opportunity to move into something from your site that really caught my attention. I mentioned to you before that I feel like your site is written so well that it almost reads like a poem. I want to read something and then I want us to break it down a bit. And forgive me, but I will read it quite dramatically, Shakespearean.

Blunt: Please read it like it’s a poem.

Nicolle: “Power was my first true love. Gender and sex have always paled in comparison to it. It was never someone’s gender that drew me to them but rather how they played with me. How they carry themselves. How they relinquish that power to me. How they acquiesced control, letting me bring them to the edge of what they could bear for my amusement. How they begged me to break them so I could show them how strong they are. How they took pleasure in my pleasure and how eager they were to be used to me.”

Blunt: Well, now I’m blushing, shit.

Nicolle: How was that? You wrote that.

Blunt: My website’s been there for like ten years and I’m constantly adding to it, so it’s a surprise to me. I have no idea what’s on there at this point.

Nicolle: 21-year-old you was brilliant. There are so many lines in here that I find intriguing. The last two lines are of particular interest. “How they begged me to break them so I could show them how strong they are.” What exactly does that mean? I think this kind of circles around to what a lot of people get wrong about dominance and submission, or aspects of BDSM. For the uninitiated, the concept of pain as pleasure is so foreign that they’re like, “Why would someone willingly choose pain?”

Blunt: It’s so funny to me that people find it confusing. I’m like, “Look at marathon runners.” I know people who run ultra-marathons and I’m like, “You are far more masochistic than anyone I know.” Or like, workaholics who won’t stop working and that work ethic is going towards “the man.” That’s masochism I don’t understand. I understand the financial necessity sometimes, but the drive, certainly not the drive.

I think pain can be transcendent. So many rituals and many different cultures utilize pain as a way of seeking transcendence, as a way of reaching that other side. Many people do rituals of pain. I think of the type of play that I enjoy to be very ritualistic. What I think is so interesting about it is that pain doesn’t need to be received as pleasure for it to be useful. I think that the error in thinking is that pleasure is the only path forward.

This is something that I really learned when I was studying Tantra and I was reading Lauren Roche’s translations of the Tantra Sutra, and each Sutra was just like a meditation on a different sensation or a different thing. The meditations were written so intensely, like love poems. These sensations, whether it be pleasure, or pain, or death, or becoming, birth, each path was seen as a way of reaching a sublime, or reaching God or finding transcendence.

It’s through meditating on sensation that we become embodied and integrated, and it doesn’t necessarily matter what that sensation is. I think that’s what’s so boring to me about vanilla sex. I’m like, “Cool, we can focus on pleasure but that’s only a fraction of the experiences that I’m capable of experiencing, and I would like them all, please and thank you very much.”

Nicolle: When you expand the scope of what constitutes pleasure, I mean, “vanilla sex,” nothing against that, it has its purpose and function, but it generally refers to something more goal-oriented, more about penetration, about reaching a place, achieving a momentary state of ecstasy. Whereas eroticism, if we allow ourselves to consider what it means to live erotically, pleasure is everything, it’s everywhere.

Blunt: I think when we take our focus off of that penetrative act of sex and bring it onto meeting those needs and those desires, sex becomes so much more interesting. I learned about sex super young. I learned that I had power knowing what sex was at a young age and wielded it like a weapon, and then by the time I was having sex, I was already bored with it. I’m glad that I found the kink place when I was 18 or 19.

I think what is sexy to me in the D/s dynamic are these consensual and negotiated power structures that you’re establishing based on the individual relationship and what works for you and your partner or partners. And then, something like my partner doing the dishes for me can be a form of fucking sex. That’s amazing knowing that they’re so turned on when they’re doing this act of service for me, it’s like foreplay. Or when I have a submissive in chastity and they’re not cumming for me, and that not cumming for me is hotter to them than just jerking off and getting to cum whenever they want to.

Nicolle: Yeah, which I think, again, perfectly leads into the last line of your brilliant writing, which is, “How they took pleasure in my pleasure and how eager they were to be of use to me.” Restraint as a release. Talk to me a little bit about that.

Blunt: I think it goes back to the conversation that we’re having about knowing what to do in a situation. A lot of my friends tell me this about me, they’re like, “I don’t have to worry what you’re thinking because you’re just going to fucking tell me. I’m never super anxious around you because I know what’s going on for you because you just tell me.” I think that there is a ton of freedom that comes from knowing what to do. Who doesn’t want to know how to make their partner happy? I will give my partner very explicit instructions on how to make me happy in a way that they are capable of completing and succeeding in order to please me.

In the same way, having submissives that I play with that I trust will tell me when I’m going too far, if I’ve gone too far, or if there’s something that they definitely don’t want to explore. Having those boundaries makes me feel safer too, and makes me feel like I can trust the person that I’m playing with and that I can explore these really dark and intense and not necessarily super safe things, like intimacy. I’m going to include intimacy on the “not safe” list because people get hurt by someone who is not able to communicate boundaries and desires. 

Nicolle: I love talking about communication as cum-unication. Hear me out. So, cum-unication is this idea that we actually achieve more pleasure, and pleasure not necessarily being orgasm but this prolonged state of trust really, freedom, empathy, connection,  through means of transparency, communication, and Danielle, to use your nickname, being blunt.

It’s knowing yourself well enough that you can communicate effectively to others. I think that’s what makes something pleasurable. It’s also being able to relax in the presence of somebody who will tell you if they like something or if they don’t like something.

Blunt: Yeah, totally. And what’s more relaxing than that? I love that. Maybe that goes back to the line on my website about if you don’t know what you want, you’re not necessarily ready to see me. I have a very high barrier to entry on my website. I ask a lot of very intense questions on my contact form including when was the last time that you cried? This is my favorite question and I’ll never change it.

Nicolle:  I love that you ask that.

Blunt: I get such interesting responses. Multiple people have told me that they’ve cried while filling out my contact form, which I think is interesting too.

I think what’s so interesting to me about BDSM is the bluntness and the honesty. Being able to hold space for people in these really vulnerable states is both deeply fulfilling and deeply erotic to me. I do work as a full-spectrum abortion doula, and being able to hold space for someone, it’s not an erotic context, but being able to hold that space is equally fulfilling. I think being able to be present with people when they’re vulnerable is a gift and I think it’s something that someone is offering to me. I very much see submission as a gift that is to be given and not taken.

Nicolle: We are 45 minutes into a conversation and you just casually drop, “I’m a full spectrum abortion doula.” I think that’s really wonderful, that there doesn’t seem to be a bottom to you.

Blunt: I do bottom occasionally, but there is no bottom.

Nicolle: Well, every second year.

Blunt: Yeah, every other year. I’m on my off years. I need it to keep me humble.

Nicolle: This is why monks clean floors and why women own cats, so when we get too high up on our pedestal, we remember that we have to clean up an animal’s shit every day.

Blunt: I own a dog and I have to tell you; I’ve learned so much about dominance and submission through training my Australian Shepherd who did not want to be trained.

Nicolle: You’re like, “Do you know who I am? How dare you?”

Blunt: I learned so much about the ways that I was, with my body language, giving him positive reinforcement for negative behaviors. I worked with this really intense trainer who traumatized me slightly, but I learned a ton in the process. I learned so much about body language, and the reinforcement of behavior, and just how clear you need to be with that communication, and how precious you need to be with those rewards.

Nicolle: I’m just going to give us a time check here. There’s one last question I want to get to with you.

Blunt: I’m cool with that.

Nicolle: The healing potential of BDSM. I know you had alluded to it earlier that you don’t necessarily agree with this kind of reductionist view that BDSM is a way to revisit trauma and to heal. I think that’s really important to know because it’s not like all broken people go towards BDSM. It’s not like the only types of people that you’re going to find in these communities are people that have had terrible things happen to them that they need to get over and so-help-me-God, getting spanked and calling you daddy is the only way that I’m ever going to be okay again.

What I do want to talk about is over the course of your 10-12 years being a Pro Domme, or at least being within BDSM communities since you were 18 years old, have you amassed some general observations where you can say one way or the other whether there is a healing component to BDSM?

Blunt: Sure, I think there can be a healing component to anything that’s done intentionally and that the intent has to be open-ended and open to new outcomes. Two people working together with a common goal can be healing and I think BDSM can be incredibly healing. I don’t think that I’m a healer.

I think that people have the innate capacity to heal themselves, especially to heal themselves in community. We have the capacity to work through our trauma while being in relation to other people. I don’t think it’s necessarily just BDSM that can be healing, I think it’s just one of the paths amongst so many that someone might choose to take and find healing. Some people engage in activities and they have no idea it will be therapeutic or healing for them and it is. I think that articulating and then getting your needs and desires met can be healing in and of itself. 

Nicolle: When I lead BDSM evenings with women, I say, “This is your chance to play in a house of mirrors. The more that we expose ourselves to new experiences, the more versions of ourselves we’re able to see.” This allows it to be a space where it’s like, hey, you’re actually here to discover yourself and allow yourself to like or not like certain things. 

I think it’s really cool that in a lot of your practices, and again I pretty much use your website as a Bible, but you actually say, “You are capable of doing the work.” A lot of this work is about helping people remember that the answer is them.

Blunt: Yeah, I think that’s a great way to put it. I love what you said about playing in a house full of mirrors. I think that’s also what attunement is. What feels so good about attunement is being seen and seeing yourself, and seeing yourself matched, and mirrored and met. When I think about play at its best, it’s creating space for attunement.

Nicolle: What part of yourself have you found through this work?

Blunt: I started exploring BDSM around the same time that I was diagnosed with a chronic illness. For me, BDSM gave me the opportunity to re-establish a relationship with my body that was based on consensual engagement with pain rather than one based on the whims of my body or the medical-industrial complex.

I felt very empowered being able to choose when I gave pain, when I received pain, to be able to create that container around it, the space to explore this very radical vulnerability and to care for people in a negotiated and consent-driven way. It’s also been very healing for me to be able to work with folks, and to come into conflict with people, and to be able to develop the tools together, and collaboratively to come to new spaces and conclusions that we might not have been able to in our past relationships.

Nicolle: It’s been an absolute fucking pleasure to talk to you. 

Blunt: Well, I’m so glad that we found each other. And–

Nicolle: —please continue writing new poetry on the website.

Blunt: —continue reading new poetry, please. It was such a pleasure to chat with you, thank you.

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