Talking Sensory Deprivation and Other BDSM Tools with Master L of DommeNation
It's no secret to NSFW (and likeminded cohorts) that our generation has seen a dramatic shift in the way we talk about sex and sexuality. The abstinence-focused sex ed and muted pillow talk of years past have been supplanted by open dialogue, and nowhere is this more apparent than the fetish community. With the success of books and films such as the 50 Shades franchise, kink and BDSM are enjoying a renaissance-strengthened by the recent push to reclassify them as a "leisure activity". Individuals looking to explore their kinky inclinations through our new, destigmatized sexual scope are truly spoiled for choice. So where should they begin? We reached out to one of our resident partners in kink-Master L of DommeNation, to discuss his own journey into BDSM, and get his tips and suggestions on flexing the newfound freedom. Read through to the end for an exclusive photoshoot featuring NSFW favorite Extreme Restraints, then peep the featured products in our shoppable gallery.
NSFW How long have you been involved in the BDSM/Kink community?
ML Publicly, I have been involved in the kink community for only a few years. Privately, kink has been with me all my life, present in subtle and overt ways before I had awareness of it or a language to talk about it. Currently, I am a member of the La Domaine Esemar household, the world’s oldest remaining BDSM training chateau. My mentor is Mistress Couple, the headmistress at La Domaine. Together with my wife, Lady M, we co-founded DommeNation-a company that offers BDSM services.
NSFW How has your understanding of sexuality changed since you began your training? Of your own sexuality?
ML My understanding of sexuality has changed in several ways since I began my training. However, it started changing the moment that I decided to give myself permission to explore my sexuality and try new things. It was a time of rebirth and renewal for me. I wanted to live authentically and in alignment with my deepest truth, which meant accepting things about myself that seemed scary because of their implications. So I started out with a grain of truth and started building from there. My grain of truth is that I believe pleasure is good and because pleasure is good, the pursuit of pleasure is a morally correct act- so long as your pleasure doesn’t harm others.
The idea of living authentically by being in alignment with my deepest truth is another way in which my understanding of sexuality changed. The truth is that the majority of people in this world are afraid to acknowledge their own desires, much less speak them to another person or even worse yet- to dare to live a life following your deepest desires.
NSFW What aspects of being a Dominant do you most identify with?
ML I very much identify with every aspect of Dominance. There is a certain rush that comes from feeling power over someone else that is intoxicating. However, what makes this particularly arousing for me is the volitional element. The fact that someone would choose to voluntarily submit is what makes the experience of Dominance so hot. What distinguishes a Power Exchange dynamic (or BDSM) from abuse is the fact that there is a consensual exchange of power that can be revoked at any moment. That being said, I also identify with aspects of being submissive. My training has taught me that exploring the depths of my submission will serve to inform the heights of my Dominance. It has also taught me that, contrary to popular belief, being in a submissive role does not diminish me as a person or as a Dom. I don’t believe in limiting myself to experiencing only one side of the leash because it feels limiting to me and I don’t like feeling limited.
NSFW How does your BDSM/Kink life bleed into your everyday?
ML BDSM/Kink are constant elements in my life. Whether it’s a whip or a flogger, it is not unusual for me to carry sex toys with me at any given time. This, of course, makes for some very funny moments when I forget about what’s in my bag and I need to go through a security checkpoint. Personally, BDSM/kink is more than just a fun activity or something to spice things up in the bedroom. It is a deep, integral part of my sexuality and in fact I identify BDSM/kink as my sexual orientation.We all have Power Exchange dynamic relationships, whether we are aware of them or not. For example, when you agree to a job offer you’ve entered a Power Exchange dynamic with your boss. The important thing is to be conscious of those dynamics and to recognize them within ourselves, because they will come out and play out in our relationships whether we want them to or not.
NSFW One of your specialties is sensory deprivation. Tell me about that.
ML A foundational part of training at La Domaine Esemar is learning to fine tune the use of your senses. As a Dominant, this means knowing how to use your own senses during a scene and also how to use sensory deprivation to enhance a scene. Something as simple as blindfolding someone does a lot to establish Dominance and lower their psyche into submission. Having your vision taken away feels disempowering because we rely so much on it to navigate the world. It also makes your other senses more sensitive, as your brain tries to compensate for the loss of sight. There are many ways to play with someone’s perception. It is important to keep safety in mind at all times, so if you want to engage in some sensory deprivation play be sure to negotiate that upfront with your play partner prior to starting the scene. Also, if you’re planning on doing anything that will make it difficult for your partner to speak, make sure to give them a non-verbal safeword signal in addition to a verbal safeword.
NSFW Why might sensory deprivation be a good gateway activity for couples looking to experiment with kink?
ML Sensory deprivation can be a good gateway activity for couples looking to experiment with kink because most of us have experienced it already in some form or another, so the experience is familiar for both partners. Most people know what it’s like to be awake with your eyes closed, which is essentially what blindfolding accomplishes. Similarly, most people know what having your mouth full and not being able to speak is like or what having your ears covered feels like. However, when you add the element of power exchange… when you give up control and give it to someone else; who then can decide to change your perception by depriving you of your senses, that changes things completely.
Make sure you negotiate it ahead of time with your partner and do your homework. There’s a big difference between putting your partner in a blindfold for 30 minutes and putting them in an all-black body bag for 6 hours. Like anything else in life, be sure to know the risks involved. Be risk aware and keep yourself and your partner safe.
NSFW What are some of the basics in terms of depriving the basic senses?
ML We have already discussed blindfolds, which is one the most basic forms of sensory deprivation. You can also take away the sense of hearing with earplugs to add another layer of sensory deprivation. There’s a number of ways to remove the sense of touch with mummification play, but that’s a whole other subject of its own. Of course, the best is to use something like one of the sensory deprivation hoods offered by Extreme Restraints because they offer complete coverage of the head and they make it easy to take away or give back different senses. My favorite is their Universal BDSM Hood with Removable Muzzle because of its versatility, it can be used as a regular leather mask or with an attachment to make a great puppy mask. They also have blindfolds and ball gags, for those who are just dipping their toes.
NSFW What are some of your favorite tools for this practice?
ML I really like items that allow for deprivation of several senses either all at once or one-by-one. Extreme Restraints has a Total Lockdown Leather Hood that I absolutely love because not only can you gradually remove the senses, you can also lock each one with its own lock. I also really like face harnesses that incorporate a ball gag.
NSFW What should people know concerning safety and communication when it comes to sensory deprivation?
ML First thing people should know is that, like anything else in life, there are risks involved. The risks from blindfolding someone may be different than from using a whip on them, but they are real. Nothing is ever 100% foolproof safe. For that reason, I always recommend practicing Risk Aware Consensual Kink or RACK. Know the risks associated with what you’re going to do, be aware of what may go wrong, negotiate, and get enthusiastic consent ahead of time.