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Leather and Spice by Editors: Cleo Dubois
Ms. Cleo Dubois is well known in the national leather community for her very intense workshops. For beginners who want to include kinky elements in their play (a little spanking, a little bondage...), she offers workshops on negotiation -- the art of sharing your fantasies and needs with a partner so that together you can bring your wildest fantasies safely to life. Ms. Dubois also gives workshops on playing rough, on embracing the dark side, on erotic bondage, and on many advanced kinky skills.

In a recent interview, Ms. Dubois took some time to talk to Adult FriendFinder about the ways kinky elements can make your foreplay even hotter. This interview is for those who may not consider themselves "kinky," but if you know you love kink, you can read Ms. Dubois' new monthly column in the Magazine at our companion fetish site, ALT.com, starting in February.

Adult FriendFinder: Can you briefly talk about your personal journey with BDSM [a catch-all word for a variety of fetishes derived from the terms Bondage and Discipline, Dominance and Submission, and Sado-Masochism] and maybe what you've learned about the variety of options in the BDSM world?

MS. DUBOIS: I did not always know that I was kinky. In my 20s I loved to pick an argument with my lover, provoking him to get rough with me and then feel so sorry that he would do anything to please me! Well that sort of manipulation totally disappeared from my life once I discovered my SM desires of mixing sex, power games and intense sensation. That was the link that brought my sexuality into focus. It taught me that negotiated sadomasochism is a valid path to self-discovery, healing and intimacy. I started to learn to integrate all of the aspects of me: brat, good girl, submissive, sadist, disciplinarian, mentor, control queen, Domina, mentor, slut, nurturer and ritualist.

In the early 80's, with the encouragement of a kinky boyfriend I began exploring the SM Frontiers in the San Francisco Leather Community, finding that fantasy/mind/body explorations were a powerful venue for my erotic fulfillment and self-discovery. It didn't take me long to realize that I loved bottoming [being the one who submits] as well as topping [being the one who dominates], as long as it was consensual and negotiated. I joined the first local SM educational group, The Society of Janus [www.soj.org], attended all meetings and volunteered for everything: spanking, flogging, bondage, play piercing etc. Once I felt that I knew enough to be a safe player, although not a sophisticated one, I became a professional Dominant out of my passion for the Scene.

Adult FriendFinder: People on Adult FriendFinder are interested in good, healthy, uninhibited sex, and they're often very adventurous and always like to hear about things that can spice up their sex play. What are some fun ways to get started in kinky play (BDSM) that may also be very erotic?

MS. DUBOIS: BDSM is often referred to as "gourmet sex," and indeed, you have a large menu of possibilities, some spicier than others, of course! Let's say you and your partner have negotiated a scene where he will be a captive made to dress in women's clothes and serve the Queen, and she will be the Queen who will benevolently dispense praise for good behavior and spankings for bad.

First, set up a special evening for your scene. You'll need a good three or four hours for the whole scene. Instruct your partner what to wear and what to bring with them. Ask them to find and buy a frilly apron and some sexy high-heeled shoes. Have your equipment ready too. For this scene, you'll need candles, a dog collar that fits your bottom's neck, with a chain - these can be found at the supermarket as well as in a leather store, maybe some light bondage wrist-cuffs. A sleep-mask or a blindfold. A piece of nylon rope, not longer than ten feet, and not too thin - twine can cut. Look around the kitchen and see what catches your eye. A wooden kitchen spoon makes a great spanking implement, as does a small wooden chopping board, or a wooden backscratcher if you have one. Find some clothespins to use as nipple clamps.

Unplug the phone. Set the scene with some low lighting, maybe some candles, and some sensuous or evocative music--if you want a more Victorian feel, play some Mozart! Pick your costume carefully. Take a comfortable seat, take a few deep breaths, be centered, and call in your "slave." Tell him/her to come close to you and be seen. Have him/her slowly undress before you and fold their clothes in a neat pile on the floor. Order them to their hands and knees have them put the clothes to a location of your choice while you watch them crawl. Comment on their form, on their beauty, like you would a fine new acquisition. Caress your new toy gently and slowly. Take the collar in your hands. Stand up and ask if he/she is ready to accept your collar as a symbol of their willing submission. State how you wish to be addressed: Sir, Madam, My Lady, Lord, Master or Mistress, etc.

Now is a good time to remind yourselves of the yellow and red safewords. Take control of the action. [Safewords are words agreed upon in advance by both partners so that the submissive partner can communicate to the dominant partner even while they're still playing their roles. Yellow is the submissive person's way to tell his/her partner "slow down, ease off, boundary ahead." This safeword frees the bottom up to say things like "No, no. Stop!" and not really mean them. Red means bring the scene to a full stop immediately]. Do you want their eyes lowered to the floor, or looking up at you? Keep your orders simple and precise. See how they are followed. Be just. If your slave is good and attentive, give a reward, touch them sweetly, turn them on. If the service is bad, or your orders not followed properly "punish" them five good whacks with the wooden spoon! It is possible that your partner might be sassy and seek some light humiliation or more pain. See how that feels to you. Don't get angry, remember you are both playing.

It's only by experimenting with your fantasy that you will discover who your play persona is - Master, trainer, interrogator, brat, good girl/boy, smart-assed masochist or true submissive slave. Play, and have fun. You might want to place the clothespins on their nipples, and see how they respond to a little pain. Make sure you look into their eyes when you remove them after a few minutes, and take notice of your own reaction - could you have a sadistic streak? You might want to use the rope to tie your submissive's hands behind his/her back or to a chair, or spread eagle them to the bed. Simple knots are always the best, and make sure to have a pair of scissors handy just in case.

Feel what is happening between you two. Play with the dynamics: get really close, whisper softly, caress, breathe warm breath on your lover's neck then stand apart, take charge with your voice and use contrasts in sensations. Now perhaps you feel like pinching, slapping, scratching -- scratch.

Pay attention to their response, their level of turn-on.

Don't be shy to ask for what you really want your bottom to specifically do for you. Maybe you want your breasts touched and kissed in a certain way. Perhaps you wish your lover to worship your feet and ankles. Tell him/her exactly how you want them to do it. Guide them to serve you in the best possible way. Let yourself receive. Encourage and praise your partner for doing a good job.

Find your power, feel it, use it, play with it, and above all enjoy.

This scene might not have heavy SM or bondage, and maybe it will lead to some great, hot sex, and that's just the point. You've opened the door, gotten a taste, and the future is wide open. Remember, you collared your partner as a symbol of your dominance and his/her submission. It is your responsibility to remove it, and to close the scene when the play is ended. Make sure you share your feelings later so that you both really know what worked and what you'd like to do next time.

Adult FriendFinder: Say someone's trying something for the first time -- bondage, spanking, whatever -- and they don't have the benefit of a mentor, how can they approach it safely?

DUBOIS: First look into your fantasies, and follow your intuition. Decide what you are willing to actualize. So, you want to be a little brat and be spanked by "Daddy," or you, Mr. Businessman, want to be a lipstick lesbian for the evening tied up and teased by your girlfriend? If you think that the time is right, bring it up in loving conversation with your partner and listen to their response. If someone paints a picture you don't feel you fit in, say so. The only one who can tell if the idea of doing something kinky turns you on or turns you off is you. Listen to yourself.

Start slow whether you are the top or the bottom. It is a real good idea to leave your partner wanting just a little more, but it can be devastating for both to hurt him/her by pushing yourself or them, whether you are the bottom wanting more or the top wanting more.

In this day of the Internet it is certainly much easier than it was before Leatherfolks started coming out en masse to get informed. Today you can just put BDSM into your search engine and find an enormous amount of material from sound advice to the wrong advice. It can be truly overwhelming. Another alternative is to join your local community. Most metropolitan areas have educational/social leather groups as well as "munches" where kinky folks can meet around a meal in a public restaurant [don't worry, street clothes are the dress code and the conversation stays family friendly]. It is a good idea to email the group leader/organizer first and ask some questions to get a comfort level about what to expect, who attends etc.

Many non-fiction BDSM books are available from a number of sources. San Francisco's Greenery Press (http://www.greenerypress.com) specializes in books for the sexually adventurous.

Adult FriendFinder: What are some of the ways BDSM can help people grow in erotic relationships?

DUBOIS: SM allows us to look in our dark places in a negotiated and consensual way. Philosophically, SM is quite Jungian in that what lives in the dark spaces of our minds and psyches run us. I feel it can be quite healing to go there and pull out erotic roles and realities to be shared between consenting adults. Simply telling the truth about what you want sexually but have been embarrassed to ask for can be an immensely freeing experience, especially if it's received well. But, even if it isn't, to be daring and put the truth out is healing in and of itself. Of course, fear of rejection is a big hurdle.

I encourage people to pursue their sensual explorations freely, always pointing out the beauty of their vulnerability, sexual desires and sadomasochism. I truly find it beautiful in a world of distrust and repression to let someone guide you to these places, or allow yourself to go there. Erotic energy is good.

Adult FriendFinder: As a dominant woman, you work with men, women and couples. Is there any way, that you've noticed, in which submissive women are different from submissive men?

DUBOIS: There really is no comparison because each person brings his/her own particular flavor to their submission and each is beautiful in its own way. However, men tend to have more visual ideas in their fantasies and women are more about their feelings. Submissives of both genders always want to know if they please their Dominants.

Adult FriendFinder: What elements of play or types of play do you find most enjoyable?

DUBOIS: Oh there are so many...After a workshop in Los Angeles I was shown around their play space and they had a "classroom." As soon as I saw the big blackboard, the little school desks and the rulers I instantly became La Maitresse d'ecole. The lesson was rather twisted, of course! Through the years I have surprised myself. Being of a curious nature, I didn't turn down any fantasy I considered safe until I had at least tried it once. Say, cross-dressing, I had no understanding of it until I met a marvelous "slut/masochist" cross dresser and playing with him/her was just a blast!

On the private side of my life, I tend to act like a know-it-all brat in my bottoming mode. However, lately I have discovered the exquisite pleasure of surrendering if the chemistry is right between me and a very special partner AND we trust each other. What I always find enjoyable is the palpable energy exchange, be it sweet or fiery. Since I've mainly a caring sadistic control Top, the games I most enjoy involve SM, verbal interaction and bondage dynamics.

Adult FriendFinder: In addition to your intensive workshops for dominant women, you also teach many shorter workshops on a wide variety of BDSM topics. You mention that you often have people write their secret fantasies down and pass them in anonymously. So what fantasies turn up?

DUBOIS: It was at a Learning Annex afternoon seminar called "Overcoming Sexual Shyness: Taking Charge," that I asked people to write down on a piece of paper either a fantasy they had or a secret they have never told their partner. I was amazed that there was nothing really different from what SM people play with. The fantasies ranged from Queen for a Day to gang bang fantasy, being "used" for the pleasure of their lovers to complete sensory deprivation. After all we all live in the same society and share common archetypes and taboos. The real challenge is for people to have the courage to come out to their partners about their secrets and see if they can share their explorations mutually.

An SM Scene isn't something ready-made that you then act out together. Being clear and brave about what you want and what you are willing to do with those you are willing to do it with is the next step. Remember, you have the right to fantasize about whatever you want, fantasy alone never hurt anyone. There are risks, though, like the possibility that your partner will reject you or be horrified and that does hurt. Or that you might have a hard time dealing with what you did and feel shame. We all want to be good enough, don't we? Just as we seek balance between Top and bottom so we get the most out of our play, so there are emotional highs and lows. You face these issues the way you do other matters in your life, with positive interpersonal communication -- and perhaps a longer than usual good hug.

Adult FriendFinder: In closing, can you give us an idea of what you're doing currently in terms of teaching people about BDSM and how people might contact you if they're interested in exploring some of the things you've talked about?

DUBOIS: In 1995, I opened my Academy of SM Arts, designed to empower those drawn to explore their own fantasies of power play, dispel negative myths about fetish and BDSM and offer people an opportunity to learn solid, practical skills. Now, in addition to presenting workshops and rituals around the country, I am pleased to offer Erotic Dominance Intensives for Women, along with my friend and co-traveler down the kinky road, Sybil Holiday.

[Because so many men have expressed an interest, Ms. Dubois will teach her first intensive workshop for men (Feb 19-20), which sold out immediately. And she'll still be conducting The Erotic Dominance Intensive weekend for Women, March 19-20 at the Citadel in San Francisco. You can find out more about Ms. Dubois and her schedule at http://www.sm-arts.com.]

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