Whips, wax and wicked pain, Mistress Cyan dispels myths of BDSM

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exLos Angeles’s most respected and renowned professional dominatrix (as described by LA Weekly), Mistress Cyan, gave a talk to approximately 40 Occidental students about the Bondage and Discipline/Domination and Submission/Sadism and Masochism (BDSM) community as part of the curriculum for their class, CSP 69, “Debating Controversial Issues in Sexuality,” April 3 in Johnson.

Unforgettable for her towering height and amber hair, Cyan has been involved in the BDSM community for more than 30 years. BDSM, a catch-all phrase, encompasses both sexual and non-sexual activity, defined by the unequal power roles between a dominate (dom) person and a submissive (sub) person.

CSP 69, taught by Associate Professor of Politics Caroline Heldman, explores hot-button issues of sexuality. Heldman urges students to think critically about complex topics that often lead to more questions than answers, such as what is good sex, and what is the purpose of sexual intercourse. Cyan’s talk left CSP 69 students to grapple with questions of whether or not BDSM is empowering, inherently misogynistic and/or a reinforcement of racism.

“Our [course] tackles many complex and fraught issues — prostitution, abortion, age of consent, pedophilia, etc.” Heldman said. “Cyan’s talk was especially important in encouraging students to think critically about BDSM because she represents a side that is stigmatized, and it is often difficult to move past stigmas and myths when it comes to issues of sexuality.”

Cyan explained that she had not always been involved in the BDSM community. Cyan said she was the father of two sons and the director of a housewares and woodenware corporation worth $3.5 billion. She began to identify as female in the late the ’80s. She now identifies as transsexual and feels proud to be able to live authentically, according to her profile in Modelmayhem.

Cyan said she was introduced to the world of BDSM after being invited to a party in the early ’80s. She said that bondage had always been exciting to her as a little kid, especially playing games like cops and robbers, but this was the first time she saw BDSM being performed.

“I went in there [the playroom] and saw this one woman who was inverted; they were pouring hot wax on her,” Cyan said. “It was really scary at this point. But then they told me it was all consensual and safe — when the woman was taken down, there was such a warm embrace and aftercare that made me turn my head.”

As a professional dominatrix, Cyan owns Sanctuary Studios, a 7,000 square foot commercial dungeon located near Los Angeles International AirportShe is also the founder of DomCom (an annual BDSM convention in LA and Atlanta), a community leader commended for her charity work and speaks regularly at University of California Los Angeles, according to the LA Weekly.

During her talk, Cyan dispelled myths surrounding BDSM that she said media fabricates. She explained that BDSM, first and foremost, is about a loving, consensual experience; it is not about the desire to hurt anyone. She described the concept as similar to getting into a warm shower.

“You first get in when it’s a little warm, but not too hot. Once you get comfortable, you gradually turn up the temperature.” Cyan said.

Cyan explained the subs use code words, such as a “red” or “yellow,” to communicate to the doms if things are moving too quickly. Cyan said the sub and dom discuss all matters in great detail before engaging in play and ultimately secure the agreed upon terms in a contract.

“Everything is very consensual,” Cyan said. “Clients will come in and have an interview with potential doms to see if there’s a match. Once the client finds a suitable dom, there is a lengthy discussion about what they want to happen and what they don’t want to happen.”

She further discussed how previous traumas, such as rape or childhood abuse, are taken into account to make sure there are no triggers during play.

Students in Heldman’s class were intrigued. Peri Wallent (first year) said the talk challenged her preconceptions about consent in BDSM.

“It was interesting to learn about the emphasis that’s placed on consent in BDSM, which I think is really cool,” Wallent said. “I also had no idea that there is a thriving BDSM community in LA.”

Anya Silverman-Stoloff (first year) said she was grateful for the opportunity to learn about such a stigmatized topic from somebody who is an expert. She also appreciated the challenging nature of the talk.

“It was helpful to hear her point of view and understand all the aspects of BDSM that might not get talked about in common talk,” Silverman-Stoloff said. “Being uncomfortable and then questioning why you’re uncomfortable is a really valuable experience, and I think a lot of students got that while listening to Mistress Cyan.”

Cyan explained that everybody could benefit from participating in BDSM, so long as they have an open mind and an ability to look past stigmas of BDSM.

Following the discussion, Heldman urged the class to consider Cyan’s talk with a critical eye. For example, she said that a common critique of BDSM arises from the slave master/slave dynamic, a practice which may contribute to racist thought and behavior. On the other hand, Heldman said that BDSM is objectively more consensual than the college hook-up culture.