On BDSM and Race: Racial Fetishes and Cultural Heritage, ft. Mistress Niko Flux

Both Mistress Niko Flux and I are two Chinese-American dominatrices living in New York City. In this conversation we begin to examine how our race has manifested (either directly or indirectly) in our respective practices. How do the power dynamics of BDSM relate to racial power dynamics? Is that intersection affected by the power dynamics of capitalism? How has our cultural upbringing and our relationships with our parents affected our work?

Don’t forget to read part 2 on Mistress Niko Flux’s website.

EW: When I thought about reaching out to you, something that was really prominent was during the summertime, when you and I first met, we talked about identifying racism under the lens of BDSM, especially racism as it relates to power. Especially in our profession, which I think becomes very interesting and the power dynamics in our profession become so convoluted. It becomes, I believe, really multidirectional. I don’t really think it’s simply linear anymore. And there are so many different levels of play and theatre and simulation that goes into the different directions of power.

MN: Because in BDSM, you’re living on a few different realities at once. And in each of those realities the power flows in different directions.

EW: It is so complicated! When somebody says “I’m a white man. I believe that Asian women are superior”, how does that make you feel?

MN: Well, you know, it fluctuates, and I believe it has fluctuated over the course of me maturing as a domme. Because I think growing up, that for me was a huge burden and a huge fear, an anxiety; to be fetishized is to be invalidated. I didn’t have that deep reserve of confidence and self-assurance that I think both of us have now. It would scare me a lot, and I would run. What about you?

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EW: I think that my approach to somebody proclaiming their love for my race has definitely changed over time as well. Because here’s the dilemma; when somebody says, “I’m a white man, I believe x about the Asian race, or Asian women,” It lands in two different ways. The first being that you’re talking a lot of shit right now and you should be paying me. The second is “well what exactly makes me different from all the other Asian Dommes you’re talking to,” which is where the fetishization comes in

MN: That’s the part that I think that as a younger person scared me. That it truly did not matter who I was, I was just another--

EW: a token

MN: But now, I see that as a source of deep power. Instead of seeing that as a negative, I’ve started, sometimes unsuccessfully, to turn it around in my mind. To say, “oh, so you’re a sucker for anyone that’s a little bit like me. PATHETIC” I will use that to my full advantage. W: It’s also very interesting too, when money is entered into the picture. Like when we are paid for this thing. And I think that maybe there’s a part of me that doesn’t like it, because I don’t like the idea that this man thinks that he gets to decide which women are better than others. Which, again, is a reason why your approach makes a lot of sense on the basis of “oh you really think you get to judge who’s the best?” I think it’s brilliant.

I used to stop somebody in the middle of their conversation, or in the middle of a scene, or I’d stop somebody in the middle of us establishing a negotiation, and say, “hey, I’m not angry, i’m just letting you know this is how this has the possibility to land when you talk to me and you use this as your only frame of reference.”

MN: So you take them out of the fantasy for a moment and you deal with them on that level?

EW: Yea! I attempt to level with them in a way that is very logistical.

MN: Cool. Because I’ve always been afraid to do that. Because I feel like in some ways I don’t--Because I’ve always wanted to be able to sublimate it on just the fantasy level

In one case, this guy calls me on NiteFlirt, and he says “I have a fetish for Asian women. My previous mistress was this powerful Asian woman. And she used to make me compare my tiny penis to bigger penises and make me describe my penis.”

And I said “Ok great, so just send me a photo of your tiny penis” And he did and we compared it to a larger penis. I had him read me a list of adjectives that he had for his. And the words were like “dainty” and “cute”. I said “oh interesting. Your mistress had you call your penis things that a misogynistic man would value in a woman.”

So I said “why don’t we make a new list for your penis, with words that are stereotypes about Asian women and our culture.” We went one by one; I would say one and he would say one: “Docile,” “Submissive,” “Lotus Flower”. I was actually starting to educate him about stereotypes. I asked “Do you know what the model minority* is?”. And he said “no”.

So I said “When they call Asians the model minority, they’re saying x and this is problematic because of x. But I think your penis is a model minority, because it looks very polite but it’s tiny”. And when I got off the phone with him, I felt amazing. But that is only one out of many people who I’ve seen with Asian fetishes where I feel like I’ve been able to succeed in that goal

EW: I love that because in a way, it’s similar to Freudian penis envy. I think maybe that’s where the fetish comes from; a lot of white men really enjoy taking on the stereotype of an Asian woman.

MN: huh. They want to be put in that role by an Asian woman. Explain what you mean by penis envy?

EW: In all of that Freudian psychological bullshit, penis envy is the idea that women suffer from psychological and emotional castration because they cannot be men, and they cannot penetrate in the way that men penetrate. And the way that they act is because they are jealous, because they are lacking this substantive. So in the same way, that idea can be turned on its head in which white submissive men seek out Asian women because they want to embody the roles that we embody.

MN: It’s this idea of Orientalism**. Where Asian women in a way are an embodiment of the exotic,

EW: Of the luxurious! Have you ever read “Striptease” by Roland Barthes***?

MN: No

EW: Well Barthes talks about the mechanics of a striptease, and how a striptease is all about the coverings--they’re all about the silks, the surroundings, all about the environment. And he specifically points out orientalist props in this essay, and how the cultivation of the erotic relies heavily on the props and not the actual nudity within a striptease. So if you’re talking about Orientalism….

MN: It’s all about everything other than the center

EW: Exactly. Everything BUT the climax.

MN: Anyway, That’s always the subtext of “your race is superior”. It’s racism. A client of mine who was into forced-bi scenarios with Asian men would say “Oh I would do such a good job sucking Asian cock. And for a reward you can give me a bowl of rice”. So it’s clearly more on the side of bad experiences. But I think part of the beauty of what we do, we are given the ability to sometimes turn it around, through our skills, through our intelligence, through our ability to fantasy-create and to go in.

EW: And the space we are given to have really intimate and honest conversations.

I think there’s a part of me that wonders “oh well why don’t I enjoy it? Why don’t i just go with it and go with the flow?” And there’s a part of me that really does understand that this fetish is rooted in racism, not just against Asian women, but it’s really rooted in anti-blackness as well, and rooted in exclusion of any kind of race that’s not East Asian. There’s a lot of East Asian privilege that goes into the Asian fetish. Which is another reason why I feel really hesitant about capitalizing on it. But then at the same time I wonder if i do capitalize on it, is there a way for me to 1) capitalize on it in a way that subverts it or 2) allows me to share the wealth. To tunnel into the psyche of the people who are proclaiming to love this part about me, and, like you said, to sublimate the fantasy.

MN:  I like what you said also about sharing the wealth and being conscious about our privilege. Because we do occupy an extremely privileged position. I think as long as you and the Asian Fetishist develop a kind of self awareness, and as long as your goal is to guide this pathetic, depraved little fucker into self awareness--I think that’s the way to do it.

Click here to read part 2 on Mistress Niko Flux’s blog, where we talk about how our relationship with our parents informs our work.

*For more information about the Model Minority myth and its harms, click here
**For more information about the history of Orientalism, click
here
***To read Barthes’ essay “Striptease,” click
here