Known for her work in the kink, BDSM, rope, and queer scene of NYC, Daemonum X is an archetype for sexual liberation, education, and authenticity. A femme leatherdyke, a collage and zine creator, as well as an incredible rope bondage top, Daemonum X's work is both visceral and poignant. In this interview, she talks about purposeful pain, power dynamics, progressive interpersonal connectivity, and more.
First, can you tell us a bit about your background and what you do? Why do you think you were drawn to rope, sexual education, and the like?
I’m a femme leatherdyke, which means that I define my sexuality primarily as a lesbian who engages in BDSM as a lifestyle. A few years ago I started a zine called FIST, which is an anthology printed about twice a year that collects writing and visual art from other leatherdykes around the world. I contribute a large portion of sales to organizations that benefit members of the queer community with overlapping marginalized identities.
I’m also a rope top, so I tie people up, which I’ve been practicing for about five years now. For me, rope accidentally started as a meditative and sensual activity because I was learning on myself. As someone who doesn’t know how to relax, I found it was a really great way to focus intentional erotic energy on myself. My practice has evolved a lot and now it mostly involves me tying other people, but I do return to self-suspension every so often.
As a queer person, I feel like sexuality is already such a huge part of who I am, so it wasn’t hard for me to start exploring BDSM. I started sharing what I was doing as well as what I was reading on my Instagram and people really responded positively to it. From there I’ve been trying to educate others as much as I can in this lifestyle both online and in-person through workshops. I think education is important for many reasons but especially for queer people because It’s alienating when we only see or hear about straight people engaging in BDSM. Also, Leather community isn’t available everywhere, and as someone who grew up on the internet, I do believe in the power of social communities online to make people feel less alone.
What are some of the common misconceptions about your work? What are the most important topics you want to share with others interested in what you do, and the world of queer kink?
Honestly, the thing that happens most often, and because I do pro-topping sessions as well, is that people don’t realize that rope bondage suspensions hurt. I think it’s because they have only seen the censored and sanitized Instagram photos as reference for what really happens. The bottoms look ethereal and they might be staged in a cute outfit in front of a backdrop so it looks more like aerial yoga. Shibari is derived from Japanese military torture, so make no mistake that it hurts! I practice rope suspension as a vehicle for sadism, this is a sadomasochistic practice.
While BDSM has recently become more popular due to that one famous book/movie, it is important to remember that it’s still super stigmatized. There’s a lot of hierarchy of respectability even within the kink community as in “this kink is ok, but that kink is bad.” I don’t subscribe to respectability politics and I do believe in complete sexual liberation. An important thing that I like to share about kink and my lifestyle is to remember that what consenting adults choose to do with each other is a choice and no one should project their experiences or opinions onto anyone else. Let people live.
Do you have a philosophy behind your rope or the works that you publish like Fist Zine and Linked?
Authenticity is something I always strive for in my personal life, the people I surround myself with, my play space, and absolutely for my zines. For example: I have played with people who said they were into some extreme things that I was excited about, then I quickly realized that they were lying or misrepresenting their experience to appeal to me. I would much rather engage with someone who has no experience and is honest because otherwise, it’s manipulative.
For FIST, authenticity is super important because now it’s become trendy to be queer and it’s trendy to be into BDSM. Since I don’t know everyone who submits to FIST, I ask a screener question before I will include their work. If I want to publish someone I don’t know, I send them a message and ask them if they identify as a leatherdyke. A few people have said no, and that just means FIST isn’t for them! My other zine called Linked, about polyamory, is basically all about living authentically and ethically, and knowing yourself first so you can communicate and have healthy relationships.
Tattoos and BDSM are similar in that it involves someone submitting to pain and they can be highly transformative, expressive, as well as incredibly intimate moments. As someone who has delved deeply into both, how can you go about experiencing these outlets/art forms in a healthy way? Do you think there is a connection between kinks and tattoos?
There’s actually quite a lot of overlap between tattoos and BDSM. Everything from mainstream society’s perceptions of us as freaks, to voluntarily experiencing pain, to permanent body modification. Everyone has a different reason for getting tattooed, but I’d say a majority of tattooed people have some kind of significance and meaning for permanently altering their bodies. While most of these people don’t enjoy the pain and wouldn’t identify as masochists, the commonality with kink is that they both invoke a kind of somatized ritual. There’s an intention and a spirituality in many scenes that tattooed people can identify with.
How do you go about choosing your tattoos and choosing the artists who do them?
What usually happens when I want a new tattoo is that the idea just hits me. I’m mostly inspired by other art and then immediately think of a way to alter it to fit me. A lot of my tattoos are spins on traditional tattoos, like I have praying hands but they’re tied up with rope instead of wrapped in a rosary.
I only get tattooed by women and queer people, which is a choice I made a few years ago based on who I feel safe enough to share my body with, and whose art I want to support. Their style has to fit my aesthetic and, obviously, they have to be great artists.
I often feel like self care is a very important, but seldom spoken, need for people involved in anything that involves pain, emotion, intimacy, etc. What self care advice do you have? How can we make sure to care for ourselves, while still enjoying emotionally or physically demanding experiences?
Practicing BDSM is amazing but also exhausting on every level, and if I find myself subconsciously retreating it means that I’m experiencing burn out and not taking care of myself. My number one self-care tip is to learn about boundaries and clearly define yours. Boundaries are the best way to protect your energy and lay out ahead of time what you can offer to others that doesn’t drain you. Beyond that, learning how to listen to your body and paying attention to signals that you need rest are so important. There are the classic things we all can do when we experience burn out that help us feel better, like taking a fancy bath, etc, but I like to make sure I have firm boundaries in place so I rarely get to the point where I have to go into regeneration mode.
What is your advice for people who want to explore a deeper sexual or kink-based relationship with themselves or others? Any books, blogs, etc. that you’d suggest? Who are some of your heroes within the queer kink scene?
A lot of people ask me this question and there’s truly no shortcuts. You have to prioritize your desires and go after what you want. Get on Fetlife and find events and meet people. Talk to your partner about your fantasies. Buy the rope and take the class. Hire sex workers. It definitely helps to do research first, there are so many books that I can recommend but my favorites are the classics - Leatherfolk, and Leathersex. The people who contributed to these works are my heroes, they’re the Leather elders who paved the way for us by fighting for our space at the table and showing other queer people that respectability and assimilation won’t save us.
Any projects, collabs, events, etc. coming up that you’d like to share?
I’m due for another FIST release, so issue 5 will be announced soon!