Kink, consent and joy
A Q&A with domme and rope expert Midori
Written by Abby Lee Hood
You might know Midori for her groundbreaking book The Seductive Art of Japanese Bondage
, or from her numerous workshops on sex and kinky play. You might’ve also heard her Tedx Talk
about art, creation and change, or heard about her change-making sex education and HIV/AIDS work in San Francisco in the '90s.
Midori has done so much for the kink and pleasure community since she began her work 20 years ago, and there’s no better expert to ask about how things have changed and how we can still improve our sex lives. So we sat down to do just that!
We asked Midori how sex education is evolving, and we were surprised to hear her say that pleasure and joy often get lost in trying to make sex perfect, and in trying to understand all the “rules” of play. There’s something for everyone in this candid, in-depth convo with a true sexpert. And if you want more, make sure to download the Coral app! You’ll find tons of great resources from Midori herself in-app that you won’t want to miss.
Why did you get started on this teaching journey?
It started in the early '90s when I landed in San Francisco. I ended up connecting with people that would later be called the sex positive movement. I didn’t realize they were culture changers. [It was] just at the end of some of the worst of the death toll from HIV and AIDS, [and] I ended up doing volunteer work and education. Many of the decisions would not have been considered reasonable adult decisions, like: "Oh sure, I’ll do a live safer sex demo in the middle of a sex club."
Having a background in psychology doesn’t hurt; I studied human sexuality in undergrad. [It] was a remarkable time, having crossed paths with many philosophers of sexuality.
How has sex ed and kink changed since the '90s?
Well I’ll have to put a caveat on that I will only know my little corner of the universe. But I would consider today the age or riches of sexual information. That’s the good. The not-as-good is not all that information is necessarily helpful. Or even accurate.
We have so much information, but people have to sift through so much. At least in the United States, there’s not good primary education on sex ed and emotional ed. The deluge of information of varying quality can cause confusion, and informal education may often create more harm than good.
There’s also an overly regimented, well-meaning desire to create best practices. At times [it has] led to creating almost a seemingly fundamentalist, rule-driven advice around, "this is how you do things," "this is how kink must be done." It’s very rule-centered. Where’s the room for exploration? In my budding days of sexuality, a lot of mistakes were made. We were allowed experimentation and we screwed up a lot, sometimes in very dangerous ways, but the spirit of exploration and pioneering was there. We didn’t have a lot of people to turn to to ask, how do we do this?
Are we doing a better job today of teaching young people about safe sex than we did when you started?
Stigma around identity and sexuality has reduced, and that’s glorious. On the other hand, we’re not equipping people to make consent, and that phrasing is intentional. It’s not transactional, but collaborative creation.
If we could teach our young people to reflect upon "how much am I feeling around sex right now? How much of this is a performance obligation, social pressure, or is it coming from my actual lust and want? Can I distinguish that?"
Consent starts with self.
What lessons would you share with Gen Z and millennials about your own experiences?
I can tell you about what I wish somebody would’ve told me.
Have good posture. You’re letting your body give you the confidence your heart might be wobbly on. When you’re not sure of a situation, if you just take that moment to straighten up, it works. In that moment we end up taking a couple of breaths, we pause in our decision making, just enough. Not to mention people look hella sexy like that.
I might also ask a person, where is the end of you? Where is the edge of you? If the edge of you is your skin, that means anyone else has the right to [be close to you]. If you find yourself, say walking along a sidewalk or going shopping or at a club, start to play with [making yourself larger]. Not from the “thou shalt not cross” but hey, this is the rightfully deserving me. I may be 5’2” but I've got a 10 foot radius. It shifts perspective.
Also, have at least one friend you get into talking about the nittiest and grittiest of your sex life. Like down to like, "we had anal sex and ended up with poo all over the place." You gotta be able to talk to somebody about that.
What have you noticed that’s changing about sex since the pandemic began?
At least in my circle, people seem to have a much easier time talking about COVID status. Because let’s say I have herpes, we have ways around that, but if I just want to have a conversation, you can’t put a condom on the air we breathe.
In a lot of ways it’s easier for those of us who are safer sex conversation equipped to have conversation around it as well as COVID status.
What are your top tips for enjoying kink safely?
I would have to ask the question of what do you mean by safe?
There’s emotional safety, there’s physical safety, there’s social safety. What’s acceptable tonight? Now? In this scene? With you? With them? With me? What would be considered not safe? Maybe the question is, what is not safe?
We tend to assume that safety is in these conversations, it’s something universal, but to one person a bruise is unsafe, where another person it’s a trophy. To one person having an emotional edge pushed is safe where for another it’s a trigger.
How to do kink safely (a seemingly easy question) is profoundly difficult.
What are some tips for beginners to try kinky play?
I call it a sandwich method. To have a good sandwich you have to have good bread, and think of your regular good sex, whatever it is you’re already enjoying—as good bread.
Whatever your regular god sex is, start it that way. The new activity, you add it in the middle, then finish up with that which you know both of you enjoy. Think about a cheese sandwich, you’re only putting in one ingredient. Let’s say that my regular good sex with my person is making out, neck nibble, oral sex giving, oral sex receiving, fuck, orgasm, that’s our arc. The new thing, add it in the middle, and just one thing at a time. Making out, neck nibble, nipple tweaking, blindfold, oral sex, boom. If we liked it we keep it and may add something else. This relies on the recent and primacy effect. That which happens first makes a big impression, and what happened most recently makes a big impression.
The sandwich method keeps it simple, and acknowledging our regular good sex is good. Just because you’re experimenting with kink doesn’t mean you throw that out. With no bread you have no sandwich. Some folks will think that "if I do kinky things, I’ll grow out of the sex we’re having." No, you’re adding to the repertoire.
What are you most looking forward to about the in-app partnership with Coral?
Well, it’s continuing my mission about joy. Why should we have to be so sad and confused? There’s joy that each of us deserve.