Midori talks in aphorisms. I realized this about halfway through one of her classes, “The Art of Feminine Dominance,” while I was taking notes, and almost every note was an aphorism. So few words, so much meaning: “By dominating someone, you may be able to help someone else free themselves to be themselves.” And, “Without light, we can’t see. Without darkness, there is no depth.”
Probably best known for her sexuality education workshops and rope work (see her book, “The Seductive Art of Japanese Bondage“), Midori is also an artist and a writer—of smut, not erotica, as she warned me when I purchased her short story collection, “Master Han’s Daughter,” after one of her workshops. “There are tentacles in this!” she said, just in case I was looking for romantic erotica. I wasn’t.
Midori recently spent a week in Chicago, and though her trip was sponsored by Ropecraft, a weekend rope conference, Midori was able to make it to a couple of local sex toy shops to spread her knowledge as well. I was able to attend each of them—“The Exquisite Whip” and “Pink Japan: Sex and Taboo Today” at the Pleasure Chest, and the aforementioned “Art of Feminine Dominance” at Early to Bed. I didn’t go to the rope conference, but it kind of felt like I went to Midori Con.
I was lucky enough to snag some time with her in between events to have a conversation about her workshops, her creative processes, and the difference between her artwork and the artistry of her kink.
[Edited for length.]
Nicole: I’d like to start by talking about your Chicago events because you have so many of them this week.
Midori: Yes, I do! Last night was called “The Exquisite Whip.” In two hours, we covered flogger play, selecting floggers, scene dynamics, and some solid basic skills to create great scenes.
Tonight, I’m teaching my “nerdy” class, “Pink Japan: Sex and Taboo Today” [about the sexual subcultures of Japan].
Next week, I’m doing “The Art of Feminine Dominance,” and I want to specify, that class is open to all genders and orientations. It is the art of feminine dominance, not the art of female dominance. And it’s also great for partners.
Is it like a little piece of your ForteFemme weekend intensive?
Yes, it’s a tiny sliver. ForteFemme is a weekend intensive with me and nine other women for “tapping into your authentic power from the bedroom to the boardroom.” It is not about the wacky, pokey, bindy things. It’s about finding your individual, authentic, and ethical expression of power and erotic power.
We take the conventional and pedestrian definitions and assumptions [around kink] and throw them out the window. And we look at things from a place of compassion [and] the joyful, psychological perspective. With realism. And by “realism,” I mean, look, you got school, you got work, you got family. You’re stuck in traffic. How much playtime do we really have in life, you know? And dealing with the realities of life. So it’s about balance.
When I first heard “ForteFemme,” I assumed it was for dominant women or people who self-identify as tops. But it’s about more than kink.
It is. And, just to clarify, no experience needed. I also don’t make an assumption on how a person identifies. I’m a stickler on that. A person is not “a dominant.” A person is a person. A person engages in dominance. Or hungers for dominance or hungers for submission. So when we say a person is a top, a bottom, a dominant, a submissive, I think we engage in the subconscious reduction and objectification of the self, and that is not good. It’s a counter to feminism and it’s counter to humanism.
Now, I understand if we’re using this as shorthand. Let’s say you and I are playmates and I say, “I’m your bottom.” Then that’s kind of romantic. But that’s coming from a place of understanding complexity.
I also wanted to talk about your art. You’re a performance artist.
Yes, thank you! I’m going to be doing a TEDx Talk at SoMa and I’m very excited. I’m also doing a social practice art evening at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts the very next day. One day is the TEDx Talk, and the next day is actually doing what I talk about in the TEDx Talk.
I just had a big performance in Tokyo performing at a Freakcore Performing Arts event, then in Seattle at the Seattle Erotic Arts Festival, where I did Kimono 2. Then I did a small performance/presentation in New York and then the next weekend I was clown performing in San Francisco.
That sounds exhausting!
It was absolutely fun and totally exhausting. But I have an amazing team and great colleagues and you know, the struggle is real, man, the struggle is real, trying to make a living as an artist. The process of applying to grants and working with curators…
And you also write. Do you have people who are more into your sex ed work and people who are into your performance art, or do they overlap?
All of the above. There are some people who know all of my work. My friends and colleagues who are artists are, not surprisingly, also kinky. Kinky artists, that’s a shock, right? So there are those who know both and like both, but I do find it sometimes frustrating when I talk to folks in the kink world and they’re like, “Oh, you’re an artist? Yeah, your rope bondage is art,” and I’m like, “No, my rope bondage is not art. I’m glad you think it’s artful, but it’s not art.”
I found the mini-scene you did last night [during the Exquisite Whip class] artistic. Are you OK with that description?
I’m fine if you call it artistic, I’m fine if you call it artful. It’s different than my art work. So if you find it pretty or artful or moving, awesome, but it is different than my art practice and discipline.
Also during that class, we saw an idea for a scene come to you from just a word someone said. Do ideas usually come to you quickly?
It’ll be a snippet. Usually a word or vision or images and then it pretty rapidly goes into a full impression. I spend a lot of time thinking outside of the box or working outside of common practices. And as I decide if something needs to become a reality, whether it is artwork or for pleasure, instead of looking at the limitations first, I look at the possibilities. I think a lot of people start with, “so much is not possible,” instead of “hey, what can I do?”
I come from a place of abundance and creativity, even if it’s hypothetical and entirely imagined…and then I narrow it down.
How did you end up on Patreon?
Fellow artist Cecelia Tan. I am compelled by the madness that is the artistic drive. I don’t have a choice but to create. Ideas come at me like out of a fire hose. And there was one late night where I was exasperated, I was exhausted, and wondering about the lunacy of this—how am I gonna fund this, why didn’t I get a responsible grown-up job? Part of it is pride, and I swallowed my pride and set up the Patreon page, and it turns out there are people who are actually interested in being patrons and involved in my art. And so much of my artwork has so much to do with identity, suffering, social justice. And I don’t often have a thing to sell, I create experiences.
I have to create. I can’t create all of [my ideas], I have a notebook full of stuff. But once in awhile I’m crazy enough to pick one out and actually do it.