An Interview with BlakSyn, the Human Behind @KinkyBlackEducator
By KC Van Der Zee
Today, and especially in the Bay Area, we are surrounded by technology and seemingly endless streams of algorithms and information. It is not uncommon for a phone to be in hand of everyday bystanders in the city while walking in public, riding on BART, or sitting on the can. Most people have access to entire online worlds with vibrant communities that stimulate new language and cultural variants, all encompassed and embraced by the usage of a small cellular device. Varying forms of social media, in particular, grant us access to flourishing online communities. There are communities of gamers, social activists, memelords, the alt-right (puke), artists, sex workers, local businesses, educators, and the list goes on. Think of every subculture out there and then times that by 9,000. That’s how many online communities there are. (Okay, there are way more than that.)
We all have our own personally-tailored virtual communications – whether it be consumed with direct engagement or more passively. As an aspiring sex educator and therapist, my feed often includes visuals ranging from burlesque to soft porn, sex worker activism, therapy memes, funny cartoons, and brilliant sex educators. When constructing our online interests through social media, we tend to come across individuals who totally blow our mind. Don’t tell me I’m wrong. You saw that cat who could bark like a dog. Yeah, well…I’ve found something…or someone better. I’m saying it, I came across a human better than a cat.
Meet BlakSyn, the person behind @KinkyBlackEducator on Instagram.
BlakSyn (they/them) is a nonbinary professional in BDSM education and an innovator on these topics in both the on – and offline – realms. They hail from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and also have expertise working as a professional dominant, coach, and visual artist. When I first stumbled across their page all I could think was, FINALLY! Their unique attention to trauma/risk-aware BDSM education had me reeling in validity and gratitude. Additionally, they have a multimedia platform where you will find them using images, videos, articles, brief summaries, visual stories, and more in their lessons. As a person with ADHD and a Gemini who loves variety, each post felt like a new playing field for learning to take place. BlakSyn has covered a wide range of topics that are approachable for folks newer to Kink and BDSM play such as how a Dominant can check-in throughout a scene, as well as topics for advanced kinky savants like a developing range of flogging techniques.
I decided to reach out to BlakSyn for a private lesson on my own points of intrigue and, in addition, for an interview stemming from a place of respect, curiosity, and solidarity in hopes to know more about their story as a human, as well as a Black nonbinary, non-monogamous, trauma-aware educator in a field that is crowded by white providers, affiliates, and discourses.
I am making only minimal edits to the online interview conducted so that their powerful voice comes directly from the source. Without further ado, here my friends is an interview with BlakSyn:
State your name and how you identify (socially and professionally). Please include your pronouns and where you are based.
A: My name is BlakSyn and I identify as myself. I am a non-monogamous, non-binary masculine presenting individual with they/them pronouns. Professionally, I am a BDSM educator, professional dominant, coach and visual artist. I’m based in Philadelphia, PA.
What was your Sex Education like as a child into adulthood?
A: Unfortunately sex education didn’t make very many appearances in my childhood, but it was always very limited in every shape way and form whenever it did. In school, Sex Education was held to the confines of a book without regard for diversity or the nuance involved in the human experience. With literature that only depicted cisgender, heterosexual, mostly white people with “acceptable” body types, I never quite felt at home. We could discuss intercourse, but not the importance of consent. We could put a condom on banana, but couldn’t discuss sex and its intersection with mental health. Send you home with what is essentially a human shaped Tamagotchi? Sure. Talk about how pornography is fantastic, but absolutely devastating to notions around sexuality in our society? Nah. Sex Education in schools is lazy with a scope as large as the period ending this sentence.
There were various other forms of media to learn from, but those weren’t much help either for the same reasons more academic forms of sex education had a tendency to be. I was lucky in my ability to take what was depicted on screens and ponder them critically. That is not the case for many people.
When did you first enter the Kink/BDSM scene and what was your introduction to the scene like? (Online scenes count.)
A: I have practiced BDSM for 13 years and most of that time was spent in private. The reason for this is that when I would venture out and attempt to build community, I would often find myself surrounded by individuals who did not share my reasons for practicing, experiences or concerns. I first entered the actual scene around 5 years ago around Chicago. My introduction to the first communities I came across in Chicagoland were as a result of people who inhabit several communities at once. I’d meet someone who was sexually liberated who was non-monogamous so they would introduce me to polyamorous people. Someone at the local polyamory meetup would mention kink and that’s when I would find my people. The problem, among many others, is the racism, objectification and fetishization that runs rampant in certain communities and circles. My introduction to the scene was shock. I thought that subjects like power dynamics and consent would be held under closer scrutiny in kink communities. They are, but not in the ways I’d hoped in my initial entrance.
What inspired you to begin teaching BDSM/Kink/Sex Education? Talk about how and why you started posting content on Instagram as @kinkyblackeducator and on your website.
A: The lack of representation in BDSM and alternative cultures as a whole finally got to me and was ultimately the reason why I started. Whether it was literature or a screen, I was exhausted. Do you know the labor involved with being marginalized without representation where you have to MAKE something you love work for you in your heart and mind…just to feel like it’s something you can do too? I was tired of not seeing myself reflected in the things I love. I was tired of being seen as and treated like a novelty. Being reduced to body parts and color was tiring. (That’s word to the “Ebony” and “BBC” sections on your favorite porn site.) I was even weary of the history of conservatism mingled with religious indoctrination that ran rampant in the black community.
So what was once my personal IG page became a platform for people to keep up with my adventures. When this whole thing began, I was a personality at the local sex shop that customers really resonated with. That was the catalyst for me changing my account: I wanted to be the local sex shop person who is here to help. Then, my boss repeatedly asked me to teach in the sex shop (we offered classes on a regular and ongoing basis.) She saw something in me I didn’t. She really pushed me and worked with me in the ways I wanted my brand of education to look. When I’d ran out of excuses on why I wasn’t teaching, I gave in in early 2018. I haven’t stopped since. (Thank you, Kali[!])
I would eventually take my in-person classes online as a way to reach those asunder around the entire world. Social media is one of our greatest and worst achievements, but the positivity from this endeavor has been overwhelming.
Do you believe BDSM/Kink inclusive Sex Education is important? Why, or why not?
A: I believe BDSM is absolutely integral to sex education simply because sex education also encompasses BDSM, not to mention the litany of people who practice or hold interest. I believe it must be included as its prevalence has grown steadily over the years as a result of mainstream depictions and discussions around alternative forms of sex. I also think it’s important because of the subject matter contained here. For instance, everything I know about the subject of consent came mostly as a result of my time in BDSM.
What is unique about your style, practice, and/or teachings?
A: I was always someone who sought knowledge beyond the surface of what was offered by those more knowledgeable than myself. “Yes, but why?”, is a phrase that comes to mind. I like to offer my students a more rounded understanding of a subject. Rather than solely teach someone about a single aspect of BDSM, I like to discuss the why, how, what, when, where and more. I like to discuss its intersections with other areas of life such as mental health and gender. I do this while trying to be as inclusive as possible with regard for the diverse nature of BDSM.
What is your take on Sex-Positivity?
A: I think that when people hear or read that, they often lean onto their own understanding and experiences. Notions concerning sex-positivity will be limited as a result with people having different ideas of what it means to be sex-positive. Those notions aren’t wrong. I think it’s important to respect folks for what they find familiar while attempting to broaden their views and understanding. However, to truly embody the meaning of sex-positivity, all of what people find positive must be considered for the scope of representation and inclusion. Sex-positivity also means not making people feel like shit for what they are positive about. It’s respect for all…except where positivity around sex concerns minors and animals.
What are some issues or critiques you have of the BDSM/Kink/Sex-Positive scene?
A: Currently in our community, the biggest conversations we are having are around accountability, cancellation culture, punitive practices and the meaning of community. My biggest issue with the communities I inhabit is the underlying fear under silent threat of being cancelled and ejected from the community. We have unintentionally and indirectly weaponized victimhood as a means to convey that, in order to participate here and be valued by your community, you must be infallible, or be ejected and forgotten. Not that many would admit it, but kinksters, especially tops, fear a misstep in the form of a consent violation most of all. I am of the opinion that there is a difference between honest mistakes and those who run a pattern of abuse. The making of mistakes is very much a part of the human experience and consent violations are as sure as death. I don’t say this as an excuse to encourage, embolden or justify sexual violence. I’m saying that when considering consent, we have to consider all areas of life. Ignoring a “red” during a scene is a consent violation, but so is someone buying a drink for someone they’ve never spoken to at a bar.
My issue is the pitchforks and fire and brimstone that manifests as a result of someone making a mistake. Ridicule and exile is easy and doesn’t require much effort. Invoking transformative justice and finding a path to healing together as a community takes real work. Incidents at this level are traumatic for all involved. Besides, cancellations and ejections gives abusers the opportunity to find more community to abuse. We won’t even mention power dynamics and clout and how they both affect the voices of victims. Shit just needs to change.
In a perfect world, I’d like it if we always and perpetually put victims first, recognized that healing is for everybody and stopped throwing people away.
What are some issues or critiques you have of Sex Education and Sex Ed professions?
A: My biggest critique would have to be for the sex therapists who KNOW that sex education has a very large scope but do nothing to educate themselves to be better accommodating. People in academia stick to their books and training because it’s safe, but why should a client pay you to explain concepts when you can do the work to become better informed? I have real clients I coach who have become disillusioned with their licensed and trained professional for many reasons including something as simple as language regarding their gender. Being informed beyond the scope of classrooms is important for sex education.
Who, in Sex/Kink Education, inspires you?
A: I am inspired by all of the melanated faces who inhabit my platform. It drives me to continue my work.
If you could give one piece of advice to someone beginning their exploration of Kink/BDSM, what would it be?
A: Remember to always negotiate. Never let someone dictate what will happen or occur. BDSM should always be collaborative when it involves others.
Do yourself (and your partner/s) a favor and give BlakSyn a follow. Thank you to BlakSyn for their time and amazing contributions to the online world of BDSM and Sex Education. Thank you to all readers and to Broke-Ass Stuart. Until next time!
KC Van Der Zee (they/them) is a queer artist and activist born and raised on stolen Ohlone land, aka the Bay Area. They are the lead singer of a protest folk-punk band called FRANK, and have produced benefit shows for SWs and survivors of sexual violence in Oakland. They operate Pervy Pins, a pin shop that repurposes vintage smut into sex-positive collages. KC has worked and volunteered in diverse facets of the sex industry, and continues to develop their knowledge in sex education, counseling, psychology, and ancient healing practices.