by Sensuous Sadie
Interview with Sybil Holiday AKA M. Cybelle Holiday, Professional
Domina, certified sex educator, certified clinical hypnotherapist,
certified energy worker, and author.
Sybil Holiday is a Professional Domina and Certified Sex Educator. She offers play sessions, educational and demonstration sessions, sexuality and BDSM education, hypnotherapy, spiritual counseling, and education regarding various forms of energy. She is the co-author with William Henkin of Consensual Sadomasochism: How To Talk About It And How To Do It Safely.
SENSUOUS SADIE: You do a lot of work with Tantra, an “ancient form of Yoga that uses breath, energy and energy awareness, sound, motion/stillness, visualization, and eroticism to connect with Spirit. Tantric SM combines these elements with the judicious application of pain, allowing the bottom to process the intense sensations more efficiently and fully so that s/he can go to a deeper level.” Can you describe how a Tantric SM scene might actually unfold?
SYBIL HOLIDAY: “Of course there are many ways that a Tantric scene might go, the following is only one. Having said that, the first thing I almost always do, after collaring a person which is a hypnotic ritual in and of itself, is teach them a few breathing techniques. I use many different methods drawn from various sources; Tantra, Wicca, Native American, Jungian psychology and archetypes, hypnosis and NLP practices are the main ones, and almost all of them incorporate breathing techniques.
“The first is simply learning to breathe together with me as the leader of the inhale and exhale. The second is learning deep belly breathing. Most people, when told to take a deep breath, will fill the chest rather than the belly. This is actually shallow breathing and does have a place, but not it’s not a good technique to process pain!
“The third technique, which builds on deep belly breathing and is extremely useful for processing pain is slow, deep, controlled belly breathing, with the exhale usually being twice longer than the inhale; a count of 4 on the inhale and 8 on the exhale, or 3/6, or 5/10, or, for the really adventurous, 6/12. This breath technique is to be used whenever there’s pain. I also teach them that if a difficult sensation is administered while they are breathing in, to immediately breathe out as if one is blowing out a candle.
“And the fourth, if I wish to get even emotionally closer, is for the person to breathe in as I breathe out and to breathe out as I breathe in, and as we are close physically at this time we are sharing air. This can become extremely intimate.
“The eye contact is also very important. I know certain Dom/mes require that their submissives always keep their eyes down and never make eye contact. That is absolutely counter-productive to what I want, so I eliminated that early on. Left eye to left eye gazing, not looking away but staying with the person past that difficult moment of awkward vulnerability, is how I first engage them with my eyes. And I tell them what I’m doing and ask that they follow and learn. The left eye is the portal the to the right side of the brain, which is the home of the subconscious; the spontaneous, non-judgmental, creative, spiritual side of the brain.
“Then, we might get more physical. I am a big fan of nipple/breast/chest work, which can access the heart chakra. So I like to start by slapping, flogging, or paddling the entire upper chest, especially the area in between the nipples, with a my hand/fist or thuddy instrument. I don’t want sting here, I want deep, opening-up thud. Please DO NOT, however, punch the left area of the chest where the heart is located! The person may be still kneeling at this time, and when I wish to get more serious I will have them stand and use my suspension spreader bar to restrain them while I flog the upper chest and upper back.
“At this time I wish people to not shake, wiggle, etc., as it dilutes the energy release later. This is the time to build and store the energy, which will be moved, directed, and released later. If they feel the need to release at this time I encourage them to release the energy through the eyes to me, and to also soften their gaze.
“I receive their energy through my eyes, and give it back to them through my hands and the pain my hands and toys are creating. It’s a never-ending cycle of sensation, energy, and awareness. I never keep their energy, but always share it back with them, building, building, and building.
“Then I concentrate on the nipples and the sensation becomes more intense and focused. And I then spread that sensation out into the breast/chest area, so that the entire upper chest is inflamed in a broad band of heat.
“I might teach them about chakras (Sanskrit term referring to one of seven major bioenergy vortexes that begin at the base of the spine, and go up to the crown of the head...emanating as an energy wheel around the spinal column. Each holds a different aspect of the psyche [psyche in ancient Greek means soul]), or not. I might simply ask them to concentrate on the warmth spreading from their nipples/chest area, and send it to an area just above the genitals, creating a triangle of fire. I might use clothespins or other clips/clamps to create this triangle, placing one on each nipple and one directly above the genitals on the mons, and perhaps then ‘fill in the gaps.’
“All the time I’m physically and emotionally close to the person, encouraging them and appreciating the energies that are being built - the energy inside them, the corresponding energy inside me that is responding to their masochism/submission, and the energy that is being built between the two of us.
“I might connect my chakras with theirs, this is called cording, to facilitate the union. At the end, I decord. It’s important to know that at the end all personal energies are returned, ‘What’s mine come with me, what’s not go where you belong.’
“The removal of the clips is the time to release that energy which has been building inside the person, and perhaps inside me. Where that energy is sent is up to me and the person, and may have been decided on beforehand. To send it to my crotch, my heart, send it to a friend who is sick, send it to a part of the person’s body that needs healing, send it to The Divine in thanks, all of this and more is a possibility. Where is it to be sent at that intense moment? How I remove the clips depends on the intent and the person. It might be slow, fast, all at once as in a zipper, or wiggling each one, building the energy up even more before removing it. Many variations on a theme.”
Sadie: “You also do "Tantric flogging." What is this? What is the key thing that differentiates this from regular flogging?
Sybil: “There are two key elements that differentiate Tantric Flogging from ‘regular’ flogging - what I’m doing and, most importantly, what the person is doing during the whipping. The person’s breathing is essential -- that deep belly breathing -- with a count of (usually) 4/8. The second thing I teach them to do is drawn from my experience described below. I teach them to become a clear, flexible tube, with their personality guided to the sides of that tube.
“Meanwhile, my job is to very steadily and hypnotically flog them in an rhythmic manner, moving from my deerskin flogger to a heavier cowhide flogger. I’m not doing this to gratify my sadistic needs. That happens during other kinds of scenes! The purpose of the increasing pain, just at the person’s limits, is to provide an opportunity for the person to engage with and move down through the trap door described below, for it’s by moving through the pain and energetic blocks that can one fly.
My other job is when the person starts undulating on the table --“dolphining” is my nickname for the movement - sometimes I can sense the person’s own energy that is stuck at a certain place and I will use my hands -- not touching them but hovering about 8-12 inches away from the body -- to draw the stuck energy up and out. I don’t tell them I’m doing this. It wasn’t until I was giving a class on Tantric Flogging that my girl, who was the demo model, learned about it. Someone asked during Q and A what the “hand waving” was all about, and after I explained, she looked at me in amazement. She then told me she never knew I was doing anything, but had experienced times during floggings when she felt blocked and then woops! for no reason the energy would shift.
Sadie: “In describing an early whipping experience you wrote that, "As he whipped me, I started to see something like a drawbridge in reverse, a trap-door, in my mind's eye. I knew that if I took a deep breath, opened up the back of my throat and lowered my voice, breathed deeply and pushed my awareness down, the trap door would open up and I would drop down through it, and I could allow the pain." Was this a spiritual experience for you?
Sybil: “It most certainly was a spiritual experience. After a number of these ‘trap-door’ experiences, much to my amazement I became a tube: my personality, identity, had been pushed to the side of the tube and I was empty, a conduit for the most profound energy coursing through me, up through my feet, through my body, and up out the top of my head. I was ecstatically happy. At one point I remember shouting, ‘Yes Sir! THANK YOU SIR!’ and the room became still. As I had a blindfold on I couldn’t tell why. When I asked Sir he smiled and said that I had shouted so loud and happily that everyone - approximately 100 people - heard it over the music and turned to look.
“My body began to undulate on the bondage table like a dolphin. I thought, ‘What the…?’ and quickly realized that any thought took me out of the experience and into my head. I went back to my breathing and being a tube, the undulations increased and I began to shudder all over in waves from the bottom of my feet up through my body and out the top of my head, like the energy that was coursing through me.
“It was like an orgasm, but it made the very best orgasm I’d had up till then feel like a pleasant sneeze. And I’d had some big, juicy, long-lasting multiple orgasms! This was different, and REALLY, NO KIDDING BIG. It wasn’t sexual in that my genitals weren’t the focus, and it was extremely erotic in that I was turned on all over my entire body, and totally alive. This was the scene that deeply intensified my desire to learn about SM. I wanted more of that experience and I wanted to be able to take others to that place”
Sadie: How do you know when a "regular" SM experience moves into the spiritual realm?”
Sybil: “What is ‘spiritual?’ That can mean so many things to so many people, or even the same person! To me, it is when ‘Spirit’ becomes involved, my spirit and the others’ spirit, and the scene is not about my or the other’s sexual orgasm but something bigger. In Tantra, the sexual union is very spiritual. The focus is not on orgasm, but on union, dissolving the barrier between us till we are one. So that is my focus when I play in this way. To unite in some way with the other, to merge.”
Sadie: You teach about trances, and the difference between a trance and a hypnotic state. How are they different, and how does this affect BDSM play?
Sybil: “Both are highly focused states of awareness, combined with a relaxing of the conscious mind so that the subconscious mind is foremost. Hypnosis is a trance with the added element of suggestibility. Of course, that’s not so if it’s something like ‘highway hypnosis’ which I would classify as more of a trance.
has been my experience that in bdsm play we, the bottom and the
Top, can go into a trance together. Other words for this might be
‘bottom space’ and ‘Top space.’ When a bottom is relaxed -- excited,
but relaxed - and is in rapport, in synch, with the Top, the barriers
go down and the bottom becomes more open, vulnerable, trusting,
and thus, more suggestible. I’ve watched many bottoms go into trance,
or hypnosis, and not know it. But when the scene is over and the
collar is off, quite often one might look around, shake his head,
laugh a bit self-consciously and say, ‘Wow, I feel like I’m coming
out of a trance!’ And so they are.”
Sybil: “I was 25 and in a vanilla relationship with a very sexy guy. When we had sex, I was very aroused, and came quite a few times. And at the end, his orgasm was so pleasurable to him that it turned me on tremendously. Unfortunately, he was one of those men, who, once he ejaculated, fell almost immediately into a sleep for about 20 minutes. So there I’d be, aroused again, with a somnambulistic partner! So, I would masturbate. But I did so secretly, because I knew if he ‘caught’ me, he would be upset.
“And I was right. One night, he woke up faster than usual, noticed what I was doing, and accused me of faking my orgasms. I tried to explain that it was his orgasm that had so aroused me, but he didn’t believe me.
“So, the next time this happened, I did some Kegels, hoping for some ‘secret’ relief. I didn’t orgasm the first time, or the 3rd, or even the 20th, but I began to get rather proficient at arousing myself using only my PC muscles. And then one night as I was squeezing my muscles, I noticed that my cunt was almost squeezing itself. It was pulsing with a life of it’s own. (I feel like I’m beginning to write porn). And my clitoris was also throbbing with a life of it’s own, too. So I stopped trying so hard, and just let the sensations happen on their own, following them with my mind’s…eye? finger? Tracing the pleasure, noticing where it felt better and better, and concentrating on building that pleasure, and surrendering to it.
“As I was lying in bed doing this erotic meditation, the pleasure took off and slow waves of bliss began to spread from my clitoris outward, encompassing my entire vulva, inner thighs, buttocks, expanding to include my entire lower body from my abdomen to my thighs.
“Wow! Let’s do this again! And again! I began to give my cunt complete control over where and when it could come alive. Soon I realized I could become aroused anywhere, anytime. Waiting for the bus became much more pleasurable. So did riding on the bus!”
Sadie: You describe yourself as a "Neo-Pagan Goddess worshipper with Tantric Buddhist leanings." Could you explain this in lay terms? How does this actually translate to your everyday life?
Sybil: “I say Neo-Pagan, in that today no one really knows exactly how the ancient pagans worshipped, what their rituals were, etc. We have some idea, but much was lost in the ‘Burning Times.’ So what Pagans do today is ‘Neo,’ new, in that is has been re-created anew.
“My spirituality has been a long search to find what works for me. As early as 8 years old, every night I was starting my evening prayers with something like, ‘Oh dear Jesus, you know you’re not the One for me. I don’t know who is, but I bet you all know each other up there, so would you please pass this along to who is the One for me? I know you’re not a messenger boy or anything like that, but I don’t know who to send this too, so would you please help me?’
“My own spirituality was rather eclectic, drawn from a deep love for nature, divination, tarot cards, astrology, and a belief in reincarnation. But in 1983, I heard someone say, ‘Goddess bless you’ in response to a sneeze. Odd, isn’t it, how awakenings come about! ‘Goddess?’ I thought. Hmmm. I researched the notion of a Female Divine principal, came across Starhawk’s ‘Dreaming The Dark’ and discovered that my spirituality, that which I had thought was my own creation, was really a re-creation of Wicca.
“And around that time there was this scene I did with a smart, hot butch dyke who liked to get fisted. While we were playing, I began to receive images in my head, like mental snapshots, of us in a cave with wolves. I was an elder priestess, and was initiating her in some ancient ritual. She was seated with her legs opened very wide and outstretched, with unrefined lit candles all along both her thighs. I was pinning her inner vaginal lips back with crude needles, exposing her completely.
“These snapshots kept appearing after she left, and I found myself wandering about my large Victorian flat in a trance, picking up various objects, a candle holder here, an incense burner there, some items of both my maternal and paternal Grandmothers, and putting them all into a cedar box onto the chest in the entrance area of my flat.
“I realized I had created my first, formal altar. I say formal, because I also realized that night that there were little altars all over my house! Areas where small groupings had sprung up, with candles, incense, photos, and assorted other objects dedicated to various people, concepts, issues, etc.
“I studied many books on Wicca and various forms of Paganism, and came to the understanding that I am and have been a moon priestess for many lifetimes. The cycle of Nature was and still is very important to me as a guide for my life’s path. The cycle of the new moon, full moon, and waning moon represent many cycles; life, death, and rebirth; the maiden, mother, and crone, beginnings, middles, and endings are but a few. And I love how, no matter when or where you stand on Earth, we all share the same moon.
“The “Tantric Buddhist” part came in about ten years back. A favorite author of mine is Ken Wilbur. While reading his book, “One Taste,” which is a diary of a year of his life, I realized that I no longer really thought of the Divine as Female, Male or any gender, and that Goddess worship didn’t really express what I currently believed/felt. Buddhist teachings were the closest I could find to my beliefs. So Paganism isn’t how I think of the Divine any more, but it is a lovely metaphor. It is a beautiful, artful form of worship, and I do still revere the Earth as an expression of the Divine to be honored, taken care of - a stewardship if you will - and something for which to be deeply grateful.
“Tantra - a form of spirituality that regards sexual energy as a path to spiritual wisdom - continues to educate and elevate my life. By the way, sexuality is only about 30% of Tantric teachings. However, it’s a really important 30%!
“How does this manifest in every day life? The short answer is that I am so happy, truly ecstatic, to be alive, no matter what.”
Sadie: How long have you been involved in the BDSM scene? Please tell me a little bit about your background and experience.
Sybil: “Well, I’m a convert. I got involved in the scene in 1979 when a new roommate of mine wanted to put ringbolts in the beautiful woodwork of my Victorian flat! I had no fantasies of spanking or dominance at the time, I was strictly into sexual sensation. I thought of myself as very knowledgeable - after all, I’d been in the adult entertainment Industry since I was 18 and I was then 30, I’d known for a long time that I was bi-sexual, had been to many swinger parties, owned at least 4 vibrators, and was multi and g-spot orgasmic.
“But I was shocked, shocked I tell you, when she told me the reason she wished to desecrate the woodwork was so her boyfriend could tie her up and spank her! As she and I had been having big power struggles from the day she moved in, I thought, ‘Oh God, now I’ve got a sicko living in my home - what DO I do?’
“As I’d known her since 1975 I didn’t immediately toss her out, but listened, when after a month of attending The Society of Janus meetings she came to me and apologized for being non-consensually dominant with me. She told me she only wanted to do power-play with those who wanted to do it with her and only in her sex life, and that SM wasn’t what I thought it was, so would I please go to a Janus meeting and learn?
“I thought, ‘Hmm. If there’s something about sex that I don’t know about that’s good and fun, where do I sign up?’ So one night I attended a SOJ meeting with her. I was so scared - would I meet some sex-crazed nut job? Would some psycho follow me home and…? That night I had going through my head every misconception, myth, and fear an uninformed person could have about SM.
“And of when I got there, who did I meet? Why, you and me, of course. I met the treasurer at the time, a sweet 75 year old accountant into bondage. I met the orientation directors, a poet and a thrift store manager. And I listened as people described how things worked and what they did when they didn’t, and I came away amazed.
“I had truly thought of myself as sexually sophisticated, and I was to an extent. But I’d not found, in the adult entertainment industry or the swingers community, people who were having such unapologetic, detailed, refreshingly upfront conversations about - not just sex -- but bondage, spanking, piss, dominance, oh my head was in a swirl! I knew I had to go back. I didn’t know if I was top or bottom, I didn’t even know what those words meant but I knew there was something there for me.
“So I joined Janus and went to every program they presented. Two programs a month and this was the only thing going on at the time, no clubs, fetish balls, and certainly no Internet.
“The rest, as they say, is history”
Sadie: There are probably a lot of misconceptions about being a Professional Domina, the most common being that Professional Dominants are prostitutes. Can you give me a quick explanation about how these two careers differ, and how that affects you as a professional?
Sybil: “For me, the main difference, other than there is no direct sexual contact, is that I really am in charge of what’s going to happen, to whom, and how. That just doesn’t happen in the world of prostitution. The man believes he’s bought something, the use of the female body, and has the right to determine how he is going to use it. I did try prostitution briefly in my late teens. For me it was a form of unacknowledged, unconscious, and nonconsensual sexual submission. I didn’t last long, not even a month.
“I also worked in a massage parlor briefly. This was closer to my style, as I was wearing a really sexy uniform and they were naked, I was standing up while they were lying down, and I controlled the proceedings! But it still wasn’t what I wanted to do.
“In 1969 I became a Go-Go dancer on Broadway in San Francisco. Now THAT was fun, and I became quite an accomplished striptease artist, traveling halfway around the world, and all across and up and down the USA.
“In 1983 I quit the world of striptease and entered into a one and a half year of training as a Mistress, and in 1985 opened up a Dungeon with my former roommate!”
Sadie: How do you manage clients who do want sexual contact? Is this a common expectation, or do most people "get it" from reading the website?
Sybil: “It’s very simple. I tell them ‘no.’ Most do understand by reading my site, but I advertise in many places and I don’t put ‘no sex’ in my paper ads as I’ve heard from many prospective clients that they take to mean it’s not erotic at all. I explain to them that a sexual release, orgasm, is a privilege to be earned, not a right. And that there are different kinds of releases; emotional, psychological, energetic, and physical ones that are not genitally based.
“For the person who absolutely insists, I tell him to contact a kinky prostitute. He may or may not be dominated, but he will get what he insists upon.”
Sadie: What is it that you think draws so many people to a Professional Domina? What are the most common fantasies that they are unable to fulfill with other partners?
Sybil: “Some of the men I’ve seen simply want to not have to make all the erotic decisions. Many of them aren’t into pain or bondage, they want role reversal. Many women today still are not in touch with their ‘Alpha’ side when it comes to sex and romantic relationships. They can be tough in the boardroom, but not in the bedroom.
“And then there are those clients whose fetish is not understood very well; the sissy, for example. Most of those men are afraid of being perceived as vulnerable in a bad way, and some think of themselves like that as well. My job here is to teach them about what I call ‘sissy power’ Be a sexy sissy! Turn me on with your cute, sissy-ish ways!”
Sadie: Do you also work with women?
Sybil: “Absolutely, although it seems that women still do not, for the most part, think of procuring an erotic adventure for themselves. As a professional dominant I have seen 8 women since 1983, not counting the people who come to me to learn. Almost all of them came from the bdsm community. One was a lesbian who wanted a ‘real’ whipping,’ but didn’t want it to be in the context of a relationship. She appreciated the ‘container’ that a professional scene can provide with it’s beginning, middle, and end. Another was a heterosexual woman who wanted a baby scene with me as Mommy. She was not in any erotic community. Another was a lesbian who wanted to be my domestic servant. And another was a submissive lesbian MTF transsexual who know me before I was interested in SM. She had the surgery a year ago, and wanted a scene in which her new genitals were explored so she could see how they worked, again without having to be in a relationship.”
Sadie: I may just be ignorant here, but I haven't heard of any professional male dominants. If you know of any, how does their practice differ from yours? If you don't, how do you account for this gender difference?
Sybil: “The male professionals I know of are either gay, or bi with mostly male clientele. I say mostly, because on a very rare occasion a woman will call asking to be dominated. As to my opinion regarding the gender difference, see the above question. I also wonder if a woman who wishes to be dominated by a man might have some fears about letting a stranger do so! And there are some submissive women in the bdsm community who have said that being a woman in a vanilla relationship with an Alpha male can give you plenty of nonconsensual dominance, which is why they came to the community, but they also felt that most women don’t realize they could that.”
Sadie: How do you separate your work as a Professional Domina from your personal life? Do you find that your personal relationships are of a similar, or a much different flavor than your work?
Sybil: “My personal relationships are very different from my professional relationships. I never do anything I don’t want to do for money, that is what I call prostitution, and it has nothing to do with sex and everything to do with ‘selling out,’ compromising your principles for gain. But I do see people I wouldn’t play with in my private life. Not because they are bad or anything like that, but because I offer what I call a dominant ‘service.’ I see people who won’t or can’t get involved in the bdsm community; people who are married; who have limited social skills, or who are deeply embarrassed about their needs. Being a professional has given me the opportunity to try all kinds of activities I wouldn’t have if I just played privately, and that is so great!
“However, when I play privately, I’m very specific. At times it is so ‘all about ME!’ And other times, I’m much more generous. But it almost always involves some sort of Tantric SM, ritual, submission, and service. It almost never involves physical bondage such as ropes or cuffs. But quite often it will involve what I call ‘psychic bondage,’ stand exactly the way I want you to; turn, kneel, present, etc. I’m also very fond of Golden Showers as a reward, and an intimate connection. In Tantra female ejaculate is known as ‘amrita’ and is regarded by some as a holy substance. Some people feel the same about receiving a Golden shower.”
Sadie: How would you describe your orientation as it pertains to the BDSM lifestyle? Are you Dominant, Submissive, Switch?
Sybil: “I erotically identify as a pansexual dominant who occasionally bottoms.”
Sadie: You said in an interview once that "I learned how to use my mind, my voice, and my hands" first. Considering the emphasis on toys and equipment, how did this training give you a unique twist?
Sybil: “Oh, I am so glad Mistress Corona, my first trainer and Mistress, insisted on this! I can dominate anywhere, naked in a hot tub, it doesn’t matter. They say ‘clothes make the man.’ That certainly has not been my experience. Clothes can bring out what is already there, and for a new Domina unsure of her power, it can definitely help. But I have seen many become what I call ‘Dungeon Dependant,’ relying on all the trappings instead of developing true inner power. And if you don’t have it, or haven’t learned to access and develop it, all the expensive fetish clothing in the world can’t create it.”
Sadie: Do you have any particular areas of education or specialization that you would like to educate our readers about?
Sybil: “Yes! I’m thrilled to be involved, once again, with my former roommate! Her name just happens to be Cleo Dubois, and I am joining her in offering The Cleo Dubois Academy of SM Arts Erotic Dominance Intensives for Women. The second series is this summer/fall, in June for private players and in October for professional dominants. The Academy's intimate workshops are based on the awareness and refinement of erotic energy exchange and are limited to 6 to 8 women students. The goal is not only to improve play skills, but also to help the participants experience BDSM as a path of discovery, empowerment, and deeper human connections for themselves. Interested people can learn more by visiting Cleo’s site at http://www.sm-arts.com and by contacting Cleo at CleoDubois@sm-arts.com
“And as for me by myself, I continue to move into the realm of counseling, hypnotherapy, and energy healing. I’m still doing Pro Domme sessions, but less all the time. Although it was always a part of my Pro Domme sessions where appropriate, now is the time for me to totally concentrate on being a facilitator, a guide for growth and healing.”
Sadie: Thank you for speaking with me!
Sensuous Sadie is a BDSM columnist and edits SCENEsubmissions, a free e-newsletter for the New England area and beyond. She is the founder and leader (1999 - 2001) of Rose & Thorn, Vermont's first BDSM group. Comments, compliments and complaints, as well as requests for reprinting can be addressed to her at SensuousSadie@aol.com or visit her website at www.sensuoussadie.com. Sadie believes that the universe is abundant, and that sharing information freely is part of this abundance, so she allows reprints of her writing in most venues.