by April Darling
When many people think of the local kink scene, visions of a male-dominated world abound. These are the norm for many events as local venues are transformed for an evening to dungeon spaces. For many, there is a desire for a more feminine spin on the kink experience, in the form of a domme that is soft yet in control and even playful. This is where Mistress Viola comes into the Portland kink scene.
Mistress Viola, along with her business partner Mona Darling, own and operate the posh boutique space Sub Rosa. The pair recently celebrated the first anniversary of their working bond. They have been in the new space for about 6 months.
Sub Rosa is not what many expect to see when they hear of a BDSM dungeon space. It is not the dark back room or basement. The space is closer to a high end hotel suite that just happens to host more toys than most in the lifestyle can imagine and some amazing furniture that has been passed down from a long line of area doms.
As we began to talk about this edition of the magazine, I just knew I needed to interview Mistress Viola. No kink discussion is complete without the female voice, and both Mistress Viola and Mona Darling were the perfect subjects to share their own brand of BDSM.
I enjoyed my time with Mistress Viola and found it to be enlightening. Just as there were many things I already knew about the subject, I found myself learning and breaking through some of my own misconceptions about femdom. My interview with Mistress Viola follows as in unfolded on a sunny afternoon recently.
Let’s start by getting a little bit of history, how long have you been in the Portland kink scene?
I came to Portland from San Francisco 6 years ago with a vanilla corporate day job – but I have been in pro-domination for about 10 years – and I have always done a lot of different things. I started professionally at a house of domination in the East Bay. Even though I made some great connections in the kink and pro-domme community there, I never really found my queer kink scene until I came to Portland. It was also just impossible to live a creative lifestyle with the insanely high cost of living in San Francisco. I don’t think I could ever have opened a space like Sub Rosa in SF with the rental costs.
How did you get your start here in Portland as a femdom?
Well I was already active as a femdom, but Portland gave me more opportunities to grow and expand my practice as a domme, to get more involved in the kink community, and develop my skills. But there wasn’t really anywhere to rent dungeon space at the time – and certainly not one that is set up for consistent rentals for a professional. A few years ago I first connected with the owners of Sanctuary Club to start hosting femdom events and classes for them. I even brought in my St. Andrews cross and installed it in the club. I was really tired of going to kink events and play parties and seeing the same people playing – mostly male doms. Sanctuary was super supportive and helped me start my femdom play party “Fifty Shades of Shut the Fuck Up” – the secret sauce of this party is the fact that male doms are not really invited, and there is a dress code for cis men only – they need to present submissive or kinky in some way. This keeps the scene very femme/queer focused. We have performances at the beginning of the night, cute little service subs with snacks on silver trays, and I have done a lot to ensure the scene is very queer and there are a variety of sexualities and identities celebrated.
Recently I also partnered with The Velvet Rope for a femdom night called “Fempire.” My hope is to keep doing events around town to fuel and inspire the kink scene.
How does one that is curious about becoming a femdom get started?
I know a lot of femmes who feel really intimidated by stepping into their dominance, we are all so stuck in the dominant gender paradigm of how we should or should not bahave, it takes a lot to shed these roles. They feel like they need permission, like they don’t know enough, like they don’t want to be mean or sadistic. But real dominance is control and it is empathy and caretaking. My advice is always to start simply, communicate with your partner (many dudes really want this stuff and they are more than willing to be your practice bottom), watch kink videos, read online forums, go to kink events, munches, meetups. It is like learning any new skill. Be proactive. When you watch other people play you learn so much. There are so many events here in Portland – a lot of folks don’t know that Portland has more Fetlife users than any other city in the US. You figure out what you like by exposing yourself and experiencing new things. Coaching is also another option, one can connect with a pro domme, or just attend any of our classes at Sub Rosa!
Too many people try to jump right into an intense D/s dynamic instead of starting off simply and taking the time to develop the skills. You’re not going to be suspending someone by rope right off the bat, and nor should you – because this is super dangerous.
When many people think of a “dom” it is most often a male persona, how is a “femdom” different beyond gender? Is that a misconception that a “dom” is often male?
Well we cannot really avoid these heavily gendered perceptions of who is dominant because we are socialized from a very young age to think in these binary gender codes – this question doesn’t really make sense to me because how can a femdom not be about gender? Ultimately, a dom is a dom – but we are stuck playing these very gendered power games – and honestly this is often what makes these power dynamics so hot. In BDSM these standard gender roles are heightened to the max, flipped and subverted – you are a sissy for wanting to crossdress, you are a slut because you want sex, you are a little bitch because you want to be dominated by a female. We activate the shame buttons and make them erotic.
Of course more male dominance is represented in the mainstream perceptions of kink, because male dominance is more represented in the world at large. What I see in my work is a dismantling of these roles, a reversal of toxic masculinity. I also see a lot of men who are desiring to be released from the trap of what is expected of them. They want so much to be able to express a different side of themselves.
What are three big misconceptions people have about femdoms?
That being a femdom is about being mean and angry.
- Actually many of my sessions are quite playful, and to be a good domme you have to have empathy. It is SO much emotional labor. There is a lot of caretaking involved.
The second one… Being a femdom is about getting everything you want and having everything done for you.
- If you come into female dominance expecting that it is all about this, you will likely not get what you want. It is actually a lot of focusing on others and their emotional state. Even training someone to clean your house for you takes effort and coordination. You don’t get anything like that without putting something out.
The last one…. That Femdoms all hate men.
- There are certainly female supremacists out there, I am not a female supremacist. I have a lot of respect for anyone exploring their kinks, and I have a lot of respect for men that are subverting these roles.
Tell me about Sub Rosa.
Sub Rosa is our dream fetish space – it has been so much fun to build it and see it come alive. It is really something we have been working on for many years – but we joined forces about a year ago because we wanted a safe space to play. We also really wanted to build community and have a space for sexual empowerment classes and workshops. We offer hourly rentals for photography and community play and we have about 3-4 classes per month. Classes are taught by us and all kinds of local and visiting educators. Everything from classes on squirting to intro to femdom classes. It is a very fem focused space but all are welcome to reach out and use the space or collaborate.
Can you describe the space to us? What does it include?
This is an invite-only space – you have to buy a ticket to a class before you receive the address or be invited to the space by a member. We really wanted to create a luxe space that feels upscale and accessible. We have two cages, a bondage wall, a wall mounted bishops chair, medical table, spanking bench, hard points for suspension, an adjustable bed, and a crossdressing area with a huge collection of shoes, wigs, lingerie, etc.. We also have a wide range of toys available for use that are tucked away.
I saw online you were adding the hard points, can you tell me about them?
Yes! We had a leather sling custom made and just today they installed the hard points for it. We also have a winch coming to help with suspensions and predicament bondage. Excited to start offering these hard points to rope tops for suspension work.
Let’s talk about your business partner, Mona Darling.
Mona is amazing, she is really the best partner I could have found. She had been a pro-domme for over 20 years and has recently shifted into more coaching and education. She wrote this kickass book, “Kinky Sex Tips for Curious Girls.” – which is a kinky activity book complete with naughty coloring pages. And with everything going right now and the stupid internet censoring sex related content, her book as been delisted on Amazon. It is just insane you cannot search for her book, but you can search for a two headed dildo and that pops right up! You can find it on her site though through a direct link and you can buy it on Amazon that way. We are both similar in that we are more playful, nurturing dommes – our sessions are full of giggles. This is one reason we work so well together.
Tell me about three big things you and Mona are proud of tied to Sub Rosa
We are really proud of the response we have gotten on our classes and space.
It is super rewarding getting such positive feedback from newbies who are excited to have found us. Whatever outreach we are doing is working because we see so many new faces, new to kink that feel safe enough in our space to try something new. Portland is a curious DIY type city, and folks commit to learning about BDSM the same way people commit to personal growth. We are also so proud of the look and feel of the space. My partner Orion did an amazing job helping up build it out and make it beautiful.
What was the hardest part of opening your own space?
Finding the space…we had more than a few places turn us down because of the nature of our business – being an adult kinky space. It was hard because we fell in love with a few spaces who seemed so close to leasing to us, then at the last minute they would say something like “we decided to go with a more ‘traditional’ business.”
What is something you wish more people knew about Sub Rosa?
That we are here, open, and ready for business!
No really…just knowing our class sizes are small and we have so much flexibility when it comes to classes, or even rentals. We are always looking for new partnerships and ways to connect with our community.
Speaking of new things for the future, what would you like to see at Sub Rosa that isn’t there yet?
We are always looking for new educators and new classes to offer. The space is gorgeous, so having more photographers rent the space would be great.
We are also looking to start doing longer retreats, hosting bachelorette kinky classes and parties, and starting more kink tourism weekends that kick off at Sub Rosa and incorprate things like sex clubs tours, strip clubs, sex toy shops. A sort of naughty weekend in Portland. We want to partner with more of the local sexy businesses for this sort of thing.
Beyond Sub Rosa, I know you host events in other venues. Tell me about those.
Every fourth Thursday of the month I host “Fifty Shades of STFU” at Sanctuary, which is the super sexy play party I mentioned before. Doors at 8pm, and the foreplay floor show starts at 9:30 – we always have super hot and kinky performances and demos at that event.
I also recently worked with The Velvet Rope to put on “Fempire”, which is currently on a hiatus. We are working on doing another foot fetish night there too.
My partner Orion hosts Trance at Stag PDX, which I have helped promote a bit. It is the second Thursday of each month – it is the first all trans fem strip night in Portland. So awesome.
When you attend kink events, what are three must haves in your play bag?
Let’s see – I would generally stick to impact toys for pickup play – a flogger because I get into top space with flogging and it is a good place to start. Then maybe a riding crop because they are good for smacking the sensitive parts…nipples, balls, etc. Then I have this rubber paddle that is super mean. I love rubber toys, they are heavy and stingy and… easy to clean.
I have to ask, where does one find those amazing clothes you where in the event pictures?
Well most of the latex and heavy duty fetishwear is purchased from big online stores or is made for me by a local latex designer who has taught himself how to make latex clothing (IG @Nikki2LoveLatexClothing) also Black Lickorish Latex. There are a few amazing leather and latex designers in town. I pin a lot of the gear I like on Pinterest which is public, and I try to credit the designers in photos. Take a peek at my wishlist on my website to see some of my favorite places to shop. Locally for those looking for fetish gear, Fantasy on Burnside has some fun entry level stuff. Spartacus is also worth checking out. But if you want the heavy duty fetish stuff you need to go to NYC or LA or online.
Any advice you have for new people just getting into kink?
Go to events, reach out, be proactive. KinkFest is amazing but it could be overwhelming for a total newbie. Something as simple as a local munch helps you to connect with others.
The people in our community are what makes it so great. Attend a kink night and just watch some scenes. Wait for that “thing” that gets your heart racing and you just know when something is worth exploring. People in kink are often very open to teach and share. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and reach out. Join Fetlife and use it like kinky LinkedIn, find local events, people in your area, and don’t get discouraged if one event feels weird. Just keep at it. You will find your people. It takes time.
Any parting words or something you want the readers to know about you?
I guess just that I also really enjoy working with couples who are just discovering their desire to get into domination. Working with couples is something I would like to do more of. It is so empowering to not only guide a woman to take control but also her male partner to listen and please her.
I would also love to invite our community to come see Sub Rosa and if you want to collaborate or have ideas, we are open to them!