The Art of Tying Up: Dominatrix Joyen Santos Gives The Low-Down On BDSM In The Philippines

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As the Philippines becomes more accepting of alternative lifestyles, the BDSM scene in the conservative country is starting to flourish. Dominatrix Joyen Santos tells it like it is.

In the world of alternative lifestyles, there are few as misunderstood as that of BDSM. The BDSM acronym stands for Bondage Discipline, Domination/submission, Sadism and Masochism. This is a realm that few have partaken in, and even fewer have excelled at.  Joyen Santos is the leading lady in the scene for both burlesque and BDSM in the Philippines.

Joyen has made this art from into successful events, with the prime purpose of education and being able to share the craft. Because this lifestyle is very edgy, there are some in the more conservative Asian cultures and societies such as that in the Philippines that do not look to this as favorably as done in the western culture. Joyen is on a mission to try and change this mindset, to help elevate the conversation, these practices, and this craft is not about just pain and sex; that there is an art to is, and guidelines, rules even, that govern the acts so as to maximize the pleasure.

An Interview with Joyen Santos on BDSM in the Philippines

The Art of Tying Up: Dominatrix Joyen Santos Gives The Low-Down On BDSM In The Philippines

Credit Brendan Goco

What would you say defines the line between porn and art?

I love both and I am an instrument of both. In this day and age, porn is definitely more than just naked people fucking. It now depends on the work’s purpose and motives – basically the context. The fine line for me may not be so fine for you.

The Art of Tying Up: Dominatrix Joyen Santos Gives The Low-Down On BDSM In The Philippines

Credit Mai Evangelista

What are the challenges you’ve faced trying to put on your shows here in the Philippines where the majority of the population is Roman Catholic and very conservative?

My main challenge in performing alternative entertainment acts is sourcing out consistently reliable partners — venues, performers, brand partners, media partners — in traditional and conservative Manila. Although individuals support the cause and the mindset behind my work, they are still not 100% comfortable with the implications of being involved with me.

I used to be jealous of the mindset of people coming from developed countries — they could easily appreciate a performance as a performance and separate any notion of the sexual act from my sensual brand of performance. Some would say they would support and then suddenly change their mind, while the ones you thought would be perfect advocates would outright ignore, disappear, or even attempt to destroy everything we have worked hard for. This used to isolate and hurt me and make me think about giving up, but my stubbornness got the better of me. I trudged on and performed my art despite all of the obstacles.

I am happy to say now that the Philippines is very quickly adapting to the global mindset of being sex-positive, and am happy to have acquired strong partnerships with like-minded groups and individuals —  entities which help me spread the good word about kink, and support me 200%.

The Art of Tying Up: Dominatrix Joyen Santos Gives The Low-Down On BDSM In The Philippines

Credit Genevieve Son

What attracted you to BDSM?

What attracted me to BDSM is that the core principles and lifestyle resonated with my being, in contrast to what the norms for sex and relationships were during my formative years. I have always been criticized as too upfront and too comfortable with my sexuality, as well as for my preferences for alternative means of pleasure in my younger years (i.e. when it was not ok to be so).

The Art of Tying Up: Dominatrix Joyen Santos Gives The Low-Down On BDSM In The Philippines

Credit Brendan Goco

What is the one major misconception about this art?

A major misconception is that there is an ultimatum that goes “it always has to be _________” – the blank being something negative. People are so transfixed with labeling things and burning them on the stake right away. Art could be anything and could mean anything to anyone, and those things are also allowed to change.

Why do you think that there is such a misconception of this lifestyle? Apart from religion and conservativeness, what is it that is giving this lifestyle a bad rap?

People like to assume that the lifestyle is purely wild abandon because of all the nudity, sex, and violence. To be fair though, people like to assume a lot things about all sorts of stuff either way.

The Art of Tying Up: Dominatrix Joyen Santos Gives The Low-Down On BDSM In The Philippines

Credit Brendan Goco

Why do you think it is important for women to know what burlesque and BDSM is all about?

These things are just other perspectives on how we view power, performance, gender, and sexuality. And knowing other perspectives, having more information at hand, that’s always helpful. You don’t have to like it, or consume it, or burn it to the ground. But it’s good to just know about it so you aren’t narrow.

What is it about the art of shibari that got you interested specifically?

I am a massive fan of Japanese culture – the mindset, the aesthetics and craftsmanship, the singularity.

The Art of Tying Up: Dominatrix Joyen Santos Gives The Low-Down On BDSM In The Philippines

Credit Brendan Goco

How did Hojojutsu become a martial art? What was it used for? Why was/is it so special and seemingly intricate?

It is believed that Japanese rope bondage originated as a martial art called hojojutsu. During the Japanese Dark Ages (approximately 1467-1600), this was employed by the Japanese police to detain prisoners of war. A different kind of tie would be used to denote each prisoner’s status – a lord would be tied up differently from a peasant. The rope was the economically and technologically sound choice of weapon during this time in Japan, as opposed to Western tools of bondage like metal and leather.*

In the world we live in where the #MeToo movement and woman empowerment have rightly reached an all-time frenzied high in terms of awareness, how do you reconcile this when some part of BDSM is about submission? How do you explain that being submissive is also empowering?

Being empowered means knowing where the power is, where one stands in relation to that power, and realizing what one wants to do with those two things. Power in BDSM scenarios is shared freely, knowingly, and intentionally by discerning and consenting adults; power never exists only on one side.

Being submissive in the BDSM context does not mean being subject to sexual harassment and assault, where power and choice are taken away from one party. In fact, being submissive in BDSM means the exact opposite — the submissive is fully aware and educated about what exactly is going to happen in the BDSM session and consents to this or has the power to withdraw consent throughout the session.

There are safety parameters and risks acknowledgment and management explained and negotiated prior to the session. There is constant communication between all parties involved in the BDSM session, and, in the event that one or more parties want to slow down or stop, they may do so without any repercussions. Afterward, all parties analyze the session in terms of what went wrong, what went right, and what could have been done better or what they want to try for next time.

The Art of Tying Up: Dominatrix Joyen Santos Gives The Low-Down On BDSM In The Philippines

Credit Brendan Goco

Where do you see this going or being in 5 years time?

I don’t look too far into the future anymore. I try to do one thing at a time for myself and for the craft, honing it and striving to perfect it each day. Perhaps what I do would open doors to great minds and opportunities, perhaps it won’t. Either way, I’ll always be that kid who jumped into the deep end of the pool because I wanted to.

Based on your website and page, it seems that because this is a very edgy lifestyle, your primary concern is always safety. What are the major RULES that you have when you are performing or pursuing BDSM, primarily rope bondage?

My general House Rules for public BDSM events include a declaration of consent to view and/or possibly participate in performance-style BDSM and presentation of proof of legal age and rules on nudity, photo and video documentation, safety, and compliance to the requests of organizers as required for attendance. Attendance and/or participation is voluntary and all participants understand that they may leave the event at any time for any reason, such as when they disagree with the rules and/or how they are implemented.

For Joyen’s full House Rules and to learn more about BDSM, visit her FAQ page.

READ: Salome Salvi Gets Real About The Art Of Getting Naked On The Internet

*(Source: Midori. Seductive Art of Japanese Bondage. Greenery Press,Us, 2001)

Written by

Aimax Macoy