A Conversation with Genevieve and Themba of Sacred Sadism, fetishizing the aesthetics of nature
Genevieve and Themba met on OKCupid and felt an immediate connection. Their profiles shared certain key phrases that hinted at a shared sexual generosity, openness to explore, and readiness to communicate. Things blossomed as they shared their love of plants and sex, and eloped 10 months later!
Now the sexually progressive pair run Sacred Sadism, a line of eco-fetishist functional art objects made of repurposed wood, copper, and high-quality plant replicas. We spoke, over Facetime, about the inception and evolution of the Sacred Sadism ethos, how their personal lives influence their work, and some exciting kinks they are into right now.
MacKenzie: Can you tell me about the origin of Sacred Sadism?
Genevieve: I had the idea of making these tools about four years ago when I first moved to Los Angeles, literally my first day walking around the neighborhood in Altadena. I was like, “I’m going to make impact tools out of fake plants! That’s what I’m going to do!” I don’t know where the idea came from or why. I didn’t have that much experience with BDSM, with partners, but for whatever reason, it was an idea I had. It was kind of a download, one of those things.
I started exploring it by learning as much as I could about BDSM, by starting to meet people in the community, talk to people coming from more of a femme domme position. Using plants on people, I was doing a kind of healing modality using flagellation with flowers, live flowers, sort of mixing a little bit of, tongue-in-cheek new age-ism with BDSM practices. That’s where it started for me. I couldn’t really make the tools until the tools could be made and when I met Themba he had already been working with wood and had even made some floggers.
Themba: I think the first time I started doing that, I was in San Francisco so that was probably 10 years ago I started experimenting with making my own floggers out of recycled bike tubes and did a little bit of that. I don’t think I made any other kind of BDSM type stuff for a while.
Genevieve: He made me a paddle within the first month of our relationship. It’s one of those things where I work in a lot of different mediums and Sacred Sadism has been a project I’ve been working on for a long time and doing it in this way at this time just made the most sense and I was kind of waiting for the right moment, waiting for the right circumstances. And really having a partner to do it with me is, in a way, the only right way to do it because we have a BDSM relationship I’m learning so much. We’re both learning so much about what it means to share in a safe, sane and consensual BDSM exchange. We are going to parties and we are educating ourselves all the time and meeting people. I think being able to do that, as a “brand” is also really important. To me, the company is a brand as a conceptual art piece. We call the pieces functional art objects. There is an extension of my existing creative practice in it but being like, “Let’s LARP as a brand for a while and see how that goes.”
It would be cool to sustain ourselves, obviously, on making art objects but it’s also not something where we are greedily rubbing our hands together. It’s a little bit more relaxed than that, I guess. While trying to be like, “What do businesses do?” Because if you start to understand the mindset of the business owner it can teach you a lot about the culture that we live in and all of that.
MacKenzie: … and how to maybe navigate that in a way that is not totally disgusting …
Genevieve: Yeah, that’s ethical. That’s definitely something we talk a lot about. That to me is a huge conceptual backbone of the piece too because I truly believe that learning about BDSM, learning about consent, learning about communication in your interpersonal relationships is a way of destroying what Riane Eisler calls the “Dominator Model,” which is the model that we live under. Some call it patriarchy, some call it capitalism; a broader umbrella term is the Dominator Model. In BDSM when you are learning about domination and submission in an interpersonal relationship you’re learning about power exchange and when you start to look at what are the pitfalls of power exchange, what are the great things about power exchange, you are learning about a bigger system of domination and control that exists. It’s all a part of the same practice to me.
MacKenzie: How would you describe Eco-Sexuality?
Genevieve: I guess I can describe what it is for me and Themba can describe what it is for him and then we would recommend Googling it to see the other versions that exist out there. I’m definitely not a textbook for what eco-sexuality is but for me, it’s the connection to and a sensual relationship with nature that I’ve had since I was a child. I grew up in, kind of, the deep backwoods of Minnesota and spent a lot of time entertaining myself without a television. And I had an actual sexual relationship with a tree as a child and that’s a part of my backstory. That’s a thing that exists for some people. I think the Eco-Sexuality movement if you want to call it that, is people coming out and being like, well I have these feelings about, for some people at least, I have these feelings about nature that are deeply sensual or romantic or sexual.
And we, through one of our friends, who interviewed us, she came up with this term, “eco-fetishism,” which we think describes our facet of eco-sexuality a little better because we are making fetish objects. We’re making tools that are in a sense fetishizing the aesthetics of nature. That to me is the best way to describe what we are doing. Some parts of it for me are I want to become a plant and get fucked as a plant or be fucked by a plant or something like that. That’s some of the places my imagination can go with it but that’s not for everybody and we’re not trying to hyper-define what it can be for everybody.
Themba: It’s a very big umbrella term that can include a lot of different things. In general, it’s attaching eroticism to nature. I personally feel that nature is everything around us. We are nature. So to separate that sounds weird. But unfortunately, a lot of our culture has separated humans from nature. We look at other creatures like, “Oh yeah, those are animals.” No! We are animals too! So, when I first heard the term eco-sexual it just always made sense. Having eroticism or sensuality with nature is natural or, to me, seemed very natural. So I think hearing that word gave me another tool to something I already felt. And it’s so broad; you can really go in a lot of directions with it. Like it could be, I think something that is very popular you can Google it, is attaching more of a political stance to it where you’re reimagining nature instead of as this mother, as your lover. I guess the analogy is that people care more about their lovers than their moms.
Genevieve: You take your mom’s love for granted, whereas with a lover you are going to be reciprocating and exchanging all the time.
Themba: Yeah, much more of an active thing.
Genevieve: Which I think is a beautiful analogy and a really important thing to think about for sure.
MacKenzie: Do you see eco-sexuality entering the mainstream right now?
Genevieve: Yeah, Vice just did that big thing on it for Slutever. And that was definitely one way of putting it out there.
Themba: Yeah, just like with kink kind of creeping into more mainstream things [Eco-sexuality] is. It may take some time to kind of come in. Unfortunately, with a lot of media stuff, attention tends to go to the more salacious things. So it can kind of have a narrowing effect on what it is or what it can be.
MacKenzie: It can also heighten taboo.
Genevieve: It’s important: who you decide to put that story out with. We’ve had clickbait-y media companies come and want to interview us. And yeah we’d get a million views on that, and that would be great for us. But we also have seen the way they shoot the subject matter and material as click bait freak show stuff and while that would be good for us as a company we don’t want to let them shape that story in a way that’s not how we think it should be shaped. Those are the small little ethical choices you have to make. Yeah, don’t go for the big greedy attention grab, try to get the story across in the most real way.
Themba: That’s where your priorities are.
Genevieve: Yeah, cause a lot of media companies do just want to be like, “THIS COUPLE FUCKS EACH OTHER WITH A CACTUS!” Or something. [Laughter] “YOU WON’T BELIEVE WHAT HAPPENS NEXT!” Yeah, we don’t want to go in that direction.
Eco-Sexuality was one of the terms that cemented our connection. Even though you had an idea of what it meant and I had an idea of what it meant. It’s still kind of one of those placeholders where if you know, you kinda know.
Themba: Someone’s thinking about that. Their brain is in this realm. Like, “Ok, they’re on this wavelength.” And that’s another connection point.
Genevieve: That was one thing within our first five sentences of talking to each other that I mentioned Eco-Sexuality. And he was like, “Cool!,” and I was like whoa he knows what that is, and said cool, that’s so nice! It’s one of those terms that can help connect people, ya know?
MacKenzie: Yeah, a little signifier. So you were talking about turning down certain media requests and trying to control the way your brand is being seen. What are some of the other challenges you’ve faced?
Genevieve: We had a little bit of trouble when we first launched. We’ve only been doing this for three months now. This project is a four-year-old project and this particular iteration is only three months old. So, there’s been a lot of confusion about eco-sexual and eco-friendly. In the beginning, we really had to be like, “No you need to do your research. Those are not the same things.” While eco-friendly is a facet of eco-sexuality, for some people that’s how they express their eco-sexuality by using and purchasing only eco-friendly products, we can’t claim that for our own products line. As much as we wish we could. So there was a little bit of confusion in that. That was an interesting challenge. What else? I don’t know it’s kind of mostly been fun.
MacKenzie: It seems like you did a lot of research and trial and error into finding the best possible way to make your products, like the seal on the wooden butt plugs for example. Can you tell us more about that process?
Genevieve: For a long long time sex toys just haven’t been regulated. Or they’re still not regulated for body safeness so there are injuries and a lot of really bad things that can happen when you insert things into your body that are not meant to be there. So, luckily there’s been a ton of bloggers and sex educators and sex toy reviewers who have taken up the reigns and have taken it upon themselves to teach people what is and what isn’t good to put inside your body.
Themba: We’re in a really cool time right now where there’s a lot of awareness to using more natural sex toys whether it’s what Chakrubs is doing with crystal dildos and yoni eggs, and people making wooden dildos. So I think right now, at least in the sex toy consciousness, natural tools are starting to take off and there’s a good awareness and there are more options.
Genevieve: We definitely did a lot of work to make sure what we were doing was going to be Kosher for the insides.
MacKenzie: So you’ve mentioned a few brands that I imagine have inspired you, like Chakrubs, what are some of your favorite toys, porn, and products right now?
Genevieve: We were just talking about porn yesterday. We were both saying that we want to invest in porn.
Themba: Yeah, more ethical porn.
Genevieve: Invest in some porn cause if we’re having a moment and we’re like, “Let’s get some porn on.” There’s a dilemma. We don’t want to support the ‘tube sites. We want to invest in ethical porn. We haven’t yet. It was literally yesterday we were like, “We need to do this. Let’s not keep giving clicks, giving attention currency, to things that we don’t really support.”
MacKenzie: I’ll send you some links!
Genevieve: Yes! Send us some links. I’ve watched a lot of the teasers for Crash Pad Series and thought those looked really interesting. Erika Lust is obviously someone we’ve heard great things about and watched some documentary stuff on her. We’d love to be pointed towards some cool ethical porn.
Themba: Toy-wise, I’m [into] electro toys. I’m really into electric play. I guess there are Neon Wands, Violet Wands, are a favorite of mine.
MacKenzie: Tell me how you use them? Who receives the electricity?
Genevieve: I receive! You like it too?
Themba: Yeah, I like receiving it too …
Genevieve: That’s not really a part of our dynamic.
MacKenzie: What is your dynamic?
Genevieve: I’m his Slut!
Themba: And I’m her Daddy Dom!
Genevieve: I got collared pretty early on there.
Themba: With some of the attachments on a Violet Wand, you can use a thing called a Power Tripper, which electrifies your whole body. So I can basically use my finger to touch someone and give them a shock. When you are using that, in that way, both recipients are receiving that shock.
Genevieve: So he gets it back.
Themba: Yeah I get it back. I’d say it’s a little bit different of a sensation when I know I’m going to be administering it whereas if Genevieve is blindfolded and doesn’t know it’s coming, it’s a little bit of a different sensation.
Genevieve: What about your very favorite eclectic toy?
Themba: My very favorite tool is the cattle prod. [Laughter]
Genevieve: Do you want to see it?
MacKenzie: Yes of course!
Genevieve: We were at Burning Man last year and some camp was giving out cattle prods.
Themba: Free shots of tequila and cattle prods!
Genevieve: It’s a real cattle prod. It’s what’s used on the farm.
MacKenzie: I’m so into this!
Themba: There are these two electrodes here and you basically pull the trigger and then just kind of lightly touch that to the skin and you can actually see the shock jump from the prongs.
Genevieve: In terms of a sensation, because we’ve done a lot of electro-play, this one is super brief. It’s truly shocking, every time. There’s an involuntary response that I think happens for most people with it. But then it goes away. The second it’s done it’s over. It’s a very interesting tool in that sense as opposed to an impact thing where it stays with you for a while and it builds. Themba loves his cattle prod.
Themba: I do! [Laughter]
Genevieve: We’ve also gotten into plastic wrap suspension. Which is an unusual and not super well-known form, I would say.
Themba: It’s in some ways; I don’t want to say better, it’s different than rope suspension. With rope suspension you can put a lot of pressure because it’s a smaller surface area, so you’ve got to be careful with nerves and nerve damage. And shrink-wrap suspension kind of minimizes that because you can cover much more body surface area. You can make a bunch of layers and spread the pressure out. I’m starting to do a photo series with suspending people from trees. S&M and nature. It kind of sounds counter-intuitive. Like, “Wait, you’re putting plastic in nature.” It’s all recyclable. There are some brands that make it biodegradable too.
MacKenzie: That’s some amazing stuff to be into right now, shit! What else? I want to know about your plans for the future.
Genevieve: We have a photo shoot coming out soon which is kind of taking Sacred Sadism into a little bit of a new fetish territory. We are proposing a kind of fantasy to people, which I’m very excited about because it’s my personal fantasy. And having created everything needed to bring it to life and make an image of what this fantasy is, as far as I know, doesn’t exist. I’ve searched the World Wide Web! So I’m really excited to bring that into the world. Just to peak people’s imaginations. Like, “I’ve never fucking thought of that.” And with a lot of what we’ve done, the line [we get is], “How did I never think of that? I’m so into that.” You know? I think it’s there, I think it’s in the collective consciousness. We’re just creating images to bring it to light.
Themba: Yeah, we definitely want to move into more education. Sex education specifically around the kink world, BDSM in particular, incorporating nature into BDSM. Kind of the same wheelhouse we’ve been in.
Genevieve: I have a solo art show that I’m doing in partnership with Themba. Solo in partnership is kind of the idea of it, in October, and part of that we’ll be teaching a class on Sacred Sadism. We want to do more. I’m friends with people at the Stockroom here. I used to work at The Stockroom, which is where I learned a lot about products and toys and all this sort of stuff. And it was an incredible educational experience for me just working there.
MacKenzie: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers that we weren’t able to cover yet?
Genevieve: We’re just trying to lead by example. It’s all good just find people you trust. Talk to them about sex. I mean, how does one do that? It can sometimes feel really daunting to find people you can really talk to about these things. The Internet and doing it on Instagram and having people connect through the Internet is one wonderful way to do that but sometimes you really need those real-life experiences too, to learn about these toys and these tools and communication and everything. So, just keep searching!
MacKenzie: Thank you so much! That was really wonderful. I feel like I know you, personally, better and I feel like I know your brand a lot better.
A selection of Sacred Sadism products, check out sacredsadism.com for more information. (photo courtesy of Sacred Sadism)