Men Should Be Touched by Audra Wist

photograph by Brooke Frederick

text by Audra Wist

“I love to be caressed,” he said to me, my hand on his chest. Color me impressed. As I get older, I continually notice the need for men to be touched. I’ve been a long time proponent of strip clubs, sex work, and so forth – physical sites designed for and marketed to men for sexual pleasure – even before I could really justify it legally or intellectually. I always had a hunch that something was going on there that was good for women and for sex, and that the usual bad mouthing on the grounds that men were sniveling tit-obsessed cretons was ill considered and lacked any constructive thought about the potential of these venues for sexual progress. For me, porn has always felt like a fall-back to these other privileged spaces in my mind, and for good reason. Though direct, quick-and-dirty and getting the job done for the most part, porn lacks something essential to desire, to sex: touch. These arenas I describe provide a context for touch and a real time one-to-one interaction that is becoming increasingly more important and unavailable. 

Spending time in strip clubs across the U.S., I find something interesting yet not so surprising happens: people quickly open up. The awkwardness of being seen in a place like your local strip club melts away in an instant behind the closed doors, and an intimate ease comes forth. The low lights and typically recessed seating below the stages stake off a specific arena for erotic play with clear-cut boundaries. I’ve eavesdropped on numerous conservations between strippers and clients, men and women of all sexualities, and they are remarkably docile and cheerful, very inquisitive, albeit sometimes a little shy. Women seem to have a refined understanding of pleasure and people of all creeds are drawn to our innate knowledge of carnal ambiguities. In discussing the pornographic nature of the strip tease or naked body, people also want to talk with these women about their bodies, interests, and peculiarities in relation to their own, ultimately gaining a better understanding of themselves and others in the process. When women facilitate touch, touch facilitates acceptance and understanding. Porn cannot necessarily answer your burning questions on how to please a woman, but a woman probably can. 

To be able to see and converse with a real person in a sexual context with distinct boundaries is an important interaction – and one I feel should be encouraged and coveted as a sexual savior amidst a sea of pornographic images. Touch, or the possibility for touch, makes all the difference.

Although I encourage all genders and sexualities to touch more, I focus on straight men here because they tend to reject the idea of being touched as it goes against the prescribed masculine position of assertive doer. To be touched could be likened to being held, being acted upon rather than in pursuit of action. I see an inconsistency here. The drive to participate in any sort of sexual spectatorship comes from a desire to get off, to be connected, to be with someone and that “with” denotes a want to touch them – someone, something, to be in unison, 1+1. Touch is the literal connection between us and unifies our experience. Touch is also reciprocal. When I touch you, you also touch me. I’ve felt the power in someone’s casual graze of my arm or playful grab of my side. It’s unparalleled – incredibly exciting and comforting to feel someone’s body come in contact with mine. I’m there with them in an instant. I find I surprise men when I touch them before they touch me. They like the change and surrender to being touched, a passive appreciator of my invitation to intimacy.

In a recent conversation with a sex therapist friend, we were discussing porn’s bad rap. I told him I never felt bad about porn, just that it sometimes made me feel gross afterwards. I wondered why. He asked when those gross feelings came to the surface and we deduced that it was after a period of continual porn watching with subsequent masturbation. He summed up the “is porn good or bad” controversy in a neat way that I liked and that I frequently share with my clients and friends dealing with sexual loneliness and/or heavy porn consumption. Think about porn like your go-to delicious greasy food and eating as masturbation. The occasional treat yourself moment can be tasty and it certainly won’t ruin your body if practised here and there.

"Strip clubs, massage parlors specializing in extracurriculars, professional domination sessions, escort services, physical smut – these are all ways in which sexual urges can be evenly distributed, demystified, and depressurized."

In a similar vein, eating is essential and keeps us alive and alert, it can even be fun and exciting, relaxing sometimes. However, if your entire diet becomes that delicious greasy item, then you are likely going to run into some problems, mentally and physically, during your slow build binge. Use your common sense and don’t overdo it. Though, do have as many sexual experiences (including masturbation) as you wish. Remember, I liken this to eating; it is healthy and good to do so.

There are small seemingly innocuous ways to do this. Annie Sprinkle and her partner Beth Stephens have coveted the term ecosexual and are currently making work based on “intersections of sexuality and ecological relations.” In my own similar experience of collecting erotica, I find the simple act of touching the magazines, the books, even seeing the typeface contributes to the objectness, the sexual nature, of the material itself. To touch the image, to touch the thing that contains the words is a sexual experience that I would liken to a modern day sexual encounter. Touch is inherently fetishistic as it signifies objecthood which gets me off.

Strip clubs, massage parlors specializing in extracurriculars, professional domination sessions, escort services, physical smut – these are all ways in which sexual urges can be evenly distributed, demystified, and depressurized. Varying a sexual diet assists in understanding our desires, and talking with like-minded folk helps to normalize our experiences with our bodies and others’ bodies, as well. Instead of having a one-to-one relationship between yourself and a screen, these other arenas offer up the benefit of having another person present that you interact with and casually discuss your likes/dislikes, fantasies, and so forth. While I do not disparage porn or its performers, I do privilege seeing a body before me under lights, on a stage, sitting next to me, on top of me, below me, kissing me and touching me as an absolute sexual essential.

Audra Wist is an artist, writer, social commentator and provocateur - she is also an avid collector of erotica and erotic ephemera. She is also a professional dominatrix based in Los Angeles specializing in all sorts of punishment and humiliation. As Autre's sex editor at-large she will be covering all sorts of naughty content in the realm of sex and sexuality – from masturbatorial musings to photographic editorials. Follow Autre on instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE

Being a Witness: On Voyeurism and the Erotic Thrill Of Watching

photo by Audra Wist

My sexuality has never been a mysterious force guiding my life in one way or another. My sexuality has always felt natural yet systematic — a product of an intellectual curiosity. This may sound anti-glamorous, but in my experience, by investigating the systems that are at play during a sexual encounter we are able to better understand our own likes or dislikes and we are empowered to voice those things in a constructive way. In tinkering with our naughtiness, we are figuring it out, its complacency or fervor, impulse or calculated-ness, and so forth. In general, I’m a watcher. I like to observe and get results — figure out what is happening. A form of active voyeurism.

When Autre asked me to write about my own experiences with sex and BDSM, my first thought was “this might be boring” or at the very least come off as overzealous like some three-ring sexual circus diary of a sex fiend — something unsavory. I get in a bind over sex because I care for it and want to do right by it, not exploit it (though, note to self: write about exploitation soon). Of course, sexuality by nature is a generally un-boring topic, but in my experience discussing the often cold ways I see sexuality functioning can be less than sumptuous. What is at stake for me is agency. I’m interested in how we occupy sexualities, why we do things, and how we do things — where we hold power — but also in the unabashed letting-it-rip quality of the encounter. It’s a delicate balance. Despite my need to analyze and pick apart topics, I find that we never make it fully back around to desire, the squirmy thing that can’t be contained. I am never quite able to pin it down or put my finger on it (so to speak) and that is the real beauty of it. 

I wrote to a friend recently, I feel like a scientist at times, with my work and sexuality — I am running tests, recording results. Not literally, of course, but playing with bodies and ideas and desires and seeing what sticks, what I like and what I don’t like — the ultimate overseer of my own sexuality. Over the years, I’ve found that a constructive way for me to examine my own interests is to be the active voyeur.

"Flipping my roles, cuckolding is a favorite. To have someone watch me fuck is an honor and a privilege yet enormously humiliating and/or exciting for them. I am enjoying myself thoroughly while you watch and pine."

Sometimes at night, I hear my roommate next door fucking her guy. I’m lying in bed reading or just falling asleep and I wonder: “Is she pegging him or is he fucking her?” I doze off with a grin on my face. They usually crack the door open just a bit, letting sound leak out without any real visibility of their encounter. It’s a delightful experience of hearing and not seeing and I encourage their semi-public fucking.

When I am able to view an otherwise private show, my natural task-master comes forward and I direct the production, enjoying white-hatting the affair. You suck his cock, you lick her nipples, you fuck her like this, and so forth. I have the figurative clipboard and they are playing by my rules. I’m the coach, intimately engaged in the game by standing on the sidelines watching the blissful win, my players scoring big.

Flipping my roles, cuckolding is a favorite. To have someone watch me fuck is an honor and a privilege yet enormously humiliating and/or exciting for them. I am enjoying myself thoroughly while you watch and pine. I could certainly do the whole hot wife thing, but I favor the role of hot-Domme NSA who will never call you again.

I frequently joke with friends: invite me over, I’ll watch you fuck. They nervously laugh, but they know I am serious and that I will bring extra lube, a towel, and a bottle of Blanc de Blanc for the event.

I like to refer to each player in the voyeuristic scene as such: the victim, the tyrant, and the witness (terms borrowed from Wayne Koestenbaum’s Humiliation). As the witness, we can be the person on display who is being objectified with an arena staked out for us. We have freedom in visual pleasure to soak up what is before us. If we are the tyrant, we get the dual pleasure of watching our doing unfold and watching someone's reactions to us. The victim is well, self-explanatory. The victim has all the fun.

But somehow I’m always fond of the watcher, the witness. The titillating experience of the demonstration — when we hear that we are about to watch something — is that we feel excitement of what’s to come. The thrill of occupying the position of the voyeur and being able to watch others engage. I’ve always had an interest in watching or looking too long. We all have that sort of impulse to watch. When we pass a car crash on the highway, it is difficult not to crane our necks and watch as the medics reach into the crumpled vehicle to pull out a real body — our everyday peep show. While I would argue that there are good things to watch and bad things to watch, the common titillation of watching somebody's sexual something right before you is a powerful experience. Maggie Nelson talks about this in The Art of Cruelty — “when do we look and when do we turn away?” Perhaps it’s that in between uncertainty that is the most palpable feeling derived from being a voyeur, being involved but also not too close. Or perhaps, the question in the context I’m describing is how and why do we look and how and why do we turn away? What are we being confronted with in a particular context that affords voyeurism, and why is it that we are intrigued? Sexuality should be interrogated.

Audra Wist is an artist, writer, social commentator and provocateur - she is also an avid collector of erotica and erotic ephemera. She is also a professional dominatrix based in Los Angeles specializing in all sorts of punishment and humiliation. As Autre's sex editor at-large she will be covering all sorts of naughty content in the realm of sex and sexuality – from masturbatorial musings to photographic editorials. Follow Autre on instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE 

The Glorious Joy of Facesitting, A Masturbatorial Meditation by Audra Wist

I just masturbated to the thought of sitting on someone’s face. I figured whatever came to mind I’d write about. And really, what better way to begin writing about facesitting than right after getting off to the thought.

What is it about the act? Just a few minutes ago before writing these words, I was lying in bed rubbing myself to the thought of my ass coming down gently on a particular face, me “triumphantly” above him, as he often remarks. The pressure and weight of my ass resting on his face, suffocating him temporarily and squeezing my thighs against his neck and head. I like the way he gasps for air as I release his face from the grip of my derriere. The image alone sets off a fantastic wank — a vision of ivory softness, large and overwhelming, looming above his face, which is soon to be smothered into erogenous bliss. I sometimes imagine the image of my own ass, slightly spread, as I get off; this beautiful thing to marvel at! Thankfully, I was blessed with a full-rounded backside that is coveted as one of the best to worship and — more notably — to be underneath, as a professional dominatrix. My ass is that of godliness for some. Men delightfully suffer under the weight of me, and I revel in their incapacitation. The joy of facesitting.

I’m trying to remember my first facesitting fantasy, or my first facesitting experience. I’ve rode many faces of lovers, but facesitting is especially different. The end goal is not typically orgasm or involving cunni- or anal-lingus (at least not every time), but is more so a way to exercise control over another’s breathing: letting them inhale your wonderful scent in a most intimate way using the brute force of the sit.

I think I inadvertently sat on a face my first time. These things happen, accidental power exchanges turned lifelong kinky affairs. It was a drunken encounter around the age of nineteen, a more intuitive and sexual BDSM encounter than a safe/sane/consensual and skillful roll in the proverbial hay. We spent most of the time mopping our bodies around my faux-hardwood floors at 3 a.m. when I ended up hovering over his face and felt him breathing me in deeply, enjoying my evident arousal. And so I sat. To my pleasant surprise, he was enjoying being smothered. Imagine my burgeoning dominant excitement! I continued — up, down… up, down… up, down.

Facesitting is a fantastic way of exercising control and providing erotic closeness. It can be a fetishistic activity and one that relegates the top in the position of highness — The Decider of When You Breathe. All of the focus on depersonalization by way of covering the face, being underneath and thus eliminating their presence — now you see me, now you don’t. I can read or listen to music or talk to my damn self — my seat is a seat and nothing more. Outside of a Dominant/submissive (D/s) context, one can also use facesitting as a gateway to forced cunt eating, ass eating, or ball play. The “seat,” as “it” were, can be activated by servicing the sitter and providing intimate sexual contact.

"Facesitting isn’t conceptually profound, but it makes for directness in the bedroom or dungeon or wherever you decide to fuck du jour."

Facesitting isn’t conceptually profound, but it makes for directness in the bedroom or dungeon or wherever you decide to fuck du jour. The psychological implications can certainly be profound, but facesitting itself is not complicated, nor does it require any real prep. Just find an eager consenting little face and sit. You can even invest in a smotherbox or queening chair if facesitting becomes a predominant activity for you and your partner. Just saying the word 'smotherbox' should be enough for a curious party to give it a go with or without accoutrements.

And just as many longstanding lascivious acts are crucified as being despicable teen sex trends by Fox News and OneMillionMoms, facesitting has had a long history. Simply put, it's likely your Grandmother sat on a face at some point and time. This year, UK law banned facesitting in porn alongside other popular fetishes, including female ejaculation. Mistress Absolute, a beloved BDSM practitioner based in London, was among the crowd protesting the outdated law in front of parliament. She facesat in solidarity and drank her morning coffee while doing so. Also notable: there was a man wearing a snorkel rolling out his yoga mat preparing for his personal day of activism alongside Absolute and the other activists. This protest comes off the heels of numerous recent shoutouts being made to femdom, by way of facesitting, via many pop stars including Nicki Minaj and The Weeknd, all of whom have expressed their penchant for the act and the joy it brings. I love facesitting and I’m glad it’s being normalized, popularized, and celebrated, debated even. Any press is good press, no?

Lest we forget the pre-Minaj facesitting enthusiasts: Namio Harukawa, working between the late 1960s and 80s, depicted thick R. Crumb-ian women, meticulously rendered/expertly shaded, practically taking up the full-frame of his images and sitting cruelly and confidently on small weak men in various humiliating fashion. The tiny men tend to the women’s feet or act as a much needed bar stool, among other utilitarian purposes. Much of Harukawa’s work is centered on facesitting, but also includes bondage and human furniture. For more contemporary face to ass depictions, John Stagliano’s Buttman magazine does the trick. Although mostly focusing on hardcore, Buttman has some magical moments of smothering within the pages of back issues. I’m a huge Buttman fan and particularly fond of Belladonna, Asa Akira, Alexis Texas, among other anal queens who appeared in the glossy pages. Buttman operated as a catalog of buttstuff, all disciplines included, something for any butt enthusiast. Self-proclaimed buttman Glenn King (once loosely related to the boys of Buttman) is frequently seen with his face firmly planted between the cheeks of big name porn stars such as Aiden Starr and Daisy Ducati on and He even holds a weekly “TwAss” contest on Twitter where various porn newbies and vets submit photos of their ass for Glenn’s loving judgment.

I rejoice when I see a billboard with a giant ass crushing a city, or when a film gratuitously zooms in on a lovely lady’s ass (i.e. Lucy Liu in Joseph McGinty Nichol’s Charlie’s Angels featured in full leather walking down the hallway, leather creaking as she struts). Fuck the curmudgeons, viva la arse! Don’t leave me hanging — kiss it, follow it, and for god’s sake get underneath it.

Audra Wist is an artist, writer, social commentator and provocateur - she is also an avid collector of erotica and erotic ephemera. She is also a professional dominatrix based in Los Angeles specializing in all sorts of punishment and humiliation. As Autre's sex editor at-large she will be covering all sorts of naughty content in the realm of sex and sexuality – from masturbatorial musings to photographic editorials. Follow Autre on instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE 

Between Language & Flesh: An Interview with An L.A. Dominatrix

What’s your pleasure? – There is a good chance that Mistress Rebecca Knox will satiate your every desire. With her copper-red hair, porcelain white skin and soulful, magnetic eyes that recall Brigitte Helm in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, Knox is a throwback to an era before BDSM was revved up by industrial goth music and giggled at by wine drinking morning talk show hosts. A time before sadomasochism was commercialized and commoditized. A time when sadomasochism existed in secret dungeons – like dark churches for the religion of domination and erotic subjugation. Indeed, Knox carefully balances between the performative aspect of her career and the fact that she is providing a real service for individuals whose desires exist on the deep fringes of sexuality’s multitudinous spectrum. Her specialties include cock bondage, financial domination, forced weight loss, flogging and much more. Based on her reviews by clients, men literally beg to be tortured by her, to serve her and to be disciplined by her. They are deeply aroused by the pain she inflicts. Knox is also highly knowledgeable about her trade and she takes it very seriously. In her regular life, though, Mistress Knox goes by Audra – a grower of orchids, a collector of erotic ephemera, and an artist (she sees art as her primary passion) who is currently in the process of getting ready for an art show in March. Her work brings to mind references of the blood-spatter works of the Vienna Actionists and a distinctly early punk ethos. In the following enlightening interview, Ms. Knox talks about her own desires, her unique profession and the wrestling of her own double personas. 

AUTRE: Can you describe your first BDSM experience – your first bondage experience ever?

REBECCA KNOX: My first bondage/BDSM experience was probably my sister tying me to a tree when we were kids (we have photographic proof) or walking me like a dog, among other things I’m sure. In this sense, I’m kind of surprised I’m not super subbie. But, my first “adult” bondage/BDSM experience happened by chance. I was still in high school and working at the local dry cleaners. A guy came in one night and spilled his guts about how he loved wearing women’s clothes and I ran with it. I was curious. He was actually very unstable with a drug problem, among other things, but I wanted to know more about his fetish or why this troubled him and tried to help him feel comfortable in his skin. Growing up in the area I did, there was always a quiet facade of decency, this “everything's fine” mentality that seemed to reward suppressing aspects of yourself, and I always felt like it was polite bullshit. This experience proved me right, like people were dying to get out or let loose. I remember feeling like, “I found the underbelly – yes!”

AUTRE: Do you ever refuse clients – and are there deal breakers or things that you put your foot down on (and not in a sexual way)?

KNOX: Why do people always kind of assume anyone who works in the sex industry is the carnal equivalent to that kid in school who will eat anything for a dollar? Yes, I do turn people away. I can usually tell in an initial email or phone contact if we’re going to be compatible or not, just by their grammar or syntax. Sometimes it’s obvious, like when a guy doesn’t use proper subject/verb agreements, or it can be something off-putting in a tone of voice or certain “requirements” they have. Doesn’t mean they’re bad guys, just not my cup of tea. They probably wouldn’t have a great session and neither would I, so I pass. I don’t have any hard limits aside from the obvious (no children, animals, etc).

"But, my first “adult” bondage/BDSM experience happened by chance. I was still in high school and working at the local dry cleaners. A guy came in one night and spilled his guts about how he loved wearing women’s clothes and I ran with it."

AUTRE: Are you naturally dominant in your personal sexual adventures or do you save this sadist side of you for the dungeon and your clients only?

KNOX: I think sadistic is a subset of dominance. Dominant encompasses a bunch of smaller specifics like sadistic or disciplinarian, goddess, fetishist, etc. In other words, there are a lot of facets or particulars about or styles of dominance. I remember when I first started out feeling like I wasn’t a “real” top because I wasn’t a bitch to everyone I came in contact with which is laughable now.  I am naturally dominant, but not into non-consent. The sadistic side is definitely saved for consenting partners, not limited to clients.

AUTRE: What was the wildest client experience – could you briefly tell a story about that, or is that too personal?

KNOX: I like to keep what happens in my sessions private, as they are special for both my clients and me but I have some very memorable kidnapping and public play scenes that come to mind.

AUTRE: How often do you reject people - clients – your website says that you are “picky” – how picky are you?

KNOX: I’m a real task-master. So, I like forms, protocol, phone calls, rules, etc.  If someone doesn’t wait it out and do the proper preliminary groundwork, they’re out. Most dudes are calling dick-in-hand, so they don’t want to be bothered with the aforementioned. It’s business –I get it—but I like putting them to the test. It’s a bit onerous, but the ones that stick it out are the most loyal and, of course, obedient.

AUTRE: Do you have any female clients or is it predominantly a male client base?

KNOX: Predominantly male, although another pro told me she recently saw a younger gal who was curious. Women are rare. I’ve had people inquire, but none follow through.

AUTRE: You have a long list of specialties from human ashtray to forced weight loss – what is your favorite?

KNOX: I wouldn’t say I have a favorite, per say — I really do like voyeurism, to be watched, to watch, to be watched watching, and anything from mild to extreme (cuckolding, public play, peep holes, glory holes, forced-bi, etc). Forced weight loss is sort of a voyeuristic affair, getting to see the results and be in control of them.

AUTRE: You are unique because you are also an artist, and it almost seems like there is this stage persona in the dungeon and then the creator in the studio – how do you balance these two sides of your collective persona?

KNOX: I think of myself as an artist first and a Domme second. Domme is something I do that makes sense to me as an artist or is a subsidiary to my work as an artist. I am also a Domme, you know. It’s my language du jour. I think that balancing the two or understanding how they fold into one another is incredibly difficult but a challenge I enjoy. My impulse is to compartmentalize/separate—to figure things out—and it doesn’t work in this situation. This distinction is something I’ve been working on and thinking about, and I actually think this body of work talks about that split or frustration to be out with my more Domineering side. I try to give myself permission to say things as Rebecca or Audra or whoever else is kicking around at the moment, but it gets stuck in my throat or my body, or gets lost in translation. Something Artaud gets at in his writing is trying to mend the rift between language and the flesh. I don’t think it’s ever fully resolved, and I wonder if maybe I’ve created Rebecca as a placeholder for flesh or desire or drive, and Audra exists as an analyst or editor. It doesn’t seem like it could be that clear cut. I’m still trying to strike a balance or house everything under one roof. Politically speaking, I like the idea of blurring it all. One of my friends who is a pro uses her real name for Domme and talks about it as “activism with a lowercase a” and I thought that was genius—it’s not picketing or yelling or signing a form, it’s really living your life out and proud about what you do and reducing the stigma against sex workers.

AUTRE: Your art is very extreme, and you bring a lot of your interests as a dominatrix into your art, and you are particularly fond of Devonshire Productions (DP), which featured a lot of extreme BDSM imagery and bondage devices – can you talk a little bit about that?

KNOX: I certainly don’t have any BDSM agenda with my work or feel like you have to be kinky to get it. It’s not really even about sexually dominating someone. It’s about power and desire and how that is executed. As for BDSM, it’s the visual language I know it at this point. It’s my arena of expertise and I have first-hand experience dealing with power in this way as a Professional Dominant. In Model Agency, I use objects that hold bodies mixed with objects that amplify sound/voices/bodies to direct people or to provide an entrance point to desire, power, etc. I think there are a lot of micro metaphorical ways in which power is played out that make important critiques on a macro level on institutions or group dynamics and so forth, BDSM is just the particular microcosm that I’ve chosen—it’s the best dialect for the moment.

With Devonshire, I saw a couple images floating around the internet which led me on wild goose chase to find magazines, VHS tapes, old addresses, models, etc. I ran with it because I loved what I saw with no pretense. One of the first DP clips I saw was a video of Simone Devon sitting on a table, putting herself in bondage, and writhing around in front of the camera she set up—absolutely incredible. She was both a caring sadistic top as well as a beautifully tortured bottom. She seemed to be honest with her desires in both realms and I liked that confidence and tooling around with power. This is why bondage is so curious to me—the desire to be bound or restrained, objectified, but also held—there are so many conflicting emotions there and DP, namely Simone Devon, managed to encapsulate them all and understand their fragility. 

I see a similar thing happen in punk shows and recording studios or just live shows in general with performer and audience—complete chaos contained in some small stinky room. The walls become your frame or restraining device and that energy in the room is fragile but feels so free. Someone who I think maintains this energy well is Diamanda Galas. I heard about her first performing in completely dark rooms with her back turned to her audience because it was so terrifying for her to perform. But, again, there’s freedom or a breakage in those restrictions that are set up.

So, I guess BDSM and music performance are extreme by a certain veneer but what’s more extreme is the fact that it’s not settled or nailed down–—there’s a set up of a power dynamic, conflict, or a pointing at something in time, never an answer, just a revealing of a state of things (which in a sense, is a kind of burlesque, and perhaps we’re so captivated by strip tease, other than the obvious). I’d much rather show you something rather than tell you something, if that makes sense. I think using extremes, or tropes of extremes in their rigidity, and revealing the state of things can operate as a pathway out to something else more nuanced and quiet.

"This is why bondage is so curious to me—the desire to be bound or restrained, objectified, but also held—there are so many conflicting emotions there..."

AUTRE: You have an art show coming up –can you talk a little bit we can expect from your upcoming exhibition?

KNOX: This show is happening at a strange time. My work up to this point has been by and largely performance-based but right now I’m feeling like I don’t have a voice or like I know what to say while still being very opinionated or passionate. I keep saying to people that this work is revealing my age. I feel a major split happening between my Audra persona and my Domme persona, as mentioned before. I feel like the objects are doing more than I could at this point. Or at least being more eloquent than I could with my voice or presence. I feel like I’ve given myself away to this project or exposed myself to myself, so to speak. There’s a stifled voice or removal of voice—like getting up on stage and blanking, fainting, or the alternative, killing it. The threat of sinking or swimming—I like that panicked in-between spot despite how uncomfortable it can be. I think that’s actually where we buzz or find excitement.

AUTRE: When you were younger –you grew up in rural Pennsylvania –how did you get access to the world of art and erotica…was it difficult?

KNOX: I think anyone who grew up in a rural area and has interests outside of the norm will tell you that it’s difficult just for the sheer fact that there aren’t that many of you out there to commiserate with. I was lucky to find some accepting and interesting people while I was coming of age, so that helped make it bearable. In terms of art/erotica, I was always ordering books and things off of Amazon and squirreling them away in my room, hiding them under my bed. This was around the time Netflix was starting up and I remember getting 8 1/2 in the mail and my mom confiscating it. Though, she somehow didn’t managed to intercept Haneke’s The Piano Teacher, which I was fascinated with. I was reading Genet, Beaudrillard—I loved J.G. Ballard’s crash—and looking at old burlesque films, as this was also the time Dita Von Teese was making her comeback. I distinctly remember sleeping with these books in an effort to absorb their power. I had the Fassbinder poster for Querelle on my wall growing up for years, and I feel like maybe I absorbed something from that after staring at it for most of my formative years. I feel like my entrance to erotica was through art, or more specifically film, music, and literature. I was really left to my own devices when I was young and I think that curious solitude was helpful in finding a way out or gaining access to new ideas, art, erotica, whatever.

I got turned onto art once my high school art teacher directed me to a local installation art museum - The Mattress Factory. At this same time, I started going to shows in Pittsburgh—Sharon Needles, Gravy Train!!!!, and this really great band that came through Pittsburgh at the time, Veronica Lipgloss and the Evil Eyes. Totally wacky experimental performers with an incredible energy. I don’t know how or why my school let me, but I managed to make some perverse stuff in high school—immersive sculptures and things that would take over the football stadiums, auditoriums, that were about mostly about performance, voyeurism, and spectatorship, little vignettes. I had no idea what was possible or that people could think and make objects and be a part of this discussion—it kind of blew my mind that this conversation was happening, and I wanted to be inside of it! I remember seeing Marlene Dumas’ Jule-die Vrou and it floored me. Same thing happened when I saw Janet Cardiff's 40 Piece Motet. There were some really wonderful things that I saw in a three-year period.

AUTRE: When people asked you what you wanted to be when you grew up – did you have any idea that you would be in this world?

KNOX: Not specifically, but I do distinctly remember thinking to myself “Oh, right, one day I will have a desk job and do professional things at this job” and feeling not right about that statement or rather, I knew I was just consoling myself or creating a false security. I’ve worked shit jobs, but I knew instinctively that I was set in motion to do something else, but coming from a working-class family it was hard to begin to envision what that form that would take. I noticed early on that I was very good at being a chameleon—fitting into the different groups at school and, in a way, that set me up to be an artist, and really a Domme too. I liked being with different people, listening, becoming a part of a group, identifying with, and then abandoning completely and thinking about how weird it is to assimilate or be a part of a group. I’ve always liked this kind of analysis and research. Sometimes I wonder if this is what I am doing with my Domme work, like it may not last forever.

AUTRE: You are opening a new dungeon soon in LA – what kind of environment do you want to create in your dungeon?

KNOX: My roommate and friend, Mistress Lucy Khan, along with Mistress Iris, are opening up The Decameron. I’m just the lucky fuck that gets to live right next door to it! It’s a really beautiful space—1920s Spanish style with stone floors, patio with outdoor bath, custom bondage bed, wench, toys, the works. They’re converting the guest house portion of the property into a play space and made one rule going in: no black or red. There are no dungeons like it in Los Angeles just for the sheer fact of location and uniqueness of the structure. Both of the owners are artists and it makes a difference—they understand aesthetic, ambiance, and practicality. I think it’s really important to have a contained space; you need a space that contains wildness or holds energy and I think The Decameron does that.

AUTRE: What’s next?

KNOX: I do plan on combining Audra and Rebecca Knox this summer under one moniker, taking a leap of faith in launching something more holistic. We’ll see....

You can learn more or request the services of Ms. Rebecca Knox by visiting her website. text and interview by Oliver Maxwell Kupper. portraits by Pierre Auroux 

Shunga: Erotic Art in a Comparative Context

Series: The Prelude to Desire, 1799, Utamaro

It was a time when Japan was ruled by military dictators called Shoguns and much of the East was just large swaths of bucolic countryside, with flowing grass, and a certain mysticism you can only associate with "the Orient."  For centuries it was like this. Seemingly perfect and serene. The artistic output from this time is extremely recognizable: ornate woodcuts painted on scrolls, called ukiyo-e, that depicted the quotidien routine of Japanese life: work, play, love, theater, history, and  pleasure.  Shunga, a Japanese form of erotic art, that most think was deemed immoral, but was actually morally accepted, was common and many artists, without risking their reputations, dipped their pens in this type of ink. It was all the same–work and sex–it still followed a classifiable aesthetic of the quotidien. It begs the question–what did you do last night?

Series: The Prelude to Desire, 1799, Utamaro

This weekend, the University of London's School of Oriental and African studies will hold a workshop and a list of speakers on the topic of Shunga art.  Talks are ranging and include introductions on the history of Shunga art  to how to present and curate Shunga art. The talks are free and is being held at the Brunei Gallery May 20 and 21.