When it comes to kink, Bex Caputo is technically a switch. But he’s a bottom at heart, which actually makes him better at topping. It’s all pretty fluid, just like so much else about sex.
Aria Vega [00:00:00] [Voiceover] This podcast contains explicit content. Listener's discretion is advised.
Aria Vega [00:00:06] POV by Lustery explores culture, politics and creativity in the sex industry, one point of view at a time. I'm your host, Aria Vega.
Aria Vega [00:00:17] Bex Caputo is a sex and kink educator based in Philadelphia. He teaches online workshops through his blog, Bex Talks Sex, and co-hosts a podcast called The Dildorks with Kate Sloan, who you may remember from October. Bex has also been a friend of mine since we worked together at sex toy shop, Babeland, in New York. The way that Bex educates about kink was essential in helping me understand that it's about much more than rough sex and rope bondage. Of course, it can be those things, too. But what I was intrigued to learn is that kink is really about probing the depths of our trust for each other, and transcending above our physical experiences by descending deeper into them. First, I'll let Bex give us the glossary.
Bex Caputo [00:01:04] [Interview] So dominance and submission... I often talk about them as paired with topping and bottoming, because I often use them interchangeably, and I know a lot of other people do, but they don't mean exactly the same thing. They're similar words with a lot of overlap. So if we're looking at the top, we're looking at the person who is doing the action: they are doing the tying, they are doing the fucking, they are doing the hitting. And then the bottom is the person who is receiving that, who is being hit, being fucked, being tied, whatever that looks like. When we're talking about dominance and submission, we're talking about the power dynamic within that relationship, the person who is in control and who is in charge. So the dominant is going to control the direction of the scene, or the power of it. They are the one that is guiding the interaction and making the decisions, whereas the submissive is the person who is choosing to take the more receptive and passive and follower role, and possibly from a place of service or something like that. Typically, you would think that the top, the person doing the tying, doing the flogging, doing the fucking is the person who is in charge. But that doesn't have to be the case. I think that comes up a lot in my teaching is that, I'm a masochist, I'm a I'm a switch. I can play from both sides, but like, I like getting tied, I like getting beat and I like getting fucked. And in the dynamic that I am in, I am the boss. That doesn't mean that I have to give up those things because when my submissive is hitting me exactly the way I would like to be hit, at the time, I would like to be hit, in the ways that I would like to be hit, I am a dominant bottom. Which is a thing that I don't think a ton of people think of right away when they're exploring kink, which is why I like to talk about those definitions kind of as a as a package deal.
Aria Vega [00:02:54] Yeah, so what it sounds like you're saying is that it's more of a spectrum than a binary. What do you love most about being submissive?
Bex Caputo [00:03:01] Oh, there's so many things. So for me, I think the thing I love most about playing in a submissive role is so there are a lot of different flavors of submission, right? I'm a good boy. I like being a good boy. I like having clear instructions set out for me and being able to succeed at them, or having difficult challenges set to me and playing with a dominant who is setting that challenge because they know I can do it and they're going to help me do it, and they're going to push me through my limits so that I can do it. That feeling of achievement and accomplishment and support and care and safety and all of that that comes with submission is often what I really crave when I'm looking for that kind of subspace-y, subby feeling.
Aria Vega [00:03:48] Okay yes, subspace.
Bex Caputo [00:03:51] Yeah!
Aria Vega [00:03:51] Would you describe that as an emotional state or more of a physical one? Like how would you characterize that experience of subspace?
Bex Caputo [00:04:03] I mean, yes and, honestly. So I describe it as an altered state. It's in the same bucket in my brain as like meditative states or trance hypnosis, or even like intoxicants, like if I'm smoking a joint or drinking a couple of shots or something. They also bring me to a state that is not quite mental and emotional and not quite physical, but something that is a blend of in between, and subspace feels like that, too. It can come in different flavors, but it is... It feels like almost accessing a mode of my brain a different way that it can run in the same way when I'm meditating. It's still my brain, but it has a different flavor. Subspace feels similarly. It's it's still my brain, but it is, depending on the flavor of subspace, probably more muted, relaxed, blissed out. A little bit silly, probably. Maybe not thinking my clearest, a little foggy but just... Floaty is a word that I use a lot and a lot of people use, but it just feels like floating in this blissed out little place.
Aria Vega [00:05:12] [Voiceover] If this description of subspace strikes you as semi-spiritual, Bex would agree with you.
Bex Caputo [00:05:17] A lot of people think of kink as a subset of sex or as a way to have sex and, yes, kink is related to sex for me. Absolutely. I look at it as filling a role that spirituality and play fill in my adult life as well. It is for me about connecting with myself and the people that I am in relationship with in deeper ways, about intimate understandings of myself and the people that I play with, and about experiencing a thing. What's so interesting to me is the way you talked about how mood altering substances can kind of bring you out of your body a little bit. The thing about altered states that I access through kink is that they do that, and bring me so viscerally into my body at the same time. Because so often they're a result of things that are happening to my body if I'm suspended in rope, like I've got rope covering me and I'm and it's literally holding me in the air in some wildly uncomfortable position. I'm not leaving my body, I am aware of my body and the shapes it is making. That is all I'm aware of right now, is just having a body and what it feels like to have a body, and all of the endorphins that my body is feeding me because I'm trying to do a difficult, painful thing. So yes, I'm in this floaty, bliss style place in my head and I am just so physical and like, What does my meat suit feel like? Not what does it mean to have a meat suit in this world that I live in? But just what does it feel like to be existing in it right now?
Aria Vega [00:06:59] Got it! I also thought of the word "flow." I don't know if you're familiar with —he actually just passed away... Lord, I can't say his very European name, but there is a very famous psychologist who invented the concept of creative flow. When we are doing something that we are really passionate about and engaged with and just fully, fully deeply immersed in, it can take us into an altered state, much like the ones that we're speaking of. So kink is a way of accessing this altered state that we actually have access to from a lot of different ways.
Bex Caputo [00:07:42] Yeah, we would need to talk to my best friend Kate about this, but I believe there are studies linking flow state to kink headspace. At the very least, I know that it is self-reported by quite a few kinksters saying, Yeah, it's similar to that like "in the zone" feeling you get when you're doing a creative thing or even playing sports, or something. That feeling where if you think about it too much, you suddenly can't do it anymore. It's not working because you're on a roll. That's what top space feels like for me. That's what it feels like when I'm hitting someone, and it's akin to that when I'm bottoming. But it is less thoughtful. Top space is much more in the thoughtful planning, which is where that flow state feels like for me as a creative as well. It is in the, I am making something and I'm creating this, and that's what top space feels like for me.
Aria Vega [00:08:31] And is that same sense of distortion of time present, too, in top space?
Bex Caputo [00:08:36] Yes!
Aria Vega [00:08:37] Yeah, I know that's a big one for all the other things, it's like, What do you mean, it's been three hours?
Bex Caputo [00:08:42] Yeah, I often play with either a playlist or a particular album on if I can't have a clock that I can see, so that I just have a scale of like, Oh, I'm three quarters of the way through this album and it's a 40 minute album, I'm probably wrapping up this scene, I've been hitting them for a minute, just to keep myself grounded. Because, yeah, otherwise I've been doing this three minutes or three years, couldn't tell you, but it's great!
Aria Vega [00:09:07] [Voiceover] Bex is a switch, meaning that his sense of being a top or bottom is fluid from day to day, and over the years. These days, he's spending more time topping. But bottoming is the original mode through which he entered into kink, and it still thoroughly informs his practice.
Bex Caputo [00:09:24] [Interview] I am still quite bottomy. Even in my dynamic where I am primarily a dominant, I still bottom a lot. And I think what's interesting about that is that my relationship to bottoming— So I've always been an anxious person and I've always been a timid person, and I am very much a person who likes to people-please. And that is the thing that's always been true and that I've struggled with, and all of those traits kind of blend well with finding out kink is the thing you're fascinated with and being like, Yes, I'm a bottom. I guess I just do whatever anyone else wants me to do, and I just follow instructions all the time and never have to worry about making decisions, right? That's how I that's how I do this, which is certainly not true of everybody. And I am still a bottom, I enjoy the things that come with bottoming and the intense sensations that come with it. And my relationship to bottoming now is much more from a place of I like how it feels to feel intense sensation and pain. I like the way it feels to push my limits and the x y z ways. These are the things I like to do, and I look for tops who like to do those things with me. And that's great. I'm a much more engaged participant in my bottoming, rather than seeing it as the way that I can access this kink thing without challenging myself. So it was less a process of like finding out I was a bottom and more a process of finding out how it is important to me to bottom, and how to actually take ownership of that role.
Aria Vega [00:10:53] [Voiceover] The nature of a relationship also determines how Bex feels inclined to play with someone.
Bex Caputo [00:11:00] [Interview] Often it is about my dynamic with that particular person, right? It can have to do with what I'm craving that day or... I watched a movie recently, and it had this thing in it that has me thinking this particular way, right? Like our sexual tastes change for all kinds of reasons, but the most consistent thing that I notice is related to the person that I am playing with and the way our energies meld together. So if I'm playing with someone who is always the dominant, I tend to take the subbier side of things. When I'm playing with a switch, that gets a little more complicated. My partner, Ashe, is also a switch, which means we play from all sides of the slash. But our day-to-day dynamic, the most comfortable kind of, I guess, equilibrium for our relationship to fall into is I'm the boss, I'm daddy, and that just kind of evolves out of the way we play together and relate to one another and talk to each other and like the way our relationship grew. And that tends to be the case when I am picking out the way I'm going to play with the people I'm playing with. It's a realm of, what do we both enjoy and what are we both in the mood for tonight? And what skills do we have and what side of the slash does that wind me up on? If that makes sense.
Aria Vega [00:12:32] Yeah, it does. It does. Can you tell me a little bit about how your journey with exploring kink fit into the journey of becoming a sex educator?
Bex Caputo [00:12:43] Yeah! That's a good question, actually, because what I get asked a lot is like, How did you become a sex educator? How did you start doing this? And generally, the answer is I'm queer and trans, and this is where the answers were.
Aria Vega [00:12:57] No, literally! That's why I'm a sex educator! I just found my people, and they happened to be in a sex shop and then that was it!
Bex Caputo [00:13:07] Exactly, exactly. I fell down the rabbit hole of the things that were intellectually interesting to me and sexually interesting to me, and a lot of that is kink. And what I found was that there were a lot of conversations that needed to be had that weren't being had. What I have found is that I tend to have a unique perspective on kink and sexuality in general. I have the gift of gab and I'm long winded as hell, and people tend to find me charming sometimes, which generally makes me a decent educator. I saw these holes, all these conversations that needed to be had and all these things that I wish people were loudly saying to me when I was trying to figure out gender, and trying to figure out kink and all of these things, and just decided to start being the person loudly saying them. And it has worked out pretty well for me so far!
Aria Vega [00:14:03] [Voiceover] In the mid 2010s, Bex started writing about sex on the internet, educating people via social media and his blog. Then he started working at Babeland, and further expanded his knowledge of pleasure products and kink toys, and thus his audience. But Bex would be the first to tell you that toys are not what makes or breaks a BDSM scene.
Aria Vega [00:14:28] [Interview] So now I want to talk a little bit about the energetic flow that goes into dominance and submission. We talked about that sort of creative spiritual flow. But in terms of the interaction itself, a really common misconception about dominance and submission is that that only happens in one direction. It's the dominant doing all the things to the submissive who just grins and bears it passively. Can you talk about what's flawed about this thinking, and what the truth is?
Bex Caputo [00:14:56] I mean, the biggest issue is that it's not setting anyone up for success. It takes away all of the agency and responsibility from the submissive for what is happening in that scene. And I understand where this misconception comes from, right? If you are looking at someone getting beaten, it's really easy to think that the person hitting them is the one doing all of the work. A lot of the skills that I talk about as being particularly beneficial, or particularly important for bottoms either A) happened before the scene, right? Things like knowing what to ask for and knowing what you enjoy and knowing how you react and scenes and setting your partner up to understand those things, really intimate self-knowledge stuff, as well as softer skills like communication and empathy, and really interpersonal stuff. Again, self knowledge and like emotional awareness and things, all of these skills that we don't teach explicitly really anywhere. We expect folks socialized as women to have them. We also often expect them to be bottoms, but that is not necessarily always true of either of those things. When we are actually kind of talking about these skills, I think we are finally actually giving people the tools they need to be really successful in these dynamics because you have all of that work in ahead of time, as well as just being receptive and engaged and communicative in the moment, which is also quite difficult.
Aria Vega [00:16:31] [Voiceover] These challenges are especially apparent in a relationship that has a kink dynamic that runs 24/7.
Bex Caputo [00:16:38] [Interview] So 24/7 dynamic is a dynamic where dominance and submission is a part of the relationship for the entire relationship. The way I was describing earlier, when I play with my partner, I am the boss. I'm always the boss. That doesn't mean they can't come to me with concerns. It doesn't mean I'm always domineering. 24-7 dynamics, part of what's tricky about them, but also fun about them, is that it is not a sexy thing all of the time. We have pieces of our dynamic that are just designed to make us better, happier people, but we filter them through this lens of kink and we say, you're doing it because I said so because I'm the boss and they go, Oh, that's hot! And then they do the thing, and it makes us both better human beings. So I have been in that kind of dynamic long distance as a submissive, and then my current dynamic is a 24/7 dynamic where I am the dominant. And it was initially long distance, but now we essentially live together part time.
Aria Vega [00:17:45] Got it. OK, so this is the first time that someone is kind of within reach with whom you're practicing that relationship?
Bex Caputo [00:17:53] Yeah.
Aria Vega [00:17:53] What has that been like for you?
Bex Caputo [00:17:55] Oh, it's been delightful. It is both easier and harder to keep the dynamic feeling present, because when we saw each other in the past, we would have like these weekends that like this is when I see you and we plan all the things for the weekend and it's able like you're able to make the D/s feel really, really present because you're able to be on...
Aria Vega [00:18:21] It's so contained.
Bex Caputo [00:18:22] Yeah, you could be on for a weekend and you're like, I am the boss! They come over after school, they're going to be here in a couple of hours. I'm going to be in my boxers *Laughs* [I'm gonna] be in the bag watching Baking Show. Obviously, the challenge of integrating that fun sexiness into just life because life just happens and they are a part of that. It's been so great to be able to feel that power dynamic in person. It feels so much more tactile. It is a thing that we get to play with so much more. The simple physicality... we can beat each other more often and we can tie each other more often like that. All of the practical stuff is really nice, but there is also just a security of knowing that they are less than a mile — I can just walk to them if I need to, which is nice, even as someone who has had quite a lot of long distance things in my life.
Aria Vega [00:19:26] Yeah, it really sounds like you found a pretty ideal scenario.
Bex Caputo [00:19:30] Yeah!
Aria Vega [00:19:31] And on that topic, there's a lot of advice out there about how to find compatible people to date in general, just like how to find a partner. But there's very little advice on how to find a play partner like vetting them and finding someone that's compatible with you. So what advice would you give to someone who is looking for someone with compatible kinks to play with, ideally nearby so that they can enjoy a dynamic like you have with Ashe?
Bex Caputo [00:19:58] So your first step is to figure out what it is you're looking for, to be able to actively say, These are the kinks that are fascinating to me. Even if the answer, is I haven't tried it, this is what I would like to explore and why. That is going to get you— Even being able to say, I'm fascinated by rope, I really like these stories, I saw this movie, I saw this thing. I read whatever. I want to try it for these reasons, but I haven't gotten the chance to. I'm so much more likely to play with that person than someone who is like, "I'm really kinky and I want to try anything. I just want to. I'm into everything." Because I promise you, darling, you're not! I know it's true. I know a lot of perverts, you're not into everything. I think even if you are a person who has little to no experience, being able to speak clearly about like the things that you enjoy is going to be an important first step, because other people who are more experienced are going to take you more seriously, and you're going to be better prepared to find the people that you're compatible with, and then to start having these conversations. I would encourage you to get on with FetLife and see what kind of kink events are happening in your area. I encourage you to go to munches and workshops before you go to a party. So munch is simply an opportunity for kinky people to get together in street clothes at a restaurant or cafe or something like that. Often they won't even mention that they're there to talk about kinky things, but you will just meet up and those will be other kinksters there too, and you could go to like a kinky munch, or you can go to a specific rope munch or spanking munch or whatever. And you're like, Oh, the people here are into things that I'm into, and I can socialize however I want, but it's handy to know that they're into the things that I'm into. So I find munches and workshops, really great places to just start meeting kinky people and through their— most of the people I meet to play with or date or whatever is through the slut referral network. People that I've met through things like that *Laughs* Everyone you're going to talk to in that space, even if you're talking to someone that you're not into, they have friends who are into these things. That's why they're here. I am not great at approaching people, it makes me nervous. So I'm a loud mouth about the stuff that I'm into and the things that I enjoy. And those people just find me. I have friends who will talk to someone and be like, Oh, you enjoy..? Let me introduce you to my friend Bex. You should talk to... you know, you two would get along, I was being glib with the Kinky Referral Network, but honestly, if you're a kinkter, especially if you're a top, having a solid reputation in the scene, having people who have played with you, who trust you, who have talked to you, who will vet you to other people, that is a great way to meet people, because they are going to refer you and those same people again, even if they aren't people that you're going to necessarily play with. Those same people are also people who can recommend you to other people and vouch for you to other players and things like that.
Aria Vega [00:23:11] If someone is very new to kink, do you think that they are better off trying to find someone who is closer to their experience level or more experienced? Because I know that for folks who are more experienced, they don't necessarily want the inexperienced partner. They, may be more likely to want someone that is more on their level. And so how much do you think experience level matters in terms of finding suitable play partners?
Bex Caputo [00:23:41] So this is such a great question, and I think this is a thing a lot of newbies have a lot of anxiety and fear about.
Aria Vega [00:23:46] Yeah.
Bex Caputo [00:23:48] For me, I want to bring back to what you mentioned earlier that the most important thing about experience level is knowing your own experience level. If someone comes to me and does the like, I'm into everything. What you're telling me is that you have not explored enough to find your boundaries. And I know enough about how I play as a person. I like hanging out around my boundaries, that's where I have fun. That's part of why I do this thing. So I need to be very intimately familiar with mine. And what you're telling me is that you're not with yours. However, someone who comes up to me and says, I'm really into this thing, but I've never done it, as an experienced player, I might be down to play with that person because there is something particularly magical about watching someone experience a thing for the first time, right? Watching them learn what it feels like, watching them decide that they like it. Watching them unlock a new sensation that's magical and fun and fascinating. I'm an educator because I like bringing people into new experiences and teaching them things and all of that. It's not always the scene I'm signing up for, though. So you do want to kind of lead with that because if I'm playing with a newbie, I will slow down and change my scene slightly. I'm going to explain more things to them, or I'm going to take my time more, that sort of thing. However, I do think there are also benefits to playing with someone who is a newbie, because someone who is very experienced playing with someone who is very new can teach them a lot of things. There is a bit of a power dynamic in that. Someone who is very experienced can very easily exploit that power. So it's the thing to be aware of if you're a newbie playing with really experienced people. However, that is a really great way to learn things, by playing with people who have been doing this for a minute. Playing with a newbie is a great way to explore things together and to learn together what you enjoy, and there can be less of that overarching pressure for you to show that you can do the thing because this person has done it so many times. If they're just figuring it out too, you can kind of stumble your way through it together. So I don't think there's one better or worse way to do it, but I do think it is important that you're upfront about the fact that like you are a newbie and this is the genre of scene that you're going to want or need because as a newbie, you don't know nothing. You do know things, but those that's different from someone who knows very intimately what it feels like to do this exact thing.
Aria Vega [00:26:21] [Voiceover] In his workshop, entitled Better Bottoming for Submissives, Bex includes a training module called When Things Go Wrong. In it, Bex provides a framework for talking about a scene that veers off script, with the other person that was involved. There's a huge gray area between an awesome scene for everyone and assault, and I loved that Bex was not afraid to dive into it.
Bex Caputo [00:26:44] [Interview] I think it's so important to talk about this because, the thing is, if you're doing this long enough, you're going to fuck up. Something's going to go wrong. First of all, I talk about it because I like standing in the front of the room and being like, So here are the times I've fucked up just to be like, No, I'm teaching this shit and I've fucked it up. That's why I know the things that I can teach you. I spend a lot of time talking about things I hope people will think about before their scenes, or try to do during their scenes. And then I come to the section where I'm like, You're going to plan all those things, and there are times when it's not going to go as planned. And I'm still telling you to plan them because when you set an expectation, that is how you know how you failed to meet that expectation. So you can sit down, and what I encourage folks to do is sit down.There are a lot of different ways scenes can go wrong, so there are a lot of different ways you're gonna want to handle it. But I recommend sitting down and thinking about, well, how did you expect it to go and how was this different and what things didn't you anticipate? What little pieces contributed to make this go differently than how you hoped it would? How can you use that information to inform your future scenes? What have you learned? Have you learned that this type of scene doesn't work for you? Or have you learned that, oh, next time we just need to incorporate this other new thing or this other type of thing? Those conversations, I recommend you think about these things on your own for a little bit and maybe have some conversations with people who weren't even in the scene. But if you have kinky friends that you can be like, So this is what happened, before you go back to the person who you had the scene with, that can be a way to diffuse some intense emotions if you are living in a place where, that person genuinely feels a little scary, because we were playing with some really scary things and they capital-S Scared me. You can talk to kinky friends or other people in your community and then and kind of work through those feelings and then come back together at another time to talk about if you're going to play again together, what that might look like and how things could go differently. Or if it is a matter of, The only thing we need to do differently is anticipate this. I didn't know this would come and this is just how my brain works. And now we just need to plan for this.
Aria Vega [00:28:54] [Voiceover] Throughout his teachings, Bex makes it abundantly clear the key to great kink is the same thing that makes all of our interpersonal relationships great. A willingness to put our desire to connect above fear and ego.
Bex Caputo [00:29:07] [Interview] A thing about D/s is very much that it is about relationships with extreme intentionality and extreme vulnerability. Both of those dials are turn all the way up to a level.
Aria Vega [00:29:18] Hell yes!
Bex Caputo [00:29:18] And intentionality and vulnerability are valuable things to bring to any fucking relationship you have. Those are the things that make them run, but intentionality and vulnerability make D/s go brr! *Laughs* It's the thing that makes it go. So I think when we're talking about kink, you have to be very explicitly talking about these skills and these things that make vulnerability and intentionality work, and that allow us as humans to live in those states. But it's true across the board.
Aria Vega [00:29:55] [Voiceover] That's Bex Caputo, sex and kink educator. You can find his writing and workshops at bextalkssex.com, and he's on Twitter and Instagram @BexTalksSex. Has being kinky had any sort of impact on your ability to be vulnerable in your other relationships? I'd love to hear about that. Hit me up at firstname.lastname@example.org, or you can find me on Twitter @vegadreamcast. If you're into the show, please leave us a five star rating and a review. POV is brought to you by Lustery, and this episode was hosted by me, Aria Vega. It was edited and produced by Kathryn Fischer and Adrienne Teicher, and our showrunner is Paulita Pappel. Lustery is the home of real life partners filming their sex lives behind closed doors. If you're 18 or older, you can find us at lustery.com, and we're on Twitter and Instagram @lusterypov. Until next time, lovers!