Reba Maybury and the Male Experience
Let’s talk about your recent novel Dining With Humpty Dumpty, which draws upon your work as a domme and your unique insight into the private, male experience. Do you feel as though your position in society enables you say something different about the human condition?
To these men, I am ultimately a fantasy and Dining with Humpty Dumpty documents my interactions with a man who uses a political issue ‘female supremacy’ as his fetish - but actually has a right wing lifestyle and political outlook. The basis of the book is based around whether Mistress Rebecca can use her power to change his political views to the left considering that as a submissive to her he apparently aims to make her happy and the tension between her being a sexual infatuation versus a biological physicality. There is an element of the obvious about how in my position I experience performances of male vulnerability however my influence over these men is often more superficial than they may like to actually admit.
I am fascinated in the facades of power play between myself and these corporate men under the guise of domming and the destruction that causes due to the ambivalence that so many men have over their patriarchal behaviour amidst this game. I am besotted with trying to understand the limits to my power. Sometimes I think the most shocking thing about being openly shameless about my formation of sex work - isn’t so much in what I do (being a dominatrix is often considered a more ‘respectable’ on the hierarchy of sex work which is total bullshit) but more the fact that I have experienced men in a way that makes others feel catastrophically uncomfortable. Seeing otherwise respectable white men grovelling for Mistress’s acceptance, or staring at a wall while wearing a suit or writing essays about their insignificance can elicit a totally visceral emotion within us because it goes against a holy power dynamic that our current world is built on. Its subtle. They can’t save you when they are on their knees. However, these men will only ever be below me for so long before they get up and resume respectable careers which keep the cogs running smoothly of our hetero-capitalist-white-supremacist machine that we call our world. For many who use sex workers, sex is a consumable release, a momentary distraction from the banality of their numericable besotted existences. Life goes on for them.
Your depictions of men through your art take on a ridiculous and caricature-like form, such as Humpty Dumpty and the worm. In a world of Harvey Weinstein’s and Donald Trump’s is it important to reimagine the modern man in a humorous, satirical way?
It is important to try and make men look playfully harmless. The amazing thing about being a dominatrix is that you can bend reality because the power dynamic can only ever be a game and fetish is the best playing field for this. In a world where sex offenders hold positions of gargantuan power and the internets catastrophic spreading of mainly violent pornography is unchallenged in its twisting of our generation's psyche it is important for me to see men as something surreal, harmless and not necessarily directly exploiting women for their own pleasure. Laughter is a social glue and in a time of a hysteria over the possibilities of social exclusion conjoined with a self-absorbed, self -identification and digital ego mania I think laughing at the real elephant in the room is an essential way to pass the time. Sex is so centred around the body and I find the body hilarious because it is uncontrollable and imperfect.
I want to deconstruct the power around me at all time and it pulses through me endlessly. I never meant for any of the work to be funny but I think that’s just how it has naturally evolved because I’ve recently realised that I have been subconsciously trying to find the absurd in everything. And however much a stereotype of a dominatrix ‘hating men’ is ingrained in people's minds, this couldn't be further from my own truth. I made a very dedicated decision to only domme heterosexual (or at least they pretend to be), right wing caucasian men with substantial economic comfort and it is what they stand for and how they use their bodies that fascinates me. My practice is about analysing this political identity and that does not encompass ‘all men’.
In many ways I don’t even believe in gender - I believe that all you ever are is your personality and the choices you make around this. These men actively endorse a dangerous and oppressive stereotype which empowers them and disempowers others mainly through their gendered, racial and classist presentations. So therefore making one into a worm, or a tiny man or a fairy tale character or stripping them from any personality at all by naming them ‘Normal’ or the ‘Sell Out’ reduces them to characterisations which can actually be freeing for all of us because the female or queer experiences is so drenched into being compartmentalised. I love the bizarre and ridiculous and I want to make a world where these dynamics metamorphose into absurdity because to me there is nothing weirder than the sterility of our capitalist world!
I loved your cardboard cutout piece recently on exhibition at Karma International in LA, where you wear your subs’ naked bodies as a dress— especially since the male form is not typically presented as naked and vulnerable. Was there an element of wanting to commodify male sexuality through this particular piece?
Taylor Trabulus curated the show and asked me to do something based on the BIG WOMAN series. She suggested I make a cut out of myself to exaggerate Mistress Rebecca’s ‘big’ size. I liked the idea of dressing my body in a dress made up of many small submissive men and then decided to take it further and provoke a little more disgust by photoshopping the faces of the world’s most adored white male rockstars onto the bodies of the naked submissive men. I see these men as the architects of a huge amount of western male behaviour and I wanted to challenge how ever ‘left field’ these once ‘rebellious’ musicians were - they are now wealthier than all of the black people they stole their ideas from and many were openly sexually or physically abusive or grossly racist. It wasn't hard to find images of them all singing, and when added to the bodies of submissive men it looked as if they were screeching in pain. I rarely believe in the celebrated emotions of these men so I wanted to subvert how we consider their music ‘authentic’, ‘genius’ and ‘relatable’. Because most of the time these men’s exertions of humanity is totally flat. Banality is political and we celebrate these white men’s superficiality to godlike elevation. Nothing pisses a man off like saying that The Rolling Stones are racists or Bob Dylan just wanted to be black or that Thom Yorke isn’t actually that profound.
When I first started to place the heads of these ageing men on to the flabby pink bodies of submissive bodies I did feel disgusted but I forced myself to question whether I was ‘exploiting’ them or not and whether that even mattered. Then I began to think of the millions of revenge porn sites, bizarre fetishists imposing the faces of female celebrities onto porn stars bodies and leaked sex tapes and how essentially a woman’s sexuality is used as a weapon against her and I’d hear the words to The Rolling Stones ‘Brown Sugar’ in my ear and begin to laugh.
When the dress was placed on the naked cut out of my skin I loved the tension of the potential sensuality of my female skin next to these grotesque little bodies, it's arousing in all the wrong ways. My nakedness is shielded by the biggest turn off. As women, we are constantly forced to think about whether we are ‘likeable’ and I want to destroy this. This is not a ‘nice’ or ‘pleasant’ piece of work and this is fine by me.
Tell us about your NTS Radio show, it’s a mix of spoken word, as well as music selection?
Mistress Rebecca’s World is a way for me to record smaller nuances of the interactions I have regularly with submissives and I thought it was time to explore the realm of doing this through sound. I also felt an urge to delve more into humour because a darkness can so easily be projected on to what I do. I’ve been becoming more aware that some people really think what I do with my life is really very very extreme when really I just find the whole thing endlessly hilarious and fascinating in itself. I am not a victim and neither am I a stone cold arrogant bitch so I wanted to explore the middle ground of what I do through humour in aim of destroying the stereotypes of being a dominatrix.
I wanted a way to make my experiences more immersive so they take on a format which isn’t physical but more directly emotive. Most of the music I play is contextual to the readings and conversations but a lot of it is also very sensual music. I am now working on making these recordings into a spoken word record which I will release next year!
There is an episode in which your sub recalls in great detail each step of the process taken in deleting his entire white, male music collection as instructed by you. Was this an act of protest against cultural hegemony?
I wish we all thought about our cultural integrity more as a reflection of our society. Did you know that Bono is worth $590 million and Sly Stone is worth $5 million? This is an abomination and should weigh heavily on the nation's consciousnesses and it is all I have to say on the matter.
On the subject of protest, which artists embody protest for you?
The Divine David/David Hoyle, Sly Stone, Leigh Bowery, Nina Simone, Shayne Oliver, Akeem Smith, Jean Genet, Audre Lorde, Jack Smith, Donny Hathaway, Kathy Acker, D’Angelo, Frank Zappa, David Hammons, Peter Hujar, Melinda Gebbie, Cosey Fanni Tutti, Sylvester, Bataille, General Idea, Grace Jones, New Noveta, Penny Arcade, Pharoah Sanders and more!!!
Protest doesn’t necessarily have to be about being on the streets but about being focused in revolting the conservative to inspire those less privileged. The people who I’ve mentioned are clearly varied in their practice but have used heightened and often experimental ways of showing emotion as their expression and we live in a world that does not necessarily celebrate their honest exertions. These emotional bouts of clarity which they have created are so clear in their visceral energy in contrast to the mainstream mundane that their work makes the more close minded uncomfortable because it taps into guttural emotions in hope of inciting it in others. They don’t let you feel alone and isolation is a political tool. These emotions are about rebellion and truths. But this discomfort which they create is purely for the sake of progressive love and nothing is better than that. Isn’t it hilarious that Ed Sheeran is one of the most successful musicians during our right wing times? He incites nothing in people. The brain is a tool to be exercised not culturally lobotomised. People deserve more.
The notion of protest and activism is currently so commodified that its emotion is being drained out of it and turned into perfectly appropriate products. Our most famous supermodels are now born into endless inheritance and are also apparently activists - what are we doing to remember Sylvia Riviera? I want to feel brimming with emotion and passion at all time because that is what makes me feel alive. I want my brutality and tenderness in mutual quantities. Everything has to be about love and human potential because if it isn’t about that what is the point?