Not all kinky people are into leather and chains, some want to get down and dirty with toys inspired by the great outdoors. Enter: Sacred Sadism, the line of ecosexual-friendly “impact play tools” made for your everyday plant fetishist. Tatum Dooley talked to the brand’s founders about the enduring appeal of nature, accessibility, and non-traditional forms of BDSM.
Four years ago, Genevieve Belleveau moved from New York to Los Angeles to live in a RV and role-play as a monk as part of a conceptual art piece. During the performance, Belleveau started experimenting with self-flagellation using flowers.
The practice of self-flagellation in certain sects of Christianity began as a way to attain mortification of the flesh, i.e. to put your sinful nature to death via physical suffering. I guess the jokes on them, because self-flagellation can also bring pleasure, and probably doesn’t do anything to quell the desire to sin. Moreover, self-flagellation, or flagellation of a partner, doesn’t have to be super dark and scary. As Belleveau was whipping herself with flowers in the mobile home, she got the idea to incorporate flowers and plants into an S&M practice.
Belleveau and her partner Themba Alleyne began collaborating on a sex tool line inspired by the aesthetic of plants and flowers – as opposed to the more traditional dark, leather, studded aesthetic of whips and floggers– shortly after they got married. The result is “Sacred Sadism,” a line of sex tools that, left around the house, might confuse an unwitting visitor into thinking you have a green thumb. This conflation of aesthetics is intentional: “We want to demonstrate that whatever you think BDSM is or looks like, you can always alter it to make it you own,” Belleveau wrote me in an email.
The tools—as Alleyne and Belleveau like to call them, instead of products or toys, since they want to encourage learning and growth, rather than building a brand— are visually compatible with the Instagram-friendly-aesthetic of filling your space with plants and flowers. I’m not exaggerating when I say that the Sacred Sadism orchid butt plug—one of the newer tools in the collection—is the prettiest sex toy I have ever seen.
Belleveau and Alleyne use the term ecosexuality to describe their practice as a way to situate what they’re doing within a larger movement. The term ecosexuality was first penned by performance artists and academics Elizabeth Stephens and Annie Sprinkle, who believe that instead of considering the earth our mother, we should nurture it as if it were a lover. Ecosexuality represents a two-sided relationship with nature.
I hopped on the phone with Belleveau and Alleyne to learn more about Sacred Sadism and what ecosexuality means for them.
Tatum Dooley: Have you been surprised by people’s responses to Sacred Sadism?
Genevieve Belleveau: No, not really. I’ve always known that it’s an idea people would connect with. But it’s wonderful to be in a place where we can execute it.
Themba Alleyne: I think one of the driving forces for both of us is making kink more accessible, because the image of kink right now in the media is very one-dimensional. Sacred Sadism is a way for people who aren’t drawn to a hardcore dungeon aesthetic to approach BDSM tools.
GB: We like to say [that we are] taking it out of the dungeon and bringing it into the garden, out in the open air. People are like, oh, I can explore these impulses and it doesn’t have to be so scary.
TD: The dungeon aesthetic most associated with BDSM isn’t going to apply to everybody. There’s a false notion that if you’re hurting somebody it’s a dark or a seedy thing, even if it’s consensual, so the aesthetic skews goth. What you’re saying is that BDSM is loving and can also be visually beautiful.
TA: There’s an incredible amount of love in the BDSM world. I think that’s something that is missed a lot in media depictions of BDSM. To the outside eye it might seem abusive or dark but really you respect the other person and you want to share this beautiful moment with them, and you’re honest with each other about wanting to indulge in these experiences.
GB: It can be really therapeutic and it is also sacred – that’s where I was coming from when I started out. I was role-playing in an art piece as a monk for a year and a half and realized that this kind of impact play had its roots in Emotional Freedom Tapping Technique [an approach to therapy that uses tapping of the body’s meridian points to heal emotional and physical traumas]. It’s really sacred to be that vulnerable and open with another person and be willing to explore parts of yourself that maybe you couldn’t in other ways. It’s beautiful and it should be available to everybody, that’s what we hope the line will say to people.
TD: Can we go back to the plants? How do plants play into being able to achieve these values?
GB: I grew up in Minnesota in the woods, in nature. I remember I always had… I don’t know if I would call it a sexual or sensual or romantic relationship with the plants around me. So when I describe myself as ecosexual, I’m talking about my own personal sexual interest in plants, trees, flowers, grass. At the time that I came up with this idea, I was exploring my own sexuality in a big way and I was discovering that plants played a really really big part in my fantasies. I tried to take my fantasies out of male-centric [arenas] like porn and tried to get in touch with myself. I found a lot of plants were there.
TA: I was homeschooled growing up, and we didn’t really have any mainstream toys – we spent a lot of time outside running around. So nature has always been important to me. I enjoy attaching sensuality to nature and being out in nature in an erotic manner, whether it’s having sex out in the woods or just running through the woods naked. It’s just something that we both like to do, we’re both nudists.
GB: The plant aesthetic was something I was picking up on in culture. Part of what we’re thinking of when we’re designing the tools is “how can we open this up to a broader audience?” So we tuned into an aesthetic that you could find in anybody’s home and not know that it was a sex toy. It came out of our personal experiences and our joy and enjoyment of nature and bringing sexuality into nature. And anyway, everybody likes plants. I mean, who doesn’t like plants?
TD: Do you have any new projects in the works?
GB: The real goal for the project is to be a conceptual art piece and a business – we want people to get their hands on a tool that will help them start playing with BDSM. We want that tool to be a catalyst for learning and growth in the world at large. But ultimately we see this project as something that we hope will activate our roles as educators, as performers, as people who can take all these ideas and bring those to the world. We ultimately want to be creating immaterial works more, by which I mean spreading ideas and information and maybe videos, we’ll see. I’m actually working right now on a plant-like pony play mask, like a head harness made out of fake leaf parts. So I’m expanding into fetish-wear made out of plants, and see what that’s like.
Check out their Instagram here.
Tatum Dooley is a writer living in Toronto.