Aranea is a CTA certified Life Coach, a member of the International Coach Federation, and the owner of Surrendered Self Life Coaching, www.surrenderedself.com, where she specializes in working with clients who live alternative lifestyles, including BDSM and D/s relationships.
Aranea is a collared, 24/7 live-in slave in a D/s family. She is also the founder and moderator of a submissive support group and is a member of BDSM Mentors, a Los Angeles based, non-profit educational organization, MasT-GLA and several other D/s discussion and educational groups, where she currently provides mentoring to submissives and slaves.
She has presented at Erotic City/LAGLPW, DomCon LA, Floating World, Folsom Fringe, Lair de Sade, and Dragons Gate Studios and has appeared on KSEX.com and Talking Sex Radio. (Where she will soon be hosting her own weekly show.)
Aranea is also a Certified Reiki Master/Teacher and aura healer.
Eibon: Hi aranea, it appears that you offer a unique and valuable service to those involved in the BDSM lifestyle. Could you tell me how you personally got involved in BDSM?
aranea: When I was in my early twenties and living in New York City, I worked for a short time as a screener for a phone sex service. No, I wasn’t one of the phone sex girls, (that would have been more fun!) My job was to ask a series of questions to determine what the man’s fantasy was, get the credit card info, and then connect him to the appropriate girl. I’d call the girl at her home and brief her on the client’s desires so that she could magically be what he wanted, the moment they connected on the phone.
I really hit it off with one of the phone sex girls. She was intelligent and witty and we would trade quips back and forth in the short time that was allotted us to set up her call. After we’d worked together for awhile, she confided in me that she was a 24/7 slave and that she had a Master. I was titillated and intrigued! I’d already masturbated, with the best of them, to the Story of O, and I believe I’d discovered the Sleeping Beauty Series by then. (I’d always been a kinky little fucker in mind, but never had the chance to express it, as I was caught up in the “good girl” syndrome where “romantic love’ is the essential ingredient for sexual expression. Unfortunately, up until that time I’d only been pursued by misty-eyed college boys who wanted to marry me, wanna-be rock stars who needed a muse and poured their sexual energy into their music (I had more songs dedicated to me at that time than orgasms), or Middle Eastern Diplomats who promised to buy me “bootiful things” if I’d leap, unthinking, into their limos. Since I had no desire to be married, or raped in the back of a limo, I ended up dating musicians and actors who at best wanted a girlfriend and at worst, a Mommy. Since there weren’t any Masters or Dominants waiting in line outside of my pre-war brownstone to ravish me, tame me and collar me, I assumed that the books were full of kinky fantasies and that people didn’t really have relationships like that.) So, of course, I jumped at the chance to go hang out at Lisa’s (changed name) apartment, hoping to get a glimpse of the elusive “Master”.
My best friend (who also knew Lisa through the phone sex job) and I went to Lisa’s place to meet her in person for the first time. She was a beautiful, dark haired girl with pale skin and an ample body. She was very soft spoken and seemed slightly depressed. She talked about missing her Master because he was often out seeing other women, which made her unhappy, but it’s what he wanted so she would have to deal with it. We were disappointed that her Master wasn’t there but she proudly displayed his handiwork in the form of bruises and welts and at our looks of horror, tried to convince us that the marks were proof of his love for her. It might have been better if we had met her Master because he quickly, in our eyes, became the faceless brute who was abusing this poor, misguided girl. My friend was more appalled at the marks, I was upset about his pursuing other women and the pain that it was causing Lisa.
So, my first encounter with real life BDSM was with, what I judged at the time, to be a dysfunctional and abusive relationship. Looking back, I realize that I had no right to judge anything. She may have been having a difficult time being a slave that day and wanted someone to confide in, but we weren’t equipped to help her with that. We kept trying to rescue her from an abusive relationship and that’s why a friendship between us was never able to bloom. Perhaps she was in an abusive M/s relationship. That’s certainly not unheard of. I’ll never know.
Through Lisa, I was able to attend a few BDSM events in New York but even though I remained intrigued, nothing I saw moved me and no man got into my head. Now I know that’s because what I was witnessing was a lot of BDSM, kink, and fetish and what really does it for me is D/s or M/s. At the time I just kept thinking, “Is that all there is?”
Many years and a couple of vanilla relationships later, a friend told me about an internet site that had really good erotic literature. I was looking for good masturbation material because my then boyfriend was on tour (yes, still involved with performers) and I was staying faithful. The site had its stories listed under different categories and I went straight for the power exchange one’s and never looked back.
From there, I started doing online research which opened up a world of information that wasn’t available in my New York days. I began to realize what had always been lacking in my vanilla relationships. One of my boyfriends had been kinky; light bondage, “playing” at force etc. but the excitement always wore off because he was just playing at it. Then, when he wanted me to tie him up too, that killed it for me when he topped me the next time. I wanted the man to be in charge outside of the bedroom so that when he took me, I was really being taken. I also wanted to be loved, cherished, and cared for by my captor. Not too much to ask for is it?
The internet gave me a wonderful start in my BDSM education. I also met my share of frauds, fakes, and freaks (the good and bad kind) and I learned something from every, single one of them. Luckily, I live in the Los Angeles area where there are a multitude of events to attend so I didn’t have to rely on the internet exclusively for D/s interactions when I was a newbie. It was only a training tool for me until I was ready to step away from the keyboard and into real life. Unfortunately, for many people who live in isolated areas, the internet is all they have to connect them to the Lifestyle. The danger there is that real time is vastly different from online and a lot of people, who haven’t experienced both, think it’s the same and act accordingly.
Eibon: How long were you active in the lifestyle before you decided to start Surrendered Self, and what inspired you to create it?
aranea: When I was going for my coaching certification, my mentor coach suggested that I find a niche for my coaching business. That way I could target my marketing to a specific clientele and enjoy working in an area that I’m passionate about. I struggled with choosing between the BDSM Lifestyle and the Metaphysical and Healing Arts or Spiritual Coaching. (I’m a certified Reiki Master and aura healer and have been dabbling in metaphysics my whole life).
I chose to focus on the Lifestyle because my social life was already immersed in all things BDSM. My Dominant and I are both very active in BDSM education and before I chose the Lifestyle as my coaching niche I was already mentoring submissives, running a submissive support group and being asked to present and/or teach classes. There began to not be enough time to help people individually in the social setting so I set up my business www.surrenderedself.com where I could offer coaching services, live classes, and teleclasses for those who can’t travel to Los Angeles.
I’m finding that more and more prospective clients are interested in my services as a healer along with the coaching and a lot of vanilla people are starting to inquire about those services too, so it looks like I might be building another website!
Eibon: How did you get involved in BDSMmentors?
aranea: When BDSM Mentors was in the planning stages for their first Dom Boot Camp, they approached me about putting together a weekend course that could run concurrently for submissives and slaves. Up until that time, my workshops had been, at maximum, three hours long so I owe them a huge, “Thank you!” for lighting a fire under me to get me to develop a two day course. From that, “The Submissive Survival Course” was born and, in order to match their “Extended Boot Camp”, I developed the “Submissive Obstacle Course”.
Working with BDSM Mentors has been one of the highlights of my career. They’re a creative, positive, energetic group whose mission is the promotion of BDSM education, not “self”. Everyone involved is completely supportive of each other’s ideas and very respectful if there are disagreements. With a bunch of Alpha Males and a smart-ass slave working together, you’d think it could get pretty ugly but it’s actually a lot of fun.
Eibon: What is the most common problem you find with the submissives you counsel?
aranea: I wish this were a live interview so audience members could guess. I’d love to hear their answers!
The most prevalent issue that is common among my clients, mentees, and even some friends, is jealousy. I was going to say polyamory but I know a lot of submissives/slaves in monogamous relationships who have issues with their Dominant playing with others, even if there isn’t any sex or love involved.
It’s too complicated of a topic to go into detail about in an interview. I teach a class about how to deal with and differentiate between jealousy, envy and resentment and there are no quick, easy answers.
*aranea picks up a can labeled “worms” and unadvisedly opens it* What compounds the problem is the fact that there are some Dominants who use, “I’m a poly Dom” as an excuse to do whatever they want with complete disregard for how it effects someone who they claim to have in their care. Often times these Dominants show great intolerance for their submissive’s jealousy issues because it cramps their style, while at the same time they don’t have to deal with jealous feelings themselves, because their submissive is not allowed to be poly. I’m not saying they should bow to the wishes of the submissive. That would destroy the power exchange dynamic. What I am saying is that they should educate themselves as to what polyamory is all about. There are plenty of wonderful books out there on polyamory that explain the pleasures along with the pitfalls, the emotional backlash and how to deal with it, etc. There is a lot of work involved in maintaining healthy polyamorous relationships.
It concerns me that so many Dominants put their time and energy into learning how to Top but haven’t cracked open a book or taken a course on the psychological aspect of D/s, polyamory etc., yet they have authority over another person’s life. There is a lot more psychological rather than physical damage being done in the Lifestyle because of this, and we all know that the psychological damage is more difficult to heal. Now, please don’t think I’m Dom bashing. There are plenty of wise, wonderful, honorable Dominants out there. There are also some who are new and have good intentions but need more experience. None of them are perfect and they all will make mistakes occasionally.
Submissives and slaves also need to take responsibility for educating themselves so they know what they’re committing to when they get involved with a polyamorous Dominant. The erotica that hooks most of us into the fantasy of BDSM usually portrays the Dominants as finding their one true match and focusing all of their time, energy, passion, sexuality and love into their one. Submissives who commit to a poly Dominant are often blind-sided by how painful it can be when the high beams are no longer focused on them and they have no idea how to deal with those feelings.
Eibon: What is the most common problem you encounter with the Dominants you counsel?
aranea: Love. When Dominants are in love with their submissives it creates a whole host of issues for them that they’ve never experienced before. They find it difficult to discipline, punish, deny, and disappoint their submissive. They often have difficulty playing as hard with the person they love which creates a problem when that person is a masochist.
They will often begin to question their Dominance and struggle with feelings of inadequacy and isolation. I mention isolation because they usually think that they’re the only ones who have this problem and they won’t confide in other Dominants about it. If they did, they’d find that many others have the same dilemma.
Female Dominants are more open about discussing this issue with each other. There isn’t the same stigma of weakness attached to a female Dominant being influenced by love for her submissive (even though they have the same struggles with it). This is in direct relation to the expectation that females are naturally “mothering” and “nurturing” which is an issue a lot of hardcore, sadistic, female Dominants struggle with. The perception that all female Dominants are “mommies” is one that they are continually trying to overcome. Some enjoy that role but those who don’t, find that perception very limiting.
Now, since I ranted about a certain type of Dominant in my answer to question #4, I’m going to lecture the submissives and slaves whose Dominant’s are in love with them. Never, Ever, Ever Never, use that love to manipulate, control, or influence your Dominant. If you do, at best, you’re being insensitive and at worst unethical. Either way, you’re destroying the very dynamic that you crave and harming someone who you profess to love. Even if you get what you want for the moment, the long term effects of continually using their love for your own benefit is the destruction of the D/s dynamic.
This is a very serious issue and is often the reason why many D/s or M/s relationships that begin with such promise, degenerate into vanilla at home, with a little bit of a show put on while out in public. All involved become frustrated and disillusioned and, with time, the love that caused the problem in the first place turns into resentment.
Eibon: The public seems to have an image of people interested in BDSM having a higher incidence of mental illness, what is your opinion of this?
aranea: The public knows what the media shows. In relation to BDSM, the media has acquired high ratings from either reporting the cases where there is severe pathology involved and someone was murdered, or serious negligence has occurred and someone died. Then there’s the fictionalization of BDSM, that television and film producers utilize in order to titillate, which rarely paints BDSM in a positive light. The public, therefore, sees us as a bunch of maladjusted people.
I believe that there are just as many people with personality disorders wandering around in the vanilla world as there are in BDSM. Sometimes it seems more prevalent to us within the Lifestyle because people who are comfortable walking around naked, having sex, and being beaten publicly (in a dungeon) are more likely to discuss their dysfunctional relationships, phobias, etc. with each other than Bob in cubicle 3 would with Stan in cubicle 6.
Eibon: What aspect of your work do you find most fulfilling?
aranea: Experiencing the incredible growth that my clients achieve. I have the honor of sharing part of their life’s journey with them and it’s very exciting and gratifying to witness them; become empowered by learning new skills, find and manage fulfilling relationships, get unstuck through productive behavioral changes, and achieve the goals they’ve only dreamed of in the past.
Teaching workshops is also very fulfilling because it gives me the opportunity to experience the dynamic energy that groups generate. I always learn something new from my students and we share a lot of laughter which, to me, is an essential part of life.
Eibon: What keeps you interested and engaged in BDSM?
aranea: My M/s relationship keeps me on my toes. I’m always trying to find new ways to reach a deeper state of surrender, which to me means embracing the will of my Daddy (He doesn’t like to be called Master) not just accepting it and obeying.
I’m always learning something new from the submissives in my family. They also keep me engaged and interested in BDSM. I’ve learned a tremendous amount about the D/s dynamic while participating in their training and through being their mentor. It’s fascinating to see how different personality types react to the dynamic and all that it entails. My best friend, who is a submissive, and I are always debating D/s concepts, trading tips on how to survive in a 24/7 relationship (did I say survive, I meant thrive!) and making each other laugh over our own ridiculousness when we’re taking ourselves too seriously. So, as I’m answering this question, I’m coming to the realization that it’s deep, personal relationships with others in the Lifestyle that keep me engaged and interested.
It’s also refreshing to take classes instead of teaching them. Sometimes when I’m feeling less than inspired to be an exceptional slave (and am barely passing muster as a good one) all it takes is going to a MasT meeting or some other discussion group and the energy and information I receive gets me back on track. There have been many times when a rousing D/s discussion has gotten me back into the proper headspace more than a good scene has.
Eibon: What do you enjoy least about the BDSM lifestyle?
aranea: Intentional misrepresentation. Many of us misrepresent who we are unintentionally when it comes to wants, needs, desires etc., because we are either new to BDSM, a type of play, or a relationship style and we genuinely don’t know how we’re going to feel about it. We think we know what we want but we can’t really be sure until we’ve had the experience. If the experience turns out to be unfulfilling, unpleasant, or even painful, then it’s our responsibility as mature adults to learn from it and move on. It’s also our responsibility to let the other person or persons know that we’re interested in a certain thing but that we can’t be sure if it’s what we really want. Then they’ll know that they’re taking a risk, when they engage in that activity or a relationship with us, that we may not enjoy it or want to continue with it.
There are people in the Lifestyle, however, who intentionally misrepresent who they are in order to exploit or manipulate others. This intentional misrepresentation is done by Tops, bottoms, Dominants, submissives, switches, and slaves. Anyone is capable of it. This problem is not endemic to the BDSM Lifestyle only. As long as there are human beings involved, exploitation through misrepresentation will be utilized by dishonorable people to get what they want.
This misrepresentation can lead to serious injury, not only of the body, but of the mind and heart. When asked,” What’s the most important thing in a D/s relationship or play partnership?” most people will answer, “Trust”. It’s quite a challenge for all of us (no matter what we identify as) to be able to trust when it can lead to hospitalization, jail time, or years of psychotherapy. Those who intentionally misrepresent themselves in our community definitely compound the problem that a lot of us have with trust.
Eibon: Which local groups have you been involved with? Which one do you consider the best?
aranea: I’ve been involved with many local groups, from simply attending or presenting a class, all the way up to administration, active participation and membership. They are as follows, in alphabetical order: Avatar, BDSM Mentors, BDSM West, Conquest Society, Dragons Gate Studios, LAFuk, LAsis, LA Social, Lair de Sade, MasT (Greater LA), OCLA, Orange County Social, Santa Clarita Group, South Bay Munch, The Threshold Society, and West Coast Power Exchange.
I don’t consider any of them to be the best. They all have a lot to offer depending on what you’re looking for. I will say that I’ve had positive experiences with every group I’ve listed and have found that all of these groups are run by people who care about promoting BDSM in a positive and healthy manner.
Eibon: Is there anything else you'd like to add?
aranea: Yes. I’d like to thank you for putting together this website which promotes BDSM education. I know that maintaining such a site takes work and I appreciate and commend you for it. All of us from newbie to “been in the Lifestyle for 85 years UberDom and wonderslave” need to have places like this where we can commune and share knowledge.
Learn more about aranea at "Surrendered Self".