Interview with Mayafire: Co-Founder of Albany Power eXchange (APeX)
SPECIAL NOTE: Mayafire and Sir Ron are the co-leaders of APeX, one of the BDSM groups in Albany, NY.
SENSUOUS SADIE: How would you describe your job as leader of the Albany Power Exchange?
MAYAFIRE: "My job? Good word, as it feels like APeX has become a job of sorts. It certainly takes up as much time as a job!
"I feel my job is in running the day-to-day operations of APeX. This includes Public Relations and all correspondence regarding the Group; welcoming new members and helping to make them feel comfortable; working on the Website; coordinating monthly and special events; and almost anything else that needs to be done."
Sadie: How would you describe your group?
Mayafire: "We are a fun loving social club for lifestylers which is also committed to the education, support and well-being of our members. We offer a friendly environment where people can meet to learn more about the BDSM and D/s lifestyles and socialize with others of like minds. We have over 300 adult members, with approximately 40 to 100 people from all walks of life and various experiences attending our events."
Sadie: What do you feel are the characteristics that make you such an effective leader? (Sadie says "thick skin!)
Mayafire: "Well, actually you *need* thick skin to be a leader, but it's not a quality I happen to have. Thankfully Sir Ron's skin is thick enough for both of us. I think the qualities, which make me an effective leader is open communication and a true compassion for people. I'm trustworthy and friendly and people sense that. I also have an enthusiasm for the success of the group, and that tends to rub off on people."
Sadie: I'm sure you know that the Vermont Society of Kink recently had its first soiree. The leader Lord Esox told me (in his SCENEprofiles interview) that he based the structure on that of the APeX soiree. You must feel very proud that your philosophy is spreading to other states! Any comments on that?
Mayafire: "Yes. We have received numerous emails regarding our Group and how far we've come in such a relatively short time. I think it's the way we enthusiastically promote our monthly events (the Friday Soiree and the Meet and Greet, and soon the North Country Munch) as being fun and different from the average munch. Before we started the Friday Soiree, munches always took place in restaurants and were called 'munches.' The name 'soiree' implies a party. It is held in a danceclub, allowing for a more social and carefree atmosphere. Also being on a Friday night, the attendees are able to relax more than at mid-week events. People are attracted to those things."
Sadie: Your website appears to be professionally designed, and if I say so myself (as a budding website designer) it's pretty darn cool, not to mention very popular based on the over 76,000 hits. You clearly feel that this communication is a central one to APeX. What do you feel is the role your website plays in your community?
Mayafire: "The Albany Power eXchange website is a pet project of mine. We wanted a place for members to know what was happening in terms of Events, so that's how it started. Also, when I searched the web for BDSM and D/s information I found there was very little of quality out there. There are a couple of sites that always come up as being THE ones, but their content was never updated. Also, few were comprehensive in terms of content, focusing on either essays or D/s or BDSM or Leather. I do the website for me as much as for anyone else, but don't make it look like a 'personal' project. People don't care about me and how I feel about things; they just want info. They want and crave valuable information in a user-friendly location, and if it's on the APeX site, they don't have to search around all over the place. There's stuff for new people, experienced people, and everyone in between. If you're into technique or into learning what it is to be submissive, or how to be a new Dom, or Leather History, you can find it on our site. I think we're getting more than 500 hits a week now. Of course we wouldn't have the site at all if not for the generosity of Lord Battista."
Sadie: As you see the upstate New York community maturing, how do you think it will change and grow?
Mayafire: "Change is constant. Groups come and go. The political climate has been volatile. This is true as much in upstate New York as anywhere in the country. And with the Internet as such a powerful force in today's social climate, more information (both good and bad) is readily accessible to people. The Internet also helps to draw the various groups together. We are already witnessing that happening and I think there will be even more unity between the many New York groups, as well as those in surrounding states, in the next few years."
Sadie: You are one of the largest groups in the area. To what to you ascribe this success?
Mayafire: "We filled a tremendous need in the community by providing fun and quality events. 'If you build it they will come' is true in our case. We've seen others try too hard to do events and if there's no interest people won't come. You can't manufacture or manipulate people to think they want something they don't. Many people want things, but don't want to pay for it or work for it themselves. Hard work, thick skin, perseverance, and a love of people helps. I am good with PR and it shows. Sir Ron and I put blood, sweat, tears and money into APeX because we are truly committed to building and running a quality club. You have to put a lot of yourself into something to make it work."
Sadie: What have been the biggest challenges in running your group?
Mayafire: "I guess the biggest challenge is balancing APeX and our personal lives. It is amazing how intrusive and stressful starting and running the group has been. Every day there is something to do, to decide, to deal with. Also Sir Ron and I have very different ideas and management styles and maintaining a positive home life, and especially a D/s relationship, while running a group is difficult. Luckily we have a loving relationship which is strong enough to sustain these challenges.
"Another challenge is trying to maintain a sense of community while attempting to incorporate suggestions from many diverse people. The cliche 'you can't please everyone' is so true. Sometimes it seems that no matter what you do, there will be someone who doesn't like it. Kind of damned if you do and damned if you don't. There have been times we've planned one thing and ended up doing something else in order to go with the pulse of the moment.
"Finally, staying focused and not letting little things distract us from the goal of providing quality events and information to the community."
Sadie: What are your goals and hopes for the future of APeX?
Mayafire: "We want to incorporate as a not-for-profit group, which is a process we have already begun exploring. Much as people might think otherwise, we do not want APeX to be dependent strictly on our efforts and community presence. It is our goal that APeX will survive as a strong and successful group for many years to come when Sir Ron and I are retired by the ocean sipping margaritas and contemplating our navels."
Sadie: How has the process of creating APeX changed you personally?
Mayafire: "I cry alot more than I used to. But I am much smarter about many things than I was before. We try to learn from our mistakes, and we've made many. A lot of starting and running a group as large and successful as ours is done by trial and error. When another similar situation comes up I would like to think I am better able to deal with it than I was a year ago."
Sadie: How would you describe your philosophy/approach as it pertains to the BDSM lifestyle? Are you dominant, submissive, switch?
Mayafire: "I am a submissive with an assertive personality."
Sadie: How long have you been involved in the BDSM scene? Please tell me a little bit about your background and experience.
Mayafire: "I had fantasies of spanking and bondage and SM oriented activities for a long time but am still considered a late bloomer. It seems to me I was in college when these desires started to really take hold of me but not knowing there was any kind of 'scene' or other people into this stuff, I never pursued it other than to playfully ask to be spanked by my boyfriend or ex husband. And I must say if and when they did, it was dreadful and I never asked again. My ex husband was kinky and loved toys and such but not to the level I needed.
"All through college and graduate school I felt most at home in the gay dance bars. They were so free and kinky and I was drawn to that. I didn't know why, but I knew I was way different than many of my friends. I was drawn to men who liked rough sex and struggle games in bed; those who would take my wrists and pull them together behind my back while kissing me goodnight.
"I continued to scour through the stories in magazines like Perversions to find SM related stories. These really turned me on, and the more hardcore the better. Somewhere in the early 90's I visited my brother in San Francisco and we went to the Castro district where I immediately felt 'at home.' Not because it was gay but because it was so sexually free. I visited Good Vibrations (they have a fabulous Antique Vibrator Museum!) and bought some spanking photo books and my first set of nipple clamps, which I used when while masturbating. It was delightfully exciting… this new and 'perverted' part of me.
"During my divorce in the mid 90's my obsession became greater. I was getting spanked a little, and tied up a little, but still needed more. More what I didn't know. I sought out 'ouch' pictures on the Internet and would only consider dating anyone who would spank me (even though I was scared to death of it). It turned out a vanilla acquaintance was a Dominant (I found out after sending him one of the 'ouch' pics), and went over to his home to get spanked and ended up in a 2 1/2 year D/s relationship. When that ended, I met Sir Ron shortly thereafter and the rest is history. We have been together since March 2000."
Sadie: What do you think about educating the vanilla community about what we do?
Mayafire: "I think it is very important. Whether we like it or not, the steadily increasing numbers of people who want to enjoy BDSM also attract those who seek to condemn it. Gay history has shown that, while it will be a difficult struggle, progress can be made. Unfortunately, the way our lifestyle is portrayed in TV shows such as Law and Order is how much of the vanilla population looks at us. They only hear about then lifestyle when there is some sensational story on CNN of how a Dominant lured some innocent young girl to be captive in his dungeon; or how someone practiced breathplay during sex and died. And how can anyone want to be 'beat up' as part of sex? Only with continued education and support of organizations such as the National Coalition of Sexual Freedom (of which APeX is a member) can we hope for any progress."
Sadie: How has BDSM changed your life? If you had a choice, would you rather have been a regular 'vanilla' person?
Mayafire: "I have found my place. There is no way I could, or would want to, turn back. The word 'regular' says it all… who would prefer to be 'regular?' (Though I admit that vanilla is my favorite ice cream flavor and one of my favorite scents)."
Sadie: How did your approach to BDSM change over time you've been exploring this side of your sexuality?
Mayafire: "I am more knowledgeable, but more realistic about how D/s fits into everyday life."
Sadie: What kind of advice would you give to novices starting out in the lifestyle?
Mayafire: "Due to the Internet, there is so much information out there, both good and bad. Read all you can, find a group in your area and meet friends into the lifestyle. This will show you that there are real people just like you, with family and jobs, who just happen to have an interest in BDSM or D/s. If they have educational classes or discussion groups geared to your orientation (Dom or sub), please attend and learn and grow and find your place in the lifestyle. And most of all, practice safety when meeting and/or playing with others. The Albany Power eXchange website has an extensive safety section in two different sections."
Sadie: What are the biggest challenges you've found in growing in your d/s lifestyle?
Mayafire: "Being realistic. Life is not the Story of O."
Sadie: Thank you very much for chatting with me!