Why you should care
There’s more to kinky sex than what you’ve read in Fifty Shades of Grey, and Cassie Fuller is ready and willing to tell you all about it.
Cassie Fuller is a teacher. She holds an education degree and has years of teaching experience. One of her favorite things is learning from her students.
But don’t call her Ms. Fuller — it’s Madam Cassie to you.
Fuller, 30, is a kink instructor who teaches classes like grappling and struggling, polyfidelity and how to pleasure a woman. She likes to focus on “kinking responsibly.”
Kink is Fuller’s softer way of saying BDSM, which Fuller says often has negative connotations. “You say BDSM and people start thinking dungeons and dominatrix. People in kink are your neighbors.” She defines kink as “anything that you add to normal, regular, missionary sex” including “eating strawberries off of your lover” or pulling someone’s hair while kissing them (with consent, of course).
She’d like to expand the instruction of kink to those outside the tight-knit, secretive, kink community.
The book Fifty Shades of Grey brought kink into the mainstream with a, er, bang, giving new meaning to words like dominant and submissive. “You can’t go into a Wal-Mart without seeing a ‘dom’ shirt,” laughs Fuller, who is herself a “dominant.” However along with mainstream attention comes misinformation, which is why many in the kink community dislike Fifty Shades. They say it misrepresents BDSM. And herein lies Fuller’s mission. She’d like to expand the instruction of kink to those outside the tight-knit, secretive, kink community of which she is a part.
… A book can’t tell me, ‘Hey this rope is a little too tight.’
Fuller explains that people are beginning to try kink at home, but there isn’t a great way for them to learn how to do so safely. She concedes there are “very good books” on the subject but “a book can’t tell me, ‘Hey this rope is a little too tight.’” She adds that the public is “going to try it with or without the education” and she’d like them to be informed properly on how to kink.
“Depending on what people are engaging in, BDSM can be risky,” says sociologist Staci Newmahr, author of Playing on the Edge: Risk, Intimacy and Sadomasochism. “Spanking is not particularly risky but bondage is, knife play is. If they aren’t learning in public spaces, where their safety is much more of a focus, people are trying it in hotels or with partners in their bedroom.” She says she’s seeing BDSM initiatives like Fuller’s spring up in an attempt to keep people safe and raise kink awareness.
Fuller’s Baltimore-based business, TTB Ventures, teaches sexy education classes at kink conferences around the U.S., and began reaching out to the mainstream last year with a conference called Touch of Flavor targeted to people interested in learning about kink. Approximately 400 people attended. She also set up a booth with four other people at Baltimore’s Beer, Bourbon and BBQ festival teaching people how to do a rope tie.
“We had lines of people who were waiting to be tied up by us,” she says.
While interest is high, Madam Cassie’s mission isn’t without challenges. Her first Touch of Flavor conference had to be rescheduled when the venue’s management abruptly canceled the event because of its “adult topics” focus. Twitter and Groupon would not advertise her upcoming Touch of Flavor event in July, due to the content. These kinds of judgments from mainstream institutions are why the kink community remains tightly private about their interactions.
An aura of secrecy was prevalent throughout the interview process for this article, as was the feeling of being a bit, well, controlled. Fuller chose and prepped the students I’d be interviewing, and Touch of Flavor’s marketing team joined my conference call with them. I was asked to restrict my questions to just the topic of Fuller as a teacher and her classes.
Eric, 40, took one of Fuller’s “How to Pleasure a Woman” classes, which Fuller later revealed had more than 500 people in it — standing room only. It was the first kink class he’d ever taken. “You couldn’t do a class like that and be very stiff and dry,” he says, unironically. “She had us laughing a lot.” Amy, 29, took a course on polyfidelity, co-taught by Fuller and her husband, who were very well-versed on the subject and brought charts and diagrams along with a storybook to read.
The polyfidelity class is popular, as are the Mommies and Madams and Kink After Kids classes.
Fuller has a disarming schoolgirl giggle and was patient in explaining kink terms I did not inherently understand — but I got the sense she did not like to be interrupted when speaking. She freely discloses facts about her life, although she intentionally kept her husband’s name out of the conversation.
Much of what Fuller teaches comes from her personal experiences. She and her husband practice a form of polyamory called polyfidelity, where all people in the relationship are considered equal partners who remain faithful within the circle of people in the relationship. Fuller and her husband share a girlfriend. The polyfidelity class is one of Fuller’s most popular courses, as are her Mommies and Madams and Kink After Kids classes. They focus on maintaining a “spicy love life” after children and also what to do when you are kinky and have a child in your home. Fuller, who has a son with her husband, says she gives tips on how to navigate situations like a child coming across something provocative in your drawer.
Fuller was born and raised in the Baltimore area by a single father and has never lived outside of Maryland. A shy child with giant bottlecap glasses and an affinity for comic books, she was a tomboy whose friends were all male. In high school she became more outspoken and opinionated, and came out as bisexual to her father at age 16. He is supportive of her to this day.
There can be different levels and layers to how comfortable one feels engaging in kink, and consent is crucial.
She met her husband, who was in the Army at the time, through a mutual friend. She was the one to introduce kink into her relationship. One time the duo made their own leather cuffs, and made so many they looked to social media sites to see where they could sell them. They stumbled upon the underground kink community in Baltimore and explored it together. Eventually the two started teaching classes, with Fuller making it a full-time job.
The couple’s kink extends outside of sexual activity. “We have protocol,” says Fuller. “When he gets home from work he will put his head on my shoulder and greet me. He will sit on the floor unless he asks, and I tell him he can sit on the couch.”
This level of dominant-submissive kink is not necessary of course. As Fuller explains, there can be different levels and layers to how comfortable one feels engaging in kink, and she stresses that consent is crucial. Newmahr takes it one step further in her explanation and says there is a distinct line between people who engage in kink and those that use power discourses like being dominant and submissive. “I find it problematic to not make that distinction,” says Newmahr adding that the latter “uses a preexisting hierarchy to justify behaviors that maybe don’t need to be justified, particularly from a gender perspective.”
The keynote speaker at this July’s Touch of Flavor conference will address the importance of education, safety, and consent. There are 55 classes offered during the four-day conference, as well as a pool party, a black tied-up dinner, and a poly-speed-dating class for those interested in open polyamorous relationships. A four-day pass costs $125, and a VIP pass with access to the Dungeon Gala plus a swag bag is $248.
Fuller says that first-timers at kink classes often have the same fears: “It’s the idea that they are all alone. That they have these desires and these urges and they feel alone.”
She hopes to change all of this. And if there’s anyone that can take control, it’s Madam Cassie.