Stockroom University is presenting one of the best Halloween treats we can imagine this year: Adult educators Sunny Megatron and Ken Melvoin-Berg are coming to Los Angeles to teach their workshop Hilarious Halloween Humiliation! on October 31. Even in kink communities, humiliation play is something that many people find a little intimidating and even taboo.
Sunny and Ken have long been known among members of the kink community not only for sophisticated, ethical insights about sexuality, but for bringing humor to topics that are often treated with grim seriousness. Recently, they’ve become known to a wider audience through Sunny’s program on Showtime, Sex with Sunny Megatron. Ken serves as the consulting producer/Sharon Osbourne figure on the program. While kinksters everywhere wait with bated breath for news of a second season, Stockroom spoke to Sunny and Ken about what humiliation play really is, how to negotiate it, and why it can be fun and pleasurable for all involved.
Stockroom: How would you describe the class that you’re doing on Saturday?
Ken: We’re actually including a number of different elements, and I thought of the idea for this class because of the connection with Halloween and so many people wearing costumes. What this class is all about is using everything from Halloween costumes to what you have at home to really explore humiliation in a way where you can differentiate it from simple embarrassment.
Sunny: —Or being truly at your core degraded.
Ken: So we’re really trying to explore the differences between what is embarrassment, what is humiliation, and what’s truly degradation. And then we combine that with elements of play theory. So we take a look at things like, everything from role-playing games to BDSM and how you can use play effectively for humiliation.
Stockroom: What is the difference between embarrassment, humiliation, and degradation?
Ken: Embarrassment is something you can sort of feel for another person. like if you seen an old lady slip on a banana peel and fall down, you can share and empathize that level of shame. That’s what embarrassment is.
Sunny: Right, and also, it’s something that kind of stands alone and is situational. For instance, if you fall down in the middle of the street, you can either feel kind of bad about it or laugh it off, but it doesn’t mean, “I fell down in the street, so therefore I’m a horrible human being at my core.” It stands alone by itself.
Stockroom: So that’s embarrassment. What about humiliation?
Ken: So humiliation kind of kicks it up a notch, where humiliation is something — and this is one of the things that when we’re interviewing someone as a submissive we do employ the yes/no/maybe list, but also, a lot of this came around from us doing this system that we use, called the ROUGH-BS system. I have people grade on a scale of 1 to 10 how much they like to be restrained or owned, used, given away, humiliated, how much they like to be beaten, and how much they like to serve. What I had found is that six of those things, people have a very basic understanding of it, but what they didn’t have a basic understanding of was the humiliation aspect of it because most of the female submissives I had talked to automatically assumed that they were going to be degraded. They thought that there was something that was so humiliating that was going to be going on that it would kind of affect their core being, so they didn’t want to do humiliation play. But when I explained the differences between humiliation being something that does not affect your core being in your social standing, where degradation does. Degradation is something that is so severe, it’s like someone in the military who’s been busted from sergeant down to private. It is something that affects your core. It’s extreme shame that can never go away and it affects your social standing with others, where humiliation is something that you can embrace and actually use to go forward. It’s something that’s therapeutic because the etymology of the word humiliation actually comes from the word “humble.” Someone who is being humiliated has some aspect of being humbled in some shape or form, so it can actually be a very positive thing.
Stockroom: I sort of feel like even in the kink community, humiliation play is something that a lot of people might look at a little bit askance. Do you find that to be true?
Sunny: I think that a lot of people, when they think of humiliation, especially negotiating with women submissives, our brains go directly to “Omigod, humiliation. That’s gotta be the worst thing ever that I cannot withstand. Who would want that? I don’t want it, FUCK NO.” And there are different styles of humiliation, different degrees of humiliation. One of the most important things to remember as a dominant when you’re constructing a scene, especially one surrounding humiliation is: Yes, when you’re humiliating somebody, you’re taking things away from them emotionally, but whatever you take away you eventually need to put back. So you may be cutting them down emotionally in whatever way, whatever style you want to, but in the end you’re actually reinforcing something positive about them. If, for instance, you as their Master or Mistress are making them do a humiliating public act and inside they’re like, “Oh, man, I’m so embarrassed,” or “I’m ashamed to do this, but you know what? I’m going to do it anyway because the plus side of that is I please them. I’m a good submissive. Then I get praise afterward.” So you have to remember when you’re doing a scene like this, don’t take away from that person and leave them hanging, or huddled in a heap. There’s a positive end to it.
Los Angeles! We’re coming to you Halloween weekend! Join us on Saturday night 10/31 at Bar Sinister with Ken & myself, Skin Diamond, Hudsy Hawn, Bella Bathory and other surprise guests! We’re also teaching a class at Stockroom on Saturday afternoon 10/31 (we’re developing it now special for Stockroom and I’m SO EXCITED! This one’s gunna be GOOOOD! Official announcement on that soon!)
A photo posted by Sunny Megatron (@sunnymegatron) on
Ken: I would just add one other thing, which is that humiliation — and this kind of goes back to what you were originally talking about — is more advanced play. It is not something you should ever do as pick-up play. In order to truly use humiliation with somebody, you have to — Like, I learn from my submissives. I am a student of my submissives and their personality and their psyche and their id, and I really want to understand them fully. So, in order to do an adequate humiliation scene, I have to know them inside and out; not only what their hard limits are, but what are their soft limits? What are the limits that I might expect from them but that they might not even know themselves?
I’m not trying to say that this is going to take years to do, but you definitely have to get to know somebody more than just for casual pick-up play.
Sunny: Right. It actually is psychological edge play.
Stockroom: So, if we’re talking about advanced play here, how do you start a negotiation session for humiliation play?
Ken: I would start it the same way I would with any other, with a yes/no/maybe list, but you would just hyper-focus it on all aspects of embarrassment, humiliation, and degradation. So you really want to find out what it is that would speak to their core. Just as an example, one of my submissives loves humiliation play, but what she doesn’t like to do is get dressed up as an animal and do something humiliating as an animal.
There was a scene that we did where I was doing forced burlesque on her and I was making her sing songs from The Little Mermaid, the Disney movie. Then I made her be an octopus; she squiggled on the ground till I got her to a pool and I dunked her head a couple of times. She was fine with that kind of play, but she would have been really upset if I would have said, “Put a chicken mask on and tell everyone you’re a naughty chicken.” That is somewhere she couldn’t go because that is a personal hard limit with her.
Now, to get to know her on that level, it was really just a more advanced yes/no/maybe list and then really taking a look at “What are her hard limits, what are her soft limits, what are the things she wants to explore?”
Fetlife is a really useful tool for this, because I take a look not just at at the fetish list, but what is even more telling to me is what’s on their “I want to try” list. That to me is a lot more telling about what they’re truly interested in. And then, what I’ll do is I actually posit scenarios to them that are not exactly what I’m going to do, but it’s on the same wavelength, so I can have a better understanding. That helps me design this roller-coaster ride that they are setting the limits for.
Sunny: And I think it’s really important that 1) Both parties or all parties or however many are involved are very self-aware when they’re negotiating, if there’s been any humiliation play done before, that that’s discussed extensively. Because what is humiliating to someone is very relative. It could be simple acts of service. To one submissive, they could be “Well that’s a very honorable thing to serve my Dominant.” To other people, they could think that that in and of itself is humiliating to them. So really drilling down to some basic core things about what are things that you find humiliating or what are things that you find admirable. Because you can often dig a little deeper and find opposites that way.
Ken: One of the biggest points here: Everybody’s humiliation and degradation factors are subjective to them. I had one submissive that thought it was not humiliating but degrading for me to force her to make a bed. That’s one thing we were doing, like household service stuff, and she would do everything except for making the bed. It was something that she just couldn’t get past. She could make a bed if she wasn’t forced to, but if it was in a humiliation scene, it was a little bit too much and it got to the point where it was degrading.
Stockroom: How much experience with kink would you recommend people have before coming to this? Would it be a beginner’s class or intermediate?
Ken: I think that the basic concepts are beginner level, and that you could do this with less than six months of experience in BDSM. Overall, I would say that it’s more of an intermediate level class. What we have found teaching this class in the past is that a lot of the people there understood every basic concept except for the actual meaning of the words. Once we talked about the difference between embarrassment, humiliation, and degradation and combined that with “What are your submissive’s hard limits and their soft limits,” people got it like that. It just sort of clicked. They just needed a different framework for it to go into. The last class we taught on this, everyone came up and thanked us because they had an interest in this, and they had done a little bit of it, but they just didn’t have it structured in a way that made sense to them.
Sunny: I think it’s really important for us, with the students, to deconstruct their preconceived notions of what they think humiliation is. Like Ken says, we lay out that framework so they can figure out, “Oh, these are all the things that it could be, and this path here is what could work for me and/or my partner.”
Stockroom: What kind of questions have you gotten from previous classes, and what kind of issues do people tend to bring?
Ken: I think one of the most common things was that people didn’t understand that humiliation could be funny to both parties. They assumed that one person had to actually be degraded and not just humiliated and they couldn’t find it humorous. Sunny and I are both like to have humor involved in both our sex and our BDSM and I think that the scenes that we do tend to reinforce that. They’re very much something that is completely different than most people have seen at most BDSM play parties or at clubs. For example, when I do forced burlesque, that’s one of the things that I don’t see a lot of other people doing. But I had a lot of submissives that were very musically talented. And some that weren’t musically talented, but happened to know all the words to songs. It’s great fun to do, because when you take somebody like Hudsy Hawn, for example, who is just an amazing singer, and you are forcing her to start singing in an environment which she isn’t comfortable with — and I’m not saying that I’ve done this with Hudsy —
Sunny: Not saying that you might not in the future — [Laughter]
Ken: — But, it’s something that brings them outside of their zone a little bit. And they never realized that that could be a thing. And we got a lot of comments about that. Number one, it was about the comedy, and also simply about people really appreciated the fact that we restructured this in a way that common language made it a little bit more clear. It didn’t have to be some abstract, advanced academic BDSM theory. We sort of made it grounded and brought it so that everyone could understand what humiliation is, how you can play with it, and how you can actually use it in all sorts of play, which is why we include stuff about play theory in the class as well.
Sunny: I think also, we had a lot of feedback and comments and questions supporting the notion that humiliation can be therapeutic. A lot of people didn’t really think about it in certain terms. So, for instance: If, let’s say, that scenario of singing in front of people in a strange environment is something that in your real life maybe you aren’t so much of an exhibitionist, or you have anxiety in certain situations, if you’re exposed to it as a form of play in BDSM, you can then take that experience back into your real life. So that was a new notion and a good notion for a lot of people.
Voted as one of the six savviest sexologists in North America, Sunny Megatron is an adult sexuality educator, public speaker, sex blogger, and pleasure advocate. She is also the host and executive producer of Sex with Sunny Megatron on Showtime. In addition to running her wildly popular sex ed YouTube channel, Sunny also hosts the pleasure-products focused web series, Outside the Box, for InsideAdult.com, and the BDSM-focused web series, Kinky Korner. Sunny is also one of California Exotic Novelties’ “Expert Sexperts.”
Ken Melvoin-Berg is a Chicago based, self-described professional pervert, unscripted TV producer, freelance writer, BDSM/sex educator, adult industry consultant, and male sex toy advocate. He is also the consulting producer/Sharon Osbourne of Showtime’s Sex with Sunny Megatron. Ken is an “edutainer” armed with knowledge of all things sexual, a humorous lecturing style, and a professional background in medicine/biology. Ken has been writing and lecturing on these subjects since 1997. Ken is known for his amazing facial hair and tattoos.