On BDSM and Race: Asian Parents and Family Legacies, ft. Empress Wu

I walk in from the cold into the warmth of the dark cafe. Moving through the crowd, I find the person I’m looking for nestled into the back corner -- a woman in a black leather coat, with a fur draped across the table in front of her. Her name is Empress Wu. I sit down beside her with a pot of tea.

This is a continuation of a conversation between me and Empress Wu. We are both Chinese-American Dominatrixes based in NYC. Part 1 , focusing on Asian fetishes within the power dynamics of our work, can be found here.

Empress Wu: Are you out to your parents?

Niko Flux: Uh…no! You have a beautiful coming out story though.

EW: I do, yes. I do have a really wonderful coming out story. My relationship with my parents is very interesting.

NF: Tell me.

EW: Because I believe that my relationship with my parents used to be categorized for me as really abusive. Like in my mind, my mom was the enabler and my dad was the abuser, and those became the “two genders” — that was the dynamic that they possessed for me. Then, last year, I called my mom and I asked her if she knew what a dominatrix was. When she said no, I told her that I torture and humiliate men for money. She asked me if I have sex and if I am safe, and I said no and yes, respectively. And she said okay, and I said great, because I’m going to need help on my taxes!

(both laugh)

EW: And then in July I came out to my dad. I called him and said, “Hey, I have a question. Do you know what I’ve been doing to make money since I graduated?” and he said no. And I said, “Well I haven’t been working in a restaurant like you thought I have. Do you know what a dominatrix is?” And he said yes!

MN: Oh he did?

EW: He did, yes. And I said, “okay, well that’s what I do. That’s what I’ve been doing to make money. And also, I love my job.” And he laughed and said, “Well are you any good at it?” I said, “Yeah, I kind of am.” Then we continued to have our conversation, which went somewhere along the lines of “whatever happens to you, you have a good head on your shoulders. You know what’s right for you and you will always have a home with us.” Which I think is the most beautiful outcome. I’ve had multiple conversations with them since then where I can sense them experiencing anxiety about my job, which is fair. I think that in a way, a lot of it are concerns about “what are other people going to think about us,” filial piety and familial shame and familial honor; those are motifs that arise a lot.

MN: But it wasn’t in the first conversation, which is amazing to me.

Yes, I did tell you something that is kind of difficult to stomach, and I will hold you through all the spaces as we talk about what it is that’s bothering you.

EW: It wasn’t present in the first conversation, which is very transformative. And I believe that as those anxieties arise, I understand. Yes, I did tell you something that is kind of difficult to stomach, and I will hold you through all the spaces as we talk about what it is that’s bothering you.

MN: That’s amazing.

EW: Yes. So that’s been a really interesting new dynamic in our relationship, is me getting the space to be honest with them about things. And I think after I put that aside, I started allowing myself to swallow my ego around my parents a lot more often. And I really got to see the benefits of having integrity with them, restoring my integrity with them, and restoring their perception of me, which was transformative. And I know that I am really lucky that my parents have allowed me to do that. But I do recommend it.

My father’s daughter is my non-work persona. My mother’s daughter is Mistress Niko.

MN: (laughs) I’ve been…it’s been a big big weight. It’s funny that you say you recommend it. So, my father, we haven’t spoken in a little bit. If I were ever to have that conversation, which I guess I will one day, that would be farther down the line.
But my mother and I are very close, very very close. And even more amazingly, my mother’s daughter is Mistress Niko. My father’s daughter is my non-work persona. My mother’s daughter is Mistress Niko.
My mother....would have been so good at this. She used to tell me when I was in college to have more than one boyfriend at once. She would say, “I used to have 5 at the same time. That way you know that if one doesn’t give you what you want you can go to the other ones.” She is such a dominant queen. She is very materialistic, and I don’t say that in a bad way. I say that in a factual way; she channels money. And Mistress Niko is the side of me that channels money. So that’s been really hard for me. Building Mistress Niko has allowed me to connect with my mother in ways that my old self could never.

EW: Wow. ”Building Mistress Niko has allowed me to connect with my mother.” That’s incredible. That is such a brilliant point though, there is something about really appreciating where you come from once you harness and accept and claim responsibility for how great you are. Do you know what I mean? I mean for you, in building a work/Domme identity, you are really able to appreciate and connect with the woman who raised you.

MN: But the problem is that there’s this block, because I haven’t told her. And I’m constantly lying to her.

EW: Does she live in New York?

MN: She does. So there’s this huge psychological and spiritual and emotional block—

EW; —inconsistency—

MN: —yeah. In my life and my mind. And I need to find a way to liberate it. And I’ve been working on how.

EW: Well the way to liberate it would be to tell your mom.

MN: Yes…(sarcastically) thank  you

(both laughing)

EW: Ultimately, this is a dilemma/dichotomy of us saying “oh yea, externally, when I’m dealing with clients, I have to deal with x,” but also this is a conversation about you and me discovering what our racial identity means within a changing and evolving context to our sexualities and to our work. And both you and I are kind of multicultural in the way that we are of one culture but grew up in another. So, honoring tradition and then also giving that tradition the space to love you as someone continuing and being the pioneer of what that tradition can look like in the future.

MN: The cool, weird, difficult thing is this dichotomy of fantasy and reality. Because you could theoretically lie to your parents--

EW: For the rest of your life if you needed to—

What am I using as the vehicle and what am I setting as the intention?

MN: —for the rest of your life, and keep them in a fantasy about this reality. Or on the other hand, you can find a way to merge fantasy and reality—to sublimate them. So hard to decide how to write those storylines—

EW: —and to discern exactly what those storylines are going to be. I really like the way--what you’re pointing out about fantasy and reality is really—goddamn. [The question becomes:] what is the intention? When you say it’s hard to discern what these storylines are, that’s so poignant because what am I using as the vehicle and what am I setting as the intention? Am I setting fantasy as the vehicle and reality as the intention, or am I setting reality as the vehicle and fantasy as the intention?

MN: Okay. The intention and the vehicle. So you use the fantasy to reach reality. Or you use the reality to reach the fantasy.

EW: Exactly.

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