May 3, 2022
"Once you have that presence and that ability to move somebody to the ground without having to do anything, except to stand there and be you... Everything else you can learn. But that is pretty hard, I think."
Eva Oh, or Mistress Eva, is an International professional and lifestyle Dominatrix – and a person of incredible presence. This goes for her place in the global kink scene (she is the winner of the 2022 ‘Sex Worker of the Year’ Sexual Freedom Award and the face of the 2022 German Fetish Ball) and the nuanced conversation on BDSM she creates across various platforms (Safeword Podcast, #teakink project and monthly Q&A’s on her instagram – I highly recommend binge-watching all of them right now). But it’s also very much about something much more intangible – her endless intellectual curiosity, empathy, generosity and inner power.
Last week Eva’s film debut premiered at XConfessions. “Grief Encounter”, directed by Ellen Pearson and written by Kitty Drake, is a story of a woman who visits funerals to seduce grieving men. “Grief Encounter” is shot on film and is full of delicious details: the colour, the texture, the soundtrack, the sexual tension, the red sharp nails, the black nylon, the dramatic funeral outfits. The film is a result of a long research process and numerous interviews – hence Eva’s beautiful monologues as an integral part of it. In one, she refers to herself as “an emotional extremist” – perhaps someone attracted to the intensity of human emotion, experienced or extracted from others.
A couple of months ago we sat down with Eva to talk about the mental aspects of BDSM – what goes on beneath the surface, beneath all the sweat, the gear, the dungeons, the latex and leather, what goes on in our minds and why it’s so addictive. We talked about the endearing power of coming closer to the extremes, about playing with fear, anger and grief.
I feel incredibly special to have been a part of this very honest and very deep conversation and very grateful to Eva for being so open. I also very much wish the reader could feel all the warmth and hear all the laughter which went with it. In the community, we sometimes like pretty extreme dark things – but it’s play after all.
It’s very exciting to talk about your new film, “Grief Encounter”! You’re starring as a woman who seeks out funerals to seduce grieving men. How did the idea of the film come about?
The writer of the film, Kitty Drake, has been interviewing me for a few years. The first one was for Dazed, for a piece on latex. We did a few more interviews, and then she was going to make another film for Erika Lust crew, which was going to be about fetishes of different fabrics and materials – and she wanted me to help her create the latex portion of it. I said, can I be in it? She said yeah, sure, and then everything else fell away and my story line became the central element. Kitty was curious about grief and sex. She understands me. In some insane ways – and she basically saw me in that role. She didn't know that I enjoyed thinking about death, whether it was like forced or imminent and the emotions around that. But she obviously knew on some level that it would fit. And so she pitched it to me that we do a longer thing, just me, with this premise. So we just talked over the course of one two years, and she wrote a script, based on what we spoke about. So it's about this woman who goes to funerals, finds funerals and finds people who are grieving and seduces them and makes them dance for her as she revels in their grief and their sorrow.
It’s a beautiful story, but also probably quite taboo for a lot of people. Are negative emotions in relation to sex something you play with often?
I think people are afraid of a lot of these emotions. And I think that from the very beginning, I understood that it's a mental rush that I really get off of. I push into the edges of my emotion, whether that's anger, or fear, or disgust, or bottomless grief – these very powerful emotions that people shy away from that we're told to shy away from. Playing gives you a space to really push into all of them, and to push them out of other people when you're at the top. And then comes with severe ramifications if they're not a strong enough person, or we haven't got enough of an established relationship or support system around them. But when there is enough of those things, to push into it safely enough – it's pretty liberating in terms of the human experience.
I feel like people don’t talk enough about the mental aspect of BDSM. Quite often it’s focused on the aesthetic, the spaces, the equipment, all the things the body is going through. But what’s happening in the mind and the energy it creates can be quite remarkable. What goes first for you, the physical or the mental?
Most of my practice is mental I would say. There's a lot of protocol at play and my relationships and my client relationships. But in terms of physical acts, that people can fill out a checklist for or request, it almost doesn't happen in comparison to how much time is spent cultivating the relationship and the dynamic, and retaining it.
Mental practice is my strength. There's such a huge payoff when it comes to getting the mental aspect – the rushes are far greater than any physical ones for me. Of course, as a sadist, you can get incredible physical rushes from dishing out very harsh levels of pain that take a lot of effort or focus. But when it comes to the multi-layered effect of the mental payoff, there's nothing like it. And also how addicted people get to you. And I like the payoff of that – whether it's financially or… Mostly financial.
Do you remember how you discovered your mental power in BDSM? Was it in the very beginning or along the way?
My favourite ex said to me one day, when I was telling him to do something, “I think that you would make a very good dominatrix”. I think he was joking. But it stuck in my mind. My professional life started off as a performance artist in a circus. Then I worked at a sustainable design agency, then strategic consultancy. When I decided to move away from corporate life, I looked up the word that he had told me, and I found a dungeon that was looking for apprentices. And so I just went for an interview.
One of the dommes asked me, have you ever worked? No. Have you ever played in BDSM? I said, No, but I think I already play with the psychological aspects. And she said, the psychological aspect is the hardest thing. It’s a great place to start. Once I stepped into sessions, it was very psychologically natural for me. The little tricks of the trade physically come from there. But once you have that presence and that ability just to move somebody to the ground without having to do anything, except to stand there and be you... Everything else you can learn. But that is pretty hard, I think.
What is that mental experience of play like for you, being on top? Do you have a certain top space, how would you describe it and what’s your favourite thing about it?
I think in general, I am very observant. Or maybe affected by the world around me – I notice the shapes of everything, the alignment of things on our table, how people are, how they're sitting, where they're looking, I notice all of these things all the time... So I think that allows me to have a lot of control in general. That's my general kind of headspace. That is a little bit more OCD than the average person. And that allows you to manoeuvre things if you know how to control that. So my general personality is probably more of a top space.
That said, when I do step into a willing human, and whatever different things have opened up, whether it's instigated an anger in me, whether it's instigated mischievousness, whether it's instigated a puzzlement and a curiosity, those take on slightly different forms of attack. My favourite one is probably anger. So when someone has done something or said something that raises anger in me, that gives me incredible focus. I'm not the kind of person that lashes out. I'm the kind of person that gets this huge surge of energy and focuses in on a point to manipulate somebody where I want them in order for me to feel the thrill of anger I’m riding – I would say that's my favourite top space.
I like what you said about people shying away from emotional experiences. I feel like shying away sometimes is our natural response: trying something and realising, I’m not going to go there, I am going to stop because it feels too intense or because I’m scared. Where does your interest in the extreme experiences and emotions comes from – especially in relation to the sexual and erotic?
I think I've been allowed to feel a lot of things in my life that other people are discouraged from feeling. I think my family is fairly supportive of that, and I also had a very heavy meditation practice for a while. And that teaches you to sit with a lot of things. And you become fearless towards a lot of things, and you get to experience the full extent of different states. And at first, it feels like pain, and it's very difficult. But the release is quite addictive once you push past it. And I know that's not necessarily the point. If anything, it's the inverse of the point. But that's how it worked out for me. And the more that I played it, the more I realised other people were not in that headspace of mine. The more I saw them struggle to come anywhere near that headspace that I would push them towards. And I like to struggle. Sadism, right? Yeah. I like seeing them I break. It’s fun. And sure there's all those lovely things how it can be liberating for them. It’s play at the end of the day.
Do you rely on your intuition in terms of judging what will get people there – or is it based on how much you know them as people?
The first time I meet people I talk a lot. I talk a lot until I i pick out all the little things about them. I kind of like break them down by spotting all the things about them. People hate being seen that much. They love it, but they also get terrified. And that kind of melts a lot of things away. So I'm talking, I'm talking and talking and talking until they're like this tiny little bit of mush. They're their internal self, I guess. And I see a lot of men, and I see a lot of men who have money. And so they've had to build up a lot of things. So there's a lot to break down, which is fun, and also annoying sometimes.
And what happens when you get there? What happens when you get to the internal self? What do you experience?
I laugh. It released me. It's not necessarily like a singular moment, either. But it can also be like a drawn out process. The process of breaking them down brings me a lot of joy. I laugh a lot during this process. When they're kind of a shaky self, they almost have to kind of slowly build themselves up around me again. And then I start to use things from their past, just to make sure that they're stripped back, that they're always stripped back to bear. I become quieter actually, over time, I talk a lot less, I have less to break down. And I can just cruise, enjoy life and find new people to break.
It’s a bit of general question, but what do you think people look for mentally in BDSM? Of course, everybody is looking for different things, but I’m interested to hear your take.
People who come to me… I think in general, they're looking to be accepted for a very base level part of themselves. And not in the sense of like, they need to be hugged and told that they are valid, but in just the sense that it's that they can get off. It's not as big a deal as they may think it is. I think that that little bit of release alongside the actual orgasmic release is probably the most overarching common thing. But I think it's like anything else when it comes to relationships – looking for a nurturing bond. But just with a dynamic that might be more articulated. I think all dynamics are complex, but more purposefully complex, and more playful. But it probably also satisfies an intellectual curiosity a little bit more than your average non-negotiated exchange. Play, curiosity, identity rolled into a nurturing cohesive form. And this is how we get a successful BDSM relationship – and these things take a lot of mental work.
1, 2. "Grief Encounter" posters.
3, 4. The London Vagabond.