Elísabet Ólafsdóttir. Photo / Eva Björk

“I’ve never found a closet to come out of”

Advocate, author, and educator Elísabet Kjárr Ólafsdóttir on living beyond stereotypes and labels.

WARNING: this article contains a short mention of sexual violence.

GayIceland chatted with Elísabet Ólafsdóttir about sexuality, BDSM culture, and sex education.

When did you discover BDSM culture?

“I’ve always been quite open with my sensual self, then when I realized what BDSM actually was I had a massive light bulb moment. I spent the next 3 weeks diving into it and checking out all the information. I had a million books and talked to experts on these matters. I was so astonished I wrote a dirty BDSM book.

About a week after I googled BDSM I was at a BDSM party in Iceland. It was the most beautiful night I’ve ever seen. Everybody was so nice and inclusive, just saying ‘here you’re not alone,’ but I never felt alone because I thought everybody was doing it.”

What did you think of BDSM culture before you got to know it?

“I thought that BDSM was just guys in leather beating each other, but when I realized the mind game, the power, to have power over the mind, to be able to own somebody was just mind blowing like ‘oh, is this BDSM?!’”

Elísabet Kjárr Ólafsdóttir, advocate, author, and educator chats to GayIceland about stereotypes, labels and BDSM.

What kinds of experiences gave you this power?

“When I was 24 years old I was making guys dance. I’d just sit on my couch in my outfit, smoking a cigar and drinking my whiskey and making boys stripdance for me. I just loved doing this and the funny thing is, none of them said no. I never realized that this was BDSM, but that’s a classic dominatrix move.”

Do you think there’s a lot of stigma related to the BDSM community?

“Of course. I think most people just don’t understand it, they don’t realize that everybody’s kinky. All the things under the BDSM umbrella are just like ‘having sex from the back’ or ‘slapping somebody’ or ‘talking dirty.’ I mean this is all under the kink umbrella.

I usually don’t know how to be ashamed. That’s kind of why I haven’t found a closet to come out of.

My friend [who works in this space] goes to stag parties and he asks ‘who in here is kinky?’ and nobody raises their hand. Then he asks four to five questions, ‘do you like this? Do you like this? Have you done this?’ and everybody says yes all the time because sex is just playing.”

You became a primary school teacher right after writing a book about your BDSM journey. Did that change how open you were about that part of your life?

“A bit. I did a deep dive interview with Stundin as a teaser for the book. When we were planning the publishing party, covid came and canceled it and the book went in a drawer. All of the sudden I was a kind, responsible teacher so it wasn’t the best timing for being an ‘it girl’ for BDSM. The book will come out at a different time which is no issue because it is about things that are timeless and that have been the same for centuries. I tried my best to make Stundin untag me because for a year the interview was the first search result on google. It’s not the best when getting to know a hundred parents that trust me with their kid, but actually I had a fantastic relationship with all my students and parents.

I’m kind of glad now [that the book wasn’t published] because teaching during covid meant I got a little bit of clarity being away from it for a short while.”

How did BDSM culture change the way you view sex in general?

“For a while I think I was having mindless sex. It was like my workout or something. It was just play time, no feelings whatsoever. Then I quit drinking and all of the sudden I had this thing called judgment and now am not a slave to my pussy basically. I make better choices but the fact remains that I’m a natural dominatrix, it’s just in my bones.

I owned a slave and every time we had a session he wrote a diary about all the things that went through his head while we were together. That is a magnificent experience. No doubt, no games, no fear, just pure truth. I got a big confidence boost and to have men chasing after me is still weird. I had never realized how desperate some men are (laughing).”

That’s why people need to talk about it out loud, to come out, because there is always someone like you.

Did it help empower you?

“Oh yes. I started setting boundaries. You know when children need boxes? And rules? They may not like it, but they need it. I was like that. I’m a child. In the past I’ve been codependent and let way too much slide. The first thing I did was decide what I wanted.

At that time I was dating a guy that made me wait for him again and again. So I just dumped him and made the decision I would never wait more than 10 minutes for a man. If you’re more than 10 minutes late, I will leave the meeting point or you can’t get in because what I say stands. I’ve had countless pictures of my doorbell like ‘really? Are you kidding?!’ They’re so surprised I’m sticking to my guns, but it’s such a good feeling. BDSM gave me that box of boundaries.

What I say stands. If I want a ride somewhere I just say ‘give me a ride’ and he will give me a ride. No manipulation or anything like that. No uncertainty. It was just amazing.”

How do you view your sexual orientation?

“I’ve never found a closet to come out of. It’s always just been ‘isn’t everybody kissing everybody?’ I’ve always thought of myself as just a gay supporter but obviously I’m more than that.

When I was 16 I was really kind of torn about my sexuality. I had a gay friend, Páll Óskar, who is older and quite the queen. He showed me the world of splatter, Elvira and Tracy Lords. It was heaven. So a nineties teenager was in a house prepping queens for a show and I never thought about it being abnormal.

It was never any issue with my mom and dad. When I asked them years later why they let me hang so much with him. They just said ‘oh he just broadens our world, he’s so much fun.’ It’s just awesome.

 I didn’t know what label I would put on myself. I was kind of ashamed to just be attracted to girls sexually and not romantically. That was my shame.

When Palli and I were talking about [my sexuality] he said ‘ok, what do you think about when you’re on your own about to come.’ I usually just think about girls regarding sex, but I’ve never been in love with a girl. I didn’t see myself in the lesbian community and didn’t know why, but I’ve always been sexually attracted to girls and boys.”

How do you define it today?

“For years I kind of struggled with that. If I’m bi, why don’t I fall in love with girls? It’s just sex. Then I stumbled upon a thing that I can be sexually attracted to girls and both sexually and romantically attracted to boys. And I was like ‘whattttt? Má þetta?! (Is this allowed?).

The only problem I’ve had with my gayness is the label. I didn’t know what label I would put on myself. I was kind of ashamed to just be attracted to girls sexually and not romantically. That was my shame.
When people ask me if I’m bi I always say ‘I love everybody;’ it’s all unicorns and rainbows.”

Is visibility important so that other people can see it’s possible?

“Of course. I just read about this two years ago so in 2021 I finally got closure into that 1996 dilemma. That’s why people need to talk about it out loud, to come out, because there is always someone like you. Perhaps that’s why I never knew about the BDSM society in Iceland because I never needed it. I thought everyone was like this. I was never ashamed and I never needed support for this part of my existence. I usually don’t know how to be ashamed. That’s kind of why I haven’t found a closet to come out of.”

What did your parents say when you got involved in the BDSM community?

“My parents are so awesome, I was just telling my mom ‘you know what, I’m going to a BDSM party tonight?’ and her reply was ‘ughh, oh my god, Ólafur (my dad), we can’t go tonight, Elísabet is going.’ Just one simple joke and I was safe and loved. That’s the support that I get from home which is just beautiful.

My two young kids saw me walking with the BDSM flag at Gay Pride 2022 and I was wearing PVC from head to toe. They loved the outfit and were just like ‘you go girl!’ but they don’t know what it is. They always say ‘if I get a boyfriend or a girlfriend,’ so it’s more open minded and fluid [for them].”

Of course all sexes are into BDSM but I think that submissive men tend to keep it on the downlow. It’s a straight cis thing to not be openly connected to the community.

You once considered being a professional dominatrix. Tell us about that!

“I intended to do it and did a bit of groundwork but I never took that step of charging for it. The closer I got to it I realized that if it’s a business it will kill the joy.

When Bridget Jones came out I just loved it so much. I contacted the publisher in Iceland and started translating it [into Icelandic]. But after one chapter I was like ‘no. no, no no. I can’t translate my gem.’ I didn’t dare take it apart word for word. It’s the same with domination. I don’t want to dissect it.”

What’s the BDSM community like?

“Dominant women like me, I feel like we’re unicorns in the community. Most women are subs (submissive) but there are so many men that need a dominant partner.

And there are very strict rules. If I’m going to play with somebody or if someone’s asking to be my sub or my slave, we meet first over coffee somewhere public and we go over our rule sheet, all the boundaries. I have this great list where you have to use five colors so I’m always like a teacher with them coloring their favorites, likes, maybes, don’t like, and hate; the 50 elements of kinkiness marked by a rainbow.”

How is the dynamic different for men in the BDSM community?

“Of course all sexes are into BDSM but I think that submissive men tend to keep it on the downlow. It’s a straight cis thing to not be openly connected to the community.

The men I play with are often high ranking business men that make three thousand decisions a day and just need to find a place in time where they don’t have to do anything. They just obey. They get clarity, it’s like a session with your therapist where you just let go of everything. Let go of all the power and just do as you’re told.

The mind stuff, that’s what I’m really into, like making them just be a table under my feet while I watch a bad romcom for two hours. I have a lot of fun and they get something out of it that I don’t understand. I’ll never understand it. I would never be able to do what I make men do.

BDSM is not just whips and chains. It’s a play with will power and connecting to a person on a whole new level.”

Should people approach the community with caution?

“Yes. One should always tread new waters with caution. But now, I feel safer in a dungeon like BDSM party than on crowded dance floors during weekends. In a BDSM environment no one is touched without consent. We take security, trust and respect very seriously.

When I was new in the community I learned the hard way that half of the people are pretenders, catfishing. For the first two months I was being catfished, and I didn’t get it until another friend in the community told me. The next one was two weeks after getting it, and the third time I started making men send me pictures that I had them create like ‘put a spoon up to your cheek and take a picture.’ These guys are just trying to get some porn out of somebody but I want the real thing. If I like the chat I want to meet up as soon as possible and create the rules.

That is the extent of my problems but I’m kind of worried about girls that are submissive and straight cis men taking advantage. The bad rap that BDSM gets is of course because of men that use BDSM as a shield when they are being abusive and violent. It’s like that if you don’t follow rules, and that’s just violence. There’s always somebody.”

Where do you think this abuse in the community comes from?

“That’s the thing. The ones that abuse and use violence are most often not in the community. They do not make, share or care about play rules and abuse, beat and rape girls. If the woman presses charges they only have to say that it was BDSM play and they get off the hook because of course, they are straight white cis men. The system was made for them.

It’s so sad that this news gets the most media attention BDSM gets because these men would never be allowed in our play parties. Everyone that gets in is vetted, nobody is drunk and this is probably the only club that blacklists people for slapping an ass uninvited.

I feel safer in a dungeon like BDSM party than on crowded dance floors during weekends. In a BDSM environment no one is touched without consent. We take security, trust and respect very seriously.

Even if you’re a sub you have to have rules and respect yourself as a sub and be alert beforehand. I would not be able to let a stranger control me but for people that do they have to be sure what will go down, before the session starts. That’s a rule. If the guy doesn’t approve of creating a play box with you, you walk away. As soon as one rule is broken, the deal is off and you walk away.”

How big is the BDSM community in Iceland? Isn’t it a small island?

“It’s huge! My mentor from Australia is amazed that we have play nights like every month. It’s such a beautiful community. I love it, I really do. There are many men I’ve met on Tinder or wherever and of all of the sea of men I’ve swam in, only two have not been into what I do.

I believe everybody’s kinky but few people are ready to be in a BDSM relationship. That’s a whole new thing but when I’m just meeting “normal” guys for a kiss they usually want something kinky.

The kink is normal. The BDSM community shouldn’t have any stigma because we’re all kind of into it. Everybody’s doing it!”

Photos / Courtesy of Elísabet Kjárr Ólafsdóttir

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