Joyen Santos, Manila’s Queen of Rope, ties people up for a living


Joyen Santos, Manila’s Queen of Rope, ties people up for a living

Meet Joyen Santos. She ties up people for a living. And for fun too.

Tagged as “the first and only openly-practicing rope bondage dominatrix in the Philippines,” Joyen is a pioneer in all sorts of kinky play.  She ties people up in elaborately knotted ropes, then sometimes suspends them in the air for up to hours at a time — all legal, don’t worry.

Joyen’s achievements are not usual for a woman in her 20s. She’s an all-around alternative model, who was named a Playboy Philippines’ playmate in 2013. She’s also the vocalist of a local band called The Black Vomits, and part of Manila’s budding burlesque scene.

She’s earned her own card in the Filipino Cards Against Humanities, if that tells you anything.

PHOTO: Genevive Son

What is it like to be a female kink icon in a conservative country like the Philippines?

Honestly, I do not feel any different from any other woman in the Philippines. People still stop and stare and assume or ask leading questions no matter what type of woman you are here. Everyone has an idea of what a woman should be and how she should act — everyone but the woman herself, most of the time. I am just one of the many who go through the same judgment everyday.

It seems like you’re doing everything —  from music, filmmaking and dancing to rope bondage art. What’s a typical day for you?

Traffic, mostly.

Can you tell us more about rope bondage? What are the hazards involved? How can we learn it?

Rope bondage originated in Japan as a martial art called hojojutsu. This was employed by the Japanese police to detain prisoners of war. A different kind of tie would be used to honor each prisoner’s status — a lord would be tied up differently from a peasant.

Some of the biggest risks in bondage include nerve damage, loss of trust, and even death.

Mistakes mostly originate from miscommunication between the rope top (the rigger) and rope bottom (the person being tied up). Some are not aware of certain important things or choose to hide these things for different reasons, thus committing some possibly irreversible mistakes.

With Manila’s recent warm reception and interest in rope bondage though, some of my partners in the community now hold semi-regular basic workshops targeted to those with little to no experience in rope. We open classes based on demand — feel free to message me if you would like us to hold another one!

PHOTO: Mai Evangelista

How did you get into BDSM? Into rope bondage specifically?

Japanese-style rope bondage was just one of the items in my and my partner’s creative bucket list. We collaborate on a photojournal called The Uncoloured wherein we just execute purely experimental concepts — rope, nuns, and gummy bears are some of them. I have an itch for uncovering secret societies and creating art and experiences with them, so here I am now.

What goes through your mind when you’re tying someone up or when you’re being tied up?

When I am working with someone for the first time, I am completely focused on her and I try to be as technical as possible when communicating with her — no rope gags yet.

The first few sessions are usually where we would both be able to determine limits and expectations.

When I am working with some of my more experienced models, I go as far as entering a trance we refer to as top space. My mind shuts down. I see my hands weaving patterns across and over her body. Everything turns to red.

What is it like to work with other women who trust you with their sexual fantasies and naked bodies?

I can’t really say that I feel any different from any other artist who creates any art form. Some people choose to work with oil paint or ceramic, it just so happens that my art materials are naked women and sexual fantasies.

I guess third parties romanticize the extreme nature of my chosen tools, but to the proponent of any art form it is all just in a day’s work.

Do you only work with females?

The only males I have worked with are my non-celebrity partner Luis, who has exclusive rights to tying me up and topping me, and my Kink PH partner Master Red who, I organize kink events with and occasionally model for.

As far as the rest of the world is concerned, I am a rope dominatrix – a rope top – and I do all of the tying and topping. My studies and practice in BDSM are centralized on the female form. Due to some recent events though, I am curious to work more with drag queens and trans people, and even hypermasculine MMA fighters – but only as the dominatrix.

PHOTO: Brendan Goco

What do you think made you successful at this industry? How do you see BDSM growing in the Philippines?

Sincerity, consistency and a hell of a lot of research and practice. I wouldn’t exactly call myself successful yet, but those are the ingredients to get to wherever it is I am now.

This is my full-time job and, like any other full-time job, those are the things we all need to have when pursuing success in any field. I sincerely love what I do and I compete with myself every time to come up with something as good or even better. This is all backed up with constantly reading up and reinventing what I do.

I believe that Manila is undergoing a sort of renaissance period, and I predict that it will only grow stronger in the next few years. Artists from all walks of life feel it too. Now is a good time to create.

Any upcoming events?

The Dark Karnival event series is starting off Halloween shenanigans this September 30 at Pineapple Lab. I, along with Rene Cruz Jr. of Comedy Cartel, will be hosting this event wherein we give new and upcoming acts and performers as well as seasoned headliners a chance to showcase their work.

Dark Karnival Act II is slated for Oct 21 and Act III is on Oct 29. Somewhere in between that — on the 22nd to be exact, we are in talks for a Halloween Fetish Ball with one of the sexiest new venues in Manila.

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