Introducing Sonja Kotrotsos, founder of BoldPleasures, for our Sextech Salon on exploring your sexual kinks and desires safely with yourself and your partners.
What is BoldPleasures and how did you get into it?
BoldPleasures provides a safe and inclusive space where everyone can learn and explore about kink, BDSM and alternative relationships in a supportive, educational environment.
We are a group of knowledgeable kink explorers and educators dedicated to teach and discover the diverse ways of the kink lifestyle. We provide the tools and techniques so that all those in our open-minded community can explore sexual kinks and BDSM safely and joyfully.
We dare to lead a fundamental societal shift by providing a safe place where everyone can discover and embrace his or her individual passions and desires.
Through knowledge, education, and empowerment, we eradicate the stigma, shame, and judgement attached to kink, BDSM, and alternative relationships.
How it all Started
Essentially, I started out on my own kink adventure with a few pretty stupid and consequential mistakes. Also, during that time, I missed a frame of reference – I had all those people telling me what’s right and what’s wrong.
Contradicting each other typically, often quite extreme and radical views – not because that’s an adequate reflection on the BDSM community, but because those types tend to shout the loudest. So I was confused.
I didn’t know where to go and learn about my desires, and the sites I found out there felt more like porn than education. I experienced them as repulsive.
So, I toyed with the idea of having a physical space for exploring kink for a while, but i could not work out a business plan that made sense. It felt too limited to the local audience and too scary to come to for newcomers.
Having worked in online marketing for the majority of my professional life, we then decided to launch BoldPleasures as an online platform. I was so blessed to have my husband’s support in this.
When we reached out to Karin and Hans, and later Tess and Jay for their support, it was overwhelming how much they believed into the necessity of bringing approachable kink education to a broader audience.
So I was fortunate – and cannot stress that enough – to have amazing kink advocates and educators support this project.
Read the full BoldPleasures story here.
What did you want to be when you were younger?
I always wanted to be a journalist. Then I wanted to work for the United Nations, because I thought I could make a difference there. Then I learnt how politics worked and decided not to get into that.
When I did my journalist internship, at a local TV station, I had such a hard time dealing with the people there. There was so much smoke and mirrors. So many egos. I just found it too exhausting.
I spent my time hacking through their firewall and using their internet connection (this was the time when you didn’t yet have internet at home haha).
And that is how my career in tech started.
What was your sex education like growing up?
I honestly do not remember very clearly. Vaguely, there was a lesson in biology class and then
at some point my mother wanted to sit down and have the talk. I sent her away because I knew already by then.
I do not remember any meaningful or insightful conversations about sexuality, certainly not anything beyond the reproductive process of penis-in-vagina sex.
I also don’t remember any conversations about homosexuality or transgender people – it was all very “man, woman, penis, vagina” back then. Mind you, I am approaching 40 rapidly, so this was a while ago.
Don’t worry, we don’t think much has changed in schools since then, Sonja!
What is your vision for the future of BoldPleasures?
Within the coming five years, I’d like to see BoldPleasures grow into the starting point for kink newcomers. With safe, sane and balanced information and education. The more people we help to have an easier and more joyful start to their BDSM journey, the better.
I see our offering for professionals grow. We are just now starting to experiment locally, offering courses for doctors, nurses, midwives, teachers, lawyers, etc. Educating them about the psychology behind BDSM and helping them better understand their patients and clients.
My dream is that it will enable sexual kinksters and healthcare professionals to have an open dialogue about their sexuality and relationship choices – as far out as they might be – without fear of judgment and shame.
Today, because we all have day jobs ,and I am pregnant again, we have decided to offer the trainings and member content for free. This is because we don’t have the bandwidth to keep up the stream of content we would like to and offer the service we envision.
Having said that, currently, we are looking for sponsors to cover our operating cost – going forward also to compensate our trainers. I strongly believe that BoldPleasures should be – and will be – a platform for kink educators to also earn a living.
It doesn’t seem right that we pay tennis and yoga teachers and all sorts of lifestyle coaches, but expect kink educators to give their time for free. They provide a valuable service to an individual – much more important than many other things we spend money on.
What are the key trends you’re seeing at the moment that influence your work?
I see two opposing trends happening. On the one hand, I see people being more and more curious about exploring their sexuality. I see teenagers doing much more much younger.
I was shocked to learn from my 15 year old step daughter that it’s perfectly normal for kids to watch porn in the school restrooms. A lot of this I believe is fostered by the media getting more and more sexual. By hypes like 50 Shades, but more by every other sitcom on TV.
In contrast to that, I don’t see the conversation about sex open up. I don’t see sex education following the trends that teens now get their information from porn. I don’t see a counterweight to the idealised world the media is creating. I see Facebook and Google get increasingly prudish about their content algorithms and advertising policies.
Without that counterweight, there can be no balance. We can’t put concepts out there and not educate. The #MeToo movement is a great one, finally addressing consent. I want to see a #DitchShame movement happening where we talk about fetish and kink in the same open and honest way.
What’s the biggest surprise you’ve had since starting to work in sextech?
Quite naively, I had no idea just how hard it would be to reach your target audience. It’s absolutely crazy.
We are trying to educate and inform people. Help people get harmed less often. We are very consciously choosing our imagery to be sexy but never icky.
Yet, we are banned from advertising platforms and most social media advertising. We are classified as too adult, on the same level as pornography.
It’s very sad how organizations like Google, Facebook and many other actively contribute to an information bias and create a void for decent sexual kink education.
When it comes to sex, what’s the one thing you wish everyone knew?
Discovering your sexuality, with all its sexual kinks and edges, is a lifelong journey. It’s okay if you like weird things. People you know are probably into more than you think. Do not be afraid to explore. Do not be ashamed to try. Sexuality is a wonderful colourful palette. Take the time to paint your own picture.
What are you currently working on that you are willing to share?
A baby boy that is due in December! Although I am very much not willing to share him.
With regards to BoldPleasures, we are experimenting with a new format of interviews with experts. We started the first one with ABDL advocate Emma about Adult Babies and Diaper Lovers that was very well received.
I believe in long form interviews – not restricting a topic to a fixed timeframe of 20 minutes. I believe a topic deserves as much time as it needs. With Emma and her husband Hans we spoke for a good hour.
We have interviews lined up now on the topics of rope bondage, the psychology of BDSM, knife play, dominant/submissive relationships and polyamory.
We are currently doing one a month, because I have to watch my energy levels somewhat. If this continues to gain traction with our audience, then we will launch interviews in shorter iterations also as a podcast.
We are also looking for sponsors who believe in the importance and urgency of the project to help us accelerate.
What do you think is the next big step for sextech?
Virtual Reality definitely is. I am not sure yet on how fundamental this switch will be and if for the better or not. Certainly from a kink education perspective, it will allow much ‘closer’ education.
The idea of being ‘there’ without having to dare to make the step is a great entry point for curious beginners.
On the other hand, I worry about what it means for inter-human relationships. I am pretty sure VR will trigger a higher degree of biochemical reaction. I wonder if for some people the oxytocin boost will be enough to not seek out real people. A scary thought somehow.
Who else in the industry do you admire or look up to?
I am a tremendous fan of Beate Uhse. She was a German icon of sexual emancipation. After the war, she started with leaflets to educate women on contraception – just by understanding their cycles and such.
She later opened her first sex shop and over the years not only built a then-successful business but opened up German society to new, open conversations about sexuality. A very fascinating woman. Brave. I would love to be the Beate Uhse of kink.
What advice would you give someone who is looking to break into the industry?
We are only doing this for half a year and I actually consider myself someone who is still looking to break into the industry. So if anybody would be happy to give me advice, I’d welcome it.
Right now, I focus on listening to our members and understand what we can do better to help them find their way. That seems more important at this point than the industry.
Do you have any practical tips that someone could use tonight to enhance their pleasure?
Oh a very simple one. Tonight, talk to your partner about what turns you on. Ask them what turns them on. Share one fantasy with them that you haven’t dared to before, and ask them in return.
The hardest – and simplest – way to enhance your pleasure is by communicating about your desires. You might be surprised how willing your partner is to experiment together with you.
Dare the adventure. Ditch shame.
Thanks Sonja, we will certainly be following the #DitchShame movement closely!