20th Anniversary Series #3: Maintaining Community and Leaving a Legacy

October 26, 2023

As told to Rose DeYott and Ryn Pfeuffer

Over two transformative decades, Monk's amassed wisdom and experiences have propelled Twisted Monk to being the world's premier bespoke bondage rope company. But even a kink icon knows that true greatness lies in what we achieve and how we empower others to follow in our footsteps and reach new heights.

Each step forward is a chance to make a lasting impact on the world. So, while Monk is still figuring out what his legacy looks like going forward, the pure joy and pleasure that he, Tambo, and his tight-knit team have brought to bedrooms, kink events, and play parties is a legacy unto itself that shines bright in every foot of hand-dyed and finished rope.

Resilient revival

In 2007, Monk woke up to the worst phone call any small business owner can get: There was a fire in your shop. The building Monk calls "The Abbey," an old warehouse down by the railroad tracks in SoDo, was the victim of arson.

He says, "I remember walking into my shop, and there's a hole in the roof." You can still see some of the black soot and burnt planks to this day. The whole shop was underwater, and Monk reminds us that hemp and water are a very bad mix. "I had a moment of like, oh my God, this is it," he recalls.

In the wake of the fire, the community stepped up in a major way. It wasn't like he could do a crowdfunding campaign to do a rebuild; this was well before GoFundMe existed. "People started sending me checks," he shares. "People start sending me money, saying, ‘send me rope when you can,’ or just leaving it as a donation.”

At this point, Twisted Monk had been creating a Color of the Month. He decided to make a special color as a fundraiser to help get the company back on its feet.

"We got back to it and made our first-ever tricolor dye job. It was called Phoenix,” he says. The phoenix, a mythical bird, embodies rebirth and immortality with its fiery plumage, rising from its own ashes. Its red, orange, and yellow colors symbolize this transformative power. “It's a beautiful piece of rope.”

A year later, Twisted Monk was one of the corporate sponsors for a rope event called Shibaricon. According to Monk, "I'm up on stage, and somebody is holding up a rope. People are fighting over it." It was a piece of Phoenix. He says, "There’s rope, there's Twisted Monk rope, and then there's Twisted Monk's Phoenix." The vibrant color became like a badge of honor. For years after that, people would auction them off. "We'd be told that they were used in handfasts or gifting and things like that. Sure, it's a colored piece of hemp, but it symbolized people's trust in us and that we were more than just a vendor that people like."

Maintaining autonomy

In a world where acquisitions have become commonplace, it's unsurprising that kink toy companies and bondage sites have wanted to buy Twisted Monk. "I've been approached by people who wanted to franchise—you know, like, start a Twisted Monk in Canada or Australia," says Monk. But he's stood unwavering in his dedication to preserve the independence and integrity of the Twisted Monk brand. "I've always wanted to control the brand tightly because I have this specific vision that has helped us grow. I have been very, very reluctant to give that up."  Monk refuses to prioritize profit over maintaining his vision for an ethically run company.

An extraordinary life
For Monk, no one single moment overshadows the rest. "I have lived the coolest freaking life," he admits. "You know, I have gotten to share the stage with kink celebrities—and work with amazing people." Each experience has helped paint the picture of who Twisted Monk is. 

Monk has had countless strangers approach him and tell stories about how rope helps them reconnect with their bodies and sex lives. "So, when it comes to pinnacle moments, it would be impossible to pick one thing," he says. "Every day feels like an adventure filled with opportunities to learn and positively impact the world."

Taking a consumer-centric approach

Early on, Monk attended a lot of conventions. It dawned on him that you see the same faces over and over at conventions. Plus, doing the circuit wasn't sustainable. For one, it involved a lot of travel. Beyond that, Monk had to make the product, ship it to the convention (he adds that rope is fucking heavy), bring a crew, be "on" for a whole weekend, then pack it up and ship it home. 

He wondered, "What happens if we talk to people who have never attend a convention? What if we can find those people? I'll sell them their first kink product, and then they'll go to a convention next year." That one "ah hah" moment shaped the entire trajectory of Twisted Monk's business strategy. "That's what I think has led to our long-term success," he says, catering to new kinksters and maintaining a quality that keeps them coming back.

Mixed family reactions

While building the Twisted Monk brand, Monk generously opened up about his personal life. "I told a lot about my life and my sexuality, and I put it all out there on the Internet," he says. "I was disowned for that and considered a pariah amongst my family." This was difficult for Monk. Drawing from his parents' artistic and entrepreneurial influences, he skillfully merged both aspects to give birth to Twisted Monk. "I'd like to think I'm a pretty slick, smart businessperson, but I couldn't share that with my father because I was a horrible shame to the family name," he shares.

However, neither his nibling, Rose (with whom he currently works), nor their mother, his sister, took issue with the unconventional nature of Monk's company.

"God bless my sister," Monk says. "She shakes her head, 'I don't know what you do,' and I said, 'Don't worry, sis, I'm the best in the world at it.'" She's like, "OK, long as you're the best in the world at." No further words were needed.  

Weathering the pandemic

When the pandemic hit, and the whole world went upside down, Twisted Monk thrived because people were bored and stuck at home. "They were scared," he says. "When you're scared and bored, you want to fuck."

At the same time, Rose was working three jobs and lost all three. "Like every other millennial did when the lockdown happened," says Monk. So, Monk invited her to come to work with him. And later, brought her mother on to do some remote work. "My little rope company is now the economic engine keeping half my family afloat," he says. Rose says he was a lifeboat in the dark times.

"We were trucking along, making sure everybody gets paid and stays safe," he says. "It wasn't me on stage; it was this thing I built that is keeping a lot of people I love safe and able to grow and thrive." 

Twisted Monk navigated the pandemic, emerging with their business intact. They didn't take any PPP loans and donated percentages of weekly sales because people were clamoring for rope. "We were funding the food bank. We were funding anything we could to help folks out."

“I think that's my proudest moment,” Monk says, “getting us through the pandemic."

"Before I got sober, it was, look at me, I'm on stage at the Folsom Street Fair, my leather pants and the whole world staring at my crotch. I am a Golden God," he says. Now it's all about everybody getting fed. "Oh, somebody else needs to get fed? Come to the table. We'll put an extra plate out."

More than anything, Monk wants to pass it on. "I'd love to see it live past me."

Three years have passed since what was initially intended to be something to do during lockdown. Yet, Rose continues to be wholly engaged in the journey.

Amplifying voices and empowering others

Twisted Monk is not Monk's voice anymore, which makes him happy. "I've built a table. I built a stage. I don't need to be on the stage," he says. 

Look at the blogs Rose has been managing for the last three years. It's where Twisted Monk shares voices other than Monk's cis, white, straight, male perspective. "It's nice to acknowledge a voice that hasn't been heard for a while and say, 'Come here. You need a stage. I got a stage right here. I'm going to go over here and play with my dog'," says Monk.

"It's no longer the Monk show. And it is not just the product. It is a brand. Something that is trusted."

 Passing the torch

In the immediate future, Monk is focused on leaving a legacy and sharing his expertise.

"It's my hope to create some kind of generational wealth that I can pass to my next generation of family and chosen family," he says. "It's not about retiring to the Bahamas, but more like, I would love to find a space that keeps thriving, and they just dust off Monk and Lugnut* for events, and we just wave like Orville Redenbacher."

When Rose started during the pandemic, nobody knew what would happen next. Rose was uncertain about pursuing a Ph.D. or independent research in Gender History at the time. Monk remembers telling his nibling , "It'll be some money, so you can keep paying the bills." If nothing else, he figured it would be the coolest internship they'd ever have. Monk told them he'd teach them everything he knew because he had to learn all this stuff and didn't go to business school. "My advisors were sex workers and programmers, very much the smartest women you can find."

Creating ripples of kindness

We all have those fantasies of what we want to happen in the future. "I simply want to be able to keep maturing," says Monk. He doesn't have a grand vision—yet. "I'm still working on it because, let's be honest, the world still feels really complex, scary, and uncertain."

So, he's doing what he does best, which is, in the words of Monk, dropping his shoulder to the wheel. "I used to think that I could change the world one bedroom at a time—that was our old motto," he says. The pandemic shifted his outlook. "It taught me that if I can make the world for the 10 people I intersect with every day better, safer, more just, more equal, then they would be empowered to do that to the 10 people they intersect with every day, and so on," he says. "I genuinely believe that change happens from the grassroots level."

 So, in its 20th year, what does Twisted Monk look like going forward? "We're going to find that out," says Monk.

*In case you didn't know, Lugnut is Twisted Monk's Chief Morale Officer. Everyone knows this 80-pound hunk of bulldog love is the real boss around here. You can see more of his sweet, wrinkly face on Twisted Monk's Instagram.