But what happens instead is some people burst into an explosion of silliness and start to play. They want to have fun dying. Others pull together, by a magnetical sexual force, in one last expression of intimacy and horniness. But most meditate, eye-gaze, slow dance, and cry in a hug. But there is a lot of loneliness also—a lot of desperation. Maybe someone was never loved, never kissed, never embraced by intimacy. And if it never happened in my entire adult life, then it has to happen now, right, in the end? So I need to make it happen. This is my last chance. CAN’T YOU HEAR MY DESPERATION ROARING?
From the submissive side, there is relaxation when I accept that someone else controls my desire. And that they’ll clearly show me when something is wrong. The rejection doesn’t have to be loud and theatrical, but it can be subtle, maybe only understandable by the two souls involved in the play. There is an elegance to it. To be so attentive and in tune with another. And how needy can I allow myself to be? Knowing that I’ll be lovingly held inside of my desperation.
Within psychology, the pathological definition of fetishism is having one’s sexual attraction tuned towards inanimate objects or body parts not traditionally viewed as sexual. Shoes and feet are typical examples. For it to actually be pathological, one must be unable to function sexually without the fetish. While, on the other hand, it’s widespread to “have a fetish for something”, I think the word kink is a better description for the casual obsession with a material, like leather or latex. From a mythological perspective, pathological fetishism, I think, can be seen as the object depriving the individual of their human function (forging intimate connections, fucking, and reproducing) and replacing it with worshipping the fetish in a god-like relationship. And here, of course, the reference to BDSM is apparent. In submitting to an object, and sometimes even becoming the object oneself, like fully enclosing oneself in leather.
Because when the hard no is spoken, it breaks something. It is supposed to; it’s the whole point. Sometimes I think about the difference between playing with sensations and power. When the feeling, rather than the meaning, of a spanking, is the goal. Then there is no dynamic to be broken, but when the power play is the purpose, maintaining a fantasy or fiction becomes a key.
Finally, the tongue, I almost forgot it. It grows surprisingly deeply into the throat. Tying it, pulling it out and directing its movement affects the whole throat and, therefore, the spine, the limbs and the entire body. There is something animal-like about it—to interact with the world using the tongue. Licking as a sign of appreciation and drooling as a sign of excitement, and tasting as an exploration. It’s one of the first evaluations of what goes into the body and what doesn’t.
I have a nightmarish memory from the last SALONGEN. A man half-jumping around on his way home with one leg in his trousers while trying to say thank you and exchanging numbers with the other visitors. It’s so sad and selfish. His party was over; he was going home. By acting this way, he wasn’t only breaking the rules of the play party but also making a statement that the party was ending for everyone because he was on his way home. When he said thank you to me, I wanted to ask him never to come back again.
Sometimes I joke that as a man, you need to prove your worth first and that you are not “one of them, the bad men”, and then a submissive woman might submit to you. However, as a woman, submissive men say that they are instantly willing to give anything as long as anything includes everything on their wishlist and nothing more. I think it’s because most people long for surrender rather than submission. Maybe the offering of submission must be greater than the self-pleasure of surrender. Divinity might be the most fitting word. The opposite of the beastly carnal love of the flesh. So, how divine are you in your dominance? Especially as the leather daddy dom?
When things go wrong in an intimate or intense situation, it’s often constructive to deal with it directly. Things might hurt more than expected when one is vulnerable and the armour is off. Bad feelings can be like little monsters, at first completely harmless, but if it’s locked in behind the armour, they might grow and become more and more of a problem. And next time the armour comes off, there is a massive beast on an emotional rampage waiting to come out.
So this fetishization of vulnerability, what happens when it happens outside a defined container? If anything, it makes relationships stuck in fixed polarity. So, for example, someone stuck in the rescuer role will never have access to expressing vulnerability. Instead, they might find themselves constantly on their tip-toes, waiting to be needed by their partner’s victimhood or being persecuted for not always being available. Or someone stuck in the persecutor will never receive gratitude or devotion from “saving” another or the heart-melting support from showing vulnerability. Playing with these ritualized expressions of extreme polarity is exciting, but they come with risks, like in the story of Lolita. And this is what I’m trying to outline in this musing.
But how do I know when to say “No”? One way is feeling my nervous system and recognizing how it feels when I’m getting towards the borders of my window of tolerance. This is a very embodied approach. What if I want to say no before getting close to my edges. I think it depends on why; maybe it’s connected to before and after consent. Like it feels good now, but the aftermath is not worth it. Think the classical hang-over. I believe that one’s self-knowledge builds over time by practising and experiencing life. Like, such as how many glasses of wine I can drink if I want to hit the gym the following day. Or how deeply can I surrender or submit and still take care of myself the next day? Or the no is related to something outside of me, like a promise to someone else. Like I’ll only kiss my primary partner. Or I don’t want to have bruises from someone I don’t play with regularly.
But in order for this to happen, one must make space. Living in northern Scandinavia, I love isolation, sauna and fasting. Isolation comes to me from the long winter nights. They make my world smaller and slower but also more focused. And they bring out the details in me, my feelings, and my surroundings. It makes it possible to grasp for the things that are usually at the edge of my awareness. It’s like a reminiscence.There is this difference between the night and the day. The daytime is so organized by the everyday tasks. Waking up, eating breakfast, going to work, eating lunch, exercising, meeting a friend, having dinner, watching NetFlix and falling asleep. So there is little space for the unknown. On the other hand, the night is neverending and dream-like—fasting and saunaing aid this. By shutting down the digestive system, I become more sensitive because my body is not constantly occupied by breaking down food, and it removes the repetitive concept of eating. Saunaing might sound very specific, but it allows me to cleanse my system. Maybe it’s only symbolic of emptying each pore of my skin and replacing the water in the lymph system. It’s preparation for something new.
In my experience, intimacy doesn’t need to be sexual. Sexuality in relationship to bodywork is already complicated because of prostitution, unfaithfulness in relationships, and how it’s portrayed today with over-dramatic fiction and pornography. Retreats and play parties are outstanding opportunities to learn about and celebrate sexuality; doing it inside a therapeutic relationship is more complex. Many people think that sexuality is what they want when intimacy is what they need. I believe that intimacy is big enough by itself. And, maybe, once one has learned intimacy, sexuality will follow smoothly. So, in my view, sex is one end goal of intimacy, but it’s only one of many, and it’s at the end. And what many people need is help to take the first steps in listening and feeling. Conscious kink and tantric rope bondage are excellent as foreplays, playgrounds, and rituals to practice the subject-subject relationships.
The most important thing in my experience is the focal point of awareness. In psychology, it’s often referred to as the salience landscape-the thing that stands out right now in our understanding of the present moment. And when both people involved in the scene share the same landscape, they’ll experience the connection of belonging to the same point in time and space. It’s almost like a choreography of the mind and body. In theatre studies based on Stanislawski and Grotowski, there is a big focus on the project occupying the actor’s mind on stage. A person not knowing what they are doing on stage will look and feel confused and uncomfortable. Of course, this can be a part of a sadistic BDSM game or used to create a sense of mystery on stage. But to have a comfortable connection between the actor and the audience, they must share the same salience landscape. They must belong together. Otherwise, it’s the same punishment as being outcasted from the story.