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.
It’s time to admit my shadows
and leave my pleasure in the hands of others
when I walk this path of sacrifice.
I’m proud to exist for others,
but know that I’m not unique.
I’m an animal of desire.
Help me, let go of this false pride,
to be filled and emptied, over and over again.
Finally, may I offer something of permanence,
while something still remains.
What does this mean? Why I do write this? I’m trying to figure it in this musing. And I blame Foucault.
Participating in these fantasies had a significant impact on my life. It always leaves me in awe. And it doesn’t require any special skills. All that is needed is presence, listening and vulnerability. Still, I think one must be ready. One of my favourite artists is Marina Abramović. If you don’t know her, then check out her work. She has a retreat called the artists prepares, where the participants get to prepare themselves to have an experience through fasting, meditation, and movement. And to feel safe in themselves, balancing safety and bravery, and learning to listen to their desire. I think creativity and sexuality are very close to each other. So when participating in a play party retreat, you will also be taught how to prepare. Because I think, if one doesn’t prepare mentally, then the kink will only be physical. It will be just the whips and knots, without the emotions and mystery—the doing without the being.
The first fear is strangely connected to consent. Or the question, what can I consent to? In my background of BDSM, there is a practice of radical self-expression, or as it’s often said, “Your kink is not my kink, but your kink is okay” (YKINMKBYKIO). It comes from the belief that sexual minorities need to stay together because they often face substantial social stigma, sometimes even being illegal or considered a pathology. So it’s fundamental to be inclusive. But unfortunately, many people entering BDSM in this hype of “kink is the new pink” are utterly ignorant of the suffering of generations before them. So they tend to be more judgemental. Many spiritual communities choose not to be inclusive because they want to limit themselves to like-minded people who share their beliefs. Like veganism, non-violence, soberness, income and labour division based on need, rather than performance, etc. Because that is the reason they left the greater society in the first place. Some communities dears to be outspoken about it, while others don’t.
Fundamentally, it requires a judgemental attitude because it’s crucial to judge who belongs and who doesn’t. And when the shared belief system is more about actual beliefs and less about concrete regulations, things become increasingly tricky because the answer is often more of an intuitive feeling. And then comes the question, whose feeling is it that counts? Probably the one with the highest status in the community, and hence the power hierarchy is born. Often, from a non-conscious nor consensual place. However, I don’t think human beings are stupid, so somewhere deep down, I think we understand that if I enter the spiritual community of a random guru, then that guru’s opinion will be valued higher than mine. And if I want to become someone in this community, I need to climb the social hierarchy.
Is the experience still masochistic if the protagonist is no longer the one in pain? During this time, we will explore the perversions and taboos of the dominant using the mutual trust built in our previous physical and emotional masochistic practices. I think there is a seed of curiosity planted after experiencing the vulnerability of masochism, and it’s also healthy to put the dominant in the centre, in the place of being, after days of doing. There is, or could be, an exciting turn in the narrative here. In the question: will the dominant instantly fulfil their desire, or do they prefer to stay on the edge of their excitement? In a way, edging or denying themselves the climax, and therefore diving into the masochistic fantasy as the protagonist themselves.
For me, the negative emotion closest at hand in bondage is sadness. I often describe my sessions as sad love stories, and my soundtrack almost always plays in the minor scales. There is a sense of longing, longing for belonging, and longing for freedom. But it never gets there. When diving deeply into a power dynamic, sometimes even climaxing, there is always a coming back to equals, average, and status quo. The polarity is too volatile to keep forever, especially if it has been strong. I believe that being entirely immersed in dominance, control, submission, and surrender for too long is not healthy. It’s like we, at some point, need to raise the head about the water if just for a single breath or pull the parachute in the middle of free falling, independently of how mesmerizing the movement is. Leaving this state brings sadness, and so does knowing that it’s not for real and not forever. However, there is great potential in learning to let go and say goodbye. People often ask me if it doesn’t hurt, and sure it does, but it hurts because it meant something. It was meaningful.