A white tantra guru, the kind that finds energetic bliss through meditation and mantras, once asked me about BDSM. The topic was surrender and submission, and why focus so much dedication on a humble human being when there is the great divine, god, and oneness. From a sadomasochistic perspective, I heard him saying, why go looking for more pain and suffering when there already is plenty around?
I’m often asked; why people pay to be bound in rope, and the answer depends heavily on the person paying. And most of my clients are female, about 75%, I would estimate, and this musing is a fictional description of a much too common life situation.
“You are confusing love and obedience. You’ll obey me without loving me and without me loving you.”
– Sir Stephan, in The Story of O
When I write about submission, I write about dedicating oneself entirely to another—compared to surrender, which is a journey into oneself. But what is the source of this drive to submit?
Kink is a balancing game between safety and bravery, but also between risk and intensity. Knowing what you and your partner bring to the balancing scale is a critical safety factor. And it’s hard to see what one is not aware of, the famous blind spot. So in this musing, I want to list the risk factors that I’ve learnt about during my twenty-so years of kink. And I’m obviously still learning.
From an incestuous fantasy to a beating daydream into a heroes journey; That’s a crazy connection, I think to myself while reading a summary of psychoanalytic view on masochism. There are many wild ideas about why people are attracted to sadomasochism, and the truth is that no one really knows, but one thing is for sure; it happens mainly in the head, in the dream-like narratives between the conscious and the subconscious. Bodies bound, skins impacted, nipples clamped, and orders uttered. They are all trip-wires into the mind, or maybe the soul is a better word. A BDSM session is a joint enactment of an almost spiritual belief that upgrades mechanical sex into the mythical eros.
Tantra is the same, even if the methodology is different; that is why they marry so well together. Of course, some people enjoy spanking for the feeling of palm against buttock and intercourse primarily to make kids. But really, in my experience, most people are mesmerized by the journey rather than the footsteps. And the questions it awakes about our sexuality; What does it mean, what is the meaning, why does it feel meaningful. And the story of BDSM offers the answers with sadomasochism, exhibitionism, voyeurism, control and surrender.
The feminine⸺in MALE and female bodies⸺is crying to be seen, to be felt, to be loved⸺crying to be FREE. The cry for freedom is not just an unhealthy masculine trait; deep below the surface of superficial erotic polarities, it is actually the feminine that is crying… To be recognized, to be set free from the chains of consciousness. To be unleashed. The matter is aflame, the earth-mother ready to erupt, volcanic superpower ready to blow⸺a force that will shake atoms and make galaxies collide. Yet, she is afraid. Too long has she been shamed, too long has she been separated. Too long has she been told she is not enough, not worthy. Too long have the words and swords of men kept her at bay for fear of death. Too long, she has believed love will leave her if she fully comes alive. But it is time.
Rope bondage is excellent for exploring power and surrender and provides many interesting technical challenges for suspensions. There is the Japanese heritage with its aesthetics, narratives, and patterns. And finally, there is the communal practice. To join together and explore the ritual practice of being bound.
I recently wrote a musing on consent as feeling together, and this week the follow-up question is, can I consent to not “using” consent? And what does it mean to “use” consent? I first encountered consensual non-consent in my early years of BDSM when living in Montreal. It was part of the old-school, or old guard, acting out a fantasy of the Victorian household, much like the Story of O (a book), in its investigation of erotic enslavement. The basic idea is that the submissive is surrendering all control over the play. So there are no safe words. I’ve met countless submissives claiming that they can only truly let go if there is consensual non-consent. Because if they continuously need to evaluate the situation by asking themselves if this is what they want, then how can they ever surrender? So they dream about trusting and dedicating themselves entirely to a dominant.
A rope bondage scene is a story that unfolds another world. We take off the uniforms of the everyday-life. Uniforms are given to us, indicating our place in the global hierarchy. To make us feel safe. In the story, I’m allowed to be someone else. It’s often a parody that helps me cope with all the stupid power games of reality. I’ve learned a magical ritual over the past decades to create this rift into the otherworldly. It allows me, the one tying, to enjoy magnificent power, a power given to me in the form of another’s submission, suffering, and surrender. In return, I take them on a journey that they never could venture alone. Aftercare is the return, to the conventional, to the equal, to the status quo. It is commonly said that the submissive is the one in need of aftercare from the dominant. But I don’t agree, not in the way that I play and teach BDSM. Let me explain why.
I’m on a continuous journey to understand kink and sexuality. In this work, I dig around in various subcultures, philosophy, psychology, religion and spirituality to find models that explain why I and others behave as we do. The abbreviation BDSM(F) is one way that splits kinky sexuality into bondage, dominance-submission (DS), sadism-masochism (SM), and sometimes adding an F for fetish. It is a helpful umbrella to gather under as a subculture, and it is kind of clear because it tells what is in focus. For example, DS on the power dynamic, while SM on the pain and suffering. But I think it’s less helpful in explaining why. Acting as a gateway teacher, I sometimes simplify it into kink, that everyone has something that makes them tick, maybe a taboo, that they are excited and curious about. Or maniac, as they would say in Japan. And I think everyone does, and it’s healthy to honour that inside oneself consciously. Anyhow, I’ve recently found another way to look at things when reading the book, The Essential Papers on Masochism. It’s a condensed summary of 900 academic pages outlining what psychoanalysts have been writing about masochism from 1915 to 2005. While I don’t think psychoanalysis is the best tool to build a society, I think it makes a brave attempt at understanding the human psyche. It is hilarious that Freud said that only a few percentages of humanity are possible to analyze and change, while the rest, I assume, are a fixed product of the environment. Okay, enough taking distance from Freud and co, because I think the seed they planted in me is valuable after all.
When talking about consent, I often claim that trust is more important than consent. The modern usage of the word is to agree, often by defining the terms of the agreement. I’m okay with this, but not with that. The Swedish word we use is ‘samtycke’; ‘sam’ means together, and ‘tycke’ is ‘opinion’ often related to thought. When people practice consent, it often seems to be defining what I want and what I don’t want because it’s important to get what one wants, right? Looking at the origins of the word, I think it offers another usage. The English word has two components; ‘con’ that means with or together, and ‘sent’, from the Old French ‘sentire’, that is to feel. To feeling together and I find this so much more beautiful.
I have to admit that drooling, hypersalivation, and ptyalism fascinates me. It is probably my second biggest kink after rope bondage, and let me try to digest why. Drooling is ultimately about losing control of our bodily functions, our appearance, and our social status. Animals, like Pavlov dogs, drool before feeding, and so does infants before they learn to control themselves, to adhere to our social normals of cleanliness. Residues leaving the body doesn’t belong in the public realm. Urine, faecal matter, and menstrual blood belong in the lavatories, while barfing, farting, sneezing, and crying are expected to be discreet. Salivation is on the borderline in between. Losing control is a degradation into something more animalistic that takes one step further away from the order and cleanliness of civilizations and gods. In a BDSM play, it can be both surrendering to the present moment and submission to a dominants desire—allowing oneself to lose part of their humanity.
There is an expression I Like to humorously muse to, “Some days you’re the pigeon and some days, you’re the statue.” A phrase more appropriate for comfort on a bad day. However, it is the first thing that came to my mind this morning when reflecting on last night’s Shibari workshop.
Pain is both personal and relational. Let me explain what I mean. It is personal because it is subjective. No one can ever feel your pain. They can empathically imagine your experience but never actually feel it. In this way, we are all utterly alone in the end. But it is also relational because how we experience pain is greatly influenced by how we relate to its source. Therefore the relationship between the dominant and the submissive is fundamentally essential. In this musing, I want to write about three archetypical pain relationships.