A longing for belonging (2020)

You can listen to this musing here, or read it below.

This weekend I participated in an online gathering called “The Orgasmic and Loving Couple”. My contribution was to be part of a rope bondage performance. So I started to write about the theme to understand it, and the word that became most salient to me was “couple”, in the spirit of, being two instead of one. This enables a whole range of experiences when one can relate to something outside of themselves. Something that gives feedback and that is not an object, but a subject equal to oneself–usually this a person, or an animal. There is a form of currency involved, one that symbolizes the value of being a “couple” and that is trust.

With trust comes the opportunity for dependency. That is to receive something from another that one can not achieve by themself. The exchange must be mutual and meaningful for all involved. Otherwise, the couple will become unbalanced and eventually break. I think this is the core of the expression “polarity” when used in the tantric context. For example, with enough trust, two people can explore a classic BDSM polarity-play. The dominant is dependent on the submission of the submissive, and the submissive is dependent on the dominance of the dominant; one can’t exist without the other. Dependency is scary in a society that preaches independence. But we need both, I believe, as a balance between dependence and independence.

I wrote this haiku about this a while ago.

asking to admit
the vulnerability of
being dependent

But I want to be more specific – what exactly is the dependency that a dominant and a submissive is acting out? Especially in rope bondage, as that is my area of expertise. I find the answer in one of our deepest collective fears–the fear of not belonging. Human beings are pack animals, just like wolfs and monkies, we live for the interaction with others. And without that, we are doomed to die – metaphorically speaking in the short run, and eventually also physically.

Being bound in ropes can be a symbol for unconditional belonging. And it is felt in the body when the restriction makes it impossible to be anywhere else. I think this is why many people describe their first bondage experience as being hugged or held, rather than being bound; maybe because the longing for belonging is so great, that the body, mind and soul can now finally rest. This dynamic is what can make rope bondage so vulnerable, and it is a big reason why I kept practicing it for more than fifteen years.

I find it interesting to look at the opportunity for unconditional belonging as an invitation. One that isn’t always offered, or accepted. One that both requires and builds trust. Eventually, with a strong enough couple, the belonging can be nourished by being challenged. Because once one starts taking something for granted, it loses its power. You can read more about this in my text In the search for awe.

In rope bondage, challenging the feeling of belonging can take the form of physical distance. The dominant then moves from being inside the experience with the submissive to observing from a distance. The symbolic language can be that of abandonment and judgement. Japanese bondage often takes place on two parallel 180x90cm tatami-mats that reflects a roughly one-meter personal-sphere around the submissive. The dominant then use that to move between being with their partner and observing them from outside the mat. I would warmly recommend exploring this to create more excitement in your bondage. The feeling completely changes if there is a rope connecting the couple or not. However, avoid leaving them altogether, like going to another room, as this is dangerous, both physically and mentally.

To end this weekly musing, I want to write about untying and ending the belonging and dependency. If the fear of not belonging is the greatest, then the second greatest is the fear of being stuck or losing our freedom. So removing the ropes is an invitation to feel free again, but also to be lonely, or alone. Therefore it is necessary to make the transition slowly, so both the dominant and submissive have a chance to enjoy the transformation. The power of rope bondage is in the balance between these two desires, to belong and to be free. And since they are so contradicting, I think that I’ll never get bored of exploring it.