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Aftercare for vulnerable dominants (2021)

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

A rope bondage scene is a story that unfolds another world. We take off the uniforms of the everyday-life. Uniforms 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.

The main character of my story is the bound one. In that way, I’m very voyeuristic when I tie. I want to get to know every emotional corner of the protagonist. Preferably the ones hiding the deepest in shame and taboo. My inspiration comes from the Japanese BDSM traditions, which often deals with the most perverted fantasies. There are schoolgirls, geishas, and secretaries captured by old perverted men or even evil spirits or malicious monstrosities. Bodies get unveiled from layers of silk fabric, pale skin echos in mirrors, and drool drips into half-empty sake cups. Maybe here I should add that these are my private nerdy investigation, while what I teach in workshops is usually much more mainstream. If you are confused about why anyone would like to experience these “dark” emotions, then read my text on bondage and suffering.

Through the body into the psyche.

Bringing another into these hidden corners of the eros requires them to be vulnerable by sharing their emotions and experience. That is what allows me to control the situation and gives me power. The opposite would leave me with little material if they are stone-faced and revealing nothing. There is a common misperception about BDSM that the dominant is the protagonist. Maybe it’s more the case in other practices, but I remain the storyteller in rope bondage. My love and presence must carry the one bound; otherwise, there is a high risk of things becoming destructive. Once in a Tokyo rope bar, an older man told me that I have to earn the trust to tell their story. The more intense I make my partners experience, the more ignored mine will be. It is both my curse and my reward. And maybe it is sad, but I think it has to be this way to go deep. There are exceptions when I get to shine in my exhibitionistic glory, but that’s a musing for another time.

While progressing through the aftercare and looking back at what we did together, then from an outside view, I was the perpetrator, and they were the victim. I was the one restricting and making them surrender to pain and shame. Of course, it is consensual and made with love, but that is an intellectual agreement that caters little to the echoes in my body. If anyone is getting thrown into jail, then it’s me. And my role in the story often represent the thing I want to avoid in everyday life, and I need the reassurance that I’m not that. The more dark and disturbed our play has been, the more I need it. I think it depends on what emotions I’ve been holding space for in my story. Fear and suffering are obviously more taxing than joy and pleasure. But there is a deeper side to it. It is about turning the spotlight on my vulnerability and giving me a chance to hand over control and power for a while. That brings balance to the relationship.

And, of course, my partner needs aftercare as well, and luckily it’s not a zero-sum game. But when I see “a daddy dom” tucking their “little girl” in a blanket while feeding them ice cream and wiping their tears, then I don’t see aftercare but a prolongation of the power dynamic of their BDSM scene. Maybe, the daddy dom bringing the ice cream proves to himself that he isn’t that bad guy. Or, perhaps he keeps being dominant to avoid being vulnerable.