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Workshop: Happily masochistic (2022)

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

Welcome to a celebration of masochism, from the physical, through the emotional and into the devotional. There are endless explanations about why we seek pain and suffering and why it feels pleasurable and meaningful. From writers like De Sade and Sacher-Masoch to philosophers like Freud and Foucault to modern sexologists like Joseph Kramer och Barabra Carellas to trauma therapists and spiritual leaders and BDSM experts, and more and more and more. In the end, the unavoidable fact is that seeking controlled suffering is deeply human. This workshop uses BDSM in general and rope bondage, in particular, to explore masochism experientially instead of lecturing about any universal truths.

We dedicate our first third to physical masochism in two essences—peaceful suffering, as I often talk about in the Zen in Semenawa and devious predicaments. A predicament is a tie that presents an impossible choice between two different pains. The result is a mind constantly trying to escape, only to find the other pain much worse. Therefore there is no peace nor surrender. Some love this feeling of hopelessness, while others prefer the slow and tranquil suffering of a static but bearable pain. My writing on Pain and Kinbaku inspires this theme, and I will also talk about the neurological aspects of pain and our coping strategies. And there is an option to add non-rope related pain like whips and clamps.

In my experience, many beginners start in physical masochism because it is safer due to the techniques that evolved through decades of BDSM. And the flesh and bones almost always heal. But it lacks a certain depth because underneath our skin lies a bottomless ocean of emotions. So the second third will focus on emotional masochism—four aspects: objectification, anticipation, exposure, and shame. In contrast to fear and anxiety that overwhelms us, we are looking for a slow process to give space to feel. Emotional masochism works on the ego and how we define ourselves and our place in this world—allowing oneself, if just for a short movement, to be helpless, drooling and horny. Totally vulnerable to another’s desires and judgement. This is a thrilling experience if one finds themselves safe enough to be brave.

Our last third will move from the submissive to the dominant as we venture into devotion. 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. The rope bondage during this day focuses on making the submissive accessible to the dominant’s desires. 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.

This workshop’s narrative may be better served by not switching roles, but I don’t want to make it a strict rule, as there are many other things to learn other than following along in the narrative. The intimacy level of the workshop can be everything from symbolic to sensual to full-on sexual. I hope you will enjoy it.