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Connection, cruelty and threesomes (2022)

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

Everyone longs for connection. That is to feel that we belong to someone or something. Being disconnected, outcasted, and ignored is one of the cruellest penalties. So in every retreat I teach, it’s always the experience of intimately relating to another, often non-sexually, that leaves the most profound imprint on people. So, for example, I recently introduced the theme of pleasure and pain in Estonia, and we did an exercise popularly named Spanking for Dummies, pretty much exploring how to spank someone, very practically, with many technical questions and silly jokes. Afterwards, we put the same physical activity into a session. We gave it meaning for both the one giving and receiving the spanking. And, suddenly, it turned into a story between two people. The spanker and spankee depended on each other in polarity, which fed connection. Or it’s one possible seed. But how does it work in practice?

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.

However, belonging can be complicated in BDSM because it comes with so many advanced techniques and extreme experiences. That easily can dominate the mind of the most seasoned dominant and submissive. And suddenly, the whole play can become a non-consensual and unconscious punishment for both. One solution, I found, is threesome games, and I want to talk about two of my favourite setups.

One is a three-step hierarchy, with a director, a doer and a receiver. Here the doer can focus on the “advanced” techniques and the director and receiver on the “extreme” experience. In addition, I often suggest the director and the receiver to create a connection by having eye contact. The receiver will directly have the sensations, while the director will have them indirectly through empathy-knowing that they are the cause of the feelings they share. It is a massive rush of power. At the same time, the doer can rest in doing. There is an essential link to cruelty here, but I’ll come back to it after talking about the second threesome game.

In the second game, there are two receivers and one that is both the director and the doer. So basically, it’s one of the most common BDSM scenes, with one dominant and two submissives. But the key here is to form a strong connection between the two submissives. Again, suggestibility by eye contact. So they will both take turns feeling the sensation directly in their body and indirectly through empathy in the other. The waiting also creates anticipation, which is a fun game in itself. So now, the dominant will focus on alternating between doing and directing.

I have had this constellation fail so many times when there is no connection between the receivers. And instead, it turns out to be the dominant trying to split themselves between forming two connections while simultaneously being the doer and the director. I think this is why heteronormative threesomes are often much better with two men and one woman than a man trying to fuck two women simultaneously. Another example is one rigger trying to tie two models and splitting their attention. In my experience, 100% connection with one person is so much more than 50% connection with two. Therefore the key is the connection between the receivers—the reason why they want to belong together.

Now let’s come back to and end with cruelty. BDSM is, in many ways, a masochistic fantasy. I write masochistic and not sadomasochistic as I think sadism operates differently; I have written about it in-depth here. And this fantasy contains cruelty, which is different from every day relating—defining cruelty in this context as the outsourcing of suffering and sacrifice. And it doesn’t have to involve pain; instead, simply losing agency or being condemned to boredom is more than enough. It could be teaching the submissive a particular skill or behaviour or providing the dominant joy and pleasure. I don’t think the goal is what defines cruelty, but rather the means.

I spent a couple of years in full-time master/slave relationships (in both roles), and maintaining cruelty is hard. I see many BDSM relationships starting out very intense with high protocols and complex rituals. But as they grow closer together, the intensity often fades, just like in normal vanilla relationships. At first, I believe people are attracted to differences, to something that is not myself. Then, as the relationship grows, the focus turns to the similarities and the safety of belonging. So, when we are no longer crazily in love, the motivation for taking risks goes down. But in the similarities, there is no polarity. It’s, in fact, the avoidance of polarity. So the masochistic fantasy often collapses. I think it’s slower in a vanilla relationship. And in a BDSM relationship, it can be instant as soon as the fantasy bubble pops.

So maintaining the cruelty (that is, of course, conscious and consented) is part of maintaining the connection, the scene, and the masochistic fantasy. In these threesome games, cruelty plays a vital role. In the first game, with the three-step hierarchy of the director, doer and receiver, the connection between director and receiver is a balance between cruelty and empathy. If there is a fear of vulnerability, the director sometimes is drawn toward the doer instead: supervising the technique and giving detailed instructions. I think this is to avoid admitting and seeing their cruelty in the connection to the receiver. Other times the receiver closes down and goes inside themselves to avoid sharing their experience and being vulnerable. In these cases, I would advise slowing down and reconnecting to the intention of sharing the scene.

Similarly, in the second threesome game, with two submissives. The connection between the two receivers is in sharing the experience of cruelty and feeling empathy for the other. However, it can also turn into a game of competition, and I think that is okay if the connection is maintained. It’s if they instead turn towards the dominant that the game changes again, to maybe a competition for attention and suffering of jealousy. And, of course, that can also be okay. I write this because I want to encourage breaking apart the roles of director and doer and to form other flows of connection. And I think adding another actor to the theatre scene of cruelty helps in many cases and can be so much more than the heteronormative ménage à trois.