Preparing to play (2022)
You can listen to this musing here or read it below.
This musing is kind of a follow-up to The conscious kinkster prepares because I want to try in detail to lay out what it means to prepare. First, it’s necessary to realize that the person entering the play is different from who woke up this morning. So there is a transformation happening. Maybe this is obvious, maybe so obvious that we don’t think about it anymore. I’m sure that everyone has seen at least one American sitcom where the weirdo protagonist, think Cosmo Kramer in Seinfeld, meets a shy girl at a bar; after a few drinks, she invites him home. Everyone is confused, but they just met, but she is so innocent, but this is too good to be true. Once in the bedroom, she says, “Wait here for a minute; I’m just going to prepare”. She exits the room and instantly returns dressed as a leather dominatrix, like Superman jumping in and out of a phonebooth. Cut to black, goofy melody, and next scene with Kramer, George and Seinfeld on the sofa. Sorry for all the 90ths cultural references.
I remember all the times trying to dig the secrets of a play party out of the brain of Felix Ruckert. His play parties at Schwelle7 around 2010 and onwards influenced me a lot. And he often tells me that the most critical factor is the people attending. So the thing you, as a singular individual, can influence the most is you. Hence preparation is vital, and it happens in the self, the other and the space.
I think it almost always starts with a fantasy or a desire; to take myself expedition. There is some kind of desire that I can reach or touch upon by myself. This is the defining difference between going to a play party and a social party. At a social party, I go to entertain the web of connections that already exists with the person that I am. Maybe I’ll meet a new and exciting person, perhaps they will share my fantasies, but we did not come to this meeting in space and time for that expressed purpose. On the other hand, at a play party, I present myself as my desires. I try to be courageous by showing up as that I want to experience. Some new-age hippies would say that I’m manifesting my reality; others would call it sex magick.
The preparation of myself is the first step in this embodiment. The most obvious part is dressing up because my visual appearance communicates significantly to my surroundings. But that is only the surface; below that lays the understanding of what this specific outfit means to me. What it makes me become. By buying, preparing and tending to a persona, I harness a particular flavour of myself that I bring to the play party. The more conscious I can be in my creation, the more it will carry me through the night. Therefore, I often propose making the preparation as ritualistic as possible.
But in order for this to happen, one must make space. Living in northern Scandinavia, I love isolation, sauna and fasting. Isolation comes to me from the long winter nights. They make my world smaller and slower but also more focused. And they bring out the details in me, my feelings, and my surroundings. It makes it possible to grasp for the things that are usually at the edge of my awareness. It’s like a reminiscence.
There is this difference between the night and the day. The daytime is so organized by the everyday tasks. Waking up, eating breakfast, going to work, eating lunch, exercising, meeting a friend, having dinner, watching NetFlix and falling asleep. So there is little space for the unknown. On the other hand, the night is neverending and dream-like—fasting and saunaing aid this. By shutting down the digestive system, I become more sensitive because my body is not constantly occupied by breaking down food, and it removes the repetitive concept of eating. Saunaing might sound very specific, but it allows me to cleanse my system. Maybe it’s only symbolic of emptying each pore of my skin and replacing the water in the lymph system. It’s preparation for something new.
Newcomers often say that they don’t have a fantasy or desire. And that’s okay, just preparing for and entering the realm of the unknown is enough. So I often advise them to not overdress in any particular direction but rather symbolize their freshness, like a clean sheet of paper ready to be filled by the ink of others that are more experienced. Or if they are scared to hide behind a veil. But then it’s so crucial to know that desire is to be shy and, at the same time, brave to challenge that, rather than pretending to be more comfortable than one is. So another lesson that Felix taught me was to be humble and enter from the bottom. In one way, maybe there is no other way because if I arrive as a newcomer in an unknown space, I have less knowledge, confidence and connections, so I start at zero. So honouring that and asking how I can serve or learn about this otherworldly culture might be the honourable thing to do. Or maybe even the instinctive thing. However, when we are trying to pretend to be something that we are not, that’s when people will get afraid and take distance—making it virtually impossible to participate in the play party.
The second step of preparation is in the relationship with others. Very few fantasies and desires are solo activities, or if they are solo, one has probably already explored them alone. It’s together with another that polarity can be born. So attending in relationship to another is very helpful. I usually recommend preparing that connection, and there are a few different ways. The easiest is to establish a shared language together, most commonly a body language with possibly an additional spoken language. Spending a short time together in a non-verbal activity, I believe, will create this language. Usually, five minutes is enough. After this time, I’ll know how we touch each other, lead in a particular direction, say stop, and more. And that means that when we meet at the play party, we will have an invisible connection together, that we know how to play.
Another simple step is determining a polarity in-between us, for example, by the exercises in Art of Submission. So next time we meet, we can either drop into the same interaction that we know or decide to challenge it. Sometimes, I will let everyone explore a polarity with every other participant in a more intimate play party. Importantly, it’s just a taste, and it might change, but it’s something. We know what the movie is about without knowing the ending or each line of the dialogue. Then there are much more elaborate ways of preparing with the other, like establishing a protocol of behaviour or a ceremonial scene to explore. And then let the play party be the arena for this play.
The third step of preparation is in relationship to the space. And how to use it to realize the desire. A good play party is a landscape for fantasies. It has some places that are well lit or left in the shadows, others that are elevated as stages or hidden behind fabrics. There might be symbolic furniture, like a Sankt Andrews Cross, a large leather divan, a lonely toilet chair, or an epic throne. There might be hardwood floors for human dogs to crawl on or piles of pillows for cuddling. Yeah, you get the idea.
Relating to the space also happens on another level; by dedicating oneself or giving oneself to it. Because placing my fantasy into this physical container will change it for everyone. It’s the living and breathing interior of flesh and bones. I remember a naked woman being led around at a play party, she only wore black high heels, and it was written “Camera Obscura” in black ink on her chest. Her eyes were closed for most of the party, except for when she was placed kneeling in front of another fantasy. “Click”, and her eyes opened and observed, recording the acts of desire unfolding. Her gaze had a tremendous impact at that play party. So preparing oneself for the space is giving something, like a seed, and watching it grow. And this can even happen before the play party event starts by participating in the building and destruction of something so unique and temporary.
In a way, I think really, really good play parties are something very, very rare, so it makes sense to see my participation as a sacrifice of myself, my relationship with others and the space. And as an opportunity to express something inside of myself. It often happens unconsciously by preparing a unique outfit (the world is so visual and material nowadays), but it can be something more prominent and abstract. More symbolic. It can be a desire deeply hidden. Something so vulnerable that it requires the preparation to bring it forward. To be brave and show it. But, of course, this might be almost impossible to achieve as a newcomer, so the sacrifice is to give one’s time and attention to another desire and prepare to be humble and serve. In the end, I believe that seeing a play party as a sacrifice and preparing for that way makes it truly magical. You reap what you sow. You know.