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.
In my experience, intimacy doesn’t need to be sexual. Sexuality in relationship to bodywork is already complicated because of prostitution, unfaithfulness in relationships, and how it’s portrayed today with over-dramatic fiction and pornography. Retreats and play parties are outstanding opportunities to learn about and celebrate sexuality; doing it inside a therapeutic relationship is more complex. Many people think that sexuality is what they want when intimacy is what they need. I believe that intimacy is big enough by itself. And, maybe, once one has learned intimacy, sexuality will follow smoothly. So, in my view, sex is one end goal of intimacy, but it’s only one of many, and it’s at the end. And what many people need is help to take the first steps in listening and feeling. Conscious kink and tantric rope bondage are excellent as foreplays, playgrounds, and rituals to practice the subject-subject relationships.
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.
It’s time to admit my shadows
and leave my pleasure in the hands of others
when I walk this path of sacrifice.
I’m proud to exist for others,
but know that I’m not unique.
I’m an animal of desire.
Help me, let go of this false pride,
to be filled and emptied, over and over again.
Finally, may I offer something of permanence,
while something still remains.
What does this mean? Why I do write this? I’m trying to figure it in this musing. And I blame Foucault.
Participating in these fantasies had a significant impact on my life. It always leaves me in awe. And it doesn’t require any special skills. All that is needed is presence, listening and vulnerability. Still, I think one must be ready. One of my favourite artists is Marina Abramović. If you don’t know her, then check out her work. She has a retreat called the artists prepares, where the participants get to prepare themselves to have an experience through fasting, meditation, and movement. And to feel safe in themselves, balancing safety and bravery, and learning to listen to their desire. I think creativity and sexuality are very close to each other. So when participating in a play party retreat, you will also be taught how to prepare. Because I think, if one doesn’t prepare mentally, then the kink will only be physical. It will be just the whips and knots, without the emotions and mystery—the doing without the being.
The first fear is strangely connected to consent. Or the question, what can I consent to? In my background of BDSM, there is a practice of radical self-expression, or as it’s often said, “Your kink is not my kink, but your kink is okay” (YKINMKBYKIO). It comes from the belief that sexual minorities need to stay together because they often face substantial social stigma, sometimes even being illegal or considered a pathology. So it’s fundamental to be inclusive. But unfortunately, many people entering BDSM in this hype of “kink is the new pink” are utterly ignorant of the suffering of generations before them. So they tend to be more judgemental. Many spiritual communities choose not to be inclusive because they want to limit themselves to like-minded people who share their beliefs. Like veganism, non-violence, soberness, income and labour division based on need, rather than performance, etc. Because that is the reason they left the greater society in the first place. Some communities dears to be outspoken about it, while others don’t.
Fundamentally, it requires a judgemental attitude because it’s crucial to judge who belongs and who doesn’t. And when the shared belief system is more about actual beliefs and less about concrete regulations, things become increasingly tricky because the answer is often more of an intuitive feeling. And then comes the question, whose feeling is it that counts? Probably the one with the highest status in the community, and hence the power hierarchy is born. Often, from a non-conscious nor consensual place. However, I don’t think human beings are stupid, so somewhere deep down, I think we understand that if I enter the spiritual community of a random guru, then that guru’s opinion will be valued higher than mine. And if I want to become someone in this community, I need to climb the social hierarchy.
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. 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.
For me, the negative emotion closest at hand in bondage is sadness. I often describe my sessions as sad love stories, and my soundtrack almost always plays in the minor scales. There is a sense of longing, longing for belonging, and longing for freedom. But it never gets there. When diving deeply into a power dynamic, sometimes even climaxing, there is always a coming back to equals, average, and status quo. The polarity is too volatile to keep forever, especially if it has been strong. I believe that being entirely immersed in dominance, control, submission, and surrender for too long is not healthy. It’s like we, at some point, need to raise the head about the water if just for a single breath or pull the parachute in the middle of free falling, independently of how mesmerizing the movement is. Leaving this state brings sadness, and so does knowing that it’s not for real and not forever. However, there is great potential in learning to let go and say goodbye. People often ask me if it doesn’t hurt, and sure it does, but it hurts because it meant something. It was meaningful.
There is a river just outside the village. The tide pushes its water in and out of the ocean in and out every day and every night. I love floating down that river, either being carried into the jungle or out to the sea while watching the stary night sky above me. Surrendering to the sensuous experience all around me. Everything is calm, and I can relax, melt and let go. I’m curious if my window of tolerance will increase or decline over time. Looking at the other hippies that have lived here for years, their window of tolerance is very small. Maybe because their nervous system is very calm, and there is no need to tolerate much. Is this what they call paradise?
I’m in Brazil, mostly for vacation, living in a tropical eco-village on the coastline of Bahia. There is a small sex-positive festival happening here in a couple of days, and of course, I’m teaching some rope bondage. But what kind of bondage? Japanese? Swedish? It’s a practice, and a legacy, that I learned in Japan, then brought to Sweden, and now I’m moving it to Brazil. Swedish and Japanese culture is similar in many ways but also vastly different, and Brazilian culture is vastly different yet again. (I think I’ve only been here for a week so far). The bondage I learned to love in Japan grew out of perversion and taboo, and my favourite European teachers kept that spirit, and so do I in my private bedroom practice. Then I work professionally in the field of tantra, conscious kink and alternative therapies. This calls for a colossal adaptation in terms of consent and a strange mixture of rationality and spirituality. When I try to explain to someone in Tokyo’s red-light district that I teach bondage in European (and now Brazilian) spiritual communities, they look perplexed. They might tell how they turn their statues of Shinto deities away from a rope bondage scene, as the practice is considered unholy and dirty. But then the heteronormative gender roles of Japan where “maledom” (male domination) isn’t a kink but everyday life, and “femdom” is a popular perversion. This, obviously doesn’t work in Scandinavia. Instead, the words “sadisto” and “masochisto” are much more used, as the power dynamic is already assumed. And then, in terms of alternative therapy, everything is again thrown upside-down as there is a money transaction involved, and the goal is no longer mutual pleasure. Rope bondage, as a practice, has traveled with me for many years, and it changes all the time depending on context. But then we have the words that describe the practice. This musing I want to dedicate to those words.
Sometimes, I like to challenge people I mentor to explore the least traditional masculine or dominant activity they can train their submissive to serve them with. Some classics are getting fucked with a strapon or given a relaxing bondage experience. So many heteronormative dominant men I meet are shit scared of anything that might test their position of power. But I believe that one should stretch their dominance to know how stable and trustable it is for everyone involved. It’s like a ritual or rite of passage. Once passed, the dominant can enjoy an anal massage without the fear of losing position or being seen as less able.
Welcome to this four-day retreat on the theme of pleasure and… or pain. BDSM and tantra offer different paths to ecstasy and away from the everyday mundane. By being a ritualistic framework, an intellectual toolbox, and a concrete practice with consent and consciousness at the core. At the same time, both pleasure and pain are flooding our nervous system with sensations. However, the experience of both pleasure and pain is deeply personal. Scientifically it’s impossible to measure, so we are left with poems and anecdotes to describe it. Some people are addicts to pleasure; others find meaning in pain; many confuse them when highly aroused. The key is to stay present and honest with our experience without panicking and disassociating.
Weber would gender this unknown as something feminine. Something for the wicked witches and divine goddesses. I think modern feminism has opened up this domain to men, and BDSM is a modality for it. An opportunity to let go of rationality and repression and practice being emotional and intuitive. Even in the dominant role, exposing my, often perverted, desires is vulnerable. If I don’t share my emotions, I simply become an object for another’s desire, like the rational flogging machine pain-2000 or shibari roller-coaster hang-around-upside-down. And then again, I’m back to repression and only being valued for my skills.
The whole situation is created. By asking her to wear the kimono. By telling her to dress in the bathroom. By everyone else being so dressed differently. And she loves it. She feels safe and vulnerable at the same time. And she has everyone’s attention on her. The situation would be completely different if she started naked. Tying rope is like telling a story, and so is undressing your partner. It is the transformation from covered to exposed that is the point. And that makes a tiny inch of bare skin so much more erotic.