This weekly musing is for the nerds. Or the ones that are interested in creating play parties and sex-positive environments. I first ran the GRÄNSLANDET event five years ago, and it is the seed to the in-between space project. Now, during COVID-19, I got the time and energy to plan a follow-up. And I did it with two friends outside the BDSM and tantra subculture, that has much more experience than me in creating participatory and theatrical events. So this musing is some of the information that we collected. Parts of it made it into the final event, others will remain as inspiration for the future. I hope it will inspire others in their creations. Thank you, Riadalom and Herzog, for the many long breakfasts we spent together.
A few days ago, I was at the gala premiere of a new movie called PLEASURE. The director spent the last six years infiltrating or befriending the pornography scene in Los Angeles to the point that she got some of the most influential people to act in her movie. The story is told through the eyes of Bella Cherry, a nineteen-year-old “Swedish girl-next-door virgin” that moves to L.A. to make a career. In a way, it’s about her losing her innocence, quickly emerging herself in rougher and rougher sex, but without demonizing and glorifying. Bella reflects this by being both a fucking awesome superhero and a lost fucked-up teenager. The movie also shows the commercialization of sex and the power hierarchy of a vast industry, where people are fighting for dominance. I think Oscar Wild said. Everything is about sex, except sex; sex is about power.
What does it mean to be a volunteer or assistant at my events? I often get this question, so I thought it was worth answering it more in-depth in this musing. Most important is to be of service, which means that you are more interested in the experience of others than your own. And there are three essential aspects of this.
I often describe my rope bondage as a sad love story, where we witness a hidden desire slowly being reviled. There is rawness and vulnerability. Another way of seeing it, or maybe more correctly hearing, is that my soundtrack plays in the minor scales. My tying style has three essential roles: the person tying, the one being tied, and the one witnessing. Music adds a fourth, the one leading. I often find it complicated to demonstrate rope bondage because people risk copying our emotional expressions rather than expressing themselves. Yet, I still do the demonstrations because it’s worth it. The non-verbal message is so powerful. And music is a little bit the same for me because it dictates the scene’s mood.
The movie 50 Shades of Gray came out in 2015, revealing a not very recent subject. Since it dates from the time leather, whips, and free sexual expression dominated the gay subculture. Today, this topic has given rise to much debate in our society, and everyone wants to know “What is BDSM?”, To answer all your questions, we will bring a knowledgeable teacher of the gray space between the tantra and BDSM. Both topics are super interesting on their own, but mixing these practices will turn your sexual intimacy into an almost spiritual experience; that’s how good it is. Leave the taboos aside, and don’t miss this episode with Andy Buru to learn more about these fascinating topics.
A widespread misunderstanding that I face is that rope bondage is complicated. Especially the Japanese inspired styles of shibari and kinbaku. People often think that it is only about the aesthetics, shapes and knots, while they claim to be only interested in “bondage”. There is a fundamental belief here that first needs to be clarified. Imagine that you have one rope in your hand. The rope itself doesn’t have a predecided function. Like a pair of leather cuffs do. It is flexible, so the person tying needs to decide their intention. That hopefully, it is shared by the person being in the ropes. Is it either to make the most complete tie possible with the one rope with different styles of knots, rope patterns, and body positions, making the most of the one rope, so to say. Or is it to make the most straightforward tie to fulfil a specific play or fantasy, similarly, making as little as possible of the same rope. Here the subculture is divided; some aim to perfect the complexity of rope bondage, while others aim to perfect the simplicity. Some would say that shibari, the verb for tying, is more about complexity, while kinbaku, the philosophy of connection through rope, is more about simplicity. But I think the terms are used too interchangeably to make this distinction. However, the open-ended-ness in rope bondage allows for the question even to be a question.
Imagine the following. You arrive an hour before the dinner. You have already eaten, as instructed. But, instead of food, there is a leather neck corset half covering your face and a white linen apron for you this evening. Your task is organizing the shoes of the arriving guests, all with your gaze down. How someone walks, how the leather shoes are cared for, what socks they deem fitting for such an intimate evening, and if they put them away neatly or casually, leave them for you. It says a lot about someone and how it will be serving them this evening. First, with food and wine, later with your body.
“When the devil possesses the sadist, the masochist sold his soul.”
– Gilles Deleuze in Masochism: Coldness and Cruelty
I think there is a vast difference between feminine and masculine submission and surrender. And it is, in my experience, somewhat disconnected from physical gender but instead influenced by what it means to be a man in this modern society. Most of my musings and experience are of the feminine eros, so today, I want to write about what I know about the masculine, especially concerning submission rather than dominance.
“She was no demi-mondaine who had taken a pseudonym to wage war upon the masculine sex, but the goddess of Love in person.”
– Severin, in Venus in furs
I recently wrote about my most archetypical client, “the masculine woman in the masculine world”. The feedback was excellent, so I’ll in this weekly musing talk about another common kind of client, the Venus in furs. She usually comes in some sort of relationship with a man. They can be secret lovers, single dating parents, or in a very passionate relationship. Fire is their defining element, and they talk about their previous relationships as grey and dull. Together they discovered tantra and BDSM and explore rope bondage, Wim Hof breathing techniques, and non-violent communication. They like to empower and challenge each other, and sometimes this blows up into violent fights with they fight fire with fire. “She is strong as marble and doesn’t back down.”, “He can stand like a rock when my emotions are storming”, and “Her fire fuels my heart”, etc., are things they appreciate about each other.
There is a rule at many of the events where I teach and co-create; that one may not abuse their position of power. Of course, the most obvious interpretation is; do not fuck your students. But there are many more layers to it, especially when working in the field of trauma and recovery. Transference is the psychological concept that I think describes it best.
1: an act, process, or instance of transferring: CONVEYANCE, TRANSFER
2: the redirection of feelings and desires and especially of those unconsciously retained from childhood toward a new object (such as a psychoanalyst conducting therapy)
It describes a fundamental human behaviour, that when a hierarchy of power exists, one tends to transfer the values and ideas from the top to the bottom. This happens effortlessly and unconsciously. Creating the reversed flow seems an almost impossible challenge for any organization. That is my experience from my years as an organizational coach. Nevertheless, it’s a crucial part of any capitalistic system, where successful knowledge seeds down into the hierarchy. And it creates a feedback loop that reinforces the power dynamic to create stability. While this is maybe wanted in the marketplace, what happens when it takes place inside a workshop environment or therapeutic relationship? And how is it affected when the themes inside that hierarchy are power, abuse, and sexuality?
The tantra festival at Ängsbacka is over, and the echo of an emotional rollercoaster is all that remains. “Fest-I-Val” in Swedish is a “Party-Of-Choices”. We sing and dance, and we get high on the simple fact of being alive. So, in a way, it’s a celebration. And a place where I come to find and lose myself at the same time. It has the bubbling quality like something is cooking—hundreds of small meetings happening simultaneously. It weaves a social web of interactions, and something is born, a human machine working for one purpose. This time it is to explore tantra, but it could be anything; the structure is not dependent on the subject. On the inside, equal to the celebration, there are rituals. And I think they are essential in festivals, but also in everyday life. So in this musing, I want to dig into the relationship between a ritual and celebration. And maybe also how to be a good participant in these events.
I am grabbing the hands, folding the arms, and locking the wrist in preparation to wrap the body in rope. Every wrapping is another layer of holding and another step on a journey into trust and bravery. For me, tying the upper body is the most fundamental technique in rope bondage. It is the introduction, the handshake, the getting-to-know-each-other movement that I love the most. Somehow it’s almost sacred if this should be some spiritual practice. So it was; the first thing I learnt on my bondage journey, the first thing I teach, and the last thing I’ll probably do.
When I first started studying old Japanese bondage pictures, I was fascinated by the wrapped bodies. In the old photographs, the wrapping was crud and the rope thick. With time, patterns evolved into something sophisticated—the materials got refined, to the hand-made Ogawa jute that I use today. In this musing, I want to write about some of the steps I discovered when learning to love the upper-body tie.
A white tantra guru, the kind that finds energetic bliss through meditation and mantras, once asked me about BDSM. The topic was surrender and submission, and why focus so much dedication on a humble human being when there is the great divine, god, and oneness. From a sadomasochistic perspective, I heard him saying, why go looking for more pain and suffering when there already is plenty around?