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?
I’m often asked; why people pay to be bound in rope, and the answer depends heavily on the person paying. And most of my clients are female, about 75%, I would estimate, and this musing is a fictional description of a much too common life situation.
“You are confusing love and obedience. You’ll obey me without loving me and without me loving you.”
– Sir Stephan, in The Story of O
When I write about submission, I write about dedicating oneself entirely to another—compared to surrender, which is a journey into oneself. But what is the source of this drive to submit?
Kink is a balancing game between safety and bravery, but also between risk and intensity. Knowing what you and your partner bring to the balancing scale is a critical safety factor. And it’s hard to see what one is not aware of, the famous blind spot. So in this musing, I want to list the risk factors that I’ve learnt about during my twenty-so years of kink. And I’m obviously still learning.
From an incestuous fantasy to a beating daydream into a heroes journey; That’s a crazy connection, I think to myself while reading a summary of psychoanalytic view on masochism. There are many wild ideas about why people are attracted to sadomasochism, and the truth is that no one really knows, but one thing is for sure; it happens mainly in the head, in the dream-like narratives between the conscious and the subconscious. Bodies bound, skins impacted, nipples clamped, and orders uttered. They are all trip-wires into the mind, or maybe the soul is a better word. A BDSM session is a joint enactment of an almost spiritual belief that upgrades mechanical sex into the mythical eros.
Tantra is the same, even if the methodology is different; that is why they marry so well together. Of course, some people enjoy spanking for the feeling of palm against buttock and intercourse primarily to make kids. But really, in my experience, most people are mesmerized by the journey rather than the footsteps. And the questions it awakes about our sexuality; What does it mean, what is the meaning, why does it feel meaningful. And the story of BDSM offers the answers with sadomasochism, exhibitionism, voyeurism, control and surrender.