Pain is both personal and relational. Let me explain what I mean. It is personal because it is subjective. No one can ever feel your pain. They can empathically imagine your experience but never actually feel it. In this way, we are all utterly alone in the end. But it is also relational because how we experience pain is greatly influenced by how we relate to its source. Therefore the relationship between the dominant and the submissive is fundamentally essential. In this musing, I want to write about three archetypical pain relationships.
Sometimes I wonder how my sessions and workshop are or can be a step on a personal development journey. BDSM and kink offer a safer place to pause and play outside everyday life, as I have written about many times before, for example, in this text. I often encourage my clients and participants to set an intention in the form of a persona: someone or something they want to explore being in contact with. What they pick varies wildly. Some people want to be more connected with their pleasure, so they go for maybe a greedy whore. Others want to let go of control and stop the non-stop doing, so they decide for almost an object, like a slave or a good boy. Or they might be curious about a gender-role they left behind and pick something traditional and super feminine, like the princess waiting for her knight in shining armour. I find it refreshing that people often choose a persona with a negative connotation to it. Maybe it is a way to defend who they are, or perhaps it’s a sign of them feeling safe, so they dear to be drawn to this other way of being.
In this episode, we talk about a project that is very dear to Andy: The amazing conscious kink event series “Salongen” (“The Parlour”) where BDSM and art meet. These play parties will be taking place in a theatre setting and are a co-production of Andy Buru and colleagues from theatre and opera. Listen to the interview to discover some of the secret ingredients of this playful artistic project.
I recently finished the book Deviant Opera: Sex, Power, and Perversion on Stage by Axel Englund, a literature professor at Stockholm University. It examines the triangular relationship between opera, BDSM and non-consensual power games. I don’t know much about opera; I attended one classical opera in Venice fifteen years ago, and more recently, Satyagraha (1985) by Philip Glass. Axel tells the story about two forms of opera, classical and directors opera. The latter being a modern interpretation of the originals, sometimes deviant, sometimes flirting with BDSM symbolism. The reason for doing so is to shine a light on the often non-consensual power games of traditional opera that tell stories of sex and violence in a glorifying and eroticizing manner. Opera can be seen as the musical journey of many orgasmic crescendos in brothel-like golden-velvet-red interiors.
For some reason, some people are turned on by violence and degradation, and I believe that the most empowering thing we can do is create a community and knowledge, so people can choose how to live their lives. Maybe in a hundred years, when patriarchal values are balanced with matriarchal values, and gender no longer is a thing to debate, then perhaps BDSM won’t be a thing. Or we will all be kinky as hell. But meanwhile, saying that women cannot consent to their desires only replaces one oppressive system with another. And that is not feminism in my eyes.
My friend Natasha Nawataneko sent me her book called Somatics for Rope Bottoms, so I read it, and now I’ll dedicate this weekly musing to my thoughts on it. My first impression is that this book is not for me, as I mainly tie nowadays. The book is a fellow companion for rope bottoms exploring what makes their experience meaningful, and the answer is often found in the body. I habitually tend to arrange things hierarchically—things like concepts, such as surrendering the physical body is less “deep” than offering one’s devotion. And I also put things in relation to one other, like the polarity between surrendering and submitting. It helps beginners to approach my area of expertise. However, I often believe that the question is more valuable; for example, what is the relationship between surrendering the physical body and devoting oneself? And this is what the book left me with, questions, to ask myself, to structure my view of rope bondage.
It’s more and more common for me to encounter people shocked by BDSM imagery. Lately when the Swedish gallery Fotografiska posted a self-portrait of a thirty-year-old Chinese photographer in rope bondage. People on social media were outraged; they thought he was a child, in pain, or didn’t consent to his own selfie picture. After asking people why they are so affected by the image, it often came down to power.
“BDSM FOR BEGINNERS
In this weeks episode I connect with the teacher and bodyworker Andy Buru for a conversation about conscious kink and BDSM. Andy is teaching European and Japanese rope bondage with the intention to create magical rooms where people can rest, heal and grow. What is it with powerplay that awakens the curiosity and arousal of so many?
Andy invites us for a philosophical approach to BDSM where presence and pleasure is the north star.
In this conversation you will hear us talk about:
• How to build the trust to play safely
• How to talk about consent and fantasies
• Why polarity and powerplay is a way to increase arousal
• How to explore your boundaries when you’re new to BDSM”
I often face this question in my work, either from someone curious or from someone claiming to have the answer. Or from myself, asking was this really “good” after an intense session. Two common ways of answering it are consent and addiction, but I think neither of them is good enough, by themselves. In this weekly musing, I want to break the two down and then provide a third option.
This weekly musing is a short follow up on my popular text What do you surrender. That in short describes a four-step model of what a submissive surrender to a dominate, and how it affects the trust required for the power dynamic to function. The steps are the physical body, pain and pleasure, ego and shame, and finally devotion. The text points out that another kind of trust, maybe a deeper one, is needed to act like a dog than to follow in a dance. You can read the text for more details. But it also suggests that devotion is the pinnacle of surrender because then one moves their attention from oneself to another altogether – like worshiping a god.
Hello Andy, good afternoon, you have been coming up more and more, on my newsfeed etc., and I had this understanding, how your work plays a big metaphorical part right now in where we are. Collectively. With COVID. With understanding the magic in sometimes being bound in something. And allowing the acceptance and surrender, of being bound in something, can actually create freedom and opportunity for different kinds of movement, though surrender. I saw the amazing rope thing you did with that guy, yeah just wondering if there is a piece of art or inspiration around, COVID, surrender, being bound by something, but actually still managing to find freedom within that. Within the self, the expression of self, somehow.