The orgasm is in French known as the little death, and it may be the ultimate release from either selfishness or self-sacrifice, as it occurs somewhere in the polarity of tension and release. Sadomasochistic play consciously builds tension to be later released.
Being physically restricted and enjoying it, or at least finding it meaningful, builds and releases tension by twisting and bending the body. Spanking, whips and clamps, meanwhile, create and release tension in their relation to the taboo of accepting pain. Energy moves from the physical blood rushing into the impacted butt cheek to heat rushing to the blushing face from the shame of submitting oneself to the play. Putting my pleasure into the hands of another builds tension from the excitement and torment of not knowing whether it will be released or not. When the physical masochism turns emotional, the tension touches the ego. What if someone knows that I am their slave? Finally, spiritual tension comes from devoting myself to a dominant in a ritual.
Similarly, tension is released by exposing taboos and meeting them with love. More ordinary sex uses only pleasure to build tension into an orgasm. That is the little death. For the release to happen, one must surrender. To die metaphorically speaking. That’s why people who don’t trust their partner can’t have an orgasm together with them. Or it can always be forced out of them with enough stimulation, but this is kind of another kink in itself. And maybe not the most pleasurable experience.
What I learnt from sadomasochism is to build and release tension by exposing all five taboos that we mentioned earlier in the paradox. And from esoteric eroticism, I realised that the tension ‘can be moved’ symbolically speaking between taboos. For example, when the physical body is entirely restricted and receives pain, it can trigger a pleasure orgasm if sexual stimuli are added, an emotional orgasm if shame is touched, or a devotional orgasm when one gives everything there is to give. Intensity is multiplied by each taboo being exposed. Many esoteric teachings describe it as the mythical full-body orgasm by moving the kundalini energy from the base to the crown chakra. This might sound like some crazy voodoo magick shit mixed with the dynamics of a computer game, but when it is experienced, its power cannot be denied. And the only way to learn it is to practise. I mastered the physical and shame taboo by learning Japanese rope bondage, and the pain taboo by studying medical massage therapy. There are endless ways that end up at this point, and you will need to find yours.
Understanding The Body’s Mechanics
There are many ways to effect change in another person’s body through touch. A person’s effectiveness to do so will be greatly enhanced by some basic understanding of how the human body works. If we want to get good at playing with tension build up and release, it helps to have even a basic map of how our bodies store and release this tension. Understanding different trigger points, for example, and how they affect the body can help individuals navigate and recover from pain and trauma as well as step into themselves more fully sexually.
Travell & Simons’ Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction: The Trigger Point Manual (1992) was a hugely helpful resource on my journey. This two-volume, two thousand page manual explains how to manipulate muscles, including how they affect the entire emotional body, using various techniques like touch, pressure, heat, cold, electricity, needles, and more.
It is helpful to keep in mind, for example, that the body is held together by a web of myofascial weaving which covers tendons, bone structures, muscle fibres and skin layers. It is also worth understanding the five categories of trigger points: muscular, nerve, bone, eastern medicine and intuitive. For example, I might want my partner to relax around their genitals because that enhances pleasure. Touching a tense point to make it relax becomes a symbol of control because I can intensely manipulate a partner’s body in ways they often can’t do themselves. Similar to the breath, touch and pressure raise or lower arousal levels in the body. Low arousal usually means the person feels relaxed, trusting, or safe. High arousal usually means the person feels stressed, horny, or ready to perform.
Trigger points are areas of built-up tension caused by overuse, stress, or to protect the healing process of tissue damage. Points older than just a few weeks only make themselves known when pressure is applied. They are often used in medical massage therapy to remind the body of the tension that exists even if the mind is no longer aware of them, allowing the body to release.
Nerve points are fragile and shouldn’t be used during play due to the time it takes to heal nerve damage. I have on rare occasions seen them brought into sadomasochistic play, but it is crucial to associate this kind of pain as something definitely negative, versus something to be endured. The experience required to tell the difference is built up over time and through being tied in challenging and restricted positions.
Bone points are areas where the skeleton is pulled under tension by stressed muscles, almost like a bent branch waiting to snap back. This leads to emotional pain, because they don’t release into relaxation from pressure, leading to a feeling of inescapability. To get a feeling for this, you can try putting pressure underneath the chin pushing outwards against the jaw bone. Following along the jawline towards the ear, you might find points which cause excruciating pain, the result of a chronically clenched jaw.
Eastern medicine points are constituted by the chakra system from India and the meridian system from China (acupuncture is entirely based on these). In the western world, we have discarded the more esoteric understanding of the body and approach it more like a machine but the eastern understanding of energy flow through the system can enrich our intimate interactions.
Intuitive points are not kept in any documented system. Instead, they are more like gut feelings about something, the proverbial butterflies fluttering inside. This is kept alive in romantic love songs and everyday sayings wherein our hearts are connected to feeling love, our bellies to feeling self-esteem, our lungs to feeling safe, and our hips and genitals to feeling sexual. It is endlessly complex and individual. So understanding them is predicated upon getting to know a person.
All this might sound daunting to the person casually interested in sadomasochistic play but feeling insecure in their knowledge of anatomy. Yet even without becoming an expert, basic knowledge of how the body responds can take your intimate play to another level.
Let’s Look at a Real-Life Example
Imagine yourself standing on all fours. You can sense your lover in the corner of your eye, moving closer towards your buttocks. They tell you to breathe in and breathe out, loosening any tension in the physical body. But the emotional tension is nerve-racking. It simmers on the inside, waiting to burst you open from within. Your lover raises their hand. You take a breath. Then, it cuts through the tension in the air, accelerating towards your buttocks. The impact is brutal. Jolting every nerve ending back to life. Travelling up your spine. Tickling every hair on your back. You want to move, scream and shake. But your jaw remains clenched. Holding it all in. Your partner reaches over and pushes his finger against your jaw muscles, at the just the right point, and pain surges through you as your jaw drops open. You moan, as a string saliva makes its way towards the floor. The impact of another spank penetrates deep into your buttocks, fat and muscles absorb the hand’s itinerary force, chains of tense muscle fibres releasing. Your body posture sinks deeper, more relaxed. The next hit to the buttocks rocks your spine, like a ripple effect of energy rushing through you. It heats your sex, melts your heart. But no sound comes forth. Another slap and your nervous system screams in silence. Your jaw is clenched again. Your lover places a hand around the throat that holds all your unspoken words, and whispers in your ear, ‘Now scream for me.’ When they hit you again, you scream, and following the rush of pain, comes a wave of ecstasy. You moan, you scream, you die. Happily in your lover’s arms.
Here we see all the components of body mechanics at play. The muscle tension being released in the buttocks and jaw, the bone points enervated by the vibrations of the slap, even the symbolic points of the voice being blocked and heart melted.
Anticipating The Long Term Effects
Building up massive tension without releasing it should be done consciously. For example, it can be part of a more extended session over a weekend, each night wrapping the hands of the submissive tight in leather to prevent them from an accidental release while asleep. Or maybe they will not get much sleep because it’s hard to have a good night when too much pleasure is boiling on the inside. Or having a submissive masturbating regularly without orgasm for a few days before a session might greatly disturb their everyday work. Or leaving a lot of unreleased suffering tension might leave the submissive feeling deeply devoted to the dominant for weeks to come. Whether this is good or bad depends on the sadomasochistic play’s frame.
On this subject, it’s also important to touch upon trauma because one way to understand it is unreleased tension. So when a lot of pressure is released in sadomasochistic play, it might also release old traumatic stress containing previously repressed memories and emotions. While this could be wanted in a therapeutic session, it can also be retraumatizing under different circumstances. However, I’ll return later to this subject in depth.
Finally, I want to touch upon fantasy because fantasy also builds tension. One of the most common sexual fantasies is to be tied up, even among people who never heard about sadomasochism. And they appear in wildly different intensities. All the way from being held down during wild animalistic sex to full-fledged gang rape and kidnapping scenarios. However, remember that fantasies live alone in the mind, so everyone in action is a fraction of ourselves; hence, everyone’s behaviour is decided by us. On the contrary, when acting out a fantasy, together with another human being, as part of a polarity play, the actors from your fantasy might behave very differently in real life. So imagination is a great guide when looking for other people, but a poor director in actual action. Fantasy will still be a part of our subconscious.