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.
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.
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?
“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.
The feminine⸺in MALE and female bodies⸺is crying to be seen, to be felt, to be loved⸺crying to be FREE. The cry for freedom is not just an unhealthy masculine trait; deep below the surface of superficial erotic polarities, it is actually the feminine that is crying… To be recognized, to be set free from the chains of consciousness. To be unleashed. The matter is aflame, the earth-mother ready to erupt, volcanic superpower ready to blow⸺a force that will shake atoms and make galaxies collide. Yet, she is afraid. Too long has she been shamed, too long has she been separated. Too long has she been told she is not enough, not worthy. Too long have the words and swords of men kept her at bay for fear of death. Too long, she has believed love will leave her if she fully comes alive. But it is time.
I recently wrote a musing on consent as feeling together, and this week the follow-up question is, can I consent to not “using” consent? And what does it mean to “use” consent? I first encountered consensual non-consent in my early years of BDSM when living in Montreal. It was part of the old-school, or old guard, acting out a fantasy of the Victorian household, much like the Story of O (a book), in its investigation of erotic enslavement. The basic idea is that the submissive is surrendering all control over the play. So there are no safe words. I’ve met countless submissives claiming that they can only truly let go if there is consensual non-consent. Because if they continuously need to evaluate the situation by asking themselves if this is what they want, then how can they ever surrender? So they dream about trusting and dedicating themselves entirely to a dominant.
I’m on a continuous journey to understand kink and sexuality. In this work, I dig around in various subcultures, philosophy, psychology, religion and spirituality to find models that explain why I and others behave as we do. The abbreviation BDSM(F) is one way that splits kinky sexuality into bondage, dominance-submission (DS), sadism-masochism (SM), and sometimes adding an F for fetish. It is a helpful umbrella to gather under as a subculture, and it is kind of clear because it tells what is in focus. For example, DS on the power dynamic, while SM on the pain and suffering. But I think it’s less helpful in explaining why. Acting as a gateway teacher, I sometimes simplify it into kink, that everyone has something that makes them tick, maybe a taboo, that they are excited and curious about. Or maniac, as they would say in Japan. And I think everyone does, and it’s healthy to honour that inside oneself consciously. Anyhow, I’ve recently found another way to look at things when reading the book, The Essential Papers on Masochism. It’s a condensed summary of 900 academic pages outlining what psychoanalysts have been writing about masochism from 1915 to 2005. While I don’t think psychoanalysis is the best tool to build a society, I think it makes a brave attempt at understanding the human psyche. It is hilarious that Freud said that only a few percentages of humanity are possible to analyze and change, while the rest, I assume, are a fixed product of the environment. Okay, enough taking distance from Freud and co, because I think the seed they planted in me is valuable after all.
When talking about consent, I often claim that trust is more important than consent. The modern usage of the word is to agree, often by defining the terms of the agreement. I’m okay with this, but not with that. The Swedish word we use is ‘samtycke’; ‘sam’ means together, and ‘tycke’ is ‘opinion’ often related to thought. When people practice consent, it often seems to be defining what I want and what I don’t want because it’s important to get what one wants, right? Looking at the origins of the word, I think it offers another usage. The English word has two components; ‘con’ that means with or together, and ‘sent’, from the Old French ‘sentire’, that is to feel. To feeling together and I find this so much more beautiful.
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.