People I meet in retreats and sessions have very different reasons to search for submission and surrender. There is almost always a search for permission to be someone other than their everyday selves. And this permission is found in the dominant. The roleplay, power dynamic, and polarity is an excuse to pretend that the world is different. That different rules apply. To pretend that the master is both the primal wilderness, the impossibly divine and the collaborative civilization simultaneously. Giving them this imaginary power enables them to change everything. To change all the conditions and circumstances that made us who we are.
I’m attempting over and over again to create my dream play party. Great people, live music, fantastic venue, these are obvious. But what comes next? I first encountered play parties at Schwelle7 in Berlin a decade ago. Then, it was called the aristocracy (noble court) of desire. The experience was dream-like for me. There was a culture of behaving shared by the old to the new. Expressing this culture in rules kills it. It’s like my Japanese Ikebana teacher says, almost always. Or my tea teacher says that serving tea is like smiling, and you can’t teach it by the facial expression. It is symbolic and ever-evolving, even inside a play party.
I’m reading a book about Max Weber called Love or Greatness by feminist philosopher Roslyn Wallach Bologh. She says that if Marx was the man who most clearly defined the economic interworking of patriarchal capitalism, then Weber defined the sociological counterpart. I’m still just beginning this reading adventure, but the early chapter about manliness made me want to muse about men and dominance. It is similar to the ideas of masculinity from Male Fantasies: Volume 1: Women, Floods, Bodies, History by Klaus Theweleit that I wrote about in my text Like the ocean.
I often talk about insecurity as the step away from safety, away from the known and into the mystery. It’s the first tiny step, and I think it is the longing of many. If one continues on that journey comes maybe unease, anxiety, distress, fear, panic, and apathy. Most want to be brave enough to take the first step, but few want or perhaps no one to go all the way. Moving towards the unknown activates the nervous system; the interpretation depends on the window of tolerance if it is arousing or stressful.
When you enter an event like GRÄNSLANDET you never know where it’s going to take you. Everytime is different. Everytime you find something new in yourself. This time it took me deep into the realm of voyeurism and exibitionism. The evening was a reminder of how much we all need to be seen. Not just in an exhibitionist way but in a human way. To meet the gazes of others and share the same space.
The wordlessness of the space spoke to me. I was drawn by the promise of silence. There are no words in the headspace I want to be in anyway. For someone like me, who feels so exhausted and drained in my everyday life that I mumble good morning to my colleagues without making eye contact, this was a reminder of that need to connect. The wordlessness makes it safe, no unwanted questions or concern, just presence and acceptance. A restful space. That is what I seek in my exploration of BDSM – a safe, calm and restful space.
There was strange music playing. Bodies moving, dancing, flowing. Eyes watching and being watched. Hesitant and bold at the same time. Objectified by the anonymity. Dehumanized and still more human than ever.
When I play I usually get so caught up in my own experience that I stop noticing the world around me. But this evening as I watched others playing I saw the sadistic grin on their faces and shared in their enjoyment. It was impossible to look away, I was enthralled, eyes wide. As someone turned and asked: “Did you see our session?”, the light in their eyes reflected in mine. Yes, I saw you.
Perhaps I am a bit more at home in this setting than my partner. We played, not hard or edgy but enough for us in that space and time. The point is not what we did but what it did to us.
Throughout our whole session I was aware of the surroundings; the otherworldly music, the audience, the school desk wobbling under me with every blow, the irony of the wooden cross on the wall above and the heat of the spotlight that was aimed right between my legs. I kept looking up to see if anyone was watching. I wanted them to see. He made me straddle the desk and my exposed pussy was lit up. Much to my partner’s amusement my head was banging against the wooden cross as he was spanking me. I had to turn my blushing face away. Wanting to hide but not being able to. Wanting to be seen but not being able to admit it.
The exposure and shame might also be my biggest kink. Being held down, exposed, forced and used. My naked body and all my most perverted desires for all to see. I wear my shame with pride. I revel in it. There’s no hiding from the truth. You know it, I know it.
So I confess.
I love this.
About a week ago, my interpretation of a play party resurfaced in Stockholm under the name GRÄNSLANDET / SALOGEN. The ambition is high. Once again, it’s a communal experience, where everyone simultaneously is affecting and being affected by the space—like a feedback loop. Everything is made here and now. And everything is influencing everything: live musicians, an ever-change light setup, and the different constellations of people. Tantra, BDSM, theatre and dance. It’s a delicate choreography. For me, the evening is perfect when I find myself in a constant flow between feelings, people and experiences—a journey into something unknown.
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.
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.