A rope bondage scene is a story that unfolds another world. We take off the uniforms of the everyday-life. Uniforms are given to us, indicating our place in the global hierarchy. To make us feel safe. In the story, I’m allowed to be someone else. It’s often a parody that helps me cope with all the stupid power games of reality. I’ve learned a magical ritual over the past decades to create this rift into the otherworldly. It allows me, the one tying, to enjoy magnificent power, a power given to me in the form of another’s submission, suffering, and surrender. In return, I take them on a journey that they never could venture alone. Aftercare is the return, to the conventional, to the equal, to the status quo. It is commonly said that the submissive is the one in need of aftercare from the dominant. But I don’t agree, not in the way that I play and teach BDSM. Let me explain why.
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.
I have to admit that drooling, hypersalivation, and ptyalism fascinates me. It is probably my second biggest kink after rope bondage, and let me try to digest why. Drooling is ultimately about losing control of our bodily functions, our appearance, and our social status. Animals, like Pavlov dogs, drool before feeding, and so does infants before they learn to control themselves, to adhere to our social normals of cleanliness. Residues leaving the body doesn’t belong in the public realm. Urine, faecal matter, and menstrual blood belong in the lavatories, while barfing, farting, sneezing, and crying are expected to be discreet. Salivation is on the borderline in between. Losing control is a degradation into something more animalistic that takes one step further away from the order and cleanliness of civilizations and gods. In a BDSM play, it can be both surrendering to the present moment and submission to a dominants desire—allowing oneself to lose part of their humanity.
There is an expression I Like to humorously muse to, “Some days you’re the pigeon and some days, you’re the statue.” A phrase more appropriate for comfort on a bad day. However, it is the first thing that came to my mind this morning when reflecting on last night’s Shibari workshop.
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.