As we fall, we’re constantly in motion, either approaching or moving away from a focus point. Although there are countless focus points at any given moment, our consciousness simplifies them to a few that are relevant to our current situation, making them more manageable. The points can be anything from physical objects, people, to ideas or behaviours. Our relationship with these points defines our identities. They make us who we are. Thus, our movements towards or away from them reveal who we are and a certain language develops. We occasionally encounter others who also have their own set of focus points, and when our points align, we move together in a shared dance, or a non-verbal dialogue of doing.
Then there is the dynamic of leading and following. When following, we continuously align our motion with another’s. When leading, we consciously alter our movement to communicate with our surroundings. From a sadomasochistic perspective, leading is domination and following is submission. Another way to put it is that when we lead, we determine the focus points, but when we follow, we surrender control to someone else. The concept of force also arises – does forcing another’s movement equate to domination? In this sadomasochistic context, it’s related to consent. To dominate consensually, one must lead without force, and the follower must willingly comply. However, there are instances where force is desired, a consensual lack of consent, and this we shall discuss later.
We are familiar with the communication dynamic of speaking and listening, but I find observing non-verbal communication much more interesting. Words can always be interpreted in various ways, but focusing on physical movements and reactions provides a clearer understanding of what’s real and true. This way, the present universe becomes graspable. There is something profound in observing the enactment of domination and submission as fundamental building blocks instead of relating to sadomasochistic play as an elaborate fantasy or a complicated set of rules. The sadomasochistic subculture can be ego-focused, with a constant need to define oneself as a top, masochist, brat, daddy dom, latex doll, etc. I believe it’s more beautiful to see oneself as part of the flowing, ever-changing ocean of motion.
Trust and Boundaries in Non-Verbal Communication
Trust is the next concept of great importance. Trust is built through experiences. It can feel secure when we have a rough idea of what will happen, or it can be thrilling when we trust our communication enough to embark on an adventure together. Ideally, we want both of these aspects activated within trust. We must balance safety and adventure in our relationships. Trust is therefore relational and happens in the interaction between people. It’s like planting a seed of faith that blooms into confidence. In a sadomasochistic context, trust is the key for creating a deeper power dynamic. It provides a sturdy framework for exploration and enables both the top and bottom to express themselves more fully. The more a top trusts a bottom, the more they can express their desires. And the more a bottom trusts a top, the more they can surrender.
Finally, there are boundaries. These define what we want and what we don’t want. Boundaries are directly linked to power dynamics and trust issues as our limits tend to change based on our relationships with others. Most people tend to think about boundaries as something verbal or intellectual – as if we actually understood them so well! But they actually exist in what we feel and what we do. They can be boiled down to moving towards or away from something. Often this movement is not encouraged by logic but more by a gut feeling. I recall attending a consent workshop with a dancer friend of mine. There, we were asked questions like, ‘How do you know when you should say no?’ Their answer was clear: ‘To know if I should say no or not, I ask my body, I feel it there, as my body is the definition of who I am.’
Non-verbal communication is a way to practise all of these concepts, to step into the continuous flow of life.