There is a magical carpet in my studio apartment. Every time we step onto it, we step into another world. It’s the solution to one of the fundamental problems of relationships. On this mat, we are ready to sacrifice everything to unconditionally belong together. I own you, and there is nothing you or I can do to change that. Outside this magical world, this is impossible or immensely destructive. In reality, we are on an endless journey together. Our play is an ongoing process, a vow to never know each other, never to become a final thing we have written in stone. We are continuously rediscovering what we are together. And the intimacy in our sadomasochistic fairytale allows the bond of unconditional belonging.
Sadomasochism allows a full-bodied enactment of this primal tug of war between belonging and rejection. Belonging is the experience of relating intimately with something outside of oneself. Finding oneself in dialogue instead of a monologue. Not with an object but a subject equal to oneself–usually a person, an animal or God. The importance of belonging can possibly be emphasised by its opposite: rejection. The fear of being rejected, or not belonging, is possibly the deepest of our primal, collective fears. Humans are pack animals, just like wolves and monkeys; we live entirely in interaction with others. Without this, we are doomed to die, metaphorically speaking in the short run and eventually also physically.
Being a Golem Is Better Than Being Forever Exiled
A couple of years ago, I attended an exhibition on Haitian voodoo at the Ethnographical Museum in Stockholm. A lecturer explained the meaning of the golem. If a family had been the victim of theft and the perpetrator was caught, a voodoo priestess would, while witnessed by the village, transform the human flesh into a golem. The golem was to live in a shed next to the field, where it would eat the spoiled vegetables considered not good enough to feed a human being, and it was to work the field without complaints or remorse as such feelings are not available to the golem. Such was their faith until the day when the spell could be reversed, and the criminal was allowed to return to the village. Only one punishment was considered more severe – complete banishment.
Trust is implied in belonging; one cannot fully feel belonging to those who one does not trust. The golem doesn’t belong. With trust comes the opportunity for dependence, or, receiving something from another that one cannot achieve by themself. The exchange must be mutual and meaningful for all involved. Otherwise, the relationship will become unbalanced and eventually break. This is the core of the expression ‘polarity’ when used in the esoteric context. For example, with enough trust, two people can explore a classic sadomasochistic polarity play. The dominant is dependent on the submission of the submissive, and the submissive is dependent on the dominance of the dominant; one can’t exist without the other. Dependency is scary in a society that preaches independence. But we need both as a balance between dependence and independence.
Being bound in ropes is a powerful symbol of dependence. It is felt in the body when the restriction makes it impossible to be anywhere else. I think this is why many people describe their first bondage experience as being hugged or held rather than bound; maybe because the longing for belonging is so great that the body, mind and soul can finally rest. This dynamic can make rope bondage feel so vulnerable, which is a big reason why I keep practising it.
It is interesting to look at the opportunity for unconditional belonging as an invitation. One that isn’t always offered or accepted. One that both requires and builds trust.