In the highest
levels of SM the participants are doing something very close
to what occurs in the experience of worship. In SM we create
a sacred space, an inner cathedral, a world within the world
but also somewhere outside it. In mythic reality, the mundane
world of bills, laundry, and parenthood is suspended and replaced
with a world of archetypal roles, rituals and otherworldly experience.
By day, I am a responsible, decent, left brain professional
type. I'm a social liberal, fiscal conservative, feminist, voracious
reader. I paint, love literature, and go for annual hikes in
the Sierra Nevada with friends I've known since childhood. But
in the primal darkness of the dungeon I become another being
entirely. There I am a dark force of nature, with carnivorous
appetites, a cruel sense of humor and a connoisseur's love for
desperation, fear and helpless arousal. The other me, the daylight
me, is there too, but only sort of, as a watchdog making sure
I don't go too far. It took years to accept that they are both
the real me.
we call this place? This experience? Again words fail us. But
it is not the reality experienced in our everyday lives. I don't
want to call it "fantasy" because that implies falsehood,
and make believe. I don't like "play space" because
"play" seems frivolous and childish. Topspace and
bottomspace are adequate tries, but those terms are typically
limited to the endorphin and adrenaline high some scenes provide
us, leaving out the worlds we create through roleplay and ritual.
While no phraseology nails it dead on, "mythic reality"
is the phrase I'll use to describe where the best SM takes us.
It is a taste of an ecstatic higher plane, a mythic realm that
emerges through ritual, role-play and archetypal nature of SM
activity. It is a created reality, mythology that is acted out.
And "mythic reality" also acknowledges that the primal
experience of the scene is about as real as reality gets to
the people who have been there.
In the invented
world of Mythic reality, we step beyond the confines of law,
everyday morality, and our workplace personalities into a world
created to express inner feelings that may be inappropriate,
incomprehensible, even harmful if actualized in material reality.
In the shadowland of the scene, we make our own rules. The strong
willed, type-A professional may become a compliant harem slave.
The plain, boring CPA driving a Civic with twenty extra pounds
of chub can become a beautiful heartless God or Goddess. Human
beings may be owned, disciplined bought and sold by other human
beings. Tops can be bullying tyrannical, unfair, contemptuous
and their actions towards their partner may or may not recognize
consent, morality, or law. The world you create may be as extreme
or as offbeat as you wish to make it, so long as you can sustain
the spell of believability. You can be anywhere, anytime, anyone
you have the talent to conjure forth. If want to wail the tar
out of someone in a dimly lit prison cell you can make it happen.
If you want to be a horny Vulcan, with pointy ears and a Vulcan
pain stick, hooray for you.
an important point that often gets lost or muddied in the interminable
word squabbles SM folk are famous for. No matter how vivid the
mythic reality we create or how far it transports us, it is
staged in the reality we live in 24 hours a day. In material
reality, morality, ethics, and the law of the land continue
to hold sway. In the mythic dimension your slave may be a personal
possession, bonded to you, and unable to leave. In everyday
reality she had better be free to come and go. Kinfolk and the
law may have some very definite feelings about slavery, rape,
and unlawful imprisonment. The consent of the participants must
remain a central concern. If a cop breaks down your door because
of screaming at three AM, and you have failed to seduce the
consent of your partner, you will find out just how real material
reason to keep both mythic and material realities in focus is
because the mythic realm can be far more extreme than the temporal
world The inner desires People have fairly unfathomable inner
desires, things that would be very unwise to actualize literally.
It may be your fantasy to be chained to a stone alter and having
your heart carved out by a priest wearing a goat mask. Men often
fantasize about out forced castration. And rape ranks high as
a fantasy for scene women. But for those daydreaming about afternoons
of languid torture in the world's most erotic Turkish prison
I do NOT recommend a one-way ticket to Istanbul with a suitcase
full of heroin. Edgy scenes like these are far better simulated,
than actualized in their full extremity. It makes no sense to
risk life and limb for a scene that could be just as hot, probably
hotter, if you invested passion, invention and planning. A good
scene should take you where you need to go without risking intensive
care, jail or the morgue. Besides the scene you lust for in
heart is surely closer to the eroticized consensual nonconsensuality
we create in the dungeon than the broken bones, smashed teeth
and psychological crippling rape or other extremities would
induce if pursued literally.
and mythic realities coexist in parallel, and both must be mastered
by the person devoted to SM as a higher art form. Even if the
mutual desire is for harsh nonconsensual treatment you are a
fool to ignore material concerns. No matter how extreme the
mythic reality, the top must focus on eliminating unnecessary
risk like the master chef cutting excess fat from a tender steak.
Nothing is gained by leaving unnecessary risk in a scene. One
reason net geeks have such hard time transitioning to real life
play is that in cyberspace, material reality seldom intrudes
in fantasy play, giving them scant experience with the kinds
of situations real world SM people constantly address. There
is no need for first aid kits, CPR classes, or dungeon monitors
in the world of cyber play. Fainting spells, power blow outs,
hyperventilation, sudden incontinence, eyebolts exploding from
wall sockets, equipment going mutinous, and kids bounding unexpected
through the front door never happen in online play. Half of
what makes a good top good is how he or she deals with the real
world hazards no matter how far your SM takes you. Even as we
cast the spell creating mythic reality we must always account
for the real world looming just outside the magic ring of the
MAKING IT HAPPEN
How do we
go about building the inner cathedral? What are the steps to
make an SM work?
is created through action: physical action with spiritual intent
Through ritual, focus, and deliberate reverence for the activity
you are sharing with your partner. Both participants, top and
bottom, share in the creation of these states, though they play
different roles You could describe the top role as that of a
shaman, high priest or priestess. The bottom is sacrifice, acolyte
or initiate. For the duration of the scene your partner become
the center of the universe.
If you have
been doing SM for a while, your probably doing some of this
already. By putting on black, donning your makeup, and pumps,
or whatever sacred vestments you don for SM, you are entering
the magic circle of the scene. The trancy music that serves
as soundtrack to so many dungeon parties cocoons us in otherworldly
sounds, while masking pedestrian background noises and noisy
(or nosy!) neighbors. Dim light cloaks our cluttered basements
and bedrooms in mysterious darkness, transforming them into
dungeons. Candles work well too both for their light bringing
and their destructive power. Knives are good, as talismans of
power, for their beauty and lethality, and their inherent power
to take life. Ritualized behavior in scene also assists in setting
the mood. Silence, wordless concentration, works wonders, but
if you're a talker that can work too. Collaring ceremonies,
the command to disrobe, the binding of limbs, or use of scene
names and titles like "Sir," "Mistress"
and "Slave", all help us transition from the workaday
world into the dream arena of the ceremony. I generally begin
a scene by running my fingers through my partner's hair, clutching
a fistful and gently tugging back the head to expose the neck.
Its a wordless signal but that I am now taking command. I keep
talking to a minimum, to highlight the unfamiliarity and "otherness"
of the experience. When I do speak, I lower my pitch, hush my
voice and move in closer to build intimacy.
this mixture of tenderness and savagery, veneration and abandon,
lie near the core of the sado-erotic experience. The prehistoric
temple caves at Glascaux have a painting of a masked shaman,
apparently communicating with a Bison slain in the hunt. It
is believed that the shaman, lying beside the dying beast, is
begging its appeasement so the animal knows it wasn't killed
out of hatred or malice but out of need for its life-giving
flesh. This ritual is practiced today by tribal societies as
part of the hunt ritual; saying grace before diner may be a
last modern vestige of this once holy rite. The significance
of the kill, which took place against a backdrop of hunger,
and tremendous peril, can probably not even be imagined in today's
insulated world of fast foods and supermarkets where individually
packaged steaks lay waiting for purchase. The Stone Age rite
of persecution and consumption, performed in gratitude and reverence,
is one of the oldest and most profound human experiences. It
is repeated in the ritual of the scapegoat who is both punished
and honored for purging us of our aggressions, insecurities,
and fears. It appears thousands of years later in the Gospel
narratives, when Christ offers his flesh and blood for consumption
to save the world, and is hunted, captured, persecuted, speared,
sacrificed and ultimately glorified. I believe this prehistoric
worship of the sacrificial offering, and the ritual of mortification
that gives life, is precisely what happens in the highest levels
of SM play. The bottom sacrifices, the top consumes that sacrifice,
not in arrogance, but in awe.
the feelings actors encounter are often unknowable in advance,
improvisation is a critical.
At its best
SM is more than a pure physicality. Emotions, the mind, and
personality all play roles in the creation of the scene's mythic
reality. And these other elements are invoked through roleplay
thousands of roles as we progress through life: infant, adolescent,
sibling, friend, lover, spouse, parent, worker, boss, grandparent,
widow or widower. We pick up new roles as life goes on, leaving
others behind as we progress through life. Eventually we are
told to "grow up" and chided that we are too old to
indulge in childish games. But we never fully abandon them.
We feel childlike excitement when we unwrap a gift, participate
in games, or attend costume balls. Is this why childhood joys
seem so vivid? Perhaps this is why so many describe their SM
as "play." With its freedom, physicality, and celebration
of pleasure, skill and companionship, SM does bear some resemblance
to the play of children or even more tellingly, animals. While
animals at play mimics the life or death struggle of combat
and the hunt, SM ritualizes the mythologies of cruelty and pain
providing us with a forum for wrestling with our inner fears
allows to confront , explore and comprehend them.
In a sense,
SM is a kind of theater, an acting out of shared fantasy and
desire. costumes, roleplay, and the language of "scenes",
and "players" and "play". But at its best
it is no theatrical falsehood. SM is about playing a role that
has always been inside you but is denied expression in the world
of daylight Role-play is a big part of SM whether it is explicit-as
in infantilism, cross-dressing, equestrian training scenes or
implicit, but hinted at by the plethora of assumed names and
titles scene folk bestow on themselves. I'll never forget my
first exposure to an infantilism scene. At least ten people,
half of them in adult scale baby clothes, remained in "baby-head"
for hours, jabbering in high childlike voices, sucking pacifiers,
throwing tantrums, calling each other by "brat" names.
That same week I stumbled onto a more vanilla analogy at the
National Gallery, where a video loop showed Alexander Calder
performing his amazing puppet circus. It held forty of us -
ages six to sixty - utterly spellbound: laughing, gasping, slack
jawed in unison. It connected instantly with the little kid
in each of us. Even the unadorned, over the knee spanking takes
place in a implied framework of role-play. And whether its kids
dressing up like monsters and adult superheroes on Halloween
or a frazzled secretary who becomes, in the dungeon, a ruthless,
unreasonable, fantasy bitch, it is thrilling to enter into the
personality of something else, and to have something else enter
into you. One way of looking at SM is as ritualized breathing
of life into personal mythic fantasy personas using sets, props,
costumes, actors, direction, and the manipulation of powerful
symbols. For some, particular symbols, be it leather boots,
the whip, a slave collar, the stiletto heel, the dagger, a woman's
breasts- can become imbued with so much power that the scene
constitutes pure, unadulterated worship of the fetish object.
Fetish does mean both sacred object, a sexual fixation.
traditions involve the embodiment of alternate personalities:
possession, voodoo, pre scientific cultures, "spirits"
enter their bodies of the ritual participants, dance, speak,
bring news from other worlds. The practices of Charismatic Christianity
share some amusing similarities to Voodoo, Santeria and tribal
religious practices: rousing oratory, dance and pounding liturgical
music, inducing trance states, falling to the ground with wriggling
limbs, speaking in tongues, handling snakes… All sorts of behavior
that would be inappropriate in the workplace.
called these other identities "persona", and theorized
that we each have scores of persona within us including some
whose gender differs from our own (Does this explains the "butch"
archetype in dykes, and the cross dressing tendency in straight
men. In practice and in his studies of world mythology, Jung
further noticed that some persona seemed to recur in many individuals
from culture to culture, and epoch to epoch. He called these
roles "archetypes" and theorized that they arose from
the common human experience. And like restless dogs, these personalities
yearn to express themselves through action.
SM has its
own archetypes, general fantasy roles that appear common to
a great many people: Dominant masters, helpless slaves, wicked
nurses, helpless patient, inquisitors, heretics, cruel mommies,
red bottomed boys... Consider the Gentleman/housemaid archetype:
the buttoned down lord, the disgraced servant in her frilly
little skirt, her futile diligence and inevitable failure of
the white glove test, the strict measures required to restore
order… Let's try another: Daddy/boy. Two words, but a universe
of possibility: the tough but loving parent, the errant but
redeemable child, the crime of whacking off or sneaking a peak
at dads skin mag, the razor strop, the woodshed, the belt pulling
through dads pant loops (or moms!). The bared bottom, the red
hot welts… you get the message.
similar mythic encounters ooze through the collective unconscious
of the SM world. Here are but a few:
Interrogator/captive Drill Sargent/recruit Daddy/boy Kidnapper/hostage
Rapist/victim Patient/ Enema-Nurse hayseed/city slicker Milkman/bored
housewife Schoolmaster/studen tHeadmaster/schoolbo yBully/schoolgirl
Hooker/John Hustler/Trick Boss/secretary Monarch/subject Girl
next door/Rover Drill Sargent/recruit Trucker/hitcher Sultan/harem
girl Prison lifer/first dayconvict Confessor/penitent virgin/playboy
earthling/horny alien Alter boy/priest mermaid/giant squid dance
instructor/student Biker/easy slut Groupie/KISS bass player
porn model/photographer pirate/captured stowaway Pony/Trainer
Pizza delivery boy/dungeon owner Dirty Cop/Handcuffed shoplifter
Peeping Tom/showering coed
from my newbie days at Black Rose how artificial and silly some
of these roles looked. As an SM rookie, I didn't understand
that the "acting" that goes on in SM -at its best
anyway- has nothing to do with imitation or appearance. It is
instead, an immediate and direct expression of distinct inner
persona: entities that are vividly real but are typically denied
expression, in the rather straight laced world we live in out
there. SM when viewed through this lens can be seen as the art
of giving voice to these inner personalities.
method acting, is acting where it is no longer really an act,
but a direct expression of an inner reality, possibly a far
more authentic reality than the persona we present to the world
in the workaday week. As we sometimes say, this is not about
changing yourself into something your not, but into what you
really are. SM is acting that isn't really an act. It's a part,
sure enough, but it's also a part of you.
its multiplicity of available roles also recognizes and celebrates
that there is more than one real you just look at some of the
roles you play in and out of the scene: parent, friend employee,
grand inquisitor, US citizen, And they all want to get out and
stretch their legs once in a while.