Back when I lived in Toronto I was in a relationship with a man who deemed himself a FOODIE. For those of you unfamiliar with this label, it’s more or less a person who has become a connoisseur of food to the point of ‘fetishizing’ the flavors and the way they interact with one another. These are people that have taken the act of savoring taste and texture of food to a heightened degree, and relish the ways the flavors come together to create a whole new experience on the palate. It’s not uncommon for wine to play a vital role in said exchange, and for some of us, it’s a required component. Indeed I used to marvel at some of the unique culinary combinations my ex would present for me; things that I would never imagine would complement each other in the way they did. Perhaps the most unique experience I had was the evening he served me a homemade french vanilla ice cream, topped with what appeared to be a very satiny dark chocolate syrup. In actuality, it was a reduction of balsamic vinegar, and before you all grimace, I must tell you that it was absolutely amazing! Certainly, it was nothing I would ever expect but was enough to give me a greater appreciation of mere mastication, and even risk adopting the ‘foodie’ identity for myself – at least without taking on the pretentiousness that can sometimes be found in this dining sub-culture – I do remember being at a party of gourmet event planners who were all engaged in a heated discussion about fleur-de-sel.
*insert eye roll*.
What foodies experience in the culinary realm is the exact same dynamic we kinksters experience in the playroom during a power exchange. (At least a really GOOD power exchange). It’s two or more individuals housing a particular energy and intention….along with a healthy dose of hormones, endorphins, and creativity…coming together and creating what is hopefully a mind-blowing nuclear reaction. A reaction that causes all parties involved to go beyond limits and perceptions – a reaction that alters all players for the better. (Or at least enough to make their toes curl and their heads spin). In other words, it’s chemistry.
One thing I absolutely LOVE about BDSM PLAY is that so much of it is not meant to be understood in words. It’s something that is experiential, not linear. You can try to explain the components of a power exchange and kinky intimacy with as much intellect as you can muster, but ultimately one doesn’t truly ‘know’ until they have experienced it for themselves. And chemistry is the backbone to this experience.
So what constitutes this cathartic reaction between players? Well for one, there’s the obvious – which would be a sexual attraction. And before you all jump on me I’m not saying that play always has to have a sexualized component present to be cathartic. Sometimes it has nothing to do with sexual arousal as we all know. But, I am always leery of players who fall into the belief that their skill or expensive toys are enough to bring me into the playscene with them. Years ago I remember being ‘shamed’ for turning down an invitation from a rope top that I simply had no attraction to. He scolded me, saying “Well the truth is, it’s what’s being DONE to you that matters…not whether you think the Dom is pretty or not.” Clearly the gentleman did not take rejection well. But I was young and it left me confused about power dynamics for quite some time. To me it has always been a combination of the two; it is simply part of the human design that we will naturally give ourselves into a stronger connection if there is an element of arousal present. You see this everywhere. Perhaps that makes me superficial but it’s one of the reasons why I don’t just randomly offer play for the sake of the experience to the other. I want to FEEL something with the person I’m tying up. Otherwise, as my friend Midori puts it, it makes you feel like a ‘public utility’.
Sometimes the connection is based on an attraction that is NOT easy to explain in words. Maybe the playmate(s) are not of the archetype that would tend to sexually draw you in, yet they possess a quality or trait that still presents something appealing. Many of us can attest to those times when we’ve felt drawn to play with someone and said, “There’s just something about them or who they are that I’m drawn to.” One of the most honorable things I experience is when a Dominant asks to explore a submissive headspace with me. They may feel that I’m simply a safe place to be vulnerable with – or perhaps I present something that speaks a lack of judgment for going there with me. Whatever the case, we both emerge with a greater understanding of ourselves and each other. And trust is heightened. It could also be that most of them are bigger than me and could easily whoop my ass. One of my classic directives is, “I am Sir Dart. Now put me down, boy.”
I recently conversed with a young man and his Dom about expanding their experience level together. The boy shared his remorse of rope demos and videos he had participated in that felt very ’empty’. His story reminded me of the first bondage party in California I was ever invited to, way back when I was a more inexperienced Dom. Although it was a pansexual gathering, I was assured there would be plenty of male rope enthusiasts present who would love to submit to my binds. Off I went dressed like a member of the Village People with my packed bag of cotton clothesline from Home Depot, duct tape, handcuffs and a couple of bandannas. What can I say, it was early on in my experience level! I was greeted at the door by a gentleman clad in what appeared to be a cotton kimono from Pier 1 Imports, and was instructed to bow before entering the space. “There will be some very traditional Japanese bondage here this evening.” I arrived to the space to the sounds of a unique and ethereal musical piece I had never heard before…and was very captivated by its carnal tone. I asked the host what it was, and after a very judgmental scan of my attire (everyone was wearing kimonos and kilts….I was in chaps and a wifebeater) he arrogantly told me, “well it’s an import, and you probably won’t ever be able to get it here in the US. But it’s a new band called Enigma. Very rare.” I then decided to peruse the unique space, and was drawn to a large display of ropework activity happening in the largest room in the space. There was a gaggle of spectators all mesmerized gazing at several women trussed up in what appeared to be extensive macramé and hovering above the ground with lifeless expressions on their faces. One of the voyeurs turned to me and whispered, “They have such poise in their stillness, don’t they?” I had no response so I merely nodded. It was very beautiful and impressive. It was also incredibly BORING. The only connection the dominants appeared to have was with showing off to the room. The subs were equally disengaged. I actually spoke with one of the women afterwards and she stated, “when I feel his rope on me, it’s like I go somewhere else…I completely leave my being and all thoughts and concerns and I just go away from everything for a while.” She reminded me of what I refer to in my classes as a “lima bean bottom”. Cooked lima beans are unique in that they will soak up however much butter you put on them and still be completely dry on the inside. There are subs out there that do the same thing with the energy you exude as a Dom….and it robs of the connection. So what I had witnessed were pairs of people that were never relating to each other to begin with. This was NOT chemistry…it was a display of ego.
Chemistry does not exist in the toys themselves, or in the extensive knowledge you may have of its use. A skein of rope or a thousand dollar handcrafted bullwhip are merely inanimate objects until we infuse them with our character, our spirit. When I teach a rope class I try to convey to the tops that if you are in the ‘zone’ with your sub, they are not going to care in the slightest WHAT kind of knot you’re using or how pretty it is. Chemistry is generated when you the toys and your afflictions become an extension of what you want to say to the sub…and in turn if they are connected to you they will return the energy with a loud moan or delightful squeal inviting more. The connection is with the people; the toys are simply the conduit.
Sometimes chemistry has to be reignited or reinvented in the moment, because an unreasonable expectation was projected onto the other person or the play itself. Or sometimes the players are too ‘familiar’ with each others’ dynamic and they are falling into a routine. The other day my husband and I were about to engage in a bondage scene that I was very excited about, as I hadn’t played freestyle with rope in quite some time. Shortly before the scene began, I was suddenly pulled into a phone conversation with my mother. I don’t think I need to elaborate on this…but needless to say I was not in the same aroused state of mind at the end of the call. Yet, I went forward with the scene, thinking that somehow my ‘edge’ would be there once I started handling the rope. Instead my mind was completely stuck on my mother’s bridge game anecdote and her latest conspiracy theories. And no matter how much I drew and cinched and tied, I couldn’t focus. Gently my husband said to me, “I see you attempting to play with the rope, but what I would like is for you to play with ME.” It was a gentle and kind indicator to step back…clear my mind with a quick chat…and go back in fresh. And then the play was wonderful!
As you all continue in your various experiences of leather and BDSM, never lose sight of the amazing catharsis that occurs in the dynamic of chemistry. Never forget that there are always connections to be had in play and relationships that ignite amazing shifts for one another. There are always new exchanges to be had – some of which are as unexpected as vanilla ice cream with balsamic vinegar. And of your existing connections, there are always new horizons to open up as your relationships grow and evolve together. Never stop discovering, never stop learning. And above all, never stop playing! 🙂