Surrendering to Desire

Note: this is an adaptation and expansion of a post of mine that originally appeared at Bilerico.com on 11/2/12. I’ve made quite a lot of additions that would not have been suitable for the Bilerico audience

The word “Surrender” has been on my mind a lot lately. Firstly I suppose, because it’s the name of Dark Odyssey’s newest event, which is coming up in scarcely a week, so I’ve been saying it an awful lot lately. But also, because “surrender” is something I’ve not been getting enough of in my life lately.

That may seem a bit strange as sentiments go. The whole idea of surrendering is very much not something that we are taught in modern American culture to embrace. Above all, our society embraces and rewards strength, supremacy, and yes: dominance.

Certainly I live a life where those are required assets for survival. Foremost there’s my disability, which is at times highly visible, socially problematic, and requires me to be a strong advocate for myself – often with quite hostile strangers. Then there’s my career as a public speaker, BDSM educator, and as programing coordinator/assistant producer for a BDSM event company. Sexual and relationship dynamics aside, that work requires one to be the embodiment of assertive and in control. As a spirit worker, pagan, and magician, I’m seen by people as a spiritual authority, and while submission to my gods is understood to an extent within the community, there are also expectation of mastery that can seem to many to be absolutely intertwined with an aura of strength and invulnerability. And finally, there’s my work as an LGBT/GSRM advocate, activist, and blogger, where if you show even a moment’s vulnerability, the wolves of intolerance, both from without and within the community, will descend and tear you apart.

In my personal erotic/romantic life, I’ve long identified as a “switch.” That is, someone who enjoys the exploration of dynamics of dominance and/or sadism, as well as those of submission and/or masochism. However, for many years I’ve been unable to find partners and opportunities in which to give free rein to my submissive and masochistic desires.

My aforementioned roles in the BDSM community surely have played a part in those troubles. Of the people who express an erotic or kinky interest in me, the overwhelming majority see me more as a set of skills that they can learn or enjoy, rather than as a holistic person made up of needs and wants. I don’t want to come across as complaining though, it’s a known part of the job I do, and I accept that. More often than not it still leads to mutually enjoyable experiences as well.

The people who have expressed an interest in topping me over the last few years have tended to do so in ways that made me deeply uncomfortable. Several potential play partners have expressed a reluctance to honor my hard limits, with one person saying

come on, I could be the guy who made Wintersong Tashlin ‘red,’ how could I pass that up?

For the record, it’s not hard at all to make me call ‘red,’ (a standard dungeon safe-word), I have a list of clear hard limits, and I am also not nearly as hard a masochist as I am brutal in my sadism. 

But not bottoming for BDSM play has been about far more than not wanting to interfere with people’s perception of my “image,” or the difficulty finding suitable play partners. After all, some of the kinksters I have the most respect for are very public about their own submission, including my boss at Dark Odyssey, and people like fellow BDSM educator Mollena Williams.

What I have come to realize is that for all that I talk frequently in my education work, and deeply believe in. the inherent equality of submissives and dominants, somewhere along the line I internalized those societal messages I mentioned a few paragraphs ago. I fell into the trap of believing that to be “strong” I had to maintain constant control in my mundane, spiritual, and professional life. That it was somehow a mark of failure or weakness to allow myself to let go and surrender to the other side of my nature.

ImageAnd then, last weekend, something remarkable happened. For the first time in years, I permitted myself to relinquish control and indulge the submissive/masochistic side of my desires. I’ve been heavily overworking myself between the push to get everything ready for Dark Odyssey Surrender, an Oct/Nov touring schedule that somehow got insanely full, trying to remain active as an editor and blogger for Bilerico.com, and some complicated issues in my family and spiritual lives.

In a fine hotel room, where I was staying for a conference on gender and sexuality, two truly fabulous men that I’m lucky to have in my life spent a good number of hours beating, pinching, biting, and in other ways tormenting my body, in a way that let my mind be free in a way that I desperately needed. I didn’t go into the situation expecting things to go there, but I was with people who I could trust, and to be honest, I simply didn’t have the emotional resources in that time and space to be a good top. I needed to not be “on,” to be vulnerable, which isn’t something I feel I can be with anyone in my life right now (the topic for another post I suppose).

Of course now is the point where I suppose that I need to specify that yes there were safewords between us, and in the few occasions where I needed to use my “slow down” command it was instantly respected. Likewise, when I said that I had legitimately had enough, the scene ended.

But while it lasted, I was totally consumed with both the sensations in my body, and the consensual illusion of having my life under someone else’s control for a while, yet having that person be someone who didn’t want anything from me, unlike the Lady, Var, or the other gods and spirits I work with in a submissive context.

I could totally forget about planning a huge event in a new city, being a professional BDSM educator, my spirit work, or even the convoluted and anxiety-inducing twists and turns of the 2012 election season. It was glorious, intimate, and amazingly restful, even if parts of my body are still sore nearly a week later. Given how stressful my life has been of late, it’s not hyperbole to say that this scene happened right when I needed it to, in order keep going without a serious breakdown.

Now, obviously BDSM is not for everyone! That I personally found deep meaning in the experience I’ve described doesn’t mean that I think getting consensually beaten is a universal cure-all for the pressures of our lives. But, in a roundabout way, it is.

I believe that we all need to find our “thing,” some part of ourselves that we can surrender to for a while. Maybe it’s being beaten hard by two hot Boston queer boys. But then again, maybe it’s a hobby, a form of entertainment, a deeply held desire to try something different – perhaps even something out of character. It could be something you think you should have outgrown, or something you feel too young for. You could be held back by the pressing needs of your life, fear, or concerns over how people might react, or something else entirely.

Whatever it is, I encourage you to find and embrace that part of yourself. Surrender to your need to escape the everyday realities of your existence, and let yourself go for a short while. An important way to respect yourself is by acknowledging and respecting all your needs, even those that make you a bit uncomfortable.

We can’t be “on” all the time, and if we’re going to be effective when we are, we have to have the down periods too. That’s the only way to keep fighting on in whatever struggles and roles your life is throwing at you.

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2 thoughts on “Surrendering to Desire

  1. This hits home, for me, in a very tortuous way… I’m living this right now, and when I found and embraced that part of myself (for I, too, don’t want to be “on” at times), I lost more than I was prepared for. I met the roles and struggles life threw at me, but now I’m faced with starting over after losing my partner of 20 years. He was not part of this journey with me, as it turns out.

    Still, it’s another adventure, another way to surrender myself to whatever comes next.

    /empathy

  2. I can relate as well. A combination of being assaulted during a scene and the perceptions of switches and bottoms (particulary the predatory focus on female identified bottoms) led me to identify solely as a top for years. I still do, since that it my primary inclination and I rarely trust people enough to let go like that. Plus, annoyingly, it fucking freaks people out when you step out of your ‘role’ in public. I got lit on fire at TESFest a bunch, and more than a couple of people had something to say about that.

    One of the things I am enjoying most about my new partner and our play is that we both identify at tops (and we’re both sadists. Ow.) but we’ve both been able to be fairly flexible, and I’ve been able to explore all that other stuff that I liked and abandoned wholesale years ago. And its really *really* satisfying to let go and fall into the intense sensations and just exist for a while, with no judgements, no day to day worries, nothing. And no fear, which for me, has always been an issue. I’ve had my boundaries violated so often that the thought of bottoming alone was an excercise in fear.

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