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Last week I attended my first Domme class. (You can still sign up with my discount code, second class is Sunday, Nov 7.)
It was intense. Collette, the leader, cried. I cried. I saw a bunch of us crying on Zoom.
The class began with students virtually raising their hands to explain why they signed up for the class. They said things about shame and colonialism and learning how to be intimate on our own terms.
There are 111 students right now, from all regions, ages, and walks of life. All femmes. Someone said they’re a Saggiatrius. Another said she’s a Tantrica. There were lots of Bay Area students but also someone from the Netherlands.
I was worried the class would spend a lot of time on the practicalities. If I do end up Dommeing, I’m going to need to learn know how to spank someone without injuring them. But Spanking 101 won’t tell me whether kink is for me. And it’s not something I’m going to mull over as I try to fall asleep at night. If I ever blog about it it’ll probably be for money or out of the goodness of my own heart, not as something I’m working through intellectually.
And there were some practical tips. Collette demonstrated a negotiation with an actual sub, which was cool. This is something I’d love to see more of in porn.
He hopped into camera view on one leg, the other tied up shibari-style. She invited him to kneel, and asked him questions like: What are you into? What are your limits? Are you open to being blindfolded? Are you okay with me using some handcuffs? She showed us how if you’re going to gag someone set up a safeword alternative like having them snap their fingers.
But the more interesting part of the conversation with the sub (for me) was when Collette asked him when he knew he was kinky. He said he’d been “playing” (practicing kinky sex) solo for decades because of shame and, in his own words, “family values.” I don’t know what your family values are, but mine are we don’t lose decades of our lives missing out on consensually mutually beneficial play with others because of harmful shame. Once again, sex-negativity exacerbates loneliness and alienation.
But I really knew I was in the right place when Collette made it clear that the purpose of the class was the examine power.
The bondage in the dungeon is clear, and voluntary. We choose every aspect of our bondage. Our bondage outside the dungeon is neither clear nor always voluntary. One goal of life and kink is to make the unconscious conscious.
I’m obsessed with power, particularly shitty power structures. It’s a throughline in everything I do voluntarily. The practical and moral implications of existing and potential power structures connects everything I care most about: Justice, oppression, innovation, etc.
Collette talked about how power, to her, for years meant financial freedom. But eventually, she came to see the pursuit of money had become its own kind of shackles.
“What has you gagged?” she asked us. “What are your golden handcuffs? Who has you on a short leash?”
Today, she finds power in being vulnerable. She told us about things she’d spent decades ashamed of. In telling her story, she’s becoming the author of her own life. She moving from being ashamed of coming from nothing to being proud of it.
“Every time I got more honest and authentic something magical would happen,” she said. She began working, playing, and co-creating with people who understood her. “Everyone who’s coming into my life is supporting me and my dreams,” she said.
She gave us an assignment. Write down “The truth that I’ve been hiding from myself is…” and then don’t stop writing until she says to stop.
Here’s what I wrote:
“The truth that I’ve been hiding from myself is I have no idea, maybe around power and wanting power and being afraid of being bad, being abusive, being selfish, being a net negative. I wish I understood better my full orientation toward power, but I do know that I’m obsessed with it and I know that I think it’s super important, yet under-discussed, understudied, yada yeada. Wow my hand hurts already wild. Anyway the truth that I’ve been hiding from myself is that I want power. I want freedom and there is no freedom without power. There’s is no influence without power. There is no helping anyone without power. There is no getting anything done that matters without power.”
I’ve spent a lot more time thinking about the negative aspects of power than the positive aspects.
Collette asked us: What do I already have right now that I know is a superpower that’s helping me become the D-type I am? What superpower do I want to develop to really help me get to the edge of my transformation and evolution?
My homework is to write my ad. (Who am I, how do I want to play, who do I want to connect with?)
Here’s my go at it:
“I’m Lady Libertine, and I want to help you play with yourself. Reach out to me if you walk around with a part of yourself screaming, ‘Let me come out and play!’ Reach out if there’s a part of you that society has told you is dark and bad and shameful. I want to provide a safe container, free of shame and judgment, in which you can get to know yourself better and learn to love and accept every part of you. For many years I let shame and fear keep me apart from myself. I’m still letting go of the shame and fear I was taught. I’m still learning who I am and what I want. But today I do believe this: Every part of each of us is worthy of love.”
And writing this, I realize this is what *I* need to hear and believe. This is what I’ve been working on in therapy, yoga, meditation, psychedelics.
I’m not fully convinced every part of each of us is worthy of love. But I am convinced shame and stigma don’t work. They don’t make us better. And they certainly aren’t fun. I think love works. I think love changes people. I think it when we love the parts of ourselves we find hard to love they lose a lot of their power to hurt us.
That’s one aspect of power I want to wrestle with.
I’m moving away from seeing parts of myself as irredeemably bad. During my last acid trip I thanked my anxiety for the hypervigilance that helped me during my childhood. I’ve done a lot of work learning how to hate myself less for my unhelpful emotions.
During my last mushroom trip I decided to start working on hating the troublesome parts of my body less.
The parts of ourselves that we hate often arose within us for some purpose. We can have a more pleasant existence if we can thank them for the service they provided, trust that at their core they want what’s best for us, and then empower them to decide how long to stay.
One goal of life and kink is to make the unconscious conscious. We can’t accept parts we can’t see. And we can’t see parts we’re too afraid to look at. Kink and BDSM can provide a container in which it feels safe to look at ourselves without fear or judgment.
Shame separates us. Power brings us together. No one changes the world alone.
See your choices. Find your allies. Realize your dreams.