Fair warning: this post discusses matters relating to alternative sexual practices in an unambiguous way.
The word "Surrender" has been on my mind a lot lately. Firstly I suppose, because it's the name of the next event the company I work for is holding in scarcely a week, so I've been using it an awful lot. But also, because it's something I've not been getting enough of in my life lately.
That may seem a bit strange as sentiments go. After all, the whole idea of surrendering is very much not something that we are taught in modern American culture to embrace. Perhaps, nowhere is this more evident than within the LGBT equality movement, where surrendering could be taken as meaning to yield to the forces of hatred and bigotry that seek to relegate us to permanent second class citizen status.
No, 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. 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.
But, my not bottoming for BDSM play has been about far more than not wanting to interfere with people's perception of my "image." After all, some of the kinksters I have the most respect for are very public about their own submission, including my boss at work, and people like fellow BDSM educator Mollena Williams.
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 I had to maintain such constant control in my mundane and professional life, that I couldn't allow myself to let go and surrender to the other side of my nature.
In the LGBT world we reinforce this dominance=good, submission=bad paradigm constantly. Being LGBT, our entire narrative is built around not allowing ourselves to be subject to the expectations and desires of the straight/cis world. As a gay/queer man, I am also frequently subjected to messages about the strength and yes, superiority, of "tops" in the context of anal sex, which often extend to BDSM as well. As a blogger and activist, there is an unending theme of "stay strong, keep fighting" intertwined with our entire struggle for civil rights. And of course, there is the pressure to hold up to the expectations of the community, which may or may not be fair, or accurately reflect one's own experience of the world.
And then, last weekend, for the first time in years, I did allow myself to surrender deeply to the submissive/masochistic side of my desires. 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.
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, in those moments when 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, I totally forgot about planning a huge event in a new city, being a professional BDSM educator, 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.
It's the only way to survive, thrive, and have the strength to continue living in a world where we as LGBT people are not yet recognized as equals, and where everyday life can require fighting.