Continuing my run through the workshops of Dark Odyssey, I am going to talk a little about Dossie Easton’s “Bottomless Pits: Serious Pain Sluts,” workshop.
I loved the concept of this workshop. The truth is that most of my partners aren’t/ and have not been serious pain sluts. I’m fine with that. I absolutely do not think you judge a submissive by how much pain they can “take” you judge them by what they do with whatever pain they choose to take. And if that is none at all, it’s still fine. D/s is not necessarily about pain at all. Even when I jokingly use the term “pain slut” really I don’t mean it in the full sense. It’s flattering to a girl and a woman who has taken a good bit of pain may like to hear it. But you know there are levels.
Still I’m intrigued by the concept, and I have played with one or two girls who did have a strong appetite for being hurt a lot, as opposed to just being hurt.
I have tremendous respect for Dossie Easton. For folks who don’t recognize her name, she’s a family therapist based in San Francisco, CA. Easton is the co-author with Catherine Liszt (Janet Hardy) of The Ethical Slut, Radical Ecstasy; When Someone You Love is Kinky, The New Topping Book; and The New Bottoming Book. Dossie and Cathy were my introduction to reading about BDSM, and born in 1944, Dossie is a legend in the leather community. Ethical Slut is sort of the quintessential starter book for Polyamory and even if I don’t agree with all of it, I think it’s a huge starting place, and has done a lot of people a world of good in just making them feel it’s a normal, healthy lifestyle. Dossie’s Bachelor Thesis says it all Sex is Nice and Pleasure is Good for You.
Easton is frank about her experiences with childhood abuse. She talked about a scene gone bad, where she “came to believe that it was actually non-consensual.” In that scene, she said “I am mostly looking at my father and saying ‘see how hard you can beat me motherfucker.’” This reminded me of a comment in Sarah’s workshop (which we’ll get to in a day or two) where she mentioned that “it is fine to say that you are not looking to re-enact rape, or abuse, that you’ve experienced. But one day they are going to come up.”
That said, the workshop wasn’t quite what I’d hoped. It really concentrated an awful lot on the heroics of flogging. I think it was reflective of a sort of older generation of BDSM which revolved around flogger and whip heroics the way that Metal revolved around guitar heroics. Easton is sort of the Pete Townshend of getting flogged (how’s that for taking an analogy one step further than it should ever have been taken).
There was also an undercurrent of spirituality that’s a bit foreign to me. I respect people’s spiritual beliefs, but…I don’t get much involved in church religion and I don’t get much involved in alt-religion.
So lets focus on the good things I did get out of the workshop. First there was a reminder of a lovely quote from e.e. cummings about his promiscuous wife “She was a woman upon whom many men might go like a ship….” However I think the quote may underestimate the original bitterness of cummings sentiments.
A lot of the workshop focused on the concept of going to what Dossie calls “the forever place,” which is sort of an intense verison of flying.
Obviously this is somebody who knows whereof she speaks. She was beaten 7hrs 15 min without a break for her 48th birthday and 5 hours for her 50th. More significant than her professional creds may be a reference from a “Y” gym in SF, where a person who had never met Easton told a friend of hers that she was doing badly at tennis because she had “Dossie arm.” To have one’s name enshrined as someone who wears out arms may be a formidable quality in a bottom.
There was some good practical discussion of the problem that submissives who are “flying” don’t want to stop and Doms who try to make them stop are going to cause problems. “They think if they hit you harder you are going to want them to stop. And the sub is not going to want to stop. So how do you put scenes together.” Along those lines the comment “If a top is overprotective of a bottom that bottom cannot fly. But you must be willing to stop.”
There are other technical issues as well. The typical technique is to relax the shoulders and neck and use breath control to process pain. The recommendation is that you do something that is going to be really painful at the end of an exhale (this also limits the amount of air available for a scream). But the technique isn’t always what is needed. “Someone was telling me not to strain, and at that moment I was too endorphined to feel it unless I strained against it.”
There was discussion of the philosophical concept explored in some recent writing that pain is a natural visceral experience that our society has lost connection with because we are so good at avoiding it.
There was a general commentary on Doms who stop scenes because they are uncomfortable with them, and then blame it on the sub. An observant audience member said “it pisses me off when a top tells me ‘you need to stop’ when it is them that needs to stop.” This can be amplified by abuse. “Don’t tell bottoms that they are being a greedy pig if you are a top and you are worn out and have to stop. Bottoms already feel guilty for the attention they get.” The recommendation was a simple “We have to stop now,” or “I need to stop.”
One problem with these scenes is that there is not an obvious way to close. Dossie points out that “sometimes going to sex will close the scene, but sometimes it is disappointing,” and that if they’re disappointed coming off the high then equating sex with disappointment is not necessarily the thing you want. She also said that’s its common for orgasm to bring you out of “the space.”
Dossie recalled one scene where she was topping and the submissive seemed to feel a sense of failure calling yellow and saying “I can’t take anymore.” She said “I want five more will you give them to me” and said “Those five strokes made it from a failure into a triumph.” I recalled a very similar ending to a scene one evening…
One suggestion for ending scenes was to start counting strokes. “Counting strokes starts to bring the scene down and makes it finite” Having used that myself to end scenes that involved a lot of impact play where I didn’t have a natural stop point, I’m very fond of that idea.
A bit of attention was given to the fact that subs in these situations forget safewords. One good suggestion was a Feedback safeword. “I will squeeze your hand. The harder you squeeze back, the more okay you are.”
All in all there was a lot to learn here, from practical advice “make sure everyone pees in advance,” to technique “moving into someone’s personal space is very effective,” to theory “sometimes it’s good to know what the vulnerabilities are…shared vulnerabilities are amazingly intimate.”
It was a good workshop and there was a lot to learn. I’d hoped to get a bit more into the psychology of pain sluttery, and the drives behind it, but what was presented was useful and the demo was well worth taking notes on as well.
I took away one other lesson as well. I think there are two trunks of BDSM play. One aims at creating an inner experience through a certain detachment. When you are being beaten for five or six hours by various people, I don’t think the relationship is with the person doing the beating. You are not controlling them. They may be getting something out of it, but that thing is a little distant for me.
I prefer the second trunk of BDSM, one that demands and promotes presence. Where there is an intimate experience between me and the girl I am working with, because I am who I am, and she is who she is.
I don’t want to deride “flying,” I think it has it’s place. But it’s not my core kink and I came out of this workshop understanding that better.
Advertising Note: It’s seldom that an advertising campaign really hits home with me. I thought the Budweiser frogs were kind of funny, and sure the Gekko is cute. The Caveman can be amusing. But honestly none of those really gripped me. I never collected frog paraphenalia or watched the Caveman’s Youtube videos. But now there is AT&T with “More Bars in More Places.” That’s an advertising campaign I can get behind.