Banging Berlin – There’s more to BDSM than beating the shit out of someone

xplore-art-of-lust-festival

On a sunny Friday of last month, I rode my bike up a dirt and cobblestoned hill, under a defunct bridge overtaken by wildflowers, through an alley of 100-year-old oak trees to the Alte Borse Marzahn, a collection of old, brick buildings, interspersed with large-scale sculptures from the Tacheles artist squat. Formerly a livestock sale barn, the Alte Borse Marzahn, is now a cultural center and cinema, and for this particular weekend, it was home to Xplore, a three-day BDSM creative sexualities’ “festival on the art of lust”. Not exactly your typical SM dungeon.

…asked if I’d like to be his partner in the “Vaginal Mapping” workshop

About five minutes after I registered and got my bracelet, a lean guy in his mid twenties in white linen pants and an Asian collared shirt greeted me and asked if I’d like to be his partner in the “Vaginal Mapping” workshop. Before I had time to tell him that it’d probably be more useful to me to do the workshop solo, one of the festival producers interrupted to say hello. He suggest that I start at the Sound/ Silence space, one of three conceptual play spaces at the festival where only non-verbal communication was allowed.

It was an intense, sensual experience

Outside the entrance to the spacious, industrial building was a sign reading “SLOW DOWN”. Inside, everything was white and tranquil. Four massive silk panels hanging from the ceiling, moved slowly with the breeze of the fan above groups of one or two or three on cream carpets, and the faded wooden floor. I lay down on one of the carpets and closed my eyes. An ethereal music made by a woman playing the gong added to the calm, and when she struck it near me, I could feel the warm tones verberating throughout my entire body. It was an intense, sensual experience.

***

I spoke with the host of the Sound/ Silence, 42 year-old Berlin-based British BDSM educator and rope bondage expert, Caritia, to learn about the space and ​​BDSM.

art-of-lust-xplore-festival-berlin

art-of-lust-xplore-festival-berlin

IB: What’s the intention of Sound/ Silence?

Caritia: It’s based on an event we did at Schwelle two years ago, where, for 72 hrs, no one could speak. We communicated only through nonverbal communication. It was amazing. This is a place for people to play where they can be a lot more present. A lot of the time when you go to a club or a play party, everybody’s talking. It’s the etiquette, you know, so there’s all this chit chat.

IB: Talking without really saying anything?

Caritia: Right, small talk. All this talking that’s just not necessary. When you’re given the option to not speak, then you have to find other ways to communicate and you also have to be more aware of what it is that you want to do. Everything seems to be a bit slower and more concentrated. So I spent most of the weekend not talking.

IB: How do you feel now after three days of not speaking?

Caritia: It’s hard to want to come back and speak. It was a really good space to think and reflect.

IB: What is BDSM for you?

Caritia: BDSM is conscious connection. Rope, pain play, character play, role play, power exchange – whatever it is – they’re all a medium for people to connect to other people. I do rope and people come to me and they say, “I wanna learn to tie my partner,” and I go, “Why?” and they say, “Oh, it looked really good“ and I’m like, “Yeah, it’s pretty, but why?” and they go, “I don’t know.”

It’s because you want to connect with someone. Maybe you want to find a way that might not involve talking. And when I say that to people, they’re like, “Right!” And then they stop and think what it’s all about. I know I can get out a cane, a flogger, a rope, and I can do this thing with this person, but what makes me want to do this with this person? I came into BDSM because regular penetrative sex didn’t do it for me. BDSM is about an exploration of self. People often get really caught up in the cliche of what BDSM is.

IB: Which is?

Caritia: A dominatrix or a master, dressed in black, with some sort of pain implement in latex or leather, going hardcore on someone’s body. The physical perspective. A kind of glamorized violence. BDSM is not that for me.

IB: How does BDSM function in feminism?

Caritia: There’s this really interesting dynamic. You know, some feminists say, “You can’t be a feminist if you’re submissive. You can’t be a feminist if you’re wearing heels and makeup,” and I’m like, “Sorry, who gave you the permission to define what a feminist is?” I’m a queer, dominant feminist. It happens that I’m dominant, but I could be submissive and if I was, I would want to empower dominants to be fully in their power, for me to be fully in mine. Instead, what I do is, I empower myself to empower other dominants and other submissives.

The cliche is that the dominant takes all the responsibility and the submissive has none and that’s a dynamic that doesn’t work. It’s too binary and it often gets people into trouble. You have the submissive and you have the dominant and each of you have a role, but your major responsibility is for yourself, and when you understand that, when you say, “What do I have to bring to this to get this thing that I need, the thing that nourishes me, the thing that allows me to really grow and be in the full sense of who I am?” When you get that, then all kinds of doors start to open.

***

How refreshing, in Berlin, where BDSM takes itself so seriously; a down-to-earth, feminist voice. There’s more to BDSM than beating the shit out of someone.

Banging Berlin is a monthly column by Mary Katharine Tramontana.

Follow her on Twitter: @BangingBerlin.

Images by Martin Hinze

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