At the moment, between knitting and sewing and cooking and trying to write a novel, I’m working my way through reading Radical Ecstasy. I’m not quite halfway through, but I wanted to talk about some stuff that’s coming up.
Radical Ecstasy was published about ten years ago – it’s an oldy but a goody, as they say – and it’s about using S/M techniques to reach ecstatic states.
… Sort of.
It’s about rough sex as religious/spiritual experience;
It’s about building western style tantra techniques into kink and pain-play scenes;
It’s about sado/masochism as sex/magic as sacred/mystery;
It’s about sex and kink and woo.
Right up my alley in other words.
I love the woo that I find in my leather community. I love the discussions that come up at leather women’s brunch, talking about a particular colour of blue and how it matches from person to person to person even though it shows up in different ways and for different reasons, it means the same thing. The way people get cuttings or brandings to commemorate something important to them. The way we can have quiet conversations about I think I might be a vampire and where to find sustainable sources of food.
I love listening to Lee Harrington talk about energy and sacred sexuality on his podcasts, and poking my head into the kinky spirit-workers’ blogosphere to see what the Tashlins and other folks of that ilk are up to. I love Barbara Carrellas’ work on ecstatic states as necessary to human well-being.
But trying to translate that work into my own life is… harder for me than I was expecting.

Again and again, the message comes back to me: Slow Down!
And, again and again, I ignore it. I rush and push; reach for the vibrator and forget to breath; try to move too fast out of fear that I’ll run out of energy, run out of steam, before I can get her into the Blue; try to hit those high notes without warming up first; lose patience with myself and flip my girl so that she doesn’t have to wait (and wait, and wait, and wait) for me to maybe get off. Embarrassed by my less-than-reliable “results”, as if there had ever been any goal beyond getting each other naked and hot, awake and aroused, hooked into each other with all our nerve endings singing.
I have to slow down.
I have to push through (or away from) the shame and the fear of not having enough or being enough, of wanting too much or not being able to follow it all the way through.
I have to remember that she’ll crave, in her body, the pain that feeds me if I work her skin up to it sloooooowly. I have to remember that I will have the energy reserves to keep it up if I actually give myself a warm-up, too.
There’s vulnerability here. In the slowness, in the warming up and working up. The fearsome chance that I’ll crack my voice, get too tired, resent the amount of time/work/energy this is taking/draining from me… and not see it through. That it, or I, won’t be as good as I once was.
A zillion years ago, I read The Mists of Avalon. This is relevant, I promise. There’s a point in the story where the main character has been away from her Practice for a number of years and is finally trying to get back into it, to get it back into her. During this time, she has to count “painfully, on her fingers” in order to remember which direction she needs to be facing on which day, in order to work her daily devotions back into her muscle memory, her body.
This feels like that.
The fear of Doing It Wrong, of not being good enough, of having lost “too much”, of not being able to do X or Y or Z “anymore” just because I’m rusty. The shame around needing to relearn this technique, that breath, that patience with myself. The fear that, if I let myself open up, that I’ll just cry and cry and cry and not find ecstasy, not find my power, not find joyful release… just fall into a bottomless pit of grief and not be able to pull myself out unless I stop feeling again.
This is, I think, clearly about more than “just sex” at this point. But it’s all tied up together. Sex, death, music, ritual, orgasm, scene, power, magic… It’s all part and parcel of the same flow. And I think a lot of it, a lot of getting it back and making it something I can reach for without a lot of angst, comes back to breath and patience, to slowing down. To having the will to wait it out, to warm myself (and my partner) up appropriately. To open myself, with each breath, unblock and unfreeze and let wonder back in. Let magic come through again.