This builds on our previous article “Spiritual Love(and Kink, and Other Mind Exploring Stuff”.
What makes that moment spiritual? And, how do we explain such an experience?
i think many of us have discovered some kind of unique moment of spirituality during BDSM activities. We’re probably all familiar with subspace and Domspace, but is there something more? Something else that’s embedded in the kinkster’s experience?
HENRI LEFEBVRE’S MOMENTS
Lefebvre passed away in 1991 aged 90, but during his life he was a prolific author who explored social space and everyday life. He defined everyday life as an intersection of our own rhythms with social rhythms, and an interplay of “illusion and truth, power and helplessness; the intersection of the sector man controls and the sector he does not control”.
Searching for answers to my own questions about spiritual experiences in BDSM, i dug into Lefebvre’s concept of moments.
For Lefebvre, ‘moments’ are those instances of intense experience in everyday life that provide an immanent critique of the everyday: they are moments of vivid sensations of disgust, of shock, of delight and so on, which although fleeting, provide a promise of possibility of a different daily life, while at the same time puncturing the continuum of the present.
(Highmore, 2002, p. 116)
Lefebvre’s critique of everyday life is rooted in exploring ‘moments’ of sparks, like a light bulb that switches on at random times. An example would be the moments of enlightenment, reflection and sudden heightened experience that we might get when we attend a wedding or funeral, or from going to a carnival, as we the ride roller coster and hold our lover’s hand in times of fright. Or, maybe we read a book and feel butterflies in our stomach come alive. Or, anticipation that we feel on our birthday.
While we are experiencing our own sparks, society still functions with its own routine rhythms. The grocery shops still open at 9 in the morning and close at 10 in the evening. The mamak still has football games projected onto a big white cloth, sometimes crowded, sometimes quiet.
Before i start drawing conclusions from all this, i want to point out that Lefebvre didn’t research or write about BDSM, and his work wasn’t intended for explaining BDSM experiences. But, perhaps in his thoughts there are answer, or insights, to better understand why we (kinksters) do the things we do, as a way of empowerment and acceptance, and to counter self-denial or shame, of our natural (kinky) behaviours.
MOMENTS HIDDEN IN OUR ALIENATION
In Lefebvre’s work, we are constantly negotiating between alienation and dis-alienation. He uses the concept of “total human” in deconstructing the ‘moments’.
The ‘total man’ or ‘total person’ is a person who is no longer alienated from every aspect of his life. According to Lefebvre, this will result in ‘the end of history’.
Where are the ‘moments’ located?
In modern society, with “standardisation in work and objects” and increased hierarchical differences within society (race, class, difference), the ‘moments’ are located in a space of alienation.
We connect with other human beings on levels such as “work colleague”, “acquaintance”, “friend”, “family” or “parents”, and we form our social connections within spaces such as “work”, “leisure”, “sex” or “vacation”.
In these silos, we are ‘self-alienated’ from ourselves, in a social condition that postpones the expression of our full human potential. For example, we self-alienate our sexuality from family and friends. These social circumstances postpone us from the full potential of our expression, exploration and experiences. Highmore (2002) says that this kind of alienation between human beings impacts the unknown and unexplored possibilities of society as human development, and between human-beings as a human process.
There is hardly chance for us to experience forming a full connection with the society that we live in without any forms of alienation. At that point we would be “total man/ total human”, and Lefebvre posits that history would temporarily end. Without history, there also isn’t a concept of future, and so what we have is a momentary “presence”.
You can probably draw the conclusion. That “presence” is similar to what is described in many religious and spiritual experiences. Man is no longer bound to their past or future, characteristics or race, when man is connected to “God”.
BDSM AND LA FÊTE
Lefebvre’s uses La Fête (carnival/festival), as an example to illustrate the whole concept of moments, total man, and the ‘end of history’.
Festivals and Carnivals are a part of the everyday life, but also, in the space of festival and carnivals, our behaviours are largely different to how we normally behave in society. Hence, La Fête can be the reference point as radical reconfiguration of everyday practices. It is in the space of La Fête, we get to overturn the established differences and alienation, and in doing so, we manage to disorientate ourselves and form a connection of “totality” with no pre-established barrier in connection.
During the feasts there are much merry-making: dancing, masquerades in which boys and girls changed clothes or dressed up in animal skins or masks – simultaneous marriages for an entire new generations – races and other sports, beauty contests, mock tournaments… it is the day of excess. Anything goes. This exuberance, this enormous orgy of eating and drinking – with no limits, no rules…
(Lefebvre, 1947, p202)
i see Lefebrve’s concept of “moments” as being very similar to some of our BDSM activities.
Modern society is full of established social rules and boxes that separate us in many different ways. BDSM activities often do the opposite, overturning the rules and creating “moments”. These “moments” of experience can be hard to explain, but this experience of satisfaction and blissfulness could often be part of what we call subspace or Top space. It certainly has a lot of similarity to Lefebrve’s concept of moments of “total man”, where “history ends”.
In BDSM subculture, we overturn social taboo and do the opposite, in a private (or public safe space depending on where you are located). The Nazi’s power of fascism is deemed offensive by many, yet in BDSM activities we might put on that Nazi uniform and transgress that act of offense to feel powerful, and something else. That “something else” might be considered as Lefebvre’s moments of totality.
Societal taboos like slavery, racism, sexism or any form of polite social rule can be overturned in BDSM practices.
And, as we journey through the moments, we also may experience strange feelings of “subdrop” or “Domdrop”. Perhaps that is our mental being, that has achieved a moment of “totality” in modern society, struggling to get back to the modern setting of alienation and rules. We are reluctant to talk to our friends and family, and just want to dwell for a while in that BDSM space. Perhaps that is our desire for “totality”. Maybe that totality really does take us closer to the Gods, even if it’s just for a short time.
The following is a few videos that I discovered from Youtube, they are kind of fun to watch.
Artwork by Vilela Valentin