The idea of a savant – someone who exhibits a particular exemplary skill while somehow presenting with a seeming deficit in other areas – is fascinating to me. I’ve an affinity for those who are outliers, removed from the standard, separate from the mainstream. And that attraction slipped naturally into place when I came out on the BDSM and Leather Communities. I felt that I was finally coming home and had found “My People.”
Well, not so fast, rabbit.
There are factions, fragments, fickleness and fissures within the “Community” up to and including those who won’t even use the word “Community” to refer to the loose confederation of alternative people who practice Kink / Leather / BDSM.
One of the more pronounced rifts is between those who are very spiritually focused in their kink vs. those who really love and deeply experience the sensation, but refuse to ascribe a deeper spiritual connectivity to the BDSM practice. I have the interesting perspective of not belonging firmly to either camp and that is because my kink is amoral. I don’t really go in much for assuming I will have a deeply connected spiritual experience across the board with everyone with whom I play. I’m not wired that way. Neither do I assume that, just because the skies opened up for me, and I called The 42 Sacred Names for G_d, that the person administering the treatment that got me to that point is also on the same spiritual wavelength.
In fact, it is usually best that they are not.
Someone has to steer the ship.
Which brings me to the idea of “Dominant Savants” and the double-edged scimitar that this particular idea presents.
If you accept that there are people who possess an astounding skill in one particular aspect of life, but lack it in another, you are with me in the beginning of this thought process. Someone who is a stellar whipmaster, bondage aficionado, piercer, what have you, may be able to act as your guide throughout an incredibly earth-shattering experience, but you would be absolutely making a dangerous assumption if you automatically piggyback a deep spirituality to their expertise. It may be there. It may not. It may be there for one partner and not for another. This doesn’t intrinsically make them a shitty player. It means you have to know what is happening for them. It means doing your fucking homework. It means listening to your gut. And yeah, absolutely it means taking risks and falling flatsplat on your face, alone, and having to get your shit together your damned self.
But YOU NEED TO DECIDE if that risk is worth it it TO YOU.
Read it again, my friend.
The rituals and emotional trips and triggers of BDSM have deep resonance for some, and not for others. And it is all good, so long as, when you come together to play, you are all reading the same fucking playbook.
A Priest may break the bread, bless it, and present it, but it is the Catholic worshiper’s personal belief in Transubstantiation that makes it “the body of Christ.” Same with the wine to blood thing. The ritual is part of it but the supplicant is doing most of the work there, frankly. No matter what the fuck the Priest does, without the worshiper’s belief and buy-in, ain’t no holy moment. Just some cheap-ass sour fucking wine and a bit of stale weird cracker thing.
If the dominant is, in this analogy, leading the service, the individual spirituality of the supplicant, or bottom, can be entirely personal. I am not saying it always is, but I am saying, without judgment, is that it can be.
And my surprising realization is this: I am fine with that.
So long as I know what I am doing, who I am dealing with, and I fully take responsibility at the end of the ride for myself, a brilliant “dominant savant” whom you share little or no spiritual connection outside of the scene can be a midwife to your own experience. If you can respect their skill and accept their different approach, I believe that this can be a very successful type of power exchange.
I spent over year bottoming to and, for a while, submitting to someone who would have been, at the time, hard-pressed to tell you exactly why he enjoyed BDSM. In my case, I’m a person dedicated to self-analysis and tasting, nibbling, stirring, sniffing and dissecting what takes me, again and again and again, to the depths of profound humiliation and the out-of-body-highs of intense sensation play. In his case, he just … liked it. This, of course, made me a “bit” obsessively fascinated by his approach to BDSM.
No matter how I framed the line of inquiry, I got the same baffling opaque non-response time after time. This eventually made me bat-shit crazy until I realized something critical:
It doesn’t fucking matter.
See, my experience is mine. As reflexively silly as this sounds, it is the thing that cut through my need to cling to the idea of connection that I so desperately craved. It was an idea I created pretty much on my own and guess what? It does not always translate well to real live people.
If I go horseback riding, jump on a roller-coaster, swim in the ocean, I don’t expect to process that with the horse, the Cyclone, or the Pacific. I experience these things, perhaps even in a profoundly spiritual way, and I let it become a part of my experiential self.
And if I fall off of the horse, or get stuck on the Cyclone in Coney Island, or get pulled by an undertow, I have to take care of myself.
This is, I think, the way I have experienced “dominant savants.” Those who can take me on startling journeys but are not, for whatever reason, on my wavelength emotionally and spiritually. It does not negate, diminish, or compromise the play / scene / relationship we have. But it does define and demarcate it.
In the year plus of this intense play relationship that was particularly marked by this interestingly connected disconnect, I had quite a few people either pull me aside to “Make sure I was okay.” or to straight up ask why I played with this person. Many, many people with whom he’d played vowed they wouldn’t ever do so again as they just couldn’t deal with the feeling of being the rawhide chew toy for some brutally rough play that did not have, as the upshot, an emotional connectivity they needed within and as part of aftercare for the scene.
At first I worried that I was also broken. That I was allowing myself to be emotionally damaged in a way that I was, somehow, missing. But I concluded that was not the case then and in retrospect, I still do not think it is now.
I believe that people come into your life for various reasons and those reasons aren’t always apparent at the time. In this case the benefit was clear. I played with a particular freedom I hadn’t enjoyed before, and very rarely since. I felt safe. Regardless of the reality, I felt. safe. And that is no mean feat to pull on me when I am, in fact, doing some crazy shit.
I sure as fuck have had deeply connected and spiritually conscious play with people. I prefer it. It is that core need for deep connection that motivates my journey in Leather. But as I slowly reprocess the past couple of decades, I realize that the vast majority of play I’ve done falls into the category of submitting to the universe, to god, to my journey, to life, by way of a guardian who facilitated this and gained a measure of pleasure from it themselves, but remained essentially unchanged. I have yet to have a top or dominant share with me that the scene we did altered their perception of kink, of who they were, or their role in life, and that they felt a kinship that defied explanation due to what we shared in terms of our play. And yet I have, in some way or other, expressed these very sentiments to several people in my life. Perhaps this is because dominants “just don’t do that.”
I was hashing this out with my dear friend, Rabbi Heidi Hoover one night and was tossing out analogies. I drew a parallel between playing in this “dominant savant” arena and messing around on a volcano.
See, we have plenty of empirical data letting us know that volcanoes sit there all cool and slope-y, looking sexy, but will, on occasion, fuck you up and all of your shit too. And your goats. So whose fault is it you get burned? You have no business being there if you know it is a fucking volcano.
Of course, some volcanoes pop outta nowhere and are all like SURPRISE BUTTSECKS!! and, if they fuck you up, it's not your fault.
Still sucks to be you though.
But more often than not you have warnings. Rumbles. Shifts. Stinky gas. And if you stick the fuck around and wind up Pompeiied, we can’t really feel bad for you.
“Aha, but people do live on volcanoes,” my Rabbinically Enhanced friend pointed out. “And after an eruption, the soil and the land created is extremely rich and beneficial, and so it attracts people back to it despite the risk.”
Yes, of course. People live in dangerous fucking places. On volcanic islands. On huge fucking fault lines. In the path of annual monsoons, floods hurricanes. On floating shanties atop of piranha infested waters. But you live there in hope. In hope that the benefit you derive from your location will outweigh the possibility of loss, damage, death, devastation.
I accept the risk, I do my best to choose people I trust, and I am prepared to accept responsibility – personal responsibility – for taking this risk. Ownership has its privileges. And I feel privileged to take these amazing, dark and illuminating rides on my terms, with skilled and bold partners.