Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Kink of Fasting

In March 2008, only two months after having started my blog, I wrote a post for Easter titled Penitentiam Agite!, which I described as "a little BDSM ode to the Church". A year later, I followed it up with Monks and Roses, about the novel The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco, the movie based on it, and the subject of kinky "monks and nuns" fantasies in general. (Those of you who are familiar with Eco's book will notice that I had already taken the title of the 2008 post from it. The line "Penitentiam agite!", Latin for "Do penitence!", plays an important part in the story.)

As I keep saying, I'm an agnostic and I don't have any strong religious convictions. So I can only attribute my fondness for such "Easter posts" to my historian's interest in religions as cultural phenomena (among them, Christianity has shaped our Western culture the most), and to the aforementioned kinky fantasies which were always among my favourites. Also, when I was a kid, I loved the Jesus films which they showed on TV during the Easter holidays. I still do. Epics like The Greatest Story Ever Told, Ben-Hur, Quo Vadis and The Robe. As silly, heavy-handed and historically inaccurate as they often are, there is a grandeur and a gravitas about them that I just like. It's one of my guilty pleasures. (Mind you, my favourite Jesus film of all is Martin Scorsese's controversial and thought-provoking The Last Temptation of Christ, because it is one of the more intellectually interesting ones. Of course, they never show that one on Easter!)

In the real world, of course, away from Hollywood epics and monks-turned-detectives novels, the Church has been heavily in the news this year in a much more somber context. After other countries like the United States or Ireland, Germany now has its own full-blown Catholic sexual abuse scandal. Hardly a day goes by without one of the local papers printing an article about it, with new horror stories coming to light and new victims stepping forward claiming that they were molested by a priest or beaten at a Catholic school years ago. Corporal punishment is great when it happens between kinky, consenting adults, not so great when it comes in the form of real abuse against minors. So, needless to say, I've been following the news with as much sadness and anger as anyone else.

I might actually do a separate post about it sometime. Even though there is a world of difference between a consensual spanking and a non-consensual one, it is an interesting question how we spankos are supposed to feel about and deal with such real abuse cases. Pandora Blake wrote about it not long ago, under the title CorPun.com, and uncomfortable fantasies. Good stuff as usual from Pandora. I might follow it up with a post about my own thoughts on the matter. But not today. I want this year's Easter post to retain the "lighter", fun feel of its predecessors instead.

I'm a little late for Easter, anyway (I only recently returned from a holiday trip with Kaelah, on which I will elaborate next week, because there are some stories to share). And truth be told, I have to stretch the limits of imagination to come up with something that is both on-topic (i.e. at least vaguely kink-related) and fits into the time. After last year's post, I was already worried about running out of Easter ideas. I had written one post about inquisition-inspired kink in general, one about The Name of the Rose... What was I going to do in 2010?

Well, Kaelah gave me the idea. She is a practising Christian. One who has the occasional atheist anxiety attack, but as I keep telling her: "Doubt is a part of belief." Anyway, in the weeks leading up to Easter (what is called Lent), Kaelah fasts for forty days, as many Christians do. She did that last year, just around the time when we started meeting more regularly and our relationship blossomed, and she was going to do it again this year. So I decided to join her in fasting, as a sort of voluntary agnostic gesture of solidarity. Kaelah's reaction was: "Oh, you really don't have to do that..." But I insisted. "I want to give it a try" I said. I thought it might be an interesting experience for me.

Kaelah's form of fasting is that she abstains from sweets - no sweets, no lemonades, no sugared foods or drinks whatsoever. That wouldn't have been a meaningful sacrifice for me, though. Unlike Kaelah, I don't have a problem not eating sweets. The tough thing for me would be quitting meat. I love meat. I probably eat it much more regularly than is healthy. If you've read my answers to the seven deadly sins meme, where I cracked a joke about "lame-ass hippie vegetarians", you already know that (I really don't like vegetarians much, because they use up all the food for my food). So, in order to make this a proper fasting period, something I would find hard to do, I was going to join the lame-asses and the hippies for forty days.

The very first day, I almost slipped. Not out of meat craving, but out of sheer absent-mindedness. I was at the train station and had just missed a train, so I was going to have to wait 20 minutes for the next one. Ah crap, I thought, I'll just grab a turkey sandwich to pass the time. But as I walked up to the nearest snack stand, I remembered, wait a minute, today is the first day of fasting. Does turkey fall into the meat category as well? Of course it does. I had a mozzarella and tomato sandwich instead.

I was never in danger of forgetting it again. Actually, it turns out that I didn't find it very difficult to give up meat. It was surprisingly easy. I think my usual stubborn nature helped me. I had given up smoking a couple of years ago, going from two packs of cigarettes per day to zero, over night. Through willpower alone, without acupuncture or nicotine patches or any of that nonsense. Now that had been hard. But I pulled it off. By comparison, going meatless was almost a cakewalk. Also, it helps when you have someone to share the experience with (or compete against, if that's the way you look at it). Kaelah seemed to have a harder time without sweets than I did without meat, and that obviously pleased me a great deal.

Truth be told, it did get a bit more taxing as time went on. After two or three weeks, you start thinking about how tasty a nice medium-rare steak would be. Or some lamb chops. Or just a slice of salami for breakfast. You really start missing that. Still, it wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it would be. I got to know a lot of new vegetarian recipes that I wouldn't have tried otherwise, and I looked forward to Sunday every week, that special day when you are allowed to interrupt the fasting. I think that was the main effect on me - as Kaelah said, fasting means that you learn to appreciate the things you normally take for granted. It makes you a bit more thankful and aware, I guess.

Other than that, I can't really say much about it now that it is over. Was it a spiritual experience? I wouldn't say that. Interesting, yes, but not an epiphany of any kind. And seeing how it wasn't all that difficult, it is not something I regard as an achievement to be proud of, either. All that said, I think I will do it again next year.

So, it wasn't spiritual, and I don't think I can deliberately misconstrue it as in any way kinky. That is not how it felt at all. However, on an abstract level, it lead me to the following observation: when you come to think about it, you could divide kinky practices into two broad categories. On the one hand, you have practices that center around giving something to another person (like, a jolly good spanking). On the other hand, there are many practices that center around depriving another person of something. Take bondage, for instance - essentially, it means that you deprive someone of the freedom of movement. Or take erotic asphyxiation, for the crazy freaks among you who are into that - you deprive someone of breath. Or take forced chastity, orgasm deprivation. That is very popular with some kinksters as well (I know my old friend Josephine was into it, although we never tried that kind of play together).

None of the "deprivation kinks" mentioned above is really my thing. I have a certain interest in bondage when it is combined with CP, but not so much on its own. As for erotic ashphyxiation or forced chastity, they don't attract me at all. Generally speaking, when I look at myself as a top, I suppose that I see myself as a "giver" rather than a "depriver". Which is not to say that I can't selfishly enjoy what I am doing - I certainly do that. I greatly enjoy spanking, whipping or caning a woman. But my kink centers around this kind of giving (giving pain, giving stripes), not around taking something away.

Of course, you could argue that CP also involves "taking something away", as in taking away someone's state of comfort or state of "painlessness". You could also argue that bondage, erotic ashphyxiation and forced chastity involve giving, as in giving someone that kind of experience. So it is always a matter of personal interpreation, of how that particular practice feels to you. The point I wish to make is that, to me, CP feels like a predominantly giving activity while the other practices I mentioned feel like predominantly depriving ones. That is my self-image of what I do, and of what I want to do.

I'm not sure what that says about me, if anything. As of yet, my thoughts haven't even coalesced into what you could call an armchair theory. But the fasting got me started, gave me the idea about "giving" versus "depriving" kinks, and I think it is an interesting distinction to examine. Maybe we can tell a fair bit about us as people by looking at which kind of kink we prefer, and why that might be. In any case, I'm not postulating that one is in any way superior to the other. The term "giving" might sound nicer to some people's ears than "depriving", which might sound vaguely wicked. But this is not an association I wish to create. As we all know, giving someone a caning can be a pretty wicked thing... I use the terms in a purely descriptive manner.

All that as it may be, I'm glad that I can eat steaks again. I am also glad to be back at blogging. Blogging wasn't among the things I planned to abstain from during Lent, but it somehow turned out that way (I'm sure you were well entertained by Kaelah during my absence, though). I am still figuring out how to balance my academic work, my relationship and my public kinky existence. It's great to have all three in my life now, but things were certainly a bit less cramped when I only had two.

Also, to be honest, my motivation for writing hasn't been all that high in recent weeks. If there was one thing I didn't want to start the new blogging year with, it's another long-winded debate about the morality or immorality of Eastern European spanking videos. The debates here and elsewhere were certainly necessary in light of the events in video land, they were fairly interesting and (to me) surprisingly civil for the most part. But I've done it all before, you see. I suppose we have to go through it once per year for people to reiterate their viewpoints and vent their feelings.

Well, that topic is ticked off for the time being (I will keep you updated about the Mood affair if I hear any news). There are other things I have in the pipeline now, things I originally wanted to post during the spring season, and I trust that it will be worth your while. Stay tuned.

In closing for today, and coming back to the subject of fasting: I recommend you try it sometime. It wasn't exactly a kinky experience for me, but it might be for you. At the least, it might give you some interesting new impressions. Try giving up sweets or meat or alcohol for forty days. Whatever is hard for you.

Now, of course, the really tough thing for all of us perverts - far tougher than anything else - would be to abstain from spanking. Could you do that? For forty days, breaking the abstinence only on Sundays? it wouldn't be easy, but I probably could - I have phases when I'm not feeling particularly kinky, anyway. A few days here, a week there. So, let's go one better: let's give up spanking for forty straight days. I'm talking about no play, no video watching, no blog reading... And no other, "substitute" kinks of any kind, either. Surely, that would be a major challenge.

On the plus side, think about how good the first indulgence would feel on the forty-first day. What a newfound appreciation it would give you for all that you've been missing. Maybe that would be the Kink of Fasting.


! said...

Hey Ludwig,
You didn't actually answer the question in the "Seven Deadly Sins" survey. So which is it? White, or dark meat?

And perhaps if giving meat up was too easy, you could try giving spanking up for forty days? The Sundays would be SO much fun if you did...

tinaslut said...

Another great Easter tradition (at least here in Sweden) is decorating fresh birch twigs with coloured feathers and putting them into vases like flowers. This means you can go out picking birches without anybody looking knowingly at you... ;-)

EmmaJane said...

Hey Ludwig

As a semi-lapsed Christian I have in the past done the Lenten fast several times in the past. Sweets or chocolate etc was my usual abstinance as Kaelah chose to do. I've also done a 24 hour fast for charity eating nothing and only drinking water.

Such experiences are great for giving us new found appreciation for things we've taken for granted. As the Irish poet Kavanagh says. 'We have tested and tested too muxh lover, through a chink too wide there comes in no wonder'

In kink terms though deprivation is not for me. I need continuous stimulation and interaction, otherwise I just get bored :)

Well done for giving up meat though!

Ludwig said...

@ !: You're right, I didn't actually answer that question in the survey. Probably because I like both white and dark meat. I like the dark kind more, though, at the end of the day.

As for fasting spanking, yes, that is the idea I theorised about at the end of the post. I could probably do it for forty days if it was okay to have an indulgence on Sundays. Forty straight days would be a much tougher proposition... Could you do that, hmm?

@ tinaslut: What is it with you Swedes and birches? They seem to be the most common spanking implement up there, and now I learn that you play around with them on Easter, too. *grins*

! said...

@ Ludwig:
I could most certainly do it, but it would be very, very difficult. It would be a great test for my stubbornness though. I suppose I could do it, as long as I didn't cut other aspects of BDSM out all together...

Kaelah said...

For me, learning to appreciate things one normally takes for granted is just one part of the possible positive outcome of Lenten fast. Actually, I don't see Lenten fast so much as giving up or losing something. And it definitely isn't any kind of self-chastisement to please God. Instead, Lenten fast for me is an invitation to leave the known paths in order to open up for something new. That might be vegetarian recipes, but I think it is even more about new ideas and thoughts. So, seen from that perspective, your fasting fulfilled the spiritual idea of the Christian Lent quite well, Ludwig, leading to new thoughts about giving and depriving. Although of course your experiences might not have been closely connected to belief.

Concerning deprivation kinks I'm only interested in bondage. Like the fasting bondage doesn't cause me a feeling of only being deprived from something. For me it means being deprived of one thing and getting other, new things instead. Being tied down and maybe even blindfolded on the one hand makes me feel vulnerable and exposed. On the other hand it also gives me a feeling of safety and helps me to focus on certain senses, like hearing and tactile feeling. Depriviation without using it to create space for something new doesn't make any sense and isn't interesting for me. But I think giving up habits or things we are used to is a very important part of our lives in general, because we need to get rid of old things in order to carve out space for new developments. Everything else would mean stagnancy which can be seen as a synonym for death.