By I.d.S., featuring OZ and Anali
SCENE ONE: ANTICIPATION
“Straight off the bat, let’s just say everyone wants this.”
“Wants what hon?”
“This thing we’re going to! You know, a few days to x-plore” —she cocked her head to mark the pun— “through performative participation a variety of practices around sexuality and the erotic potential of the body, with experts and darlings from numerous fields bringing tons of know-how, zest, verve, and gear.”
“Ahhhh…” Z said, admiring O’s ability to speak with implausible precision, almost as if she were reciting a text.
“I mean really, I don’t for a second believe there’s anyone who doesn’t in their deepest desire want to spend a serious chunk of time exploring and expanding the possibilities and boundaries of their sexual selves.” She paused to ponder this more carefully, “Of course, many will deny it, but that’s just because they’ve had their curiosity buried alive under layer upon layer of shame, convention, dogma, and fear, innit?”
“That’s right,” Z agreed, “in which case the world offers a (free!) lifelong programme of Heteronormative Vanilla. Yuu-uummmmm!” she sang, the sarcasm spilling out of her eyes.
They broke out in laughter, feeling a bit wicked but not caring to be dissing half the planet’s population with their self-congratulatory sense of sex-positive superiority. They were privileged of course, like much of the crowd at the festival, and they loved to forget it.
FOR THE RECORD:
Z and O inhabit a single body; They’re a THH (Two-Headed Hottie), which yes, does frequently cause problems. Especially because they have rather different minds, hearts, desires, kinks, fetishes, fears, traumas, and quirks, but obviously have to physically partake in the others’ sexual activities —if they want to grant the other their pleasure. So, exciting as it was, they were a little nervous about visiting xplore.
OZ are joined at the festival by their friend and playmate, Anali.
Anali is a MAW (Mouth-Anus W/hole —yes, as in both simultaneously; It’s ok, we can handle that) with a neural condition that prevents them from shaping their raw unconscious thoughts. They produce only free association speak: the perfect psychoanalysis patient, as it were. Please forgive that Anali has no filter. They are the poet of this story.
SCENE TWO: LEARNING TO NAVIGATE DISCOMFORT
OZ arrived at the festival loaded with excitement and apprehension in equal measure. The latter was borne from their uneasiness with two things that might play out disastrously: the potential focus on group work with strangers, and the ominous centrality of so-called “spiritual” practices.
They arrived short before their first workshop and headed straight to it: SENSATION PLAY.
The room was packed with people. OZ stayed a bit to the margins for a start, but it wasn’t long before the instructor popped their bubble:
“Ok everyone, we’re going to make groups of four! Please seek out your group and sit down when it’s complete!”
OZ froze, “OMG” on their minds.
The crowd started walking around and choosing their groups, some already sitting down.
Sensing the pressure of NOW OR NEVER, Z got FOMO and looked sternly at O’s skittish face.
“Look O, we talked about this. There’s a good thirty workshops, talks and ‘experiences’ on offer here; that’s a lot of horizons lying at our reach. Let’s just try it out.”
O looked over to the vast array of toys and weird objects the instructors had brought, each offering different textures for her skin to alight upon. She thought about how long it would take her to amass such a collection at home. Resigned, she nodded to Z and they got up, with worried but emboldened eyes, and soon found a group of three that seemed more or less ok.
The exercise consisted of four rounds of 10min, each centred on one participant, who chose three objects and told the others how (not) to use them. OZ mostly felt ok using the objects on the others, their materiality creating a safe hygienic distance. With the girls, they also enjoyed pulling their hair and being quite forceful, bringing them down to their knees and making them bend and contort their limbs to the edge of distress. But with the man it was different: He seemed to them in his nonverbal communication to assume a heterosexual dynamic, which repelled them and immediately transformed his body into a totem of patriarchy (OZ were rather sensitive on this front). “Ugh… cishet dudes are just the end” O thought, “If only they’d all spontaneously self-combust; that’d be the day!”
OZ wanted to refuse him their touch, even with the safe distance of objects, but they didn’t. They made themselves play along, committed to being the good sports they had set out to be.
But the worst came when it was their turn to be receiver. Being touched by strangers put their defence-mechanisms in overdrive, the whole surface of their skin tensing up and an undercurrent of repressed non-consent raging through their fibres. (Not to be mistaken for prudery! This was connected to rather nasty and as of yet unworked trauma). Regardless, they bravely endured it, with not a word of protest, because they had decided to try it out, and try it out they would.
They felt uneasy moving to the next workshop. The previous one had been full of discomfort, and they knew more group work was coming at HOW TO BECOME A BETTER LOVER?
Thankfully, this one was touch-free, with the very special feature of seductive towel folding as a highlight. Especially O loved practicing her seduction skills on something so banal as folding a towel, using just her gaze and the minute details of her hand movements to make the viewer drool, from all their holes. It was cute, funny, sweet, and totally relevant for any future play scene.
Leaving the session, they felt somewhat relieved, but still couldn’t shake their deep-seated concern that the group-centred nature of the workshops would not be workable for them.
Then they bumped into Anali.
“Anali! Did you just arrive?”
Nooo I was here for a while, at the Silent Space”
“What’s the Silent Space?
“The play space, you’re not allowed to speak there, that’s why it’s called ‘Silent’, though there are musicians who respond with their instruments to the sounds in the room; Non-speaking sounds —only impact, vocal, and bodily sounds.”
“Ohhh that sounds amazing! And did you play?”
“Nooo, I watched; for a while just the general vibe… some people floating around, some mild play here and there, some vanilla, some kinky stuff, lots of people hungry for play, prowling the room like lions, patiently hunting for a mate, or two, or three… Some wrote me notes, luring me to play with them, but I wasn’t in the mood at the moment; I just wanted to watch and take it all in for a while.
And then it happened… The whole space was swept away by this one scene: the hardest, almost unbearable, but most fascinating play scene I ever witnessed.”
OZ stayed still like a statue, not wanting to interrupt.
“He arrived ahead of her, with all this gear, set it all out: a flogger, a paddle, a large stuffed animal, and other things I couldn’t identify. His motions were full of determination and intent, anticipation and commitment. She arrived and he took command immediately. Took her onto the platform he had prepared for her; All of it was for her. She was already in heat, maybe because she knew what was coming, and it didn’t take long before she craved to gear things up. He read her plain as a book, and then it started. He began spanking her, flogging her, and soon also slapping her, right across her face, with two fingers, which was shocking. He sometimes did it with a warning, holding his hand high in preparation for the strike, letting her feel the threat, and sometimes just out of the blue. Then he also started punching the large stuffed animal into her belly —that looked the hardest, she grunted deepest at those— and then he’d take a break to stroke her and lick her pussy and fuck her with the deepest and sweetest devotion, only to get up without warning and slap her right across the face again. He also spat in her face, and she’d sometimes slap and hit him back —but only as a reflex; she clearly didn’t want him to stop, nor did she do much to stop him—, but every time he’d strike back harder, so she became conditioned to resist the impulse, and ultimately gave in to full submission.
Sometimes I could barely watch, it was so hard, especially when he spat in and slapped her face. But if you would’ve seen her! She was delirious, transported, the greatest ecstasy I’ve ever seen seizing a face. It was as if she were gone, this rapturous state taking over entirely. And I thought this must be what Bersani calls “the non-suicidal disappearance of the subject” in BDSM. And I realized that this whole performance, this huge exertion of effort, theatricality, meticulous timing of humiliation and pain alternating with pleasure and servitude, was all for her; He did it all for her, and it was so beautiful.
I wished that one day I would have the guts and tenacity to undergo something similar myself, or that I might learn to do that for a playmate of my own. I was devastated, I am still devastated, and just completely and utterly in awe.”
OZ looked astonished at Anali, mouths closed and eyes wide.
Just a few hours into the festival and Anali had already gotten such a strong and transformative experience, without so much as touching another person, let alone partaking in group work. All they had done was to be present —both to themself, and in the moment.
“Wow”, Z said quietly, breaking the silence. “We’ve actually been really frustrated trying to bend our boundaries to fit the workshops, even when they didn’t fit us. To make the most of them…”
“Yeah, isn’t that actually such a neoliberal impulse?”, O was annoyed, “This FOMO impulse of yours, always wanting to milk every opportunity, experience-hunting at every corner, even at the expense of your actual desire… well, ironically that’s exactly what led us to miss out on what would’ve been valuable experiences for us. We haven’t experienced much at all, other than our struggle with ourselves, and with our self-transgressions.”
Z looked a bit sheepish, knowing O was right. But she didn’t feel bad; In fact, she felt a huge load falling off her shoulders, relieved that they’d uncovered this, and that they’d gone through this painful and uncomfortable process so early on in the programme. Because now they could reset their approach and navigate the festival in a way that worked for them, rather than the other way around, knowing now that this was possible.
“Look, be glad!” Anali exclaimed, as if reading Z’s thoughts, “A lot of folks around here have to spend some time tackling the edges of their discomfort before they get the hang of how to navigate xplore. It’s all part of the experience, in fact it’s the core of it —being attentive to and navigating your own emotional responses when you’re testing your boundaries. Sounds to me like you’re not doing too bad.
My two cents? Firstly, de-haste, take your time; Waste time rather than use it, waste it all as if it were worth nothing; create a temporal wasteland. And second, don’t fixate on the workshops if they don’t suit you; the programme highlights the workshops, but there’s a whole other dimension to this place if you ask me, and it’s connected to the simple fact that sex is de-privatized here. Sounds obvious when you hear it, right? But in this day and age, making sexuality public is a radical move, and sometimes this can give it a supra-personal, even political dimension.
So, forget about participating in workshops if that doesn’t work for you; xplore can also be about watching and being intoxicated and affected by what you see; Or otherwise said, taking part in performative spectatorship —in the sense that something comes about in the act of watching, sometimes more even than in the act of acting. If group-participation isn’t your thing, don’t push it; There’s plenty to performatively watch here too, and you can play all you want with chosen partners at the Silent Space.”
Anali was a bit of a preacher sometimes, but OZ were grateful for it in the moment.
SCENE THREE: FINDING RESONANCE
O had recently acquired a Slave Boy on Feeld, which she was hugely excited about but didn’t have much experience with, so she was absolutely intent on attending the workshop OWNED with the fabulous Seani Love. They didn’t however participate this time. Instead, they got themselves installed to watch it, reclining on a high sofa while eating a juicy apple —almost as juicy as the scene itself. They didn’t quite have the transformative experience Anali had in the Silent Space, but that was ok too; The workshop was FUN and they had fun watching it: trios doing the daftest things for each other on command, struggling not to laugh when they were supposed to be suffering; A woman being spanked by three others in a gorgeous durational performance, by the end of which the cheeks on her face were rosier than those on her ass, smiling blissfully in the cascade of endorphins her body had unleashed upon her; A couple of whom the Dom was suffering more than the Sub, reddening in guilt for loving to humiliate his girlfriend, while the girlfriend did it all shamelessly. It was such a treat to see all the emotions unfold, blossoming in full technicolour on the participants’ faces, some unaware and others relishing in being watched.
As the workshop came to an end, they slowly started making their way to the Silent Space. Anali had bumped into one of their playmates earlier, who’d said he’d be heading up there soon for a Shibari session with a girl, and “maybe more”. Anali had then given OZ a Direct-Sense-Interface (DSI): a small subcutaneous device that allowed them to interface with Anali’s senses directly and in real-time.
“Just in case I do get into some play; I’d love to share it with you, if you like,” Anali had said.
When they entered the Silent Space, the rigger and model were just getting installed, but Anali was nowhere to be seen. OZ were a bit distracted at first, taking in the space as a whole and the overall collection of scenes that were unfolding throughout it; Nothing too transmuting for now, but lovely to see …and above all to hear: light moaning, sometimes intensifying in waves, interspersed with spanking sounds, giggles, grunts, and the musicians’ sounds responding to it all —with gongs, drums, singing bowls, rods, brooms, sticks, water… —the atmosphere was so relaxing, and at the same time electric.
When they looked again in the direction of the rigger, they saw him beckoning Anali over with a smile. Anali smiled back, slowly getting up to join the pair, the anticipation in their walk soaring larger at every step. The model was lying on the floor, tied up and topless, unaware of Anali’s impending arrival. Anali headed first to her, to ask permission, and was met with lips that smiled and then parted, ready to receive. They started embracing and opening to each other, warming to each other… and the rigger joined.
OZ took one glance at each other and hit the ON-switch on the DSI.
Instantly they heard Anali’s senses speaking to them in real-time:
“…mmmmthese wetnesses are indistinguishable; yours or mine I’ve no idea, where you end and I begin; if only I had two mouths; three mouths, more mouths to take more of you in; to rub against the rawer, slippery flesh of the inside of my and your orifices; our parts and our mouths morphing into the same stuff; multiplying into a kaleidoscope of damp, teeming, eager, hard and fervent flesh; if only I had more mouths, MAWs; limbs, mouths and wetter parts intertwining like the sensory-hungry tentacles of an octopus at meal time…”
(the DSI went dead, perhaps it was sensory overload, or maybe a shift of register…)
OZ panicked, fidgeting at the device as if their life depended on it.
Finally, the signal came back:
“mmmi hear I you moaning, or is that me, the gong, it’s all the same sound is one sound; resounding with us all around us, inside and through us… smack-spank-breath-moan, ahhhhhh again, groan, grunting now, everyone’s moaning now, the whole room, activated, impassioned by the gongs, the drums are rolling harder, in tune with your tongue, all soaring and swelling, me, the drums, in concert with usssssss…”
(the DSI went dead again. OZ saw the limbic knot of Anali and their two playmates, convulsing. And then slowly coming to rest)
It stays silent for a while, then they catch one last reception …whispering now, almost inaudible:
“xplore is a sound festival
hear, hear; it’s a sound festival
for you to souunnnd, and resouunnnd”