I started reading Carolyn Elliott’s Existential Kink because of this blog post, am 1/3 through, and cannot imagine a book that could more appeal to me while also belonging to a genre that will say, “What [this book] is presenting to you here is … a witchy, tricksy, feminine path to enlightenment that’s quite a bit different than the more publicly vaunted, masculine routes of asceticism, contemplation, and yogic saintliness.”
The ultimate operation the book is trying to perform on the reader, assuming the reader has preexisting masochistic tendencies they can amplify, is to get them to notice the pleasure they can potentially take in the most uncomfortable moments of their lives and reframe it as pleasure.
The worldview/aesthetic the book tries to impart:[I thought,] “God is one kinky-ass motherfucker. God—the divine—whatever He/She/IT is—creates this world, and this world is a gonzo horror show of war and rape and abuse and addiction and disaster. If God is running the show, God must like it this way!” Now, you might guess that a thought like that would lead to some kind of terrible nihilistic breakdown. But for me… actually, it didn’t. Instead, it made me smile—perversely—and gave me a feeling of lightness, play, and possibility. …Well if God is a kinky freak and I’m a part of God like all these “spiritual” people say, maybe deep down I’m a kinky freak too. And maybe I can get more in touch with my divine nature by giving myself permission to like all the scary stuff in life, instead of just resenting it. …I propose that all our suffering and stuckness in life comes from forgetting that we’re divine sparks playing a wild kinky game and that great miracles can come forth in our lives when we reverse the process of forgetting by deliberately reclaiming the pleasure of the game.
The title is well chosen! The book is trying to get the reader to treat life itself as one big BDSM scene that they can lean into if they want.
Which, this is a weird sell, but it happens that I’m totally into this and have been doing it on my own*, so having someone dump a whole framework of doing life that extends this is delightful and intellectually stimulating!
* I used to be normally socially anxious where I just felt awful, but these days when I’m uncomfortable because I said something stupid or cruel, or someone’s pushing my boundaries, 50% of the time I notice and go, “whoa, I’m uncomfortable, that’s interesting and nice in a way”. I do this simply because it’s better to feel nice and interested than awful. Raw misery is hard to spin this way, but anything complicated where there’s some human nuance in it provides a launchpad for this transition.
The author describes “orgasmic meditation” where she lies down for a time-limited period, focuses on the sensation as someone rubs her clit, and does not attempt to change the kind of stimuli she is receiving. There are obviously strokes she likes and strokes she is less into, and part of the point is to expand the range of things she can enjoy – going from “oh, not this one” to “yes, even this one”. And you can apply this same process to, well, life:
This practice of “getting off on every stroke” can, by analogy, be extended beyond the context of Orgasmic Meditation (or sex) and be applied to life, wherein one considers everything that happens as a “stroke.” As in, comments that other people make to you—those are strokes. Surprising situations that arise—those are strokes. A critical monologue from some inner voice—those are strokes.
Also very congruent with how I (would like to) think of life.
I would never recommend this book broadly. Either you’re open to being expansively masochistic like this appealing or you aren’t. But man is it good at articulating a cohesive is+ought framework that, if you could lean into it, can get you to do this top-down reinterpretation of more experiences as pleasurable.
#(I’m going to be ragging on this‚ so I want to say upfront that if you are someone who gets something valuable out of this then that’s great #and you should live your joy) #(I reserve my emotions here for the pattern‚ not the readers) #…okay maybe this is overly meta but I *am* kind of fascinated by my visceral revulsion at this? #it’s kind of trainwrecky‚ I think #somebody actually managed to combine #”zealousness-of-converts!Buddhists waxing lyrical about how being a p-zombie is the highest form of existence” #and ”those assholes in kink spaces who think that because *they’re* into BDSM that everyone with non-normative sexual interests is too” #(with a touch of salvia memory-game shit for flavour!) #I did not expect to see *those* synthesised #(and yet it makes so much sense in hindsight) #and I have to take my hat off to it even as I hate every fibre of its being #tag rambles #sexuality and lack thereof #is the blue I see the same as the blue you see #nsfw text #amnesia cw #death tw? #I don’t know‚ what’s the content warning for enlightenment