Friday, January 11, 2002

Bottoming to God

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #173, January 11, 2002)

So what were you doing in the dungeon last night? However you might answer that question, I submit that although you might not have been consciously aware of it you were also studying philosophy, theology and the humanities. You were experiencing and studying an allegory of the human condition.

As human beings, we’re all submissives and we’re all bottoming to—God? The Devil? Fate? Life? If we’re the slaves, who’s the Master? And who’s the DM (Dungeon Master), the person who’s supposed to be watching to make sure things don’t get out of control?

Many cultures down through the centuries have had a lot to say about those questions and the whole idea of submission, and sometimes the images they create are quite striking to modern BDSM eyes. Example: I recently saw a photo of a large group of Muslim men kneeling during prayer, bowed down about as flat to the ground as they could get. Was there ever a more perfect image of submission? The word “Islam” literally translates to “submission,” in this case to the will of Allah (which translates to “God” and is in fact the same God around which Judeo-Christian religions are built). The word “Muslim” translates as “one who submits.”

Good Lutherans everywhere confess their sins by acknowledging in unison that “we are in bondage to sin and cannot free ourselves.” (I guess that would be bottoming to the devil.)

That same sentiment has led to a variety of religious and spiritual people throughout history who have beat themselves as part of their penance or to induce mystical visions. A wonderful overview of masochistic submission throughout history can be found in a fascinating article entitled “Masochism as a Spiritual Path” at

Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana, based on secular 13th-century German poetry, opens and closes with “Fortune, Empress of the World.” The song, which bemoans (in Latin) the fact that everyone must submit to the vicissitudes of Fortune and fate, includes these lines that ring true with BDSM players everywhere: “Now through the game/I bring my bare back/to your villainy.”

Unlike a BDSM scene, our lives don’t come with a safeword. If the car is going hopelessly out of control or I’ve just been told the tumor is malignant, I can yell “RED!” all I want and it won’t make any difference. Life is often not safe, not sane and doesn’t seem to ask for our consent before dishing out pain. Life can seem downright abusive sometimes.

BDSM play can be a way of coming to terms with the seeming randomness and abusiveness of life and the human condition, a way of safely, sanely and consensually exploring concepts of submission, dominance and power. For some of us who have been through situations where life went totally beyond our control (a few examples: rape, childhood or domestic abuse, major illness, alcoholism or other addictions), BDSM play can be a way of both becoming comfortable with our powerlessness and paradoxically reclaiming our own personal power.

Because we engage in BDSM play, one of the names we have for ourselves is “players.” Shakespeare famously said that “All the world ‘s a stage, and all the men and women merely”—here’s that word—“players.” He said this, appropriately enough, in As You Like It, which could be the motto of dominants everywhere.

Perhaps we could make a word substitution and say “All the world’s a dungeon, and all the men and women merely players.” In that spirit, here’s something to contemplate as the holidays recede and a new year starts: a BDSM Prayer, a Prayer for Players.


As I have entered this dungeon called Life,
Here with all Your other submissives,
Teach me the value of submission.
May I strive to do as You command,
Realizing that You will nothing for me that I do not will for myself.
Brand Your name on my heart,
Put Your chain around my neck,
Lock it with Your “Master”-emblazoned lock,
Put me on Your leash,
And lead me where You would have me go.
May I submit to every other Master You send me,
And teach me to be a wise Master to other submissives of whom You put me in charge.
From both may I learn much, and teach as much as I learn.
Help me to remember not only that there can be pleasure in pain
But that there is often pain hidden in pleasure.
And when my time in the dungeon is through,
Lead me,
Still with Your chain around my neck,
Out of the dungeon,
And take me home with You.

Glory be to the Master,
And to His Boy,
And to the Chain that is the Holy Spirit,
Binding me to You.

Upcoming Leather Events (for Calendar section)

Atons Leather/Levi Dinner and Installation of Officers
Saturday evening, Jan. 12; It’s Greek to Me (626 W. Lake St., Minneapolis)
Presented by the Atons, open to all. Drinks at 7 PM in the bar, dinner at 7:30 PM in the downstairs banquet room. Call the Atons HotLine for reservations or more information.

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