Tuesday, May 23, 2006

impossibility of authentic connection, part 4

The western cultural mythos tells us that the ultimate place for people to connect is during a sexual encounter. Stale sex is nothing new to human experience, and while I personally am not familiar with the full musical canon on BDSM, I think that some of the emotional struggles involved of that kind of sexuality can be found in “Bestrafe mich,” “Bück dich,” and “Feuerrader.”

Putting these three songs on a continuum means putting “Bestrafe mich” first, because it’s about the agreement between master and submissive; “Feuerrader” second, because it is the submissive requesting discipline; and “Bück dich” third because the sexual act is viewed from the master’s perspective. (I promised no more songs and that’s my story, but if one wanted, one could put “Keine Lust” and “Rein raus” on the list. But I’m not.) BDSM is a perpetual mindset, so no ending song, so to speak, is necessarily required because the mindset doesn’t leave the participants.

“Bestrafe mich” begins with the submissive granting service to the master, which, in BDSM relationships, is the highest gift a submissive can give. The lyrics “deine Größe macht mich klein / du darfst mein Bestrafer sein” are not about physical size, but psychological size. I’ve thought a lot about the lines “Stroh wird Gold / und Gold wird Stein,” and without external consultation, the best I can come up with is the way that submission and discipline make a submissive stronger, i.e., through emotional and psychological self-discipline. (If you’re hearing parallels to Christianity, congratulations—you get your choice of stuffed animals from the top shelf.) All choice is taken away from the submissive until the submissive chooses to leave the master’s service. This self-discipline is difficult, though, and it’s brilliantly illustrated in the simple lines “du meinst ja / und ich denk nein.” The ambiguity of the submissive’s relationship to himself comes through in the way the song is sung. The lyrics read that the submissive keeps his thoughts to himself, yet the performance carries a force behind the phrase “ich denk nein” that is usually reserved for a spoken phrase. This emphasizes the submissive’s engagement in yet another battle of will and discipline. Finally, the submissive’s uncertainty about the master’s devotion to him is illustrated in the final lines: “doch gibt er nur dem / den er auch liebt.” The best connection the submissive can manage to gain is no better than he began with.

“Feurrader” moves us into a more intense part of the BDSM relationship. The submissive asks for physical restraint, i.e., to be tied, collared and leashed. The submissive encourages it because through restraint comes release—but not freedom, since freedom would signify the end of the relationship. The grooves of this encounter are familiar to the submissive, who has a plan in mind for the session and expects it to bring him emotionally closer to the master: “wir feiern eine Leidenschaft / der Schmerz ist schön wie du.” The ambiguity here is reduced, and oddly, the circumstances create a scene that’s about as intimate as two people can get in Rammstein’s songs. What little ambiguity is present comes from the near-complete absence of the master’s presence in the lyrics.

Finally, “Bück dich” is a portrait of a master who cracks during a session. The actions of the submissive, who is totally compliant, only make the master’s hollowness more pronounced. In a classic BDSM maneuver, the master refers to the submissive as a “biped” and “two-foot” rather than by anything more distinctive. He repeats acts of domination—forcing the submissive to kneel down, further denying his identity by refusing to look at his face—yet the master cries during penetration. The intimacy that we search for in sexual encounters, even casual ones to some extent, is blocked here. The dominance and submission game, instead of bringing the sexual partners closer together as its proponents insists it does, has only made this master aware of his emotional emptiness. But with whom can he connect? Certainly not his submissive, because that would violate the code by which masters conduct themselves. He has the freedom to leave, but for now, he chooses to remain in the position of the master. So long as he does that, he will not be able to achieve fulfilling intimacy with anyone.

Okay, that’s enough on this theme for now. There’s an entire book here, waiting to be written.

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