Essay

The Romance of Restraint

In between all the screaming and begging and cumming, there are deeper lessons available to be learned in the practice of kink. One of those lessons is about the romance of restraint.

We all know that rope is sexy and heavy steel manacles are sexy. Rigid protocol is sexy, and so is turning basic functions like eating or using the toilet into privileges that can be denied at the whim of a sadistic dominant. But what makes those things sexy? There’s more than one answer, of course, but one big theme that underlies all those yummy expressions of kink is the experience of having limits imposed, and getting to press up against those limits and feel them firmly held.

Getting what you want is nice and all, but once you’ve gotten it it’s done. Wanting something and being restrained from getting it right away has the potential to be even more exciting. When you feel the impulse to reach out and touch your lover, but you can’t because your hands are bound, your mind gets to linger in that state of wanting. The idea of their flesh against your fingertips grows more exciting and more meaningful than the act itself. Masturbating is fine and good, but eventually your energy is spent and it’s over. Being forbidden to masturbate can build up that wonderful/awful tension in your groin and keep a person floating in a haze of arousal for days.

I’m thinking about this during this moment when my local community is sheltering-in-place to slow the spread of COVID-19, and when having kinky get togethers or hookups would be unwise throughout much of the world. So much has been cancelled or postponed; so many people are feeling cooped up and anxious. But kink is all about finding different ways to look at things, and finding pleasure in challenge. You can, if you want, find ways to play with the restraint.

You can begin a new online courtship, knowing that it isn’t certain when you’ll be able to meet in person. A long, simmering exchange of messages can build tension and excitement. The uncertainty can provide intrigue, and create space to establish a connection between your minds before bringing your bodies into it.

You can exercise your imagination in long-distance play with separated partners. Write them stories about what you plan to do to them when you see them again. Dress yourself up and stage photos that will make them miss you all the more keenly. Had you been talking about negotiating a detailed contract to take your power exchange to a new level? Now’s a perfect time. The distance can help you stay focused on the big picture rather than falling into your day-to-day routine.

Sheltering with a partner? What a unique opportunity to try out truly 24/7 kink. Just be prepared for being kept naked and chained all day to feel different in reality than it did in your imagination, and let it go if it doesn’t truly work for all involved. If you’re into playing with fantasy, well now you’ve been abducted by aliens and caged together as part of their human breeding experiment.

I’m not making light of the crisis we’re all in. It’s life-and-death for millions of people, and financial hardship or ruin for millions more. It ain’t a fun, kinky game. But while we take the serious steps of social distancing, maintaining essential services and supporting loved ones in need, life still goes on. We need to remain hopeful and find ways to stay connected and feel energized through trying times, and kink offers us some valuable tools for doing so.