Radical Ecstasy: SM Journeys to Transcendence, by Dossie Easton and Janet W. Hardy
Greenery Press, 189015962X, 215 pp., 2004
Though this is the first work I have read by either author, Radical Ecstasy is the sixth book Dossie Easton and Janet Hardy have written together. Early in it becomes clear that each have something different to offer, and without the other the book wouldn’t be nearly as strong. Dossie, who usually subs, tends to view things from a more spiritual and Pagan perspective, whereas Janet, who usually tops, approaches the same material from a more secular or agnostic angle. Both are delightfully frank and forthright in expressing their beliefs and experiences.
Radical Ecstasy avoids a dogmatic approach to the spiritual applications of SM; the authors write: “we find it easier and more relevant to talk about the process that we use for believing things than it is for us to talk about what those beliefs might or might not actually be”. This agnostic approach leaves the reader free to apply their ideas regardless of the reader’s personal spirituality and practice. They also provide one of the best descriptions of ritual I’ve encountered: “for our purposes, ritual can be like a container that defines the mental space we are operating in, and that protects that space, keeping it, and use, safe and inviolate”.
This isn’t a how-to book; the authors describe their experiences with what they term ‘transcendent SM’, and reflect on why it’s worked for them and provide suggestions for techniques the reader can put into practice. They make it clear that this should not be one’s first introduction to SM, and so assumes some familiarity with the psychology and practice on the part of the reader. Naturally, they also caution that one should always do what feels right, in a responsible way, between consenting adults – the usual, but necessary, disclaimer.
Their transcendental BDSM contains elements of tantra and western sex magick, as well as SM, role-playing, and the usual kinky techniques, and they make it clear that anyone can play: women, men, bi, gay, straight, transgendered, gender-queer – representative of just about all expressions of sexuality. For the authors, sex is “a way to connect to ourselves, to others, to our tribe, to everybody, to nature, to the cosmos. A truly holy communion – open to everything”, and it’s clear that they live what they write.
While the majority of the text is presented from the perspective of both authors, a number of sections are written in first person with the speaker identified by grey Ds or Js running in columns for the length of these passages. Initially I thought this would prove distracting, but I was surprised to find this easy to adjust to, and it is their personal descriptions that really make this book work – not just the hot scenes, but their emotive and spiritual responses to them.
While I’m agreed that Radical Ecstasy should not be one’s first introduction to SM, as a first look at transcendental SM, it provides a good place to start.