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A reader discuss the spirituality of the Leather movement

Leather Spirituality

By Manny Cohen

It's not uncommon to hear leather folk speak of a spirituality that arises from their life- and play-style. But if you are not among their ranks you might wonder what they are talking about.

After all, non-players are unlikely to understand how enema punishments can bring you closer to the divine.

Irrevocably tied to faith-something which, by definition, can neither be proved or disproved - spirituality inspires passions, giving it the power to create and destroy, to bind or tear apart. In recognizing (or implying) the dichotomy of body and mind, and of body and soul, spirituality is a thorny topic in general that becomes even more so when tied to secular pleasures.

Because so much of Western religious philosophy eschews physical pleasures as profane, the idea of marrying spirituality and sexuality can appear to some as preposterous as the wedding of Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley.

To non-leather-believers, the relationship between a good beating and the divine is as inconceivable as the concept of an immaculate conception is to non-Christians.

So what is it about the leather lifestyle that would generate so much talk of spirituality?

Generally speaking, people who identify as spiritual (regardless of whether they identify as religious) believe they have a connection to a power greater than themselves, and that this connection creates for them an emotional experience that might manifest itself in many positive ways, from a sense of religious awe and humility to Ecstatic well being and harmony.

Like any other religious crusader, we want to share the Word. And boast. Feel joy now; ask me how.

As I see it, spirituality is very individualistic, and it is natural that many kinky folk and other "outsiders" choose to recognize their relationship with a higher power in a manner that falls outside of an established, religious dogma. Especially given how many religions' laws denigrate the value of our minds and bodies and proscribe physical pleasures for the mere purpose of physical pleasure, spirituality and kinky folk fit like hand in (leather or latex) glove.

For some of us, spirituality replaces religion (by which I mean established, organized religion) and for others-myself included-spirituality is tied to, but not intrinsically a part of religion.

I sometimes refer to myself as a "cafeteria Jew," because I choose the tenets of the faith that are meaningful to me and follow only them. I honor the Jewish laws that make sense in my heart and whose basic values I share; I discount those which don't. For instance - I don't keep kosher, but I do eat sitting down.

When someone questioned why I followed the Jewish law of sitting down when taking a meal, I explained that it's not that I believe He will smite me if I eat a bacon cheeseburger while standing up. But slowing down, taking the time to enjoy the meal, recognizing that a life was lost for my nourishment, brings me more in the moment, makes me more aware of my actions and my responsibility to the world, and more grateful for my blessings and respectful of those around me.

In this regard, my spirituality loosens the ties of religious dogma and makes my faith more personal and more open to outside ideas and influences. I share some common values and beliefs with other members of my faith, and this sharing makes me feel an emotional connection to them, just as common values and beliefs with some members of the leather community make me feel closer to them. This is the basis of community, after all.

But I also have a personal relationship with this higher power that's different from all others; because this relationship is based on my own belief system, my connection to the divine is unique, no greater or lesser than others connections, but intrinsically different. And that connection changes the way that I interact with the world around me. And it makes it better.

(Hopefully this makes sense even to the non-spiritual, who experience better sex with partners with whom they feel a connection.)

Of course, this is not to say that every time that I have sex I feel a great spiritual connection. Sometimes in the middle of the night I just want to feed my boy's hungry mouth to release some tensions, roll over and get some rest. (Besides it makes for some sweet dreams for us both.)

But in my experience, when I'm having an exceptionally good time-which only happens when I'm connecting to someone on a deep and personal level-there is a sense of transcendence of myself. During these sessions, the orgasm isn't the climax of the scene, but the connection that I feel with that other person.

During spiritual sex, we open our hearts and minds to the moment. We appreciate more than the physical pleasure during the animal act. After all, most animals fuck, but I doubt the platypus has ever experienced Nirvana.

Whether "body worship" is invoked or not, I view spiritual sex is a celebration of who we truly are, not only of our physical shells but of the souls that propel us forward. Spiritual sex makes our bodies feel good, yes, but also our spirits. Personally, I believe we are all manifestations of a higher power, and any acts which join us together makes us even more open to and a part of the universe.

At the risk of sounding too metaphysical (or like someone experiencing an acid trip), there are occasions when I have played with my boy, exploring my emotional limits or his physical limits, when I feel like I am watching our moment together from an outsider's perspective. I know what is going to happen even before it happens. At these moments, although traversing new territories, I lead scenes with confidence, feeling safe and assured, already knowing and understanding my path to get us exactly where we want and need to go. And I know when we arrive at the end of that path, we're exactly where we're supposed to be.

We are in harmony with our true individual natures, with each other, with the world at large.

It sounds like love, and I'm sure it is. In my peculiar and somewhat old-fashioned spirituality, God is still love.

In these moments, I not only feel close to my boy, I feel like a part of my boy... and that he is a part of me. In these heightened states, we are complimentary parts of the same energy, feeding each other's energies and creating something greater than both of us combined. Jerry Maguire may have said, "You complete me" as a line to preclude genuine intimacy, but spiritual sex suggests, at least for me, that we're all interconnected and need one another to feel our whole human potential.

It's this seeming contradiction of being our own men, complete on our own as individuals with distinct preferences and unique tastes, and yet, even greater when we're together, that makes these connections so powerful. This profound connection, even more than the orgasms, keeps bringing us back together.

The orgasms are just icing on the metaphysical cake.

The energy, the love, the trust, the connection that is forged when we have those moments of true power exchange and boundary pushing makes us somehow more than we were before. It also seems to me that sex with spirituality makes us better people; the connection that is made makes us more aware and more grateful for what we've been given, and with that realization is a sense of responsibility to the world around us.

Don't get me wrong-- I have nothing against sex just for the sake of getting off. It's fun and it's easy. And, for me anyway, it requires less energy.

But when we can take the time and forge those connections, there's something to be said for the long-lasting pleasures that can be found and built upon when we allow spirituality into the bedroom (or playroom).

There's something to be said for taking the time to know your partner's mind and heart, for appreciating the gift of their power or their surrender, for the pleasure they are offering and accepting.

Sex with spiritual connection may or may not end with an orgasm, but it always leaves me feeling physical satisfaction, emotional connection and increased energy. In contrast, I often find that sex without spirituality may be enjoyable but it leaves me physically fatigued, sated but mentally unengaged if not exhausted.

Good sex might lead to a nap; spiritual sex will lead to another round.

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