Dr. Denise Renye
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Some sexual experiences can offer a space for people to step into a vast and deep world of discovery, transformation, and revelation, much akin to the possibilities available through a psychedelic experience. Sexual spaces wherein there is an intention set, such as high-integrity tantric experiences and BDSM/kink, can offer a potential for healing and transformation that could deepen your connection with self and others. The space of kink, more specifically, BDSM (bondage/discipline, dominance/submission, and sadism/masochism), intersects with psychedelics when each are imbued with intentionality.

Being both a certified sexologist with years of academic and real-world experience professionally as well as a certified psychedelic researcher and therapist, I frequently work with patients, clients, and students in these two areas. Kink is a term used to describe nontraditional and nonconventional sexual concepts, or practices. Kink can be fantasized about, set up as a one-time (or ongoing) scene to enact, utilized as masturbation material alone or with partners, or physically played out with a chosen consensual partner or partners. Conservatively speaking, one person may consider anything outside of heterosexual, missionary-style intercourse as kink. However, more commonly understood forms include, but are not limited to, spanking, foot play, role-playing, voyeurism, exhibitionism, and BDSM overall. The term “kink” derives from the idea of a “bend” in one’s sexual behavior in contrast to “straight” or “vanilla” sexual mores and proclivities.

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The following are some examples of BDSM. Just as kink can be understood as an umbrella term encompassing BDSM as one of its elements, BDSM can also be understood as an umbrella term for multiple ways of encompassing a wide variety of sexual play options: rope play (tying your lover or play partner up; shibari, domination (exerting control over), pet play and training (teaching how to be disciplined, well behaved, and perhaps even do a trick or two), tickling (a form of consensual control of another person’s body), age play (littles and bigs), humiliation, impact play (sexual gratification through striking), cuckolding (witnessing an “infidelity” personal to you), and erotic forms of discipline. Again, to be clear, both kink and BDSM require conscious consent from each partner. Without consent, it may quickly veer into abuse.

It is necessary that consent be established well before engagement in any sexual encounter as well as prior to any psychedelic encounter. There is no grey area to be tolerated here.

It is imperative to distinguish between abusive sexual and interpersonal dynamics and the intentional engagement and practice of BDSM. Engaging in kink-play necessitates consent. Consent is verbal. Consent is enthusiastic. Consent is patient. It is necessary that consent be established well before engagement in any sexual encounter as well as prior to any psychedelic encounter. There is no grey area to be tolerated here. This concept of consent is also applicable to the psychedelic journey. The preparation before a journey is where consent is established and verbally agreed upon. Part of the preparation is consent and also intention setting. Intention setting is something BDSM and psychedelic journeys share that can help guide the experience.

Set and Setting: Preparation

“Set and setting” is a phrase commonly used in the psychedelic field. “Set,” meaning mindset, or frame of mind at a given time, or generally over a period of time. The mindset of someone who is considering a psychedelic journey is important. It also helps to have a foundational psychological and spiritual understanding of yourself. Familiarity with your internal landscape and what to expect logistically can aide in the relationship with your inner world on the journey and beyond.

The mindset that you have when you enter into a BDSM scene is also important. This phrase “set and setting” is not one commonly used in the field of sexology, though it could easily be adopted to help people understand the gravitas of these experiences. The idea of “set” can also be expanded to understand the co-created mindset of the folx participating in the journey or scene, whether an individual experience, couple, or group together with the person or people who are facilitating the experience.

Psychedelic journeys are not for everyone at every time in life, and BDSM play is not for everyone at every time in life. Each has their place and each deserves the time and attention needed to prepare for such a deep dive endeavor.

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If your mindset feels off, hesitant, or intense, consider postponing, rescheduling, or even canceling. Psychedelic journeys are not for everyone at every time in life, and BDSM play is not for everyone at every time in life. Each has their place and each deserves the time and attention needed to prepare for such a deep dive endeavor. Journal about it and discuss it with your therapist or shaman and your partners. If your partners are not understanding, this is good information, as you want to be with people who respect your boundaries, needs, and desires. It is imperative that you have partners and facilitators that respect you in all ways.

What is Setting?

“Setting,” means environment and ambiance. Setting is important for the practice and engagement of exploration and healing through informed and intentional psychedelic use, as well as informed and intentional BDSM play. If the ambiance is disruptive or non-supportive to your experience, this can have a detrimental effect on the journey or scene.

A few ways to create a conducive setting for either a psychedelic journey or BDSM scene are to use an altar and participate in a cleaning ritual. Altars honor this space as being different than ordinary space. Consider creating an altar with items that deeply speak to you and may symbolize your intentions. A small elephant that was on one of my client’s altars during their journey experience proved to be helpful for them to add and keep on their altar after they traveled back to the US post-journey. This helped to integrate their internal experience and connect to what their journey was about. The elephant symbolized a remover of obstacles between them being firmly grounded in the now versus dissociating from the body.

A student of mine in a human sexuality course spoke of an altar they and a partner created before a scene. They were working with the idea of sensual embodiment as a vehicle to move through trauma from early childhood sexual abuse. On their altar they placed a figurine of a flamenco dancer, something that symbolized sensual embodiment and tied into their early years as a dancer.

A cleaning ritual can mark the space between ordinary and non-ordinary. It sets the tone that this is special, or sacred space. This space is different from the ordinary space that one typically occupies in mundane life. Cleansing the body can be done by bathing in water and it can also be done by burning dried plants or herbs.

Be sure to research what you would like to have burned, if you would like the sense of smell to be a part of your experience. Oftentimes, burning a sacred plant that is not of your heritage may be cultural appropriation. Naming the Native American tribe whose land you are on is a small way to acknowledge privilege and history.

At the present moment, it’s very important to have an ambiance wherein the person receiving can be relaxed and comfortable, especially if the overall setting is more clinical, such as a doctor’s office or hospital. Alicia Danforth, a teacher in the Center for Psychedelic Therapies and Research program that I attended, taught about the importance of setting up a room with soft fabrics, complementary colors, and pleasing aesthetics.

Kink/BDSM doesn’t necessarily involve a mind-altering substance, but it too can have a transcendent edge to explore and go beyond if the frame/container of the kink/BDSM play is well-established and maintained.

With both psychedelics and kink/BDSM, it will most likely be an intense experience that pushes boundaries beyond what one has experienced in this lifetime. Kink/BDSM doesn’t necessarily involve a mind-altering substance, but it too can have a transcendent edge to explore and go beyond if the frame/container of the kink/BDSM play is well-established and maintained. The play itself and the connection between or among the partners is the medicine. Both offer the possibility of an alternative state of consciousness and should be deeply honored.

With a container that is established and honored, together with thorough aftercare, the experience of a scene can span from ecstatic to a sense of an ego death into a rebirth.

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People may experience an alternate state of consciousness when they enter into the depths of a sub/dom space. It can be like opening a door to the depths of the cosmos, within and between. People can enter into a liminal space when in play or a deep emotional scene. Truths can be shared and experienced. They can go to the edge of the universe, beyond, and back again. With a container that is established and honored, together with thorough aftercare, the experience of a scene can span from ecstatic to a sense of an ego death into a rebirth.

Aftercare and Integration

Aftercare can be likened to the integration work accompanying psychedelic experiences. The aftercare period is one wherein the intensity of what was just experienced can be assimilated and made use of psychologically, physically, spiritually, and energetically. It is a way to metabolize what occurred in the liminal space. Deep healing and transformation can continue as a result of carving out this space.

An aftercare agreement should be established prior to the experience and includes each individual voicing how they would like to be nurtured and held (physically, emotionally, and spiritually) after the experience. The altered state of consciousness can last beyond the established play time, which is why aftercare is so important. Arguably, aftercare makes an experience worthwhile and can provide an understanding of what some symbols in the play may mean.

If someone has trauma and would like to consciously explore healing through a kink/BDSM experience, they must have a contract and agreements with the other party/parties. When there are contracts, and intentions created, the possibilities of the depths of healing through this type of play can be endless. When there is trust, the space they enter into becomes sacred and, in sacred space, a plethora of healing opportunities abound.

People are vulnerable when their bodies somatically remember a traumatic event. The kink/BDSM scene provides an opportunity for individuals to have agency in ways they did not during the traumatic event. The richness of opportunity for healing in kink/BDSM is deep. Please note that not everyone who enjoys BDSM has a history of abuse, trauma, or neglect. There are no generalizations across the board regarding any type of sexual play someone enjoys.

Similarly, the richness of opportunity for healing with psychedelic medicine is deep. More and more, research is proving what indigenous peoples have known for hundreds, or possibly thousands of years. Science is finally catching up.

Combining Psychedelics with Kink/BDSM

Do not (do not!) engage in a kink scene for the first time with someone involving psychedelics if you have not had enjoyable, safe, and pleasurable experiences with the person or people already.

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If you’re interested in having a kink/BDSM experience while on a psychedelic, definitely know your partners, and know them well. Do not (do not!) engage in a kink scene for the first time with someone involving psychedelics if you have not had enjoyable, safe, and pleasurable experiences with the person or people already.

The other thing to keep in mind is dosage. Being well educated is key. You can always add more, so start low and consider staying low. When the dosage gets higher, it may be hard to stay present with the kink/BDSM scene. Also, be aware of your own sensitivity levels; everyone is so very different. One person’s “disco dose” (a dose larger than a micro dose) might just be another’s “heroic dose” (a high dose). I repeat, dosage is extremely relative.

Really, the most important thing is to trust yourself. Learn what you’re comfortable with and pay attention to that while slowly exploring. Education is key with both of these sensitive topics.

Art by Marialba Quesada.


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