Sexuality and spirituality are often treated as opposing concepts, but Lee Harrington makes it clear that the sacred and the profane are not so far removed from one another. Sexual and religious exploration can take place at the same time, often using the same tools and methods, with powerful results. Sacred Kink is a sex-positive (and quite sexy) study of the search for meaning, self and identity through BDSM. Harrington calls upon an amazing scope of religious study, weaving aspects of Buddhism, paganism, and dozens of other faiths through his depictions of sexual play. He deconstructs the power behind the rituals of yoga, sexual relationship dichotomies (e.g., Master/slave) and role-playing, monkish asceticism, body piercing, ecstatic dance, and so many other concepts. This book is densely packed with information, so reading it is a slow but rewarding process.
Each chapter contains factual studies of "tools of the trade", drawing parallels between tools of the traditional spiritual variety (e.g., chanting, meditation, fasting) and the traditional tools of kink (e.g., floggers, costumes, leathers). This book is definitely not a dry-mouthed religious studies text, though. Sacred Kink is ripe with suggestions for personal practice, setting up scenarios for the healthy and adventurous exploration of control, sharing, enticement, curiosity, power, weakness, and the infinite. In addition, each of the eight chapters begins, splits, and ends with a steamy first-person narrative that illustrates the core concepts of the chapter. These erotic stories, set apart visually from the instructive or academic segments, help to draw out the meaning and significance of the chapters.
Harrington doesn't shy away from tackling high-stakes issues and activities -- breath and blood flow play, astral projection, partaking of mind-altering substances, even offering one's body up as a vessel for a deity to ride. Such situations could overpower an unprepared practitioner, but if approached with planning, intention and a loving support network, could open up a whole new corner of the universe for the lucky supplicants, or illuminate dark, forgotten corners and offer a precious chance for healing. All of the paths Harrington explores are laced with softly worded warnings. He includes lots of preparatory questions to ask oneself, mundane factors to address beforehand and during set-up, reminders to check in with yourself and your partner(s). The language is comforting, humorous, and always open - he assures us that even if a scene doesn't quite go the way it was supposed to, it can still be a success as long as everyone brings positive energy to the gathering.
This book might be a little heavy for a novice looking for an instructive guide; however, Harrington's friendly tone is welcoming and reassuring , so the book could be useful as a source of inspiration, even if you can't put the ideas into practice right away. Sacred Kink would be ideal for someone looking to push beyond their borders, a seeker looking to take another step forward. Or you could just flip through for the naughty bits. There is so much for a reader to take from this book and for that reason, it can be whatever you wish to make of it. (Thanks to Ms. Stephanie Morris for reviewing this with me!)