Etsugyaku

In Shibari, Etsugyaku is the ideal of pleasure and pain. Even though for the Western mentality pain and pleasure are opposites, for the Japanese tradition you can actually combine them to create something bigger. As in all BDSM practices, pain is not an end in itself, but rather a necessary state to reach the highest pleasures.

“Etsu” means pleasure, and “gyaku” translates as “abuse”. So, by the combination of these two terms, we get the idea that Etsugyaku is a form of pleasure that stems from abuse. However, we must always remember that BDSM practices, even the most painful and abusive, must be consensual and previously negotiated.

Etsugyaku is a philosophy based on the integration of opposites. It’s similar to the ying/yang, and some other examples offered by Eastern thought. If we take a moment to think about it, we will discover that, actually, pleasure is not available in any “pure” form in reality. For example, even the most vanilla, conventional sexual intercourse implies the pain of penetration, and that doesn’t make it a bit less attractive for those involved.

So, Etsugyaku is not a validation of abuse, but rather the acknowledgment that all pleasure comes with a dose of pain. Also, that that what seem irreconcilable opposites can actually combine into something more profound and meaningful.

It is also an invitation to explore your own dark side, and your limits. Psychology teaches us that there are aspects of our personality hidden even to ourselves. Acknowledging and embracing such repressed and unaccepted aspects can actually enrich our personality and help us overcome whatever harm these hidden aspects were doing to us.

Etsugyaku is one of the foundations of Shibari and Kinbaku, one of the reasons why it is more than just a bondage technique.

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