Dark Eros is the part of our erotic nature…or creature as I sometimes think of it…that we generally keep hidden. Out of the light. It can include things that are considered taboo, perverse, or morally inappropriate by the parent culture, family friends, and intimate others.
The common motif as erotic expression is oriented around Dominance/submission (D/s), bondage, discipline, sado-masochism (BDSM) and all manner of fetish-oriented sexual practices. The D/s aspect involves the consciously, consensually polarized day-to-day or moment-to-moment interaction between the Dominant and the submissive in relationship together. It does not necessarily include an erotic aspect.
The essence of D/s can be noble and mythic/romantic. The Dominant can embrace their King or Queen archetype—the one who blesses others, brings joy, holds the wisdom of the sage, sets the vision, guides and teaches, keeps order, sets clear agreements and boundaries, etc. The submissive can fully embrace devotion, service, surrender, attentiveness, nurturing energy, et al. The Dominant/submissive dynamic is usually part of an ongoing relationship, but aspects do come into play in a BDSM scene.
The Dark Eros or BDSM side—the erotic/sexual side—is dark energy. The taboo, the forbidden, things that hurt, that are cruel, savage wildness.
It can also be tender and sensual, if that is the preference, or the two styles can be mixed. The sensual and the D/s side is where many people like to keep their energy. But there are those who are drawn to stretch it out to the dark edges.
Through ritual practices, the “dark” side or shadow energy can be explored, expressed and honored. These shadows can be archetypal sub-personas that show up in our dark desires. They come in pairs and counterparts such as predator/prey, rapist/victim, Daddy/daughter, Mommy/son, stud/slut, abuser/abused or any combo you can imagine. They can be drawn to inflicting or receiving physical or emotional pain, degradation, objectification or humiliation.
These can be risky energies to unleash. But these can be risky energies to not unleash safely, versus revealing them in the “real world” in shadowy, unhealthy, or non-consensual ways. To explore Dark Eros requires a deep level of trust and communication to create a ritual path where these dark energies can be safely revealed, explored, and expressed.
When approached consciously and honorably, none of these expressions necessarily involve anything criminal, unsafe, or damaging at any level. Yet like any endeavor, there is risk, and there is reward.
If one has the courage and authentic desire to explore, this path can be a gateway to deep healing and insight into conscious or unconscious emotional traumas around sexuality or other issues. It can offer relief from the harsh internal judgments, fears, shame and guilt we may have carried all our lives about our desires. Not to mention the intensely erotic sensations and expressions liberated in the emotional and physical body and ultimately the soul through stepping into one’s own Dark Eros.
Not everyone may carry aspects of Dark Eros as authentic parts of themselves. But studies by Kinsey and others have revealed that at least 20% of the population had an interest in fetish aspects of Eros. The Kinsey study was done over 50 years ago. I would suspect, with the proliferation and viewing of sexual content on the internet, the percentage worldwide is far greater. This is a significant subculture. Like the gay and lesbian cultures 40 years ago, those who may be defined as the Fetish subculture are not generally accepted, embraced, blessed or honored by the culture at large. In fact, they are often vilified, caricaturized or persecuted. And so, it remains hidden.
The world of Dark Eros is a rough, compelling terrain, rarely explored in a conscious, mature, sacred way. It is generally taboo to even raise the idea for discussion. Yet the parent culture is awash in commercial media at all levels that is erotically driven to get us to buy, listen to or watch things. All of that is considered normal, OK ….. but don’t reveal or express what is awash in your own consciousness.
There is an unreasonable and irrational fear cast over Eros in most regards. Most people go through their whole lives, never revealing what burns inside them. They fear being judged and shamed, and the consequences that might befall them if their secret world is discovered. People are locked down by feelings of guilt, frustration, lack of confidence, unworthiness. People are physically shut down due to this cultural fear around Eros and/or early childhood or adolescent traumas. Some have the willpower and enough fear to keep their Eros buried. Others keep it alive in secret, and at times undertake high-risk behaviors to fulfill their desire.
To carry such deep fear about being authentic and true to who we are erotically, is as unhealthy as it would be in any other aspect of our personality. In terms of respected human qualities and needs for fulfillment, Eros has always been the bastard of personality. Eros is not of the same revered rank as our intellectual, creative, emotional and spiritual aspects. It is often the last in line for our attention, if allowed in the line at all.
The psychology of Dark Eros often consists of remnants of our primitive, savage, wild, heritage… the beast. As these are inherent biological and psychological traits, they are all very much alive in each of us, despite our civilized posture. These primitive instinctual desires around Dark Eros are generally regulated by shadow (sub or semi-conscious, protective, passive/aggressive behaviors that hide, protect or avoid dealing with something true), or are projected deeper into the unconscious to denial, into the “nice people aren’t like this” bin. This can often lead to projecting the “evil” onto others in the local or universal world, and disowning it in ourselves.
As skilled as the shadow may be at keeping the truth hidden, it is almost inevitable that the explicit behavior the shadow is trying to protect can be unceremoniously revealed while caught in the forbidden act. Think of all the famous men of god and men of the state or entertainers caught roaming recklessly in their dark erotic reality, and made into high-profile examples.
Calling up these hidden or repressed parts can also raise their counterparts. The ones that have been so successful at holding our erotic truth in check. The counterparts may have to do with a variety of subconscious fears, guilt, shame, cultural or religious morality.
Both parts have distinct personas. They contain voice, point of view, emotion and intention. The repressed side may be held in check by the voice and internal messages from a stern, morally rigid father, or shaming mother for example. The sometimes painful and foreboding inner messages we hear are powerful in the subconscious, and for most of us have been highly effective at holding back our sexual truth. These parts seldom go away, just because one has finally crossed the threshold of your desire.
Dark Tantra is a personal practice I have developed that helps to create a safe ritual container for me to explore Dark Eros. It is a practice that weaves the elements of Light and Dark Eros together. I consider light and dark as the yin/yang of Eros.
Liberating the erotic parts of ourselves that have been hidden or repressed in everyday life can be therapeutic and joyous. It can create healing, wholeness and acceptance of who we are in all ways, generating greater self-love.
Dark Tantra employs ritual, breath, movement, bodywork, discussion and other methods to help practitioners engage these resistances and learn how they operate in one’s life. What is it exactly, they are afraid might happen? Bringing these protector and judgmental parts into conscious awareness and finding some resolution helps to unhook them from the emotional and physical body. Without their emotional and physical power (disconnection from the erotic body, clenched throat, knotted stomach, etc), one becomes more free to make conscious choice about the value or not of their judgments, bestowing greater capacity to be present and more fully embodied in one’s Eros.
Dark Tantra supports one to honor and express the full spectrum of their Eros, in a sacred, mature way.
‘In a sacred way’ means to allow what is true to have a safe and welcoming place to exist, to be witnessed, encouraged, honored, loved.
Soul Work and Spiritual Work
To understand Dark Eros further I want to describe a distinction between what I consider soul work and spiritual work.
Tantra is a spiritual practice. It is ascendant, metaphysical, out of the body, supra-conscious, universal. It uses techniques of breath, touch and ritual to transform sexual energy into a connection with Spirit.
Dark Tantra is a soul practice. It is descendent, physical, into the body, rooted in the earth. It engages all the ancestral psychologies/biologies we inherit in our bodies and subconscious psychologies from the amoeboid, reptilian, mammalian and hominid. The soul in this definition is manifested in the physical and emotional body, the instinctual, primitive, wilder-ness aspects of consciousness.
As opposed to the transcendent path from the root thru the crown chakra of traditional Tantra, into the realm of spirit, Dark Tantra is a descendent path into the roots of the soul. A deep dive into the physical and emotional unconscious.
In terms of Dark Eros, these primitive aspects of our sexuality show up as archetypes and personas in the unconscious. They are related in most primitive form to the archetypes of predator and prey (reptilian consciousness). They become more contemporized and complex as sadist and masochist, and more refined still, through a pantheon of diads for which either gender can hold either aspect (master/slave, rapist/victim, older/younger, parent/child, etc). For some, there can be a powerful erotic draw to either of these poles.
The path of Dark Eros is rich in mythic psychological content and deeply erotic intensity. It puts us face to face with our deepest fears and most hidden, unconscious desires and personas that operate in us daily. In this regard it can be approached as a deeply sacred exploration of healing, conscious awareness, intimacy and trust, not just sexual pleasure…or perversity as the case may be.
It can put us in touch with primitive, instinctual parts of ourselves that are still alive in us, physical and psychological, but that as civilized creatures, we are expected to ignore, hide or eliminate. This particular strategy of civilization, judging by the rampant cruelty, barbarity, inhumanity, and sadism rampant in the war zones all over the world—or closer to home, in our communities or schools or homes—does not work very well.
Across that line that separates Light Eros from Dark lies a wilderness that is still mostly unexplored. Here, as in every wilderness or parts of the world unexplored or taboo, is where we place all of our boogie men. Everything good and wholesome stays in civilized culture. Everything primitive, evil, scary and dark gets banished into the wilderness of our subconscious internally, and projected onto our enemies or other sub-populations externally.
Within the wilderness of the subconscious lies all our primitive, fierce, instinctual, passions and desires. Here also reside all our shadow personas. The parts of us that are predatory, undemocratic, cruel, unfair.
I wonder how many reading this, have stood at the edge of the taboo, forbidden, inappropriate, sordid aspects of their sexuality. The desire is powerful in a moment. The temptation is great. But the fear of crossing the line into the dark can be palpable, and a strong deterrent.
But for many, it doesn’t leave…the desire. It finds a hidden path somehow. It is acted out in secret, and in sometimes risky or destructive ways, hidden from those closest to us. Or it is suppressed to the subconscious, where it may be transformed into irritability, or ADD, or compulsive eating or other health and psychological issues.
The reasons we hesitate at the edge have little to do with Dark Eros, but with the fear of being ostracized from the acceptable. Most of us hide true aspects of our sexual persona…and for good reason! Our parent culture does not offer a safe, sacred place to honor and discuss the full spectrum of Eros. Nor does the parent culture honor, bless and respect any but the narrowest view of acceptable sexual practice. In fact, the fear of shaming, ostracization, loss of employment, family and friends can leave many of us hidden or shadowy about our true sexual desire. Some of us are deep in shame and guilt and can’t get past the fear of speaking openly about our desires to those closest to us. Some become consumed by fantasy, masturbation or porn rather than risk openly expressing what’s true. Many of us were emotionally wounded (shamed or terrorized) around our sexuality, if not in fact sexually abused. We may have developed shyness or embarrassment, loss of trust, loss of confidence. We may have internalized the harsh voice of moral judgment from our father or mother, religion or culture, into our inner dialogue. And to one extent or another we may carry an innate fear of being discovered at the wrong time or place…the feeling of being busted and the consequences that might bring.
The rift in the human psyche from disowning Eros in all its forms is a gaping wound. The self divided, causes chaotic psychological conflicts between our desires and the moral imperative and cultural threat, to be “good”.
I feel it is moral, sacred and a spiritual act to bring our sexuality back into the light. I feel it is healing and empowering to express sexuality honestly, without judgment.
One’s sexual truth, however it looks, is a beautiful, creative, joyous celebration of one’s soul. Expressing sexuality in a responsible way with consenting adults is healthy and normal. We can still be a good parent, son or daughter, a good friend, business partner or employee, or active in community service.
If you possess aspects of Dark Eros, know there are millions of others like you, and many who have taken steps to find their truth and express it honestly and authentically. I believe we are all serving spirit, nature, evolution, or god/dess, as you prefer, when we do so, and I am grateful that it is so.
Galen is actively involved in a variety of communities from ecstatic dance, men’s work, sacred sexuality, mentoring teen boys and others. He is a musician/composer (see http://www.jamwave.com/Galen ), inventor (www.tetruss.com), entrepreneur, author of the acclaimed book, The Sharp Edge of Love and speaker and workshop leader at local and national lifestyle events.
by Galen Fous
I agree that it is risky not to explore the Dark Eros consciously and honorably. I have stood at the edge of the taboo, but conscience or anticipated guilt have always held me back. I have not found it easy to find a partner who will willingly and honestly join me in my desires and I in hers. It is a rarity, but then maybe it is also the infrequence that heightens the intensity.