Episode 7: Lee Bridgett Harrington: Passion, Exploration, and BDSM
Lee Bridgett Harrington: Passion, Exploration, and BDSM
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Beth Crittenden: Hello everyone, and welcome to “A taste of sex: Guest speaker interviews”. This is Beth Crittenden, your host, coming to you from One taste urban retreat centre in San Francisco. Thanks for personal life media for hosting “A taste of sex: Guest speaker interviews”. On today’s show we have Lee Harrington who’s visiting us from … all around the place [laughs].
Lee Harrington [laughs]: That’s true.
Beth Crittenden: Lee is a bondage model and artiste. She’s a photographer. She’s a pro-dame, a sexual and spiritual educator, a fetishist, a sado-masochist and a shaman. Welcome Lee to the show.
Lee Harrington: Glad to be here!
Beth Crittenden: So, on today’s show we’ll be talking about Lee’s views on the scene, how there’s not a scene, all the politics behind it and her journey into this part of society that is not often talked about but certainly enjoyed by those who are in it. We’ll also talk about her personal obsession with passion and how she gets into her teaching and how you can find as much passion behind accounting as you can behind whipping [laughs] and also we’ll end up the show with Lee’s views on spirituality and sexuality which is important to us here at ‘One taste’ as well and before we get started I wanna let the listeners know that here at ‘One taste’ we have a practice called “Orgasmic meditation” and it’s a practice of feeling every stroke, feeling the orgasm that’s shared between two people. And we actually do this by studying a wide variety of disciplines and practices and to us everything is divine.
[Music and commercial break]
Beth Crittenden: Tell us about how you got into professional sexuality.
Lee Harrington: Well, the path is kind of … I’ve been joking that I take the long way around as the ‘Dixie Chicks’ have been recently coining it. That I started out being a crazy, exploring kid. I remember being six or seven years old and trying everything under the sun. I remember that I used to tie kids up in the backyard, I read my parents’ entire porn collection as a lash-key kid who was one those crazy IQ 150-read-everything-under-the-sun. I read the entire encyclopedia Britannica, so of course the porn collection was next and the thing that struck me at all of these different things that I was reading about or seeing or playing around in my own imagination was the idea that … was two-fold actually.
One is that the biggest thing that I got hooked into as a kid was other people doing amazing things around me. If I had a group of friends who were really about “Oh, let’s go participate in this math competition”, I’d end up being, you know, a placer in national math competitions because I had a really great group of people feeding that passion around me, not that I am a follower per se but that I like grabbing on to what other people are doing and then running with it. So that was one part of it. It was the idea that I was having people always doing amazing different things around me but also I remember finding a story when I was a little kid that said … that was in a Penthouse forum.
The story was about a woman on her 21st birthday and how she got kidnapped by her friends, you know, and loved the kidnapping, and then said “Oh, put on this blindfold, put the handcuffs behind your back and she was taken to a friends’ house where she was tied down and covered in pudding and food was eaten off her. There was all that sex that happened and at the very end of that story, it said “And I had such a great time and all my friends were around me and thank you so much for letting me share this story with you”.
And then I sat there and I was comparing it o a lot of the stories that I was hearing about sexuality where people were talking about the guilt of one-night stands and the anguish about whether they were pleasuring their wife or not and this was the only story, this kinky story, “kinky” with quotes around it for people who can’t see my hand motions … this kinky story was the only thing that I was seeing out there, pornographic images that didn’t have guilt associated with it. So, I remembered making a vow to myself at the age of seven or eight that when I grew up I wanted friends like that around me. I wanted a group of friends who would unabashedly enjoy fully and passionately share their life with me, as, you know, friends talking about the news and talking about sports but also as a sexual creature and that’s how I ended up getting involved with the scene many years later was that I’d already made a vow to myself as a child that I wanted friends around me who were open and honest with their spirituality or their sexuality or their lives as a whole, not just sharing a moment of blissful passion and then each going in the opposite direction with all this guilt and unanswered questions holding on.
In 2000, I started doing adult films, movies by the name of Bridget Harrington and it was through the professional work there, as an adult film actor that I would show up on sets and people would say, “Oh, could you do some bondage as well?”. So I started doing bondage professionally because I had been doing it in my personal life, in the “scene” for many years and … so, in 2000 I started doing movies and in 2003 I started teaching some of these different skills that I picked up along the way everywhere from ‘communication and relationships’ to ‘rope bondage’ to ‘how to bring your fantasy life back’ … all the way through the academic types of presentations that I do on ‘gender theory’ and what titles give and mean to us as human beings.
Beth Crittenden: What makes a good bondage teacher?
Lee Harrington [laughs]: In my opinion, it depends on what you’re looking to do with your bondage. There are a lot of people out there who want to follow a traditional school of teaching. For example, Shibari or other spin-offs of Japanese rope bondage like Hojo Jutsu, which is martial arts of rope. For people who wanna follow the traditional route, I’d say find a teacher who has a traditional lineage that they can pass on to you and learn a lot and give insight behind but for me when I’m learning, my biggest thing is see people with competence. See an instructor know their ties inside and out and so they are instead of focusing on their hands and what they are doing, they are able to do that without even thinking about it and therefore able to focus their attention on the persons, to the individuals that are learning underneath them, or side-by-side with them because one has to do a lot of tutorials that are what I call Casica training or one-on-one training and in those situations it’s about me being able to divest myself of what I have involved with the bondage and letting the other person shine. I think that’s a lot more important to me and how I learn. When I go to instructors and I wanna learn, I want people to know what they are doing enough to be able to actually pay attention to what I am doing.
Beth Crittenden: Uh, huh. So, it sounds like you were open and explorative from a pretty early age.
Lee Harrington: Definitely.
Beth Crittenden: What did it take for you to really step into your sexuality and say “I’m gonna play here”?
Lee Harrington: Well, that’s hard to say because I think I’m one of those crazy people that’s been doing that all the way along the road. I didn’t have one time where I said “Wow, that was really fun. I wanna go join the scene”. It’s not how it really happened in my life. At the … we’re not supposed to talk about kids having sex lives, right? But I was, I was a kid who had a sex life. Not this sort of abusive thing where people were taking advantage of me. No. I was playing with other kids my age and finding my own way around, and going “well, okay, I wanna try these different activities. How do I do them? And I was making it up as I went along.
So I am actually really grateful that I was able to, and I was doing that at the age of 11, 12, 13 and so by the time I was 15, I was doing some really stupid stuff. I was reusing blades, I was … because we thought “Oh, you can only get AIDS from sex and stuff not from blood, right?” I am actually glad that I’m alive. I did some really stupid things when I was a kid. And so when I was a teenager and I found the “scene”, I found a BDSM club in Seattle, Washington that I slunk into under a fake ID and to this day I am finally being allowed to teach in Seattle even though I teach all over the globe because there are a lot of people who remembered the scene when they found out that I was 19, they went, “… but you’ve been … go to parties here since you were … oh, oh … that’s bad”.
They finally did the math and I, I mean, I was not welcome for quite a while because they figured that out. But I’m really glad that I did because, and I’m really glad threes resources out there for underage kinksters, now threes books, because a lot of us are doing that stuff anyway. So that’s one of the reasons I believe in education at all ages, is to encourage people to find out what they can actually learn, what they can actually do safer. There’s necessarily safe sex, right? Safer. And so, for me coming into the “scene” was about just continuing forward on my path. I didn’t have any reverence for any moment where I said, “This is what I wanna do”. It was just another path towards finding that group of happy friends who’d share joy with me.
Beth Crittenden: And now that you’ve had so much experience. You’ve traveled all over the place, you’ve done this for years and years and years, what is it about it that still turns you on – like what really gets your attention?
Lee Harrington: That spark. That moment when you look across, you know, whether they are an inch away or six feet away. It’s whether it’s a lover or somebody in a classroom but that moment of ‘aha’. That moment when they just pause and you see them close their eyes for a second and then open their eyes again and it’s full of joy. And that spark of passion and that spark of, you know, all the different chemicals running through their brain all at once. You can just see them light up. That’s the moment that’s worth it all to me. Still is. Given to feed off that a little bit.
Beth Crittenden: Thank you. You just lit me up.
We’re going to take a quick break now to support our sponsors here on Personal life media. When we return we’ll hear more about passion and let’s talk more about spirituality and sexuality.
Beth Crittenden: Hello everyone. Welcome back to “A taste of sex: Guest speaker interviews”. This is your host Beth Crittenden coming to you from One taste urban retreat centre and we’re here today with Lee Harrington who’s visiting us to teach a workshop on sexual rope bondage for the female form, that we’re really looking forward to. So we were talking a little bit before the show about your relationship with passion and your passion for passion so let’s hear about that.
Lee Harrington: Indeed. I’ve had websites on the internet for years and years and years, most of them as an adult film actor, then as a photographer, then I had educational sites and all this different stuff. And a friend of mine said, “Well, you need to get one catch-all site. One … so that everybody can go to and be able to feed it off”. And it made me sit down and think – what are the themes that run through all of my work whether its as an artist, whether its as a model, whether its as an educator. What are the things that keep coming up? And I realized that throughout my entire life one of the themes that keeps coming up is passion.
I would rather spend six hours stuck in a room talking to somebody about the history of quantum physics, evolution of theory even if I know nothing about it. I’d rather spend six hours doing that than have an interesting conversation about … [sarcastically] “What are you into?” I did a lot of this in my life of people who have this perception - and it’s not just my life, people that I’ve met all over the world – where there’s this perception that we have to have this …well, one for you and one for me, whether its orgasms or bites of an ice cream bar or profit sharing, whatever it is and to me, that’s so “benow” [sp] I would rather live in a world where people are pursuing their own individual passions fully, heartfeltly with every chord inch of their being and if the places that we happen to intersect with our partners, whether our partners are our husbands, wives and girlfriends/boyfriends, you know…life mates, soul mates, or whether these are people or partners that will cross along our parole professionally. I’d rather have each person and seem…meet people who are all fulfilled with their own personal passions and if I get to share that joy with them, piece here or piece there, that’s more fulfilling to me than having to be glued along one road with one person the entire life journey because all of us who ebb and flow throughout our passions and throughout all things that we do, and I’d rather share those places where it naturally intersects with people rather than forcing it down one specific road.
Beth Crittenden: And so what was the last kind of high point of passion, what was the last topic that you felt that way about?
Lee Harrington: I was in San Diego earlier this week and I had an opportunity to meet a fabulous group of bears down there, two absolutely beautiful boys that were attending one of my other bondage classes, and one of them said, “Oh, if you ever have any time darling, show up at my house, we’ll hang out, we’ll have a glass of red wine”. Seems absolutely perfect. And we were looking for a venue for a private suspension class for that Saturday and he said, “Use my place. It’s absolutely perfect. You’ll love it”. And we showed up and there was this moment of just joy and passion sharing that got to come over me when I got to see this absolutely fabulous boy go into housekeeping mode … and host mode where he was running around, grabbing a bottle of wine, getting to … and he’d just turn around and go “… darling, 1986 Merlot, it’s 21 years since it was actually taken out of the vault … having him go into such detail was this moment of “Wow!” Even if I don’t really get that part of wines, I’ve got to get it through his eyes. And now I have a completely different understanding and appreciation of the types of art that he collects and the type of wine that he really enjoys because he got to share that with me. So I think that probably the last time was a couple of days ago.
Beth Crittenden: Hmmm. I like how you’re, kind of, redefining passion. I sometimes think of passion is like overwhelmed and maybe even check out a little bit because there is so much sensation to it.
Lee Harrington: Yes, there’s that too.
Beth Crittenden: Then when someone is in a scene, then how do they … let’s say they are holding??? the scene. I don’t know a lot about it but let’s say they are top, then how do you use that passion, let it drive you but how do you keep the control that you need to keep to have it safe and clean.
Lee Harrington: One of the things I see people do a lot in BDSM … I will rewind this a little bit and then bring it back to your question.
Beth Crittenden: Okay.
Lee Harrington: There is a big thing called “formal negotiation” and “formal negotiation” is the style that’s evolved out there in the “BDSM community” and there is no one community. There are thousands of little communities that are kind of joined together with certain themes in mind. But if you go to a play party in Boston it’s a little bit different than a play party in San Francisco which is different from a play party in Australia. And … but a formal negotiation style has evolved where it is a check list of four or five pages of different things you could do and everyone sits down and puts – No. 1 if you’re not really into it and No. 5 if you’re really into it or 5 with an exclamation point, right. What I see happen with this kind of thing is it takes away from the opportunity to have scenes. A scene is usually something that lasts from 30 seconds to four days, five days … where it’s about a partner, you know, two people or a group of people connecting on a specific wavelength or activity. That’s a scene.
Beth Crittenden: Right, so a scene could be an over-the-knee spanking. A scene could be a suspension. A scene could be five days straight of intense role-play. But it’s engaging each other on specific theme, topic or activity. For me when I see people over negotiate everything, there’s no room left for magic. There’s no room left for that spark of the divine, there’s no room left for the possibilities that are out there. So to me, what I’d rather do is people who say to me, “Well, I’m really into bondage” and I’m like, “Uh, that’s nice”. I don’t ask what activities people are in. I say, “What is it about bondage that does it for you?”. Someone will say, “Oh, I’m really into spanking.” And I’ll be like, “Well what is it about spanking, why is that hot? What’s sexy about it?”
I’ll take the example of bondage. If somebody says to me, “Oh, I’m really into the idea of struggling and helplessness”. I’m like, “Oh, wow, that gives me a lot more information than, “I’m into bondage” because somebody could also say, “I’m into bondage because I like orgasm denial or I could be into bondage because I like the aesthetics of it and I like being made to be beautiful. Or other people, “I’m into bondage because it’s about humiliation and objectification and being transformed into a slut. These are all very, very different approaches and so to me, I like keying into the thing that’s going on behind people’s skin and back into the brain. And so for me, it’s asking that question of “Why does it do it for you?” not “What’s the activity that gets you hot?”
“But what about that activity or what about this group of activities works for you?”
So, that’s where I kind of key into that a little bit.
Beth Crittenden: Nice. And do people usually have a pretty good awareness of that or it’s part of the teaching actually getting them there.
Lee Harrington: A lot of it is, is gonna get there. I actually do a whole, I do a couple’s intensive. It’s either one, one couple or up to five couples but I try to keep it very small. That focuses on just that question, the ‘why’ of what we do with our partners because a lot of people who show up in my classes go, “Oh, well, I think bondage is pretty” or “I think bondage is fun” and I’m like “Well, that’s, that’s great” [laughs]. That’s really great. I’m glad you think its fun but what about it is fun? Do you enjoy being silly? Do you enjoy role-playing? Do you enjoy being challenged physically and getting to rise like a phoenix from the ashes of your own destruction? What is it for you?” And most people don’t know. That’s one of the things I really like to do is to engage people psychologically, not just the physical skill set.
Beth Crittenden: And what’s the baseline, what needs to be there for a scene to be successful?
Lee Harrington: I can’t say it enough but communication. And when I say communication, I don’t mean, “Red means stop and yellow means pause and green means go and ‘Oh, honey can you do that one quarter of an inch lower. Yes, that’s communication but communication is also a hand brushing against your thigh. It’s also looking into your partner’s eyes when you realize ‘we got it here’ or it’s that moment when they turn their face away and their mouth opens up just a little bit, when you hear that ‘huuhh’. If that’s not communication, I’m not sure what is. Right, it’s when you’re sitting at a party and instead of turning to somebody and saying, “hey, wanna play?”. It’s just getting a little bit closer, letting your hand brush against them and if they turn back to you and blow you a little kiss, you’ve had it all negotiated out already, right?
Not all the details of it but what’s important is that it’s two or more people or even one person – it’s about negotiating with yourself too, right, in a scene. You can have solo scenes completely, as long as you want to engage in a topic, theme or activity with yourself. But if you are talking about two people, because that’s one of the more common numbers that comes up there. If we’re talking about two people you need to have some way of expressing your desires, right? Whether that’s hips moving up towards one another or whether that’s the “now, let’s do this next.” – Both those are communication.
We need to have a way to express our desires and then also a way to say if we’ve gone too far or need to back up. Not necessarily a “Stop, we’re done. I’m walking out of here”. Hopefully we’re gonna engage as a pair before that point [laughs], before it gets to that point. But being able to say, “Wow, that was really intense. I don’t think I can do that anymore but how about we go back to kissing instead.” That’s it for me. That’s one of the things that comes up a lot. It’s the idea of finding a way that you, as a relationship, can communicate.
Beth Crittenden: Hmmm, that’s great. One of our precepts that we live by is ‘stay connected, no matter what’. It sounds like you play that way too.
Lee Harrington: Well ‘stay connected no matter what’ is a great idea but there are those moments that go beyond that where both partners check out or all partners if you’ve got a whole crazy group of people completely check out, and so what I mean by being able to come back with things that aren’t quite working out is, what happens when you get to that point where everybody says present assembly, we’re all gone and we’re all flying, we’re having an amazing time…and then we all come back to our bodies and go, okay! That went a little bit further than I want to, or wow! That was really amazing, how do we get there again? And so that’s, you know, staying connected is great but sometimes they’re…what do we do in those moments when we aren’t able to stay connected, for whatever reason.
Beth Crittenden: Well, we’re kinda ready to wrap up here but I do want to hear something about your take on relationship between spirituality and sexuality.
Lee Harrington: Spirituality and sexuality are an interesting pair of beasts, because there is no “spirituality”. When we’re talking about one true way, right, when people say “oh well, there’s God”, I’m like “Great, what’s God? Tell me. Is God an old man sitting on a mountain top? Or who’s orchestrating entirely everything that we’re doing? Is God the idea of Goddess embracing your lover’s body awakening up between the two of you until the great red explodes out of the top of your head? Is spirituality, Is God a tree? Is God you and me?” And so, when there’s no one true way with sex…spirituality, and there’s no one true way with sexuality, I think for me it’s about helping each person find the path that they’re supposed to be on and seeing how, individually, for each of us, blends in…I could easily talk for hours about the history of torture and how the west and east are completely different schools of thought on the matter.
I think the main element is, how do you relate to the divine? What is the divine to you? Even if you’re completely agnostic, or even if you’re atheist, what do you believe in? And then how…whatever you believe in, how can you tie that core belief , that concept of connecting to the universe at large, how do you tie that back into the physicality or the emotional connection of your sexuality and for me, that’s where the two interplay. There are thousand different ways to do that. But for each person, you’ve got to find the one that works for you.
Beth Crittenden: If people want to study with you, if they want to take your classes or they want to get your individual work, how can they contact you?
Lee Harrington: My primary website is passionandsoul.com (all one word) and you could also, I’ve got books out there, I’ve helped co-author “Dark moon rising”, “Pagan BDSM” and “The ordeal path”, with Raven Kaldera. I’ve also got Shibari you can use which is on Japanese rope bondage and erotic macramé. And I’m trying to work on two other projects for preemery (sp?) press as we speak.
Beth Crittenden: Fantastic. Thank you so much for being here.
Lee Harrington: Glad to be here.Beth Crittenden: So this has been “A taste of sex: Guest speaker interviews”. I’m your host Beth Crittenden. This has been with Lee Harrington who we’re so delighted visited us on her journey around the west coast. If you’d like text and transcripts of this show, you can visit www.personallifemedia.com . You can also learn about “one taste”, and the practice of orgasmic meditation at www.onetastesf.com. If you’d like to email us feedback, or questions, or requests, please use the email address firstname.lastname@example.org . Thank you so much for listening and join us next time.