The Kinky Mormon Pause

There comes a part in every GrUE (or other Open Spaces event) which is totally mind-wracking for the facilitator. It’s the moment after they have explained to people that the agenda for the day will be created out of the participants’ passions. Every person there is invited to think about an issue, subject, discussion, or other form of interaction they care about deeply, and then take responsibility for making that a part of the Unconference.

It’s a great process for creating amazing experiences. I’ve done it nineteen times at GrUEs, and you’d think that it would be easy by now. But there’s always that one moment of fear, of uncertainty:

What if nobody puts up anything?

The temptation, of course, is to nudge, cajole, suggest, or otherwise try to influence things. You can’t do that. Quite literally, in the books and papers that describe the process, Harrison Owen suggests that the facilitator stick their hands in their pockets, or go get coffee, or do anything that will keep them from trying to push people. It can lead to some very pregnant pauses. People look at each other with expressions that say “Huh? Is this guy serious?” or “Well…that may be true, but I’m certainly not going to be the first one…

It’s nervewracking. But it’s an absolutely essential part of the system that creates the Open Space. The facilitator can only open the door, never actually push people through. So, I just wait. And every time, without fail, people get up, write something down, and things go on wonderfully. Of course, if there are GrUE veterans there, it’s sometimes the opposite: a stampede of people with a horde of great ideas they want to share. Even then, though, there is the Very Important Task I have of Getting the Fuck Out of the Way, and trusting both the process and the people.

I was talking about this experience with DoNotGoGently the other day and she used a phrase to describe it that I was not familiar with: “The Mormon Pause.” She’d heard of it in her work in academia, and it was the moment after you’ve asked the students a question and you simply wait for someone – anyone – to say something.

Now, I was raised in the Mormon church, and I’d never heard of that phrase. But I could see a couple of places where it might have come from. It might be the testimony meetings where the congregation waits for people to become inspired to stand up and declare their faith. It could also be a technique used by the Missionaries, some of the slickest and most well-trained psychological manipulators in the world.

In a classroom, though, it’s a bit of a power struggle between the students and the teacher. It’s that moment between knowledge being given and knowledge being earned. There’s an entire narrative that tends to go on in that pause, something like this:

“Oh, sure, a question. I’ll just sit this one out. Someone else will say something.”

“Huh. Looks like no one else is saying anything. Oh, well, the prof will have something to say sooner or later.”

“O…K…she’s just sitting there. She’s gotta say something soon, right?”

“Fuck. It’s too quiet. Why won’t someone say something? This isn’t what I paid my tuition for!”

“I CAN’T BELIEVE NO ONE IS ACTUALLY GOING TO BRING UP THAT POINT THAT I THOUGHT ABOUT THIS MORNING IN THE SHOWER. DO I HAVE TO FUCKING DO EVERYTHING MYSELF? JESUS CHRIST SOMEBODY HAS TO SAY SOMETHING OKFINEI’LLTALKALREADY!!!”

Good teachers have the patience to let that inner dialogue play itself out. Thing is, it’s an essential tool for good tops and doms, as well. In my “ShadowPlay” workshops I quote Cheri Huber, a zen master, who says something along the lines of “Do you have the patience to not disturb the water, to see what comes up?” D.T. Suzuki said it even more succinctly: “Don’t just do something. Sit there.

A Mormon Pause in a Sex & Submission shoot (btw, Kink.com has 2-for-1 subscriptions for the holidays!)

See, there will come a time in a scene, especially one that is longer, more involved with multiple actions and events and emotions – when you won’t know what to do next. It’s a moment of indecision, or at least appears to be. In reality, it’s a “space in between.” It’s a time for the the emotions and feelings on both sides to marinate, to simmer, to let the passage of time temper and fine-tune the whole process.

It’s ok to stand there and let that space grow. It gives the bottom’s mind time to go all sorts of evil places: “What’s she going to do next? Oh my god, I hope it’s (not) that thing that I (always/never) fantasized about, because that would be so (cruel/amazing).” Meanwhile, you’re just standing there, looking at them. It’s important to cultivate the right expression: speculative, evaluative, considering. Don’t finger your tools, or pace, or look away; that conveys indecisiveness.

I want to emphasize: it’s fine to be indecisive. Just don’t convey it. And with a little practice, you’ll learn to sit in that space yourself, to welcome it, because when you insert that kinky Mormon Pause the right next action will present itself. Janet Hardy once said in a very memorable Impact Play workshop “I look at a body, it’ll tell me where to hit it.” But first you have to take the time to look.

If you sit there and let that pause grow, something, some movement, expression, intake of breath, sound or shift of light will let you know: this is what should happen next. I promise you that if you do that, at some later point you’ll have them saying something like “I don’t know how you knew, but that was exactly the right thing to do…

At which point you nod sagely, and say “I just know…” and thank the Mormon’s for their contribution to your kink.

Don’t forget to check out the rare Shanghai Issue #1 Auction!

4 thoughts on “The Kinky Mormon Pause

  • Wow, the kinky Mormon pause… I love it! Oddly enough I was raised in the LDS Church too and had never heard of it! But with awesome kinksters like us being raised in the church it looks like Mormons have contributed more than just the pause. 😛

  • Grey, Thank you. You really hit thing on the nail explaining how it is ok to be a top. I often struggle with the expectations others have and my own insecurities as a top. I DO NOT KNOW WHAT TO DO!! There I said it. I really dont but some how after a scene it all worked out. Its a letting go for both participants. The bottom must let their control go to the top and the top must let themselves go and allow the energies to flow on their own. It backwards in how we grew to know tops. Tops are the ones in control right? Not really. In the Tops head they have to let control go away for the creative nature to kick in. They make room in their heads and magic quickly ensues.

    Thank you for writing about that moment. And letting me know that I am not the only one. Please keep up these thoughts and posts. I find that there is so much written about the sub missives mind and not much on the dominants mind.

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