On BDSM

So, one of my readers asked me about BDSM today, and I thought to myself that I should probably do an entry on it. Frankly, I’m surprised I haven’t already, but looking through my posts, apparently I haven’t…shame on me.

Whoo boy, where to start. Let’s start with a definition: BDSM is an acronym that is short for Bondage and Discipline, Sado-Masochism. This captures a lot of what BDSM is, but by using other combinations of letters, you also get Dom/sub and Master/slave.

Okay, I started with that, and I still don’t know where to start. The first thing to understand about BDSM is that it is broad. Someone saying he or she is into BDSM isn’t really telling you much. It’s like saying, “I like meat products sources of protein derived from animals.” Okay, okay, I just wanted to use the strikethrough format, but no, seriously, when you consider sources of protein derived from animals, you get some sources of dairy (milk and cheese both have protein), eggs (lots of it), gelatin, and a bunch of different types of meat: white meat, dark meat, red meat, fish, venison, and the list goes on. Okay, I digress…my TV dinner’s in the microwave, and I’m really hungry.

Let’s get back to it. As I said, BDSM is broad, so let me start off by painting some really broad strokes, and then I’ll dip down into some of the broad categories (the ones I’ve experienced). The rest I leave to you as homework…because I can…because it’s (you guessed it) my blog!

Let’s start with what BDSM is nominally: it is a consensual, mutually-satisfying way to experience various kinks that fall broadly into, eh, about six categories:

  • Sadism/masochism (infliction and reception of pain) and sensory play,
  • Power exchange, where one person gives power to another (Master/slave, Dom/sub, Sir/boy, Owner/pet, Tamer/brat, and so forth),
  • Gear (wearing specific things, such as leather or rubber or gas masks)
  • Bondage (being tied up or restrained in myriad way),
  • Primarily sexual (play focused on sex or sex-related activities), and
  • Other forms of role-play.

Each of these categories is also very broad, and some activities borrow traits from more than one category. For instance, once you’ve got someone tied up (bondage), you can inflict pain (sadism/masochism) or pleasure (sensory) on him. When someone is in the pony headspace (pet role-play), he or she may wear “pony hooves”—shoes that look like horse hooves—(gear), arm-binders to prevent the use of his/her arms (bondage), and he or she may be spurred or whipped as discipline (sadism/masochism) or groomed (sensual play) while in that headspace.

Let’s back up a minute, though: when I said what BDSM was, I mentioned consensual. That is very important: despite how austere and horrible it may look to the outside, in a healthy BDSM relationship, all participants have said, “I want this.” Yes, is it is absolutely possible to abuse a BDSM relationship, but that is not BDSM; that is abuse, just like battering a spouse or beating a child or animal senselessly is abuse. I want to make that very clear before we go on. Some of what I’m about to describe may sound extreme—and it is!—but I want to reiterate—over and over, if I have to—that these activities are things that everybody involved chose to do without being pressured to do so.

Let’s continue.

Sensory Play

Sensory play is that involving one person inflicting sensations on the other. While sado-masochism (S&M) focuses on pain as the sensation type, sensory play need not be painful. For example, edging a person—bringing him or her close to orgasm but stopping stimulation before it is reached, often repeatedly—is a form of sensory play. Yet it doesn’t stop there. Depriving a person of senses is another form of sensory play. Blindfolding someone is an example. Depriving the person of sight heightens his other senses and also adds an element of “what’re you gonna do?” to the play.

Other examples include tickling, caressing, and hot and cold sensations. Here are some tools one might use in sensory play.

  • Deprivation
    • Blindfolds
    • Ear plugs
  • Tactile
    • Feather dusters
    • Velcro
    • Wartenberg wheel
    • Body parts
      • Fingers / fingernails
      • Hair
      • Mouth
    • Just about anything you can get your hands on—see below for the description of “pervertables”
  •  Electricity
    • TENS
    • Violet Wand
  • Temperature
    • Hot (e.g., hot wax, warm breath)
    • Cold (e.g., ice cubes, cool breath)
    • Chemically-induced (Icy-Hot, peppermint, etc.)

Another thing I should mention about BDSM is it gives people the opportunity to be very creative. At the BDSM club, we’d talk about going to the hardware store looking for “pervertables”—products designed for some completely innocent use that we can adapt to our kinkier desires. For example, clothes pins when applied to nipples start out uncomfortable, but wait until you leave them on there about a minute and take them off. Ow! Feeling adventurous? Don’t take my word for it: give it a try…but you’ve been warned!

Sadism / Masochism (S/M or S&M)

Because S&M is a subset of sensory play, there is a lot of overlap between the two. You know that song by Rihanna? Yeah, this is what she was talking about. I was involved in a BDSM club when the song came out, and we all got a great kick out of it. Sadism is the act of inflicting pain on someone else, named for the Marquis De Sade, a primarily 18th-century author whose erotic stories were often obscenely vulgar—even by today’s standards—and often incredibly violent and sometimes resulted in the death of the recipient. While there are those with fantasies of inflicting that level of injury on others—and their counterparts indeed fantasize about receiving such levels of injury—most take a less extreme approach.

When discussing inflicting pain, there are so many different ways to do it, and practitioners (both inflictors and recipients) often have to distinguish what kind of pain they like to give or receive. Here are a few types:

  • Impact
    • Floggers (whips with many tails)
      • Leather
      • Plastic/rubber/silicone
      • Heavy (thuddy) or light (stings more, thuds less)
    • Whips (a single tail moving extremely fast)
      • Bull whips
      • Dragon tails
    • Paddles
      • Wood
      • Leather
      • With or without holes or studs
    • Canes
    • Bare hands
      • Spanking
      • Punching
      • Slapping
  • Sharp
    • Needles / syringes
    • Knives
    • Scratching (with fingers)
    • Biting
    • Hook suspension
  • Electricity
    • Stun gun
    • TASER
    • Cattle prod
  •  Other
    • Squeezing (e.g., cock and balls, breasts, etc.)

know I’m missing some, but that seems like a good start. In addition to the type of pain inflicted, people can differentiate based on where the pain is delivered. For example, spanking is usually applied to the buttocks, while cock-and-ball torture (CBT), as you might guess, focuses on male genitalia and can involve squeezing/crushing/standing on or any of the other types of play, including impact, needles (piercings or injecting saline into the scrotum) or electricity.

I’m going to close out S&M by naming my favorite and least favorite.

I’m not really into most S&M: I’m not really a masochist, and so this area doesn’t do much for me, but personally, I love a good flogging. It’s been years since the last time, but when it’s done right, you slowly ride this wave of endorphins that has you literally feeling like you’re floating. You kind of drift away from all your problems, go off into la-la-land, and when you come back, you often feel so much better (of course, having a good cry helps, too). It’s incredibly cathartic, but be forewarned: it often elicits completely irrational emotions afterwards that require a bit of time to get your head on straight again. Totally worth it, though.

Least favorite: any kind of CBT. That hurts and does absolutely nothing for me.

Power Exchange

When I first got into BDSM, power exchange was what I thought of: Masters and slaves (M/s), Dominants and submissives (D/s), Sir or Daddy and boy, and so forth. This area of BDSM focuses on one person giving power to another. Power exchange is broad, like sensory play, but it’s also harder to pin down and give examples due to the fact that every relationship is different. The statements I’m going to make are general and may not be accurate in every case, but they give a bit of an overview.

Where sensory play is divided by the type of sense, the type of feeling, and maybe where it’s administered, power exchange is sub-divided by amount of power exchanged. Bear in mind, I came from the gay side of BDSM, and so the terms I use are male-male, but male-female and female-female relationships also exist.

The tamest form is Sir/boy or Daddy/boy. The boy may nominally give up a little control to Daddy/Sir, but as soon as Sir or Daddy demands something that the boy doesn’t want to do, the boy pouts, gives a cute smile, Sir/Daddy’s heart melts, and boy gets off scot-free…to a point. There may be mutually-agreed infractions that are worthy of discipline, and it may often be much like a father disciplining a child—by spanking, corner time, etc.—or by more “adult” ways. I once had a Dom who punished an earlier boy by tying him to a chair and jacking himself off while not letting his boy indulge in it; apparently it drove him crazy, and he did not do whatever it was he wasn’t supposed to do again.

A step up is Dominant/submissive, Dom/sub, or D/s. In these relationships, the sub gives up far more control and is willing to do far more of what the Dom expects. The Dom often has control over what the sub wears when around the Dom, or if they live together, when the sub is at home, and even when they are out together. The sub may wear a collar (which may be a literal dog collar/chain or a symbolic one, such as a necklace or bracelet) symbolizing his ownership. The Dom may expect the sub to behave a certain way, such as lowering his eyes/not making eye contact with Doms, speaking a certain way (e.g., always addressing the Dom as “Sir”), etc. While the Dom is respectful of the sub’s limits and may even seek out the sub’s opinion on whether an activity would be mutually enjoyable, the sub is expected to some degree to “suck it up” and do as told. However, if the Dom really pushes the sub outside his comfort zone, the sub has the right to speak up and refuse.

Master/slave relationships are the strictest and most austere-sounding relationships. Nominally, the slave cedes all his rights to his Master. In many cases, the slave moves in with the Master, and it becomes a 24/7 relationship where the Master’s word is law, and the slave is expected to do as told. The Master and slave may even combine their resources, with the Master dictating every element of the slave’s life: what to wear, when to get up, what to eat, what to say, what chores are to be performed, when, and how, and so forth. Slaves are generally not permitted to say “no” unless it’s a matter of life-and-death—and some relationships go so far as to prohibit even that. However, bear in mind that in a healthy relationship, a Master would never knowingly demand that his slave risk his life.

While sensory play can frequently last only one scene—a fixed amount of time when the participants engage in the act, sometimes as short as a few minutes or an hour—power exchange usually lasts longer, although there are exceptions. Many relationships founded on power exchange grow into long-term relationships lasting months or years, and many times for the participants, it’s a good, loving relationship founded on structure (you always know who rules the roost). I had the privilege the other day to meet with a local Master and his slave who have been together for thirty-five years. Thirty-five years! That’s longer than my parents have been married! And both Master and slave are still very happy in their relationship.

Some may wonder what’s in it for the Dominant partner or for the submissive partner. For the Dominant, there’s the element of getting to call the shots, of getting to be in control—within certain limits. For the submissive, there’s the element of freedom from choice, just going along with whatever the Dominant decrees. On the flip side, there is responsibility for the Dominant: making sure the submissive is safe must be his primary goal, in addition to playing within the limits the submissive sets, and in the case of Master/slave, even paying for the slave’s food, lodging, clothing, etc.

Although I have been in a D/s relationship, I would not call it “successful.” I started into BDSM reading Larry Townsend, whose depictions of Masters who were emotionally, financially, and intellectually stable and who offered to share that stability and train their slaves in exchange for service really appealed to me. My actual Dom was not my equal intellectually, financially, physically, or even emotionally, and I found that unlike the Masters Larry Townsend wrote about who metaphorically reached down and pulled their slaves up to their level, my Dom dragged me down. It was an extremely disappointing relationship. As a result, I cannot tell you first-hand how a successful D/s relationship works. I have known very, very happy households with one or more slaves, but I haven’t experienced it firsthand.

For a time, I considered that if I couldn’t find the perfect Master, I’d become him. That lasted all of about a month before I decided that was far too much work and responsibility.

While I do still have submissive tendencies at times and occasionally fantasize about that perfect Master, let’s face it: I’m 31, own my own land, am on track to have everything paid off in less than 4 years, and have a horse and two donkeys whom I love who are completely dependent on me for their continued survival. I’m not in a position to give it all up and become someone’s collared slave, and frankly, I’m far too headstrong for that anyway.

I might, though, get myself a house-boy once I have the actual house. Having someone to take care of the cooking, cleaning, and laundry while I’m at work would sure be nice, and I have to admit, I sure wouldn’t turn down a bit of eye candy.

Bondage

Bondage is—you guessed it—broad. It consists of restraining people and can be done many ways. Rope is probably the most accessible way for most people, and it can be done either quick-and-dirty or through elaborate, beautiful rope-work (shibari) that is as decorative as it is functional. Chain is another option, although it typically requires something to attach to, such as leather cuffs. Velcro is another option, and if you’ve seen or read Fifty Shades of Grey, you know that silk ties are also an option.

Before we go further, let me say that the BDSM club I was in was very concerned about the message from Fifty Shades. First off, you should never use silk to restrain someone; it will slip and stick to itself and make it very difficult to get it untied, and if it’s tied too tightly and is actively cutting off someone’s circulation, the longer it takes to get it off, the greater the risk of permanent injury. Silk ties (or anything else made of silk) are fine for sensory play (mmm, silk on naked skin!), but bad for restraints.

On a related note, always have something available to cut or quickly release the restraints in case of an emergency. Safety first, always!

Getting into more exotic ways of holding someone still, there’s mummification, where someone is first wrapped in cellophane with enough space to breathe and then in strip after strip of duct tape. It is an incredibly time-consuming process that I helped my Dom do on several occasions, and like shibari, it can be as decorative as it is functional, using different colors of tape or making different patterns. While I have no desire ever to be mummified (I’m too claustrophobic for that), it provides an element of both bondage (you cannot move once inside) and sensory deprivation (you can’t see, and what you can hear is significantly muffled). Some of the people my Dom mummified said they got the best sleep in there…

A fascinating form of bondage that I’ve yet to experience is a vacuum table, where you get in between a table and a rubber “sheet”, a vacuum is applied to suck the air out, and the sheet comes down on you and traps you in place (of course, you have a tube to breathe).

Not all bondage has to tightly constrain a person, either. A person could be locked in a cage or tied to a trotline (think Hannibal Lecter in Red Dragon when he’s getting his exercise). These are forms of bondage, too.

And then there’s mental bondage. The person is free to move about and completely unrestrained, but the “bound” person restrains him/herself through force of will, holding his/her body (or parts thereof as agreed) immobile.

While bondage can be an end unto itself, it is often used as a means to an end. For instance, when being flogged, it was common for my wrists to be bound to a St. Andrew’s cross so that I wouldn’t move too much. Far from preventing me from escaping (I could easily have unclasped the hooks holding the wrist cuffs if I had wanted to), it was for safety to keep me roughly still so that I didn’t flinch and cause the flogger to hit something it shouldn’t (like my kidneys or the back of my head where it could wrap around and strike my face).

Some people get off on bondage by itself. For me personally, it’s a means to an end. I love being restrained and then played with. There’s something deeply satisfying about straining as hard as I can against my restraints and being unable to move, about losing that little bit of control, but it has to be for a reason for me to get into it. As a side-note, there’s nothing more disappointing than thinking you’re restrained, fighting the restraints, and either breaking them or getting free. I can’t describe how let-down I feel when that happens!

Gear

I don’t know that I’d call “gear” a form of play so much as a fetish or general interest, but it consists of wearing or using certain kinds of garments or tools:

  • Leather, rubber, and neoprene are examples of classifying gear by material.
  • Corsets, gas masks, crops, gags, and knee-high boots are examples of classifying gear by type.
  • Puppy-play, pony-play, cop/uniform, or biker gear are examples of classifying gear by activity.

I have to admit, I’m not really all that into gear, and so I’m not very good at describing it. If I had to pick one, though, I’d choose leather. My first leather garment was an arm band. I still have it and wear it proudly on the rare occasion I go to the leather bar. My second was a harness custom-made to match the arm-band. My third was a pair of chaps (that I doubt I fit into anymore) for when I rode my motorcycle. I have a bar vest that I wear on rare occasions (I like the harness and arm band better). I know people who have come to leather events wearing layer after layer of leather: leather pants, leather chaps, leather boots, leather shirt, leather vest, leather jacket, arm bands, and gauntlets, for starters. That’s more leather than I want to own or take care of, but for some people, the leather itself is what they’re really into, and they really enjoy taking care of it. I look at it more like this: if you go to a black tie dinner, you wear black tie attire. If I go to a leather bar, I expect to wear leather. Apparently I’m now a minority. The other night, I counted five people in about a hundred actually wearing leather. *sigh* I miss the old Eagle…

So, while some are into leather, or some are into rubber/latex, or some are into neoprene or spandex, others are more interested in specific types of clothing, regardless of the material. Gas masks are frequently used in breath play (more on that later), crops are used in pony play (more on that later), and gags can be a fun way to keep someone quiet or to keep his/her mouth open to…putting things in it (helpful tip: it prevents biting!).

Still for others, it’s not even the type of gear but the activity in which it’s worn—the gear is a means to an end. Puppy play (more on that later) might incorporate mittens to keep your hands in fists, knee pads for when you’re on all fours, a tail that goes you-know-where, a collar, and maybe a hood that gives your head a bit of a canine resemblance. Pony play might incorporate pony boots, arm-binders, a bit gag for your mouth connected to a halter, reins, and maybe a crop or even a cart for you to pull. Some people are into uniforms (I know a number of guys with cop fetishes), while others prefer the bad-boy biker look.

Gear is broad like everything else, and some may be into specific materials, types, or activities that use it, or they may not be into it at all.

Sexual

I’m not gonna lie, I was thinking of the sexual aspects of BDSM long before I got into it or really knew what it was. I’ll let you in on a bit of personal information: I had fantasized about being tied, spread-eagled and naked, to a metal rack and lowered into a volcano at the tender age of three. I can only imagine my parents must have been watching Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. I’m older and wiser now: a volcano simply won’t do, but everything else…

BDSM isn’t necessarily sexual. Case in point, flogging is not sexual for me. I may be naked, but that’s more a matter of practicality than anything (well, that and I don’t like wearing clothes…).

On the other hand, many aspects of BDSM can have a sexual component. A Dom may order his slave to suck his cock or bend over for breeding. Some masochists may literally get off on receipt of pain. Someone may be tied up in a compromising position and left for people to “play with”.

Still other activities have an overtly sexual purpose. Here are a few examples:

  • Prostate milking (using a finger or instrument to stroke the prostate from the inside, stimulating it to the point that it causes ejaculation without orgasm)
  • Edging (repeatedly bringing someone almost to the point of orgasm but stopping just shy of reaching it)
  • Forced orgasm (stimulating a person who does not wish to orgasm until he/she does, or continuing to stimulate a multi-orgasmic person after initial orgasm until another one occurs)
  • Post-orgasmic torture (over-stimulating a non-multi-orgasmic person after orgasm to induce extreme discomfort), and
  • Forced chastity (making a person wear a device that prevents masturbation and/or sex).

While some of these fall into other categories (e.g., sensory play for prostate milking, edging, and forced orgasm, S&M for post-orgasmic torture, and power exchange/gear for forced chastity), the recurring theme is that the focus is sexual in nature.

Other

And now we get to the things that I had trouble classifying otherwise. Somebody out there may have done a better job of it, but this is where I’m left.

Role-Playing (Non-Pet Play)

Here we have fantasies that may to some degree constitute power exchange but have a very “fetishy” feel to them. Examples include:

  • Teacher/student (you’re gonna have to work “extra hard” to earn that passing grade)
  • Cop/suspect (I will interrogate you using any means necessary to elicit a…confession…yeah, that’s what I’m after…)
  • Doctor/patient (You have a cold? Not to worry; it’s nothing a nice shot of my-dick-up-your-ass won’t cure)
  • Priest/nun or confessor (You must do penance for your sins, my child…by sinning some more)

All joking aside, there are a lot of role-play fantasies that people get into. Not everybody would classify these as strictly BDSM, but to me, they fit at least somewhat under the umbrella.

Breath play

As you might guess, this involves one person restricting the breath of someone else. It can be done as simply as just choking the person (bare hands, choke hold, etc.) or in more elaborate ways such as sticking a dick down someone’s throat or using a gas mask to slowly reduce the available oxygen. Like many things in BDSM, it can be dangerous if not done by someone who really knows what he’s doing, so it’s not something I suggest just going out and trying.

Mind-Fuck

I’ve had this done to me once before. I’m not even sure how to classify it, so I’ll give you an example of what happened to me.

When I was younger, I  had very poor vision (the big E on the eye chart was a fuzzy blur; I knew it was the E because there was only one blur, but if it was in fact a W or an M or a backwards E, I couldn’t tell you). I had bought myself a leather trench coat that I really liked. I wore it pretty much everywhere, and I’m not gonna lie, I thought I looked pretty damn good in that coat (at 165#, about 10% body fat, and strong enough to wrestle down a 300# guy or bench 315, yeah, I looked pretty good… *sigh* ).

Fast-forward a little bit. I have two Doms (one the aforementioned disappointing relationship and one I’m about to describe—I liked him a lot better, but our schedules never worked out to actually get to interact). I’m involved in the leather group, and it’s our really big event for the year, where we invite people from all over the country out to come play with us at our play party. There are a lot of people there (at least for an all-gay BDSM play party, probably around 50 or so), and I’ve been restrained in one part of the play space, naked, without my glasses, with my arms spread apart by a wooden spreader bar and held just above my head.

Enter Dom #2 with a trench coat.

He says, “This is my trench coat” and proceeds to throw it on the ground and drag it around.

He looks up and says, “You like that, boy? This is my trench coat now, and I can do whatever I want with it.”

He drags it around a bit more. I’m getting kind of irritated at this point. I mean, seriously, it sure looks like my coat, and just because I’m his boy doesn’t mean that he owns my coat.

The next thing he did sent me a little past irritated: he took out a knife and proceeded to just carve up the coat, just tearing it to shreds while all the guys in the BDSM club who know me (and know how much I liked that coat) looked on, shocked that he would do such a thing.

I flexed against my restraints. There was a crack, and the spreader bar broke, but the chains still held. I’m shaking with rage at this point.

“What do you have to say, boy?” he asked.

“What have I done, Sir?” was my response, and it echoed in the room; it was was dead-silent in there.

He stepped forward, wrapped his arms around me, and said in my ear, “Nothing. I told you, that’s my coat. Yours is over on the coat rack.”

That is a mind-fuck.

I had the opportunity to perform a mind-fuck on someone else at one point. This occurred during that short time when I thought I wanted to be a Dom. A friend of mine—a Dom—and his boy had been chatting with this kid online who wanted to have more than one person dominate him at once. He made a fatal mistake, though: he said he had no limits. More on that later, but that’s a dangerously unsafe thing to say, and my friend and I decided we would take the opportunity to teach him the error of his ways in a safe manner.

He met us at a train station and got in the car. My friend drove, his boy rode in the passenger seat, and I rode in the back, which let me get to be the first of us to mess with this guy. In no time at all, I had handcuffs on his wrists (as soon as we got him buckled, that is) and had a hood over his head so he couldn’t see where we were going. The only thing the guy said to us was, “Just don’t cut my hair.”

My friend drove in circles a few times, circled back a bit, and then went home. Once we got him there, he wasn’t really fazed by the handcuffs-and-hood or even the roundabout way we took to get him to my friend’s house. So we tied him up and played with him for a little bit, and then I got an amazing idea: I figured out how we were going to teach him to be more careful.

I don’t remember the exact pose we had him in, but I seem to think that he might have been strapped down on his belly to a chair or something because I remember his head being forward and him being completely unable to see behind him.

My friend had a pair of electric hair-clippers, and I happened to be wearing leather gloves. We told the guy that since he had no limits, he was ours to do whatever the fuck we wanted. We turned on the clippers, and he said, “Whoa, hey, what are you doing?”

My response: “Relax, boy!” as I ran the clippers through his hair, well-protected by my gloved hand. Having cut my own hair with clippers a lot over the years, it was easy to go through all the motions of shaving his entire head. Then we turned him loose. He ran to the bathroom and looked at his hair, and he nearly cried when he saw that we hadn’t actually done anything to it. It was then that we informed him of how stupid he’d been to 1) say he had no limits, and 2) get into a car with a group of strangers without having met any of them before.

Lesson learned, and we had quite a bit of fun after that.

So, mind-fucks…there’s an element of D/s to them and frequently a bit of restraint (since you’re fucking with someone’s head, he’s bound to react as if the worst is happening), but there’s another element of it that’s hard to describe. I dunno, psychological sadism? Something like that. It’s torture while it’s happening, but when the big reveal comes, it’s such a relief.

Take-Down / Fighting or Wrestling / Spoils of War

A take-down scene is part S&M and part D/s, but again, it’s not fully described by either one. In a take-down scene, one or more people attempt to cause a person to end up on the ground using physical force and often the element of surprise. For example, someone might try to sweep your legs out from under you or jump on your back and try to wrestle you to the ground. The “terms of engagement” vary depending on how the scene is arranged. In some cases, only wrestling is acceptable, while in other cases, kicks, punches, and even something like a stun gun can be allowed.

Word to the wise: don’t volunteer for a stun gun demonstration; I was…shocked…how fast I went down (of course, pun intended!).

Side-note: a stun gun does not shoot barbs at you; that’s a TASER, contrary to the name “gun”. A stun gun is the thing that has two electrodes sticking out, and when you turn it on, a great, crackling lightning bolt jumps between them. When delivered into your muscles, it quickly makes you lose control of them, and in my case, my leg went out from under me after about a second and a half. No way I’m volunteering to be TASERed! I’ve seen the videos, and that looks truly horrible.

Sometimes it’s not a surprise jump on someone and is instead a planned-out contest. I was in a wrestling match with a guy one time where I fully expected to get pinned down but (much to my disappointment) ended up riding on his back like a pony. We all got a good laugh and that was about it, but sometimes the stakes are set higher: maybe the winner fucks the loser, or maybe the loser has to serve the winner for a day as a slave or something. I’ve never participated in a for-stakes contest like that, but it has piqued my interest off and on.

Bodily Fluids

I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least mention bodily fluids in their various forms. Here are some examples of the types of fluids:

  • Watersports (urine play)
  • Cum / Bukkake
  • Tears (like, crying)
  • Sweat / musk
  • Blood
  • Vomit / Roman showers
  • Menstrual fluids
  • Scat (fecal play)

Note that just because a person is into one of the bodily fluids doesn’t necessarily mean he’s into the others. For instance, even in BDSM circles, scat, menstrual, and vomit play are extremely unpopular. Cum play seems to be the most popular—some people seem to be practically addicted to it, wanting it in their mouths, on them, and in their butts or vaginas.

Watersports has a bit of a following, with some Dominants using it as a means to “mark” their submissives like a dog would mark his territory, while others seek to be treated like human urinals, consuming urine either orally or through their anuses.

Blood play, especially where heavy whipping is involved, is sometimes viewed as a necessary evil, although at least one person I know witnessed a scene in which a masochist was suspended in the air and slowly spun while drops of his blood from cuts he’d received from the sadist/artist dripped onto a canvas below him. The canvas was then sealed with a waterproof sealant and sold at auction. As I recall, it went for several hundred dollars. Interesting as art goes, although I wouldn’t have any interest in it.

Pet Play

I’ve saved this one for last because it’s rather near and dear to my heart. Pet play is role-play where one person pretends to be an animal and the other interacts with that person as if that person is the animal. The non-animal participant can act as an owner, trainer, vet, or something else. I’ve said it of other things, but pet play is possibly the broadest of all BDSM activities because it is one of few activities capable of incorporating all of the other categories into it. Here’s an example:

  • A person’s arms are bound in arm-binders (bondage / gear), and his feet are placed into pony hooves (gear). This action triggers putting him into pony-space (more on that later).
  • The person, now in pony-space (we’ll call him the “pony” now) is corralled (mild bondage) and caught by his owner or trainer, and he is further decked out in pony gear: a bridle and some reins (more gear).
  • Today, the pony is not feeling very cooperative and tugs on his reins or flat-out bolts. His Owner tries tugging the reins to get the pony’s attention, but the pony is having none of it. The Owner then whacks the pony with the crop (S&M / discipline), and the pony gets back in line.
  • The Owner then puts the pony through his paces, working the walk, trot, and left- and right-lead canters (pony play).
  • During this exercise, the pony gets lathered (that is, sweaty). Being a good caretaker, the Owner then cools the pony off, using mild soap or shampoo and water to wash the pony down (sensory play) and might give him a little fondle for his good behavior (or not—it’s up to the Owner and what has been negotiated beforehand). Although the pony might use body language to indicate interest or disinterest in something, ultimately he is at his Owner’s mercy (power exchange).
  • Unfortunately for the pony, today is vet day (doctor/patient role-play), and as soon as the pony sees the vet, he begins to buck and try to charge out of the corral, requiring the Owner and vet to get him under control (take-down scene) and ultimately restrain him for his procedure (bondage).
  • The vet might give the pony a light sedative (actually just saline, but delivered through an actual [sterile] needle – doctor/patient role-play / needle play / medical gear / mental bondage), and then the vet might do whatever the vet would do: check his teeth, check his “hooves” (pony role-play), clean his sheath (sexual focus), or whatever else (I’ve also heard of fake castration scenes—yikes!).
  • After the pony comes to after his “sedation”, maybe he gets a reward for his good behavior and gets to breed another pony (with consent of the other pony prior to going into pony-space and/or the other pony’s Owner, if owned by someone else – sexual focus). Alternatively, maybe the pony’s Owner is a little horny and fancies breeding his pony from behind or convincing his pony to suck his cock (sexual focus).

Now, I’ve been a pony before, and I can say that most of that has not happened to me. I’ve been put into pony space, put through my paces, and bathed down. I’ve been fed grapes and got extremely good at dropping to the ground (with my arms bound) to pick them up off the ground. When you’re in pony-space, food is everything (or at least it was for me), and grapes were a rare, delicious treat indeed. I have to admit, playing around in pony headspace, I can definitely see why my actual horse is so enthusiastic when I give her apples. But I digress. Many of these events could happen within the pony play framework, but they don’t necessarily have to. It was definitely an interesting experience, though.

As you may have guessed, most of my pet play experience is with pony play. I did also get to experience being a third party with my former Dom’s slave, who occasionally got to play as a pup named Dodger, and he was very good at it. I will never forget how an 84-year-old man transformed into a puppy that had me so convinced that I was giggling as he “licked” my face (he didn’t really; he was wearing a dog mask and going through the motions). I don’t giggle, but that was really impressive, and the way his eyes lit up when he was in puppy mode, you could tell he was having a blast.

I’ve also been to a puppy play meet where a group of puppies and their Owners get together to let the puppies play together while their owners chat. It was like a dog park, minus the dog poop, and it was amazing to see all the different personalities. Some pups whose human selves were rather shy were in your face and all over the other dogs. Some pups were quiet and reserved and rolled onto their backs submissively as soon as another pup came near. Some howled and barked, some growled and invited others to play tug-of-war with them, and some were complete attention whores, going from Owner to Owner for petting.

I’ve only played as a pup once, and it was awkward for me. This was before my pony-play experience, and I had never been into an animal headspace before. I didn’t really know how it worked. My Dom didn’t seem very into it either and wasn’t very encouraging, so I was mostly somewhat bored and confused. Now that I’ve been into pony-space, I think it might be fun to try pup space again, one of these days.

The only other pet play I’ve heard of is kitten play. I imagine that’s got to be something like, the pet goes into kitten space and is a combination of playful and catty (pun intended). I’ve never experienced it on either side, so I can’t say much more than that about it.

Cross-Over

As you’ve undoubtedly inferred by now, BDSM activity can span multiple categories: a Master (M/s) may tie up (bondage) his slave and flog him (S&M) either for punishment or reward, depending on the slave. Pony play clearly runs the gamut. Fetish role-play such as doctor/patient can involve all kinds of medical gear. In short, while BDSM activities can be classified by type, that doesn’t limit practitioners to only one type of activity.

Parts of a Scene

We’ve delved quite deep into the different types of things BDSM participants can do, but not everything is fun and games. Every scene, whether it lasts fifteen minutes or thirty-five years, goes through several crucial phases, with some scenes having even more phases.

Negotiation

Every scene should begin with negotiation. This is where all the participants (and it’s not always just two!) come together to discuss what they want in the scene, what they’re willing to do, and what their hard and soft (if any) limits are.

Hard limits are things that the person is completely unwilling to do. Some of mine are scat (absolutely not!), permanent injury (don’t cut anything off, break anything, or mark me in ways that won’t heal), and breath control (I don’t want to be afraid of dying while I’m playing). This list isn’t exhaustive, but it gives some examples.

Soft limits are things the person is uncomfortable doing but would be willing to have his horizons broadened. Topping (penetrating the other person rather than being penetrated in homosexual intercourse) is an example of a soft limit for me; it’s something I wouldn’t do on my own and would be uncomfortable doing, but under the right circumstances, I’d be willing to do it.

The degree of negotiations depends on the people involved. Some people want everything written down and detailed out to the nth degree, while others are comfortable getting general list of off-limits things together and working within those constraints. But before negotiations are finished, everybody should be comfortable with the decisions made.

Because negotiation is so important for safety, it’s important that all participants be in their right minds. At play parties sponsored by the club I was in, alcohol and drugs were never allowed because of their ability to impair people’s judgment. There are a couple of mottos I’ve heard in the BDSM community. One is “Safe, Sane, and Consensual”, and another is “Risk-Aware Consensual Kink” (RACK). Regardless of which one you apply, the concept is the same:

  • Do actually have negotiations, even if they’re brief.
  • Go into the negotiations with a clear head. No drugs, no alcohol, no riding the wave of endorphins from your last scene.
  • Go into the negotiations with safety in mind as well as whatever kinky interests you have.
  • Do not feel pressured to agree to something you don’t want to do; if you’re uncomfortable about something, talk about it until either you’re comfortable about it, or make it a limit.

Until you’ve played with someone enough that you and that person know each other well  enough for you to read each other’s body language, it’s a very good idea to establish a safe-word. When you’re in the middle of an intense scene, it’s likely the passive participant (sub/masochist/pet/etc.) may scream, moan, yell “No!” or something else that might give the active participant (Dom/Sadist/Owner/etc.) the idea that the participant isn’t having fun. Using a safe word can help alleviate this. The safe word should be something that you wouldn’t typically say so that if the active participant does hear it, he or she knows that the passive needs to discuss something important.

A common one is traffic colors. Green means everything’s all right. Yellow means, “whoa, slow down; it’s a bit more than I can take all at once.” Red means, “stop immediately; there’s something very wrong, and we need to talk.” The benefit is that it’s pretty well universally known, and aside from the passive participant yelling out “Red!”, the active participant can also query the passive’s current status.

“How’re you doing, boy?”

*moans* “Mmm, green, Sir.”

Of course, not everything has to follow that convention. My Dom, for whatever reason, had a fourth level that he called, “George,” and “George” meant, “go away; don’t go away angry, but go away.” It was more severe than red. I don’t think I ever used it, although had I thought of it, I might could have the day we parted ways. Anyway, I’ve heard fruits used as the safe word (e.g., “Pineapple!”), or the deliciously insidious: “Sir, I want you to fuck me!” Did I mention that BDSM encourages creativity?

In some cases, the sub may not be able to speak (e.g., because of being gagged or mummified). In such a case, a non-verbal safe word can be used, too. One I heard about was a sadist who put a ball in his masochist’s hand with the instruction that if it got to be too much, the masochist was to drop the ball. That seems to have worked well for them, too. Waving a specific hand or foot or holding up a certain number of fingers are examples, too.

Commencement

So you’ve worked out what you do and don’t want to do, and you’ve worked out ways to “gently” interrupt the scene in case of emergency. Now it’s time to get started. It might start out gently, with one or both participants removing their clothes or the active participant helping the passive get into position (e.g., to be flogged, to be restrained, etc.).

What should likely follow that is a bit of a warm-up. Something common to most elements of BDSM is the concept of head-spaces (more on that in the next sub-section). Both participants frequently get into the head-space, but it is frequently easier for the active to do it than the passive. I can’t say why specifically, but in my experience, it has always taken me longer to get in and much longer to get out when in the passive role than the active role.

In an S&M scene, the active might start out by gently slapping the tails of a flogger against the passive and slowly working up to firmer and more frequent strokes.

In pet play, there’s frequently a bit of a ritual used to trigger the passive’s transition into pet space. For me, it was my arms being bound behind my back. When that happened, it was the signal to enter pony-space, and when my arms were freed, that was the signal to come back.

In a power exchange, it might be as simple as the dominant (Master/Dom/Sir/Daddy) partner making a simple request of the submissive (slave/sub/boy) partner.

In some cases, little to no commencement is needed, especially if the participants have played together before. Some people can drop into head-space instantly, while others take time. The active will typically watch the passive for signs and may also verbally ask for feedback, especially at first. As things start to heat up, though, both partners (maybe not so much complete novices) will generally make some kind of transition.

Head-Spaces

There are as many head-spaces as there are roles in BDSM. I can only speak from my own experience, so there will be many roles missing, but here are a few memorable ones I’ve experienced in the way I’ve experienced them.

Pleasure-Sadist

I do not get any kind of joy out of inflicting pain on others, but I do get intense pleasure out of inflicting pleasure, especially excessively. There was a girl I played with some years ago who was both multi-orgasmic and nigh-insatiable sexually. As we played, something about seeing her there, panting in ecstasy as I did something new to her—teased her sore and sensitive nipples until she whimpered, drove a vibrator hard down on her already-exhausted clit, or rubbed her G-spot as she gasped in exhausted bliss—made something click in my mind, and I was instantly filled with this sense of what I can only describe as a sadistic desire to mete out more pleasure, to keep her there like that, gasping, begging me to stop pleasuring her (but not using her safe word!), until she really could take no more. Even thinking about it now, I feel that same feeling that makes me want to grit my teeth with wicked delight at seeing her helpless to resist as I elicit orgasm after orgasm from her. Ahh, that was fun!

Flogged Masochist

As I have said to people before, it is work for me to endure most kinds of pain. I don’t get any pleasure out of it, and it just hurts. I spend the entire scene trying to distract myself from how uncomfortable I am and hope like crazy the person gets bored. However, flogging is the one thing that I really enjoy.

The head-space kind of creeps up on you. The flogger tails graze on your back, and you let a breath out slowly to brace yourself for them to hit. They do, pretty gently, and you sigh in relief. Then they begin to thud against you, slowly at first, and gently. You find your body beginning to rock in rhythm to them as you anticipate the next, and the next, and the next. Really, the rhythm plays a major part in getting me into the head-space, I think: it’s almost hypnotic.

Before you notice it, the tails are hitting quite a bit harder, and you find yourself breathing much harder in time to their rhythm.

Then there’s that first sharp whack! You suck in a breath and gasp, your eyes wide, and you feel the sweat trickle down your back. Then he presses himself up close against you. You smell the leather he’s wearing and feel his gloved hand roughly move over your oh-so-sensitive skin, eliciting an ecstatic shudder. He whispers in your ear, “Doing okay, boy?” Unable to speak, you nod and continue to breathe.

The stroking continues at its previous pace and a little gentler. Your body undulates in time to the strokes, and then there’s another whack!—a little harder this time. Another gasp from you, and he checks on you again.

He starts back up, maybe with a different flogger this time. The strokes are slower, but they’re harder, and you can feel yourself sweating much harder than before and really breathing with each one. If he’s done it right—and the guy I’m thinking of as I write this always did it right—it’s not hurting, yet, but you’re already beginning to feel a little light-headed, a little floaty, a little relaxed.

But as he continues, the wave of pain begins to surge, and although it never catches the wave of endorphins—again, if he’s done it right—it’s definitely noticeable now. But with your endorphin-induced haze, you don’t really care. It’s there, it’s sorta painful, but it’s a good pain. It releases more endorphins, and suddenly, it happens: you’re not in the play-space anymore. Where specifically you are, I have no idea. I don’t know that I ever really paid attention to where I went when I started floating; I just…did. And even though you’re still aware somewhere in the back of your mind that you’re still being flogged, still releasing those delicious endorphins, none of it really matters. You’re just feeling light as a feather, without a care in the world.

But at some point, the scene must end. The poor guy has been swinging that heavy flogger for two hours straight now. How his pecs, shoulders, and lats aren’t the size of pickup trucks is completely beyond me, but he’s finally hit his limit, and the flogging stops.

“Boy,” he says quietly in your ear.

“Mmm?” you ask, suddenly just vaguely aware that there is still a play-space, and you’re in it.

“Boy, you’ve been going for two hours,” he says gently. “It’s time to come back.”

“Mmm,” you say, nodding drowsily.

He leaves you there, still fastened to the St. Andrew’s cross to help keep you upright and gently rubs your shoulders or prepares for you to exit sub-space.

You kind of become aware of the space again. It really feels like floating back down into your body. Before you couldn’t move it, but now that you’re back in it, you test your arms and legs again. They still work, and you stretch and then wince because you have been getting flogged for the last two hours, and your back is quite sensitive to any stretching of the skin induced by your movements. But it releases just a hint of endorphins, and you shudder in some kind of weird ecstasy.

“Are you back, boy?” he asks kindly, watching you carefully.

You nod, sigh, and smile in gratitude. He undoes your wrists and slowly helps you lower them as the blood slowly fills them back up. Then he helps you over someplace to sit down—you’re definitely going to want to do that, and you’re definitely going to want to drink the water he offers you; you’ve been sweating for a long time, and with all the moaning and gasping you’ve been doing—you don’t remember any of that, do you?—your mouth and throat will be very dry.

It’s generally around this time that those weird emotions suddenly creep up on you. I’ve had times when I just started bawling for no apparent reason, but damn, I felt good afterwards! Some people get angry, some people get giggly—it happens. Just ride it through. And always thank your Dom; he’s worked his ass off for you to get to enjoy that scene!

Pony

I have to admit, my most vivid head-space is probably that of the flogged masochist, but my favorite is that of a pony because I am definitely in there, definitely not just blindly drifting through endorphin-induced bliss, but it is such a peculiar head-space to be in. It took a few times of my Owner putting me through the getting-into-headspace ritual for me to get the hang of it, but once I did, it happened fairly quickly.

I think a lot of it has to do with how much time I’ve spent with my horse over the years, watching her reactions to things. At first, I consciously emulated her: spooking at things that moved suddenly, being suddenly fascinated by any kind of food, and randomly getting these bursts of energy that sent me galloping across my Owner’s back yard. But the more I did it, the more second-nature it became. Soon I didn’t even have to emulate it; it just felt right to do those things. And as I learned the pony gaits (walk, trot, canter), I began incorporating them until they also felt natural, and walking like a human while in pony-space just felt weird.

We did not have arm-binders, which are like long leather gauntlets that fasten to both arms, keeping them tightly together. What we had instead was a pair of wrist cuffs and a small link holding them together. Truly, it doesn’t matter what you use. You don’t even have to bind your arms at all; it’s just whatever ritual you get into. For me, though, hearing that clasp snap closed and feeling my wrists unable to separate was what did it.

I’d usually close my eyes and then blink. It worked for me, as if closing my eyes as a human and opening them as a pony. Things suddenly looked different. I no longer recognized a corral panel as such. I saw it as a thing that was not to be crossed, that kept me on this side of it. The notion of how to open said panel—even if I could have used my hands to do it—suddenly became foreign, and like my horse, I found myself pawing at it with my foot, eagerly awaiting being let out (and, I have to admit, like my horse, I might have accidentally messed it up one time…it was just plastic, after all). Aaand like my horse, the one time somebody left the corral open, I was out in a flash, across the yard, and prancing, just so damn proud of myself! *sigh* And then (rather unlike my horse), I learned what it’s like to have four or five people with very scary-looking horse whips extended out, driving you back into the corral. Oh, sweet freedom…you were so short-lived…

I remember our workouts. My Owner would bridle me up, wiggle my lip to get me to open my teeth and let the bit in, and then pull the whole thing over my head and fasten it in the back. I have to admit, I liked the bit. I chewed it pretty much constantly; it was kind of comforting, I suppose. And then he’d lead me over and start teaching me the pony gaits. I’d walk in a circle, lunging just like I would lunge my horse, then he’d stop me and turn me around so I could lunge the other way. He’d tap my calves to get me to pick my legs up more and tap the top of my foot to get me to put my toe down more and use less heel when walking.

We did discuss as part of our negotiations how horse-like he wanted me to be. He had no horse experience, and I at that time had something like 4 or 5 years of seeing my horse every day, rain or shine. I told him I could either pretend to be a horse that understood human speech (and make it a bit easier on him as a trainer) or go for broke and be a full-up horse, not paying attention to what my human mind interpreted words to be and learning it from the ground up. He was quite the trooper and told me to go all the way with it, but he did ask that if I ever had the urge to kick him, to pull my punches and give him some warning first. That did happen one time…more on that later.

Tuning out what I heard was actually great; it got to the point that I no longer really made any attempt to understand what people were saying. I heard them, and if I’d had a mind, I could have interpreted it, but somehow, that part of my brain turned itself off, and it was great, especially when we played at pony play parties with other people around: I was blissfully unaware of what anybody said.

Then there was the barrel race. My Owner was the one who hosted the pony play parties, and he and his girlfriend/pony decided we should have a barrel race among the ponies and their owners. I don’t remember what the prize was. There’s a picture somewhere of me trying to bite a ribbon they were holding up against me since there was no place to pin it (horses don’t wear clothes, and neither did I). I do know that the preparation for it was a lot of fun, albeit hard work. Cantering at full speed, making tight turns, getting back up to speed, and all the while trying to follow cues from your trainer. Believe it or not, part of the hard part mentally for me was waiting for him to cue me to make a turn rather than doing it on my own. That part of my human mind was hard to turn off, the part that said, “okay, to make this turn, I need to start now, and then stop turning now, straighten out, and…”. But in a sense, it was freeing, too: with that part of my mind finally turned off, all I had to do was focus on two things: cantering really fast, and paying careful attention to my Owner.

I got into it: really into it. At one point, I lost my footing and skidded on the grass, landing on my side, but just like my horse, I scrambled to my feet and then looked around like, “What? You didn’t see anything!” while making a motion of tossing my mane indignantly.

The day of the competition was really fun. My Owner kicked me off, and we were going hard at it. Only trouble was, he forgot to stop me when the race was over, and I plowed right into the fence. I don’t remember it hurting, actually, although I do vaguely remember hearing some groans from people around me.

Grapes and other treats really grabbed my attention. I must confess, if I were my Owner, I would not have let me be a pest like that. I certainly would not let my horse do that, but hey, he wasn’t stopping me, and grapes and carrots! At one point, I think he was trying to get me to do something, and I learned that I could just go up and take the bag of carrots from him with my teeth, then run off and munch on them until he caught up. (Learned that one from my horse, I did…) I think I got a whack with the crop for that one.

My Owner did hook me up to a cart a time or two and had me try pulling it. I was able to, but I don’t have such fond memories of it. Mostly, I think I was bored. I’d never consider myself built for speed, but where the race was fun, the cart (after I got over my pony-minded fear of it) was boring. Have I mentioned that my horse is terrified of stationary bicycles? Yeah, equines can get wigged out over the strangest things sometimes.

There was one time I went over to my Owner’s and got put into pony space, and then he left me in the corral while he went off and did something with his girlfriend. Something that felt like an hour after I got there, he finally wanted to do some lunging. I had paced my stall, lain down, stood up, shook off, pawed my hooves, and just about anything else I could think of, and I was bored and frustrated. So when he finally let me out, I bolted across the yard to go do the things I usually did: taste-test the oak leaves (gross, as usual), crib the fence (chewy!), have a nice roll in the grass, and scratch my back on the tree. He wasn’t really in the mood for me to do those things; he wanted to work. It took some doing, but he finally got me haltered, much to my annoyance. I let him know I was annoyed, too: I let out a pretty sharp kick, but—true to my word—I made sure to miss him. He kind jumped back and whacked me with the crop. I pinned my ears (okay, I know I’m not capable of pinning my ears, but in my head, that’s exactly what I did), gritted my teeth, and let fly another kick, narrowly missing him. He was pretty upset and put me back in the corral to cool down.

But after every session, good or bad, he was always good to wash me down. It cracks me up—he used Mane ‘n’ Tail, which I had used on my horse for years. When I started coming out to my to put up fencing before moving myself and my herd out here, a bottle of Mane ‘n’ Tail shampoo was all I brought; thanks to him, I learned it makes an excellent body wash in addition to shampoo. But I digress. He was thorough and washed me down from head to hooves. He was straight (I think?) but like any good horse owner, he made sure to get my bits clean, too. There wasn’t anything sexual about it; it was just a dutiful owner taking care of his horse, and I really appreciated that (with the sweating and rolling in dirt and grass, it certainly beat the alternative).

Once he’d gotten me cleaned up and rinsed off, he’d unfasten the clasp that kept my wrists together. I never came out of head-space as fast as I went in. I don’t know why. Getting my voice back always took the longest by far. Sometimes, I’d be able to let myself out of the corral, make it back inside, and be fully dressed by the time my voice came back.

Suffice to say, we had quite a bit to talk about that last time. He was curious why I was upset (I was incapable of expressing it as a pony—no voice), and once I finally had a voice, I explained that I was bored and frustrated at being left alone on the one day a week we got to play. His response—quite fairly—was that sometimes horse owners do leave their horses alone, and I had to admit, he was right: there have been times I’ve left my horse in the stable or the pasture when she very much wasn’t done with me, yet. Nevertheless, it was the last time we played. I’m sorry for that; now that I’ve gone and relived it all again, it was a really fun time, and I’d love to do it again sometime.

Exiting

As you may have gathered from the previous section, once you’ve been in a head-space, the next step is to come down from it. As a passive, you generally have no sense of time and rely on the active to tell you it’s time to come out. As an active, it’s your responsibility to watch the time (if there’s a time constraint), and other things may constrain you, too (like your arm giving out after swinging a flogger for two hours). As I described, it can be mentally difficult for a passive to come out of head-space, and so the active needs to be patient and gentle about it. Kind of like waking a sleep-walker, it’s not a good idea to yank someone out of head-space, although it sometimes can be done in emergencies. Once the active gets the passive started exiting, it’s time to think about aftercare.

Aftercare

The two main things to consider during aftercare are everyone’s emotional state and hydration.

For better or for worse, many BDSM activities involve a lot of heavy breathing, screaming, yelling, or otherwise vocalizing and some kind of sweating on the passive’s and/or active’s part. Getting re-hydrated is important, and having a glass or bottle of water nearby is a good idea. It may take some encouragement to get the passive to drink; he or she will probably be a bit woozy coming out.

Something about head-spaces can really mess with people’s minds at times. I mentioned that after being flogged, I bawled for no apparent reason. As an active, just be supportive and keep the passive and those around him safe. I haven’t personally known any passives who became violent after a scene, but I suppose it could happen. Crying seems to be the most common result, though. As a passive, ease yourself back into reality, but don’t drag your feet, either. The active has been very supportive and helpful and has put in a lot of work for you, so it’s time to get your feet back under you. Don’t rush it and say you’re back before you are, but do focus on getting there. Once you’re with it again, be sure to thank your active for all the work he put in for the scene.

Bear in mind that exiting and aftercare for someone in a S&M scene is likely much different from other types of scenes. I really think it’s the endorphins that stir stuff up. Coming out of Dom/sub and pet play scenes never really affected me emotionally very much (although pet play definitely took my voice away longer), but flogging scenes were usually somewhat traumatic emotionally (in a mostly good way).

Clean-Up

In many BDSM scenes, there’s clean-up to be done afterwards. Remember that first and foremost, BDSM is about respect: respecting yourself enough to discuss your limits, respecting each other enough to obey each other’s limits, and respecting your fellow practitioners enough to clean up after yourselves when you’re done. Sometimes it’s as simple as just picking up your stuff (e.g., if you were outside), but it could mean wiping down equipment, throwing away used…erm…disposables, and other things if you’re in a shared space like we were at the BDSM club. Sometimes the active does this, and sometimes the passive does, or they may share the responsibilities, or if the active or passive has a sub/slave, he may delegate to him (my Dom was good to clean up after himself after mummifying someone, but he made me help, since I was his sub, even though I hadn’t actually been mummified).

Safety

At 11,000 words and 2:42 AM, I’m about ready to call this blog entry quits, but I would be absolutely remiss if I did not discuss safety before, during, and after BDSM scenes.

Let’s face it, many of the topics I’ve discussed are—frankly—dangerous. Tying someone up, you can cut off circulation and risk amputation. Flogging risks hitting something important (like a kidney) and doing internal damage. Cutting and needles risk infection. Breath play—well, don’t even get me started. Electricity risks defibrillation if used improperly above the waist. Chemicals such as Bengay or Icy-Hot can have different effects on different people and can lead to chemical burns. Syringe play, if done wrong, risks an embolism, which can be fatal. You get it: it’s not the most harmless set of activities. But with proper safe-guards in place, it can be practiced in a risk-aware and prepared-for manner.

Before the Scene

  • Find out what you can about people you’re considering playing with before meeting them. Are they known in the community? Do they have a reputation for being good at what they do, or do they have a reputation for not respecting limits? While people should respect limits, not everybody does, so this step is important!
  • If you’ve never played with this person before (and maybe the first few times), be sure somebody knows where you are who will come looking for you if you go missing. It’s much safer to play at a play party if you can find one. They have dungeon monitors constantly watching to make sure everybody is being safe and respecting limits.
  • Meet everybody you’re going to play with at a public place first. Talk to them. Do you get any red flags? Listen to those!
  • Discuss what you’re going to do. Honestly list your limits, and discuss how experienced you and the person you’re playing with are. Discuss the risks of what you’re thinking about doing.
    • If you’re the active, have you done what you’re planning to do before? Are there any complications with this person that might be different from others you’ve played with (different experience level, older/younger, different size, different gender, medical conditions)?
    • If you haven’t done this before, are you prepared to take things slowly and get lots of feedback from the passive to make sure everything is—and stays—okay?
    • If you’re the passive, do you understand what you’re getting into? Do you get the feeling the active knows what he’s doing?
  • Discuss any medical conditions you both may have. All of this may sound like going to the doctor’s office (even if that’s not your scene), but it’s important to be informed and cautious. If you’re taking blood thinners and considering being flogged, you might want to rethink that. I suppose a very experienced active might be able to handle that, but it just sounds risky to me.
  • Make sure both active and passive understand their roles. In a flogging scene, the passive needs to understand that it’s important not to jerk because doing so could land a flogger tail someplace that could do unintended and possibly permanent damage. What activities are important to your scene? As the active, do you know what to do to quickly fix any issues that might arise during the scene (e.g., how to tie knots that can be released with a single rope pull, how to deactivate Icy-Hot, etc.), and do you have what you need to do so (scissors, deactivating agent, etc.)?
  • Are there any other things you need to know about each other?
    • I tell my play partners that I lose my voice afterwards and need a few minutes to get it back.
    • If I’m the passive in a sensual scene, I tell my partners that I tend to clench my fists when excited; I one time had a guy freak out because he thought I was going to hit him in anger when really I was just ecstatic.

Above all, communicate and listen to warning flags. It’s too late to listen to those warning flags once you’re already tied up or otherwise compromised. There are sick people out there who do mean to do people harm. Don’t be a victim—save it for the scene!

During the Scene

  • Make sure you know what the safe word is.
  • As an active, be sure to check in on your passive regularly. Watch body language: does he appear to be enjoying himself, or does he appear to be in distress?
  • If restraints are involved, check for circulation. You should be able to insert a finger between any rope you tie and the person’s skin. Ask the passive if everything is all right, and ask specifically about his circulation. While asking during the scene may seem to kill the mood (and sometimes it does), it’s far better to kill the mood and stay safe than to skip asking and find out too late that someone’s hurt.
  • As the passive, if things feel wrong (unexpected pain, tingling sensations, you’re suddenly afraid, etc.), use your safe word and discuss things with the active. There’s no shame in doing that, and if it means you can safely keep playing longer, that’s great! And, if things are going badly (even if it’s because you just realized that you really don’t like this scene), feel free to call an end to the scene.
  • As active or passive, if something seems wrong, stop and discuss it!

After the Scene

  • Check to make sure that everything’s okay.
  • Hydrate—passive and active
  • Clean up afterwards, especially if bodily fluids were involved
  • Make sure everybody has come down from the highs of the scene enough to be safe to drive

We’ve covered a lot over the last 12K words, and I hope it’s been informative. BDSM can be a lot of fun if practiced safely. It’s broad, and there really is just about something for everyone. The limit is your imagination…and safety. Always play safely!

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