A friend recently asked me to write on two closely related topics: foreplay as it applies to a BDSM scene, and tips for training a newbie submissive from the perspective of a Dominant.
“How are those things related?” you might be tempted to ask… Well, I’m about to tell you – as I describe the first of these topics and relate it to BDSM specifically.
In vanilla sex, foreplay is useful to ensure that both (all?) participants are physically, emotionally, and psychologically ready for the activity of sex itself. Granted, this is more often than not given lip service and not really enacted with any vigor or skill, resulting in less than adequate experiences for everyone involved, especially the more submissive partner. In the vanilla sense, I say ‘submissive’ here to mean the generally less active partner – the one less likely to initiate sexual contact. For the initiator, his resolve is already firm, his libido is already activated, and foreplay probably seems like an unnecessary waste of time.
We do the same thing in the BDSM world, but we call it warm up instead, and while foreplay may be nice in the vanilla world, warm up in the BDSM world is essential. Without it, you are putting your submissive at risk of injury in one or more of these arenas. Nay, that is not quite strong enough… without warm up before enacting the more brutal parts of a scene, if your scene involves physical pain or torture, you will injure her. Her bruises may heal and she may never let you know the damage to her trust that you caused, but those injuries will linger, and ultimately they will destroy your happiness. Don’t let that happen to you, and don’t let that happen to the one you protect.
Warm up is a much more appropriate way to describe it than foreplay, even in the vanilla world, and it may entail many of the same things, depending on the participants and scene. BDSM scenes are not limited to sexual activities, and indeed may not even include any… What you are trying to do is not limited to making sure that the submissive is ready for sex and turned on, but you’re also preparing her body physically for the activities at hand, her mind for the assault to her ego that is likely to occur, and her emotions for the departure from normalcy that she is about to encounter.
It has been proven that a submissive who is prepared for punishment will actually undergo changes in her body: more fluid will come to the surface of her skin, her pulse will drop (as opposed to speeding up in someone who is actually scared,) she will breathe deeper and more slowly, more oxygen will get into her blood and therefore to her brain, and often her perceptions of her environment will change, sometimes quite dramatically, sometimes even to the point of hallucinatory detachment or idealization.
This is far more than simple foreplay can possibly accomplish, and we even have a name for this: subspace. For many submissives – this is the primary draw of submitting. They are uninterested in the service aspects of it, they literally get high from the activity itself.
Subspace is where the submissive goes when in scene. It is not a physical place, but it does affect her body in a physical way. It is not an emotional space, but it does provide for emotional stability. It is not a psychological space, but it provides for psychological compartmentalization.
There are many paths to subspace. Warm up is not usually enough to get you there on its own. Usually finding subspace is something that isn’t achieved until firmly in scene, but the transition can be jarring, or even missed, if you don’t ensure proper warm up has occurred. I’ve known Doms who devote little or no time to warm up and go straight into scene. This can work for some people, some of the time, but the one time that you miss it, you cross the line from safe, sane, and consensual and fall into abuse. For me, it’s simply not worth the risk.
When I am training a submissive, or even when I am interacting with an experienced one, I will watch her. I want to see her fail to meet my gaze. I want to see her look down at my feet when I stare into her eyes. I want to see her round her shoulders and bend her neck towards me. I want to see her kneel or bow or even just place her forehead into my chest. I want to hear the meekness in her voice when she addresses me as Sir. These are not sacrosanct indicators of finding the edges of subspace, and they aren’t even inviolate indicators of submission, but they’re a step in the right direction.
These steps can take hours. They can begin before you’re together though, and they can wind around vanilla activities. I am a big fan of eating something, perhaps a full meal, but at least something light, before beginning a scene. The food energy will help with the physical and mental strain, and the meal itself can provide a bonding opportunity and a place for mental interactions, witty banter, and innuendo – and as any submissive will tell you, the mind is the most important part of her that you can own, for sex or play or any other activity. Alcohol is not a good idea here though. It may take off the edge, but it can also lead to physical and psychological changes in both you and your submissive that you should be wary of. I may drink with partners, but I will never engage in pain play when even the slightest bit intoxicated.
Admittedly, setting aside time for food and drink is not always possible, but there are other ways to encourage the path to subspace.
I watch my submissive, identify her specific submissive behaviors, and then I encourage these things. I stroke my submissive’s hair. I talk softly to her. I remind her of my protection and her safety. I pet her head and body. As I can feel her trust building in me, I will be more and more physical. I will grab her hair. I will bite her neck, her ear, her shoulder. I’ll fondle her tits and ass through her clothes, or reach underneath them. I’ll kiss her, or I’ll grab the sides of her face and force her to meet my eyes, to see the burning desire that lies just underneath. But these actions, like all actions taken in scene, must adhere to the limits established beforehand. For some, kissing is out, for others, biting might be, but no matter what the limits, there should be something that you can do here. If there is not, you probably need to find a different play partner.
I ease her into a place of trust and devotion and when I have that devotion, I am a veritable god.
From this point forward, I am in complete control and we are in scene. I may grab her by the throat and force her down, I may slap her ass with my hand or a flogger or a crop or a cane. But I will usually make it explicit through word or action or both that we’re about to begin. Just that simple vocal recognition is often enough to cause a seasoned submissive to drop into subspace for me. A newbie could require more care.
If I am not absolutely sure that we are ready, I might ask “are you ready?” and even when I get, “Yes, Sir,” in response, I know that is not quite sufficient. The cue has to be a command – at least for me it does. Any command here will do: “take off your clothes,” “kneel for me,” “we’re going to begin now,” are all appropriate and can all serve well here.
Excepting the striking, I tend to use most, if not all of the above for foreplay as well as warm up. In fact, much to my shock and glee, I was recently engaged in simple kinky sex with a submissive and she went rather deep into subspace without any pain of any kind at all.
That is the exception, however, and from this point forward it can still vary widely as to when, how, how deep, or even if a submissive will drop into subspace.
I should probably pause here to note that this is most definitely not the same thing as sub-drop. Sub-drop is something else entirely, and not at all positive. I’ll probably devote another entry to it at some point, but just don’t confuse the terms or people will look at you cross-eyed. Dropping into subspace is good, sub-drop is bad. Okay then…
Even when beginning your scene, especially if it is with someone new, it behooves one to start out slow. This slow roll into the scene is what is going to help a new partner or a BDSM newbie ease herself into subspace. In fact, this is what some Doms refer to when they talk about warm up. They ignore all of the pre-activity nonsense that I am so keen on and just go straight to the main event, thinking that because their first strike is only at half strength that they are engaging in good warm up practices.
While I agree that this is important, I do not agree that it is sufficient.
My goal as Dominant is to create the best experience possible for all participants. To some, this marks me a service Top and they think me weak. I don’t really care. I do what I do because it suits me, and because it gives me what I need. I get off on devotion and subservience, not delivering pain.
As I begin to enact the scene, I watch my sub carefully. I look for the signs of her being in subspace. I slowly increase the stimulation as I see her move further and further into subspace until I’m sure that she is there.
I look for the altered breathing, the flushed skin, the glazed eyes, changes to the inflection of her voice or the tenor of her movements and moaning.
It takes some practice to recognize, but once I know she’s there, I know that I can do literally anything and it will be experienced in a positive light, so it is well worth pursuing.
Not everyone will agree with me on these points. Not everyone finds it important to guide his submissive into subspace, and even I don’t find it necessary all of the time, but if you’re going to enact a scene, especially a brutal scene where pain is the primary intoxicant, it really is essential that you understand what you’re doing and how to help her get to where she needs to be in order to take the pain for you.
Let me know if you have questions, I’m happy to answer.
This was meant to educate, I hope you find it useful.
This was not a rant, but I am still Rant.