Finding subspace

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.

Rant off.

29 thoughts on “Finding subspace”

  1. Would love to know if You have ever put a sub in sub space though online only? i am curious if that truly is possible or if it is just a trick of that subs mind because she desires it so much that she “imagines” herself in subspace but it’s truly not “sub space “

    1. I personally have not. I do not normally take online submissives. I have heard of it being done and I believe that it could be possible – given that subspace is merely a state of mind, even if you are just imagining yourself to be in subspace – would that not be the same thing, or close enough as to be nearly indistinguishable?

      It is an experiment that I may have to try at some point.

      1. It is the same thing. Get her to describe things. Drive the arousal into deeper levels. She will love you for it.

      2. I did with my puppy. It’s similar. Make sure he feels safe. No distraction possible. Build it up slowly. Find the triggers that he needs to surrender. Key is find how they can let go of control… to my puppy what works is things like tabasco, because there is no way that he can stop the pain (on the contrary of clothespins for instance), so he has no choice to surrender.

  2. My girlfriend and I, we are both females, are both curious about the BDSM lifestyle. I’m the Sub in the relationship and I’ve done research with my partner on the lifestyle. Lately we’ve been experimenting with pain play(mostly biting, pinching and/or scratching), and she’s told me that after awhile of her doing these things to me, I start to act differently. I feel different too as she continues to do them, and I’m wondering if subspace is what I’m experiencing? The best way that I can describe the way I start to feel is that my head feels almost “fuzzy” and my muscles seem to go slack and I become more relaxed and hypersensitive. I’ve heard that everyone’s reaction to going into subspace is different, but I’m wondering if what I’m feeling is normal.

    1. Sydney – as you say, subspace can feel differently to different people but I can assure that the things that you are experiencing are pretty typical. Most of the people that I’ve spoken to about how subspace feels report similar sorts of sensations – tingly feelings, fuzzy thoughts, relaxed body or hypersensitive touch. There is no right answer for what it is or how it should feel, but it is almost always an alteration of your perception, akin to a kind of intoxication.

  3. So my question is this: my sub and I are both extremely new to all of it. I am just wondering what types of play have you seen trigger sub-space the most? Obviously each sub may have his or her hard limits so some may not work, I just mean is there a go-to activity you have foumd that triggers it more than others?

  4. I’m green as a Dominant I study constantly to emprove my capabilities as a Dominant. I have a question on subspace and the submissives ability to submit under the influence of marijuana. She smokes weed but I don’t do drugs or even drink. How will marijuana affect her submission and can she reach subspace properly?

    1. Im am also curious about this as well. I have a hard time letting go and a little weed helps me get to that point where i feel comfortable playing. I even got into subspace… which scared my Mistress a little. I dont think She was ready for that yet. All i could think of is why was she teasing me so much and stopping? I know being under the influence is usually not recommended by anyone in kink but sometimes we have demons and we cant fix them. Would u please be able to go further into explaining this?

  5. Your respect for your partners and they’re well being really comes through on this article. Do you have any suggestions on how to encourage subspace without explicit pain? We definitely don’t have any problem with plenty of warm up time. My partner wants me to be more assertive, and they are submissive to a degree but not in the formalized, meek way, that you describe here. It doesn’t come to me naturally and I want to make her experience amazing. Thanks

  6. I’ve found it easy to take a submissive into subspace without pain. Living in a D/s relationship 24/7, I always focus on take her into and keeping her in subspace for as long as possible, like the entire day. She flips from child-ish little girl like behavior into the sex slut on command. (She’s a LG). I love both states of being . Seeing her ‘feel totally free’ – say when we are out in vanilla world is complete bliss for me! We rarely break scene now, but this took quite a long time. So for others relax. Learn each other. As a dominant focus on giving to your submissive, asking for nothing except her submission. She will find it easier to get there and her triggers will become the reward of pleasing you. I’ve used this approach with 2 submissives.

  7. I am very new to being a dom, my sub I have loved for the last 9 years, and she has known this for 8 of but only recently started dating, she loves pain play, but I have always avoided it, being scared of pain myself, now I am looking for ways to learn how to so I.can satisfy her, basically I’m asking for tips/ information you can give to help me learn to safely take here to sub space ( I got her there on the first time we got together physically no sex but that high ) but She had this crash after that put her into a deep almost depression, she couldn’t look up, she may have reached sspace but she feels that she can’t orgasm and that send her into a dark place when were done playing…. I am no stud by any means I might as well be a freshmen in hs with my non existent sex life ( I’m talking ten times total ever) but I love her and will learn do or read anything to make myself the dom, lover, protector and best friend I can for her, any tips or advice would really help

    1. It sounds like you have the right ideas in mind – just read as much as you can, try new things, try to go to a kink event and watch people – just don’t be creepy about it. Have a safeword, practice using it, and then try new things.

  8. We’ll then think of a set of vectors that can most efficiently be use to construct a subspace which we will call a \”basis\”.

    1. I should have specified _which_ subspace I was speaking of beforehand, perhaps… but I was pretty sure the blog content made it obvious. Thank you for the amusing note though. *smile*

  9. This was delicious to read. My long term partner and I are starting to explore BDSM more deeply (in prior years we had tinkered with impact play), and the issues of D/s are haunting me a bit, as I struggle to understand why on earth I want this and how on earth someone else could give it to me. To read explorations like this, where you can cleary elucidate what does it for you, and how you find that in others, it helps me relax and come to terms with whatever it is is okay, and it’s better to know it, own it, and be able to elucidate it to others.

    Thank you.

  10. My slave goes in her own little world all the time…but when it comes to ” Playtime ” she can’t go into subspace any thoughts?

    1. I don’t think that subspace is quite the same thing as going into your own private mental landscape. It is really more of an altered state of mind than that. It requires surrender, but even then, it’s not some place that we can all get to. In my past, when I was a slave myself, I never managed to enter subspace. I’m not sure that it something that I am capable of doing in that context. However, I have achieved a similar state of mind through other activities. Taking your time and being deliberate can help, but it isn’t necessarily something that everyone can feel and that’s okay, as long as you’re still getting something from the experience.

  11. I am very new to this life style, My sub and I have agreed to live 24/7. I am in the process of learning as much as I can for her, this is akin to taking a drink from a fire hose. Your blog aided in educating Me further on this topic, thank You. Could I bother You for a reference I can further study? I would be very grateful. I have recently finished reading The Loving Dom, excellent book. Thank You in advance.

    1. Jumping right into a 24/7 D/s relationship when you are new – especially if you are both new – may be a bit ambitious. In some senses, it may seem easier.. it forces a particular structure to things, but as a D-type, 24/7 is a great deal of work to do well.

      The best way to learn is by doing, and while there are some books available, classes, conventions, and events will be a much better way to learn and can offer hands-on experience, which is invaluable.

      I would suggest that you look for events or classes near you. Fetlife is a good resource, and if you are in the SF Bay Area, is a great resource as well.

  12. I’m not sure if you’re answering comments on this post anymore, but I’m trying to do some research on figuring out why I am the way I am. I’ll explain.

    There is a dom that I’m in love with. He doesn’t live around me, unfortunately, but we have played via internet. We met completely outside of the BDSM scene, and just happened to figure out that we were both into it.

    Even just talking to him, sometimes not even necessarily about kink things, will trigger what feels like a hyper subspace reaction. I’ll be unable to focus, I feel drunk and languid, and like I want to curl up and just exist there for the rest of my life. Parting after this is difficult, but as it is online only, it isnt as if we can cuddle up together.

    He’s a little amused by my reactions to him, but doesn’t ever take advantage of me during these times. It’s strange because I have never experienced this with anyone else, only him, and only since finding out about his dominant nature. That’s been nearly 2 years ago. Is this subspace? Does anyone know what else it could be, or why it’s happening?

    1. This does certainly sound consistent with subspace reactions that I have seen in others, myself. The triggers for subspace can be physical, psychological, or even emotional – and will vary by D/s pair. It’s entirely possible for you to achieve subspace through nothing more than proximity for one Dominant, but you might find that it requires intense physical play with someone else – or you may never get there at all.

      In my experience, subspace comes from a feeling of surrender – whether that surrender comes from willingly giving over to the personality of your Dominant partner or through forceful submission as a result of intense physical punishment does not seem to really matter very much. The important thing is the sense of surrender and the feelings that accompany that, whether those be feelings of safety and protection or of exhaustion and helplessness. The key thing really is submission.

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