As regular readers will know, 2020 has so far been an experience. Not least because I split with my ex just before a global lockdown, or because I’ve got a new job as an erotic scriptwriter, but also because I’ve been delving deeper into the world of kink.
I’ve always loved talking to people and finding out what gets them hot under the collar and more recently there’s been an influx of guest posts on my blog as I’ve been interviewing various people about their experiences of sex, dating and relationships. As I’ve been opening my eyes, notebook and umm… legs (?!), I’ve discovered so much more about the not-so-hidden world of kink and BDSM (bondage and discipline, dominance and submission, sadism and masochism).
If you’ve read my Kink Post (which I’m sure many of you have as it’s my top post for views) you may remember our ‘Global Dom’. Whilst living in Paris, he was prolific in the Parisian swingers and BDSM scenes, and since moving to London a few years ago, has pursued his passions here. Ever eager to educate others, he gave his top tips for navigating the casual dating app Feeld (see Kink Post) and has since taught me a lot about what it means to be a Dominant as well as getting the most out of a submissive role in the bedroom. We’ve exchanged messages, voice notes and phone calls and he’s sent me podcasts and documentaries. As lockdown restrictions began to ease, we met in a park in London to get to know each other (but also to talk about filthy, exciting sex – a topic for another post).
Speaking with people from the kink community as well as reading about, and listening to, more expansive stories through podcasts and articles, I came to think about my own relationship with kink.
I’ve had questions such as:
- What have I discovered about myself so far?
- Do I have any hidden kinks?
- I’m a switch – is that with both men and women or am I more of a Domme or sub with men vs women?
- How submissive will I go?
- What boundaries of my own can I push?
Some of these answers have been found through discussions, reading and lived experiences. (And because I can’t help myself, I’ll be sure to write about these hot nights and early mornings soon – keep an eye out). I’ve unearthed new facets of my fetishes, desires and boundaries, but as is usually the case when researching a topic, I’ve discovered there’s still more to learn and learning has taken me in another direction.
As I dived deeper in, more questions came to the fore:
- What makes a good Dom/Domme, sub and switch?
- How can you have an effective D/s relationship?
- How about a bit of Dutch courage? Should you still have fun with BDSM if you’re drunk or high?
- Even a casual D/s relationship is emotionally intense. Do Doms/Dommes feel the need to limit attachment to their subs? What if a play partner becomes attached?
Fortunately, I had the gorgeous Global Dom ready and poised to answer some burning questions when I couldn’t find the answers online or through personal experience.
As is always the case with good sex, it starts with communication. I recently heard the owner of a Brighton sex shop say that she tells her customers the best sex toy is communication. Through sound communication, we can build trust and intimacy – even if just for one night. Personally, the best one night stands I’ve had have always occurred when we’ve had chemistry, communicated freely and there was a sense of trust to play and explore with one another. It’s this creativity in sex that can make it interesting and fun and that the BDSM community relish. When we’re younger or naïve, we conflate ‘good sex’ with knowing all the skills and techniques, but anyone – or any selection of people – can have excellent sex if they communicate throughout.
By better-knowing someone, the better you can dom them.Global Dom
Understandably, our Dominant wants his subs to know themselves. By setting clear boundaries, there are fewer grey areas and grey areas are to be avoided because, for these activities, a Dom/Domme has to be more cautious. You guessed it: it comes back to communication. Just as with a more typically romantic relationship set up, it’s important to understand what the other person is looking for – and in this case, what they want and need. By filling in a Kink Checklist (thank you, Global Dom, for this link), you can better understand your own desires and limits, as well as those of your partner.
Filling out my own checklist and answering questionnaires about my BDSM predilections made me wonder why I like this, this and this. Do different BDSM practices stem from certain personality traits?
For some, having a naturally dominate personality outside of the bedroom means they’re more submissive in the bedroom, for others, they couldn’t imagine submitting in any guise. (For a fab pseudoscience article about what sexual fetish you have according to your personality, see here, or for a slightly more reputable source on the development of kinks, click here.) Unsurprisingly, people who are into BDSM score high on openness and they are also more conscientious, which manifests itself in giving or taking rules in the bedroom. Dominants tend to score lower on neuroticism and agreeableness (with submissives being more eager to please others). Those in the BDSM community who are keen to attend sex parties and engage in scenes score higher on extraversion, whilst the research on extraversion in Dominants and submissives more generally seems inconclusive.
No matter whether someone is a switch or a sub, it has to be their natural side (or two sides for a switch) that is presenting at that time and not an imitation of how they feel they should be, according to what they have seen or been told. Some subs are obedient, others are bratty – this, too, has to come naturally.Dom
BDSM researcher, Brad Sagarin studied a cohort of switches (those who can play a dominant as well as a submissive role in the bedroom) and randomly assigned them to the role of ‘top’ (more dominant) and ‘bottom’ (more submissive). They found that both bottoms and tops entered ‘altered states of consciousness’ and, interestingly, the altered states they entered differed from that of their switch counterparts.
Bottoms entered an altered state called “transient hypofrontality”, which is associated with reductions in pain, feelings of floating, feelings of peacefulness, feelings of living in the here and now and time distortions. Tops, in contrast, entered the altered state known as “flow” (Csikszentmihalyi, 1991), which is associated with focused attention, a loss of self-consciousness and optimal performance of a task. We believe that these pleasurable altered states of consciousness might be one of the motivations that people have for engaging in BDSM activities.Brad Sagarin, Psychology Today
Fascinating stuff, right?!
Something that struck me whilst exploring kink further was the power dynamics. You’d be forgiven if, like me, you thought the Dominant holds all the power in a D/s dynamic. Oh, how foolish. In fact, I learnt from our Dom that it’s the sub who sets the pace, who limits what can and can’t be done (communication, remember), whereas it’s the responsibility of a Dom/Domme to hold control over the situation and read the scene to ensure the sub is ready for a new activity or dynamic. Whilst the submissive in the scene determines the boundaries, they have a loss of control and it’s their trust in their Dominant that allows the submissive the freedom to lose control. Whether a sub finds this overwhelming or stimulating can depend on the individual or the situation they’re in. Some call this ‘subspace’ whereby the mind of the submissive goes somewhere else, much like an out-of-body experience. (Keep your eyes peeled for an upcoming write-up of a pair who’ve set up BDSM and swingers nights called Sub Space.)
When sharing his experiences of switches, our Global Dom said he loves adding a switch ‘to the mix’. He said, ‘You can play with the hierarchical domination’ such as through a ‘Double Dom game’; dominating one sub who, in turn, dominates the other sub. Our Global Dom would orchestrate this game, and by knowing his subs’ kink maps he knows exactly which buttons to press, boundaries to test and limits to respect. ‘How is this dynamic the most fun?’ I (almost) hear you ask. When the subs don’t know each other, apparently. In this dynamic, our Dominant can have more control and teach the switch how to dominate the other sub and punish the switch if they’re not dominating the sub appropriately (or to his standards). And according to our Dom, ‘teaching the switch how to dominate takes the dominant side to another level’. For our Global Dominant, he reckons the ultimate scene dynamic is when a switch and a sub have the same boundaries as this carries less of a mental load for our Dom to manage.
Of course, with communication comes consent. Trust is only formed if you believe your partner won’t do anything to you that you don’t want (or you protest but you’ve consented to this, such as through CNC – consensual non-consent). In a D/s dynamic, if you trust your Domme/Dom, you can relinquish control and it’s the letting go and allowing your Dominant to be in control that aids you (as a sub) to mentally release and ‘embrace every sensation’.
Lots of us have experienced feeling nervous having sober sex or feeling a little too pissed as we fall into bed with someone else and with the risk that can accompany BDSM sex, many people would be concerned about how much Dutch courage they seek out. ‘I never have more than one or two drinks, usually, I just hydrate myself. I only have conscious and sober sex so if one of my subs is drunk or on drugs, I don’t play and let her sober up,’ says our Global Dom. I’ve also discovered that drinking loads of water before, during and after a scene promotes healing from impact play. In the BDSM scene, there’s a big emphasis on SSC – Safe, Sane and Consensual. Activities that are riskier in nature are introduced in a way that is as safe as possible and all parties involved should be able to give informed consent.
Through learning from my wise professor, I’ve discovered that BDSM goes beyond impact pain. We all know it’s not just whips and chains, but there can also be psychological domination and mental control. Impact play is just one form of play and humiliation and degradation can be part of the game. Denial acts as a Dominant’s tool to control his or her sub and usually, a sub has to earn attention and respect from their Dominant. As is often the case in life, balance is key. By balancing punishment with reward, the dynamic is elevated. Our Dominant explains the psychology behind reward and punishment (hello, Skinner’s rats…): if a Dom can push a sub’s pain boundary a little further, they’ll get a reward. A sub then transforms the pain to pleasure (positive reinforcement of the pain, followed by punishment to receiving a reward).
Whether you’re engaging in impact play or mental domination, it’s through good communication that you can work out if you’re well-matched and if your wants and needs align.
It’s important to be aware of yourself and of your own triggers.Him again
(And I’d like to add that it’s worth bearing in mind that your wants and needs can change and you may find a trigger you didn’t realise you had.) And this is why aftercare is so important. Aftercare can take any form; whatever the sub needs: cuddles, talking, a sleepover… the aim is to restore a sense of normality and leave the scene feeling balanced.
Depending on the aftercare the sub wants I wonder if there’s the worry that romance or emotions seep into the casual sex. I’ve always been able to separate sex from emotion, but I’m curious if this is as easy for others engaging in really intense sex. Does our Global Dom ever become emotionally attached to a play partner? Does he develop feelings for them? Has a partner ever been attached to him? Would that spoil the fun? How does he avoid a partner getting attached? ‘I’m very driven by emotions as I learned to manage them with time by knowing myself in different situations and the reason is that it helps me ‘live the moment’ which is never the same even with the same person. I do get emotionally attached to most of my regular partners, but it rarely develops into romantic feelings. I avoid others getting attached to me by setting up the scene very clearly. I try to communicate in the best way I can without any filters – usually it works very well as there aren’t any expectations.’
Whether you’re looking for a kinky one-night stand, regular raunchy sex or a BDSM relationship, communication is crucial. Discussing limits and desires, assuming you won’t be judged and knowing it’s okay to change your mind is all part of the dynamic. If you’re too embarrassed to talk about what you want and don’t want, maybe the BDSM scene isn’t quite right for you… just yet.