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Learning from bottoms: why, what, where? // Teaching (from) the bottom, part 6

Graphic of a woman in a white shirt and dark skirt. She holds a clipboard and points at the headline 'Teaching from the Bottom, Part #6.'

This is part 6 of my “Teaching (from) the Bottom” series, a group of posts about bottoms who teach and things that are taught to and by bottoms. Please see the first post for details on my language use and other introductory notes. You can find the other parts here:


Content note: This post mentions the existence of manipulative and abusive kinksters (both tops and bottoms), names some brief examples for not-so-skilled topping, and lists different kinds of pain. It also mentions a variety of BDSM activities, including sexual ones, with no or very little detail. Some of the footnotes talk more about abusive dynamics and name some red flags and possible risk minimization strategies.

I’m finally getting around to finish this series! In previous posts, I’ve talked about BDSM education that is centered on tops and the risks of not educating bottoms. I’ve also explained bottoming skills and looked at what can make it hard to intentionally use them and explored the question whether doing so is the same as ‘topping from the bottom.’ Now I want to look in more detail at why both tops and bottoms can benefit from learning from bottoms, what bottoms can teach each of those groups, and where we (might) do so [1].

What can bottoms learn from other bottoms?

Why should a bottom learn from other bottoms? Won’t their top/dom/domme teach them everything they need to know and mold them to their liking? (I mean, sure, this is a hot fantasy or role-play idea for some of us, but let’s stick to real life here.)

Most obviously, perhaps, other bottoms can teach you about bottom experiences and bottoming skills. After all, we are the ones who can most likely relate to much of what you’re experiencing as a bottom because we’ve been there (or somewhere similar). We’re the ones with whom you can trade stories about how a particular BDSM activity or dynamic feels from the bottom/submissive side and we can tell you what bottoms do during a scene to make it all work. We can also tell you how to handle the crash that is likely to happen when you ignore that advice. Other bottoms tend to understand why it can be hard to express your needs and desires, and we can tell you that doing so doesn’t make you a bad bottom. Other bottoms have likely been through one or more ‘kid in the candy store’ phases (where one wants to do all the kinky things right now and where one frequently throws caution to the winds in all the enthusiastic ‘frenzy‘) and can tell you to slow the fuck down and leave some unexplored kink for when you’re in your 30s/40s/50s/60s. We may also know and tell you which tops require a warning label — and if so, for what [2].

In my experience, (well-educated) bottoms are sometimes more likely than tops to give other bottoms accurate information about activities, people, and the risks involved with them — simply because we’re not trying to get you to play with us and (unconsciously) glossing over any risks in the process. That doesn’t mean that all bottoms are automatically trustworthy (they aren’t — manipulative and uninformed bottoms exist) or that you should never trust a top who offers to explain things to you or mentor you (although I would advise extra caution and careful assessing of the real-life power dynamics at play if ‘mentoring’ very quickly turns out to be ‘doing BDSM with that top’) [3].

And finally, no matter who you are and what your role is, you should never just have one person (or group) as your single source of information about anything, including your top/dom/domme, no matter how much you love and/or trust them. If you use just one source of input, it’s a lot easier for other people to selectively withhold information from you or give you wrong information to begin with, to non-consensually manipulate you, and to potentially even abuse you (which is also true in non-kinky circumstances) [4]. Especially when you’re new to BDSM in general or to D/S dynamics that aren’t scene-based. So make sure you have more than one source for your input on possible play types and relationship styles and about the potential risks and suitable safety precautions associated with the things you want to do [5].

What can tops learn from bottoms?

So, yes, bottoms should absolutely learn from other bottoms. However, I also strongly believe that tops should learn from bottoms, including but not limited to the bottoms they actually play with. Why? Because, while solo BDSM also exists, BDSM is generally thought of as a partnered activity (or a team activity, if you play with more than one other person at a time), and everyone involved in it has valuable information to offer and experiences to share. To wholly dismiss the perspective of bottoms as irrelevant to top education or to assume tops can’t learn anything valuable from us (including some topping skills!) is to be naively uninformed at best and arrogantly ignorant at worst.

The paragraph about not relying on a single source of information in the previous section also applies to tops, of course. Unfortunately, manipulative and abusive bottoms/submissives exist as well, and tops may want to put up some shields against them, too.

So what is it that tops can (and should) learn from bottoms? Most importantly, tops can learn from bottoms how we experience the things we do together because even when we’re really expressive during a scene, there’s always a part of our experience that isn’t visible from the outside. Then, there’s the whole range of what it is that we do during a scene (and before/after a scene) to make things work and feel good for all involved. I’m sure that observant tops can deduce several of these things on their own, but bottoms (and switches who bottom) still have first-hand, internal experience with these things that, again, isn’t always visible. Tops can also learn from (and with) bottoms what signs and signals to watch out for in reading us and how to communicate with us during a scene.

And finally, bottoms can also teach tops quite a few topping skills, even if we’ve never topped a scene in our entire life. However, many people don’t want us to do so. A while ago, Kinky Lotus exasperatedly wrote on Twitter:

“Experienced bottoms are still only seen as being able to help new bottoms learn to stretch and communicate about nerve issues.”

and:

“New tops want new bottoms who won’t tell them how bad their rope is & experienced tops want new bottoms that will fawn all over them and tell them how amazing they are. Nobody wants a bottom that will tell you your TK is shit & you didn’t look them in the eyes once the whole tie” [6]

While Kinky Lotus has expressed these issues in rope-specific terms, the underlying principle is also true in other forms of BDSM. In my experience, few tops (sadly especially experienced ones) want a bottom who will tell them their aim is consistently off and their flogger strands keep wrapping in ways that clearly aren’t intentional. No matter if it’s done during a scene or sometime afterwards.

I am occasionally annoyed by my own reluctance to criticize a top about their topping technique, especially when it’s something ‘objectively’ wrong (e.g. “you rarely hit the spot you aimed for and it didn’t seem like you did that on purpose” or “you repeatedly hit my back hip bones”) and not just a matter of taste or compatibility (e.g. “I would have preferred more/less thud than sting” or “I would have liked a slower/faster increase in intensity”). More so when it’s a casual partner I don’t have an established friendship or other relationship with already. Nevertheless, even if it makes us uncomfortable, saying these things is important so these tops can become aware that they’re continuously missing the spot or failed to do a basic safety check (feel/ask where the pelvic bones are located on this particular person’s body). And even if you’ve already decided not to play with that top ever again, please take one for the team if you can, and tell them for the benefit of their next bottom who may be newer and more clueless than you [7].

Why would bottoms know anything about topping?

But why would bottoms know anything about topping to begin with? Aren’t we speaking outside of our area of expertise here? Nope.

First of all, as bottoms, we are the recipients of topping and therefore the ones who know best how things feel from that side of the interaction, whether we play with pain/sensation, power/control, restraint, service, or a mix thereof. More generally, we often have first-hand knowledge of what type of impact toy will feel stingy, thuddy, or burning, which will reverberate deeply or stay on the surface, which will feel concentrated or dispersed (thanks to Xan West for that distinction in terms), often even if we’ve never played with that particular toy before. Bottoms can describe nuances of pain (or humiliation or devotion or…) that many tops can’t even sense because — as more than one sadist top has told me — to them “it all just hurts” when they try a toy on themselves (or imagine themselves in the bottom position). And bottoms can tell you what part of an implement actually landed where because, well, it’s our body it landed on. We know which top actions support us, which challenge us in welcome ways, which harm us, which annoy us, and which just do nothing for us, both inside and outside of a scene [8]. Especially if we’ve been doing this stuff for years. Or decades, even.

Aside from that, there isn’t (and shouldn’t be) a magic barrier that keeps bottoms from learning stuff about topping, whether it’s in a workshop (which we may attend even though it may not be aimed at us, if only to serve as a training model for our top), from a book or blog post, from a conversation with a top (or a switch who tops), during a scene, or in a reflection of one afterwards. Also, just like tops, many of us have physical and/or mental skills from our non-kinky life that we can draw on to understand and explain how certain topping techniques work. I’m thinking of a wide range of skills and related occupations and hobbies here: racket sports, yoga or acrobatics, martial arts, partner dance, physiotherapy and medicine in general, sex work, acting, coaching or teaching (of humans and/or animals), caregiving, household/office/event organization, management skills, military or law enforcement, and so on. While none of these things are the same as BDSM, we can still often transfer our respective skills from one area to another.

And while I’m sure there are some topping skills that need a lot of practice and that are genuinely hard to teach if you didn’t put in that practice yourself (e.g. stuff like advanced Florentine flogging), there are a lot of things tops do that really are not that hard, technically-speaking. Which doesn’t mean they’re any less fun or effective [9]! Furthermore, lots of aspects of a partnered activity can be taught from either side, whether that’s partner dancing, foot massage, or different types of BDSM. We’re not always used to seeing that, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t possible. And if tops can teach bootblacking or deep-throating to bottoms (which hardly anyone ever questions they can!), then bottoms can surely teach fundamental impact play technique and safety, how/where to attach and remove a bunch of clamps, or where to place rope to minimize the risk of nerve damage. Oh, and (bottom-leaning) switches exist, too.

So, yes, many bottoms can explain — and often demonstrate, too — (at least) the basic handling and function of a toy/technique and relevant safety considerations just as well as tops can. I would even argue that a high conscience of one’s own body, a theoretical understanding of the forces (physical, anatomical, and mental) involved with a specific BDSM activity, and the ability to explain and demonstrate these things in a way someone else can understand are actually more important skills in teaching (at least) basic topping skills than extended topping experience. So there really is no reason why bottoms categorically shouldn’t also be able to teach some topping skills.

Where can you learn from bottoms?

Now that I’ve hopefully convinced you that you, too, should learn from bottoms, where can you do that? This learning from bottoms can take place informally, like in a chat between friends, or in a conversation at a munch, or of course by observing and and talking to your own bottom partner(s) (including professional submissives if you work with them). I actually believe this is a very common way to learn about kink, not least because it’s a lot more accessible than a workshop or a demonstration for many of us. The drawback to such informal teaching is that it’s harder to plan for, and that the information given is often less carefully selected and well-structured to enable effective learning compared to a good book, video, or workshop.

You can also learn from bottoms in a more ‘formal’ setting, such as a workshop or demonstration. With the caveat that many workshops still don’t include much input from and about the bottom perspective, I’m still a fan of them and encourage you to participate in them if you can. They offer the opportunity to get input from the presenter(s), exchange experiences with other attendees and hear different perspectives, try out a new technique in a non-scene setting and get immediate feedback, and of course to meet others who share your interest in that type of play. That said, in-person workshops aren’t accessible for all of us, and not everyone learns well in such a setting. What I’m saying about workshops, however, often also applies to other formats of ‘formal’ BDSM education (such as books, blogs, podcasts, videos, or online workshops). I also would count sessions with sex workers/professional submissives here when they are primarily used for a teaching purpose.

There’s also an area of overlap between ‘formal’ and ‘informal’ teaching, such as private one-on-one mentoring, either in person or, to a degree, online. For example, you might find an experienced bottom friend or acquaintance who agrees to teach you something in a sort of ‘mini-workshop for one’ [10]. I know more than one experienced bottom who delights in explaining to a new top how something is done and then serving as their practice model, whether that’s in a more ‘workshoppy’ context or in an actual scene. While some bottoms may find this type of teaching incompatible with their own submissiveness, others are either fine with teaching from a non-submissive headspace or they frame the teaching as a service they perform for their dominant or the community at large. (As with every other BDSM activity, it’s not the activity as such that determines one’s role, but the way the participants frame it.)

Over the course of a kinky lifetime, I recommend that you find a variety of bottoms to learn from in different contexts. If they/we charge money for our services, pay what they/we ask or find someone better suited to your budget. If we don’t charge money, try offering something else in return for our efforts, from a heartfelt “thank you,” to a cup of coffee or a nice dinner, to some knowledge of your own, to a task you can do for them/us. Bottoms and our skills and services are unfortunately still too often taken for granted, so explicitly acknowledging and honoring them (and yes, paying for them, if applicable) is a good way to help change that. (This is an excellent place to link to my Patreon, right?)

As you can see, there are many reasons why both bottoms and tops should learn from bottoms, many things that can be learned from us, and lots of ways to find and access our educational offers. The next post (the final one in this series, at least for the time being) will discuss the issues that can come up for bottoms who teach, especially when we teach while we bottom. It will also look at collaborative learning and teaching done by bottoms and tops together.


Notes

[1] A disclaimer first: Not every sentence in this post applies to every single bottom (or top). Of course, the expertise and teaching skill of an individual bottom (or top) is as varied as the range and duration of our experience with BDSM, the variety and expertise of the partners we’ve shared it with, our level of interest in reflection and explanation of kinky matters, and our communication skills in general. Not every bottom (or top) who is amazing to play with is also good at explaining things about that experience. Not every bottom (or top) who has a lot of accurate theoretical knowledge always has the same range of experience as well. Not every bottom (or top) knows every type of BDSM technique or relationship. So please make your own assessments of the people you meet and/or read about (myself included) and potentially want to learn from.

[2] Some examples of what bottoms may tell other bottoms about certain tops: This top has bad aim but is great with psychological play. They’re a hot fuck but bad with power dynamics. They often push limits that people don’t want to have pushed. They’re a great partner for a scene but not-so-great in a relationship. They have major jealousy issues. They’ve repeatedly violated people’s boundaries despite being told to stop. Each of these things are probably good to know, even if they’re not necessarily a dealbreaker for all of us.

[3] If only to avoid the kind of “submissive training” offered by some tops/dominants that really is just manipulation, exploitation, and (emotional) abuse of (often) young and/or inexperienced bottoms who don’t know enough to understand what they’re getting into there (which makes their consent questionable at best).

[4] I want to emphasize that abuse is of course never the fault of the one who is/has been abused. However, as someone who has been emotionally abused and gaslighted by a former intimate partner (not a cis man, by the way), I still find it helpful to think of strategies that may reduce the risk of such abuse happening again and to acknowledge that I still had some agency during that relationship (even though I was making choices based on the highly distorted information and often outright lies I received from that partner). The abuse was still entirely the fault of my ex. And if you (or I) experience abuse in the future despite taking lots of precautions, that will still be the sole fault of the abuser.

[5] And then think about whether the information you’ve received even makes sense at all, whether it actually applies to your situation, and who is giving it to you for what purpose and with what agenda. Yes, that sounds terribly distrustful and not sexy at all. Nevertheless, this is simply part of your job and your responsibility as an adult who wants to engage in activities that are potentially risky (and all kink is, although to different degrees) and need both your and your top’s informed consent. You’re a bottom/submissive, not a mindless robot (no shame on robot role-play, of course!).

[6]  ‘TK’ is short for ‘takate kote‘ (aka ‘box tie’ or ‘gote shibari’), which is a common type of chest harness tied with rope that can either be used on its own or as a foundation for other ties.

[7] I’m assuming that the top in question is making genuine mistakes they’d want to know about so they can rectify them. Most tops will indeed be that person. However, it’s possible that a top already is aware but just doesn’t care (which probably is a sign that they’re not a trustworthy partner to play with at all). And if you have reason to believe it’s genuinely unsafe for you to make this top aware of their shortcomings yourself, I’m all for keeping yourself safe first. But maybe you can tell other bottoms so they can do their own risk assessment about this top? Or maybe you can ask another top to casually mention the issue in an unrelated conversation to see if the person is more receptive to the criticism then? Or perhaps there’s a party host or dungeon monitor who can keep an eye out for that person at the next event? Because if you don’t even feel safe in offering this top some constructive criticism, there may be a bigger issue at hand than just bad aim, and it probably shouldn’t stay a secret. Then again, I don’t know your situation, so you’re the one who needs to make the ultimate judgment of what you can and can’t do.

[8] Of course, these things are not universally the same for all bottoms. However, there are some things that are fairly universal in their effect. E.g. both irregularity and a fast increase in sensation intensity will get more adrenaline going and create more mental overload — which can be very exciting —than regularity and easing into a sensation very slowly, which is likely to feel more floaty and meditative — or boring. Whether a given bottom likes either of those effects and what emotions and reactions each of them brings up in us is a completely different question, though. As with any other BDSM information, nothing can replace actual communication with the person you want to play with. Still, the basic information “X will do Y” remains the same, and it’s something that bottoms can teach tops because we have experienced it in our own bodies (and brains), while other tops have only witnessed it from the outside.

[9]  To be highly enjoyable for all involved, topping (or bottoming!) really doesn’t have to be an exceptionally athletically accomplished thing whose looks will awe any spectator. In fact, I actually would argue that more often than not it gets less enjoyable the more performative it becomes, unless the pleasure comes from the shared performance as such.

[10] Just like a more experienced top might agree to meet a less experienced top to show them how to handle a specific toy. Or how they might agree to give a bottom a short demo of how a toy feels, in a way that isn’t considered a scene by either of the participants.


Image source: Pixabay, color edited and text added by me.

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Kink is a community thing (for me)

Child-like drawing of three people in different kinky outfits on a rainbow-colored background

CN: This post briefly mentions some anti-BDSM prejudice; one of the footnotes also mentions TERFs and fascists. There are also brief references to heteronormativity and to the underrepresentation of BPOC and disabled people in the (queer) kink community.

Before we start, an important note on language: In this post, I’m talking a lot about the 1990s and early 2000s and partly use the language we used then to describe groups, events, and media I encountered. It’s crucial to understand that back then, ‘lesbian,’ or ‘dyke’ as a descriptor on book titles, event flyers, and in articles about the community was commonly understood to include not just cis women, but also some trans women as well as some nonbinary or genderqueer identities (as we’d call them today), especially on the butch spectrum. It also included many bisexual/pansexual women. ‘Women’s’ kink communities tried to be more inclusive of the bi/pan women who had been there from the beginning by using ‘women who do BDSM with women’ instead of ‘lesbian’ in event descriptions (and eventually further adapted the wording to be more inclusive of transmasculine people, too). Not everyone in the ‘lesbian’ community wanted all of these people to be included, and their inclusion was often contested and conditional, but they were still there — and were expected to be there by the vast majority of us. Also, all of this language was/is in constant flux, just like the community it described. Please keep this in mind when you read on. [1]

For me, BDSM has always been a community thing.

I was (consciously) introduced to BDSM at a (vanilla) lesbian conference in the mid-1990s. At this event, BDSM (or SM, as we called it back then [2]) was mostly framed as something terrible, abusive, and deeply patriarchal, but nevertheless: the topic was unmistakably present — as well as several dykes in leather and/or fishnets. And while I found those SM dykes way too awe-inspiring to talk to (as the brand-new baby dyke I was at the time), I still noticed that the actual people and their public behavior didn’t seem to have much in common with all the warnings about them. In fact, I distinctly remember them as exceedingly respectful, fun, and, well, attractive. I also learned that they apparently traveled in groups.

After that event, and true to form as a budding sex nerd, I did what I always did when a topic intrigued me: I went to search for more information and more perspectives on the matter of BDSM, especially between women. I first found some feminist books and articles which were almost all against SM [3]. The topic kept coming up every now and then in my lesbian and/or feminist social circle, but the most positive attitude towards BDSM I encountered was something along the lines of “well, everyone does problematic stuff, and SM is just another example of that.” So I kept looking.

Since I was already immersed in lesbian and queer communities, I knew there was a monthly meet-up for SM dykes at the local LGBTQ+ center. I never dared to go there on my own, mostly because I didn’t even know yet if I really was into BDSM or just thought I might be. But when I saw that this group was going to host a public discussion about a BDSM topic at the LGBTQ+ center, I decided that this was my chance and talked a vanilla friend into accompanying me. Two or three real-life(!) SM(!) dykes(!)[4] talked about their kinky life and patiently answered some “BDSM 101” questions from the audience of curious and mostly female queers. The fact that I now at least knew some faces helped a lot with finding the courage to finally go to one of the meet-ups. Which was ridiculously small (I think we were four or five people?). I was a bit disappointed, especially since we had practically nothing in common besides an interest in some aspect of BDSM. I went a few times but ultimately concluded that this particular group just wasn’t my crowd.

Around the same time, I began to have a bit of internet access in the university computer lab. I found the website of a national network of “women who did SM with women,” which had a small archive, a book list, and a few links to U.S. resources about lesbian/queer BDSM. This is how I found the website of Patrick Califia, one of the most groundbreaking leather dykes in history. Reader, I printed out everything. Then a lover introduced me to Internet Relay Chat (IRC), which had a lesbian channel and a BDSM one in my language (and some people — my lover and me included — hung out in both). Shortly thereafter, there also was a Yahoo mailinglist for SM dykes in my country. That lover also talked about doing BDSM with me, although I still wasn’t quite sure I really was into that. (I was rather slow in understanding that ‘adventurous sex with a power exchange flavor’ also counted as ‘real’ BDSM…)

It was probably through some of the internet links that I first came across explicitly pro-BDSM, sex-positive, and (usually) queer feminism. I also spent a couple of months in San Francisco in the late 1990s, which was nothing short of a revelation for me. I spent much time in second-hand book stores, buying everything I could find from queer (and mostly kinky) authors and activists like Patrick Califia, Dorothy Allison, Susie Bright, Kate Bornstein, Amber Hollibaugh, Carol Queen, Joan Nestle, Samois, and Gayle Rubin (yes, you should look up all of them!). Their writing finally offered a feminist perspective that made sense to me: Choice and consent were crucial elements in judging the ethics of any (sexual) activity. And feminism shouldn’t prescribe just another set of universal rules of ‘correct’ behavior for women to follow. Reading these books felt like tapping into a rich history and ongoing community of like-minded people who had made way for me to be as kinky, consensually non-monogamous/polyamorous, and queer as I wanted to be. These writings deeply shaped my understanding of BDSM, feminism, and queerness; they mentored me, comforted me, challenged me, and supported me at a time when I didn’t have people to do that anywhere nearby [5].

When I wasn’t buying books during my stay in San Francisco, I also took an all-gender queer class on peer education on HIV prevention at the Harvey Milk Institute, went to see non-commercial dyke strip shows, danced at various queer clubs, and met a bunch of gorgeous dykes — most of whom were openly kinky, it seemed. It was a budding queer femme pervert’s paradise. Going back home was like traveling back in time ten years.

Nevertheless, I eventually met some kinky dykes I could relate to. And I finally started doing some BDSM for real (which then meant ‘with proper negotiations and dedicated kink toys’ for me). In the early 00s, I began to regularly go to munches, workshops, conferences, play parties, and other events for “women who did BDSM with women.” Everything was organized and run by unpaid volunteers from this community, nothing was for profit, and the general attitude was “if you want it to exist, create it yourself.” Very soon, I started to get more involved in creating and maintaining dyke/women’s BDSM spaces as well. I helped organize a few play parties, initiated and participated in some discussion events, started and co-hosted a munch, designed and distributed flyers, participated in online forums and mailing lists, held countless private (and often educational) conversations about the topic, and worked for the inclusion of BDSM issues into larger women’s and LGBTQ+ events. I much enjoyed the overall DIY ethos that allowed me to try out lots of things, collaborate with other kinky queers, and use my skills to do something I considered important. I eventually took a break from all things kink for a few years, but as soon as I returned to the community, I immediately went back to volunteering for things. I also began moving into a teaching role and started giving various workshops on BDSM topics within my community (which I still enjoy a lot).

I also began using FetLife, which has become the central online place to find out about relevant BDSM events and occasionally discuss community issues (besides its function as my kinky address book). Despite its terrible search function for writings (and all the other things that are terrible about that platform), I’ve still managed to find some useful information about BDSM there and use the website as an additional source of my ongoing kink education. Last October I’ve begun to get involved in yet another vague community related to kink here in the kink/sex blogging world and on kink Twitter. I’ll admit that I sometimes feel a bit alienated by the predominance of cis male/cis female relationships (many of which seem to be based in marriage and 24/7 D/S) and the at times overwhelming (and usually unthinkingly careless) heteronormativity. And I still wish there were more voices in this world that come from a queer background even a little bit more like mine. But I’ve also found some awesome LGBTQ+ writers, some really nice straight (or hetero-leaning) individuals, and I enjoy getting glimpses into BDSM worlds that often are very much not like my own, especially through the various writing memes (such as Wicked Wednesday, Kink of the Week, Food for Thought, Erotic Journal Challenge, etc.).

As you can see, my actual partners in kink play a comparatively small role in all of this. Not because my relationships and my BDSM practice aren’t important, pleasurable, or influential in forming my own BDSM identity and understanding my desires, but because (most) partners have come and gone, but community has always been there, whether I’ve had a partner, or several partners, or none. And play partners also sometimes were collaborators in my community work (and community fun!). Community is also how I’ve found most of my play partners so far. It’s always been a matter of knowing someone who knows someone they introduced me to, or of attending the same events and starting to talk (and eventually play). I’ve also played a lot at play parties in recent years, more than at anyone’s home.

Both in terms of queerness and of kink, and especially in terms of the intersection of both, I’m a community person through and through. I can’t imagine a completely private queer and/or BDSM life for myself at all. It’s part of my identity as a happy queer pervert to be involved in community work, to do my part in welcoming those who’re arriving after me, in educating others about BDSM, in passing on our history, in working for greater inclusion of those who are still underrepresented (such as Black people/people of color or disabled people), in looking for and promoting ways to handle intra-community conflict that avoid exclusion of anyone as much as possible, and in generally just keeping the community going as a community. These are the people I call on when I need help. These are the people I support to the best of my ability. These are the people who have been around for almost a decade now, and who were still there even after I needed to take an extended break. These are the people who’ve challenged me in the best ways and who’ve let me challenge them. These are the people who’ve seen me at my best and at my worst. This is my family. Which probably explains why I’m so damn protective of it.

So, yeah. Go and find your community (if you want one). And if it doesn’t exist yet, start creating it. Please?


Notes

[1] I’ve briefly considered updating the language to current use, but that seemed deeply ahistoric and potentially even more distorting than just using the terms we used then and leaving them as vaguely and (at times) paradoxically defined as they were then.

[2] Back then ‘SM’ (or ‘S&M’ or ‘S/M’) encompassed the same variety of activities and dynamics as ‘BDSM’ does today. So this is how I’m using it in this post.

[3] The most ridiculous anti-BDSM argument I remember was in one of Sheila Jeffrey’s books (yes, that’s the same Sheila Jeffreys who is a massive TERF). She claimed (and I’m paraphrasing from memory here) that BDSM practitioners would be unable to resist “fascists marching down the streets again” due our fetishizing of uniforms and consensual D/S power dynamics. Even back then, without the two decades of nuanced BDSM education and experience I now have, that seemed a highly improbable prediction. In fact, nowadays, trans-exclusionary radical feminists (TERFs) (or ‘gender critical’ ‘adult human females,’ as they like to call themselves) are among the people who most eagerly side with literal fascists. Sheila Jeffreys herself included. Feel free to draw your own conclusions from that.

[4]  Well, technically, one of them was a bisexual woman who was in a polyamorous D/S relationship with one of the lesbians.

[5]  It’s not a coincidence at all that the majority of these writers also wrote about butch/femme dynamics or identified as one or the other. For me personally, butch/femme and BDSM has always been intertwined (which might be a topic for another post sometime), especially since I discovered both of these identities and communities for myself almost at the same time. (Of course this connection is not universal. Not all kinky lesbians identify as butch/masc or femme; and not all butches/mascs and femmes are kinky.)


This is a post for the Kinktober prompt “community.”


Image source: Pixabay (rainbow-colored background figures), cropping and black drawings by me. 

Elust #123

Photo courtesy of Deviant Succubus

Note from Kinky & Nerdy: This month, I’ve submitted a post to Elust again. Elust collects blog posts related to sex, BDSM and relationships which have been submitted by their authors every month. It’s a great way to discover new writers and find worthwhile posts you might otherwise have missed and to also have your own posts be found by others. Everyone who is included in the published collection has to post the entire digest. So here it is!

I really like the featured image that was chosen for this month!


Welcome to Elust 123

The only place where the smartest and hottest sex bloggers are featured under one roof every month. Whether you’re looking for sex journalism, erotic writing, relationship advice or kinky discussions it’ll be here at Elust. Want to be included in Elust #124? Start with the rules, come back November 1st to submit something and subscribe to the RSS feed for updates!

~ This Month’s Top Three Posts ~

Bittersweet Symphony

Breast cancer awareness – check your boobs

The devil is in the detail…

~ Featured Post (Molly’s Picks) ~

Metamorphosis: Fat, Fit and In Between

Contraception- life without birth control

Erotic Non-Fiction

Take It To The Limit

Marshmallows

Spank me Red

Custom Made Cuckold Porn

Thoughts & Advice on Kink & Fetish

Control

The Image (1975): The Celluloid Dungeon

Return to CMnf

Latex for the Curious – Catsuits

Negotiating a stunt cock

Ruby Ring Piece

13 reasons why I love play parties <- this is mine!

You Got a Piercing Where?

Erotic Fiction

Alice’s Minotaur: A Ravishment Tale

Shadow of You

Punished

The Jealous Wife

What we both want

Rugby world cup I only care about the fucking

The Red Thread

Frigid

Thoughts & Advice on Sex & Relationships

Loosing My Virginity

5 things that encourage Dominance

My Happy Place is an 80s (Sex) Mansion

Sex News, Opinion, Interviews, Politics & Humor

Sex Work – How My Views Have Changed

Golden Brown

Body Talk and Sexual Health

Paradise Lost – Vale Sir Lust

My Nexplanon Implant Story: The Procedure

Elust

Ideas for non-impact pain play

Collage of different methods for non-impact pain play. Includes claws, rope, chili, clothespins, teeth, a Wartenberg wheel, a hand grabbing flesh, a frog doing yoga, and a drawing of rough body play

CN: This post contains many brief descriptions of possible techniques for consensual pain play. Other forms of BDSM (such as bondage, D/S, and impact play) are briefly mentioned in a few additional examples at the end. There’s also a list of physical and mental illnesses and disabilities (as reasons for not doing impact play). The post and especially the footnotes contain several mentions of possible injuries and other unwanted consequences of non-impact pain play (in the context of safety information).

Doing S/M means hitting people or being hit, right? Wrong.

I mean, sure, playing with sadism and masochism or with intense sensations can absolutely mean impact play (I myself especially like canes and floggers for that). But there are many other ways to play with pain and intense sensation without anyone striking anyone else with anything.

Why would you want to do S/M but avoid impact play?

Many people are into intense sensations and/or pain as part of their BDSM, but don’t find impact play is a good option for them.

Maybe you have chronic (or temporary) physical health issues that make impact play risky or painful in unwanted ways. If you’re anything like me, you probably want to avoid getting hit anywhere near your acute sciatica (which can affect the butt, thighs, and calves on at least one side of the body). Maybe you’re dealing with a slipped disk or other spine-/pelvis-related issues and don’t want to risk things getting worse by adding forceful impact in the whole area. Maybe you’re a migraineur or sufferer from other headaches or shoulder issues and therefore don’t want to receive any impact on your upper back. Maybe you have asthma or another lung illness that would be exacerbated by being hit on your back or chest with some force. Maybe you’re hypermobile/have Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and need to protect your joints by avoiding abrupt movements or impact. Maybe you’re the top and have wrist or shoulder injuries, so hitting your bottom is painful for you. Maybe one or both of you have mobility issues that make it hard to find a good position or angle for impact play that works for both of you.

Maybe your neurology and/or psychology make impact play undesirable. Maybe your brain doesn’t deal well with sudden changes in sensations or their intensity, so the quick and fast pain that is associated with a lot of impact play isn’t pleasurable for you. Maybe you and/or your partner were beaten as a kid or assaulted as an adult and want to avoid having any memories or trauma flashbacks of that triggered by impact play.

Maybe there are other reasons why you want to avoid impact play. Maybe it’s simply too noisy for the environment you’re in and you need a quieter form of pain play. Maybe you want more physical closeness and eye contact than is possible in many types of impact play. Maybe you just don’t like the kind of pain or sensation that comes with being hit but still would like to incorporate some S/M into your play. Or perhaps you do like impact play but also want to experience/inflict other kinds of pain because you like variety, because you couldn’t bring your favorite impact toys while traveling and don’t want to spend money on any pervertables, because your ‘impact play areas’ are already majorly bruised and need time to heal, or because you’re just a gorgeously greedy masochist who wants all the consensual pain you can get or a wonderfully greedy sadist who wants to have a whole orchestra of pain play types at your disposal.

Ideas for non-impact pain play

Whatever your reason for ruling out impact play or branching out from it, I have some ideas for you! For this post, I’ve put some more detailed remarks on safety and hygiene into the footnotes. These should be enough to give you a rough idea of the risks and risk reduction methods associated with specific forms of non-impact pain play. However, please also do your own research, find additional information, and double-check what I’ve said. I’m not a medical professional, just a happy pervert who is sharing ideas and experiences to the best of my knowledge.

1. Using just the top’s body to create consensual pain

My first category is types of non-impact pain you can create with just the top’s body. So this is written from the top perspective.

You can scratch your partner with your fingernails [1]. You can bite them. You can suck on their skin to create painful hickeys. You can either grab whole handfuls of their flesh and squeeze. Or you can just pinch a bit of skin, with your fingertips or even with your fingernails. For extra pain, you can add some twisting of the flesh/skin in question. You can pull their hair. You can poke them with one or more fingers (this is especially effective on bruises and/or trigger points). You can also dig body parts like your hands/knuckles, elbows, knees, or feet (with or without shoes on) into their flesh. The pain of this can intensify if you push the bottom against a surface such as a wall, the floor, or a bed that isn’t too soft. Generally, rough body play can fit into this category as well, and I’d also put rough sex here.

All of these things can be done with more or less intensity. Most of them can be done at different speeds, too.

2. Using just the bottom’s body to create consensual pain

You can also use (mostly) the bottom’s body to create painful sensations.

One example for this are all kinds of stress positions (such as holding your arms stretched out to the sides for a long time or ‘sitting’ against a wall) to create muscle fatigue and the resulting endurance pain [2]. Some types of stretching can also be used to create pain by using the bottom’s body. You could probably also use or adapt yoga poses for this. Or you can use other types of endurance or strength-building exercise (e.g. push-ups, sit-ups, squats, ballet stretches, laps) until things become painful.

Since these methods in particular are highly dependent on the physical abilities of the bottom and can cause joint injuries if not done right, I recommend careful attention to the bottom’s current range of movement and endurance and not pushing beyond that range without solid anatomical knowledge to back you up.

Within those parameters, the top can of course also add a bit of pressure or weight at crucial points to increase the stress/stretch. They can either use their own body for this or give the bottom something heavy to hold (such as full water bottles, heavy boots, or a stack of books).

3. Using additional tools and toys to create consensual pain

Of course there are also many tools, toys, and assorted items you can use for pain play without hitting.

Some of them will still cause a quick, sharp pain (so they might not be suitable for people who can’t handle this). Others can be used to slowly increase the pain intensity. Some methods can do both. The type of pain caused by these methods covers a wide range, from deep pressure to surface pinch or snap, from burning to stretching pain, from brief  to long-lasting sensation.

One of my favorite non-impact pain toy is a bunch of clothespins or other clips and clamps. Depending on their weight, strength, and size, they can be used almost everywhere on the body (note: clamps are not just for nipples!). Some people enjoy tying together a series of clothespins on a piece of string or ribbon, placing the clamps in a row on the bottom’s body (e.g. along the underside of an arm or across the stomach), and then yanking them off all at once (this is called a ‘zipper’). Others use two sticks (e.g. chopsticks), place a nipple between them and tie the sticks together with rubber bands [3].

Rope is also a very flexible toy for creating pain. Even if you can’t tie a single knot, rope can hurt through abrasion (e.g. by pulling the rope across the skin quickly and causing soe degree of rope burn or by using a very coarse rope like coconut rope). It can also be used in rope bondage that is painful, whether through pressure of the rope as such, stretch caused by positioning, and/or the pain that comes with suspension bondage. There’s also predicament bondage (which can also be done with other bondage equipment) where the bottom has to carefully balance between two positions/sources of sensation and relief from one element will increase the pain/stimulation from the other one [4].

There are also items like Wartenberg wheels that can be rolled across the skin with more or less pressure and create a tickly to painful sensation; steel claws, so-called Vampire gloves with sharp tacks sticking out of them, or plain old cutlery forks that can be used to scratch the skin [5]. There’s a variety of electro toys (such as Violet Wands, TENS units, tasers, and electronic fly zappers) that can create sensations from mild tingling to intense pain [6]. You can use rubber bands in different lengths and widths and place them around limbs or even torsos, draw them back and let them go to snap against the bottom’s skin (which might be considered impact play by some, even though there is no hitting) [7]. This method also works through a thin layer of clothes although you won’t be able to see the skin and judge the degree of redness/swelling/bruising through fabric. You can also collect (and disinfect) some crown corks and put them into your palm before grabbing your bottom’s flesh, or make your bottom sit or kneel on them (see note [5] below). Other painful things to kneel (or sit) on: rice, rough and uneven bast mats/carpets, or just a hard floor.

Another category of non-impact pain play is piercing/needle play and/or cutting. I’d also count sutures and medical stapling here [8]. Some people also practice ice branding/freeze branding. (I suppose heat branding also belongs into this category but I’d suspect most people don’t do this primarily for the pain but for the resulting permanent mark.)[9] A milder form of hot/cold pain can be achieved by playing with ice cubes (let them melt a little bit before you use them so they don’t stick to the skin) or candle wax (plain white paraffin candles are best; beeswax candles get too hot and should be avoided).

And finally, there are some plant-based ways to cause pain. Figging (that is, inserting a buttplug-shaped piece of peeled ginger root into the anus; this creates a burning pain) is one method. You can also use ginger on other mucuous membranes such as a vulva, but I can’t tell you if it’s safe to be inserted into a vagina. Some people also use things like peppermint oil, wasabi paste, tiger balm, chili oil, mint toothpaste, or other warming/cooling substances on nipples or genitals/anuses. Or you can go outside and find a bunch of stinging nettles to drag over someone’s skin (preferably while wearing gloves) [10].

General considerations for non-impact pain play

As you can see, there are a lot of options for those who want to play with pain or intense sensations, but can’t or don’t want to do impact play.

In choosing your methods for pain play without hitting, consider the tastes and abilities of the people involved as well as the physical and psychological effect you want to achieve. Not all bottoms experience the same type of pain the same way. Not all tops are comfortable with all pain-inducing methods or able to use them at all. Find what works for both/all of you (or what at least makes you curious enough to try).

Before you start, I recommend sharing your interests and preferences in terms of pain play (e.g. types of pain, body parts to receive pain on, favorite toys and tools, roles and dynamics, things to avoid) with each other, asking/telling your partner(s) about allergies/sensitivities (e.g. to grass/hemp, rubber/latex, plants/food items/natural ingredients, disinfectants), and agreeing on how to communicate during the scene (including safewords/safe signals) and what type of aftercare (if any) you want to do.

Any level of intensity in pain play is okay, so if in doubt, start small/slow, wait for reactions, and then decide if you want to do more. If you use any toys beyond your bodies, watch for signs of breakage and understand if and how you can clean them (especially when the items aren’t specifically made for BDSM use).

Of course you can combine many of these methods of non-impact pain play with each other (sadistic rope with a side of biting? scratching and clothespins? grabbing and trigger point poking? needles and nettles? kneeling on concrete with boot soles digging into your thighs?) or with other types of BDSM, such as bondage (chains and wasabi paste? leather cuffs and rubber bands?), D/S dynamics (sitting on crown corks while reading poetry to your top? stress positions and coach/student role play?), sex (giving cunnilingus while kneeling on rice? fucking your top while you wear a ginger root butt plug?), or even impact play (hickeys and punches? knocking off wooden clothes pins with a riding crop?). I always encourage creativity in kink!

As with all other forms of BDSM/sex, watching your partner and paying attention to their reactions is not just a way to ensure safety (or keep risk within the agreed-upon parameters) and consent, but usually also a whole lot of fun! Yes, this goes for both bottoms and tops.

I’m sure there are other methods, tools, and toys than can be used to create consensual pain as well as more implement-free methods to do so. Feel free to add your own ideas in the comments!


Additional notes on safety and hygiene

[1] Fingernail scratches carry a fairly high risk of infection. I recommend washing your hands beforehand and disinfecting the skin afterwards, even if you can’t see (yet) that it’s broken.

[2]  Bottoms who are standing for a longer time should not lock their knees because this will increase the risk of them fainting. Many of us need reminding of this, especially when we’re distracted by other sensations. (This also applies to bottoms who are standing for impact play, no matter if they’re upright or bent over.)

[3]  Clamps hurt when they are put on, then usually dull a bit, and then hurt again when they’re taken off and the blood rushes back into the tissue. This is particularly important to remember when judging the bottom’s limits.

[4]  The risks associated with rope bondage, especially suspension bondage, are often underestimated. Please make sure you at least read a thorough how-to book, or better yet go to a workshop to learn from an expert or three in person. There’s a lot to learn about types of rope, placement of wraps or knots, prevention of nerve and joint damage, and overall risk awareness.

[5]  Anything you can scratch with can break the skin. Some people’s skin breaks more easily, and not all injuries are visible. So make sure you clean, disinfect, and perhaps even sterilize your scratching toys (if possible) before and after play, reserve them for one person only (to prevent spreading infections), and/or throw them away after use. You may also want to disinfect the area of skin you scratched afterwards. If you did indeed break the skin, an alcohol-based disinfectant will sting and can add an extra sadistic touch to your healthcare efforts.

[6] I advise extreme caution with any kind of electro play, especially if you have any heart issues (such as arrhythmia, a pacemaker, etc.). Please research the risks carefully and thoroughly because each electro toy works differently, and some can indeed cause death if not handled with the necessary care or applied on people with increased risk factors.

[7]  Rubber bands are porous and can’t be properly disinfected. They can create small skin injuries that may not be visible. Therefore, they are single-person toys (or better, single-use toys if they’ve come in touch with blood or genital fluids). You may also want to consider disinfecting the skin afterwards.

[8]  Needle play, play piercing, suturation, medical stapling, and cutting all require very careful hygiene procedures and the correct technique to avoid infection, unwanted needle injuries, and other accidents. I highly recommend going to a workshop on needle play before you do any of it to another person. If that’s not possible, maybe you can get the relevant hygiene information and some pointers on skin anatomy from a medical professional or even a professional body piercer? I used to think that needles were always advanced play for experienced BDSM practitioners, but Xan West’s excellent post “On Doing, and Writing, Blood Sports” (which has a description of a needle play done by someone at their very first play party) has made me reconsider this. I now think it’s still play that isn’t a good fit for newbies in most cases, but there may be exceptions to this rule, especially when someone experienced is coaching the experience.

[9]  Heat branding really is an activity that should be left to experienced players who have learned the proper technique and safety precautions. This really is something you can’t learn from the internet but need to learn in person, from someone who knows what they’re doing. I don’t know much about ice branding myself, but I’ve linked to a post that has a bit more info above. Both heat and ice branding are very likely to leave permanent marks (which is often why people do these things in the first place). Unlike tattoos, branding scars can’t be removed, so I recommend careful consideration of what it means to carry this mark from that person in your skin forever (and possibly way past the duration of your relationship with them).

[10]  These types of play can’t  really be stopped once you’ve applied the irritant. You may be able to remove some of the substance, but generally just have to wait out the effect until it stops by itself (scenes like this are also called ‘tunnel play’ because there’s no escape once you’ve entered them). So make sure no ones has any allergies/sensitivities to the substances you want to use (and maybe have some anti-histamines or even an epi-pen handy), consider wearing gloves when handling/applying them, and start with a very small amount at first. Oh, and don’t forget to take off the glove and/or carefully wash your hands so you don’t accidentally rub chili oil into your eye… The same logic applies to barrier-free sex after the application of such substances (so wash, wait, and/or wear a condom/use a dental dam).


This is a post for the Kinktober prompt “pain play, S/M.”


Image sources: Wikimedia Commons (Wartenberg wheel, CC BY-SA 3.0; dragon claws, CC BY-SA 4.0; couple); Pixabay (chili, clothespins); Peakpx (frog); Pexels (rope, hand); unknown (teeth). Collage, cropping, and color editing by me.

Bucket list

Sepia-tinted photo of a miniature metal bucket

I imagine my hands and knees on the floor.
There is a bucket. A dripping rag.

I’m in a kitchen. A bathroom, perhaps.
Somewhere cool, hard. Domestic.

I imagine your voice. Quiet, serious. At ease.
Do this. Like that. I whisper affirmation.
(Exact direction is a rather captivating freedom.)

I imagine your gaze, sharp, heavy
with attention. Pressing me into shape.

I imagine my skirt, riding up
as I crawl and stretch, rag in hand.
Damp folds unfurl between my thighs.

I imagine the blood in my cheeks,
my hair tidied away, nowhere to hide.
Red doesn’t always mean stop.

Shame curls my head, lust
arches my back towards the floor,
heat seeping out of me.

And then.

There are many directions this could take.

A yank, a kick, some measured violence.
A series of commands, expecting exactitude.
A baring of skin, of sweat, of yearning.
Silent attention.
An invasion; the thing that isn’t done.

A desperate struggle, mostly within.
Admission, confession. Surrender.
Release.

Relief.

(I’m not supposed to want this, but I do.)


This is a post for the Kinktober prompt “domestic, at home.”


Image source: Flickr / Christian Schnettelker, CC BY 2.0, color editing by me