While bluntly obvious when expressed “black on white,” it took me a while to realize that S&M and play is not about the techniques or the toys we use. Rather, for me it’s a way to establish connection and to express our creative side, creating a deeper and meaningful shared experience.
One of my strong slaves used to carry a big toy bag whenever we went to a play party. It would include rope (lots of it), handcuffs, ankle cuffs, 2+ floggers, leather arm binders (yeah, a very cool piece!), leather hood, 2+ single tails (at least a 4 footer and a 5 footer), several paddles, leather slapper, canes, rabbit skin, leather cuffs, several collars,… You get the idea.
Did I use all the stuff in one evening? Definitely not. But I would use a lot of toys, and try to do all those fancy techniques. Were our scenes good? Yes, some of them, but certainly not all. Sure, I would put my play partners into subspace, or make them feel submissive. A scene would be a progression from toy to toy, from implement to implement. And, don’t get me started on the rope… Did we look cool? We thought so. But unless it is a performance, that’s not what it is about.
Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with toys. I love and use them all the time. But with all the toys, gadgets and techniques I forgot about what truly matters in a scene – connecting with my play partner. Connecting with them on a physical as well as a mental level. Sharing and building a meaningful experience with them to be remembered.
Isn’t that what it’s about? Creating meaningful experiences. Building connection. Sharing laughter but also fear. Experiencing the dichotomy of pleasure and pain. Being in the moment together. This can be done with or without toys, and with or without rope. Creating a connection has little to do with technique as long as we practice safe S&M.
So what does it require? We all know the answer. Our gray matter and good communication. Remember, the major part of communication is nonverbal. Body language, facial expressions, eye movements, smiles, shivers, laughing, touching, snuggling, kissing, and hugging.
I like to give our fantasies free reins. We start by talking about them, exploring them together in fun and sexy conversations. To keep things going, we ask ourselves questions such as “what happens next?,” “where does this go?,” “what would you do in this situation?” It’s about being creative and using our gray matters. And yes, it does matter.
Together, we make our fantasies reality. As I whisper something in your ear, you smile and nod. Next the flogger hits your upper back, and you shiver in acknowledgement. Action and reaction. We act and react together, responding to each other. It is fluid and effortless. It is dynamic and natural. The connection is there, almost automatically. We grab on to that and ride off on it together.
We can facilitate the process of establishing the (play) connection by a number of approaches:
- Intention setting – Before the scene decide together what its intent is. Some examples include: just for fun; to work past a hurdle; to push and expand a boundary; a ritual; as a prelude to sex, etc.
- Grounding – Leave the “outside” world behind and focus just on the scene. For me, meditation and breathing exercises, either alone or with my play partner, work well
- Eye contact – Starting a scene with eye contact immediately creates that visual connection. Really look into each other’s eyes. Don’t rush it. You will feel when you have a connection
- Body language – Observe yours and your partners posture. Are you “closed” or “inviting”? Do you communicate interest and care, or?
- Touch – Gentle and caring touch, skin-to-skin, immediately creates a connection. With your hands you feel their skin, their body temperature, and sometimes their breathing and heart beat. How’s that for a start? Remember, touch does not have to be sexual to have the desired impact!
- Being present and in the moment – This means being fully there, immersed in the scene, and open to possibilities and the unexpected. Easier said than done for sure. The way I approach this is to accept whatever happens in the moment without constantly evaluating everything. I listen and go with my own and my partner’s impulses. Just go with the flow of “action and reaction,” shutting off everything else around us (other people watching, etc.)
- Flirting, teasing remarks, double meanings, and appropriate jokes – Scenes are supposed to be fun – and that means that we can add humor! Humor is also sexy. Maybe there are underlying puns and double meanings in what you say? It’s fun to tease someone with those!
- Asking questions, and using “check-ins” throughout the scene – As a Top it is important to monitor how the bottom is doing throughout the scene. Is everything proceeding well, or are they clamping up? Whether you are using safewords (green, yellow, red, etc) or not doesn’t mean that the bottom always communicates things of importance to the Top. The Top can facilitate communication by “checking in” from time to time, asking questions such as “how is your right shoulder doing?” (after being in bondage for a longer period of time), and “how did those cane strokes feel from a scale from 1 to 10, 10 being the most intense?” (after five warm-up strokes of what the Top would consider as being of light to medium intensity).
In conclusion, we become better players by changing our focus away from ourselves (away from our ego), away from our learned techniques, and away from our toys. Instead, we should direct our focus towards the experience we have with our play partners and our mutual interaction and dynamic.
Eric, together with his wife Lady Christie, heads a structured authority-based household in New York. The household celebrated its 10 year anniversary in 2012. The primary focus of the household is integrating healthy power-exchange dynamics into daily life and providing guidance, training, and support for its individuals. Eric enjoys consensual S&M, blogs on different aspects of the lifestyle, and gives presentations on alternative lifestyle relationships, structured authority-based living, S&M, ritual and spirituality.
This writing has been contributed by Eric Pride, an alternative lifestyle educator in New York City. Eric Pride (c) 2013-14. All rights reserved.