Although I identify as a Dominant, the fact that I am both sadist and masochist and occasionally enjoy playing on the Subbie side as well rather muddies the waters on that. I feel like “switch” as a noun is wrong, because it’s just something I do, it isn’t a part of my identity the way that Dominance is.
One of the most curious things for me about this is how I relate to the concept of subspace. Will @ BDSM: Things You Need to Know writes about identifying two different types of subspace, and although I have as yet to find someone to top for me hard and long enough to experience a genuine endorphin/adrenaline high of the type described as physiological subspace, I have certainly experienced the psychological type.
However, when Will writes on physiological subspace:
The way it was described to me by a partner experiencing it is a strong whole-body buzzing sensation coupled with an inability to focus her eyes. Others I’ve spoken with have described it as a warm, floaty, spacey, serene feeling which is less bothered by pain.
I feel as though I do have a reference point in play for that, and the disconcerting thing about it was that it was from very little indeed. In fact, at a munch in a vanilla venue, a Dom was showing off her new toy – a metal claw. I insisted on being a willing victim and she obliged a couple of times, pressing nice and deep to produce a real welt. It hurt, but in a very nice way indeed. And on the second scoring of my flesh I was already in a very floaty, buzzy space, and my eyes were not focussed (while I wasn’t “bothered” by the pain, I was fully aware of it – it just wasn’t bothersome, it was intense and wonderful). After the second scratch, it took me several seconds to draw myself back into the room and be completely sure of which way was up.
I wanted another go, but she refused, saying, “You enjoy it too much!” – sadist that she was (and presumably still is, though it’s been a while since I saw her around).
I don’t know if I just go under really quickly, the way that when I drink alcohol it takes only a small amount and it affects me quickly (I drink so rarely and so little that this seems to be a lack of acclimatisation to its effects – it wears off quickly as well, either through rapid metabolisation or just the small quantities to start with). Or maybe that experience wasn’t really anything to do with endorphins. It felt very space-y and very much physiological rather than psychological, but that’s all I’ve got to go on.
Whatever that may have been – real physiological subspace or some tricksy facsimile produced by who knows what in my brain – there is very little doubt that I am susceptible to strong psychological subspace. I’ve experienced it, or something like it, both with a Dom in a cybersex scene via IM and at least hints of it in person (although on that occasion, the fact that it was my sub partner who was topping, and literally didn’t know what to do once she had me cuffed to the bed, rather broke that mood).
Now, recall that I identify as “orientationally” Dom – that’s the core of my kink, the bit that is undeniably a part of me and won’t go away. That makes it very perplexing to know that there’s some aspect of my make-up that, given the right triggers, can become incredibly pliable, willing or even eager in that moment to pledge lifelong servitude and devotion, and agree to just about anything.
Obviously, it would be a huge mistake for me to make any such pledge. Fortunately, in the previous occasions where I got that deeply into the space, there was enough of me that remained aware of that fact and held me back from giving voice to the urges I felt, however passionate and compelling they felt at the time. Will talks about being able to manage or suppress the feelings associated with psychological subspace, and I assume that that’s what was going on there. I will just say one thing: Will suggests that, “Simply breathing and bringing your attention back to what’s going on around you will help lift you out of subspace, but you’ll need to sustain that effort once you come back to the surface.” For me, this is back to front. Since experiencing and contemplating what’s going on around me is likely to be what put me in subspace in the first place, and I don’t feel my awareness being impaired, it doesn’t help to focus on it – maybe on something else, but not on that. Personally, I need to look inwards and get analytical about how I’m feeling and how it compares to other things. So I think that is a thing where you may have to figure out what sort of a mind you have and base your subspace management techniques on that.
In general, I am wary around other people. The decision to trust is not made lightly, but equally I am never confident of it. I believe that most people are basically good, trustworthy, and motivated by kindness. But I know that any given person could, on a bad day, or just by their nature, be motivated by more dangerous or harmful impulses. I take my best guess on who is trustworthy and go with that. I have a basic urge to trust others, absent a reason not to, but am conscious of the need for caution. This means that when caution is overcome, or set aside, enough to trust someone, then there’s a gradient towards deeper trust (that is, before then I am more likely to resist invitations to trust, but afterwards, I seek reasons to invest trust).
In the specifics of a BDSM scene, as a top I am usually safer from harm – I still extend a lot of trust, but trusting too deeply is less likely to harm me. As a bottom, though, it’s another story. I have more caution to overcome and more initial trust to extend, before I get to the point of bottoming with someone. Which in turn means that there’s a much deeper well to plunge into, of vulnerable trust. Because I initially put aside doubts in order to extend enough trust to go there, there is a sense of “all or nothing”. Indeed, that sense is a part of the rewards of bottoming play for me.
The downside is that it leaves me in a place with few defences and wide open to a partner. Knowing what I do about how deeply under I can go with psychological subspace, I feel a great trepidation about the prospect of playing with someone new (and everyone is someone new until I’ve played with them…).
Through it all, though, it is worthwhile doing. This is one of those things where, with a little caution, the saying “feel the fear, and do it anyway” is valid. Subspace is a great reward as long as it’s handled well, and I know myself well enough (I think) to manage that, and I trust myself to choose partners who can handle it well even if I don’t.
As a Dom, my relationship to subspace is all about making sure I cause no harm, but bring the Sub back safely from that space to hir rightful mind. I worry about everything, so naturally I refuse to have utter confidence in my ability to do so, but equally I have faith in myself, in that I may make mistakes, but I’m always going to be present, caring and supporting when needed – which includes times of spaciness. I try to be the person that I could submit to, and in whose presence I could go to that space with full trust.