Subspace is something you hear about all the time in the scene. If you haven’t experienced it, then it may be this elusive wonderment of mind altering amazingness. If you have experienced it, then you know it can take different forms. It may be a simple state of relaxation, almost meditative, to a feeling compared to an out of body experience. One thing is important to keep in mind. You don’t need to experience subspace to enjoy an amazing scene.
So what is subspace anyway? Subspace can happen due to two different things. One is pain, or physically based. It is basically what happens when various chemicals in your body are released during play. When your body experiences extreme sensations it releases endorphins and adrenaline. These increase pain tolerance and can induce a floaty, trance-like state of mind. One thing I like to compare this to is a runner’s high. It’s the most similar “vanilla” activity I can think of for comparison if you haven’t experienced subspace yet. Bottoms will commonly compare it to feeling drunk, tipsy, or floaty.
The other type of subspace is more psychologically based. The bottom may experience this “spacey” feeling upon kneeling at the start of the scene at their Top’s feet, or feeling their Top’s hand grip their hair. These mental and emotional associations are strong and can cause an instant feeling of relaxation and centeredness. This is typically a lovely feeling that connects the bottom more strongly with their play partner/Top and helps them relax into the scene. It can also help a bottom connect more to their submission.
Keep in mind that with either or both types of subspace – the bottom is in an altered state of mind. This is why I make it a rule to never re-negotiate limits during a scene. It would be equivalent to asking someone to have sex while they’re drunk who had previously said no. Also it’s important to understand that because their pain tolerance is heightened, the Top should maintain awareness of how hard they go with play.
Now. What goes up, must come down.
Once the body has pushed these chemicals into your system, they must eventually regulate. When play is done the body stops releasing extra endorphins, etc and the body’s more regulated system kicks in. The immediate indication of this is typically a decrease in body temperature and a more trance-like state of mind. This is why you will see bottoms in aftercare wrapped in a blanket and looking disconnected. Drop is one reason that aftercare is so important. However, drop can happen hours or days after the scene has ended.
Jennifer Masri is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, specializing in Alternative Lifestyles for individual and relationship issues. She also teaches the BDSM 101 class series at Sanctuary LAX in Los Angeles every Monday evening. Read more about Jennifer on her blog, A Kink Shrink.