Fear is a healthy reaction to the unknown. The right amount keeps us form going overboard. Too much keeps us from experiencing things, and we miss out. It does not matter if it is stepping on a roller coaster, getting in the car for the NASCAR experience, performing a caning, or rigging your first suspension. Fear is the dividing line between what we can do now, and what we can achieve.
Regular posts from bottoms/submissives appear on the boards asking how to help their tops/dominants get over the anxiety of causing pain and potential injury. Sometimes posts from new tops/dominants, asking for help so they can give their submissive what is needed or desired. Fear holds those dominants back. Fear of themselves, fear of causing harm, uncertainty in skill, and possibly not understanding trust during play, not just the dynamic, is a two-way street.
Trust in a Scene is a Two-Way Street
One of the tallest mountains a top/dominant can climb, is learning how to trust their bottom/submissive during a scene. Sure, we trust them to say when they are having a hard day, not hiding medical problems, or if they are not in good head space. That kind of trust is easier to understand because we have been practicing it our whole lives. That of a good partnership and friend. In play the bottom/submissive is placing their safety and possibly life in the top’s/dominant’s hands, and they are asking us to let go. To give in to some of our baser instincts which society has trained out of us. To be demanding, to be rough; not just to give, but to TAKE. It can be, and is, awe inspiring and overwhelming all in the same breath.
Learning to trust the bottom/submissive to say when too much, is too much. Pain does not always mean harm, injury, or lasting damage. Some bottoms/submissives crave pain, others may like it mixed in with sensual play. You may be a top/dominant who enjoys delivering pain. Let your submissive help guide you on what works and what does not for them. Take your time to study and learn from others how to play safely without causing harm. All the aforementioned cannot come just from the top/dominant, a book, or even a mentor – but must include communication with and information gained from our bottom/submissive.
Fear is about Me…..not We. Changing Mindset.
Being stuck in the mindset of fear, is all about the individual, not the partnership. The ego saying the top/dominant is supposed to know better, supposed to have all the answers, must make all the decisions. Which leads to, “I am afraid of…… I don’t know how…. I don’t know when… what if I fail,”….etc. versus, “we will experience…. we will find the edges….. we will learn….. together.” Tops/dominants are expected to take on a lot of responsibility, to learn, become proficient, and to lead. The mistake is thinking it can be done in a bubble. Trust your bottom/submissive and their feedback to help shed light where it is hard to see.
“I don’t know my own strength,” or something similar is heard commonly. Expressing a reserve from pushing their own boundaries, let alone that of a bottom/submissive. So what? As tops/dominants we do not need to understand our own strength nearly as much as we do the strength of our bottoms/submissives. Work with them so you know if you can go harder or need to be softer. Physically and mentally.
Finding the mindset to balance the fear is a must. The place in the mind which allows acceptance of the bottom’s/submisssive’s trust and trusting them in return. Leveraging that trust to move past the abstract chains keeping a top/dominant from walking forward into the unknown. Embrace the uncertainty as it will always be there to one degree or another. But lean on trust so experiences are not missed, and the desires of both partners can be fulfilled. To learn as tops/dominants, we are not doing something TO our submissive, we are experiencing something WITH them. We are not causing pain, but delivering sensation which is desired and even craved.
Don’t Just Guess
“I’m not sure what to do….,” Ask. Ask your submissive what they are willing to try. Use imagination when designing play. Trust that when a submissive says, yes, they mean it. Whether subscribing to SSC, RACK, PRICK or the half dozen other paradigms regarding safety in play, having faith in each other, communication and consent are at the heart of all of them. Take time to thoroughly research a kink or aspect of play together before doing it. When the research is done, plans are made, and consent has been given…. accept bottoms/submissives have their own minds, and are making a decision to TRUST you…..so trust them.
“They want me to really go rough with them, but I’m afraid of hurting them…,” Well they are not, or they would not be asking for it. They may want the rush of adrenaline and the high which comes from play. The deep bond which can come from enduring and feeling in ways not normally felt. It can be done without damaging them or causing serious injury. It takes time, practice, research, patience, and seeking their feedback.
Have a Process
When I work with a new bottom or submissive, even if they are experienced, I take it slowly. Everything is discussed beforehand. Not just about the play itself, but what implements will be used; how I will be communicating with them; warning signs and signals; safe words; where the first aid kit will be located etc.
Warming up in the scene; checking in with them throughout asking where their comfort level is; 1 to 10. Watching how they act and react to different implements, how they are used, or different strikes on parts of their body. Both of us learning each other as we go. We do not have to know it all right out of the gate. We do need to have a plan, be focused, and pay attention.
After the scene, sometimes the next day, I will recap the scene with them; ask them what they did and did not like; what went well and what did not; If something was too much or too little; is something they want more of. The point being, with someone new, or as a new top/dominant, we have not learned to read our bottom/submissive yet. This is an opportunity to gain their input and learn.
As time progresses and with becoming more experienced, we will be able to read body language better and see the cues the bottom/submissive gives. Patience, practice, and listening to the bottom/submissive will help get a us to where we need to be. This does not take the place of good communication, but augments it allowing the scene to be more organic.
Finding a Rhythm
“I really like flogging, but am I doing it right?” Whatever it is, it rarely gets done right the first time, or even the first ten times. I can cane one submissive one way….. and for another it just does not work for them. It is as much art as it is science. The physical techniques will only get you part of the way. Learning what works for you and a particular bottom/submissive is the art. Some require a soft warm up, others prefer a hard shock to get them focused before warming and building into play. This is a process which requires the participation of both the parties. Don’t be afraid to experiment WITH them.
If you stick with it long enough you will learn your bottom/submissive. Just like playing poker, everyone has tells. Reading them becomes part of that experience. Eventually play/scenes become a dance where only the two of you can hear and understand the music. Talking through things is still important, but you will find the rhythm between the two of you that works.
Putting it All Together
Learning yourself and your bottom/submissive; learning more about the kinks that are of interest; and learning to let go of the fear. These become part of the building blocks for you to begin letting go and truly trusting your partner.
Trust is the daylight which pushes back the boundaries of fear. Trust in your bottom/submissive will pay off in your own self confidence because it frees you to be who you are. It is ok to be anxious when pushing forward into unknown territory. Just realize you are not doing it alone, but with your partner. Trust them, and they will trust you.
TAC is a lifestyle writer, dominant, and mentor who contributes to several online educational groups such as the BDSM Alternative Lifestyle Discussion and Education; Information Exchange for Dom/mes, Masters, and Mistresses; and the Virtual Munch. His writing includes information on self-improvement, growth, dominance, trauma, power dynamics and power exchange, and safety. His goal is to continue giving back to a community of friends who have supported him for nearly three decades. He can be found on Fetlife at TAC_1.