It’s Ask Me Anything time again! Today, I’m answering a question that was sent to me on Facebook about subspace. Curious what the #AskMeAnything is? Check out the official AMA page on my site over here.
Q: What is subspace like?
A: I actually had a different post planned for today (you’ll get that one next week now!) but yesterday I had someone on Facebook send me a message asking if I could define subspace, and I did my best to give them my answer as to what subspace is like, but then I thought it would be a good topic to have in this AMA collection. I’d like to remind everyone reading that this is just my perspective on it. Subspace may feel similar or vastly different to what I describe, but I will say that no matter who I’ve heard describe it – it’s so, so lovely. ^_^
Wait, what the fuck is subspace?
Okay, so for those just dipping their toes into the BDSM community, you may be asking what the hell I’m even talking about, so I’m going to steal a quick medical explanation from submissive guide, because they can toss around the scientific jargon (and save me the effort of a lot more research than I need to do since this already exists: here). Subspace is a state that submissives can reach during an intense scene with their Dominant partner. “During the scene, the intense experiences of both pain and pleasure trigger a sympathetic nervous system response, which causes a release of epinephrine from the suprarenal glands, as well as a dump of endorphins and enkephalins. These natural chemicals, part of the fight or flight response, produce the same effect as a morphine-like drug, increasing the pain tolerance of the submissive as the scene becomes more intense. Producing a sort of trance-like state due to the increase of hormones and chemicals, the submissive starts to feel out-of-body, detached from reality, and as the high comes down, and the parasympathetic nervous system kicks in, a deep exhaustion, as well as incoherence. Many submissives once reaching a height of subspace will lose all sensation of pain, as any stimuli causes the period to prolong.”
What does all ^that^ scientific jargon mean in plain English? Basically, when you experience pain and pleasure together (and you are someone who has at least some level of enjoyment from both) your body can get all kinds of crossed-wires in the brain, dump a bunch of happy chemicals into your brain, and it’s phenomenal.
Alright, so what do you think it feels like?
In short, the best thing ever.
Subspace is the primary reason I think I’m such a masochist/painslut. I’m high-strung pretty much all the time because of my type-A personality, which means that if I’m not going 100mph in my life in all areas I basically feel like a useless sack of flesh. The clear downside to being this kind of type-A is that I’m almost constantly stressed out and I never relax. My Dom likes to point out that the bar I set for myself is so high that it’s impossible to reach, and I usually respond that if it was achievable I’d be bored to fucking tears. But, being constantly stressed and having your brain constantly telling you the endless list of shit you should be doing is exhausting.
When I play (specifically pain-based play) I’m just like everyone else in the world that at first my body panics. A lot of people seem to assume that masochists/painsluts just don’t have pain receptors, but we ABSOLUTELY do. Taking a cane strike feels like taking a cane strike, whether or not you’ve got some crossed wires that let you enjoy the after-effects of the pain a little differently than other people. Our bodies are meant to urge us, sometimes aggressively, to avoid pain. It becomes a situation of mind over matter at first, the cane lands, there’s that beat of nothing at all, and then searing fiery pain in a perfect line that slowly spreads out. It’s in that moment where the pain has peaked and the sensation starts to spread into a dull ache that the body tries to give you a little chemical nudge to depress the pain that you’re still actually feeling in the form of endorphins and enkephalins – basically, happy free all-natural brain drugs. While in a normal session this allows you to keep taking the pain, the real magic is when all those chemicals build, and build, and build, and then suddenly you’re so soaked in them that your body/brain gets so confused that it actually does stop processing pain in the normal way.
That is subspace. You still feel the cane land, you’re aware on some level that there was pain, but the drug cocktail of your brain makes it just a blip on the radar. On top of that, because more pain stimuli were introduced, your brain produces more of the chemicals, and the effect just amplifies and amplifies.
For me, entering subspace is that instant where I go from tense and fighting to hold whatever position he’s put me in so I can keep taking the spanking/belt/crop/cane, then I find myself leaning back into the strikes for a moment (when the high starts to take over), and then I sort of feel like everything melts. Like the way you feel after a really good massage, just languid and soft and warm. Each new strike sends you further out into subpsace, and it is a perfect place where my brain is blissfully empty and quiet. Where I feel safe and protected and cared for, because I know my Dom is watching out for me and that knowledge allows me to let go and just… float.
That sounds… awesome. How do I do it?
Well, there’s a few things to understand here that I feel like I need to say. For subspace to take over, you really do need something to induce all the chemicals described above. I’ve heard that some people can get into subspace just from really really intense submissive experiences (that don’t include pain), but I’ve never had that. Reaching subspace is a challenge, and many people miss out on experiencing it, because of the body’s fight or flight response. And here is where I want you to please listen to me very carefully – at all times, if you feel the pain is too much and you are concerned for your safety, you should absolutely safeword. Trying to reach subspace should not put your health and safety in jeopardy, and you and only you know how much pain you can take. For a first timer trying to reach subspace, I would beg you to attempt with something like a spanking or a flogger. Flogger subspace seems to be the easiest for most people to enter, and it’s the most “gentle” in my opinion, and pretty fucking phenomenal. However, no matter what, you take care of yourself first. Safeword if you need to, for your own sake and your Dom’s (because they’ll feel like absolute shit if you let them really hurt you).
So, back to the fight or flight response. Before all those happy chemicals start to compound in your head, you’re going to feel panic. It’s your body’s way of saying what the fuck, this hurts, get the hell out of here, and you know what? That’s a good thing. That’s the reason we’re still alive as a species! Yay for fight-or-flight! The problem is when we’re trying to be our naughty, kinky selves and just want to get our ass belted for a bit, and our body pulls the fire alarm like we’re about to be mauled by a fucking bear. You will feel panic, you may break position because your body’s urge to “RUN, NOW!” is so strong your body literally tries to throw you into action (it happens, especially with high or sudden pain experiences) – the real challenge is the old mind-over-matter mantra. It’s forcing yourself through the fight or flight instincts to hold position, to shiver or shake if you need to as you ride the initial wave(s) of adrenaline, to breathe and accept that the pain exists, and hold on.
I’m not even going to pretend that’s easy, and I sincerely wish I had a better explanation for it. I also won’t pretend that everyone is capable of taking pain in such a way to reach subspace. I’m a masochist, and I always have been. I had issues when I was younger because pain has always given me a little rush as soon as it passes, and that rush is what I chase all the time. There’s this little bite of bliss after the agony – and subspace is the gigantic ice cream sundae after all the little bites build up. It is, to this day, the most perfectly peaceful experience in my life, and it’s why BDSM is something I cannot live without. It’s also why my alpha-male, super-sadist of a Dom is perfect for me. We both play hard, because he gets his own high from the experience, and it works out magically.
But remember, subspace can be very dangerous.
Remember that little line towards the beginning of this post about subspace being kind of a morphine-like drug? That thing about detaching from reality, and blah blah blah? Well, that can be a pretty fucking big deal when you’re in a situation with a serious implement. Every single Dominant has the responsibility of A) knowing the signs of subspace, B) understanding what their sub can take safely, and C) knowing when to fucking stop. Because, here’s the deal lovelies, the sub will not stop the session after they’re in subspace. The submissive is off in floaty la-la land and at that point the Dom could keep going until their arm fell off with whatever implement they’re using, and each new introduction of pain would only push the submissive farther and farther into subspace.
BDSM is dangerous, I’m sure we all know that. Hitting anyone with anything is in general not the best idea. There are good reasons for this. Our skin and muscles get damaged when we hit them. It’s why we get bruises, it’s why we can have muscle tears and tendon tears. It’s why pain responses and fight-or-flight responses fucking exist – it’s our body trying to protect itself. But, when we play around with it and override all those very smart signals, we stop getting them. Which means we stop protecting ourselves.
A good Dom will recognize the physical shift as the sub “drops” into subspace. I think they call it a drop because of that sudden physical languor that hits as the chemical cocktail takes over, I know that I’ve been told I physically drop as all the tension melts out of my muscles. Now, the Dom shouldn’t just end the scene, they need to let the sub enjoy subspace, give them enough to drag it out for a bit, but subspace is not the time to ramp up the action. It’s the time for the Dom to watch very very carefully, and after the sub has spent some fun time in la-la land, slowly wind down the session. My Dom likes to switch from harder implements to something like a flogger, and then something like a soft mitt or a fuzzy flogger that just continues to provide sensation, but not anything that could damage me since I’m not going to react if it did actually damage me in some way.
- SUPER IMPORTANT NOTE: If you can’t trust your partner to take care of you in this way, please do not attempt subspace.
I think aftercare is even more important post-subspace than just a regular session. You’re so out of it that you may fall asleep as soon as the sensation ends, or you may get really emotional as your body tries to process the chemicals flooding it. Many people can get very cold and start shivering (I’m like this) and so, again, the Dom has to be very aware and very confident in handling it. They need to wrap you in a blanket/put you in bed, and provide physical contact. A lot of Doms (including mine) will just start talking to help bring the sub back “up” from subspace. As wonderful as subspace is, the coming out of it part can be very nice too. Listening to your Dom tell you how wonderful you did, how you’re a good girl, how happy you made them, and lots of other lovely things is something fantastic to come back to reality hearing. The timeline on coming up changes person-to-person and scene-to-scene. I’ve been up and around in fifteen minutes, and there was one time after a caning that I fell asleep in the playroom and he woke me up three hours later with bourbon and dinner already made. The most important thing is that they stay with you until you’re okay, and keep an eye on you.
That means the next 48 hours too. A good Dom will probably check-in waiting to see if you “drop”. I can talk more about sub drop on another post sometime, but the most important thing to know about sub drop is that over the next 48 hours you can have a sudden response to the loss of allllll those brain chemicals. It can show up as exhaustion, suddenly being emotional/irritable, or even feeling depressed. There are things that can help: my Dom always sends me to work/back home with a 5-hour energy to take if I feel it coming on, and he sends me messages checking in and reminding me of how much he enjoyed the session/how much he appreciates my submission and me. Just remember that if you feel sub drop, the first thing you should do is reach out to your Dom for that confirmation that everything is okay – it really does help. (And I promise to put sub drop as a more extensive post some time).
Alright, lovelies, this one was soooooo long but I realized I’d never written about it and since it likes to show up in books and discussions a lot, I felt like subspace needed to be a talk for all of us. I hope you enjoyed this! Please comment here, or on FB, and tell me what you thought, and send me more questions/suggestions for posts!
I’m always here for you to ask me anything,