A bad BDSM experience has shaken me up

Q: For years I’ve enjoyed BDSM play but a recent bad experience has shaken me. I hooked up with a guy, who seemed to be an experienced "top", and we negotiated a scene together. He was able to take me deep into "sub" space and I enjoyed pushing my boundaries. When it was over though, he just went and had a shower. I asked if I could shower too and he handed me a towel and told me he was calling me a taxi. I felt shell-shocked and bewildered by the way he just cut me off.

A: BDSM (bondage, domination, sadism, masochism), or Kink, is an umbrella term that covers a range of sexual play, from wearing a blindfold and being tied to the bedhead, through to complex scenarios, or scenes, that involve whips, restraints and specialised equipment, as represented (or misrepresented) in the popular novel Fifty Shades of Grey.

There is a lot of misunderstanding about this kind of "play", which Barbara Carellas addresses in her seminal book, Urban Tantra. She talks about exploring “the erotic edge of resistance”. To do this successfully requires trust, consent and clear and constant communication.

shocked and alone woman

Participants can enter into an altered state of consciousness that is quite ecstatic. For the submissive partner, this is described as "sub space". The person who is doing the dominating (the "top") also experiences sexual pleasure.

There are obvious risks involved in playing these games and experienced players understand safety rules and have a clear negotiation about active consent, safe words, boundaries and expectations before play begins. An excellent tool for learning about this is The Ultimate Guide to Kink, BDSM, Role Play and the Erotic Edge by Tristan Taormino.

There is a lot of misunderstanding about this kind of "play".

Experienced players also understand the importance of "aftercare", ascertaining what the sub will need as they come back to reality from their high. This might be being wrapped in a blanket, being held, getting a cup of tea, or verbal debriefing. It is adherence to these rules that differentiates BDSM from simple abuse.

Your story has broader implications for all intimate encounters. A lot of emphasis is placed on the importance of foreplay in helping people to get aroused and ready for sexual intercourse. I often hear complaints about the partner who switches off the TV at 11pm and says, “How about it?” or the desultory "back rub" that means “I want sex” but I also hear complaints from people whose partner leaps out of bed and into the shower, as soon as they have climaxed, or simply rolls straight over and goes to sleep. They can feel used, unappreciated, insulted, or taken for granted.

It might seem obvious that any sexual encounter needs to conclude with some kind of gesture of appreciation, or affection, but you can never assume anything. When you are intending to have sex you need clear communication about expectations, boundaries, safer sex protocols and so on, including what kind of aftercare you need. You might ask to be held in the afterglow, or to have a little talk, or share a shower. This reminds your partner that you are not just an assemblage of body parts to be enjoyed but a fully rounded human being who needs to feel appreciated. This is particularly important if you are having casual sex, or a one-night-stand, but even couples in long-term relationships can become complacent, or can fall into bad habits that cause their partner to be reluctant to have sex.

On the other hand, it might be that, if asked this man might have said that part of his erotic fantasy, as a top, is too brusquely dismiss the sub. If your partner is unwilling to give aftercare, you will then be able to give your consent, or agree not to proceed.

I know that talking about these things can feel awkward but it protects you from worse experiences, such as the one you describe. If you are not able to ask for what you need, perhaps you should not play this game.

About Last Night

Date: 16-06-19

About Last Night Blogs are written by Maureen Mathews, published by Fairfax media. Maureen is the original owner of Bliss for Women. The current Bliss Team is excited to Maureen share her knowledge on our new site. It is fantastic to have Maureen as one of our regular expert contributors. If you wish to ask Maureen a question you can can send an email to hello@blissforwomen.com.au using About Last Night in the subject of the email.

Bliss is Australia’s longest running women’s focused sex shop. We were founded in 1996 by one of Australia’s most respected sex columnists, Maureen Matthews. She wanted to give women of Melbourne a place where they could explore pleasure and sexuality without the sleazy, without the gaze of the male-dominated sex industry of the time. Maureen’s determination for change despite the City Council of the time trying to stop her was inspirational. This drive for change continues today with the new generation at Bliss.

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