If you spend any time in the BDSM community, you will probably hear something about “subspace”. But we rarely hear about what the Top/Dominant goes through when they are conducting a scene. It is actually a subject I’ve been interested in for a long time. I remember one of my Doms would get so wiped out from our scenes that afterwards, while I would lay my head is his lap, he would start falling asleep while still sitting up. I knew it wasn’t the physical, but the mental/energetic exertion, that wore him out to that point and I was fascinated to know what that was like for him.
But it wasn’t until recently that I took the time to reach out and ask Dominants about their experience. I specifically wanted to post it on this blog because I would like to see more public discourse about it. I have a lot of opinions regarding Dominants’ portrayal in the public sphere (i.e. I don’t think there is enough of it), but that is for another entry. Luckily, Lady Elizabeth was supportive of my request and wrote an exceptionally well written and informative piece on her experience with “topspace”. Lady Elizabeth is an extremely experienced Pro-Domme in Connecticut, and I was recently fortunate to bottom to her in a beautiful needle scene, which I have spoken of I previous entries. You can check her out at ladyelizabeth.net and on Twitter– @MyLadyElizabeth. Here are her words below.
There’s been a lot of writing in the BDSM world on the topic of “subspace.” Subspace is the frame of mind a submissive can reach through engagement in all sorts of kinky activities. Often likened to a runner’s high, subspace is an altered state of consciousness reached through natural, bodily means, rather than through use of illicit chemicals. In subspace, people report feelings of exhilaration, bliss, or relaxation…all sorts of positive feelings that enhance the experience and drive their desire for intense BDSM scenes.
I’ll confess: I have zero personal experience being in subspace, because I’m not a switch. However, I do know how to guide people into their unique versions of subspace, which is something I’ve learned and practiced in over a decade of experience as a professional dominant. I do experience something like subspace when I push my body’s boundaries through dance, skiing, or other intense forms of exercise. I also am intimately familiar with the dominant’s equivalent headspace: top space.
As a top, I experience three distinct sets of feelings when I play, each corresponding with a different part of the scene. When I studied Anthropology, I learned that all social rituals have three phases:
1. induction phase: participants are brought together and prepared for what they are about to share
2. liminal phase: the ritual itself, whether it’s an initiation or a wedding ceremony
3. reintroduction phase: the final phase where participants rejoin society with a new identity
I believe BDSM scenes have these same three phases, and as the dominant I assume the role of the guide who takes the submissive through the rite of passage. Think of me as a kinky shaman, if you will.
The first part of my top space begins before the scene starts. For me, top space always involves a certain amount of pre-scene jitters. When I’m meeting someone new, it feels a bit like stage fright, a pleasant and familiar set of butterflies that remind me I’m about to make a very important first impression. I’m not nervous about my ability to do my job or be safe – I know I possess those skills. I’m nervous because I don’t know how my new partner will respond, what our chemistry will be like, or which of his buttons I’ll enjoy pushing most. Even when I’m playing with someone I know well, I still get a bit of pre-scene anticipation. My most established submissive partners have played with me for a decade, and I know their bodies like the back of my hand, but each scene still brings something new.
The second and longest period of my top space emerges as our BDSM scene unfolds. I have my slaves kneel and kiss my feet to signal the beginning of our play; it’s a personal ritual that means a great deal to me. It helps me close off the rest of the world from my mind, and brings me into focus on the task at hand. The more intense the scene gets, the more the rest of the world disappears. I become hyper aware of the things that matter most in the moment. Each of my senses narrows its focus. I hear only the sound of my voice and the clicking of my heels on the floor. I see the rhythm of my submissive’s breathing and watch where my whip strikes. My sense of touch perceives any tightness in her body, and I know the very instant when his skin barely starts to perspire.
During this period the rest of the world falls away, which is the real reason why we do this kinky stuff that we do. This is the time when our stress levels fall and our breathing becomes slow and intense. This type of top space is a close analog to the shaman’s alpha rhythm or the runner’s high. We are most aware of the moment and nothing else. I’ve heard dominants joke that the rest of the house could be on fire and they wouldn’t notice unless smoke got into the dungeon. It’s true! I was once engaged in a scene with a lovely couple in the Caribbean. There was a fire play scene that got out of hand less than ten feet away from us, and I didn’t even notice. I heard about it afterwards and was quite surprised!
The third and final phase of top space happens after the play concludes. Once the submissive’s needs have been tended to and the toys tidied and put away, the dominant can finally let go of that hyper-focused feeling. Post scene feelings vary dramatically, depending on a variety of factors. I can feel loopy, exhilarated, or drained. Often I am ravenously hungry, because I’ve burned so many calories for so long, particularly if my client has booked a few hours of my time. In the BDSM lifestyle we talk a lot about giving submissives after care, but sometimes a top needs after care too. We can experience “top drop” in the form of depressed feelings or exhaustion. Slaves, this would be a good time to offer a foot massage, or simply ask what she needs most and respect what she requests. Helping recharge your dominant’s batteries is an excellent way to say thank you for a positive experience.
The subspace/top space dynamic is one way a good D/s relationship benefits both players. Dominants also experience emotional and physical highs when we play. All three phases of top space arise from the pleasure of being in control. The more challenging the scene or the more intimate the D/s connection, the more intensely the dominant will experience top space.