Safewords, and Spanking

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December 1997

by William A. Henkin, Ph.D.

Copyright © 1997 by William A. Henkin

<Q> How can you avoid breaking out of role after a safeword has been called?

<A> Since a safeword is usually designed to end a scene, breaking out of role is generally part of the appropriate response. I don't know why you would want to do otherwise, therefore, unless your purpose in using a safeword is to slow the scene down or to introduce some form of straight time in which players could talk in way they couldn't in the midst of a scene. People in the community have solved this dilemma by using two or even three safewords rather than just one that stops the action altogether. My own favorites are the traffic light standards I find everyone remembers easily: "red" for stop and "yellow" for all forms of slow down, I'm scared, or I need to talk; but there are all sorts of permutations. For example, in addition to red and yellow, Sybil Holiday likes to use "green" for an enthusiastic go, and in The Lesbian SM Safety Manual Pat Califia suggests "mercy" for slow down and the top's name for stop.

One place you might want to stay in role no matter what else is happening would be in a full-time 24/7 relationship where people live their roles. But all the people I've known who have both negotiated and navigated successful full-time DS relationships have included some version of a concept Sybil and I called "long leash/short leash," wherein adequate time is allocated for talking about any necessary or relevant subject including difficulties with a scene, difficulties with the relationship, or difficulties of other sorts between the partners; although roles may become less strict and formal in such a situation, their bounds are never breached.

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<Q> How can I create an endorphin-producing spanking scene for my partner? He is an experienced bottom and I'm a total novice with one (count 'em) scene (non-spanking) under my belt. By the way, he tells me he wore out the last three tops he played with because he "goes away."

<A> Endorphins are brain chemicals that are released when the body is so impressed with intense or sustained stress that the brain has to damp down the transmissions that are screaming OW! OW! OW! OW! DO SOMETHING! DO SOMETHING! DO SOMETHING! Endorphins have been called the body's natural opiates because they function in some ways like opium, heroin, and other opiate substances. They fit neatly into the same receptors in the brain that accommodate opiate drugs, and they have similar effects: they don't so much reduce the feelings of pain a person experiences as they reduce the degree to which the person in pain cares that she or he is hurting.

To create an endorphin-producing scene of any sort – spanking, whipping, etc. – you will have to create enough stress on your partner's body so that his brain feels the need to generate endorphins. Information I've read indicates that you should provide a sustained pitch of spanking for about 45 minutes to achieve that effect, but that's a lot of spanking, and your hand is liable to get bruised and numb long before you reach the magic number. My own experience suggests that if your partner is susceptible you can reach your goal in considerably less time. I haven't confirmed this with a brain specialist, but it seems to me that other intense experiences such as pinching, tickling, nibbling, squeezing, abrading, or slapping sensitive regions, as well as those intense emotions people sometimes experience just before the spanking part of a scene, or when they're in a deeply submissive state, can help precipitate some relevant stress.

But if 45 minutes of spanking turns out to be approximately right for your purposes, you should know something about how to pace a spanking, both to make it possible for your partner to accept the sustained sensation, and so that you don't exhaust yourself or bruise your hand. (Incidentally, if your hand does get bruised in a spanking scene, wrap an ice cube in a soft cloth and clutch it against the bruise to minimize swelling and reduce healing time.) There are lots of spanking videos around that can give you some clues and pointers, such as those made by Red Board, or if you want more direct instruction in the art, try The Compleat Spanker by Catherine Liszt and Dossie Easton ($11.95 + $3 shipping & handling through Greenery Press, 3738 Balboa Ave., #195, San Francisco, CA 94121, or, without the mail charge, at QSM and other fine purveryors of kinky literature). And, of course, periodically Sybil Holiday and others teach hands-on spanking courses through QSM, Differences, and elsewhere.

If your partner "goes away" during scenes it's possible he's just floating along on a sea of already-released endorphins, and you can perform the job you're asking about very easily. If he goes away to avoid the experience of the scene, you may want to learn how to hold his attention. The occasional thwack with a flogger, slapper, paddle, or cane can do wonders to bring a bottom's wandering mind back to the place the top wants that mind to be. And if you fear you don't know enough or have sufficient stamina to run an intense, protracted scene, you can always negotiate with your partner to invite a third or even a fourth, party to help you co-top. Some hungry bottoms delight in the added attention, but since others find that extra people distract them or compromise their space it's essential that you have his agreement before extending such invitations.

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