Giving a speech from the mainstage at Kinkfest 4 in London
On August 2nd Dave and I attended Kinkfest 4 in London. This one-day, pansexual event included SM education, a vendor market, food stalls and community information. I was there to present a workshop and give a speech from mainstage - and it looked like everyone was having fun. Thanks to the organisers for all their hard work putting it together.
There are many ways to describe SM sexuality, but here's one model that I've found works very well for me. I haven't published it on this website before because I wasn't sure where I got the idea from and I didn't want to publicise an idea without giving due credit to the author. However, I explained this model during a workshop at "Thunder in the Mountains" in July and many people asked me to put it online, so here it is:
A MODEL TO DESCRIBE SM SEXUALITY
If you want to plot a position in three dimensional space you need to give three co-ordinates: how far across, how far up and how far out of the page something is. Mathematicians would say these are the "x", "y" and "z" co-ordinates.
The "x" axis can be used to identify how much someone likes physical sensation. So someone who scores very highly on this scale might enjoy flogging, spanking or forced exercise, for example. Whereas someone who scores a zero on this axis might be happy to stand facing a wall for half an hour, or sit at someone's boots while the boots' wearer smokes a cigar, with no physical contact at all.
The "y" axis can be used to describe how much someone enjoys going into an altered headspace. Someone who scores very highly on this scale might enjoy taking on the role of a Master, Mistress, Sir, boy, slave, pony, puppy etc. Whereas someone who scores zero on this scale might be very good at the physical side of kinky sex, but want to "be themselves" and have equal status with their partner.
The "z" axis can be used to describe how aggressive or passive you are. Someone who scores highly at this might enjoy rough scenes such as wrestling, "take downs", interrogation, confronting phobias or fear-based scenes. Someone who scores low on this scale might enjoy domestic servitude or happily doing as they are told with no resistance at all.
HOW CAN THIS MODEL HELP SM PLAYERS?
One of the first steps in SM is working out your own sexuality: discovering what turns you on. For many years I thought that submissive = passive so I used to become very still and unresponsive when being the submissive in an SM scene, thinking that that was what was required. Later when I discovered I liked more aggressive scenes I had to deal with some prejudice in our community towards "pushy bottoms". It's only recently that I've become more comfortable with where I am in this model and been able to meet like-minded people.
As an SM Top you need to be able to work out what turns on the people you're playing with in order to have a mutually satisfactory scene. It's no good tying someone up and leaving them if they need constant physical stimulation. If someone was bullied at school it's possible that they don't want to enter into a scene with someone who's dominating them, they may prefer to do the physical side of SM play as someone with equal status.
It's likely that you'll be a range of different points in this model at different times or with different play partners. You may even find you're at different points within the same scene. Someone who's very stressed might desire an aggressive scene to begin with, but after a while of playing they may relax and become more passive.
I believe the more awareness you have of where you and your partner(s) are at any given time the better the SM scene will be.
Teaching the difference between "thud" and "sting" sensations at a workshop at Kinkfest 4. A chopstick is definitely "sting"!
HOW CAN THIS MODEL HELP NON-SM PLAYERS?
Sometimes I'm asked to give presentations to people who have no interest in SM at all and can't understand why anyone would do it. You can use this model to help explain part of what SM players are experiencing.
Someone who scores highly on the "x" axis is probably enjoying an endorphin based scene. Endorphins are produced by the body in response to pain or strenuous exercise and are similar to opiates. If you flog, spank or hit someone (consensually, of course) over a period of time eventually their body will be flooded with endorphins and they'll experience a natural high. This is similar to people who attend aerobics classes, a heavy gym session or run a marathon and describe feeling "high" afterwards. It's the same endorphins at work.
Someone who scores highly on the "y" axis is enjoying an altered state of mind. The mirror of this in non-kink society would be someone who practises meditation or lies in a flotation tank in the dark to let their mind go somewhere else. For some reason mainstream society has no problem with the person who spends money to relax in a flotation tank, but if we mummify someone in a dungeon to get the same experience it's seen as perverted and degrading.
Someone who scores highly on the "z" axis is probably enjoying an adrenaline based scene. Adrenaline is a hormone produced by the body in response to fear or a sudden surprise that makes you enter "fight or flight" mode. It can give you quite a rush too. People who ride roller coasters, go to horror movies, bungee or parachute jump, or engage in extreme sports are probably enjoying an adrenaline rush too. For some reason it's okay to confront a fear at a horror movie, but not if an SM Top is helping their partner to confront a phobia in a playroom.
There are other things that SM players gain from their activities. They forge deep relationships based on trust and understanding; there is mutual satisfaction of going on a journey together, and the emotional rewards for the experience - whatever it may be.
To me these are positive things. I also believe there are many great things that SM players can teach the rest of society about sexuality. In order to improve your skills in the playroom you have to have good self-awareness, effective communication skills to find a partner that fits your sexuality, honesty about what turns you on, and the firm knowledge that consent can be given or withdrawn at ANY moment throughout the proceedings.
Have fun, look after yourselves and the people you play with.
International Mr Leather 2003