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Warming Up To It

(The Basics of a BDSM Scene)

By Master Bryan

Most BDSM scenes can be broken down into three phases: Warm up, scene proper and after care. Each phase serves a distinct function. A skilled dominant can blend them together so that the transition from one phase to another is smooth and natural. While most BDSM authors will agree on the importance of the warm up, the bulk of BDSM literature focuses on the techniques such as bull whips or fisting, which are usually associated with the scene proper. This article will deal solely with the warm up.

In many respect the warm up is the single most important part of a BDSM scene.

It is that foundation upon which the entire scene is built. The main physiological function of the warm up is to stimulate the release of endorphins. They are part of the body’s defenses against pain. Endorphins are chemicals produced by the nervous system to control pain, create euphoric feeling and modulate the release of sex hormones.

Endorphins do a number of practical things for a BDSM scene. Most importantly they help to prevent shock. A good cushion of endorphins creates that warm fuzzy euphoric feeling that allows the bottom to take considerably more pain than they could otherwise. Flooding the body with high levels of endorphins is responsible for the body orgasm associated with BDSM.

Functionally, the warm up tends to make the difference between a scene that is either pleasant or unpleasant for the bottom.

Psychologically, the warm up sets the tone of the scene through the introduction of the lighting, props, wardrobe, sounds scents, positioning and manner of speech. For example an interrogation scene where the bottom is dragged by the hair into a room and bent over a desk will have a much different feel to it the two old friends getting together for a romp at a play party where the most difficult decision is whose toys or which furniture to use. Like most things sexual, the time and effort you put into a scene up front pays off in the end.

Building Anticipation

The key to a good warm up is to start gently and slowly build the intensity of the sensations. Include a variety of types of sensations. For example, the sight of a 10 inch strap on dildo, the scent of an intimate leather garment, the swish of an unseen flogger, or a stern lecture are all stimuli which can precede physical contact. They build excitement and anticipation of physical sensation. Most good dominants can get a person very excited without even touching them.

Once anticipation has been built up you can advance to light physical stimulus. A lot of “sensation play” types of activities work well for the first part of the warm up because they tend to heighten awareness of touch without giving a lot of pain.

Some examples of common light sensations are caressing with the hand, fun fur, or a scotch brite abrasive pad. Similarly dragging the tails of a light flogger or finger nails lightly across bare skin work well to stimulate and build anticipation of how much more painful that could be.

One advantage of the light sensation is that because it is gentle, it can be used in a lot of areas where heavy sensations would not be safe. Take advantage of this to explore the more delicate areas where it will be unsafe or unpleasant to go later with heavier stimulus. Take your time with the light sensation – a minimum of three minutes is a good guideline.

However, if you are having fun and it is working well, spend as much time in the sensation phase as works for you in that particular scene. It is wonderful opportunity to check out your playmates body and do a little bit of testing to see how it is reacting.

Introduction of Pain

Eventually it will be time to increase the intensity of the sensations the bottom is receiving. This is where the element of pain will be introduced. This is also the point where the stimulus will begin to be focused on the areas of the submissive’s body where the majority of the scene will occur. For example, if you were dragging your nails or the lashes of a flogger over your playmate, now you can start with some light strokes with the flogger or some light scratching and pinching. This is also a good place to introduce light spanking and slapping.

Three minutes is the recommended minimum guideline for the introduction of pain phase.

Learn to read the submissive’s body language. If their body is relaxed, they are enjoying the pain you are giving them. If the muscles start to tighten up it is a sign that they are working to take the pain and that it is becoming unpleasant.

This is counterproductive to the warm up. Ease up on the pain levels until they relax and the muscle tension is released. Once the muscle tension has been released you can begin to slowly build the pain levels again. Concentrate on building the pain levels slowly and carefully.

It is a common mistake among new tops to give too much pain too quickly.

People often confuse the amount of pain with the quality of pain. The right amount of pain given at the right rate is wonderfully hot and sexy. Too much pain just plain hurts. BDSM is not a competition, it is a power exchange. To state the obvious, dominants that can make it hurt so good tend to get more play time than dominants that just make it hurt too much.

Increase Pain

After the pain has been introduced at low levels for a few minutes most scenes will require that the pain levels be increased. Pain levels should be increased slowly and carefully, using body language and verbal communication to gauge progress. This is where the top will begin to verbally check in with the bottom to see how they are doing.

Similarly, the bottom has an obligation to communicate to the top if things are progressing too quickly or too slowly. At this time that warm up efforts should be focused on the body areas that will be used in the scene.

One of the ways the body processes pain is that the most recent pain is what registers in the mind as the current sensation. Functionally, this means that the dominant can begin so introduce harder blows that are followed immediately by a series of softer blows. The pain from the heavy blow will be present for a second or two, but will quickly be overwritten by the subsequent lighter, more pleasant pain. A good basic ratio is that one out of every dozen blows should be a little harder than the rest during this phase of the warm up.

Continue to carefully build up the pain levels until the area you are interested in becomes flushed and warm to touch. Once the area in question becomes red and warm to the touch, the warm up is completed and you can move onto the scene proper. At this point the bottom is usually feeling “all floaty” and mildly euphoric.

Once a person is warmed up you can play with any of the areas of their body that are safe for your activity. However, occasionally new play areas will require area specific warm up. If your scene uses a series of different body parts, when you switch areas watch the muscle tension to see if the new body part needs to be warmed up. If the new body part does need to be warmed up, just go back to the introduction of pain and build up from there on that area. It will usually be a quick process as the endorphins have already been released during the original warm up and play.

Each dominant, truly, develops their signature “style” of play. After awhile, every top gets a reputation for their specific play style.

It is your own play style that sets you apart for every other dominant in the world.

As you develop your own unique play style, it is worth remembering that the best scene is not about “How hard you hit, but how well you hit”.

Would you like to have a reputation as someone who makes it hurt bad or as a dominant that makes it hurt so good?

- Master Bryan

Reprinted with permission for use on the Ball website located at www.TheBall.ca