Read all about it

The online diary of an ethical pervert.

Sunday, 2 May 2010

How to be scared

I've been looking forward to being well enough to play again, and one of the things that was especially on my mind was rubber enclosure - body bags, the doll suit and the vac bed. Talking to Captain about missing that dreamy space, where everything slips away and it's just you in the warm blackness. Later on, thinking about it more, remembering the press of vacuum packed rubber around my face I felt a tightening around my chest, a cold pang through my heart. I was frightened. Not of that sensation, but because of the necessary associated condition of having my breath controlled. Or stopped. The panic-memories of last time are still very fresh in my mind and I realise I am now somewhat scared of doing this again.

That led me on to think about playing as a submissive and the situations we deliberately put ourselves in. Aside from the physical aspects, we also play in what can be troubling emotional waters, places where it is actually harder to guarantee "safety" because (I've found, certainly) this is an area more prone to the unexpected, more variable from day-to-day and often full of unpredicted consequences. Fear is one of those. I'm going to try and write something about a few different submissive emotional states over the next few months, but given this one is already in my head, it seems a good starting point.

Fear is generally considered a negative emotion. Physiologically, it's an almost entirely autonomic brain response (specifically the amygdala) to a stressful stimulus. The response produces particular emotional and physical effects. The physical effects include energized muscles, perspiration, heart racing, fast breathing - note that these are all also signs of sexual arousal - the body is readying itself to do something physical and is therefore excited. There is an interesting theory that along with a small handful of others, fear is one of the few basic or innate emotions we have, given its importance as a survival mechanism.

So why on earth are we would we deliberately let ourselves be scared? Short answer: it's hot. Or rather, we find it hot. As mentioned above, many of the physical responses associated with fear can also be associated with sexual activity, and so it can be considered as a sex analogue. Like a lot of BDSM individual taste is key here and we can end up talking about things like "fear - in a good way" which isn't particularly elucidating, yet we all know what we mean. That feeling of trepidation, nervousness, thrill (which layers rather interestingly with humiliation play as I realise I'm using very similar words to the ones I did for potential public embarrassment, which is certainly a fear, albeit a lighter one). I've talked a little about the "roller-coaster" theory of fear management.

Emotionally, fear is often conflated with anxiety or worry, which means that trust, control and knowledge of the situation or outcome are important methods in making fear manageable and fun. For example, we get a rush when in a roller-coaster because we have a trust in the machinery, we feel that the situation is well controlled and we know that it will last a certain amount of time, go through two loop-the-loops and a tunnel etc. We therefore feel safe, so are free to enjoy the adrenaline rush, the fight or flight response, with a kind of mental safety blanket. And this can often be true of a lot of kinky activity. We operate in the assumption that our dominant partner is doing their level best to terrify us, but not cause us any serious harm.

But for all that analogy works well for some sorts of play, it doesn't for others. Breath play is one of them.This is because, effectively, as far as your body is concerned there is no functional difference between being starved of oxygen for kink and being starved of oxygen by someone who is trying to kill you. The roller coaster theory breaks down somewhat here - no matter what you "know" deep down about how safe you are, how in control and how careful your dominant is, you still cannot breathe and your body will react accordingly. Especially given that as a submissive your situation is very different to a ride on the big dipper. It's likely that there will have been some play beforehand, so you are already viewing the world through space, you are not sure of what will happen next, how long it will take and you have not had the reassuring vision of seeing many people walk out of the roller coaster hale, hearty and happy. All of this means your brain and emotions will be geared more towards "fear" than "thrill". There is only so long that your lungs can send crazed, oxygen desperate signals to your brain before fear, actual fear, not just the exhilaration of the roller-coaster, kicks in. The fear experienced here is stronger, more pronounced.

When the fear is over, there is still more to be experienced. Surviving fear creates strength. Internal strength of the "I did that" variety is a fantastic bolster to the ego, especially alongside the smug grin of satisfied kinky sex (and fear is apparently an aphrodisiac, certainly we can all recognise the giggly, silly high of coming out of a roller coaster, the rush of which can be similar to sexual stimulation). Secondly, it strengthens the bond between submissive and dominant - the levels of trust required, the depth of feeling explored, these are serious places and a well-negotiated fear scenario speaks volumes about the intimacy and strength of the D/s relationship. For me, one of the most compelling parts is the way that the person who has just put you through hell is also the person that you automatically reach out and cling to when it is all over.

No comments: