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Feeling grown-up vs feeling small

Posted at 11:55 on 27 Sep 2010 by Pandora / Blake

Tags: meta-analysis



A topic of conversation on Twitter this morning has got me thinking. It was kicked off by this message from Emma-Jane:

Dressed in smart dress and heels for my presentation today. A painful 6 strokes with the dragon cane reminded me I'm not a complete grown-up though!
I couldn't help bring struck by the difference to my own responses. If I were to take a firm caning before dressing up smart and going off to do a grown-up, slightly scary professional thing, I think the caning would make me feel more grown-up. Or at least, if I was going to play before a day like that, I would want play that reinforced my sense of competence and confidence, not undermined it.

It got me wondering: is there a difference between bottoms/subs who seek play that makes them feel small, and those who seek play that makes them feel grown-up?

I opened the subject on Twitter, and quickly got an interesting variety of answers. A few people explicitly said they preferred that makes them feel little, secure, and safe. @SarahLRH said that "I choose the type of play that makes me feel small and protected. Too much in life is grown-up, I like to escape from it." This is a familiar point of view. It's one I've used to describe my own playing style before, on occasion. Bottoms who are very grown-up and responsible in real life often use play to escape from the stress of having authority, to seek a place of sanctuary where, for once, the buck doesn't stop with them. I can certainly identify with that. I've always seen myself in the gendered stereotype of the stressed-out businessman who carries the world on his shoulders but sees a Domme at weekends - and I know a fair few hardworking, high-achieving female bottoms who play for similar reasons.

And yet, in my case, I think I tend to seek that sort of stress relief after I have been grown-up, as a way of psychologically winding down and defragmenting, rather than beforehand to relieve my anxiety. Perhaps, then, that's the only difference between me wanting a hard caning after a stressful day, and Emma-Jane wanting one before it?

But too many people enjoy a variety of playing styles for it to be that simple. Scarlett de Winter said that "BDSM play makes me feel grown up, age play and CP makes me feel young." This chimes with another reply I received, from Jessica Davies: "Feeling small somehow makes me feel secure and so, more grown up. Roleplay characters affect this. If I want caring and loving play, I play small. If I want abuse and fear and pain, I am grown up!" It seems that quite a few people characterise sexy, scary BDSM-type play as grown-up, and safe, reassuring spanking play as the opposite.

There are definitely times when I seek the sort of play that is comforting, emotionally straightforward, where I am a little girl being taken in hand and looked after, where I don't have to make decisions or think or do anything other than be obedient and let me Dom carry me to a place where all my stress and anxiety has fallen away. It's rare for me, though. Far more common is the kind of play that makes me feel bigger, bolder: play where I am tested and challenged (or challenge and test myself), play in which I can be brave, can feel proud of myself. Play that allows me to hold me head up high and know that I'm doing well. The sort of play that leaves you feeling if I can take this, I can do anything. I like affirming play that makes me feel in control of my body. Holding position, making deliberate, graceful moments. Play that makes me feel strong, beautiful, elegant and sexy. This kind of play is empowering not just in the abstract sense that I am fulfilling my true desires, it is literally empowering: it leaves me feeling good about myself, more confident, more capable, more grown-up.

This kind of play, which leaves me feeling more able to face my responsibilities, is different for me from the sort of "little girl" play where the good feeling comes from feeling free of responsibility. And on a general basis, I am definitely more inclined to seek the former. But I'm not sure if those two categories make sense for anyone else. So tell me about play and grown-upness. Do you play because it makes you feel more grown-up, or because it makes you feel less grown-up? Or is it more complicated than that?

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