Posted at 22:09 on 6 Jun 2011 by Pandora / Blake
So. I promised to tell you the story of the scene that made me purr.
Monday evening two weeks ago; my only night home with Tom between a sequence of trips away. Hopeful of spending some time with him after our squash game, I'd bathed, shaved my legs, and put on a short dress before dinner - just in case. My hopes were rewarded when a cuddle evolved into a lovely spanking over his knee.
Well, I say lovely. I find Tom's hand spankings harder to take than many implements. Even when he's being deliberately gentle and restrained, I still have to summon all my courage not to squeal and try to wriggle free. I like it, of course - but it does sometimes feel as if my bravery goes unremarked, because he underestimates how hard his hand spankings are to take. And I am ever proud, even in submission - perhaps especially in submission - and thirsty for praise after accomplishing something difficult.
This hand spanking felt particularly difficult. I willed and willed myself towards stoicism, but worried that even my bitten-back reactions would come across as wimpish. Actually, I thought I wasn't doing too badly; but when he stopped and didn't tell me, as he often does, that I'd done well, suddenly I found myself worried that he thought I wasn't being brave.
Ah, pride. Self-pity overtook me, and when the spanking ended I wept a bit, explained why, and he held me fiercely and close until all was well again. After my cry I felt much better, reassured by his gentle concern ... and eager for more play. I got some thrilling smacks with a ruler before we stopped for dinner, with the promise of more afterwards.
Tom's topping style can often be summarised as a hard hand and gentle voice. I feel very safe with him - he rarely puts me emotionally on edge. His taste for physical severity is supported by reassuring words and a tender manner.
After dinner, I was cheerful and willing. He let me make myself comfortable over pillows, and when he started to cane me it was instantly clear what he had in mind. Our friend Zille recently referred to "California style" caning in her blog, by contrast with the English style. I'd found the distinction fascinating, and mentioned it to Tom. If the English style is a small number of very hard strokes, with pauses in between, then the Californian style is a rhythmic sequence of rapid strokes, starting tantalisingly light but building to a burning intensity.
We've played like this before, but never in a deliberate, extended way. Those initial bouncing taps are more or less the recommended way of introducing a new player to the pleasure of the cane, and I leaned back into them, hungry for more impact. The regular rhythm made it easy to relax, knowing what was coming next. As the sensation accumulated, my breathing slowed. My reactions seemed to ebb and flow; beginning with soft moans, slipping into sharper yelps and hisses as the impact increased, then relaxing again as I adjusted to the new intensity and my body accepted it. I slipped into a meditative state, the sensations shifting between pain and pleasure and back again.
This trance state is, in some ways, the holy grail of play for me: the calm space where new and harder impact only makes me sigh quietly, absorbing the energy, delighting in it. But as the strokes became fiercer I discovered that whenever they fell on the upper half of my bottom the sensation would seem suddenly sharp and jarring, jolting me out of my trance so that I had to start the process of breathing into it all over again again. Strokes falling on my lower bottom and upper thighs somehow had a different quality; no less painful, but less disruptive of the rhythm, igniting my desire and feeding my appetite for impact.
As the cane flickered over my bottom, I found myself resenting the higher strokes and craving the lower ones. Which is strange, because that calm acceptance where pain becomes pleasure is what people often mean, I think, when they talk about "subspace". And yet a mood in which I can only accept certain sensations is not, technically speaking, particularly submissive.
It seems to me that there's a tension between the sort of physical, masochistic desire which can be awakened by certain styles of play, and the idea of surrendering to the desires of your partner. Thinking back, I had already submitted to Tom in accepting the hard hand spanking - and yet submission alone was not sufficient to stimulate my pleasure response. On the one hand, there's this specific physical pattern centered around a slow buildup, which guides a bottom towards enjoying pain sensations, and on the other there's this ideal of submission as acceptance of play which a bottom might not immediately enjoy, or have chosen for themselves.
I don't think that every scene we play has to be hard - or, indeed, has to test our D/s relationship. But it does seem strange that the scenes which feel most successful, in which we work together to guide me into a happy space which enables us to play as long and hard as we like, depend on my top catering to my physical preferences in a way which doesn't really exemplify dominance.
These days I try not to be too idealistic or ideological about D/s. Play which makes it as easy as possible for the bottom to take what the top wants to give is certainly no bad thing. But it's definitely a different type of play from the times when I try my hardest to enjoy, or endure, the things Tom wants to do to me. Our D/s dynamic is much easier to perceive when our desires are not immediately in sync, but I obey him anyway. But that doesn't mean that the dynamic isn't present when our desires happen to coincide.
In theory, I know that enjoying an easy or pleasurably scene can involve just as much submission as enduring a difficult or painful one. But I can be more immediately sure of the submission in the latter, and it's sometimes frustrating that this certainty is at odds with the types of play that gives me greatest physical pleasure. I think the key is to trust Tom to know what he wants from any scene. If he wants to build me up slowly to a place where I can take more and harder strokes, he knows there are limited ways of doing it; and if he wants to do his own thing without reference to my physical preferences, he knows that I will find it more of a struggle. It's up to him. It's easier to feel proud of submitting to play that wasn't what I've have chosen for myself, but if our desires happen to coincide, that doesn't mean his dominance is any less real.
There's something paradoxical about all this. Pain can become pleasure, but it can also just be pain. And sometimes, that can be pleasurable too.