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Processing the experience

Posted at 13:21 on 8 Mar 2013 by Pandora / Blake

Tags: cane, dominance and submission, kink, Kink activism

The Pervocracy have a fantastic post up about the different skills involved in bottoming/submission, and the ways in which a bottom actively engages with the process. The whole post is spot on, including skills such as knowing your own desires and limits and being able to effectively communicate them, being safety aware, giving good feedback, subtly helping the scene along with your physical movements, and being attentive to the fact that tops need aftercare too.

All the practical stuff is excellent advice, but my favourite section of the post was the skills that was hardest to explain: "process the experience".

This is the internal work of bottoming, and I don't know what I'm going to write in this section, because it's... magic or neurology or something. Also a lot of deep breathing. This is where you take in pain, discomfort, fear, and/or humiliation, and you turn them into something wonderful for yourself. And very often it is an effort. It can take focus and intention to turn a spanking from "my butt hurts, ow, my butt hurts again" to "my butt hurts in a way that is giving me the most amazing pleasure." Or when it isn't pleasure, "my butt hurts and I am strong and I am taking it." It's almost a kind of meditation.

I couldn't have put it better.

Relatedly, Abby Williams has started blogging again at The Little Red Schoolhouse. I rate her writing extremely highly, particularly the way she talks about the mental processes involved in that magical internal alchemy of turning pain into pleasure.

After a fallow period, she's re-launched her blog and her kink with a series of four nightly spankings with her husband, each one faithfully written about the next morning. She describes her communication with Mr W and her internal meditation during the four increasingly painful scenes with poetry and insight. Here are some favourite passages:

I have no idea how many strokes I took. I cant even say how hard they were. [...] Id reached that spanking nirvana, the place where the hits can just keep on coming. I would fall forward or rear up in response to various strokes, two of which I can still feel distinctly this morning, one on each cheek, but the rest is a blur. For me, its like each stroke is its own small universe, in which everything exists in response to the pain of just that stroke, whether light or intense. By the end of the tawsing, there was a stroke that made me reach forward, losing the arch of my back as I buckled to the intensity. I thought, in that moment, that I would faint, or die, or at least leave my body. I was nothing but the specific point where the tawse had landed. And then I was fine, ready for the next small universe to overcome me, but by then it was on to the cane. (Spanking #1)

He begins to whip me faster and my breath begins to sound like panting. Its landing so perfectly across my reddened backside and the torment is just right. Its the right rhythm, the right heat, the right sting, and just the right amount of thudding leather to wrap it all together. I begin to get a little dizzy; Im lightheaded with the encompassing sensation. Hes only whipping my ass but it feels like there is warmth spreading throughout my entire body, like standing outside on a summer day and the sun is so hot on my skin that I know I should go inside, but I need to stand in its rays just one moment longer. Im burning, but it feels so good. (Spanking #2)

I felt a scream rising in my throat, the kind of wail that once released is so hard to stop. The tears that had been gathering began to pour. I cant, I cant, I cant, I said. I cant.

For a moment, we both thought I meant that I couldnt go through with the spanking. I took a deep breath. Can I have the gag? I pointed at the drawer. I want to keep going, but I am making way too much noise.

He took the gag out, placed the ball into my open mouth, and buckled it firmly in place. I returned to position; he returned to the strop. It still hurt every bit as much, but biting into the gag made me feel both safer and sexier. (Spanking #3)

He tapped me with the cane. It wasn't up to me this time; I moved back into position for the next six.

I feel now like I was still counting in my head, but also like I lost track of everything but the sensation. When I remember last night, I remember light like butterscotch casting a glow throughout the room from the small lamp on my night table. I remember the velveteen softness of the bedspread beneath the bare skin of the front of my body, conflicted by the repeated bursts of sharp pain on the back side. I think I closed my eyes, or lost my vision to the welting shocks that were wracking my body with a powerful erotic electricity. I remember wanting to touch myself. I remember wanting to disappear into the pain. (Spanking #4)

Beautiful, hot writing; and a perfect demonstration of the process of bottoming that the Pervocracy is talking about.

I think it's important to recognise and value the effort that is involved in doing this thing we do for bottoms as well as tops. I know that I have often found myself worrying that I was not submissive enough because processing a kinky experience took mental struggle or effort; or because I was unable to magically transmute pain into pleasure, but wanted to carry on taking it anyway.

Posts like these, both the instructional one from Pervocracy and the descriptive ones from The Little Red Schoolhouse, are crucial to realising that actually, bottoming can be difficult, and it is okay to not always find it easy. Rather than being disappointed with ourselves for not always being perfectly passive, we should value the active aspects of bottoming. Often, the scenes that require some internal struggle for the bottom are the most needed, and the most rewarding.


Abby - I really love your writing style - erotic, edgy, and so very meaningful. Couldn't you please write a proper version of 50 Shades to help spread the word to the masses yet to understand and experience our kink?

As a 50:50 switch, I know how important non-verbal communication is when bottoming. So when my partner is subbing, I know a strong exhalation of air from her lungs after a stroke means she is close to her level of maximum enjoyment. But elicting an 'owww' rather than an 'mmmm' probably means she's just moved into an area of unpleasant pain, rather than enjoyable stimulation (although of course pain may be exactly what is required for that particular moment). I also find that when I am subbing and the strokes are getting close to my own limit, just taking a deep breath and almost shouting out the stroke number and a 'thank you' helps me to get over that particular hurdle and carry on without complaint.

I am honored with this. The Pervocracy's post and your comments at the end truly resonate with me. I hadn't considered the phrase "active bottoming" before, though I realize now that it's what I try to do, for the most part, until that internal light sets in that lets me disappear into the experience. I wish I could reach that point every time, but as we know, there are times when we are all too aware of what is happening throughout the scene, and it's then that being active in one's roll as a bottom is that much more important. After all, maybe it will lead to that transforming experience next time.

I think it's important for bottoms to know that it's acceptable to both like and at times not like what we do, and to know that the struggle of receiving a spanking can be a reward in itself, if we let it. I have certainly had times where I was "unable to magically transmute pain into pleasure, but wanted to carry on taking it anyway." Not enjoying a spanking doesn't necessarily translate to not wanting or needing it, as long it's within one's play boundaries.

Despite my rather long hiatus, I continued taking it when I could, and wanting it when I couldn't. I'd taken my kink for granted most of life. After the past few years of self-introspection, I see it now as a gift, and one I want to share through my writing. Now that I'm back both reading and writing in this world again, I feel like the time is exactly right, almost as if there is a revolution happening: "Bottoms - They're Not Just For Punishing Anymore." I'm seeing more switching happening (look at you! it's fantastic!), and many more bottoms who don't want to be punished, they want to be spanked and proud. I'm excited to be a part of it.

Thought-provoking comment, thankyou! I hadn't really thought in terms of this conversation as indicative of a new movement towards active bottoming. I think I assumed that bottoming has always been active for many people who do it, but that we internet people are just finding a vocabulary for it now that we are in the habit of talking about this stuff.

Part of it is just visibility. Stuff that has always been true is being talked about publicly and inspiring others to come out and talk about it, too. For instance, there have always been switches, but these days we're trying to unpick the idea that a mono-orientation is somehow superior, more valid or more sexy, and be more out and proud about our switchiness, just as bisexuals have been trying to do. Both orientations are still easier and more accepted for women than men. But we're working on that.

Talking about stuff is in itself good, and can itself cause revolutions, of course. For instance, I'm seeing younger female bottoms come into the scene now after a few years of reading about consent and gender theory on the internet, and communicate and enforce their boundaries at play parties with dazzling aplomb, in a way I am still getting my teeth around. Better communication - between fellow bottoms, between play partners, and publicly - is one of the biggest gifts the internet and the sex positive movement has given us. I treasure it.

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