Posted at 23:38 on 7 Jul 2013 by Pandora / Blake
When I was at Boardwalk Badness Weekend, I told my roommate Jade that I was a "marks fetishist". I didn't think much about this wording at the time, but apparently it intrigued her, and she asked me to expand on it.
What I like about them
What I mean by saying I'm a marks fetishist is, perhaps, obvious, as I can express it in the wording of Jade's questions: I treasure marks. The marks I get (or give) are part of my kink, and have some deeper meaning. I desire them, negotiate for scenes that will cause them, and sometimes feel disappointed if you dont get them. Marks are arousing to me; they are a badge of honour. I fuss over them, look at them in the mirror, take pictures of them.
In this post when I talk about "marks" I mostly mean the marks that are left on a bottom from a spanking, beating or whipping. I have had, and enjoyed, other types of mark - from rope, teeth, nails - on other parts of my body, but I don't seek them out or obsess over them in quite the same way.
Marks, for me, are a gift from someone I love, a memento of a beautiful scene, a keepsake to be treasured. They are a badge of honour; hard won and well deserved. (In Atlantic City I deliberately engineered a cold caning scene with Mr Allen with the aim of creating beautiful marks. I'm planning to write about that scene for the next Kink of the Week, which serendipitously is "canes".) I love being marked; I love the drama of it, the aesthetics of it, the way they serve as a visual journal of memorable, intense scenes.
During a submissive scene it's often hard to retain accurate memories of what takes place, and sometimes you might enter a sort of altered state of consciousness where are you aren't clearly aware of what's happening, even at the time. Pain is fleeting, and as anyone who has ever fantasised about a spanking knows, it is very hard to remember what it's like when it's not actually happening. Marks are a lasting, visual reminder of experiences that can be dreamlike and confused.
Marks are also associated with severity, which is another kink of mine. I am an exhibitionist, and severity is much more satisfying for me if it's witnessed or recorded. Filming, photographing and writing about a scene are all ways of doing that, and that's why I have a blog and a spanking porn site. But marks are another testament, another record, of an intense play experience, and they are equally important to me.
This is from a journal entry I wrote in 2004, when I was relatively new to kinky exploration and enjoying the honeymoon period of my first dom/sub relationship with Tom:
My body is a map of marks, the signatures left on me by each encounter. You can read it, if you know the code. It is a record in four dimensions, that fades and alters over time, affected by the passing of days - and by the layering of new marks on top of old. It is an art form; the old cliché about the body being a canvas. Afterwards, alone again, I cannot resist inspecting them, twisting round in the bathroom to catch a glimpse in the mirror, watching with fascination as they change colour, slowly heal. Sometimes I awake in the mornings and whole areas of colour have gone completely; the superficial marks, the pink and the red, are absorbed by sleep, leaving no testament to the damage done the night before. On other occasions a beating I did not consider to have been so terribly bad will linger in my muscles for weeks, painless, after a while, but persistently visible.
Since I started keeping this blog, my life hasn't given me many opportunities to be marked. If you regularly need a fresh, unmarked bottom for spanking film shoots or nude photoshoots, you have to restrict your play accordingly. When I first started spanking modelling I wrote about the problem of bruising. But one's bottom becomes resilient over time, and these days I have to go out of my way to get satisfyingly lasting marks. Those days of a moderate play session leaving marks that lasted two weeks or more are long behind me, and at a personal level, I miss it. But professionally speaking, it's hugely convenient not being a "magic marker" any more; I can book shoots and sessions without worrying about it unless I'm planning severe scenes, or playing several days in a row. (For instance, I'm currently producing a week-long Dreams of Spanking shoot in September, and anticipating how marked my bottom will be at the end of each day is proving a significant factor in my scheduling.) I spent a couple of years feeling disappointed whenever a good scene didn't mark, but now I've come to expect it; these days, if I wasn't going out looking for it, I'm surprised when I mark.
As I write this, Ihave a couple of faint cane stripes on my bottom, and I honestly don't know whether they're from my birthday caning a week last Friday, or the switch session I played on Monday. Does it matter? Actually, yes, it does. If I know the marks are from my birthday caning, a memorable, sexy, and unexpected scene with my much-loved D, I will treasure them much more than if they were from a professional engagement. Since I can't be sure, I'm ambivalent about these particular marks. But when I do know the origins, it's a strong emotional factor.
The flipside of the way that marks can be an affirming, joy-inducing reminder of a positive experience is that they can be a jarring reminder of a traumatic or negative one. The marks from a bad scene are a stain, a taint; if the marks were caused by something you did not consent to, or in a way you did not consent to, then the marks themselves become an extension of that lack of consent, an unwanted intrusion into the sanctity of your body. The emotional upheaval of a bad scene will take longer to fade if you have to wait for marks to disappear before you can start to put it behind you. Luckily I've only experienced this once or twice in my life, and I have learned to mediate my stress about it and not let unwanted marks ruin my week, but there is still a strong emotional response that needs to be managed. Marks can extend or aggravate a traumatic experience, and can be a reminder of unpleasant experiences as well as positive ones - at least until they heal and fade. The silver lining is that when they do fade, this can be a good emotional cue for emotional healing as well.
Marks are capricious. They seem to always last either too long or not long enough. They often refuse to arise from the emotionally intense, intimate, personal scenes of which I crave mementoes; and they have a persistent tendency to arise from professional encounters which I wasn't particularly invested in. I mark less as time goes by, but I still find my marking difficult to predict. Whether I mark or not often seems to depend on unknown factors, impossible to control.
Limits and control
Despite this, controlling marks is something I have spent many years trying to do. When I play a professional or personal scene I'm always aware of whether it is marking me, or likely to mark. If I have work coming up that I have to be unmarked for, lasting marks become a hard limit. The only truly bad spanking shoot I've ever had (in 2008, with a company that doesn't shoot much any more - if you're a model who wants to know the company's name, email me) was arranged at short notice, where I negotiated beforehand that I needed to be unmarked for a prior booking a few days later; this limit was ignored.
Thankfully, I haven't had someone deliberately break that limit in personal play, although I have had personal scenes that left longer lasting marks than I or my top anticipated, resulting in my having to cancel or rebook shoots. Over the years I have learned to err on the side of caution, and have often wished I could play harder at home, and felt frustrated at having to hold back to save my skin. It's an irony that personal scenes are the ones I am more likely to desire or treasure marks from, and the least likely, for practical reasons, to result in them. I can justify being marked from paid, pre-arranged work more easily, but this is less likely to have deeper personal meaning.
One consequence of this conflict of interest is that in a personal scene I am often hyper-aware of whether I am marking, or likely to mark, and if I let myself start to worry that my top is not being as observant as I need them to be, this can ruin my immersion in a scene and stop me from relaxing into a submissive headspace.
From the top perspective
As a professional top, I deal with marking as a limit all the time. Many of the people I play with have lifestyles that are incompatible with marking, and marking is always one of the first things I negotiate. Like me, playmates often want to play harder than is practical, and so the game is often to play as hard as possible within their marking limits. It's not unusual for me to be given fairly specific time limits - e.g. "no marks that will last more than 24 hours", "no marks that will last more than 3 days". I have learned, and am still learning, to judge those limits as accurately as possible, and of course it varies hugely from bottom to bottom.
One of my great pleasures is a submissive client who is new to playing, marks with that beautiful, dramatic ease, and desires and enjoys being marked as much as I do. I love playing with newbies not only because it is an honour to give someone a safe and positive first experience, but because I take such a personal, aesthetic, sadistic enjoyment in watching the marks blossom on their skin. It's fascinating to see cane stripes which would be a mild pink on me bloom vivid red and purple on them.
So yes, I also have a marks fetish as a top and sadist. It's instant gratification at its finest; every act has immediate visible consequences. I become the artist, painting my subject's flesh with pain. I take pride in my handiwork, enjoying it when I achieve exactly the visual effect I was aiming for, and admiring a set of perfectly parallel, symmetrical stripes.
I love it when I am specifically asked for a scene that will leave dramatic marks. Our mutual enjoyment feeds into each other, with my admiring comments about the state of their bottom adding to their excitement, and ending with both of us geeking delightedly over their welts in front of a mirror, commenting on all the finer details, and documenting it obsessively with photos. Clients and I can email back and forth discussing photographs of their marked bums for weeks. I love providing this experience for likeminded playmates because I empathise with it; I feel the same way when it's me on the receiving end.
Of course, creating a satisfying set of marks can be a challenge. You'll read more about this from the sub perspective when I write about the caning I received from Mr Allen, but from the dom side it can be a fascinating test of skill, especially when playing with experienced, hardened players who don't mark easily. I love exploring and refining my understanding of the finer technical details of how to generate different kinds of mark. And of course, other players dislike marks, or prefer to avoid them, and I have to tailor the scene accordingly.
There are ways to control marking. Different implements have different effects, of course, as do different severity levels, and even using implements in different orders. Narrow, heavy implements, such as canes, whips and riding crops used firmly, leave vivid skin welts and can be sharp enough to break the skin. Narrow, light implements, such as quirts and martinets, leave raised weals, and very thin implements such as switches and birches can break the skin despite not being very heavy. Broad, heavy implements like straps or paddles don't raise weals, but over long or consecutive scenes they do leave bruises. Belts can fit into either category depending on how broad they are, but when folded they tend to be heavy enough to bruise. Canes and crops can bruise as well, if they are dense enough.
The way to emphasise marking is to use these sharper implements "cold" - that is, hard, without any other play beforehand to prepare or warm the skin. The harder the first strokes on unprepared skin, the more dramatic the marks will be. The way to decrease or avoid marking is to warm the skin as slowly and thoroughly as possible, starting with gentle hand spanking, moving onto harder hand spanking, then leather, allowing time for endorphin release, gradually preparing the skin for what will follow. Warm-ups are a kindness in professional work not only for the comfort of the spankee, but because they reduce marking. Of course this only goes so far - a sufficiently hard caning will break the skin no matter how warmed up you are (as Jade herself discovered in Atlantic City). Bizarrely, warm-downs work too - a hand spanking after a caning can help not onto bring your sub gently back to earth, but it also dissipates the collected blood beneath the skin, and helps the marks heal faster. You can break up bruises the same way, too, with hand spanking and massage.
If you want to reduce marking and speed healing, keeping the bottom supple and moisturised is the most important thing. I use Vitamin E cream in general, and aloe vera gel on severe welts while they're fresh, but shea butter and cocoa butter are rated highly too. Arnica doesn't have any provable effect, whether as tablets or cream; I've heard a lot of anecdotal reports of its efficacy and used to think it helped me, but I don't bother with it any more. Here's a more detailed post on caring for your bottom after a severe scene.
Creating and controlling marks is an art, and I suspect I'll never stop learning. I love hearing ideas and stories about how to manage marking, and learning from more experienced players.
Alpha and omega
Over the course of your kinky life, marking comes full circle. New players experience startlingly vivid, dramatic marks from moderate play. Experienced players find their bottoms mark less easily over time. But if you don't let your bottom fully heal between scenes, or simply as you mature and grow old, your skin becomes more fragile, and breaks more easily. I have played with delightful septuagenarians who adore hard play, but are frustrated by how easily they seem to bleed. To maintain your bottom's resilience as long as possible, let any marks heal fully before playing again; moisturise regularly; and if you start to notice hard spots that won't heal, or weak spots that bleed easily, take a break from playing for a few months until your skin recovers.
So far I've managed to avoid having to take this sort of break. I say that I miss the days when I marked easily, but twelve months off from spanking is probably all I would need to return my bottom to a freshly virginal, markable state. But as long as I can avoid any long term damage, I have no desire to make that sacrifice.
Marks fetishist I may be, but at this point in my life my spanking fetish, it seems, trumps it: I'd rather a year of spanking without marks than a year of no spanking for the sake of better ones.