Before we get started, what is impact play?
Impact play is when one person is hit or struck by another person for the sexual gratification of either or both. Spanking is a form of impact play and is probably the most commonly practiced method, but there are plenty of others. Impact play is considered a form of BDSM and is often enjoyed as part of a power play dynamic. Common forms of impact play would include spanking, paddling, flogging, cropping and caning. Usually impact will be directed towards a sub’s bottom and thigh area, but the shoulders, back, feet and genital areas can be other popular places too, depending on the type of impact chosen. So if impact play sounds like something you would like to get started with, then keep reading.
Impact play can be a lot of fun. It is easy to try because you don’t need any specialist equipment and it is often one of the first types of play that people interested in BDSM or a D/s dynamic choose. However, as with any type of play, there are some things you should think about before you start so that your play is as safe and enjoyable as it can be. In this post I hope to cover some of those so that it can act as a quick guide to getting started with impact play. I do not claim to be any sort of expert and my knowledge comes from my own experience of playing in a married D/s dynamic. We are all different and there is definitely no one size that fits all, so please use what you find helpful and leave the rest behind.
Things to think about before getting started with impact play
What will you use and how will it feel?
Before you get started with any sort of impact play for the first time, it is good to think about what you want to use. The easiest thing is your hand but you might want to try out a different toy such as a paddle, a crop, a flogger or a cane, which were all mentioned above. Alternatively, you might want to use an object that you have handy and pervert its use to something kinky – known as a ‘pervertable’. Toys like this could include a hairbrush, a wooden spoon or a belt, or really any other household item such as a flip-flop or a rolled up towel. Once you have made your selection, it is a good idea to try it out on yourself to see what sort of sensation it creates.
Choosing your position
Deciding what position to use should also be a consideration. A favourite for spanking is over the knee, but this will not work for all types of impact play. Some activities will be much more effective if the sub is standing up, for example with flogging or if you are using some form of whip. If you are playing in a dungeon then you could have access to a St Andrew’s Cross or to a spanking or play bench. You might want to consider using suspension cuffs, or simply to have the submissive positioned over the end of a bed or chair, or lying flat. Whichever position you choose you should think about comfort for the sub and also for the Dom. Being in an awkward position will hamper the play and detract from the pleasure.
Setting expectations and limits with your play partner
Whether you are a real beginner or a more experienced player trying something for the first time, it is always essential to talk through things beforehand. This doesn’t mean sharing a step by step account of the scene you are about to do, but it does mean sharing thoughts and feelings about what you hope to get from the play, as well as any previous experiences which might be relevant. We all have limits and boundaries and it is important to be clear about these. If there are things that might be triggers for you, then it is really important to share those before you get started with any sort of play, including impact.
Choose a safeword or safe sign
It is always a good idea to have a safeword when you are engaging in any form of BDSM play. Depending on the dynamic, some may choose not to do this, but when starting out it makes so much sense. A safeword will allow you to let your partner know easily how you are feeling about play. Sometimes it may be natural to shout “no”, for example, but you might not actually mean that you want things to stop completely. Using a safeword, or a series of colours (often people use a traffic light system of red, yellow and green) will allow you to communicate how close to your limits you are.
A safeword also allows the opportunity to slow things down, or to talk about any issues during play. This might be needed as players can become very involved in the scene as it unfolds. In addition, the emotional connection might mean that you don’t want to ask for something, or bring things to a close, because you feel bad. It is important for both parties that safewords are in place and that they are used. Remember when engaging with any form of play that it should be safe, sane and consensual, but within this, boundaries will be pushed, so it is good practice to have a safeword in place and to use it when needed.
Things to think about during impact play
Communication is essential at every stage of play, but none more so than during a scene. When getting started with impact play, there needs to be an awareness that communication is a two way thing. While this might feel somewhat awkward to begin with, it can be built into your scene so that it enhances things. For Doms, it is important to choose words which not only direct the sub and let them know about your expectations, but also keep them feeling submissive. What you say and how you say it will be down to your own brand of dominance, but it will make all the difference. For subs it is also important to let your Dom know how you are doing. If something is wrong, or you are not managing an aspect of play, you need to let them know so that they can decide what to do.
Clear instruction and direction
Clear instruction and direction is also key. It is difficult to explain what it feels like when you enter a submissive space but it can mean that usual behaviours are forgotten or lost somehow, so the more direction the better. A sub will want to please their Dom so knowing what to do, and getting feedback on how they are doing, will really help. Letting them know when they have done well will make the experience much more effective and keep their submissive headspace at the fore. Letting go of control is a gradual process and most submissives will feel themselves becoming slowly undone as the Dom takes more and more from them. This is the case with impact play for sure.
Understanding where your limits are when you are getting started with impact play can be tricky. One good way is to use a rating scale (1-5, for example) so that you can find out where the submissive is with that level of pain. It can also be helpful to rate the pleasure using a similar scale. For example, they could be at a 4/5 for the level of pain but a 5/5 for pleasure (they are close to what they can take but really enjoying it). However, they could be at 2/5 for pain and also 2/5 for pleasure (they are managing the pain but not enjoying it so much). Doing this will let you know, easily, much more about what is going on for them than if you are just scoring the pain. This was certainly something we found helpful and it allowed us to get to know, not only my limits, but also HL’s strength.
Layering the play
Because of the way that the body works, it can be helpful to layer the play. Starting out with a suitable warm up is always good and then beginning with a gentler impact toy, or at least one which is being used more gently, is a sound plan. You can warm the skin by rubbing, pinching or scratching and then add in some gentle taps, rather than anything with a lot of force behind it. Most impact toys can be used with their own weight, so you can just let them fall initially until you see what the response is. Alternating pain with pleasure can also be good and whether this is through intimate touching, or the use of a toy, it can be helpful in letting your submissive use the pain as an enhancement to pleasure. Their tolerances will change as play progresses, as well as changing over time if you use impact play regularly.
Subspace and Endorphins
Depending on how the sub manages pain, you may find that they go into what we call subspace. This is a sort of floaty, detached state, caused by the chemicals produced in the body as a response to pain. Endorphins are the body’s natural pain relievers. They are morphine-like chemicals which the brain releases in order to reduce sensitivity to pain, therefore increasing the pain threshold. The fact that endorphins are released in bursts means that they can be manipulated if you are the one inducing or controlling the pain.
Once an endorphin load is released, it will take the body about ten minutes to produce another one. During this time the body should be stimulated somehow, within the current pain threshold. Once the body is ready, then an increase in stimulation over a five-minute period, building up to a peak to push the pain threshold, will trigger the body to release another dump of endorphins into the system. Essentially the sub can become high on the natural chemicals, experiencing a heightened sense of well-being and, hopefully, a feeling of euphoria.
It is important to note that if a sub is in subspace then they may well be past their ability or desire to communicate. They may agree to more pain than they should, because they are euphoric and don’t want the feelings to stop. It will probably be clear when a submissive is becoming ‘spacey’ as they will become completely relaxed. It is therefore essential to keep checking in with your sub and make sure that you pay careful attention to their responses and any changes. Once in subspace, the use of impact should stop, or certainly not become more intense. A holding space is fine, but don’t push them any further.
Things to think about after impact play
Aftercare is essential following any play, but especially after reaching subspace. The main consideration is making sure that the sub is safe and that they feel cared for. How you do this will depend on where you are, how you play, and what your relationship it. The following posts cover more on safety and aftercare but it is important directly after play, and during the hours/days that follow:
Finding time to discuss how play has gone will also be important in making sure that it progresses well going forward. We don’t always get things right first time and there will undoubtedly be learning experiences for you both. Growing together, and finding out what works, can only really come from good open discussion. This will likely not be immediately following the scene, but it should come while you still remember what you liked/didn’t like, and what went well or could be improved upon. This discussion needs to be as honest and as open as it can be, whilst still remaining respectful of feelings, of course.
Types of sensation
Impact generally falls into two types of sensation: Thuddy and stingy. From my experience there are also some types of impact which are a combination of both and I would describe these as slappy. Basically, the wider the surface area of the toy, the more thuddy the impact is likely to be. The cane, for example, would tend to have the most bite or sting to it, whereas a flogger with heavy falls would cause a more thuddy sensation. Because a crop has a floppy tongue, when it hits it causes a more slappy sort of feeling. Some people will have a preference for one, some for the other, and some will like both or like neither, so it is all about experimenting to see what works best for you.
Avoid Alcohol and drugs
This should be an obvious one but never mix drink and kink. Drugs and alcohol impair your reactions and responses and so it is not safe for either party to play when under the influence of these substances. In addition, alcohol is a vasodilator, meaning that it causes your blood vessels to temporarily relax and expand. This widening increases blood flow throughout your body, including near the surface of your skin so you are likely to experience more bruising than you would usually. This is a consideration when getting started with impact play.
Some implements, such as the crop and the flogger, will leave clear red marks on your skin. While these can look quite spectacular at the time, they will likely not have a lasting effect, although how easily we bruise or mark will be a personal thing so there is no one rule for all. Other impact toys such as a cane or a whip can cut the skin and leave much longer lasting marks. Welts and bruises can be common when using impact so this is probably a consideration when planning what you want to do. Some people really like to see the marks and have a reminder, where for others this is not a positive. There are various creams and ointments on the market for bruising etc and arnica is one thing that is popular.
Safe Areas for Impact
This diagram from Deviance and Desire shows the main areas which are safe for impact play. It is part of a really good article on the subject so I would recommend using the link to go and find out more if you are thinking of getting started with impact play.
I hope that you have found this beginners guide to impact play helpful. It will form part of a series of posts on impact play, so I will add the links to the others when they have been published. As I said at the beginning, the information contained in this post is based solely on experience of play and I do not pertain to be an expert. If there are things that you think I have missed, or questions you would like to have answered, then please leave a note in the comments section. I cannot stress enough that we are all different and BDSM play is a case of finding out what works best for you!