If you haven’t heard me say this yet, here goes again: being into BDSM doesn’t mean you have to be into sadomasochism or “scening” (engaging in “scenes”). Having scenes doesn’t mean you have to be into sadomasochism either. And finally, being into sadomasochism doesn’t mean you have to be into dominance and submission.
The acronym “BDSM” represents bondage, dominance, submission, sadism, masochism. You don’t have to do all the things to do some of the things. This stuff is for you and your partner(s) you get to take what you want off the buffet line.
“Scene” is a common term in the BDSM world. It basically means interactions with someone that involve BDSM dynamics, dynamics that involve any of the above elements, in whatever combo or particular flavor you and your partner like. It can run the gamut from planned days in advance, written out in specifics, negotiated carefully with the person you’re interacting with, to on-the-spot, spontaneous BDSM interactions with someone that you speed-negotiate or play by ear. And everything in between.
There No Definitive Formula for How to Construct a Scene
It’s a question I certainly had when I was new and I know it’s on a lot of your minds. So consider this a very basic suggested outline. As always, take the ingredients, try the ones that appeal to you, tailor them to your own needs and desires, adjust as indicated as you go and after trying. This is your process, your interaction, that of you and your partner or partners. The bottom line is it’s about connecting, having a shared experience, creating the kind of interactions you want to have with people in an atmosphere of consent. That will change depending on the person, the timing, and your moods that day. If you get too hung up on trying to conform to some kind of recipe, you’ll feel awkward and stiff. That might be hard to avoid completely when you’re trying new things or playing with new people, but the more you can relax and enjoy, the better it’ll be for everyone.
And always remember: humor is good. :)
Basic Scene Elements
We’ll start from the point where you’ve met someone and decided you both want to play with each other. Remember that the scene can be aborted at any time if things start to feel wrong, unsafe or one of you calls “red” for any reason (“red” is the universal safe word for “scene over”, but feel free to make up your own- just make sure it’s clear to all parties).
Negotiation: This stage is essential. Depending on what you’re doing, it can be as simple as “I want to spank you” and “okay, let’s do that”. Or it can be a process that starts with exchanging emails, planning an elaborate rope bondage scene that entails floggers, a blindfold, Wagner’s “An Webers Grabe” and a rubber chicken. The point of negotiation is to figure out what you both want to do together, what you absolutely don’t want to do together, what your safe words will be, where you’ll play, get a feel for your personalities, how much experience you have, etc. It’s important, especially if you’re new to BDSM or each other. For more on this important step, check Norische’s post on it.
Prepare the space: The surroundings can have a powerful influence on the scene. Some things to think about: Music? Lighting? Toys? Aftercare? Water? Private or public? Safer sex supplies? You probably won’t always remember everything, but the more your prepared for, the less the distractions later. You can always send your bottom to fetch what you need. That can be particularly fun if they’re cuffed or tied or blindfolded or instructed to crawl.
Safety: Again, depending on what you’re doing, you want to think about safety supplies you might need. For example, if you’re playing with rope you’ll want to make sure you have some good safety scissors handy in case an emergency escape is needed. Ideally, you’ll have done a little homework on whatever type of play you have in mind and so you’ll know what you need to have nearby. A first aid kit is always a good idea.
(ps: Did you know that if you subscribe to the Dominant Guide by email, you get a free safety pamphlet that include first aid for a variety of minor things as well as sound advice in the case of (heaven forbid) a more serious injury or other risky situation. Check it out! Okay, onward and upward…)
Connection: This is a really important component of any scene for me, whether it’s a more casual service topping kind of thing or a deeper, intensely emotional scene with a beloved. If you’re playing with a partner you’re already close with, you’ll probably find this comes pretty easily. If you’re new to the idea of creating connection, you can try some different things and see what works. Things like eye gazing, breathing together, gently manipulating your partner’s body as though you were leading them in a dance- these are just a few ideas. Can you think of some others? Different things might work with different peope at different times. Find what works for you.
Warm up: Warm up isn’t totally necessary- it depends on how you like to play and the affect you want to have. Whether I’m playing with S/m or psychological Domination, I generally find that if I start slow and gradually ramp the play up, I can take my submissive deeper for longer. If I start in hard and heavy, then they tend to have more challenges processing the intensity and will experience more distress and may have to stop sooner. Not always, but generally.
Escalation: This is the process of ramping up the intensity after a good period of warm up. Commands may get fiercer, activities are edgier and sensation may be more intense. In other words, I can be meaner, hit harder, push farther. This will take us up to….
The Amber Zone: Which is my favorite place to play. For me this is the equivalent of the plateau zone right before orgasm. It’s not quite peaking, but it’s close. I love to work up to that place where my submissive is just occasionally wondering if they can take/do much more, then I’ll back off of it slowly, providing what’s essentially a pause (though activity doesn’t stop, it’s less intense and demanding), then I lean back into that edgy amber zone again. I will usually do this at least a few times. In between the more intense times, I might lean in and whisper in their ears, gently stroke the areas of their skin that I’ve been hard on, tell them I love them, ask how they are, etc. When I was new, I heard this refered to “refilling the spank bank”. In other words, if one is administering constant intense sensation (claws, biting, flogging, humiliation, etc), the human animal will find it harder and harder to process it and will soon need to stop altogether. If I instead let up after a few moments of intensity and do comfort, ease, connect with someone, then the pain/distress tolerance goes up again and I can get intense again. There seems to be a cumulative affect that will take us to the end of their tolerance eventually, but I can keep things going a lot longer if I create these pauses now and then. I love to dance around that line between easy/yummy and “oh my god… woah…”.
Everyone’s yellow/amber zone is different. It’s your job to pay attention and ask for feedback so you know where your submissive/bottom’s is. This will help you figure out how to work it in the way you want. Some people hit the yellow zone with much less stimulation, quicker when they’re playing with someone new or if they don’t feel well that day, etc. Some people can take a lot more to get there. Bottom line is, it will vary.
This isn’t a necessary part of a scene either. I just happen to like it. Meaning, I like to play until we reach a point where my submissive can’t do anymore. We don’t always get to that place, but most of the time we do. It can involve crying, yelling, asking for mercy, crying “red” or anything that really says “I’m done” including saying… “I’m done” or anything else that works as a safe word for you and your partner(s).
Again, the analogy with sexual response loosely applies. This is the time post peak when we move back into a connection phase. Typically it seems important for me to stay close as my submissive can feel very raw, emotional, vulnerable. It’s not usually a good time for me to walk away and make a phone call or start cleaning up my toys. They’re coming back to earth in a way, sometimes from a very deeply altered state. I need to keep the container intact until I know they’re fairly grounded again.
Not everyone needs it all the time. It depends on the person, how deeply and hard you played, and what you’ve negotiated ahead of time. I think it’s important to include aftercare talk in the negotiations before you play. Some people don’t want it, some Dominants don’t want to provide it, some Dominants need it for themselves. Talk ahead of time and if you’re a Dominant who doesn’t like to give it and you’re considering playing with a submissive who must have it, then see if you can set up an alternate play so they get what they need and you don’t have to provide it. Same if you’re a Dominant who needs aftercare and your partner doesn’t want to give it. Can someone be a stand in? Can we take care of our own aftercare? If we can’t come up with a plan B, then we probably shouldn’t play. It can be really hard to navigate post play drop if you need aftercare and don’t get it.
Aftercare can include water, protein, snuggles, talking over the scene, a shoulder to cry on or any other activities that one finds helps to deal with any post play feelings.
I like to check in anywhere from the next day to a few days later to see how my partner is doing. This can take the form of a phone call, an email exchange, a coffee date, whatever. Especially if I’m going to play with someone again, I want feedback on their experience- this helps me make our play more powerful down the road. If nothing else, it’s nice to say thanks for a great time. It’s also a good time to settle the question of next date? Or not. :)
There you have it, my very loose outline of a general approach. It really depends a lot on the person, on you, on what you’re doing, and the moment. So much of this process, I think, is about being in the moment and following your instincts, as well as listening to your partner, both words and body language. It’s not an exact science, anymore than sex or any other intimate activity is. The “right” ways to do it are as varied as the people doing it. Time, experience, attention to yourself and your partner at the things that will get you to the place you want to be. There are no shortcuts and mistakes happen, no matter how long you’ve been around.
But hopefully this will give you a peek into at least one way to think about scenes and how they might progress.
As always, mileage will vary.