Let me tell you about scared. Your heart is beating so hard I can feel it through your hands. There’s so much blood and oxygen pumping through your brain it’s like rocket fuel. Right now you can run faster and fight harder and jump higher than ever in your life, and you’re so alert it’s like you can slow down time. What’s wrong with scared – scared is a super power. It’s your super power. There is danger in this room and guess what – it’s you. Do you feel it?
DOCTOR WHO (Peter Capaldi) S08E04 LISTEN
Fearplay is both one of the easiest and the hardest things to explain to someone who asks about “things that we do”.
Most people understand analogies like “why do we enjoy scary movies and roller coasters?”. They respond well to scientific talk about adrenaline. That’s all easy, but it’s actually a sanitised and oversimplified version of what the real conversation should be.
Let’s ask some more complex questions.
Can you be scared by someone that you trust?
Do you have to trust the other person?
WHAT IS FEAR?
Many people don’t understand why they enjoy the sensations of fear, but it usually comes down to the context in which it is applied.
Let’s take the controversial topic of “rape” as an example. This could be:
• A personal fantasy.
• An interactive fantasy.
A personal fantasy would be a masturbation fantasy; lying in bed and fantasising that they’re being raped in a back alley for example. Then they cum, get up, pour a drink and turn the TV on. The fantasy ends and can be switched off.
An interactive fantasy is something which 2 people explore together where one forces the other through something. They know the person, so it remains a fantasy and it is safe. But, the fantasy ends when the Dominant decides that it does.
In reality, rape would be unquestionably horrendous for anyone and it’s not BDSM. BDSM is always consensual.
So, from the submissives point of view:
• A personal fantasy is safe and controlled by the submissive.
• An interactive fantasy is safe but controlled by the Dominant.
• A real rape is not safe and the rapist holds the control.
So, this can lead to errors in judgement and communication, particularly during negotiation. When you are not in a situation where you are experiencing something, you can only imagine it (as a personal fantasy). It seems easier to handle, because you can turn it on and off at will.
As long as we recognise we are safe, the adrenaline rush and various other responses to fear are something that many people naturally derive pleasure from.
There are two basic kinds of fear stimuli – the first is environmental and poses a direct physical threat to the perceiver.
The second fear stimuli is strictly psychological and poses no direct physical threat. Watching a scary movie is psychological, or being in a BDSM interrogation scene with a safeword that you know will be respected.
Aftercare is an important factor of fearplay, and many people feel that the comfort afterwards is what they really enjoy, but you need something to create the adrenaline rush in order to feel the relaxation.
HOW FEAR CHEMICALS WORK
It’s important to be able to distinguish the difference between psychological and physical reactions to fear.
A roller coaster, for example, is primarily a psychological adrenaline rush. You perceive it as a safe environment (otherwise you wouldn’t be there). Psychological fear requires that the individual subconsciously, or consciously, recognises that they are not in any real danger.
Let’s say you have a fear of big hairy poisonous spiders and one drops on the table near your arm. That’s physical fear. You know you are in immediate danger.
Now you come across that same spider dropping on to your windscreen while you’re in the car. It might still scare you because the situation is new to you and the spider is very close, but you know there’s a barrier and it is psychological fear.
The way your adrenal gland releases adrenaline and the whether the prefrontal cortex ‘fights’ the brain to determine the response to take depends on the ‘type’ of fear.
In a situation arising from physical fear, where there is immediate danger, the brain bypasses the prefontal cortex and the body enters a fight or flight response – this is when the average person feels true uncontrollable panic. Logical processing is bypassed and there is a physical response.
A psychological response to fear, on the other hand, does process the stimuli through the prefrontal cortex, and the brain then decides the most sensible course of action – to hide, to stand up taller, to look for a weapon or support, to simply ignore it, or to fight, or flight.
HOW FEAR WORKS IN FEARPLAY
Most fearplay methods are actually quite mundane. in that once you’ve experienced something and know the tricks it won’t really frighten you. It requires being able to separate someone into the realms of disbelief and maintaining a “what if?” mentality alongside their not knowing what will happen next.
It is a form of edgeplay (examples of others would be breath control, needleplay, knifeplay etc) , and it is usually defined by a high level of theatrics. Scenes can be elaborate, and the Dom usually plays the role of “tormentor”. In a way, it is the over-riding form of edgeplay. Other forms don’t necessarily need to involve fear, but they often do.
Many people think of fearplay as being about knives, nooses and the like, and sure, those things can be fearful. But actually fear is an abundant play field, limited only by your imagination. A knife to the throat is threatening, but your sub is fairly sure you won’t cut them with it. The edge of a piece of paper held to the throat, on the other hand, can be even more frightening. Maybe you would go as far as giving them a nasty and painful paper cut.
When you start looking for it, danger is actually all around us on a day to day basis. We’re just so used to it that we don’t perceive it as being threatening.
Look around your house. Syringes, rope, a bathtub, an oven, electric drill, bleach, plastic bags, an iron… your home is full of things that could become a fearplay scene with the right imagination.
IS IT SAFE?
When done correctly, is should be entirely 100% safe. The safest thing you have ever done.
Before going into it, you need to be sure that you are able to read your partner and situations before they start. You need to know when enough is enough and how to properly deal with any emotional backlash with care and attention. You have to know the potential outcomes both emotionally and physically and be 100% sure yourself that you haven’t been an idiot and unplugged the wrong plug. Check everything 5 times. It’s safe when done correctly. It’s potentially deadly if you screw up. So, don’t ever screw up.
You need to do a lot of planning and understand how the scene will run. You need to be sure of their emotional and physical safety at all times and foresee any problems. Coming down to the submissives level and saying, while maintaining eye contact “I will not harm you, do you understand?” can be enough to set their mind at ease and reduce the initial panic. As long as you don’t EVER fuck up, fear play will actually really help increase the trust between your submissive and yourself.
THE DRILL – A CLASSIC EXAMPLE
Here’s an example of a fear scene, so you can see how it works. Take the mood of this, and you can apply it to many different scenarios.
Safety note: If you decided to do this scene you would check beforehand that your drill doesn’t store any charge in its capacitor. It’s unlikely that it does.
Take your submissive into a shed or garage. Push them to their knees and make them give you oral sex. Hold a power drill over their head and make them look up and watch you secure a drill bit into the drill. Hold the drill to their chest. Pull the trigger. “oh, it’s not plugged in”.
Move slowly away from them and let them hear you plug the drill in and come back. Hold it to their chest – keep your finger AWAY from the trigger. “Did I forget to turn it on?”. Lift the drill away and aim it in the air. Look down at the submissive and pull the trigger and it’ll whir into action. “Nope, it’s working perfectly”. By this point they’re already scared because you’re giving the impression of not being in control, which of course you are.
Put the drill back to their chest and tell them to get back to servicing you. They will, with gusto. Take the drill away and walk around them. Keep them facing forward. Pull the trigger over and over to make it buzz into life. At some point, while the drill is on full power, surreptitiously pull the plug out of the wall (quietly). At this point the noise will cover the sound.
Move back to the submissive’s front and grab their hair, make them keep giving you oral and hold the drill to their temple. Tell them to go faster. Say you’re fed up with this and put their hand on the floor, palm up. Put the drill bit in their palm and ask them if they want to service properly or if they want you to pull the trigger. You are frustrated, saddened, disappointed. They can’t do this simple task to your satisfaction. It’s not up to standard, and you tell them so. Pull the trigger, very slowly, and make them watch for the point they’re expecting it to “kick in”.
Or, perhaps you can think of a scenario where you make them pull the trigger themselves? You see how it works.
CONSTRUCTING A SCENE
The Drill example requires quite a bit of verbal play, but if you’re not a verbal person then it’s quite possible to construct scenes that are far more visual than verbal. Medical scenes lend themselves well to this. Strip him, weigh him, convert the pounds to kilos in a notebook, let him see you putting on the surgical mask and latex gloves, getting out needles, alcohol swabs and a kidney dish. Swab the area, push the air bubble out of syringe, check his pulse. You get the idea.
Maintaining fear over time requires building in a series of “no he won’t, yes he will” moments.
he watches you constructing a noose in a rope, putting EMT shears in your pocket.
“He’s just scaring me, there’s no way he’ll hang it up”
You pull two chairs over and stand on one and attach the noosed rope to the ceiling
“It’s just for looks, he’s not thinking of hanging me”
You test the rope and, satisfied, begin the process of hooding the boy.
“We’ll stop now, he’ll make me bargain”
You lead the boy to the chair and when he’s steady you bring the noose over his neck and tighten it, all the time explaining that it won’t break his neck like in the movies, but it’s a breathplay that will last about 30 seconds until he passes out.
“It’s gone far enough, he’ll stop”
And the chair is tilted forward and the boy falls into your arms, because you unfastened the noose from the ceiling while he was blindfolded.
IS FEARPLAY THE SAME AS MIND FUCKING?
You can call it a mindfuck if you want, they’re entirely psychological and they do fuck with the mind. But, in the conventional use of the terms in the BDSM community, they’re a different thing.
A mind fuck usually refers to a scene where the sub is placed in a position where they have options, but each option has positive and negative outcomes. Predicament bondage is an example. A position where he has to choose between standing on his tip toes for an extended period of time or having his balls stretched by a rope.
Placing conditions on a game where it appears like he has a chance of winning but then becomes obvious that he can’t is another type of predicament. For example, do this thinking task in 5 minutes or I will give you one stroke of the cane every minute after that time. As the strokes are applied it becomes harder and harder to focus on the task.
IS FEARPLAY THE SAME AS TORTURE?
Apparently we’re not calling it “torture” anymore. According to the CIA it’s now “enhanced interrogation techniques”. But, call it what you will, yes, fearplay can (on the surface) look like that. Water torture, such as waterboarding, is essentially fearplay.
The difference lies in the understanding between consensual BDSM partners that it is psychological fear and never physical. That underneath everything we do there will be physical safety.
• ExDomme – Mind Fucks – 50 Shades of Fear
• Denver Westword – BDSM Edgeplay advice from Jay Wiseman
• Cassandra Dayne – Edge Play: Going to the Extreme
• On A Magic Carpet Ride – Fear Play in BDSM
• Dominant Guide – Standing On The Edge: Is It Edge Play or Not
• FetLife – Ve Have Ways of Making You Talk
• FetLife – Edgeplay