The last thing I expected from an impact play workshop was advice that could have saved my relationship. I’m still healing and learning from a relationship that broke a few months ago and boy do I wish we had attended this workshop.
As a martial artist I am not new to the idea of giving and receiving pain as part of a bonding social experience. But in Martial Arts the goal of the pain is to make yourself stronger or to practice not going into freeze mode under extreme or painful conditions. Perhaps because of that context I haven’t been very attracted to sexual pain games. In my early 20's I went with my then partner to a BDSM dungeon. We both had a session with a friend, got a bunch of bruises and found the pain to be not as bad as getting punched and didn’t really connect to the idea.
But when a friend, who goes by the name of And Then Some, invited me to their birthday party were shey (she/they pronoun) was giving an impact play workshop I decided to try and expand my boundaries. I didn’t imagine I’d be in tears and taking mental notes about things to practice with my partners far away from the bedroom. You see, amidst advice on how to spank and flog someone ergonomically and safely there were numerous communication tips that could benefit any relationship. Here is a short summery.
Setting Intentions and boundaries: each impact play session starts with both sides setting intentions, what are they looking to get out of this experience? The next part is setting boundaries, communicating physical or emotional sensitive areas, what are they not looking to experience. The venn diagram that encapsulates both sides wants and excludes both sides not wants creates a mutual expectation. This clear and positive way of communicating would have saved me so many arguments, fights and heart aches throughout the years.
Owning up to mistakes and not becoming defensive: turns out that welding a flogger is no easy task and mistakes do happen. According to the teacher in the workshop the most important thing is to own up to your mistake, don’t make believe it didn’t happen or make light of it. Check in with your partner, ask if there is something they need. Don’t make it about you and your ego. If your partner gives you feedback about a mistake or a boundary that was crossed see what they are needing instead of seeing this as a criticism towards you. If only this could be the modis operandi of all relationships.
After care: Communicating and negotiating expectations about what happens after the scene is important. Sometimes people can have a comedown after a scene and need emotional or physical support. The most important and touching tip for me that night was what to do if you are not able to provide (after) care. The recommendation was to be careful not to deplete your spoons. You don’t have to get to a state of breaking and fatigue in order to support someone. Instead you can reach out to friends and the wider community and help the person find care somewhere else. This is something that I think is incredibly important to practice. No person and no relationship will survive as an island, building deep and caring support networks is the main reason polyamory and community housing has such an appeal to me. Noticing when you are getting depleted and helping your partner or friend find alternative support structures instead of bailing is a type of kindness that will lead to sustainable life long connections.
I’m still not sure about flogging but I definitely plan to practice these tips with my loved ones.