My Master rarely gives me assignments, but he did last month concerning subspace. It happens to coincide with my next 30-Days topic, which is also on sub-space, so ta-da!
Before describing subspace, I think it is important to separate it from the ‘feeling’ of submissiveness. They are really quite different, and should be recognized separately. Submissiveness, as I can best describe it, is a complex mental and emotional state of mind. It is both the desire to act submissively and the emotional reward of doing so. It is a state of being. I can feel submissive (or not), without being in subspace at all.
Subspace is something entirely different. It is a very literal high caused by dramatic external or internal sources and forces. *whip cracks, I smile.*
Getting them confused when reading about them online or in a blog post is easy because subspace is talked about so frequently on the internet, while just feeling submissive is rarely mentioned. Unfortunately, with all our online jabbering there’s still a lot of misconceptions and some really poor and even damaging resources out there.
For example, some sites still tout that subspace is mythical. To these sites I would say, “get off your high horse, and come join us humans in the real world.” I am not sure why anyone would try and claim it as a myth, though I can say I’ve only seen that said on sites who seem to have replaced their health and safety meters with measures of prejudice and sexist bullshit, but I digress.
Subspace is real. Very real.
Being high without substance use or abuse is not a new idea, nor is it as exclusive to D/s or BDSM. There are a lot of ways people get naturally high. I’m sure you’ve heard of the classic “natural high;” an increase in dopamine caused by having fun, being happy, enjoying yourself. No doubt you’ve also heard of an adrenaline junkie, a negative spin on someone who seeks sports or activities such as sky-diving (or surfing if it’s 1991 and you’re Keanu Reeves or Patrick Swayze), that gives them an adrenaline rush. This natural high is caused from an sharp increase in adrenaline or epinephrine (literally the same hormone) when dealing with external stress. The epinephrine clears the head, decreases stress, creates focus, and empowers our body to respond. An orgasm is a also type of natural high with all sorts of effects across the body such as a change in oxygen levels, brain activity, and hormones that reduce pain sensitivity. All these changes cause an increase in bonding, decreased followed by increased drowsiness, and a whole slew of other benefits. Even HEALING! (Proof you should have all the sex you can.) The high of orgasms we know quite a lot about, being a sexually curious and scientifically capable bunch of humans. However, with D/s and BDSM being less accepted by the mainstream, there is very little research done on the brain activity and physical responses of subspace. But keep your hopes up, there is a tiny bit of scientific knowledge out there, and more growing every day. 🙂
To date, I’ve found most scientific explanations of subspace draw almost exclusively on what science knows about other natural highs in some kind of desperate plea to explain why some people … *me waving hand and grinning goofily* like being hit or get turned on through humiliation. I would, however, argue that while there are some crossovers, there are also some distinctive differences between subspace and other natural highs. For example, an adrenaline rush and an orgasm both release the same hormones, however they both feel totally different, and your body responds to each very distinctly. Yet, both are a natural high. The same is true for subspace. It is its own type of natural high, and your body will respond to it uniquely and differently from an orgasm or adrenaline rush. Compared to the others, I find subspace can feel more dramatic, lasts longer, and varies quite significantly.
There’s a very important reason for this. There’s not just one subspace. Subspace is an umbrella term coined by the BDSM community to capture all the natural highs that a person may feel while bottoming. There is a Dom space too, but that’s a series for someone else. The vocabulary and scientific understanding of each is still being built as the BDSM culture becomes more mainstream and accepted. But, for now, let’s talk about some reasons why subspace can vary.
Like all natural highs, subspace occurs across a sliding scale. At lower levels, I can float around all day or even for multiple days, bouncing up and down, drifting about as long as my Master chooses to keep me there. The symptoms are lighter, less dramatic, but not without caution. Deepening levels are generally shorter lived, and require more intense stimulation to get there. The risks are greater, as is the following drop, and the symptoms are more dramatic. As subspace deepens, the submissive will lose track of time, have compromised decision making, and experience out-of-body sensations among other symptoms.
Subspace can also fall into one of 2 schools; physiological and psychological. If a very black line was drawn between the two; psychological subspace would be caused through mental stimulation and play only, while physiological subspace would be caused only by the physical. In reality, most play tends to land in the middle of the giant Venn Diagram of kink, hitting both areas at once. (I’ve got a whole other post coming up with more information and stories on the differences of both.)
However, I must point out that this is where science lets us down and anecdotal evidence is all we’ve got. Because there isn’t a body of research, defined vocabulary, and a published anthology, opinions vary quite a bit. Some people divide subspace down into even more categories, citing a distinction between 4 or more types of subspace with varying levels of intelligence and decision making in each. It is also important to note that each person’s experience is their own, and may be quite unique. For example, we all respond differently to an adrenaline rush with either a fight, flight, or freeze response. We will all also respond to hitting subspace differently. In fact, some people don’t like it at all, and will avoid it, while others make it their goal, and seek it.
If you find anyone who tells you their way is the only way, you’ve probably found an asshole. And on that note, here are some other resources for subspace.
Some other great resources on subspace:
- Subspace by Submissive Feminist
- How it Really ‘Feels’ to be the Submissive Sex Partner; by Huffington Post
- Levels of subspace by BDSMwiki
- Kinkly defines subspace
- LovingBDSM Podcast
- Don’t stop there. There’s tons and tons others… if you google the terms
*P.S. You might be wondering about my pace on the 30-days of D/s writing prompt from LovingBDSM. If you’ve been following me for long, (and really paying attention) you may have noticed that I’ve been working on them for nearly as long as I’ve had this blog. That is, however, intentional. I did not begin this list with an expectation for myself, nor from my Master, to finish it in 30 days. Instead, my goal was to write about each topic with intention – as I was ready, not to keep a deadline. Sometimes it’s better to think and discuss an idea, then to jump on it. I do however, still have all the emails, and keep them in order. It may take me months to get through them all, but I will get there… eventually. 🙂