Warning: this post contains images taken after some of my hardest scenes. They include significant bruising, welting, broken skin and sometimes wet blood. The second post in this series (coming soon) does not include images or anecdotal discussion and focuses more on the concepts behind Heavy Play. I don’t recommend this post to those that are squeamish (Not Safe For Erica!). I do hope that lots of people read the other post, because I think the information contained within it is important.
When I first started getting spanked, I had no perception of how hard my playing was. SF, my first Top, also spanked his wife, Audiens, and my friend, V. Between the three of us, I was the one who he spanked the least severely. He and his wife were obviously playing on a totally different level, and V. was always very interested in pushing limits and trying new things, which I felt no need for any of that. I never compared myself to either Audiens or V. in terms of the way we played with SF. It didn’t matter to me. We were all different, so we played in different ways. The kind of playing that I was doing was satisfying to me at the time and that was all that mattered. I watched spanking videos pretty regularly, but I didn’t compare myself to those girls, either, because in a certain way they didn’t seem real to me. Comparing myself to a video would be like comparing what I actually did in real life to what happened in my fantasies in terms of severity. It didn’t make sense to me to do that, so I didn’t.
My perception of a scale of how hard my play was compared to other people developed pretty instantly when I got on Fetlife. Suddenly, I was aware of the way that a lot of different people got spanked. I saw photos of other girls’ spanked bottoms, some red, some pink, some with bruises, others welted. I had no photos of my spanked bottom. I had never taken one. But I started to compare my memory of my bruised bottom to what I saw in these pictures. I must have been getting spanked much harder than so-and-so, I thought, because I look much more reddened after a spanking than she does there. Other times, I saw welts and bruises and thought I’ve never been spanked that hard. I didn’t yet know that everyone shows marking differently, and that the longer you play, the less you color and bruise. I just thought that there was a scale: light pink meant hardly spanked. Deep purple meant the most severe.
It was literally the first day that I was on Fetlife that I started comparing myself to others in terms of severity of play. Right away, I had it in my mind that it was best to be a harder player. I don’t know what made me think that, but I absolutely did. The harder you got spanked, the more marked you were, the longer your scenes were, the more severe your implements, then the better. I used to follow someone on Fetlife who just posted picture after picture of extremely severe spankings which he had given. His gallery was just a row of butt shot after butt shot, each with the same background, each with similar purple bruising, “bullseye” marks and uniform bright redness. I didn’t feel any sort of connection with the person who gave these spankings, and I didn’t like the way that he seemed to objectify the girls that he had spanked but I felt terribly intrigued by the images. In my mind, they were some of the “best spankings.” I looked at them over and over. I’d previously felt entirely satisfied with a long, hard, over-the-knee hand spanking which left my bottom looking bright red and often bruised me the next day, and which would nearly always reduce me to tears. Once I started to compare myself to others, once I started to focus on hard play as a goal, that suddenly seemed far from impressive to me.
When I started to actually talk to people in the scene, it got even worse. There was something so intoxicating about the way that people talked about really severe scenes. They obviously loved them. At the time that my submission was first crystalizing, I heard a lot of stories of very hard play. The two Tops that I talked to the most at that point were both sadists who had done some very, very extreme play. They sometimes described scenes that I would never actually want for myself (scenes that involved intentionally going far beyond the point of broken skin, for example, or which were entirely unrelated to spanking but very intense) and made it sound like they were so proud of those girls and that they earned lots of love and attention by doing them (I was at a point in my development where the idea of needing to earn love and attention seemed acceptable). Some people talked about it like it WAS a contest: one Top referred to the girl with whom he had played the most severely as being the “Gold Medal Winner.” Even though I wasn’t interested in doing the things those girls had done, I found myself feeling jealous when I heard about them. Maybe I was jealous that they were the favorite one. Maybe I was jealous because they were able to enjoy something that I knew I never would do. It was a confusing emotion: being jealous of someone for having done something that you didn’t want to do.
By the time that Malignus and I first met, I hadn’t been seriously spanked in probably six months or so. It hadn’t been so bad to not be getting spanked when I was deeply immersed in vanilla life, but when I was exploring the scene, it had become agonizing. What I wanted was to be spanked very, very hard, very, very often. I by no means think that this desire wasn’t genuine, or that it was a bad thing. It’s just what I was focused on then. If you were to ask me to describe what I wanted from any given scene in one word, I would have picked “intensity.”
My first few scenes that fell into that category left me incredibly marked:
There’s another photo which I’m not going to post. Do you remember when I was giving tips about how to care for your bottom after a spanking a long time ago? I mentioned that you should not exfoliate, even using a wiping motion with a washcloth, directly after a scene or else all your skin will come off. This photo shows that phenomenon. You probably don’t want to see that.
Anyway, I eventually reached a point where hard play didn’t really mark me very much. It primarily just broke my skin, if anything. This meant that light and moderate play didn’t mark me at all, which became an asset to me when I began doing video work but was rather disappointing when I finished a scene that I felt had been severe and I wanted to share that with people but my bottom and thighs just looked like a light, rosy pink. There were other consequences from my hard play, though. For one, I got so used to heavy play that I could hardly enjoy light play anymore. This was caused by a combination of factors: for one thing, I think that a lot of my nerve endings just died and I hardly felt spankings anymore. For another, my skin had hardened and gotten leathery: this is why I got so involved in figuring out ways to restore my skin to it’s ideal state (which I’m happy to say isn’t a problem anymore). Things just hurt less the longer I engaged in hard play, especially hard play without warmups and cool downs (which was almost always what Malignus and I did).
My scale changed, too. Before, I only needed a hand spanking to bring me to tears. A hairbrush spanking on the backs of my thighs was the worst consensual pain I’d ever felt. That scale was very small, so a hard hand spanking that might include the backs of my legs was very close to the hardest thing I had ever felt. Once I began playing in very severe ways, that same spanking hardly meant anything to me anymore. It was the difference between 3 and 10 and 3 and 100. In the second case, 3 actually becomes quite insignificant seeming.
My emotional stance on things changed, too. My feelings about severe play and intimacy got kind of mixed up. Presently, I find that severe play is often extremely intimate, but is not inherently so. I also find that a huge spectrum of other activities can be similar expressions of intimacy. None the less, there was a period of time where I really only felt like I was making an emotionally intimate connection with my partner if it was being done through very severe scenes. I think part of this comes from the fact that at the time, I was in a relationship which was much less tactile than what I now know I really require to thrive. The connection that I felt during the severe play fed my hunger for all sorts of physical connection, but because it was one of the only things which really did, an excessive emphasis on this was placed in my mind. A tender hand-spanking didn’t leave me feeling fulfilled, it left me anxiously wondering why I wasn’t getting more than that.
So, for all these reasons, I was particularly caught up in playing very hard. When I first started to go to parties, I sought out scenes that would be similarly severe whenever I could, even if I didn’t have any sort of connection with the Top. Over the past year or so of our relationship, my play relationship with my ex went largely into decline. Things changed between us. This lead to much more infrequent scenes. My interest in finding other play partners who would push me past my limits was intensified. I don’t know if it’s even accurate to say “push me past my limits” because I stopped really having a sense of what my personal physical limits were. I wanted to be pushed past the limits that I perceived existed for others. I wanted to be pushed past “the” limit.
The decline in how often and how hard I was playing at home (and, admittedly, how much time I actually spent at home as I began to live out of my suitcase since there wasn’t any work in my field in South Dakota) lead to a number of changes. I regained my physical sensitivity. I got away from my tunnel vision which focused on severity and intensity as the important factors in play. I treated my skin so it was no longer calloused, nor was it at risk of becoming so again. Spankings became more physically painful for me, and I often made myself more emotionally vulnerable to them. This meant that I had stronger reactions to lesser scenes. I slowly worked my way back to a place similar to where I had started: where it didn’t take all that much to leave me feeling satisfied.
The beauty of having gone through this journey is that I now have the best of both worlds. I can play hard. Very hard. Sometimes, I am tremendously gratified by doing very severe, incredibly intense scenes. They mean a lot to me. They give me an exhilarating and unforgettable experience. The difference is that now, I don’t need to play that hard. There have been several times recently where Paul made me cry just by giving me a hard spanking by hand. That feels right to me. It makes me feel incredibly vulnerable to be able to let an experience that’s so core to my kink, but which had previously become less potent for me, entirely overtake me.
I’m not sure what happened to my competitive nature. It certainly still exists in a number of other facets of my life, and I’m still obviously insecure about a lot of things but when it comes to spankings, I don’t feel the need to prove myself anymore. There are bottoms out there taking things that are much more severe than anything I’ve ever taken. When I see photos of it, or read about it on blogs, I feel glad that they’re exploring things that interest them and sometimes a little bit concerned, if the practices don’t seem safe to me, but that’s all. When I read some of my own, older blog posts, I can see the way that I’ve changed in this department and I like it.
Because I’ve had (and continue to have) quite a bit of first hand experience with harder play, at some point in the near future, I’m going to be posting a set of notes with suggestions regarding things to consider when playing to a high level of physical intensity. I hope that at least a few people will find them useful.
Now, it’s time for me to go play Pokemon until I fall asleep. ♥
This is a great post. I too kind of felt like I didn’t measure up because I couldn’t handle what others could handle…or so I thought. Honestly, the worst bruising I got wasn’t from heavy impact play but just a result of a different more stingy implement used for an extended amount of time.
Now I find that I hardly bruise at all. At first I was disappointed but have learned to be ok with it. It’s probably better anyways because I would always be worried about my kids seeing the bruises:)
I do kind of agree with you about bruising. Nowadays, if I *do* bruise it’s usually from rapid, stingy play (a lot of quick spanking with a light wooden implement, usually).
There’s something intoxicating and romantic about bruising, and I sometimes wish I could turn it on and off at will (when it was both significant and convenient to be bruised, as it seems that I’m most likely to bruise when I don’t want to be, or when I’ve played in a scene that didn’t carry a lot of meaning!)
I relate to you not wanting your kids to see! While I don’t have any children, I used to babysit a girl in my home and I was paranoid that she would see bruises. Unfortunately, she DID see me coming out of the shower when I had the bruises in the “Epic Win!” photo. Fortunately, she didn’t seem disturbed or upset by it, and just assumed that I had been pushed over or something of the like.
Alex oooh take care ;
I do! 🙂
I can relate to a lot of this. I think most people go through a journey of some sort in their relationship with severity… fearing it, confronting it, being addicted to it for a while, then moving on. I’m glad you’ve rediscovered a broader range of play and that you’re getting the intimacy and affection you need. Your comments about seeking severity as a replacement for other needs that aren’t being met are very perceptive, I think. I’m happy you’re in a more balanced place now.
Where does that competitiveness come from? When I first got online and started learning about kink I had this idea that “more submissive” == “good”. Always. I read about TPE open-mouthed thinking “I’ll never be that good”. Why? Where does it come from? Where do we pick these ideas up? I guess that urge to compare ourselves must come from insecurity, and “level of real life control surrendered” and “physical severity” are things we (think we can) measure, but it’s a toxic meme. If I can help build a social environment where new players DON’T pick up the idea that extreme play is somehow innately better (or indeed worse) than any other kind, I’ll be very happy.
Thank you, Pandora! Being in a more balanced place has allowed me to see the roots of a lot of my previous behaviors and desires. I think many of my attitudes are becoming healthier these days. 🙂
When I first got into the scene, I didn’t identify as submissive at all, only a spankee. When I originally learned about it and ventured into my first D/s relationship, I started out being very guarded and setting really strong limits about what I did and didn’t want. Then, somehow, the competitive nature took over and I found myself wanting things that I previously had thought were kind of silly and interfered with one’s autonomy too much. I eventually developed the same idea, that to in a no-limits TPE was “the best” form of submission. I ended up feeling embarrassed about the limits that I did have, and I developed a desire to do stuff or have things asked of me that weren’t gratifying/sexy/fun at all because it “made me more submissive.” I’m much happier now that I don’t think that way, and now that I let D/s mean what my partner and I want it to, not what it’s “supposed” to.
I agree with you about insecurity. My feelings of competition peaked at the time when I felt the least secure about myself, my relationships and my life decisions. I also hope that I can help foster the idea that no kind of consensual and safe play is better or worse than any other, and that new players shouldn’t have to feel like they’re in a contest to see who can take (or give up) the most.
Also, I <3 you. This is all. ^_^
Another great entry. Thanks for sharing it.
Thank you, BV!
Alex, I can relate. When I first started in the scene, I thought hard player= popular. I had met a few tops with a sadistic streak, but none that I would term “sadist” until pretty recently. I hate to say it, but I had a contest with my sister where, if I didn’t play as hard as she did, I would feel like a failure. The problem was my tolerance. Sometimes it was off the charts and sometimes, not so good. But hers was always ALWAYS way up there, even when she was taking treatment for cancer. I could never achieve the results she did and I was always disappointed about it. These days, I’m still a pretty hard player, but the motivation is different. Nowadays, I play hard but it’s because I want to and I love it, not because I think people will think I’m a lightweight if I don’t. It took a long time, but I eventually learned not to compare myself to other people.
I have a similar phenomenon with wavering tolerance. There are days when I can only take a bit before I start to reach my limits, and others where I can sit and take it nearly forever.
Learning not to compare yourself to others is really hard, but ultimately makes a person feel much better! Thanks for sharing your experiences. I appreciate your comment a lot!
You seem to be in a really healthy place right now, that’s wonderful. Love and miss your face! Happy turkey day! 🙂
Wow, I’m late on comment return. What a fail I’ve been! Thanks for your kind words, Lily! I miss you lots!
I wish more people would be self-aware about the dangers of comparing and trying to reach “the” limit. So many people think that more, harder, worse means “better” all the time, and you show very clearly that it’s not always the case. The physical impact is important, sure, but without that emotional connection (even if it’s a scene for role play or film work) is so important.
Lovely post, as always.
Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Anastasia! You’re so right, that’s very important. 🙂
Your “warning” made me smile. I ♥ you!
Pictures notwithstanding, I love reading about your journey. How we play should always be about comfort level, preference and desire, not about a competition or a severity test. Sounds like you’ve found where you want and need to be.
Huh. I don’t think that my comment posted. I guess the internet is being fucky. Take two!
I’m glad I could make you smile, and it makes me happy that you read this despite knowing the content. I hope the photos didn’t upset you too much, since I know how you feel about those sorts of things. I’m really happy to be in such a good place these days, and I’m thankful I have great friends like you who support me in taking care of myself. ♥
Thanks for sharing your thoughts and pictures of your journey regarding severity. I feel bad saying this, but I would like to see the picture you did not post. Severe pictures really intrigue me.
I can understand your desire to see them, but these are the only very severe pictures that I’ll be posting. I hope you understand 🙂
I got into this rather late in life and I have been fortunate to not have the problem with feeling the competition issue. I have not felt that some sort of “standard” had to be reached or that severity was what it is about. I also couldn’t care less about popularity. I pretty well knew what I wanted, although I had no idea where my tolerance was. I have come a long way in that regard.
At first I did not want to bruise. I still don’t, but I have come to terms with some bruising. I suppose I consider myself a lightweight compared with some (especially what I see in the pictures above), but it doesn’t bother me. I don’t want severe. I want, and need, the kind of spanking that gives me a sense of being cared for. I also found that spanking relieves my fibromyalgia pain and that it is not unusual.
I have been fortunate in that I have gone into subspace every time I have been spanked. The depth varies depending on a number of factors, but it sure makes a difference in how I feel both physically and emotionally. In a way, it is more therapeutic for me than anything else. That is a good thing.
I’m glad to hear that you didn’t have to deal with a feeling of competition, Bobbie Jo. Knowing what you want and getting it is a real blessing. 🙂