From the very start, I've been a hard player. I don't apologize for that. Light play has rarely done anything for me. I've always needed hard play; the kind that leaves bruises and welts and occasionally, blood. It's not because I'm out to prove something to people nor do I want any kind of accolades for how hard I play. A good friend once told me "They don't give you the keys to the city for playing hard." That's certainly true. Back in my newbie days, it seemed like a lot of people played hard. This could just have been my perception being skewed, but it really did seem like most tops spanked harder and most bottoms wanted it that way.
But even then, I was a bit of an oddity. Although it seemed we all played harder back then, my reason was different than most. Most of the ladies I knew were submissives and they took those hard spankings because the person they were playing with wanted them to. I did it because I loved the pain and I loved having a bruised bottom the next day. I've had to come to terms with my masochism. Yesterday, I did something quite a bit different than anything I've ever done before. I did a quasi-disciplinary scene with a top friend that I trust completely. We set up the camera and tripod and figured out how, in the limited space we had, we were going to set this up. I explained to him the kind of scene I wanted--a 30-stroke caning with my medium Smoked Dragon cane while I was bent over a chair and made to stay in position. Usually, when I'm caned, I'm lying on a nice comfortable bed with some pillows under me and I can just relax into it. But standing up is a whole other matter. I wanted to see if I could still take a hard caning with my head space altered.
I have long maintained that I don't do real discipline of any kind, whether it's a spanking or lines or having soap in my mouth (yuck! what a horrid experience!). But I've done those things during what we call "funishment" (except for the mouth soaping...I don't see myself ever doing that). I had a switch taken to me during one funishment scene and the marks were there for almost a month. I also enjoy having the fronts (or backs) of my thighs caned. These scenes usually leave the most dramatic marks.
For me, if it doesn't leave me marked and sore, it's not worth it. Of course, a red bottom is nice. I love to get photos of it when it's been spanked red. But aside from the pretty color, I usually come away disappointed in a scene like that. Unless my bottom is throbbing sore, I can't say I fully enjoyed it. Yesterday's scene was so severe that just pulling up my pants was painful.
The thing about yesterday's caning was that we had to film it twice, so instead of taking 30 stokes, I actually took 60 (and we had played with an assortment of straps, too between filming). The first time we did it, the video failed to load for some reason. I was disappointed because I thought it was just about perfect. When we made the decision to re-shoot the caning, Clayton (the top I was playing with) asked if I was sure. I told him not to hold back just because I was sore. The result left me bruised and bloodied, but happy to have "proven" to myself that I could take it.
The thing about playing hard is this: people who don't play hard nearly always think we do it to shock people or to get attention. That's not true, at least, it's not in my own case. Like any kind of play, there's usually a deep seated reason why a person would willingly choose to put herself (or himself if you roll that way) through a scene that would leave most people feeling traumatized. After I play really hard, I always come away feeling focused and re-centered. For me, pain is a purifier and only spanking gives me the kind of pain I love. Even within the realm of a masochist, I don't consider myself extreme. There are people who go way beyond anything I would enjoy. I'm talking about hook suspension (where meat hooks, like they use for hanging sides of beef, are put into the back and the person is lifted up by them) and studded paddles and bullwhips. I'm actually pretty tame compared to those folks who enjoy that kind of stuff. I'm OK with the occasional drop or two of blood, but I would never want to be covered in it. I know people who enjoy that. I say do whatever blows your hair back.
I got the fronts of my thighs properly caned in Atlantic City this past spring by a real Englishman. I have already described the scene in another entry so I won't elaborate here. Anyway, when the scene was done, I went into the bathroom to get a look at the damage.
The scene had been a public one, with a mostly appreciative audience. When I went into the bathroom, a lady who had witnessed the scene asked me "How can you like that?" She was incredulous. "We all like what we like," I told her. I was absolutely flying and to be honest, that lady's judgmental comment was ruining my high. Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not one of those hard players that goes around belittling people because they don't play as hard as I do. If I see a scene where someone takes a spanking that, for me, would have been nothing but a warm up, I'm not going to yell "Amateur!" at them. Pain is a lot like beauty. It's in the eye of the beholder. If that person thinks they took something that challenged them, then they have the right to feel proud about what they took. It's not mine or anyone else's place to tell them what "hard really is." To them, it was hard and so that's valid.
I get kind of impatient with people who tell others "You don't know what a hard spanking is!" My pain tolerance is very high and it takes a lot to get me to saturation point. So yes, I need a harder spanking to get me to my "happy place". But not everyone is like that. For some, just a hard hand spanking gets them to the saturation point, where they begin to exhibit avoidance behavior, like putting their hands behind them or wriggling or squirming. When we did that 30-stroke caning yesterday, I was so proud of myself for staying (mostly) in position. I know there are people out there who could have taken more or taken it more stoically than I did, but this was my scene so I was happy. What other people do or what they take is their business. Which leads me to comments on photos. I have seen it repeatedly on Fetlife where someone will post a photo of their bottom with a caption like "Wow, was that intense!" or something like that. And at least one person will say something stupid like "Now that you're warmed up, I'll break out the barbed wire flogger!" or something just as stupid. Even I have posted photos of my bottom and had someone comment that it could be "a lot redder".
Take this photo, for example. I actually had someone post a comment saying "I could do a much better job!" So I explained to this person that this was my first spanking during a three-day party and that on the first night, most of us admittedly play much lighter than we do on the last night. I explained to him that we do that because each of us only has one bottom and if it gets bruised up on the first night, then we might as well go home because no one is going to spank on fresh bruises. I don't think he bought it.
I also dislike the implication that really hard players are unsafe, that they just want their thrill without worrying about the consequences. While there are people out there who do play unsafely, most of us, even edge players, play with every safety precaution in place. Yes, I've been injured. Twice, I had to go to the ER because a spanking went wrong. But for the most part, I usually only end up needing arnica and not a doctor. Do accidents happen? Absolutely. But accidents can happen anytime, anywhere. Accidents can happen crossing the street or having sex or cooking your holiday turkey. Just because an activity carries risk is no reason not to do it. Not every person who crosses the street gets hit by a bus. Not every person cooking their holiday turkey burns their house down. And not every person that has sex has a heart attack. These things can and do happen, but is that any reason not to engage in an activity you enjoy? Weigh the odds of something bad happening and then make up your own mind. That's what SSC (Safe, Sane and Consensual) and RACK (Risk-Aware Consensual Kink) are all about. Know what you're getting yourself into before you agree to do it. Even then, if the scene goes wrong, you can safe word out. I know there are hard players out there who play without a safe word (because, you know, it's all about trust and if you have a safe word, you must not trust me...blah blah blah). But even a safe word isn't a guarantee. Because a safe word is only good if it's respected. There are no guarantees in the BDSM world that nothing will go wrong.
I won't deny that being a hard player has its pitfalls. But I wouldn't give up how I play for anything. The physical and emotional rewards are just too precious to me to even consider it. I'll continue to be cautious and to play with people I know and trust, whose reputations precede them. I won't be shamed or called a "freak". We all have to do what makes us happy. Another person may not understand my need for pain the same way I don't understand their need to have a bedtime forced on them or being made to stand in the corner. But we all live in this "community" of kinky folks and while we may not understand each other, we should make an effort to tolerate each other.