Most folks who say that they aren't into pain often think most BDSM play is all about inflicting maximum pain. Of course this is not necessarily the case. Play can incorporate many levels and types of stimulation, but play is about much more than pain. For me, play usually incorporates one or more of the following aspects:
Providing an opportunity for the submissive to relinquish control: Structuring a scene to enable the sub to leave his daytime persona behind is key to changing his mental state and opening his mind to new things. This is the most powerful tool I think we have in our tool kit as Dommes. My play sessions with my Pet usually begin with the removal of his daytime collar and ritual placement of his play collar. This is followed by removal of his clothes. I sometimes inspect his body for marks or other evidence that he has not been attending to his grooming or physical care. The process of inspection can be quite loving but also sets a different tone, one where I am clearly in charge and he answers directly to me. This is also a good time to make my expectations plain regarding personal grooming habits, such as shaving or not, cologne or not, etc. I usually stroke Pet’s skin when I inspect him. I push my nose into his hair and inhale deeply, rubbing my breasts against his back as I do. It is a sensual and intimate activity. If his posture relaxes too much I may reach down and grab a handful of his butt and dig in my nails as I tell him to straighten up. My intention is to startle and change his state. The minute he complies I release him and continue stroking and inspecting, telling him what I like and pointing out what needs to change.
I also have him answer the same question at the beginning of each session. Of course initially I taught him the correct responses and made it a short writing assignment in between sessions. The next time back, he had to read his assignment aloud once he was in his play collar and naked. I can tell you that changes the dynamic in a hurry.
The question I pose is this: “Why are you here Pet?” His response is always the same: “To surrender to the sensations and experiences you provide, to obey your commands and instructions and to show gratitude for the attention you give.” It has become an integral part of our ritual and it is something I can have him do almost anywhere, whenever I want to remind him of his place. I then use the three key words throughout the session – “surrender”, “obedience” and “gratitude.”
Of course any new Domme must decide what sort of rituals will work for her and her sub, but I strongly suggest this is a solid starting point for setting up the kind of dynamic that encourages any sub to be open to new things and to focus on why he has sought out a submissive experience.
Providing the submissive with a range of sensory experiences: pressure, impact, temperature, immobilization, texture, etc.: I’ve spent a lot of time experimenting with what sorts of experiences work best, in what order, and combination. It is important to start by negotiating what sorts of stimulation your sub wants to try. If he has real reservations about relinquishing control, that may be where some of the concerns about pain come from. It is worth the time to investigate and discover together what sorts of things he wants to try and of course what you want to try – because it isn’t just all about what the sub wants. Both parties need to have your needs met.
Start off simply. Go the dollar store or through the house and look for things that can provide different types of sensations – hair brushes, wooden spoon, rubber or vinyl gloves, plastic comb, silk scarves – you get the idea. Consider the perfume or scent you might want to wear or have in the room. Think about the music, etc. Have the sub lie face down or face up blind folded, insist that he keep himself immobilized or lightly restrain him. Then proceed to bring the various items into contact with his skin. Of course, your own body is a wonderful source of sensual stimulation – soft skin, silky hair, finger nails, etc. Mix things up and pay attention to the feedback you get.
I like to layer sensations, in essence warming up the physical body and helping the sub to focus his perception in his body and out of his head. The blindfold can help with this too. If your submissive isn’t comfortable with a blindfold, that’s okay. Decide how you want to structure the feedback – scale of one to ten for instance – and encourage him to only respond that way. The less searching for words he has to do, the more he’ll stay out of his head and in his body, so to speak. I start out with more familiar sensations and work toward the less familiar and then end a session with a set of sensations that he particularly likes. Any “new stuff” tends to be placed in the middle of session. This way, it begins in a familiar place and ends in a desired place. This makes it easier for him to develop neutral to positive perceptions of any new stuff you put in the middle.
Changing the body’s relationship with less comfortable stimulation: By combining less comfortable stimuli with pleasurable stimuli or gradually building a tolerance to different types of stimulation can change the way these are perceived. This can go a long way to teaching the body a new range of responses. For example, a person may not naturally find uncomfortable stimulation to be erotic, but the right sort of pairings of experiences can change this. For example, stroking the cock in between light cock and ball torment (CBT), such as light ball slapping, can eroticize the CBT. CBT doesn’t have to be particularly painful. The notion is the sub is relinquishing control of his body to you. You can actually be pretty tame (for example, light ball or cock biting) but combined with known erotic cock and ball stimulation (e.g. stroking, sucking, licking), this can yield marvelous results.
You might want to share some stimulation with him. This can go a long way to making him more comfortable and can also be a little bit of a mind fuck. I recall the first time I let wax drip into the palm of my hand until I had a small puddle. Pet watched with fascination and was visibly surprised at my tolerance of it. I let it cool slightly on my own skin before bringing my palm into contact with his balls. While wax play is a little extreme for some submissives, you could, for instance, rub a brush across your own nipples and demonstrate your enjoyment before bringing it into contact with his.
You can also offer verbal feedback that can help change your sub's perception of certain sensations. For example, if placing clothespins on his body makes you hot, tell him. Better yet, show him! If you are intimate, you may choose to be quite explicit in how you do this. Many men are very visual creatures and will respond positively to this.
Providing the submissive with an opportunity to serve: Sometimes I have my Pet provide me with sensations – e.g. giving me a leisurely foot rub or scalp massage while he wears nothing more than his collar and a leash, or while I fondle him – and of course if he gets too distracted, a slap to the cock or balls helps him focus. (Of course this is a little bit of #3 and #4 in actual fact, but I’m sure you’re getting the picture.) This is also an opportunity to use verbal stimulation – as he is bringing you pleasure you can tell him what you intend to do to him, provided of course he pleases you!
I think the service aspect is important as it reinforces the dynamic. It is also a way for a sub to show gratitude. You can also be more than a little kinky about this. For instance, I recall the first time I told Pet to show his gratitude by ejaculating over my feet. That was the massage lotion for my feet on that particular evening. He got a well-deserved release, I got my feet rubbed and the last thing he did during the play session was something specifically for me!
Of course, the above thoughts on sensual domination are very much my style and based on what I know works for my Pet. A new Domme needs to forge her own style, based on her own needs and those of her submissive.
Don’t undervalue the debriefing that can go on once aftercare is winding down. Things don’t always go as planned but every experience can be a learning one for both of you. Be patient with yourself and with him. Go slowly and keep the lines of communication wide open. Sensual domination can be exciting and rewarding for both parties. Once people get past the notion that BDSM doesn't have to be all about pain, they can relax and enjoy a wide range of possibilities.