I’ve been rolling a thought around in my brain ever since MasterBun wrote an amazing comment on a recent post. (Note: MasterBun and his sub nuttykitten blog together at kitandcaboodle, and their writing is well worth reading.) His full comment can be found here, but to sum up, he caught me out on skipping an important step of learning or approaching a new technique in D/s, which is to practice it outside of a scene or erotic context.
2. This is the longest and least fun part. Practice the new session outside
of an actual session. Your sub has to know it’s meant as only a learning
session so dont get excited. Take it slow and do it right till your
confidence builds up.
I realize now that I’ve been struggling with the symptoms of not following this advice in lots of little ways. A year or so ago we bought a door-mounted restraint system, all loops and straps and fiddly bits meant to wedge between a door and the frame and provide me with multiple points of restraint to secure Beth’s wrists, ankles, neck and even waist. Think of all the things you could do with a Saint Andrew’s Cross, but without the hassle of having to dedicate half your room to one gigantic piece of dungeon equipment.
The scene started out hot enough: I slowly peeled my sub out of her day clothes until she stood before me in just her collar. Then I picked out lingerie I liked, and slid it onto her. I had laid out several implements, varying from clips and clamps to floggers and paddles, so she had those to gaze upon and think about while I set about changing her.
Next up was the restraining harness. I unrolled it, and found it was a universally adjustable bundle of straps, loops and buckles. The good news was that it could easily be adapted to fit Beth’s short frame. The bad news was that I had to stop and adapt it to fit Beth’s short frame. That was after I figured out how to tighten and adjust the straps, which came after figuring out which end of it was up, which came after attaching it to the door and realizing I had strung it up backwards. I fiddle and adjusted and tinkered, working on the fit.
During all this, my patient little subbie stood with her arms up and half-restrained. Twenty minutes passed, then thirty, then forty-five. Finally I had it! I stepped back to admire my handiwork, and noticed Beth fidgeting and frowning. While I was overheating from exertion, she had gotten cold from holding still. Worse yet, her shoulder joint, never our ally in the best of times, was progressing from an achy stiffness to a dull throb, promising to punish her for the rest of the day. By the time I was ready to warm her up for the scene, her body was done and needed me to move directly to cooldown and aftercare.
The scene was a complete bust.
On the upside, the restraint system now pre-adjusted so I can slap it up and stick Beth right into it. I probably even remember which end is up. On the downside, however, this was over a year ago and it left such a bad taste in our mouths that we haven’t cared to even look at the thing, much less haul it out and unroll it and hassle with it. We’ve played several times since then, even doing the equivalent of the entire scene I had planned for the door frame, but with Beth unbound. Sometimes you only get one shot; if that was mine, I missed it.
I got it right a little while ago, but while I have reflected several times that I had done something better, I still missed MasterBun’s point, even though it was starting to stare me in the face, in a somewhat embarrassingly obvious manner. But sometimes it’s good to have both a failure and an accidental success to drive a point home when you finally hear it.
A few months ago we were in a hotel and we had an entire suitcase stuffed full of toys and gear. (You know, as one does.) While Beth ran an errand, I set about unpacking an assortment of devices to try when she got back. One of them was a door-mounted sex swing. I noticed the same universally-adjustable, strap-and-hook design and knew immediately that it was not deceptively simple, but simply deceptive! But this time, I had time. I unrolled it, figured out which way was up, got it mounted to the door, and played with the adjustments until I understood their leverage points and could move them quickly where I wanted. When Beth returned, I took her to the door, still fully clothed, and had her climb into the swing to test the arrangement. It fit her fine but put her about six inches too low for my pleasure, so I had her hop off and reworked it. One more sit test proved that it should be just about perfect for our needs, and then I led her to the bed to start our play session.
Total time spent futzing with the sex swing: about 40 minutes. Time wasted in-scene: 0 minutes. We had a fantastic time. I threw out my back so hard I couldn’t walk for three days, and three months later I still have a twinge down there. I’m not sure if I’m complaining or bragging, but when I told my chiropractor how I got hurt he gave me a high-five.
It was MasterBun’s comment that really drove this idea home for me: figure out the guesswork in advance. Set chaos into order. He was commenting more towards the notion of bringing up new activities with your sub when you’re not sure how they’re going to take it, easing them into it slowly and comfortably so as not to injure or frighten. But the general principle, of testing out unsure things, holds true.
Whether sorting out technical complexity or guiding your partner through a tricky emotional course, this is fantastic advice: Practice before you play.