You’re here: the tantalizing world of BDSM has already tickled your fancy. Welcome! Your journey – luckily for you, and for us – has just begun. This installment of our ongoing “BDSM 101” series will introduce you to switching: what it is, who can play, and some handy guidelines to get you started. Most importantly, perhaps, it will dispel some pesky rumors that may have seeped into your understanding, for there is absolutely no need to knock it before (or after) you’ve tried it.
First: what is switching? Broadly speaking, a switch is anyone whose play role is neither exclusively dominant nor exclusively submissive. Much like with sexuality, there is a continuum of BDSM role preference. Many people fall at one end or the other: either they enjoy always taking the reins (or the flogger, as it may be) as a dominant, or prefer to be taken by the reins (or led by an exquisitely tied chest harness) only as a submissive. The rest, however, occupy the middle ground, in which they yearn to top sometimes, and be topped others.
This, of course, is not to say that a switch feels like domming exactly half the time, and subbing the other. Rather, many switches are “top-leaning” or “bottom-leaning”. A “top-leaning” switch might be naturally inclined to dominate his partner, expertly toying with her and doling out punishments as needed. Occasionally, however, he might crave a stern paddling – and he’ll know exactly how it should be done. A “bottom-leaning” switch tends toward the submissive but enjoys sometimes to flip the dynamics of play on their soon-to-be-spanked (see Spanking 101) butts.
Fun Fact: It is only in the 2014 edition of the DSM V (the manual detailing every diagnosable mental or psychological disorder in the US) that participation in BDSM is no longer included as the source of a disorder. Who knew that it would take a bunch of doctors so long to wise up?
Switching can happen in one of two ways, on two different timescales. Sometimes, it is within a single scene, of course agreed upon in advance. Imagine: your switch is out to rob you of your valuables and your scotch (she loves scotch), and restrains you in the process (see Restraints 101). When you break free, it is her turn to be punished. Or perhaps you skip the role playing, and focus instead on whatever activities, be they sensory deprivation or augmentation, bondage, or pain play, take the sub to the next level. Then you reverse roles, and she does them to you. As with all BDSM scenes, communication and safety are key, especially when getting to know your partner and her limits (and your own!). Entering a place of intense domination and also of submission in quick succession is an emotionally draining process, so self care, such as being willing to say something if the scene becomes overwhelming, and aftercare, such as cuddling or giving one another space according to both of your needs, is crucial.
Switching can also take place over multiple scenes: in some, you or she may feel more “toppy,” and in others, more “bottomy”: go with it! For many people, (but again, there is so much variation between individuals that it would be silly to try to generalize to all) it is not a preordained conscious decision to top in one scene, and bottom in the next, but rather a feeling. Some people, for example, are usually dominant, but find that a need to be dominated grows inside of them until they simply have to have it satisfied. Others are the opposite, occasionally satiating their inner domme, an integral compliment to their usual submission. Still others find their preference for topping or bottoming dictated by the desires of their partner.
Switch things up: invest in a hickory switch for your switch, and ensure that PUNishment is delivered for the delivery of all terrible puns.
It is important to remember that being a switch does not disqualify you from being a genuinely passionate dom(me) or sub. If anything, switching imparts an invaluable perspective unto its practitioners. For one, it seems only polite to know exactly how the twitch of a flogger feels against your own skin, before yourself trying it on another person. And on a deeper, more psychological level, a better sub is one who understands the intricacies of how to dominate; what language helps to inhabit a scene and propel it forward, and what touches elicit the most desirable responses. In the nascent stages of exploration into BDSM, switching, especially with someone well versed in the art of switching, is an excellent way to establish your own likes, boundaries, and desires. Our switches – true artists – are all deeply passionate about domination and submission. They are all dedicated teachers of kink, but also consummate learners: in no way is this simply a profession for them, but rather the extension of a passion for kink that they believe should be shared. Switching pushes the boundaries of passion even further, allowing you and them to dig more deeply into an understanding of yourselves, of one another, and of the limitless possibilities of connection. And, the best way to learn is to give it a try!
*BDSM can be dangerous and cause injury to yourself and others if not practiced safely. Don’t play hard if you don’t know what you are doing (ie. the likes of electric tools, asphyxiation, bondage, wax play, sensory deprivation and augmentation, etc.). Please do your research and contact a professional (ahem…come visit us!) to learn more before you act!