The atmosphere you create for a BDSM scene matters. Many times atmosphere gets overlooked, but this is a mistake. After all, consider how much of BDSM takes place in the mind. In many ways, a scene is a miniature world of illusion, in which one participant believes they are constrained, though in reality they can be freed at a word, and another believes they have taken control, though in fact it can be removed from them at any time. When it comes to illusion, the stage that you set plays a large role. A scene that looks and feels right helps support the illusion, while one that does not serves to undermine it.
It’s not at all inappropriate to compare a BDSM scene with a movie or theater production. Perhaps there’s no script, but each actor or actress knows their role. The players don appropriate costumes, props are secured, and even the choreography may be blocked. The Dominant plays twin roles as both actor and director, while the submissive…well, generally the submissive is the star.
In a movie, one important way to create the proper atmosphere to support a shot is through lighting. Because the images are caught on camera, light’s role is magnified, and a well-lit shot contrasts starkly with a poorly lit one. While light may not play quite as important a role in a BDSM scene, it nonetheless can contribute greatly to the mood and feeling you wish to create.
A brightly-lit room can create a clinical atmosphere, a feeling of an examination taking place. “Here, let me just unbutton your blouse so that I can listen to your heart. No need to worry, I’m a doctor! Now, let’s get your feet in these stirrups…” It can also be used to emphasize a feeling of humiliation, as under bright lights, nothing can be hidden. Bright light reveals all, and being made to undress under a spotlight can be both disconcerting and exciting. “Take them off. All of them! Hurry up, now.”
Softer light enables an aspect of concealment. Imperfections can be hidden and embarrassment can fade. Soft light can introduce a feeling of romance—mixing tenderness and cruelty becomes an option. “Such soft and gentle lips you have, so lovely to kiss! Allow me just a moment, while I tighten this clamp a single turn more…ahh, there we are! Now, where were we?” Soft light provides a nice compromise between bright and dim, offering enough illumination to see for we visually-stimulated males, but enough shadow to leave a bit of mystery as well. Soft light goes well with lacy lingerie, silky panties and the slow removal of clothing to reveal the hidden treasure underneath.
Candlelight intensifies the sense of mystery. Flickering shadows play across bare skin, concealing as much as the candle flame reveals. The smell of burning fills the air, creating a warm and primitive feeling and calling up half-remembered descriptions of torch-lit rooms deep in the bowels of a castle. “I’m sorry, Milady, but you heard the king’s orders. It must be twenty lashes. Now, give me your hands!” Leather, chain and latex each pair well with candlelight, and the more severe bondage positions feel oh-so-appropriate. An especially effective use of candlelight comes when playing with hot wax, and the only illumination in the room is the candle you’re using to drip, drip, drip down upon your partner’s skin.
Perhaps you don’t desire to be quite so theatrical. That’s okay—there’s no need. The three different light conditions I listed above support less melodramatic BDSM activities perfectly well. Each contributes its own unique flavor to the scene you create, whether it’s as elaborate as a pirate capturing the captain’s daughter, or as simple as a pair of cuffs and a vibrator. Don’t ignore lighting—use it! Light can be a powerful tool to set mood and ambiance, and can contribute greatly to the excitement you create with your partner.