Archive for category Atmosphere

The Virtues of Surprise

A few days ago I wrote a post about anticipation, and how giving your partner advance hints and information about activities you have planned can heighten the excitement before and during an adventure. Today, however, I want to discuss anticipation’s polar opposite: surprise.

Surprise is created, of course, in exactly the opposite way from anticipation—by withholding advance information and providing no hint of what you have planned. Within the realm of BDSM, where blindfolding and other means of restricting the senses are relatively common, it’s even possible to keep one’s partner so in the dark that they don’t discover what you have planned until they are already well into an adventure, or understand exactly what it is that they are doing until they have already begun to do it. When I have a new toy, a new technique, a new position or a new activity to introduce to Joy, I often do so with no advance notice so as to create a sense of surprise.

What’s the advantage of surprise? I believe there are two primary benefits:

  • Increased excitement: When something is unexpected, it triggers an alert response within your partner’s body. They instinctively evaluate whether the unexpected event or object is a potential threat or item of interest, and while the evaluation continues, their body remains on alert status. In other words, they’ve automatically been taken to that place that I love to talk about—the area just outside their comfort zone. They’re not yet really afraid, but they’re not yet sure they’re okay, either, and therefore their breathing increases and their adrenaline begins to flow. This is the spot where maximum excitement can be achieved—IMHO, the sweet spot for BDSM.
  • Less chance for fear/inhibitions to get in the way: Sometimes when you know what is coming, your mind can play tricks. It can magnify and distort things to make you afraid or uncertain, leading to increased anxiety and the inability to go forward. Picture yourself at the top of a cliff, hooked up with a rappel line, looking down and trying to decide whether you should try rappelling for the first time. Once you go ahead and take the step off the edge, you might feel thrilled and exhilarated, but until you can summon up the courage, you’re paralyzed with fear and indecision.

    Surprise can remove the opportunity for this paralysis to occur. If you don’t discover that you’re doing something new and unexpected until you are actually in the process of doing it, you don’t have time for that fear and indecision and can move straight to the thrill and exhilaration. It’s like being placed directly on the rappel line and rappelling on down before you have a chance to think or worry about it.

    This idea can translate quite readily to the BDSM world and your adventures with your partner. As a good beginner’s example, suppose, for instance, that your partner has never worn a gag. If you bind your partner’s hands behind their back, then from behind and without ever showing it to them, place a gag against their lips and instruct them to “Open,” they have no chance to worry or be fearful. Their natural reaction (assuming that you have earned sufficient trust) is to part their lips and take the gag into their mouth. If they had time to think about it, they might worry about whether they’ll look okay with the gag in their mouth, whether they might choke, or even whether they’re willing to take this step further into submission. But without time to think, none of these issues come up. By the time any such concerns could come to mind their mouth is already full and they’re too engaged with what’s happening to them to worry.

    I chose the rappelling analogy for a reason, however, because it’s quite easy to imagine the risks of using surprise in this way. Suppose you have a serious fear of heights and are placed in a situation where rappelling is the only option, and you have no choice. Do you think that will go well? I’d bet not! And the same thing is true of BDSM. You must be confident that your partner is ready for whatever activity or situation you’ll be surprising them with, or risk that the outcome won’t be thrill and exhilaration, but rather fear and erosion of trust.

  • The primary downside of surprise is that it only works when something’s new. The second time your partner experiences something there may be a bit of a jolt of excitement, but not what it was the first time. And by the third time, they’re squarely in their comfort zone, and the benefits associated with surprise don’t appear. This is one of the reasons I’m such a big proponent of progressing down a BDSM path in small steps. If you jump straight into flogging your partner with a single tailed whip, then you lose any opportunity for surprise with any of the intermediate steps. But if you first start with bare-hand spanking, then move to a belt, then on to a paddle, you get the benefit of a new experience with each small step.

    My adventures with Joy over the years have led me to a working hypothesis on when to use surprise, and when to use its antithesis, anticipation. I’ll share it with you, but I caution that while I believe this is the correct approach for Joy, I’m not particularly confident that it applies more generally. I suspect that the rules governing surprise and anticipation vary with individual personalities, both yours and your partner’s. But nonetheless, here is my guideline for use in my relationship:

    If we’re trying something new that Joy has not yet experienced, I go with surprise. However, this approach must be coupled with the baby-steps rule so that I don’t take Joy past enjoyment and into fear! On the other hand, if we’re trying something that we’ve done before successfully, then I’m much more likely to leverage anticipation.

    Enjoy Yourself!


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The Importance of Costume in a Bondage Adventure

To start, I should probably emphasize that “costume” does not mean dressing up as Super Man or Wonder Woman, or breaking out the Halloween makeup before you get started. Oh, I suppose you could, if that’s what you’re into! But when I say “costume”, what I really mean is the clothing that you and your partner wear to enhance the mood and experience of your bondage adventure.

As I’ve said before, and will probably say again, bondage is really about acting out a fantasy. Anything you can do to make the fantasy seem more real will also make it more powerful, and make it easier to leave reality behind, even if it’s only for a little while. When you see a play or watch a movie, don’t the actors and actresses wear costumes? They dress appropriately for whatever situation they are in because it reinforces your feeling of “reality” when you watch their performance. For this same reason, wearing the right attire can help you and your partner immerse yourselves more fully within your bondage experience.

So, that’s the viewpoint my comments on costume come from. Of course, there’s a school of thought that says the best costume is no costume at all! And seeing your partner completely bare and bound does hold a great deal of magic. There are few sites more entrancing than seeing Joy nude, fastened spread eagled to the bed, her limbs straining up against her bonds. What is more vulnerable than being naked? Still, eventually you’ll want to change things up and cover up a little of that bare skin, at least for the start of the adventure. The mere idea of tying your partner up might sound wild and different at first, but if you do it the same way every time, eventually it’s going to get stale.

If you find fetish-wear attractive, there are many different merchants who will sell it to you. It’s available for both men and women, and comes in all kinds of materials, from leather to rubber. You can get clothing featuring chains, studs or zippers. I have purchased several different items along these lines for Joy, and we’ve enjoyed them very much!

However, fetish-wear brings with it a certain feeling of decadence. That fits some adventures very nicely, but there are others that call for a feeling of innocence or even prudishness. In these cases, lingerie or even simple cotton underwear works better. It all depends on the particular fantasy you have in mind.

With Joy, I’ll often suggest a general direction (“innocent” or “how about some lacey boy shorts?”), but let her choose exactly what she wants to put on. On nights where I’ve got a specific adventure planned, however, I’ll ask her to wear specific items that fit the scenario, or even leave them out for her to find and put on. This is especially fun when I’ve got something new for her—it’s fun for her to try it on, and fun for me to see her wearing it!

Note, by the way, that you don’t have to go out and buy a lot of expensive lingerie to accomplish this. Sure, you can do so if you have the budget, and it’s lots of fun! But you can also succeed with far more limited funds. Consider the atmosphere created, for instance, if your partner is clad in nothing but a badly torn T-shirt and pair of panties…

Your mileage may vary, and you may want to do things entirely different than this. But the point is that what you and your partner wear matters! Pay attention to this detail, match your costume to the mood you want to create, and I promise you you’ll notice a difference in your experience!

The moral of this story is this: Bondage adventures are about acting out fantasies. Just as the costumes actors wear in a play or movie help make the performance seem more real, the clothing you wear will help you and your partner get more fully “into” your shared fantasy. If you want that fantasy to be powerful, use this knowledge to help make it so.

Enjoy yourself,


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Equipment with Style

I’ve written before about how costume is important to a bondage fantasy.  Today, I wanted to point out that this same idea is also true of the props and equipment you use.  If you use the rights ones, they, too, can reinforce a sense of reality in the adventure you are acting out.  Of course, many of them may also play a functional role in your bondage fantasy, but don’t focus strictly on the functional side of the experience at the expense of the aesthetic side.  A ping pong paddle may work for a light spanking, but wouldn’t a sleek, black, leather paddle enhance the experience?  A ping pong paddle might break the mood, but the leather paddle actually reinforces it. (And yes, I admit it—I have a leather fixation.)

This is the reason why, in my series on Introducing Bondage into Your Relationship, I advocate taking the plunge and buying a set of cuffs early on.  Sure, you could use a scarf or some kiddy handcuffs to bind your partner’s hands, but real cuffs create a much more serious, “we’re not playing anymore” feeling, and that makes the adventure much more exciting…even despite the fact that you really are just playing!

Collars, gags and other accessories can add even more power.  Even if you’re not really going to use the collar for anything, it creates a feeling of severity in the experience when you buckle it around your partner’s neck. Gagging your partner takes things beyond that to yet another level of severity.  When Joy, who freely admits she has a strong personality, submits and opens her mouth to take the gag, it sends a tingle right down my spine.  These accessories aren’t appropriate for every adventure, and gags, in particular, come with some downsides, but they truly can have a serious impact on the feeling of the scene you’re playing out together.

This principle extends as well to highly functional items—things you might easily overlook when you imagine what you and your partner will do together.  As an example, consider the difference in feeling between using chain to attach to your partner’s cuffs versus using rope.  Honestly speaking, if you’re doing this right, your partner’s not going to try very hard to break free from their bonds anyway—you could probably get away with using kite string if you really wanted to.  So functionally, rope and chain are essentially a wash—either one will work just fine.  But a chain feels much more restrictive than a rope, and these feelings make a difference, so if you want to be strict, chain is the way to go.

Perhaps I’m just anal about things like this, but I even try to make sure that the snap hooks I use to secure Joy all match—having a hodge-podge of different styles and colors interferes with the mood and makes me look less prepared, and therefore less in control.  And remember, bondage is all about control and surrender, dominance and submission.

Enjoy yourself,


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Unless you and your partner are hard-core devotees, bondage probably ought to be a sometime-thing. Bondage adventures should be a component of, rather than your entire, sexual relationship. There are times when you need to simply feel close, and other times you just want something simple, and tying your partner up doesn’t fit very well into either of these situations! Besides, if you do something over and over again, it makes it less special, less adventurous, and less exciting.

When you feel that a bondage adventure is in order, however, I recommend that you take the time to set up the proper atmosphere! Remember, to a large extent, bondage is about acting out a fantasy (and if you’re not clear about that whole fantasy versus reality thing, please see my post on “Why You Might Like Bondage” that speaks to this concept). As in any fantasy, participants must be able to suspend their disbelief, and this is highly dependent on having the right mood in place. Have you ever been to see a movie in the theatre, and then perhaps a year or two later, sat down and watched the same movie on your TV at home? Which experience was better? I’m willing to bet that the theatre experience won that contest, and it was because of the atmosphere that surrounds it and how it helps you to feel more “into” the movie.

The same thing is true of a bondage adventure. If the mood isn’t right, the whole thing might seem contrived, or forced, or even silly. So take the time to make sure the proper atmosphere is created before and during your adventure!

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