Event Horizons

      7 Comments on Event Horizons


SUBSPACE:  The Black Hole of the D/s Universe

(In which, a not-very-Domly-Domme McSpankypants shares her mental meanderings on subspace.)

WARNING/DISCLAIMER:  This is a bit of a thinking-out-loud post.  The topic requires at least a minimal understanding of BDSM and/or D/s dynamics, and is not meant to be prescriptive.  I am not an expert, I am most definitely not a submissive, and my opinions ~ formed from my own experiences ~ are exactly that — my opinions –and- my experiences.  Feel free to share yours in the comments section and/or on your own blog.

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Annnnnd…  We’re off!

So I ran across an opinion/discussion piece about subspace yesterday, written from a medically-experienced female submissive‘s point of view, that got my wheels turning a bit.  Let’s just say it hit home for me in a way that made sense, even if from the opposite side of the power-exchange coin.


Let’s flip that coin and see if we can make heads or tails of this concept called ‘subspace’, shall we?

{And I will try – valiantly – not to mentally invoke the old “Pigs In Spaaaace” Muppet Show skit every time I type ‘subspace’ and picture Miss Piggy in fetish gear as a result.}

Miss Piggy and Kermit in leather fetish gear

Who, MOI?


Too late.  😉

‘Kayso, now that *that’s* out of our system, let’s talk about subspace, shall we?

Just what the heck IS subspace, anyway?

And here, my lovely readers, is where I say:  Fuck if I know.

Subspace is one of those things that nobody seems to be able to quite define, and – as it is not a universal experience among submissives – is broadly reliant on self-reporting and open to individual interpretation.  The best way I can describe it, from experiencing the mental phase-out of partners myself and from reading/listening-to various others’ first-hand accounts, is that subspace is a mental/psychological state a submissive sinks into wherein they are fully immersed in the physical/emotional experience of their own submission.  It can be triggered by a variety of stimuli – anything from inflection of voice to intensity of pain, from depth of sensual immersion to severity of deprivation – and often leaves the submissive in a state of out-of-touch-ness.

One of the urban dictionary definitions/explanations offered for subspace is thus:

definition of subspace from urban dictionary

In mathematical terms, subspace is a space that exists wholly within another space, whose points/elements are all confined thereto.

In science fiction (and – some would say – particle physics), subspace is a hypothetical space that, once entered, time as we know it ceases to exist.  No light escapes from this space.  It is, essentially a black hole.

And to get sucked into a black hole, you must cross the threshold:  the event horizon.

Ahhh, you are thinking, Now the title of this post makes sense.


For the purpose of this post, let’s go with an amalgam of those concepts as a working definition.  Okay?

Now:  How does subspace work?

This, I actually have a reasonable understanding of.

(And my inner English teacher is cringing at ending the above sentence with a preposition.)

In the post I referred to at the beginning (here’s the link if you didn’t click it the first time), the author says:

From my understanding and a little research, it’s a physiological reaction to pain. Fight or flight or sympathetic nervous system response. Danger is present and you must respond so you release chemicals to aid in that response. Adrenaline, ephedrine, corticosteroids, etc. It primes the body, sharpens the areas that need it (heart, lungs, brain, nervous system), and decreases the ones that don’t (skin, gut, ancillary organs). It helps especially if you’re injured because the chemical release protects you from the pain until you’re out of danger. Spanking stimulates that response perfectly hence the floaty high after. But my understanding of subspace is you’d need a severe enough beating to push the brain into the true disconnect that subspace brings. It’s glorified shock! It’s what you see in trauma patients following a serious ordeal. Incoherence, not all there, trying to disconnect from what’s going on.

YES to all of this.

I have long thought of subspace as a form of glorified shock:

  1. Glorified, because it is too often hyped as a be-all, end-all achievement in uber-submissiveness; and,
  2. Shock, because the neurochemistry behind subspace feelings/behaviors almost identically mirrors that of traumatic shock.  It’s just not, y’know…  Traumatic.  (Though it could be if not monitored/attended-to proficiently, which the author also addresses thus:  An inattentive Dom could inflict major injury if they aren’t tuned in with the person they are playing with.)

How is subspace achieved?

Pain play, typically via impact play (spanking, as the author suggests), is what I’ve seen most often described as the thing that a submissive “needs” to push them into that space.  (A space, I might add, that they are entering willingly.  All of the points/perspectives contained herein are based on the premises of desire and consent.)  As I am not particularly into administering pain, I have never had a partner go full-out OUT-there on me during (typically pleasure-sensation based) playtime.  I have, however, observed varying degrees of:

  • sudden stillness
  • altered breathing
  • floaty incoherence
  • delayed verbal response
  • inconsistency between mental “I can take it”-ness and physical ability to proceed

Here’s the thing:  All of those responses are things that can be experienced during/after “regular” sex, especially when that sex/ual activity has a strong element of emotional connectedness.  Therefore, I do not see them as ‘special’ or ‘uber-subby’ or ‘wow, you’re headed toward the black hole of disconnected-ness’.  They are simply markers.  Physical manifestations of mental/emotional state of being.

Do I pay attention to those things?  Yes.

Do my partners describe those feelings as “subspace”?  No.

Do they enjoy their overall physical/mental/emotional feelings when they get pushed to that level?  Yes.

Do I push harder and try to send my partners spiraling into the unknown?  NOPE.

That’s a big NOPE.

Instead, I try to keep them grounded, to reconnect, to bring them “back” so to speak.

Because I prefer my partners to be presentin all ways – when we are connecting sexually.  (And yes, there are masochists who do not ‘need’ a connection with their play partners and for whom sexual attraction/activity is not necessary.  I can’t speak to that though, because that’s not how I roll.)

From MY perspective…

I’m not into ‘space’.

(With the exception of the whole “This is my dance space; that is yours” Patrick Swayze / Dirty Dancing type thing, because seriously:  Do not fucking invade my personal space.)

kitties dancing with "dance space" quote from Dirty Dancing

If my partner gets floaty and is riding out their endorphin high (and that’s what it is, folks – your brain is getting high on adrenaline and sexual chemicals), I can roll with that.  I will gladly hold them while they shake or pet them as they babble.  I will make sure they are safe and willingly play ‘guardian’ if they mentally tap-out for a moment or fourteen.  (Which sometimes means making sure they don’t fall asleep and subsequently fall out of their chair while tied up.  True story.)

But again:  That floaty/high feeling is something that can be (and often has been, in my experience) achieved without any particularly Subby McSuberson activity to preclude it, and it is always my goal to bring my partner{s} back — I will not (and probably cannot) actively prevent someone from stepping over their event horizon, but neither is the black hole of subspace something I purposely try to push my partners into.

And if you are thinking, Oh…  You must not be a real Domme then, to you I say:

  1. FUCK YOU, and
  2. You are correct.

On “You’re doing it wrong!” mentality:

Getting back to the article that prompted this post, it was the author’s experience of having a self-titled “Dom” tell her that by not entering subspace, she was somehow ‘not doing spanking right’ as a sub, that really spurred me to write.

Her response to his presumptive idiocy was:

Way to be a douchebag and minimize the pleasure of my experience by calling it less
That got me. You don’t know me or my physical response to a spanking. No, I’ve never “entered subspace”, but so what? What I need and get from a spanking is personal. So eff you for using some state of mind to try and lessen this for me. You’re an ass.

Yep, pretty much.

I think this perspective is important for people to see.  Because we are not all built the same.  It seems obvious and redundant to say so, but it’s worth reminding ourselves.  We are not all the same.  We do not all respond to stimuli in the same ways, and our sexual experiences – mental, emotional, and physical – are valid and deserve to be respected in all their variety.  There is no be-all/end-all.  Period.

But also, I want to take her response and turn it around for anyone – especially for any women – who are in a dominant position in their relationship{s} and/or who are toppy in- or out of the bedroom:

[begin ranty intonation]

You do not have to push your partner into subspace.  It is not the be-all/end-all checkpoint against which all power exchange experience is balanced.  If it is something your partner enjoys and/or wishes to achieve, you have the right to negotiate what that will look like, not least of all because it is YOU who has to be all responsible and grounded and take the fuck care of them while your play partner gets to tune out and visit outer space.

Which is entirely unfair to you unless roles and expectations are discussed and consented to.

(There I go ending my sentence with a preposition again.)

And if your partner does not achieve subspace, you have – IN NO WAY – failed.  The experience you share is not diminished because of not getting them to a certain state of mind.

[/end ranty-ness]

But, you are wondering, What about Dom-space, Feve?

Oh, you mean that mental state that’s supposed to be, to paraphrase various non-Dom/mes’ descriptions around the interwebs, “the same thing as subspace but from a dominant’s perspective”?

That space?

Don’t get me started, m’kay?



gif of Captain America - Google image result for just don't

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Your turn!

If you care to share…

What are your experiences with subspace?
Can you identify your own (or your partner’s) event horizon?


IMAGE NOTES:  I borrowed the Miss Piggy image from my friend Chris at The Muscleheaded Blog, screenshot the subspace definition from urbandictionary.com, and copied the dancing kitties from icanhas.cheezburger.com.  Captain American gif – found via Google image search, uncredited – taken from the Warner Bros DC comics movie, is used in compliance with copyright statutes for entertainment and illustration purposes, with no commercial intent.

7 thoughts on “Event Horizons

  1. Cara Thereon

    I like what you said. I had to go back and read my own post to remember the experience. I’ve had moments that come close to subspace more recently, but I think it was instances of higher chemical overload. I didn’t get aftercare and dropped (a sudden decrease in chemicals) so hard I was a mess hours after.

    Your points from a Dom/me perspective are awesome. With great power comes great responsibility. Negotiating that seems smart in so many ways.

    1. Mrs Fever Post author

      I find that the high-then-DROP is sometimes prolonged and cyclical in long distance relationships. (I bring it up because I know you are in one yourself.) The together-all-the-time intensity of a visit, followed by the severance of separation when he goes home… Usually there’s some pretty noticeable High-LOW swing that goes along with that.

      I’m sorry to hear you didn’t get the aftercare you needed. I have at least a full post’s worth of pontification on that topic as well. 😉

      Thanks for stopping by!

      1. Cara Thereon

        So it’s clear, the drop I had wasn’t with DomSigns. Though I agree that after visiting him I did drop pretty hard. That was more emotional and it took me surprise, but your right about intense visits doing that.

  2. chris

    Feve: I love your allegory about the event horizon. And I never realized how formalized/structured some folks want to make it / how defensive they get when you don’t see things their way about it… that guys’ silly as assumption was, I’m sure, well and truly answered. Nicely done ! 😀

    1. Mrs Fever Post author

      Thanks! I’m glad it made sense. 🙂

      And yes, there are people who thrive on rules and protocols and structured requirements within uber-strict This-Way-Only-isms, for sure. Which… To each their own. But when someone who knows nothing about another person’s needs/wants/desires/experiences tries to say “You’re doing it wrong” or tries make another person’s ‘how I like it’ into something lesser… Nope, not cool.

  3. Bee

    I think we’re all so different so we experience ‘spaces’ so differently. Impact play doesn’t send me into any kind of space, having said that when my partner uses a suede flogger on me it brings me back to a comfortable place, if he then continues I will relax into something close to a space.

    However, with needles I go into a deep space. By the time the second or third needle goes in I am in a whoe different world, unable to tell you how many needles have been used. I’ve never gone non communicative but I’m riding high on those endorphins. And yes, when I have blood tests etc I fight hard against it!
    Bee recently posted…A bit sketchy againMy Profile


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