Mental and Emotional Safety During a Scene

I’ve been chatting to new friends on the scene while out and about, and the importance of communication between sub and dom has been a topic of conversation that got me thinking.

It has occurred to me that we haven’t so far mentioned the importance of emotional/mental safety during play sessions or scenes. If you’re new to the BDSM scene you’ve probably been focussing on physical safety and practical concerns around this. But it is also important to realise that when playing, especially using role play, you may inadvertently come across a ‘trigger’ that causes upset to the Sub or Dom. It is very important to realise that this can happen at any time, even for experienced players.

Pushing the boundaries can be very satisfying and even healing, but does come with this risk. We nearly all have deeply buried experiences that could be unearthed, and if they are, they need to be dealt with. The first thing to remember is that if, during a session, something makes you feel suddenly or inexplicably upset or traumatised you should immediately stop the scene. Your dom is not a mind reader. He/she may read your body language well, may know you well enough to know most of the time how to handle you or that they need to check in with you, but if you’ve no idea what’s wrong (as happened to me recently) you cannot expect anyone else to be able to read that. So be prepared to use your safe word or gesture then take your time, with your dom, to explore the problem. Doms must do the same. They are human, and if they are disturbed or upset they, too should end the scene and spend time with their sub to sort out what the problem is.

There is no shame in this, and no-one is to blame. It is simply a risk associated with pushing boundaries and the type of intense play we adventurers do. The trigger that sets you off could be a word, a phrase, an implement used or the role play itself. It could even be a scent or sound, a tone of voice, the type of pain or bondage, in fact anything you can think of may trigger feelings you didn’t expect.

So if it happens to you, call a halt. It is your responsibility, even as a sub, to take care of your own emotional well being. If it happens to your partner, you must be prepared to give them the aftercare they need. Either way, get cosy, have a nice comforting cuddle and take a deep breath. From experience, once you’ve opened the box, the lid won’t go back on. You’ll need to talk it out, try and get to the bottom of the problem and deal with whatever you’ve unearthed. Of course what comes up may be too personal or raw to discuss there and then with your play partner. This is fine. You must deal with it in your own way, and your partner should respect and accept that you may want to go away and NOT discuss it, but sort it out yourself some other way.

In my own case, a simple word used during a scene made me feel very upset (in a way we hadn’t intended), yet I had no idea why. It took me completely by surprise. It was only after ending the scene and gentle probing by Fulani that the memory of what was attached to that word was brought to light. At first I felt pretty devastated to have to revisit such an old wound (as mine turned out to be). The good news is that once that whole memory was aired, and dealt with in my own way with his support, I felt, and still do feel, much better. In fact I can cheerfully say that for me this was a healing experience that I know will have long term benefits.

Be prepared to take whatever steps are necessary to sort out the issue you’ve discovered. This is not a time to bury your head in the sand. This might be something you can resolve with one long conversation, or you may need to take more time to process the triggered feelings and understand why you’ve felt as you have. In extreme cases, you might want to get outside help such as counselling. Do what is right for you. If it’s your play partner, you must respect their decisions as to what’s right for them.

As long as you remember the importance of this, party on! Have fun, play safe physically, mentally and emotionally, then you can enjoy pushing the boundaries.

There are couple of books we can recommend for beginners. They are: The New Bottoming Book by Dossie Easton, Catherine A. Liszt, Janet W. Hardy and Fish, and The New Topping Book by Dossie Easton, Janet W Hardy and Fish, both available from Amazon at very reasonable cost (the links on this page will take you to but they’re available on as well).

Velvet Tripp

7 thoughts on “Mental and Emotional Safety During a Scene

  1. I really appreciate this piece. I wonder how it applies in BDSM porn scenes, something I’ve been considering a lot myself right now.

  2. We discussed this between ourselves and concluded that despite being kinksters we don’t know enough about the porn industry to offer a sensible comment. You may be better off discussing this with your industry contacts! Here’s a few random thoughts, though.

    We’d hope there’s enough discussion beforehand about limits and possible triggers to minimise the possibility, though it’s impossible to completely avoid subconscious triggers you didn’t know you had. We’d hope the people involved are human enough to deal with it in much the same way as Velvet described for a private scene. The reality may be more variable, especially if crew costs, equipment and space rental etc. are at stake.

    We’d also guess that in a world where actresses/models are sometimes expected to turn up to shoots with no prior knowledge of the photographer, director and other people around, stuff like this could happen more often. One solution, and it’s a partial one at best, would be to build a kind of social network within the industry, get the gossip, find out people’s reputations, and work with people you trust. The reality is, though, you’re never going to be in that situation 100% of the time. Or probably even 25% of the time…

    One of us (Fulani) can remember hearing second-hand about a situation a few years back where it happened on a fetish shoot, but it wasn’t the people in front of the camera who experienced the trigger – it was one of the camera crew, who walked off set and out of the shoot.

    There was also a case in the last year or so with an Eastern European porn company that isn’t directly parallel but is maybe relevant. An actress was recruited, limits discussed and apparently agreed, and within minutes of the shoot starting those limits were massively exceeded. This ended up as a crime report for assault, a police investigation and a prosecution that as far as we know is still ongoing. So in broad legal terms, as well as ethical ones, on a porn shoot no should mean no (i.e. safewords etc. should be agreed and respected) and there’s something like a duty of care on the production company to respect agreed limits and deal responsibly with genuine distress that arises for whatever reason, not just with the actor/actess but with the crew as well.

    Some scattered thoughts, anyway, for whatever they’re worth.

    – F

    • I think it depends on what part of the industry you’re working in, really.
      And there are definitely negotiations that take place beforehand that establish limits and help you avoid triggers. As you say, though, it’s sometimes hard to know what exactly will send you to a bad headspace, and there *are* time concerns driven by cost. I’m sure almost all production companies would be fine with you taking a 15 minute or so break, and ANY porn company should stop when you say stop; the real difficulty is convincing yourself, as a performer, that you should stop the shoot to take it.

      I’m still working on my next installment of my series of posts about my first porn shoot, and I’m trying to address some of these issues. I’ll let you know when it’s up.

  3. Thanks for this.

    Even in private play I know some people have difficulty in convincing themselves they should use their safeword but I can imagine the added pressures of a shoot could be a further inhibiting factor.

    It may be something also to do with the way performers, of any description, think. For example I’ve known musicians determined to go on stage with all kinds of injuries, and in a fetish club a few years back, I had someone determined to be a bondage bunny for a suspension who only happened to mention a couple of minutes beforehand she’d been released from hospital the previous day having suffered pneumonia (I refused to go ahead and we found another volunteer).

    And of course there’s the medical side – injury tends to release adrenaline and endorphins. As a first aider I’ve known people involved in accidents – falling down stairs, keeling over in the street etc. – who were adamant they were ok and could just carry on even when it was obvious they were quite seriously hurt. Trying to persuade them to stay still and wait for a paramedic or ambulance is often the most challenging part of first aid!

    Thanks for your comment, though – it’s an interesting area especially for performers. And I’ll look forward to your next instalment (BTW you’ll notice I’ve added you to the blogroll here).

    – F

  4. Thanks for the post, I’m one of those with a tendency to carry on when I shouldn’t. I had one trigger that I still can’t really explain today (being slapped round the face a few times), which seems a bit weird, but I know about it now so it’s a limit.

    It’s interesting to read the comments about triggers in porn – all I know about the industry is as a mildly interested outsider, so more info is always appreciated.

    • Thank you for adding your insights. I too have face slapping as a trigger, and already had set that as a limit. the interesting thing is I’ve only just recently had that memory come to the surface and now understand why. Old skeletons dug up, shook down and thrown out. It’s a great feeling and there’s now space in the wardrobe for other, better things.

  5. Pingback: Follow up to ‘Emotional Safety During a Scene’ « deliciouslydeviant

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