What is it
The term subspace originally evolved as a way to describe the moderate to deep trance-like states experienced by people in the submissive position in a D/s relationship during a scene with their Dominant partner and eventually became the commonly accepted term in a number of kink communities by the early to mid-90’s. Over the past several decades, it is often used more generally to refer to the range of altered states of consciousness, from quite mild to very intense, that some kinksters report experiencing as a result of their BDSM activities or fetish play.
While many kinksters have reported having these types of experiences, not everyone experiences subspace states and not everyone who does experience them necessarily achieves those states every time they play or engage in kinky activities.
When the term first appeared and for quite a number of years afterwards, it was not unusual to see the term written as sub -space or subspace and both versions were used interchangeably and usually referred to the same basic concept of experiencing a mild to intense altered state of mind after engaging in various BDSM or kinky activities. For quite a long time, this did not seem problematical but more recently we are seeing more and more people seemingly under the impression that the term, regardless of the spelling, refers to their submissive side, mindset or persona as contrasted to what they refer to as their ‘normal self’ or perhaps a ‘vanilla’ mindset.
Just to be clear, this is not a question of right or wrong, or people using terms or expressions correctly or incorrectly. There is no body or organization that oversees the vocabulary used by kinksters and announces what new words will be added to the lexicon and what the proper spelling of newly coined words or expressions should be from year to year. The language and vocabulary of our community has been evolving for decades and will continue to evolve in the future as we broaden our horizons and develop a more in-depth understanding of many of the issues we are discussing and debating today. And people are free to use and define terms as they seem fit.
We in the fetish community need to be clear, & will typically use the term in our discussions.
There is a wide range of definitions that speak to different aspects of subspace & many that get much more specific, but for the purposes of this discussion, the term refers specifically to the trance-like, mild to intense altered states of consciousness that many kinksters report experiencing as the result of various BDSM or fetish activities they have engaged in.
Many kinksters have used the word ‘floating’ when describing a subspace-experience and, for some of us, there was a time those words were used interchangeably and we have gotten numerous descriptions of it being a blissful feeling of floating or even flying over the years.
Some people describe it as similar to getting high or as a ‘natural high’ while others make references to feeling tipsy or even drunk. Some practitioners of Japanese rope bondage use the expression nawayoi – “being drunk on ropes” – to describe the altered states they achieve when tied and suspended.
Subspace has been defined as a ‘metaphor for the state the submissive's mind and body is in during a deeply involved play scene’.
Subspace, for many, has elements of an out-of-body experience.
Subspace has been defined by some as a state of euphoria, ecstasy and pleasure far beyond what is believable.
For some, subspace involves a higher level of awareness, focus and concentration.
For many others, a zoned out state of complete relaxation, well-being and bliss is a commonly described feature.
From the perspective of brain chemistry and neurology, subspace has been described as a physiological response to a blend of chemicals that are released in response to a range of physical, emotional and mental stimulation. More specifically, a number of BDSM activities and fetish behaviors seem to trigger a sympathetic nervous system response, which causes a release of epinephrine, as well as a burst of endorphins and other chemicals into the brain and nervous system. These natural chemicals, part of the fight or flight response produce similar effects as do morphine-like drugs which are prone to increase pain tolerance and produce what have been described as ‘trance-like states’. Many submissives report out-of-body sensations, feeling detached from reality, and as the endorphins and other chemicals leave the system, and the parasympathetic nervous system kicks in, a deep exhaustion as well as degrees of incoherence. Many submissives report episodes of bursting into tears or bouts of crying, but the vast majority describe the crying as a ‘release’ and not the result of pain, discomfort or emotional distress.
These, and many other definitions and descriptions of subspace fall within the wide net we have cast in our search for a fuller understanding of these states that so many of us have come to cherish. I am constantly providing wonderful first hand descriptions from misc subs of their experiences, vigilantly searching for accurate, up to date and sex positive information for those who wish to explore the issues in greater depth. See Resources below for example.
How To Get There
" Subspace is a very personal thing and the result of a deep connection- try different things and see how it goes! "
" When my face is pressed against her soles , that takes me there "
"I'm not a pain freak, so I flourish in sensual Subspace. I didn't know the name for it until recently, I used to call it "cum drunk"!! Sensual Subspace cements the bond between D/s! I'm devoted to my Goddess. She holds the key to My Kingdom. I can't do enough to please her to me Subspace is Heaven on Earth."
The primary purpose of Subspace – How To Get There is to provide readers with the range of BDSM or kinky activities that many kinksters have reported as their favorite or most dependable method for achieving subspace states.
This is NOT a “How to” list that will provide guaranteed methods for anyone or everyone to simply pick up and use to attain these altered states. It is important to remember a few caveats at this point. Not everyone attains or enters subspace states when they play or engage in these activities. For those that do attain subspace states, not all of them necessarily reach these states on every occasion that they play. The methods one uses to obtain these altered states may not work on every single occasion that they are used. There are so many different variables that come into play that there is no one formula or algorithm that can be used universally to consistently guarantee access to subspace states.
Anyone who wishes to explore subspace states needs to accept that it is a personal journey of discovery. Each person, through trial and error, must discover what activities, behaviors or experiences will be the ones that will work for them.
As we did in our – Subspace: How It Feels section, we once again turn to our most valuable resource or the group of experts we know best, our own members of the past ten years. As we comb through the archives of our past discussion threads, I have selected a number of statements regarding which activities brought individual subs into subspace. they have specifically addressed the activities, experiences or behaviors that seem to get their endorphins flowing and opens the portals to a range of subspace states.
When the term subspace started to become commonly used in a close friends community (San Francisco) in the mid-1990's, many of the initial reports were coming from folks who had been engaging in moderate to intense impact play and as a result, it was very common to hear people state that subspace states could only be reached through the experience of pain or intense impact play. That concept began to take on a life of its own over the years and eventually almost anyone talking about subspace was describing it as the body's reaction to intense painful stimulation.
Now, some 25 years later, many kinksters have debunked that myth and the current thinking is that there are multiple paths or ways to achieve subspace-states and many of these methods do not include painful stimulation of any type. However, it is still not uncommon to hear some kinksters still holding on to the idea that subspace states can only be achieved through the experience of pain. As you read through the following contributions from our submissives, you will quickly discover many of the ways kinksters have experienced subspace through a range of non-painful activities or experiences.
How it feels
"When I was released from the restraints holding me on the St. Andrews cross, I would have collapsed if Mistress hadn't held on to me. I felt exhausted and as if drunk with Endorphins. I couldn't remember my name, or recognize a friend, i had to be driven home in my car, i was incapable of concentrating. Note: I don't drink and had nothing alcoholic that night.
"The power exchange is an amazing drug, and when done between T/two who trust each other .......well it just takes one's breath away."
"Subspace is awesome, it's like being high. I get warm and fuzzy, a little tired. Just want to be held and loved on. Mine last for a few days."
"…a sense of floating and my barriers disappearing….a magical feeling…."
The primary purpose of Subspace – How It Feels is to provide a relatively quick way for curious readers to get a sense of the range of experiences of subspace that many of the members of the fetish community have experienced. It is not presented as a litmus test of feelings or experiences that are required for someone to claim to have experienced a subspace state.
If you have scrolled onto this section because you want a list of exactly how subspace is supposed to feel, for you or for anyone else, then I am afraid that you may be sorely disappointed. There is no checklist, no tick off the boxes, no absolute requirements, no one True way to experience subspace states.
Although there are certainly similarities in people’s descriptions of their experiences in subspace, everyone’s feelings and experience of subspace are unique. In addition, people do not necessarily have the same
experience every time they enter subspace – each experience has its own unique aspects, qualities or levels of intensity, depth and richness. Many people go deeper or longer over time while others may find comfort in playing at a preferred level all or most of the time. And people use a wide variety of different methods to gain access to these states, all of which may provide different nuances of their own.
For many of my sections that focus on specific issues of subspace that requires some level of expertise and knowledge on an issue, I often seek out individuals with that expertise to provide us with accurate and up-to-date information on the topic.
However, when it comes to descriptions of how it feels to experience a subspace state or a range of subspace states, we can find no better resources than experienced submissives themselves who have taken the time over the past years to offer their attempts to describe experiences which many agree may be beyond words to describe. Fortunately, that has not stopped most of us from trying. These humans have shared their
experiences, their descriptions, their definitions as well as their wonderment and passion about subspace, and I thank them for that, as they have left a treasure trove of ideas for us to delight in and learn from.
Although my words may never be able to describe and define the entirety or totality of what the term ‘subspace’ encompasses, having so many different perspectives perhaps helps us to see some vague outlines, faint wisps of a pattern. If the descriptions offered here were different colored threads that we were
working into a tapestry based on those vague outlines, the more different colored threads I can continue to gather and add over time, the deeper and richer the tapestry will become. So my hope is to keep adding to this list over time and I encourage subs to continue contributing your own thoughts and ideas with me on an on-going basis.
We also realize that these descriptions and definitions are presented almost exclusively from the perspective of the submissive’s themselves. However, Dominants and Tops are invited to read this from the perspective of Subspace - What It Looks Like From the Outside as we feel that it provides a wide range of possible indications, symptoms and behaviors to help guide you in providing for the well-being of your (hopefully) cherished partners.
The following are snippets of ideas, thoughts and wonderful musings by Subs from as long as years ago, right up to the present day.
"I become nothing but a bundle of sensations and responses to stimuli…..I love it!"