Editor’s Note: Since it’s New Year’s Eve and I know that many of you plan to indulge in some mind-altering activities tonight, I thought this would be a perfect time to publish this article from our staff writer, Jordyn. She and I don’t necessarily see eye to eye on the issue, but that’s what this site is about, a variety of views and perspectives.
Do you have an opinion on the subject? Leave it in the comments or share the post to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Reddit, or Fetlife and start the discussion there. If you do share, we’d appreciate a link in the comments so we can read the discussion.
“Don’t play intoxicated.”
There’s a three word sentence virtually guaranteed to start some heated arguments in a group of kinksters. For some, Playing high or tipsy is the antithesis of safe or sane, and is something to be avoided at all costs. It’s a huge no-no for many (a limit, even) and is viewed as very irresponsible. For others, it’s a way to augment a good time, something that might happen spontaneously or helps relax them and provides lubrication to higher states of being . They know their limits and are okay with the risk taking that goes with playing under the influence.
Personally, I lie in the middle-ish ground. I have played tipsy and high, both as a bottom and as a top. But I also think that playing under the influence can be extremely dangerous, and I hesitate to engage in that type of play often. I know a lot of readers are going postal that I might have topped while not fully in my head, or freaking because I’ve bottomed intoxicated. “But Jordyn, how the fuck do you know what you’re doing?? How can this and you possibly be safe??” Hold the judgments for a while- explore your discomfort with me, and let’s check in at the end again, okay?
Before I answer your questions and defend my position a bit, I DO want to shout out a HUGE disclaimer. I am in NO way advocating for playing intoxicated. It is extremely risky edge play and I strongly urge players to know themselves and their partners well before engaging in any sort of intoxicated play. I’d go so far as to say intense self-awareness is an absolute must for intoxicated play. If you’re new to BDSM, a specific type of play, your partner, or to the intoxicant, please for the love of God do not play intoxicated. You should not, dear reader, construe what I’m going to say as active encouragement to play intoxicated. It doesn’t make play better, or hotter, or anything like that. It can make things worse, or more complicated, or numbed/dulled which can lead to scary consequences. But I also feel like intoxicated play is like breathplay: it’s inherently dangerous, but it’s something that people are going to do anyway. I might as well provide a little education to those choosing to engage in it so that they and their partners might be just that little bit safer.
Okay. All that out of the way. Let me break down my experiences for you so you know a little more where I’m coming from. I have played high on cannabis, and have been topped by partners who had been partaking of herb as well. I’ve been on either side of the slash on alcohol as well. Generally, those experiences have gone fine, if not extremely well. I’ve enjoyed playing tipsy and high; it’s been giggly and fun and has helped me get to some new and interesting places. Finally, I have extremely limited experience bottoming for needles on acid (exactly one experience here). When I tried acid the first time, the sensory effect was so interesting I really wanted to try needles on it at some point. Once I finally was able to, I did a couple on myself and let my 2 year partner do a couple too. They were… Extremely intense, much more painful than usual and I didn’t enjoy them nearly as much. They just sort of… Sat in my skin and burned. I took them out after not too long. I won’t do that again, but it wasn’t a horrible experience. I didn’t die. I didn’t maim myself. In my scientist brain, it was interesting to feel the effect of the drug on my senses and perception of pain and pleasure.
So. That’s where I get off telling anybody anything. I’m no expert on intoxication, but I am an expert in my own experiences. I’ve played intoxicated frequently enough to have a pretty good handle on important questions you need to ask yourself and your partners: some do’s and don’t’s. These apply to whatever role you decide to take on. Just because you’re the bottom doesn’t mean you get to give up all your personal responsibility for what happens to you. It’s literally YOUR ass on the line.
Do’s & Dont’s
- Know thyself. Intimately. This means knowing how you react to to the type of play you’re going engage in, knowing how you react to the intoxicant you’re using, knowing your general mind set for that day or night, and how you’re doing in general. Know your likes, limits, and abilities. This means if you’re new to BDSM, don’t play fucked up. You DON’T know how you’re always going to react, you don’t know what all your limits and abilities might be yet. Explore your kink sober first for a long time.
- Know thy partner. Do play with familiar partners that you know and trust to communicate with you. Don’t play with a new person intoxicated. Know your partner’s likes, limits, and abilities.
- Know thy play. Engage in types of play that you and your partner are intimately familiar with. This is not the time to bust out that cool new wrestling move you saw on YouTube and think you can execute now.
- Do get consent from both partners before consuming anything. Drunk people cannot consent to things.
- Do play “lightly”. Go for smaller, shorter, less intense scenes. Think laughter, fun, silliness, happy, and upbeat.
- Talk to your partner (negotiate) when you’re both sober about playing intoxicated. Have either of you done it before? How did it go? What is your experience with the planned intoxicant? Angry or horny drunk? Depressed or crazy lovey drunk? Do you get silly when you smoke, or esoteric? Lost in your own head or in tune with the world? These are important questions to find out the answers to before you play intoxicated. You don’t want to have a few drinks with someone and start spanking them only to find out they turn into a bitter, angry person when they’ve been drinking and start getting combative with you. These answers are also easier to get the more/ longer you’ve known someone. You may instinctively know the answers already. But ask these questions anyway.
- Know that certain intoxicants affect your body’s reactions and abilities. This may include but is certainly not limited to:
- Inability to get an erection.
- Inability/ difficulty reaching orgasm.
- Thinned blood (especially alcohol).
- Numbed/dulled senses: you may not realize that something is hurting you more than you’d like.
- Changed thinking and reasoning ability.
- Changed spatial & proprioceptive abilities.
- Do make DAMN sure you set up your “mise en place” (fancy French cooking word meaning “put in place”- everything is set-up) while you’re sober. Make sure you have all needed safety stuff- EMT shears, sharps containers, paper towels, etc.
- Make sure you and your partner are drinking enough non-alcoholic fluids. You should be doing this anyway, anytime you play, but it’s even more vital when either of you is intoxicated.
- Tops: Do check in with your partner. Are they coherent, laughing, talking, generally proving they’re present with you? If they’re not, stop playing immediately. If they go from laughing to silence in a matter of seconds, you might safely assume something is wrong. Stop what you’re doing, ask if they’re ok, give them a chance to respond, and if they don’t, or give a slow or ambiguous answer, stop the scene.
- Do not try something new intoxicated. You DON’T know what you’re doing. You DON’T know how you’re going to react. You DON’T know how your partner is going to react. Save it for when you’re sober.
- Don’t play heavy. This means avoiding long, drawn out scenes, and not doing big, heavy, cathartic scenes. Avoid emotional play: humiliation, emotional sadomasochism. Intoxicants can fuck with your negative emotions in unpredictable ways and what might have been acceptable humiliation play now becomes a sobbing breakdown. Do it sober.
- Don’t engage in heavy bondage. If you’ve been doing Shibari for years, maybe you know what you’re doing and it’s all muscle memory. But for many of us, this is not the case. Bondage (of any sort) requires intense focus and consideration of a lot of factors. You might not realize something is going numb, or you might not see your bottom’s fingers turning blue. Besides that, fast bodily changes brought on by the intoxicant can necessitate fast movement. If your bottom gets nauseated suddenly but you’ve got them so tied up they can’t move, what are you going to do? Cut all your ropes with EMT shears? Let them throw up all over your rug and themselves (and probably you)? Hunting for keys or undoing lots of straps can be too much work when you need to move someone fast. You can use verbal bondage instead: “don’t move your hands or you’re in trouble/ the scene is over”. The other thing I’ve seen is *loosely* tied thread around a wrist that’s then tacked to a wall. Your bottom can get out of that instantly but still have the illusion of bondage. But even then, you must be watching circulation. Better to use words or nothing at all.
- DO NOT play extremely intoxicated. Know your limits! Tipsy might be okay, but blind, black-out drunk is not. A bowl, a few hits on a joint might be okay, but dabbed out, edibled out is not. Pick which you want to do: get fucked up or play. Play first, then break out the dab rig and the shot glasses.
- Don’t play on heavy drugs. Even if you and your partner know how you are on Molly/coke/LSD, whatever, I strongly urge you to not play under their influence. Psychedelics can be unpredictable and the experience can quickly change, and their effects last a long time. I even include large amounts of alcohol in this category.
- Don’t use “precision” instruments if you’re an intoxicated top. Can you really throw that 10 ft bullwhip with 100% dead-on accuracy if you’re intoxicated? Can you really accurately gauge the depth of that scalpel cut you’re making?
- Do not negotiate intoxicated. Do not let an intoxicated bottom try to convince you they’re fine and want/ can handle more than what you and they’ve negotiated sober. Don’t let an intoxicated top convince you you really need this different thing/ type of play.
- Do not play intoxicated all the time. This should be at most, an occasional thing, not an everyday occurrence. If you find that you play under the influence all the time, it may be time to examine your reasons and your relationship with the intoxicant.
Why Play Under The Influence
So the question begging to be answered, after all this scary precautionary warning stuff, is why the hell would anyone play intoxicated? You might’ve read through all that and decided “nope, definitely not for me at all”. Some of you may have thought “oh good point, I should start doing/asking that thing”. For the curious readers asking “why”, this next section’s for you: explaining some of the reasons why I personally play intoxicated.
Control and Powerlessness
I’m a control fetishist; any way my power can be taken from me and I can be made to be helpless and out of control is extremely sexy to me. Forced intoxication can be a form of play that accomplishes this for me. Being forced to literally be physically out of control of my own body is incredibly hot to me. Having someone say “I am literally going to take away your ability to think clearly and function without me because I want to” gets me going. It’s another level of deep control, another piece of me to control and take over. It can make me feel very powerless in a very real way. It forces me to trust and be dependent on my top. This type of play is absolutely best with a sober top in control.
In Vino Veritas
Alcohol has a long, well-earned reputation for acting as truth serum. It lowers your inhibitions, filters, and censors. It can make me more likely to admit to certain things, or express desires for things that I might otherwise be too embarrassed to say out loud. I’m pretty unashamed about my kink desires but there are definitely some times having “mental lube” helps. Alcohol especially has a rep for being good for lowering inhibitions and being a general “social lubricant”. This can be dangerous, yes. But if used carefully and purposefully, this can work to your advantage. An example: recently I was taking my sub out to a femdom event and he was going “en femme”, something that was making him edgy and nervous. A couple hours before we needed to leave, I gave him a glass of liquor with our dinner. I wanted him to relax a little bit and not worry so intensely. It was a single drink, a good amount of time before we were set to go out. I also knew that I wasn’t going to be engaging in any sort of high-intensity play requiring a lot of focus and concentration, or heavy pain play that would be better with him fully present.
All that said, alcohol shouldn’t be used as a “feelings eraser”. Don’t just drink away your problems/ anxieties/ feelings. Address real issues sober. This should be just to take the edge off, not numb feelings entirely.
Bleed For Me Baby
One of the things that alcohol does very well is thin the blood. For all you sanguiphiles out there, this means that when you do something involving piercing the skin, the piercee is going to bleed a lot easier. This can be really fun- as long as you’re ready for it. Blood draws and needles can get a lot wetter. Note though that blood thinning can also be achieved through the use of aspirin (the piercee eats a couple about an hour before play). If you’re doing a blood draw or play that you expect to get really bloody, the piercer/top should be sober.
Expanded Sexual Abilities
I discovered I was multiply orgasmic with the “help” of cannabis. I was high and masturbating with my Hitachi one day, and I came. Prior to this day, my normal MO would be to immediately turn off the vibrator and be done- continued stimulation was too much, too intense. But that day, I was relaxed and in my happy place, and when I came, I decided to keep going. I figured, I’m not going to die, why not see where this goes? I breathed through the intensity and kept the toy on. I came again, and realized I could do this multiple times. I truly believe that the cannabis made me relaxed and open enough to keep going and discover my multiple abilities. It can help you relax and feel good about gently stretching limits when used conscientiously and with intention.
Ritual, Spirituality, and “Mind Expansion”
You’ll have to forgive my indulgence in a little “woo woo” here for a second. The use of intoxicants for personal growth has gone on for many, many years. Peyote trips, ayahuasca fever dreams, shrooming, even ritualized drinking have all been used as pathways to a more “enlightened” state of being. Being able to “get out of your own way” through the use of intoxicants can be extremely powerful. Combined with the expansive qualities of BDSM play, you and your partners could potentially learn a lot about each other and yourselves. Perhaps you want to intentionally create a ritual space that utilizes intoxicants and BDSM as a way to work through a particular issue, or simply create a ritual to bond you and your partner/s on a deeper, more intimate level.
I’ve had a night where I was in a really bad, sad, unhappy place, an unshakable funk. Sober, I went to my partner and said “look, I’m feeling this way and I want to do something about it. I want to have a couple drinks to help me relax and alter my headspace, then I want you to beat me til I cry”. This was a well-known, trusted partner I’d been with for a while. I needed help getting my emotions to the surface; the alcohol helped pull back my armor and the beating was wonderfully cathartic and helpful. I felt so much better afterwards. I know this scene violates one of my don’ts, but I felt comfortable doing it because I knew how I would be with 2 drinks in me, because I had played hard previously with this partner, because she remained sober, and because I had negotiated the scene sober myself.
When playing to enhance spirituality or mental states, or to experience different types of altered consciousness, I think intentionality is the key to a successful scene. Why are you doing this? What do you want to accomplish? Can you get there via sober play? Why do you want to use an intoxicant? Which intoxicant are you going to use? Is the D-type going to remain sober? Is the s-type? Ask yourselves these questions before you play.
Alcohol vs Cannabis
A special aside (as a cannabis activist, I want to educate as often as possible, so forgive me if you’ve heard this before): For those of you readers who’ve never consumed cannabis but who’ve been drunk, you may think that feeling is analogous (high=drunk). Please believe me and MANY other people who strongly disagree with you. When I’m drunk, I am literally, physically out of control of my body and my mind. I cannot predict what I’m going to do, I cannot control my reactions or what my body is doing. I can become in short order a “hot mess”. But being high is vastly different. I am altered, yes, absolutely. But I am still able to reason and think clearly. I am in control of my body and what I am doing; there is no thinking “I’m being sexy and coy by moving this way” and instead looking like an idiotic drunken sailor. If I want to move sexily on cannabis, I’m able to do so and not look like an idiot. I maintain my complete consciousness and my whole personality; there is no dramatic shift of who I am like there can be for many people when they drink (angry or sad drunks anyone?) Being high is difficult to explain to people who’ve never tried it. My own doctor girlfriend said the same thing when she first tried it, “I thought it would be like alcohol but it’s absolutely not”.
The Moral Of The Story
Above all things, realize that you alone are ultimately responsible for yourself. Bottoms and tops, I’m looking at both of you equally here. Consent is vital. Sober negotiation and trust are vital. These are part of consent. Realize that this is true edgeplay, and that there could be serious consequences for your choices. I encourage you to enjoy your life and be spontaneous, but I also strongly caution against playing under the influence.