Did you know that, according to one 2019 survey, 75% of the women who responded and 66% of the men said that they enjoyed spanking? Spanking and other forms of impact play (hitting people consensually for sexual or kinky purposes) are incredibly popular fetishes, and people enjoy them for all kinds of reasons.
Pain triggers an endorphin rush, which can cause a kind of pleasurable euphoria. The butt (the most popular area to hit) is packed with sensitive nerves and located close to the genitals. Some people enjoy impact play for the power dynamic it implies, as part of a “punishment”, or to enhance a roleplay scenario.
But if you don’t know what you’re doing, impact play can carry some risks. Read on to learn some easy strategies to help you mitigate them and play safely, wherever you are in your kinky journey.
Always Have a Safeword
A safeword is a codeword used during a BDSM scene to mean “stop”. They can be particularly useful if you are doing roleplay scenarios in which some form of resistance is part of the game, but we recommend having one for any kind of kinky play.
Many kinksters use traffic light safewords: “red” means “stop everything right now”, and “orange” means “pause and check in.” This can be useful to differentiate between situations where the entire scene needs to end, and situations where a small adjustment–such as changing position or dialling back the intensity–is all that’s needed.
Remember that unless you have explicitly negotiated otherwise, words such as “no”, “stop”, or “pause” are the ultimate safewords and must be taken at face value.
Start with Safer Activities
“Impact play” covers a wide variety of activities, of which spanking with the hand is just the most well-known and most common. It is also one of the safest. As you introduce implements into your impact play, the risk increases.
We recommend starting with hand spanking and then working your way up if you want to. A soft flogger or leather paddle is unlikely to do much damage as long as you watch your aim and hit in safe areas of the body (see below.) A heavy wooden paddle or beaded flogger carries more risk and should be approached cautiously once you are confident that you can aim accurately and determine the intensity of your strikes. Canes, too, are more dangerous than you might think.
And at the most dangerous end of the spectrum, single-tail whips move so fast that they break the sound barrier (that’s what the “crack” is!) These implements should only ever be used by experts–they can tear flesh and put people in hospital if you make a mistake.
Get Some Tuition
If possible, it is a good idea to attend a basic impact play workshop when you’re starting out. Then, as you progress, you can attend more advanced sessions or those focused on specific skills (such as florentine flogging, caning, or using single-tail whips.)
You might be able to find workshops through dungeons, sex clubs, sex shops, kinky conferences, or kink education organisations. Look up your town or city on Fetlife to see what’s available. Local educators may also offer private or small group tuition. At the very least, watch some videos and read some resources from reputable experts.
Learn the Safe Places to Hit
One of the most important aspects of doing impact play safely lies in learning which parts of the body are and are not safe to strike.
Sticking to fleshy, padded areas such as the buttocks and backs of the thighs is always a good idea, especially when you are just starting out. Large muscular areas such as the upper back and shoulders are also fairly safe. The inner thighs and upper arms can take some impact, and the breasts and chest are okay as long as you are careful. Some people enjoy impact play on their genitals. Go very cautiously if you decide to experiment with this, particularly around the testicles.
Never, ever hit the lower back, as this can cause kidney damage. Avoid the spine, neck and face, too. Stay away from joints, bony areas, the hands and feet, and any areas where the bottom has an injury or experiences chronic pain.
Start Gently and Work Your Way Up
Bottoms (people who enjoy receiving impact play) are hugely varied in how much pain they can, or want to, take. You cannot know what’s true for any particular bottom without asking them, and probably experimenting a bit to find the sweet spot for your play together. Most people can take more, and will get more enjoyment out of the session, if you warm them up first.
Therefore, start slowly and gently. Watch for your partner’s reactions and gradually increase the intensity of the blows. If they seem as though they are starting to struggle, back off a little or pause and check in.
A 1-10 pain scale, where 1 is “no pain” and 10 is “my absolute limit”, can help here. Check in regularly and ask the bottom what level they are at. Asking what level they would like to be at is also useful–if they’re currently a 4 but want to be a 7, you can ramp things up. If they’re at a 5 and happy to stay there, you know not to escalate the intensity any further.
Remember: if you’re a Top (the person giving the impact play), you get to have limits, too! Your partner might want you to whip them until they bleed but if you’re not comfortable with it, you don’t have to agree. No-one, top or bottom, should ever be pressured into something they don’t want to do.
Communication is at the heart of hot sex, good kink, and positive relationships. Talk to your partner(s) about your desires and limits, and ask them about theirs. Discuss and take into account any factors that might affect your play on a given day. Check in regularly to make sure everyone is having a good time.
By being honest with yourselves and communicative with each other, you’ll be able to keep having the kinds of safe and hot kinky play you desire.