Play versus "deep play" versus work

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One of the interesting ideas about BDSM is that it's used by some folk as a means to satisfy hidden needs. That is, although the play may appear to be about one thing---such as artistic expression via decorative bondage, or as foreplay for sex---it is also about something else which is hidden from one, or even both, people involved.

For example, someone with a very conservative upbringing who also has a strong need to be submissive to, or to feel the power of their partner may engage in BDSM for the outward purpose of a bit of recreation or as kinky foreplay before sex. By doing this they can avoid admitting to themselves or their partner that they are indeed looking to submit or surrender. They can couch their desires in more acceptable terms of simple kinky sex or "just a bit of fun" when it is actually a much deeper and more serious need that they're looking to satisfy.

This means that we can talk about the play which is occurring at an obvious and perhaps superficial level (such as kinky sex), and then talk about the "deep play"[1] which is where the real satisfaction is coming from (the submission or surrender, for example).

We can sometimes tell that "deep play" is involved for someone when they become unusually or excessively irritated or concerned when a planned play date needs to be cancelled or moved. If it really were just a simple play date for some light recreation then there should be no problem with it being deferred. But if an expectation had unconsciously built-up inside the person that a deeper need was soon to be met, then the cancellation or time change might cause hidden needs and frustration to spill out.

When we know or suspect this is happening, when we know that there are hidden drives or motivations beyond what is being said or admitted, we need to be careful to treat the scenes with our partner much more seriously. For example, if our partner has been looking forward to "just a bit of fun" with a flogger, and we know from past experience that if this scene doesn't happen as scheduled or it's interrupted that they get irritable or angry, then we need to make sure that the "bit of fun" does actually happen as planned. Even though if it were "just a bit of fun" it wouldn't matter if it happened or not, we need to accept that it is much more than just a bit of fun and act appropriately. This can make the "fun" more like "work" for us, but this is something we do for our partner to ensure they get what they need, even when they won't admit the need.

See also


  1. [Geertz1973]