The Endorphin Levels in BDSM
Disclaimer: The author is not a medical doctor, though this information has been checked with a doctor and two nurses who are in the BDSM scene. Frisky Business Boutique assumes no responsibility for people who use this information or for the effects that may arise from the application of the information presented in this article.
Although everyone into the BDSM scene has heard of endorphins, very few people really understand what they are, how they work, what the “endorphin high” is all about, and how one can correctly induce the body to produce them. This short primer will answer those questions, and serve as a guide for anyone topping another so that they may successfully send their bottom into a very deep endorphin stupor (also known as “leaving them in a big puddle of quivering ecstasy”).
The endorphin high is caused by a bunch of natural, morphine-like chemicals the body pumps into the brain to reduce a person’s sensitivity to pain and raising the pain threshold. The fact that the body seems to release these endorphins in measured ‘loads’ is a key to understanding how to manipulate the body to produce these loads and release them into the body and brain region when the load is ready.
Another chemical, adrenalin, is also produced by the body in reaction to pain, and its behavior should be understood also. This is covered later more thoroughly in the section on aftercare, which is a very essential element in guaranteeing the success of the effort.
The endorphin loads release in their entirety, and it takes the body about ten minutes to generate another one. After the body releases a load into the system, it needs at least ten minutes of some sort of stimulation before it will be ready to release another one. This stimulation can be just about anything – sensation play, light paddling, flogging, or light caning, for example – and it does not have to be nearly the intensity of the stimulation that caused the release of the last endorphin load.
Once prepared, an increase in stimulation over a five-minute span up to a measured “climax” will trigger the body to release the freshly-prepared load, based upon the submissive’s current pain threshold, measured to push them over a new edge.
Armed with this information, what does a session look like from the top’s and bottom’s points of view?
When a scene first starts, there are no endorphins in the submissive and even fairly light torment is very stingy, ouchy, and, well, painful! Fortunately, the body keeps an endorphin reserve in place ready to release in case of an emergency. This reserve endorphin load is released after just a few minutes of even relatively mild stimulation building to a mild climax, and suddenly the pain threshold clearly rises. Now, the subject can easily tolerate what may have been pushing the limits before, making him jump around and squirm, for instance. This new, more pain-tolerant state is Level One. There is no altered state of consciousness yet, but there is an increased pain threshold.
Once this has happened, for the top the next 10 minutes is spent doing anything that provides relatively light but constant stimulation to induce the bottom’s body to create the next endorphin load for release. This is a good time for sensation play, light paddling, flogging, or whipping. This is a chance for the top to relax, since the stimulation can be very mild and easy to apply during this time.
Once the ten minutes has passed, a build in intensity over a subsequent five-minute period will excite the body to a peak, and a sudden 10 to 15 seconds of intense stimulation just beyond the person’s current pain threshold limit will trigger the body to eject its freshly-made endorphin load into the bloodstream. Now the bottom will be at Level Two, with still no perceivable altered state of consciousness (beyond panting in relief that you, the top, have ceased with the intense bit), but there is a considerable and noticeable leap in pain threshold now.
Following this, another ten minutes of mild, easy stimulation provokes the body into generating the next load. Keep this well below the pain threshold you’ve now created, with just a little intense whack every so often, about a minute apart. This will keep the adrenalin build-up to a minimum, for reasons explained later on. Time to relax, tops; rest that arm and wrist a bit! This relaxing ten minutes is followed with five minutes of building the intensity again to well above the previous level. The bottom’s pain threshold is pretty high now and he can take a lot more before the body interprets this as being “in crisis” and triggers the next endorphin release. Finish off with 10 seconds to a minute of a very intense, over-the-edge push, and the body will inject that next load.
Now at Level Three, the bottom will definitely feel a little bit woozy, exhibiting a mildly-drugged state. His eyelids should appear droopy, and he will fall into a more relaxed condition than before, more low moans and groans, and lower inhibitions. Again, applying ten minutes of any relatively mild stimulation followed by a five-minute build and a 10- to 15-second intense climax well beyond the previous one will release the next endorphin load and push the bottom into a very nice Level Four head space.
At this Level Four state, there is a very definite altered state of consciousness. The bottom will feel drugged and will be very compliant and submissive now. This iscountered, however, by the largest charges of adrenalin he has received so far, the result of the intense climax just used to push him over this edge. The bottom is still quite communicative and his reaction time is still quick. The bottom may even be hypersensitive: a small whack with a paddle, cane, or whip can now generate a huge amount of twitching or jerking of the subject’s body. Now, during the ten minute “treading water” period for the top, the moans and groans will be longer and deeper, the body often limp in its restraints, and the reactions to the occasional harder strikes will be obvious. This is the top’s finest time: she can still relax and not exert herself very hard, yet produce fine moans of ecstasy from her bottom with hardly any provocation! The pain threshold is high even though the reaction time is increased from the adrenalin. Harder occasional strikes are welcomed, and the reactions are certainly encouraging!
Sexual play with the bottom should occur around Level Three or Four. After after hitting Level Five, the bottom may be unable to concentrate for long on what he is doing. That can result in passionate and inhibition-free indulgence, resulting in heights of ecstasy never before experienced, or the bottom can lose his erection and be unable to concentrate. There’s no telling which way the bottom will go once he achieves Level Five or Six.
After this ten minute endorphin replenishment period, it is important to be very sensitive to the limit levels crossed earlier, as the top begins that five-minute build in intensity that will end in the most intense limit-pushing the top might do with the bottom for this session (presuming the top stops at Level Five). The bottom will have a very high pain threshold at this time, but also will be fairly groggy and less able to communicate a safe word. In fact, the bottom will now be so compliant that it is very unlikely that he would use it even if he ought to do so! So, push this “grand finale” with finesse and sensitivity to what is going on with the bottom! At the other end of the 10- to 30- second climactic build in intensity – in a wonderful blast – this latest endorphin load will push the bottom into Level Five: a state of supreme ecstasy, docility, and the bottom’s ability to take just about anything the top could do to him. The bottom will become very limp and relaxed very suddenly – and be very clearly in an altered state of consciousness.
This is the point most people end the scene and remove the bottom to cloak him in a blanket and begin the all-important aftercare, and unless the top knows the bottom extremely well, this is where the session should end. However, for those who do know the bottom’s limits, the rules and timing are the same as with the earlier segments. Now, the “mild” stimulation could be fairly intense, and the bottom will become extremely submissive and accepting of any amount of stimulation the top bestows upon him. This is a dangerous condition because there is NO WAY a person will utter a safe word in this condition. The bottom can barely talk at all! It is best to keep the stimulation relatively intense but not too extreme. The stronger intensity will hold up the adrenalin levels, and the combination with the elevated endorphins levels creates a condition of intense excitement and of simultaneously intense ecstatic relaxation for the bottom, so he’ll be into receiving whatever is being doled out. (More on adrenalin in a minute, though!) Again, finish off after the ten minutes with a building in intensity to one beyond that reached earlier, with a 10- to 15-second extreme point, and the next endorphin load will be released. Now we have brought the bottom to a very amazing Level Six! Again, this should only be attempted with a bottom whose limits and abilities are already very well known. The top is working without the benefit of safe words being utterable; care must be exercised this whole while.
The bottom’s behavior can become unpredictable at this point with all the adrenalin and endorphins coursing through the body. Be prepared to restrain against some wild thrashing and arm flailing (or at least be out of harm’s way). The bottom is in such an intensely altered state of consciousness that his reactions could possibly be extremely primitive in nature. He may only be capable of animal-like noises and very little speech. Following this reasoning, approach the subject as you would a wild animal: very gently, speak soothingly, and gesture in a calming manner. Be prepared for sudden jerking, or attempts to get away. Don’t take the erratic behavior personally! At Level Six, this person is totally ga-ga! Be assured, the bottom is enjoying every millisecond of this experience, and a very long period of dreaminess is now in store for him if the aftercare is handled properly.
Why do I go on and on about the aftercare? The work of putting endorphins into the subject’s body is finished, right? Well, yes, but you have also succeeded in putting very, very large amounts of adrenalin into the bottom’s system, and adrenalin is tricky stuff. Even at Level Four, aftercare is important because of how quickly adrenalin burns off compared to endorphins, which burn off very slowly. At Level Five or Level Six, there is enough adrenalin in the body that it will take at least 10 to 20 minutes for it to burn off (or longer). During this time, the bottom is likely to experience a number of adrenalin crashes (similar to coffee jags). Some of these can be intense and even quite frightening. The bottom will need to be kept warm and be held and comforted AT LEAST throughout this period of adrenalin burn-off. My opinion is that if you don’t care enough for the bottom to cuddle and caress them for up to half an hour, you probably shouldn’t be taking them to any Level Six endorphin/adrenalin levels.
The adrenalin “crash” experience for the bottom is something many, many tops are unaware of, and they have no concept of the amount of harm they could be doing to someone’s psychological state by not performing adequate, comforting aftercare. All the bottom needs now is to be held and to hold you (or whoever you assign to perform aftercare), to be comforted by your presence, and to be allowed to make youbecome the entire focus of their awareness. No stroking, or massage, or other stimulus is needed or even desirable at this time. What is important is to keep in contact with the bottom (not requiring words as responses, merely nods), and instruct the bottom every little while to relax. The adrenalin will have him in a very agitated state – with high heart beat and breathing levels – and this situation is completely counter to the endorphin experience. Sure, the bottom has a ton of endorphins in his system, but the adrenalin is presently holding the endorphins off and the bottom isn’t experiencing their full effect. The top’s guidance is extremely important to help the bottom relax through the adrenalin burn-off period.
If not actually “talked down” out of the adrenalin agitation, the bottom could easilynever allow himself to relax enough to even feel the massive content of endorphins that currently exist in his system! Maybe you’ve seen a bottom who – after an hour of intense stimulation to the point of near-total collapse on the cross or bench – is released and after a mere couple of minutes is mingling with people as if nothing ever happened. These people are floating on a self-sustained adrenalin buzz. This is not only unhealthy, but these bottoms are also cheating themselves out of a long,long stretch of total endorphin-induced ecstasy!
While gently holding the bottom and letting him hold you back, coo softly and comfort him, and tell him to let himself relax. You will feel him do so as he complies to your wishes, as he is quite docile and open to receiving instructions at this point. But he will also slowly tense up again from the adrenalin. Keep reminding him to relax, telling him to give himself permission to relax totally.
As the bottom begins to relax after a while, he may experience a frightening “falling off a cliff” feeling that makes him tense again, or “blackness” as the endorphins relax the bottom’s optic nerve. This is a side effect of the chemicals burning off. The top’s job is to reassure the bottom that these experiences are completely normal, to let go and pass through it. The bottom has to relax through the sensation of falling or blackness with the understanding that this is quite normal and is a common experience. Once he does that, having “relaxed through it,” he will be “in it” after that point, and will relax deeply, often seeing beautiful technicolor visions and dreamlike landscapes, spaces, and places. How sweet!
Once this happens, your bottom needs only a little more loving attention, and can then be left bundled in a blanket somewhere on their own to float in a happy bubble, very possibly for hours!
There is another factor that can produce an altered state of consciousness far, farbeyond even that of the most extreme endorphin experience. This is experienced by submissives whose intense focus upon their Master or Mistress (their Dominant) – and upon pleasing them – eventually leads to a hallucinogenic kind of altered state known commonly in the BDSM community as “flying.” This word has an almost mythological aura in the scene for very good reasons! It is probably the most profound experience one can have as a submissive. It involves a state of intense devotion towards the dominant (who is not just a mere “top” at this point) that borders upon religious worship, with complete trust and a total commitment to please and satisfy the Dom thoroughly. Through the attainment of a complete selflessness and focus on the dominant, a transformation takes place that is very, very deep, almost trance-like. It can become so profound as to produce an extended, blissful hallucinogenic state. Many have reported even seeing visions under the spell of this “flying” effect. All have attested to the profound sense of peace and bliss they have experienced while even near the edge of this state.
This flying state can be attained by some with very little endorphin content in their systems. (Some claim no endorphins are required, but I’m quite certain most folks have attained at least a level Three or Level Four endorphin high in order to trigger the total release of inhibitions that this psychological state seems to require, at least generally speaking.) With practice, the release into this “flying” submissive-space should come easier and easier, eventually with even a mere suggestion triggering the effect for some with very little or even no endorphin content being in the picture. COMBINED with the Level Five or Six endorphin head space, there likely can be no deeper state of ecstasy possible for the bottom — short of total enlightenment! Until such an experience of full enlightenment can be accomplished, perhaps the attainment of this interim bliss is acceptable, and certainly should be considered an attractive and enjoyable state to be in! The secret ingredients are: intense focus; a commitment to please the dominant utterly; and, complete and total devotion. These ingredients – with some endorphins in the mix – should produce a quite satisfying effect for both the submissive and the dominant.
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