top of page

How to Achieve Sub Space

In BDSM, sub space is a coveted altered state of consciousness achieved through pain or submission

Woman in a thong straddling a man in handcuffs
Shutterstock ID 1355843663

Lots of people have been asking me this question. I have been reluctant to answer for a variety of reasons.

Sub space is not just one state, but several. People vary a lot in their ability to get to sub space and in the type of sub space they will achieve. Although I have lots of ideas about the neurophysiological mechanisms that produce sub space, all of this is still very speculative. Therefore, I can give you some pointers on how to get to sub space, but it is ultimately up to each top and bottom to find out what works for them.

I should emphasize that the single most important factor in determining the outcome of a scene is the ability of the top to communicate and read the responses of the bottom, and to adjust his actions accordingly. To just apply a one-size-fits-all standardized recipe would not produce good results and may even lead to disaster.

Anyway, let me give it a shot.

Scene preparation

A lot of what happens in a scene depends on the state of mind of the bottom before the scene, so it helps to start preparing it several days in advance. This can be a natural extension of the negotiation process. It may consist of more or less explicit threats, probing questions, fantasy build up and even some preparation exercises. Restraining from masturbation and sexual activity 24 hours before a scene can help build up sexual tension.


Previous care could be a good way to prevent sub drop. It’s a bit like aftercare, but it takes place just before a scene.

The top should remind the bottom of the safeword, give assurances that it will respected, and say encouraging words to help build empathy.

Top and bottom should start by completely focusing on each other and excluding any external distraction. Blindfolding the bottom can do marvels to make her focus on her sensations.

The top should talk in a voice that is clear, slow, sensual, secure and deep to achieve a mild hypnotic effect.

Next comes undressing the bottom, which should make her aware of every part of the body that is being exposed and how vulnerable that makes her. Add some bondage and let the bottom consider for a few minutes her predicament in silence.


Although not strictly required, pain is the surest and shortest path to sub space.

It should be sensual and never outpace the ability of the bottom to process it. Sensual pain is directed towards erogenous zones (the buttocks in a spanking, the labia or the nipples using clamps, etc.) and stimulates the skin, producing a warm sensation. Combining pain with caresses works very well.

A basic mechanism in our spinal cord called the “pain gate” causes touch to eliminate pain. For example, if you hit a bottom with a cane and then immediately caress the injured skin, it will be felt as if the hand is erasing the pain. Both the pain and the caressing will help to drive the attention to sensations and lead towards subspace.

If you don’t want to use pain, continuous stroking all over the naked body will produce a mental altered state. There is no need for sexual stimulation at this point, we can save that for later. However, stimulating the nipples releases oxytocin, the bonding hormone, so doing it will help the bottom empathize with the top and encourage the serotonin/dopamine type of sub space.

Drawing towards the adrenaline peak

Once the bottom has been warmed up, more intense pain can be applied in a continuous way to produce a peak experience.

I would aim for an adrenaline sub space by instructing the bottom to struggle, scream and complain as much as he wants. Lots of activity encourages the fight/flight reaction, adrenaline release, and the ensuing increases in heart rate and breathing. If using impact play, the cadence of the strokes should be regular, continuous and relentless. It should convey the psychological message that the top is not going to let up, that this can go on forever. The top could even say that aloud and try to evoke fear with threats.

At some point, however, the bottom will give up the struggle. She may stop thrashing and screaming, and hang limp for her restraints. There may even be weeping and sobbing (check that she is OK!). All this tells us that she is ready for the next step.

The endorphin high

The body has a tendency to transition from an adrenaline high to an endorphin high with the right kind of stimulation.

For that to happen, the painful stimulation needs to continue. Everything needs to slow down a bit, however. One thing that can work is to alternate caresses with a few hard blows. The top should use a sensual voice to whisper encouraging words into the ears of the bottom. To help build some real submission, tell her how happy it makes you that he is taking all that pain for you. Turn off the fear, though. That doesn’t belong in this state. Tell her that she is going to be OK, then hit her hard a few times.

In the endorphin state, the bottom has trouble responding and does so in a dreamy voice. Her heart rate is down and she is reluctant to move. She doesn’t know what she wants, but if you stop beating her you may be surprised to hear her complain. She wants this to go on forever - she is in the “forever place”.

The submission phase

Another type of sub space is a mental condition of true submission and surrender, probably mediated by serotonin and dopamine. As I said before, nipple stimulation can encourage this by releasing oxytocin.

After going through heavy pain, the adrenaline peak and the endorphin high, the submissive should be in a mellow state and ready to follow orders. Asking submissives for some service (give a massage, suck cock, eat pussy, etc.) can help to bring them out of the passive state of the endorphin high to enjoy submitting with a clearer mind.

The sex phase

Not all scenes need to incorporate sex, of course. But, when they do, this should happen at the end. Orgasms at the beginning can interfere with other mental states. Still, some women will orgasm through anything and use their orgasms to power their sub space.

In my view, sex should be a continuation of the submission phase and convey to bottoms the idea that they are being used for the pleasure of the top.

Orgasms should happen with permission or on command.


To avoid sub drop, the BDSM scene should transition without pause into aftercare.

First, all bondage and stimulation (butt plugs, clamps, etc.) need to be removed.

Second, the bottom probably needs to be warmed up, particularly if the adrenergic peak has been strong. The sympathetic nervous system gets activated during that peak, so at the end of the scene the parasympathetic system kicks in, withdrawing blood from the periphery and slowing down metabolism and heart rate, all of which produces the feeling of cold.

Mild, non-intrusive emotional connection needs to be established. However, this is not the time to process and analyze the scene, but to provide the bottom with a safe landing from an extreme physical and mental experience.

So, there you have it! That’s my take on how to achieve sub space. Mix and match those different phases any way you like it, and have fun!

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page