When one of my editors asked me to write a novella about subspace I thought, hmm. I’ve heard so much about it but never really studied it. So like everything else, I set out to research it. My first question was: what the hell is subspace actually? I can assure you, it has nothing to do with being in a submarine.
Subspace is a collection of things, depending on who you ask. One definition describes it as a state in which the body and mind are turned on and over-stimulated to the point where extreme levels of pain become pleasurable. the sub enters into a natural occurring trance separating mind and body and it takes a observant Dom to recognize and handle.
Another says subspace is a metaphor for the state the bottom's mind and body is in during a deeply involved play scene. Many types of BDSM play invoke strong physical responses, for example in the use of whips or canes The psychological aspect of BDSM also causes many bottoms to mentally separate themselves from their environment as they process the experience. Deep subspace is often characterized as a state of deep recession and incoherence. A good Dom pays careful attention to the sub to make sure the bottom isn't placing him or her self in danger. Many bottoms require aftercare while returning from subspace.
For some, it’s the sensation of being out of the body and away from the events that are going on. This detachment from the body causes the slave to be able to ‘take’ more pain and more verbal attacks from a Dominant, often also resulting in the slave complying with every wish without hesitation or without any resistance. The slave is sort of a ‘super slave’ at this point – able to do everything that their Dominant wishes of them.
Another idea is that subspace is the point at which the body begins to produce endorphins in order to fend off physical pain. This rush of chemicals in the body makes the slave feel good and allows them to forget about anything that might be uncomfortable. Their brains are telling them that all is right with the world. This feeling can continue from the scene into the moments and hours after the scene is over.
During the scene, the intense experiences of both pain and pleasure trigger a sympathetic nervous system response, which causes a release of epinephrine from the suprarenal glands, as well as a dump of endorphins. These natural chemicals, part of the fight or flight response, produce the same effect as a morphine-like drug, increasing the pain tolerance of the submissive as the scene becomes more intense.
Since the increase of hormones and chemicals produces a sort of trance-like state, the submissive starts to feel out-of-body, detached from reality, and as the high comes down, and the parasympathetic nervous system kicks in, a deep exhaustion, as well as incoherence. Many submissives, upon reaching a height of subspace, will lose all sensation of pain, as any stimulus causes the period to prolong.
The physiological and psychological descent from total consciousness to the relaxing, uninhibited plane that is sub-space can be mind-blowing - indeed, mind-expanding - especially the first time it happens.
It’s the BDSM equivalent of “going to your happy place.”
And for some, it’s extremely happy.