An Intro to BDSM Subspace: What Every Submissive Should Know

What is subspace? 

In the BDSM world, there are Dominants (sometimes referred to as “tops”) and there are submissives (sometimes referred to as “bottoms”). When a Dom and sub interact with each other during a scene, things can get very intense for everyone involved (in the best kind of ways). 

“Subspace” is the state of being that can be experienced by a submissive during a BDSM scene. In this article, I’ll explain how subspace happens, how to achieve it with a partner and on your own, how to “level out” properly, and other things that are important to know about this intense, magical experience that submissives have.

There are two main kinds of subspace: psychological and physiological. 

  • Psychological subspace may be brought on by the connection the submissive has with their Dom or triggered by the Dom using certain words or commands during play.
  • Physiological subspace is accessed through sustained impact play (floggers, spanking, paddles, etc). 

How do I get to subspace? 
There are several ways to get into subspace both with a partner and on your own (more on that below). As mentioned above, psychological subspace will be brought on by things like triggering words or commands from your Dom/me or from porn. For me, for example, this is often phrases like “my little Slut” followed by possessive remarks such as “I own you” or “you’re mine.” In-person, a simple hand around the throat (not gripping tightly) can cement ownership over me and shift me closer to subspace. 

Trigger words and commands will be different for everyone and it’s the responsibility of your Dom/me to use them wisely and keep you safe. 

Physiological subspace can be achieved through things like impact play, but as I said, they can also be achieved by a softer touch such as a hand around your throat, for example. 

Can subspace be addictive?
Subspace absolutely can be an addictive thing. You feel hazy, euphoric, almost high - and that’s before we even touch the actual pleasure that’s happening through partner or solo play. Sex in itself can be addicting, so the respective spaces that we achieve through BDSM play (both dom and subspace) can be just as addicting. 

Subspace looks different for everyone and you may find it difficult to get there if there are underlying issues or concerns. 
Subspace will look and feel different for all submissives who experience it. Not all submissives will experience subspace and this could be for multiple reasons including (but not limited to): trust issues in the relationship, an inability to climax with your partner, stress, anxiety, mental blocks, etc. 

What happens in your brain when you experience subspace?

For anyone (like me) who is interested in how these things actually happen in the brain during sex, you’re in luck - I’m about to dive into some hormone-brain-chemistry stuff. Subspace, like many other reactions to sexual arousal and stimulation, is a result of chemical reactions in your brain.

Adrenaline is responsible for the increased pain tolerance some people experience. It can also be responsible for some of the euphoria feelings. 

Endorphins are also released during play - the more pleasure (or pain) that’s experienced, the more endorphins will be released. 

Dopamine, prolactin, cortisol, and oxytocin are also released in waves during sexual arousal and climax. 

Dopamine is something that plays a role in sexual arousal, prolactin helps to provide the more intense sensation you feel during climax, and oxytocin is known as the “love hormone” - it makes you feel that warm, fuzzy, comfortable, “tattoo-your-name-on-my-chest” kind of feeling post-orgasm. 

Cortisol is also released during subspace. Typically, cortisol is referred to as your “fight or flight” hormone as it is designed to let you know when you’re in danger. When cortisol is present during a time of trust and relaxation (as with most D/s dynamics where you would experience subspace), it has the opposite impact. In fact, it often contributes and boosts the release of oxytocin and can push you deeper into the trance-like state that is subspace.

BDSM terms you should be familiar with as a submissive...

Although it feels like we’ve beat these terms to death already, if you’re new here (or to the BDSM game in general) then let’s clarify some common terms so we know what we’re getting into.

Dominant 
A Dominant can be referred to as many things (Dom, Sir, Daddy, Master). This is a person who takes on the role of superior and often controls the other participant (the submissive) during BDSM play. A female Dominant is commonly referred to as a Domme or Mistress.

Submissive
A submissive can be referred to as many different things as well, from “sub” to “slave” to “slut” - and this is someone who willingly gives up some or all control during BDSM play to their Dominant partner(s). A submissive may also be referred to as a “bottom”, with Dominants being referred to as a “top” in a BDSM scene. 

Switch
Someone who identifies as a “switch” personality is someone who feels comfortable in both Dominant and submissive roles during BDSM play. They will switch roles when they want to, in certain situations or with certain partners. 

Domspace
“Domspace” is to Doms what subspace is to submissives - it’s that place we go when we’re at the height of play. Domspace has been described as an intense, altered state of consciousness. While Domspace can be related to subspace, there is one large difference - Doms have to remain in control of the situation during a scene, so they can be sensitive to and adhere to the needs of their submissive. There is still a kind of “letting go of the outside world” and an intense focus on the scene at hand, but Doms still need to remain somewhat in control. 

Domdrop (or top drop)
Domspace can be quite intense, both emotionally and physically - Domdrop is what happens after a scene has ended. A Dom might experience this after-effect of Domspace where they feel low, guilty, depressed, and exhausted. This can stem from the actual physical things they did during Domspace (such as impact play, degradation, etc) or it can stem from the exhaustion of entering such an intense altered state. 

Subdrop (or bottom drop)
Subdrop can be an intense post-play experience for submissives that will often include feelings of depression, exhaustion, jitters, and/or the feeling of being a bit “lost” from reality. The feelings experienced during subdrop (and domdrop, for that matter) are going to vary based on the scene that just unfolded. 

Aftercare 
In the BDSM world, aftercare is an extremely important ritual that should take place after every BDSM scene. This is the part where partners attend to each other’s physical and emotional needs. This can be drinking water, tending to wounds inflicted during play, reassuring each other, and/or cuddling. Every person (both Doms and subs) will require different types of aftercare, and each scene you engage in may require additional aftercare as well. Be sure to communicate with your partner how you’re feeling and what you need after play. 

You can read more about common BDSM roles (and other things you should know) here.

What does subspace feel like?

“Hazy. So wonderfully hazy. That's the best way I can explain it. Entering my subspace, there are "layers" to it. The first layer is giddy excitement. I feel drunk and excited and happy. The layers under that blur together, and I slowly get hazier and hazier. Everything begins to feel like a dream. It's surreal and intimate, and almost ethereal…” 

This is an excerpt from my blog article on what subspace really feels like, where I (along with 9 other submissives from the BDSM community on Twitter) explain what the space feels like for us and our experiences with it. 

Some common feelings that have been associated with subspace can include: 

  • A feeling of being high often described as a feeling of floating 
  • Euphoria
  • Intense happiness or giddiness that can result in laughter
  • A “haziness”, not feeling quite attached to reality 
  • Heightened senses (pain, pleasure, etc) 
  • A complete slow down/surrender 
  • Incoherence, at times 

Some other more specific things may include an inability to form words or sentences, becoming slightly detached from reality (as if you’re in a psychedelic dream), and feeling as though you’re not in control of your mind or body anymore. 

The dangers of subspace…

As you can tell from that description, subspace can be dangerous for a plethora of reasons. For example, if you’re paired with the wrong Dominant who pushes their own agenda (and you go along with it because you’re in subspace and can’t form rational thoughts) - this is a big consent issue. This is why communication BEFORE play is always, always essential. 

Another potential danger of subspace can be physical - not knowing when to use your safewords, not understanding certain potential dangers, saying or doing things you normally wouldn’t, etc. This is why having a Dom/me that you trust and who can not only listen to your use of safewords but also knows you well enough to understand by your body language or behaviors that you need to pause playtime is important. 

Are you curious if your Dom is toxic and bad for you?
Check out this list of healthy vs toxic Dom behaviors and potential red flags. Be safe. 

Let’s talk about “leveling out” of subspace

Getting into subspace is one thing - getting out? A whole other thing. While subspace is often talked about (in regards to what it is, how it feels, why it happens, etc), it’s not often regarded as “this place you eventually need to leave.” 

Subspace is magical. It’s amazing, emotional, intimate, exciting, absolutely lovely - which means leaving it can be really difficult. Leaving subspace is what I refer to as “leveling out” - a kind of slow return to reality. 

While aftercare may assist you in leveling out, you shouldn’t only rely on aftercare to bring you back to reality. There are things you can do to slowly and gently bring yourself out of subspace. Think of it as a therapist putting you under hypnosis and then bringing you back again - it needs to be done in a slow, natural, relaxing way. 

Reassurances 
Often a natural part of aftercare anyways, reassurances that you’ve done well, that you’re safe, that you’re protected, that it’s okay to slowly level out of the space - these can all be really helpful in finding your way from subspace back to reality.

A complete stop of play
It may be difficult to find your way out of subspace while you’re still engaging in the play that got you there, right? So - to level out, I suggest you stop all forms of play and just focus on the breathing of you and your partner, focus on the physical sensations of leveling out, and communicate as best you can with your lover about how you’re feeling and what you need. 

Logical thinking and counting games 
Nothing pulls you out of a dream more than waking up to realize you’re late for work and have to kick it into gear, shower, get dressed, and get out the door, right? Well, this is the same idea. Pulling yourself out of your dream-like nirvana and forcing your brain to think logically (about anything) is going to pull you out of subspace. This is a particularly good technique if you don’t necessarily have time to let yourself come out slowly. 

To do this, I sometimes count backward from 100 or count up to 100 in threes, or sixes. This forces the logical part of my brain to function, effectively shutting out the dream-like state I was just in. 

Physical sensations that ground you in reality
Similarly to how logic can help your brain switch tracks, physical sensations can help your body find it’s way back to things that are real. Having a cold shower, going for a walk, or tidying up the house are all effective ways to bring yourself out of dream space and back into reality. 

Can you experience subspace during solo play as a submissive? 

Yes, you absolutely can. While this is far less talked about, it’s entirely possible for you to reach a psychological subspace through solo play. There are three main ways for a submissive to experience subspace while playing alone: online play, audio porn, and/or instruction-based porn. 

Online play with a Dom/me
One of the easiest ways to reach subspace as a solo submissive is to have an online dom/me that you trust who can engage in online play with you. This is perfect for submissives who are interested in experiencing subspace but aren’t currently partnered with a dominant personality. Online play can include sexting, roleplaying, live cam sessions, and even control each other’s toys. There are loads of toys that allow you to give a partner remote access - from the Lush2 and Pearl2 for women and the Onyx2 for men. 

Audio porn
Audio porn (sometimes referred to as audio erotica) is such a great outlet for solo submissives. Allowing yourself to get lost in a D/s story while playing solo, it can be a great way to roleplay by yourself and get into subspace on your own. Additionally, there are lots of Dom/mes who record custom videos or audios for people as well as lots of Dom audios available on places like Reddit. 

Some of the best places for erotic audio include Audiodesires, Dipsea, and Reddit.  

JOI-instruction style porn
Another easy way to incorporate subspace into your solo sex life is by choosing the right kind of porn. The kind of porn you watch can impact your ability to feel certain things, including your ability to reach subspace. Watching JOI style porn, where you’re being given instructions to follow (and often told when to cum and how) can be a great way to explore submissiveness on your own. 

How to make subspace a healthy, exciting, amazing experience…

Exploring these spaces (either alone or with a partner) can be a unique experience for each person as well as each time the same person does it. There are a few key things you should do to ensure that your experience with subspace is healthy, exciting, and amazing every single time. 

Trust who you’re with. 
If you’re paired with a partner (either IRL or online), the most essential thing you can have is trust. Without trust, these types of D/s relationships can be incredibly toxic and unhealthy. Entering subspace is another, more intimate, more intense form of submission that requires absolute trust in the other person. You need to be able to know they will protect you when you get into the space where you’re at your most suggestive and vulnerable. Unfortunately, there are many Doms who take advantage of the pliability of submissives while in subspace.

Be mindful of your surroundings and responsibilities outside of the space. 
The best place to be in subspace is comfortable and safe in your own bed. And the best thing to do when preparing for a trip to subspace (either on your own or with a partner) is to ensure that you have no outside responsibilities that you’ll be neglecting or that can infringe on the safety and your ability to enjoy your subspace. For example, if you only have a set amount of time (half-hour, for example), that may not be enough time to play, get to subspace, climax, and then level out. 

Set up safewords before BDSM play for both physical needs and emotional needs. 
Subspace can be scary. While it’s a magical, beautiful feeling, it’s also very daunting to feel as though you’re not in control. It’s normal if you begin to feel nervous or fearful while in subspace, and using your safewords with a partner will help them know where you’re at so they can check in with you and reassure you when needed. 


If you’re solo - prepare to level out on your own. 

Exploring this intimate and deep space by yourself is entirely possible, but does come with some dangers of its own, like not being able to level back out. With a partner, you can rely on their words of reassurance, their touch, and their guidance to aid in your venture back to reality - however, when you’re alone, that gets a little more complicated. I’ve found that music helps, as well as physically getting up and moving around (perhaps cleaning the plethora of toys you’ve just used)

Record your thoughts while in subspace and listen back once you’re level. 
This is definitely not something you have to do, but I found it very, very interesting. Recording myself with a voice recorder on my phone while I’m in various levels of subspace can help “sober” me (aka, the submissive not in subspace later) understand what it really feels like for me in subspace. This can also help me communicate with my partner better about what I need and how it feels to be there, since communication while in subspace can be difficult.

Talk with other people in the BDSM community about their experiences and do some research. 
One of the best ways to really understand your experience sometimes is to compare it to that of someone else’s. One of the most helpful things for me in understanding what type of submissive I am has been to connect with other submissives (who are now cherished friends) through Twitter’s BDSM community. We swap stories, talk about the things we like, and talk about how subspace impacts us all differently. This can help deepen your understanding of the space as well as how healthy BDSM relationships function.