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What Is Sub Space in BDSM Play?

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In a previous article I wrote about subdrop: the drop, low or decline of chemicals after erotic play. Well there is an upside! Actually, it’s an amazingly intense “high” brought on by a flood of chemicals during a scene: subspace.

Subspace, also known as headspace, flying, or floating, is an altered mental state which some people achieve during very intense play. The important word here is “some.” Not everyone can hit subspace and it is not always the goal. Everyone that enters subspace may or may not share similar sensations or experiences, most describing the experience in different ways. But what is it? Subspace is a response to intense stimulation, and is at least partly related to biochemical changes triggered by emotional and physical stimulation. Many types of play invoke strong physical responses such as extended adrenalin surges. Chemicals are the highway to subspace!

Chemical Romance

This dream-like state or hypnotised state is caused by chemical reactions in the body. The high is caused by a bunch of natural, morphine-like chemicals the body pumps into the brain! The body sends out shots of endorphins as the body needs it; the more pleasure or pain experienced, the more endorphins are released. Another chemical, adrenalin, is also produced by the body. Adrenalin is released differently; it releases an entire load then needs time to regenerate. But the best way to regenerate? Continuous stimulation! While these two chemicals are responsible for increased tolerance of pain and reaching a state or euphoria, other chemicals such as dopamine, prolactin, cortisol and oxytocin assist in this amazing sensation.

Dopamine is responsible for sexual arousal. Dopamine builds and builds until climax. Therefore, edging and foreplay increase levels of dopamine. Prolactin is a hormone that provides sexual gratification by inhibiting dopamine intake. This is why relaxation occurs after climax. Cortisol is a steroid hormone. In its most basic form, cortisol kick-starts your response to fear and pain. Cortisol creates a sense of relief and stress relief. Oxytocin is a hormone directly linked to orgasm. That’s why it is also known as the “love hormone.” It relieves stress, and is the reason that you feel love, caring, and intimacy after sex or a scene. All these chemicals play a part in assisting a person reaching subspace. They can all be manipulated through edging, orgasms, physical contact, and foreplay.

The Sensation

But what do these chemicals feel like? What actually happens to someone during subspace? This is the MOST controversial topic as no one’s experience is exactly the same. Some feel hot and tingly while others feel still and peaceful. Sensations are heightened and often characterized as a state of deep recession and incoherence. It is similar to an out of body experience, dream-like state, euphoria, or a natural high. Often the person is entranced or in a trance state. The effects of subspace include but are not excluded to:

  • Incoherence, silence, or inappropriate laughter/chatter
  • Change in reaction to physical stimulus
  • Glassy eyes
  • Sense of disassociation between the mind and body
  • Dream-like mental state
  • Feeling like you are “high”

Some people become so wrapped up in the feelings, to the point that they become unaware of anything else (their surroundings, their individuality, time); others shut off completely, entering a dreamlike state in which they are no longer in control of their actions. They may feel:

  • as though time has slowed down.
  • tunnel vision, where you only see what is in front of you and not what is around you.
  • a sensation of your mind wandering or floating, making it hard to concentrate.
  • decreased coordination
  • difficulty in thinking clearly

How To

Now you know what it is… how do you get there? Again, not everyone can, but it is fun to try! From a purely chemical perspective the method for reaching subspace could be as follows:

  • At the beginning of a scenario there are no endorphins. Once pain/pleasure is initiated, the body’s endorphin reserve is released. However there is no altered state of consciousness yet. Level One: This is where the first endorphin rush occurs.
  • The next ten minutes should be spent doing anything that provides relatively light but continuous stimulation to induce the body to create the next endorphin load for release.
  • After these ten minutes of mild play, the next five minutes should be built up to about 10 to 15 seconds of intense stimulation just beyond the current pain/pleasure limit. This will trigger the body to eject its freshly-made endorphin load into the bloodstream. Now the person will be at Level Two. There is no altered state of consciousness but there is a leap in the pain threshold or pleasure sensations.
  • This is followed by ten minutes of mild, easy stimulation which provokes the body into generating the next load.
  • These ten minutes are followed by the intensity above the previous level.
  • Finish off with ten seconds to a minute of a very intense, over-the-edge push, and the body will inject that next load, which will reach Level Three. The person will definitely feel a little bit woozy, exhibiting a mildly-drugged state; eyelids should appear droopy, and she/he will fall into a more relaxed condition than before.
  • Apply ten minutes of any relatively mild stimulation at the new level.
  • Followed by a five-minute build.
  • Then a 10- to 15-second intense climax which will release the next endorphin load and push the person into Level Four, giving a sense of feeling drugged. The person may even be hypersensitive: a small sensation can generate a huge amount of twitching or jerking of the person’s body.
  • Apply ten minutes of any relatively mild stimulation. The moans and groans will be longer and deeper, the body often limp and the body’s reactions will be obvious. This is the sweet spot of play.
  • The next five minutes alter with 10- to 30- second climactic build in intensity. This will release another endorphin load reaching Level Five: a state of supreme ecstasy and docility. There will be very clearly in an altered state of consciousness. THIS IS SUBSPACE.


  • Do let your partner know how you typically reach subspace and what your personal signs are that you are nearing subspace.
  • Do trust your partner to know when to stop when/if you reach subspace.
  • Do learn and share how your body will respond in subspace.
  • Do learn how to get out of subspace and communicate that with your partner.


  • Don’t try to reach subspace the first time you play with someone.
  • Don’t forget to negotiate what your partner is to do if/when you reach subspace.
  • Don’t expect to reach subspace every single time you play or at all. Not everyone has the same effects from endorphins, and some people have no reactions at all


victoriasparrow // Author

Victoria Sparrow is a student of Sexology who has a keen interest in writing about taboo topics. Previously she has been working in the education industry for over five years. She graduated with a double major in teaching and is expanding her horizons, and hopefully yours, by pushing the boundaries on sexual discourse.

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