I want to tell you what it means to be a sensualist. Hmmm. How shall I put this? Not everyone is into pain (for pleasure). That’s it. Not everyone who enjoys kink is into pain. A sensualist is not into pain. There are tens of thousands of sensualist dominants, sensualist submissives, sensualist slaves, and sensualist kinky players out in the wild who know what I’m talkin’ about. Many of those thousands are entangled with the SM part of BDSM waters because it’s all that they know about. So, they think kink=BDSM=all SM. Many would-be-kinksters cling to the sane and sandy sidelines never to ever set foot in BDSM choppy, frothy waves because those waters look like all SM all the time and that’s not for them. I wrote this essay for sensualist, no-pain-lovin’ you and those who love you and for all those other people who should know about you and me.
Sensualism and being a sensualist are one end of the BDSM spectrum. Okay. Let me slow this down. You can consult a wide selection of books and websites for a definition of BDSM. What I would like to offer is that BDSM is a range of expression of our deeper desires and needs. Only part of the range is concerned with pain as the avenue to intense pleasure and wonderful altered states of consciousness. Another part of the range is in pursuit of the same goals but without pain in any form.
Let’s get a few more definitions out of the way. I’ll be quick. Sensual refers to creating desirable experiences that target the human senses such as the aural experience of listening to meditative music. Your experience was one of relaxation and ease. Having your play partner lick black raspberry ice cream from your fingers and how you each feel about that is probably a sensual experience for each of you. Sensuality is the practice of creating and enjoying sensual experiences for the singular purpose of giving and receiving pleasure. Sensualism is a commitment to adult play without pain and with an intention of inducing intense pleasure and/or desirable altered states of consciousness. Sensualist refers to the play participant, Top or Bottom, who loves all manner of ways to reach intense pleasure and/or desirable altered states without inducing pain. I am a sensualist.
Come a little closer so that I can tell you what my sensualist identity does not mean. It does not mean that I, the sensualist, am devoted to using sensual methods. Sensual fun is not what makes me a sensualist. A love of massage oil and the aroma of freshly baked rolls in the morning makes me a sensual person but not a sensualist. When I tell people that I am a sensualist I get one of two responses: 1. Understanding, “I’m not into pain either” or 2. Misunderstanding, “I, too, use sensual stuff like candles and relaxing massage. I like it.” Sensuality is not sensualism. Two different things. Anyone along the BDSM spectrum might burn a scented candle or set the scene with low lighting and soft sheets. Pain lovers can use sensual techniques but that does not make them sensualists. They are sadists and masochists and, sometimes, some of them like to use sensual techniques in their scenes.
Furthermore, being a sensualist is not a political choice. I did not choose to be a no-pain person. Biology or biochemistry, actually, determined my being a no-pain-for-pleasure person. Those of us with kink needs and desires break into two categories: the pain seeking group gets a flow of endorphins in the brain that floats them into a higher space. Their brain chemistry is like that. So, now, you can guess what I’m going to say. Sensualists have very different wiring. If we feel pain during a scene we are not feeling affection for the Top who delivered the too strong sensation to our bodies. We just feel pain and hurt and maybe distrust for the Top. To a sensualist, pain is just pain. It will not deliver pleasure or anything wonderful to a sensualist’s body/mind.
On the other hand, sensualists are not pain-averse as a characteristic of being a sensualist. They can give pain in a context of consensual play as a matter of choice. I have played with masochists and given the measure of pain that they most wanted. I got no endorphin rush or secret satisfaction from delivering pain to someone who wanted that experience. I did it in order to share a mutually desired experience or result with a play friend. I have to say that I derived satisfaction from carrying out my very creative play design but that was all.
Can a sensualist and a sadist (or masochist) ever play together? Would they ever want to do so? The answers are yes and yes. I would never hesitate in recommending a sensualist trainee of mine to a sadistic domme. The two of them would negotiate play as required by all play partners and they would find common ground or not. Either outcome is a good one.
I have got to try to tell you what it’s like to be a sensualist. Yum. It’s delicious. It’s as lively and fulfilling as any other kink lifestyle. There are an endless number of ways to live this lifestyle —grunge, Mommy, Housewife, Silver Tongue, Dommy Dom, Confident Sub Boy, Efficient Sub Servant, Smooth S-girl, Wicked Wonderful Wife, Obedient Dedicated Slave, FemDom, Exploring Newbie, Kinky Kinkster, Tied to the Cross bottom, . . . without pain. Now, think of a kink activity. If it can’t be done without pain (cutting, for example) then it is not on a sensualist’s list. If it can be done and it has nothing to do with causing or receiving pain then it is the bread and butter on the sensualist list of possibilities. If it is associated with pain but can be controlled away from pain then it makes good sense on the sensualist list. So, for example, impact play (flogging, caning, whipping, spanking, paddling) is associated with SM and pain but there is no reason why a sensualist Top cannot use impact play in a scene. Their sensualist Bottom would receive light to strong sensations in the body without ever entering the pain range. A sensualist Top would, in this example, explore a range of sensations short of giving pain. Sensualist fun for all.
“So, what does a sensualist do?,” some pain-loving soul once asked me. Erotic hypnotism, intense erotic massage, rhythmic caning, play using hot massage candle oil could all be in a sensualist’s tool box and used in combination. Various forms of body worship are probably a comfortable fit on the sensualist’s list. Bondage bags, gags, blindfolds, plugs, handcuffs, rope, arm sleeves, insertion toys, vibrators, a TENS unit and more might be in a sensualist’s toy bag. Fetish clothing is the same across both groups, SM and sensualists, though, so, don’t think that you can distinguish a sensualist by the color of the hanky stuffed in the bosom of her corset. Latex, corsets, silk stockings, heels, no heels, wigs, black tunics, boots, and capes make the two groups indistinct.
Are all sensualists playing nice with scented candles, mood music, and a gentle massage all the time? They might sometimes or as part of a scene. However, sensualists can play roughly (wrestling, slamming, punching) without trying to induce pain for pleasure since neither the Top nor the Bottom would benefit from doing so. Might some unintentional pain or soreness, not pain for pleasure but the other kind, result from roughhousing? Sure. But if the Top and Bottom like it like that—perhaps, as an energy raising warm up at the beginning of a scene—then why not? Sensualists can play nice or they can play right at the edge of pain. Did you know that? A slow even hair pulling within limits can be sexually stimulating for sensualist Top and sensualist Bottom. Sensualists can play right at the edge of orgasm and enjoy riding the drug-like high. Sensualists might love various forms of bondage or other restraint. Capture games, the wonderful feeling of being contained or held, the feel of various rope textures or the hardness of steel can be exciting. That just might be a contented, sleepy-eyed sensualist curled up inside his mistress’ cage.
Sensualism is my raison d’etre and my mantra. It’s where I live in the BDSM ocean of kinky tastes and darker desires. Pain lovers and non-pain lovers are all seeking pleasure or fascinating altered states or both but we get there by different paths. I ask that sadists help those who come to them to understand how broad the BDSM seas are. I ask that they remember that at any moment they, the sadist, just might be talking to a sensualist instead of a masochist. ******
© 2015 Sky Gates. You may quote from my essays and you may use the entire essay elsewhere but only with full credit to the author. Thank you.