Try as we might to ensure all our BDSM scenes and play session go smoothly, there is always a chance of something not going according to plan. When an action, phrase or scenario stimulates a reaction in an individual we refer to it as a trigger.
Trigger – an experience that provokes or generates a memory or reaction for someone
For the purposes of this article I am referring to the kind of triggers that are unwelcome and will likely end your scene and require all participants involved to know what the next steps are after the trigger has occurred. It is worth noting though that triggers can also be used to stimulate welcome reactions, but this should absolutely be explored after negotiation and with consent.
Triggers may be known to us, or they may be something we stumble upon during play. I have been trigger twice during my time as a kinkster and both times they were things that I did not know to avoid. Now I know and I would actively mention the activities that triggered to future partners as hard limits.
It can be mortifying to everyone involved when a trigger is found, especially if you weren’t expecting it. Nobody likes to be the one to end a scene early, but there is no good to come from blaming ourselves or others when this happens. It is one of the risks we accept when engaging in kink and how we deal with it has the potential to be a defining moment in whether or not a dynamic is successful or indeed if someone chooses to continue exploring their kinks. Not to mention that some triggers may relate to past abuse, including but not limited to things like rape, sexual assault, physical assault, verbal abuse and domestic violence. All triggers are valid and important but it is worth remembering some may transcend what we are used to handling in our own lives.
Reassuring. Kindness. Compassion. Empathy. These should be the kinds of things we aim to provide with a trigger plan. Ensuring our partner/s a safe space to recover and work through the feelings they have encountered.
To give a comprehensive list of what things might trigger someone would be impossible. Physical actions, name calling, teasing, specific words, smells, songs, body positions, tone of voice, emotions, noises, individual people, are just a few things that might trigger someone. While that may make it seem like a terrifying prospect to play with anybody, just in case you trigger them, the solution to navigating triggers is simple. Communication.
Anyone and everyone who offers advice or education on BDSM will mention communication so often that you will wonder if we get some sort of commission from a secret communication organisation. The truth is, we go on about it so often because it is so incredibly important. Discussing past experiences, current desire and hopes for your kinky future can go a long way to highlighting what might be a potential trigger.
Even with due diligence and everyone’s best effort, things can still go wrong. It might be with a new partner, it could be after years with being someone. Sometimes it might make sense, sometimes it might not. Whatever the situation or the specific trigger what can we do to help someone after the event.
As with everything in life individual cases will differ, but some of the more popular things that get included in trigger plans are:
- Physical affection and closeness
- Being in company
- Being left alone
- Food and drink
- Staying warm and cosy
- Peace and quiet
- Talking things through
- Taking their mind of it
- Anything that offers comfort – cuddly toy, favourite music, favourite movie etc
Trigger plans are not just for bottoms and submissives. Tops and Dominants may also require support after triggers too. If as a bottom or submissive you are wondering how you help a Top or Dominant through a trigger, the answer is simple, treat them like a person and offer them the same kindness you would want for yourself.
It can be extremely tough to watch someone you care for suffer the effects of being triggered, especially if it is your actions or a thought you induced that caused it. While in the immediate moments and days after a trigger are quite rightly likely to be focused on the person who experienced the trigger, I would recommend that once you feel able to that you check in on your partner and enquire after their feelings on what happened.
When done correctly everything we do in kink we do together. Whether you are engaging in a long term D/s dynamic or a one time Top/bottom exchange. No one is exempt from feelings, and everyone has the potential to be triggered. The balance of giving and taking is far easier when things are going right, but keeping that same balance when things go wrong is often a lot harder, but it’s just as, if not more imperative to get right in those situations.
This is the fourth instalment in my ‘A Switchy Girls Guide to Kink, Fetish and BDSM’ series of posts. The next instalment will be published on May 7th and is titled ‘BDSM Labels and Roles’. If you would like to hear more of my thoughts you can tune in to the #ProudToBeKinky Podcast, or you can follow me on Twitter and Instagram or you can send a friend request on Fetlife through _Floss_.