Saturday, November 14, 2009

What is Subspace?



Subspace is the BDSM term for the special state caused by pain and other strong sensations. It's not a feeling of great joy or exhilaration, like a roller coaster ride; it isn't even a traditional high. Subspace is a trance: floating, utter calm, peace and tranquility. Hormones, primarily the natural painkillers called endorphins, are thought to induce it.

BDSM fiction sometimes confuses subspace with a sub's breathless pleasure of yielding, or the gentle contentment of worship. Those feelings are legit and marvelous, but they aren't subspace. A sub can't get subspace-worthy endorphins from being ordered about by a strong Dominant.

Without pain or physical strain, there's no subspace.

There's a good reason for the confusion. The word "subspace" is just plain bad. The word should be "bottomspace". I suppose some punster came up with the word "subspace" as tribute to Star Trek. Subspace is a method of communication in the Star Trek universe. Ironically, subspace in the BDSM world precludes communication. Why? Subspace might be described as a mystical union with the infinite. At that point a sub (or bottom) has no real interest in the person who got them there.

There was some hubbub on the Dear Author and teddypig blogs regarding the correct way to write BDSM--subspace included. One popular BDSM romance author objects to the very concept of the "right" way to write BDSM. She says there are as many types of BDSM as there are kinds of people--so anything goes. As proof, the author tells us she personally has spoken to a sub who experienced "subspace" after one glance from her Dominant.

Her argument is weak.

BDSM has universal definitions. Just because a BDSM practioner describes himself as a "Dominate" (as so many do), rather than a "Dominant", doesn't magically transform "Dominate" into the correct noun. A better excuse for a writer hijacking a BDSM word is artistic license. But I suspect authors often dilute the concept of subspace because the S and M roots of the trance isn't romantic enough. Fine and good. But a creative person should be able to come up with another name for sexual thrills or utter devotion.

For my fictional take on subspace, read My One.