Why prioritising emotional safety will give you the best play of your life

Hi. Thomas here again.

I love negotiating. Never in everyday life do we get to ask such intimate and personal questions. But don’t misunderstand. This is not some voyeurism. It is a moment of deep reflexion; of sharing your darkest secrets, being vulnerable and learning and growing in the process.

Please like me!

We are living in a time of nearly endless and instantly available sex (think Tinder, Grindr, play parties, etc.). And we are living in a time of superficiality and shallowness. On social media we present a neatly curated narrative. A digitally nipped and tucked version of ourselves. And as numerous studies demonstrate, we are hurting everybody else and ourselves in the process.

The desire to be accepted, appreciated and liked is basic human. For a long time, our very survival depended on being accepted in and into groups. Nowadays, as long as you are good at your day job, you will have no trouble finding food and shelter. This makes being liked redundant. A bonus for your spare time.

Yet, we seem to crave acceptance more than ever.

Rope is not as important as you think it is

I have been doing bondage and rope bondage for more than 30 years now. Bondage exerted a strange fascination on me long before I had any interest in girls, let alone sex.
So maybe I come from a place of detached ignorance when I tell you: You rope skills are not as bad as you think, but more importantly, they are not as crucial as you think.

I see a lot of people come and go at the Querverbindungen. One of the patterns I have started to recognise is, that people think rope skills are more important than anything else. I understand that it is easy to get that impression, with so many tutorials, workshops and classes focusing on technical aspects.

Rope skills are easy to observe and quantify. Let me watch you tie and I can tell you how good you are and where you need to improve. And this is also what gets admired.

There are a lot of pictures of beautiful or spectacular ties and very few pictures of spectacular good negotiations.
This is because emotional skills and aspects are hard to observe and quantify. But that doesn’t mean that they are less important. They are just less tangible.

Which would you prefer? A doctor that is a luminary, but feels cold, detached or outright rude or a doctor that might be less knowledgeable about recent papers and innovations, but makes you feel welcome, seen, understood and cared for? Bedside manners matter (unless maybe you are being operated on with anaesthesia).

Emotional intimacy is undervalued

So ok, you do crazy stuff in bed. You have all the skills, all the toys, all the trimmings.
But would you do what you do with anyone?

When going out, I once got picked up by a slightly younger pro-domme. For some reason she was really into me. So, after some drinking and dancing we went to her studio and had a play session. And I felt nothing. (Except maybe the achievement of being such a handsome bastard that I didn’t have to pay ;P )
But it was a strange experience. She tried negotiating with me in the cab by asking me what I liked. And I knew exactly what I liked. I just didn’t know what I would like with her. So we settled for some bondage and sex. Afterwards we met once or twice before ghosting each other.

My point being that BDSM is not so much about the physical activity as about the emotional connection. I guess it can be, but for me, that falls short of what it could be. As Princess Kali points out in her phenomenal book “Authentic Kink”, at the core, all BDSM is about emotions. This is where it also gets complicated.

Let’s talk e.g. about pegging.
Getting pegged by a complete stranger at a play party might feel exciting, humiliating or even degrading, while cuddled up in bed to your partner might feel loving, caring and precious. Same activity, completely different context and emotional experience.

It’s not about how hard they bang you.
It is about why they bang you.

Don’t get me wrong! No kink shaming, nothing wrong with casual sex/play or parties. And getting banged hard can be nice. I am just trying to make a point here.

The point is, that some of the stuff we do in bed is special, not because it is outside of the norm or in some other way edgy, but because we wouldn’t do it with just anybody.

We do it only with people we trust and love.

How to be a better sadist/masochist

Emotional intimacy requires emotional safety.
But how do we get there?

The best (but not the easiest) way is to communicating openly and without fear of ridicule or rejection.
If you can give a TED talk on why the particular thing you are into is the best thing ever, without feeling anxious or ashamed, chances are high that your enthusiasm will infect the other person.

It is easier said than done. Because being open about your wicked thoughts requires courage and knowledge of human nature. You wouldn’t want to talk to somebody that is not ready or willing to accept your gift of honesty.

I once came across educational material for psychology students. In essence they said that for people who had trust issues, who overshared or undershared the following process is a good method:
Divided into 7 (?) levels, start establishing trust with somebody by talking about what you did that day. If their reaction is positive, you can go to the next level.
The next level is sharing how something made you feel, giving the conversation an emotional dimension.
The other levels involved talking about personal matters, family, dreams and aspirations, desires, etc. and escalating or deescalating if indicated. You get the gist.

So to put this into context of BDSM, levels could look like the following:
1) [Activity] What would you like us to do? e.g. I would like to get tied by you.
2) [Likes] What do you like? e.g. I like bondage with metal or straitjackets.
3) [Emotion] Why do you like that? e.g. because it makes you feel completely helpless.
4) [Motivation] Why do you like feeling that way? e.g. because I have a lot of responsibilities and have a hard time letting go of control.
5) [Reasons] Why do you have a hard time letting go of control? e.g. because my job requires perfection. Because I once hurt somebody and don’t to do that again.
6) [Repression] Is there anything you fancy, but are too ashamed of talking about? e.g. I know it is wrong, but I sometimes fantasize about forced sex.
7) [Ultimate fantasy] What is your wildest, darkest fantasy? e.g. One day I would like to try being somebody’s sex slave for a weekend.

This is just an example. Your levels could look entirely different.
If you are unsure, try asking why a couple of times. Digging deeper and deeper, sooner or later you will not be able to answer easily anymore. This is where growth usually happens.
(Asking why at least five times is also an established method in business. Examples include Ricardo Semler’s management style and Kaizen.)

The deeper your understanding of your partner is, the more intimate your sex/play can become, the more it will touch your soul and the better it will become.

Going through those levels with somebody can take minutes, years or even a lifetime.
And there is nothing wrong with going through these levels together, in one or both roles, or at individual paces.

It takes courage, which is like a muscle. The more you do it, the easier it will get.

There is no guarantee for success

Of course there is no guarantee. You might uncover beautiful, juicy details and things you never considered to turn you on. You might also uncover things that are complete showstoppers.

I had trouble topping partners, after they revealed they had a history of sexual abuse or rape. It would be too scared of doing something wrong and pushing them down a rabbit hole I couldn’t get them out of again.
In the end I think we both lost something precious. My fear of doing something wrong saved me from the risks but deprived us of many intimate moments. Maybe even healing.

Today I would try to understand my partner better and find a way, in small steps, to facilitate their desires.

It goes without saying, that you should always take good care of your limits. Don’t do things you are not comfortable with don’t want. (It sometimes might be uncomfortable, but maybe that is just the personal growth you are feeling.)


(For me) BDSM is such a great thing, because I get to do things and have done things to me that would otherwise not be possible.
It requires some skill, but more importantly trust and understanding.
You reach understanding not by scratching the surface and indulging in spectacular performative activities, but by reflecting, being vulnerable and taking small leaps of faith.
By opening up you will find partners, allies and opportunities you never anticipated.

I hope you find this article inspiring and wish you well on your journey to your personal best.
As always, feel free to share, comment and reach out.