You can listen to this musing here or read it below.
Rejection is a returning investigation in my work. This is because it’s such a primal fear of being excluded, alienated, or banished. But also, there is a kink in denial and vulnerability in being needy. So it’s a potent power dynamic to explore. I’m curious how it relates to boundaries. For example, is there a difference between rejecting someone and expressing a boundary? Or is it only a different connotation in words? Answering this question will be the theme of this musing; I hope you’ll enjoy it.
My first encounter with “rejection play” was at Schwelle7 more than ten years ago. It was with Felix Ruckert. Practically or technically, I can’t recall exactly how it happened. Probably in some workshop or festival. But emotionally, it still stays with me today. After submitting deeply to another and being made to be their pet dog. Trained and loved. The master was asked to abandon their puppy. To take as much distance as their heart allowed. The submissive would then beg their owner to come back with their sad eyes, humble body language, and whimpering. There was a freedom in allowing myself to be that dependent on another. To be needy instead of strong and independent. And then, since that first experience, I have met so many people who love being there. Mostly very emotionally strong and everyday dominant people. It’s the good old allowing oneself to be the opposite of one is.
I think a key in rejection play is always allowing the other to return, metaphorically speaking. It’s the same as playing with shame and humiliation (I wrote about it a long time ago in another musing) and loving all the things they deem unlovable and usually try to hide. Coming back to love that’s the key. It can happen in the aftercare but also continuously during a play, like circling in and out, a little bit deeper each time. So the rejection is always inside the play frame. In contrast, a boundary states the limit of the frame. So hitting the limit is painful for everyone involved. It’s kind of a failure in the non-verbal communication—most of the time, in BDSM play, the boundaries of the submissive are in focus. In comparison, rejection play allows the dominant to be picky and concentrate on their needs.
I often think about BDSM as one neverending foreplay. There is a constant longing for completion, the orgasm, the climax, but that also ends the session: the fantasy, the dream. Of course, one can learn to be multiorgasmic, but the way I see it, it only moves the climax into another level of abstraction. There is always a return to normal. So the goal is to stay on the edge where everything is vibrating. And it relates to boundaries and rejection. Because the expression of the limit is also an allowance, it’s okay to go this far but no further. For example, in a session, if someone shows up in their yoga outfit or their most sexy lingerie, it’s an expression of preference. Very likely, there is an expectation involved in dressing in one way or another. Maybe it’s conscious, or maybe not. Of course, this is not to be confused with hard limits, as I write about in the text playing safer. So if I were to tie the yoga- and victoria’s secret- person, in the same way, there is a big risk of confusion. Some people don’t dare to express themselves within their boundaries because it’s vulnerable and a skill to learn. But, I think it is vital to find that vibrating edge and stay on top of it by playing with rejection.
Both emotionally and physically, the vibrating edge is always moving. After some flogging, the body will have released enough endorphins to enjoy the more harsh whip. And when feeling both safer and more submissive, the trust will have grown and allow for more vulnerability. It’s a complex question regarding safety if the limits are allowed to move. Because if they are not, one needs to guess what the limits will be once inside the session. And if they are, the altered state of consciousness may allow for things that get regretted afterwards. Generally, this is solved by defining hard limits, but maybe not soft. I remember a friend telling me of her first BDSM experience; she was at a party with a lover; they were just about to kiss when someone grabbed them by the hair, holding their heads apart. They both longed so hard for that forbidden kiss. The kiss that was not allowed. So there is a movement of rejection and neediness pulsating through the body. But eventually, they were allowed to kiss, and magic happened—the climax. The very spontaneous session ended, and they went back to dancing. Learning to see these vibrating limits is a beautiful skill because it’s so paradoxical that it’s a gift not giving someone what they want.
From the submissive side, there is relaxation when I accept that someone else controls my desire. And that they’ll clearly show me when something is wrong. The rejection doesn’t have to be loud and theatrical, but it can be subtle, maybe only understandable by the two souls involved in the play. There is an elegance to it. To be so attentive and in tune with another. And how needy can I allow myself to be? Knowing that I’ll be lovingly held inside of my desperation. The most common kink that plays with these dynamics is teasing and denial. I think it works best for men because of this paradox of craving the climatic release while also knowing it will drain the oozing pool of desire. So again, finding and staying on the vibrating edge. Other expressions are cuckolding and cuckqueaning when the submissive witnesses the dominant having sex while being rejected from participating.
Learning the art of rejection is learning how to own one’s own space. To feel comfortable enough in the power dynamic and the agreement that the submissive almost always will attempt to beg for their way back—but also witnessing the submissive enjoying the desperate neediness. So I often encourage participants in retreats when we are exploring domination and surrender to reject their partner if they feel any hint of losing control by being seduced, for example. But, of course, it’s also possible to let go of control and let the power dynamic switch around. There is another common pitfall, as the dominant is starting to explain everything in detail. So one ends up serving the submissive by giving them a lesson in something instead of demanding that they should be attentive and listen to the body language of their master.
When exploring intimacy without being conscious about how to play with rejection, I think there is this desire to come closer and closer, deeper and deeper—somehow reaching for completeness. And eventually, there will be a boundary, and it will probably hurt to hit it. Because it is outside the play, or it is precisely the frame of the play—the thing defining the boundary. But, I think rejection can be included in the play without feeling so life-threatening, which raises another question. If the rejection is not the border, then what is? But that question will be for another day. If you are more curious about this subject, I can recommend the musing An anatomy of yes and no.