What is edge play? Everything you need to know about the high-risk kink

Professionals explain consent and more.

Jan 31, 2020, 6:51 am*

IRL

Ana Valens 

Ana Valens

What Is Edge Play

delcarmat/Shutterstock (Licensed)

Chances are you’ve heard the term “edge play” before, either while browsing a BDSM guide or chatting with a friend about Domination and submission. Like many kink terms, it has taboo energy to it. You aren’t supposed to mess with stuff on the edge, right? But that’s what makes it so fun!

Let’s say you’re familiar with what edge play entails, but you don’t know where to start. The Daily Dot interviewed two professional dominants who clued us in with unique considerations that arise when negotiating edge play scenes with their clients.

What is edge play?

Mistress Blunt Mistress Blunt
Mistress Blunt

Defining edge play is complicated, in part because it’s so specific to each partner’s interests, limits, and boundaries. In The New Topping Book, Dossie Easton and Janet W. Hardy describe the edge as “wherever things start to feel risky, where you start to feel vulnerable, the edge of the cliff that looks over your personal abyss.” This can look like “playing on the edge of [one’s] skill and knowledge,” although Easton and Hardy also talk about “shadow play.” This is a form of BDSM where “we find acceptance for emotions and behaviors that would be unacceptable outside scene space.”

Edge play can play with both of these things. But everyone’s relationship with the kink varies, including what they are (and aren’t) willing to doing at their edge.

“What constitutes edge play is different for everyone. I consider edge play to be play that occurs at the edge of what one can bear. Play where there is enough trust to push past what is comfortable creates the possibility of a new outcome,” Mistress Blunt, a professional dominatrix based in New York City, told the Daily Dot.

Arizona-based, nonbinary professional dominatrix Domina Elle stressed there’s some “confusion” around the name edge play, as not all edge play necessarily involves “edgy” and “controversial” kinks, let alone “literal sharp objects.” Instead, edge play is “as broad as the number of kinks that exist today.”

“What constitutes edge play is largely subjective,” she told the Daily Dot, “but most of the time playing with a person’s edges simply refers to consensually pushing an individual person’s boundaries or limits.”

What are examples of edge play?

Edge Play BDSM Toys Come As You Are/Flickr (CC-BY)

Edge play is ultimately defined by its practitioners, but there are some common topics that regularly appear. Domina Elle says she commonly works with themes around “expression of sexual orientation, pain tolerance, germophobia, fear of kidnapping, fear of public humiliation, fear of sexual harrasment/assault, and fear of death.”

Some additional kinks that may appear on dominants’ and submissives’ edges include:

Of course, one person’s edge may be another person’s Saturday night D/s session.

“My own experience with edge play is complicated. I push people’s boundaries all the time, but I never cross limits. I explore dangerous forms of play on a regular basis, but I recognize and respect the danger for what it is,” Domina Elle said. “It is my job to do my research in advance, communicate risk as effectively as possible, negotiate consent, listen for withdrawal (or nullification) of consent, know what to do when something goes wrong, and to listen to my gut when I do not feel comfortable providing a certain type of experience for any reason.”

Domina Elle Domina Elle
Domina Elle

Because “edge play” is a subjective umbrella, some forms of play require extensive negotiation between practitioners. This can include “intense preparation” with days to years of “negotiation and planning,” Domina Elle said. Additionally, creating a safety plan and providing plenty of aftercare (“going beyond basic first aid, giving affection as appropriate, taking time away from work”) are all important.

“Before each appointment, a submissive and I do a consultation where we talk about our interests and limits for the day … My scenes only ever consist of the mutual interests that are shared between both my sub and myself,” Domina Elle said. “If a sub brings something up in consult that I am uncomfortable with, I disclose that right away. If it comes up later during session (usually meaning a sub does something against or without asking for my consent), then I have to find a tactful way to protect myself depending on the circumstances.”

What do I need to know before doing edge play?

Domina Elle Edge Play Domina Elle
Domina Elle

 

If it isn’t clear by now, edge play is a risky undertaking. Then again, BDSM is fundamentally dangerous in its own right. Acknowledging that from the start is part of practicing risk-aware consensual kink (RACK). In RACK, all parties know that play may be dangerous, but they are fully aware of the circumstances and are agreeing to them.

“Edge play is not safe. In the same way that the only true wisdom is knowing we know nothing; the only true way to play safely in BDSM is to know that nothing is safe. Choking, fire play, rope bondage, gun play, etc. all have their best practices written in blood,” Domina Elle said. “That being said, freedom and autonomy is more important to me than safety. That is why I practice risk aware consensual kink.”

Domina Elle said empathy is a core component to any form of ethical domination, along with “respect, mercy, and a fierce willingness to admit when you are wrong or don’t know what you are doing.” However, Domina Elle stressed that edge play isn’t defined by neurotypical dominants’ experiences. She said that as an autistic professional dominatrix who does not understand most social cues, BDSM allows her by nature to “break social norms, and shape the circumstances to help me gather information about how a submissive is feeling.”

“Edge play is definitely more about empathy, knowing your subject, and understanding the specific type of play you’re about to engage in than prior practice and advanced skills,” Domina Elle said. “Not all forms of edge play have different levels that can be practiced, not to mention mastered, in advance.”

A medical background, reading comprehension, and good communication skills are all ideal, as are practicing the specific skills required for your edge play scene.  Domina Elle also suggests these best practices for edge play practitioners:

  • Ask yourself why you are considering playing with a person’s edge
  • Examine whether this type of play falls within your system of ethics
  • Get educated on the type of play you decide to engage with
  • Negotiate with your scene partner(s) at least 24 hours in advance
  • Use a safe word within the scene.

Mistress Blunt Edge Play Natasha Gornik

Mistress Blunt agreed that edge play’s most important qualities are “having intuition, attunement, and communication,” and that it’s incredibly important to know yourself, including what your edges are and your role as a top or a bottom. That includes dominants, too. While most kink advice revolves around the submissive’s safety, doms also have their own edge along with boundaries, feelings, desires, and a need for aftercare after certain scenes.

“Know if you want to explore those edges, if pushing feels good, cathartic, and empowering,” she said. “Some questions I ask folks I play with is if they feel comfortable saying no and stopping or redirecting a scene. Most people say yes, but I use how they say yes as my gauge. I also ask most play partners that if one of us fucks up, if they feel comfortable talking about it after. I don’t think assuming best intentions is always safe, but I try not to play with people who I don’t have that understanding with.”

Technical skills, such as proper rope tying procedures or knife play techniques, are still important, and their necessity during particularly high-risk scenarios cannot be overstated. “Most people don’t exercise those skills as often as they could. These skills are cultivated over time,” Mistress Blunt explained. “These skills are built within individual relationships and don’t necessarily translate to every relationship.”

As for newcomers interested in edge play, Domina Elle has strong words of advice: “Take it slowly and take it seriously.”

“There is no need to rush,” she told the Daily Dot. “It is super reasonable to be nervous having your edges pushed, or even playing with another person’s limits. It can be just as rewarding as it can be devastating. Give it the respect it deserves. Listen to your gut instincts.”

So go ahead and explore your edge. Just make sure you and your partner(s) are on the same page, and be honest with yourself if you’re not ready. Your edge can wait for you.

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*First Published: Jan 31, 2020, 6:00 am