One of the most fascinating things I discovered when I started my journey into BDSM was that many of my fellow kink friends are also Highly Sensitive People, or HSPs. I found a strong connection between people who are HSPs, who practice kink and experience and experience ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response), which I will be talking about in another blog post.
HSPs are not dissimilar to empaths. Although many HSPs are also empaths, they are not entirely one of the same. A HSP, because of our sensitivity to other people’s feelings, can make us empathetic, but an empath may not necessarily be a HSP. Despite HSPs being something that few people are aware of, it is estimated that 1 in 5 people, or 20% of the population, are in fact a HSP. This means to say that your chances of encountering one, or even being one, are moderately high.
HSPs are drawn to BDSM for a number of reasons, and when you understand us then it is not hard to see why. Our need for strong connections and intimacy thrive well in D/s relationships, our need for routine and structure suits well with rules and rituals and the thrill-seeking or sensation-seeking nature of many HSPs suits well with some of the more physical elements of BDSM play. Curious about HSPs? You can find more at Dr Aron’s website, which I am not affiliated to in any way.
Here are 15 points to consider when engaging a HSP in BDSM play:
- HSPs don’t usually have a high tolerance for a lot of pain.
One of the most common misconceptions about BDSM practitioners that I encounter is that we all like giving or receiving pain. This is absolutely NOT true! For many HSPs, they may like a little pain, they may like a different sensation or they may not like touch at all. Talk with your partner and discuss a range of activities, or use my free printable checklist to help you.
2. Humiliation play may be hard for some HSPs
Many HSPs take criticism like a blow to the stomach, so be careful about the words you use, even in play. If you call a HSP “worthless” or “pathetic”, they may actually believe they are worthless or pathetic. Check in with your partner regularly and dial back the humiliation play if they aren’t comfortable with it.
3. HSPs don’t take punishment well
This goes with point 2 above, but HSPs may get really down on themselves if they warrant a punishment. Many HSPs will tear themselves up if they think they’ve hurt or upset their loved one, and sometimes the self-talk of a HSP is more than punishment enough. If you need to punish a HSP, be sure to follow up with plenty of loving and supportive aftercare!
4. Plan your scene!
HSPs hate chaos and uncertainty, in fact, we can be borderline allergic to it. Don’t leave your activities until the last minute, have some plan for your session and prepare for it. It will lead to a lot less stress, and a happier time with your HSP.
5. Your HSPs sensitivity may fluctuate, prepare for this
Sometimes, I’m almost numb to pain, other times, the slightest tap can set me off in a mood and not wanting to be touched again. Gauge your partner’s sensitivity carefully, and be prepared to adjust.
6. Never, ever, EVER judge or shame a HSPs kink
One of the most damaging things you can do to a kinky person is judge them. One of the worst things you can do to a HSP is judge them. When you combine all of these elements, you may cause irreversible damage to your partnership. Take this from first hand experience, if it’s not an activity you are into, gently explain this to your partner. Discuss if it is a want or a need. If it’s a need, decide if you’re willing to try it for them, or if you are prepared to let them explore it with someone else. Never judge another for their kinks.
7. Create a ritual
If your HSP is Dominant, they may have an elaborate ritual for how they like their scene play to begin. For example, my husband likes me to pour him some whiskey on the rocks in a glass, and then kneel facing away from the door and wait. Speak to your partner and work out if there is anything that you can do to make the experience special for them.
8. Appeal to ALL of the senses
HSPs have hyperactive senses at the best of the times and even subtle changes like a perfume or cologne or some incense will be noticed. Serve wine or something to eat before your session and really think about the experience and ambiance you’re creating. Explore sensation play or play guessing games with tasty treats as well. “Guess the toy” is my husband’s favourite game, apparently I’m rather good at it!
9. Be gentle and patient
Many HSPs can feel easily intimidated and if they feel overwhelmed, they may bolt for the door. Start slow and allow your HSP to explore and develop. Slow and steady wins the race.
10. Be a good brat
I know, it sounds like an oxymoron, doesn’t it? But some brats believe that being a brat gives them free reign to say and do things, hopefully, for punishment (or rather, “funishment”). Some HSP Dominants don’t tolerate some of the comments or behaviours of a bratty submissive, such as penis size or filling their wallet with glitter. Be mindful of your Dominant’s threshold for humour and be careful not to exceed it. This goes for any Dominant, but HSPs are predisposed to over-stimulation and your gesture may not garner the reaction you anticipated. Have fun, but gauge your partner carefully.
11. If your HSP is submissive, be prepared to mentor them.
The world can be an overwhelming place at times, and even more so for a HSP. Sometimes, all we need is someone we feel we can talk to, to share our stories, experiences and innermost thoughts with, and who can a submissive trust more than their Dominant? Decide if this is something you want or can accept, and know that in return for your time and attention, you will be rewarded with your submissive’s utmost devotion and trust.
12. Know that many HSPs require monogamy and/or frequent intimacy
The beautiful thing about HSPs is that, as lovers, we are deep, meaningful people. We go above and beyond for the people we really love, and who love us and accept us in return. Unfortunately, that also means that many HSPs experience insecurity and jealousy and because of this, may not be best suited to casual relationships or a polyamorous lifestyle. Talk to your partner and find what works for you, but if you aren’t prepared to provide exclusivity that your HSP seeks, realise that this may not work out for you.
13. If your HSP is a submissive, he or she may experience ASMR, too
I mentioned this at the beginning of this blog post. ASMR, or Autonomous sensory Meridian Response, is a physical, pleasurable tingling sensation usually in the scalp, shoulders and neck in response to sound. If your submissive experiences ASMR, they may be particularly prone to ASMR which can give you one more tool in your toolbox. Try whispering to them or gently speaking to them or try tapping gently on surfaces such as wood or glass. Sometimes, ASMR can help us relax and make the skin especially sensitive, leaving us more vulnerable to other sensations.
14. Your HSP may need time alone, let them
HSPs need time to think and analyse a LOT. What did that comment mean? Are we really bad? What do we really want? Sometimes your HSP just needs time to work the world out for themselves. This isn’t about you, this is how we process our surroundings. Be patient with them and let them know you’ll be ready to talk when they want to talk.
Above all else, be sure to maintain open, honest and flexible communication. Some HSPs find it particularly hard to open up, so be willing to consider indirect communication tools, such as a shared journal. Your partner may not be in the mood to play, so be sure to have ways to discuss this so that you can work out what, if anything, can be done. Be patient and attentive with your HSP, and the relationship you develop will be deeply rewarding in return.
Are you a kinky HSP? Do you also experience ASMR? I’d be interested to hear from you in the comments below!