"Yes ... there we go. You're relaxing deeper and deeper. There's no need to think ... no need to worry. I've got you. Just keep listening to the sound of my voice. Focus on how good it feels to relax and obey."

I had a partner who used to talk to me like this while we were gettin' down during playtime. He'd speak to me in a low, soothing, enveloping tone until I'd melted onto the floor, eyes closed, focused only on his words and where they took me.

Combining this with sex and BDSM made for some fantastic sessions. I came more easily with him than previous partners, and felt enticed to submit more deeply than in the past. Because of the way he spoke to me, the vibe felt uniquely intimate when we played. I became rabidly addicted to our bedroom shenanigans.

That was my first experience with erotic hypnosis, and it sparked my recent desire to explore the practice more deeply in my local BDSM community. I'm here to share what I've learned so far while dabbling.

What Is 'Hypnosis,' Anyway?

I began my hypno-community adventure by attending an erotic hypnosis munch at Wicked Grounds, SF's friendly neighborhood kink café. The instructor there defined hypnosis as follows:

A manipulation of an altered state of consciousness for a desired purpose.

You can glean a few main points of erotic hypnosis from the keywords here:

  • manipulation - The top in a hypno scene attempts to change and control the bottom's physical, mental and/or emotional state.
  • an altered state of consciousness - The top attempts to send the bottom into what practitioners colloquially call 'trance.'
  • a desired purpose - The top uses hypnosis to achieve specific objectives, like training the bottom to orgasm on command. (No easy feat!)

Your Brain on Hypnosis

I'm a neurology nerd, and my humble layman's knowledge has led me to believe erotic hypnosis is far more than just hippie woo woo. And, by golly, real researchers with fancy degrees happen to agree! Numerous studies have shown hypnosis to have measurable and significant impacts on the brain.

If you find stuff like this fascinating, you might like to know a bit about brainwaves and how they're affected in those experiencing hypnosis. (If stuff like this bores you and "you're getting veeeerrry sleeepy" already, feel free to skip this bit.)

Neurologists have recorded five distinct types of brainwaves, which they measure using a machine called an electroencephalograph (EEG). (Say that garbled mouthful five times fast!)

These brainwave types operate at different frequencies and are all present in different areas of the brain at all times. However, one type will be dominant depending on our state of mind, which is determined by what we're thinking about and how relaxed we feel.

Here's a quick rundown of the five brainwave types:

  • Delta waves (0.5 - 3 Hertz) - These waves are dominant during dreamless sleep and the deepest levels of meditation and hypnosis. Delta waves are associated with regenerative healing and are mainly observed in those highly experienced with hypnosis, as it's difficult to stay awake in a delta state.
  • Theta waves (3 - 8 Hertz) - These waves are dominant during sleep, meditation and hypnosis. Theta states are intimately connected to memory, intuition and the subconscious mind where we hold our emotional "stuff."
  • Alpha waves (8 - 12 Hertz) - These waves are dominant during quiet moments of thought and lighter meditative or hypnotic states. Alpha states are associated with calmness and aid overall mental coordination, learning and mind-body integration.
  • Beta waves (12 - 38 Hertz) - These waves are dominant while we're engaged in problem-solving, decision-making and other moments of focused mental activity. The brain uses tremendous amounts of energy in a beta state.
  • Gamma waves (38 Hertz and upward) - These waves are highly active in states of universal love, altruism, expanded consciousness and spiritual emergence. Gamma waves support the simultaneous processing of information from different areas of the brain, but don't typically apply to hypnotic states.

So, hypnotists are basically magicians who use words to manipulate our pliable minds. During sessions, they guide their subjects from a beta state down to a calmer alpha, theta, or delta state where the open playground of the subconscious mind reigns. Anxiety burns off and someone may experience deep relaxation, vivid hallucinations, suppressed memories, or uncover core beliefs they were previously unaware of.

In this relaxed state, individuals may also become highly suggestible, meaning they become more receptive to new ideas and are more willing to suspend critical reasoning. They may also feel less inhibited than usual. This is due to dimmed activity in the left hemisphere of the cerebral cortex, which is linked to deduction and reasoning. Simultaneously, activity in the right hemisphere increases, allowing the creative and impulsive subconscious mind to take over.

As you'd imagine, these effects make hypnosis a valuable tool for BDSM tops seeking to influence the minds of their subs. The experience of trance also blends beautifully with subspace, an extremely pleasurable state of consciousness in itself.

The Stages of Erotic Hypnosis

How exactly do those crafty hypnotists get bottoms like me melting like butter with their smooth gabbin'? As it turns out, they follow a general framework during sessions. The process was described to me like this:

  1. Negotiation: Those involved have a chat to establish boundaries and safety mechanisms before play.
  2. Induction: The hypnotist creates the trance in the participant's mind. There are a number of techniques for accomplishing this, such as leading the participant through a breathing exercise or asking them to gaze at a specific object for a period of time. The goal is to quiet the participant's conscious mind in order to gain access to their subsconscious.
  3. Deepeners: Once the hypnotist perceives that the participant has entered a trance, they use what are called 'deepeners' to deepen and direct the trance in a particular direction. They might guide the participant through a visualization or body relaxation exercise, or something else entirely based on what they want them to feel.
  4. Suggestions: The hypnotist gets to the core of the practice by explicitly guiding the thoughts and feelings of the participant via suggestions, like "Every time you hear my voice you'll feel the urge to submit, and it's going to feel so good." This is where the 'mind control' stuff comes in, as hypnotists could theoretically guide a suggestible person in any direction.
  5. Wipers: The hypnotist removes the suggestions they planted before awakening the participant. For instance, "When you come out of trance, you'll no longer feel submissive when you hear my voice," etc. Many practitioners skip this step and leave the suggestions intact so the participant will (ideally) experience the effects of hypnosis outside of trance. This can be incredibly hot, but potentially problematic. (More on that later.)
  6. Aftercare: The two share a moment to decompress, talk about what happened and make sure all is well after the trance ends.

Although the skeleton of a hypnosis session is straightforward, the exact words spoken can vary each time, making the possibilities for different types of play endless.

What Does It Feel Like to Be Hypnotized?

Pop culture tends to portray those undergoing hypnosis as if they're unconscious and robbed of all agency. They cluck like chickens, say ridiculous things they don't believe and remember nothing once they've awakened from the trance.

This impression always made me nervous, even after experiencing trance a handful of times. I relayed my fears to a friend who offered to hypnotize me at a recent play party.

"It's basically mind control, isn't it? Seems like I might start doing and saying crazy things."

He laughed. "Only if your mind is open to doing them."

And he's right, when I think about it. I've never felt forced to do or think anything during hypnosis that I wouldn't otherwise. I've felt relaxed, focused and incredibly connected to my partner, but never out of control.

The instructor at the munch I attended explained that those being hypnotized have to actively participate for suggestions to take root in their minds. No one can force our minds to believe or feel compelled to do something.

I've also never forgotten the details of what happened while I was hypnotized. Being so completely immersed in trance to the point of amnesia is apparently not something that happens automatically, but instead is a goal many work toward and request from experienced tops.

My friend, who also bottoms with one of his partners as a participant in hypnosis, explained it's a goal of his to be able to forget who his top is one day while tranced out during a scene.

I frowned. "Why would you want to forget who your partner is while she's topping you?"

"Because she's a very consent-focused person, and I'm into consensual non-consent. I want to trick my mind into actually feeling afraid of her."

As you can tell, some practitioners out there don't take erotic hypnosis lightly.

The Specific Purposes of Hypnokink

Here are some examples of goals practitioners might have for their erotic hypnosis scenes:

  • Removing the participant's worries, fears, or insecurities in order to open them up to deeper levels of submission.
  • Heightening sensation in a particular area of the body. For instance, a top might program their sub to feel their elbow as an erogenous zone.
  • Helping the participant immerse themselves in the headspace of a role prior to a roleplay scene. A bottom into puppy play, for example, might benefit from a trance that guides them into the thoughts, feelings and experiences a puppy might have.
  • Creating compulsions in the individual, such as the urge to perform certain sexual acts.
  • Conditioning the individual by creating mental associations. For instance, the hypnotist might link certain words or situations to a state of arousal in their partner's mind.)
  • Causing the individual to hallucinate and feel certain effects. They could feel bound by a rope that's not there, for example.

The holy grail of erotic hypnosis, from what I hear, is to be able to induce orgasm in some without physical touch. This is extremely difficult to achieve, they say, and requires a serious investment of time and practice on the part of both participants.

Uhh ... Is all of this ethical?

If you're thinking, "Damn, such powers could easily be used for evil," then ding ding ding, you're correct!

A lot of hypnosis resources echo smarmy pick-up artists who use shady tactics to seduce people without their knowledge. Coercion's not a nice thing and no one wants to be "that guy," so it's vital to make sure intentions are pure and informed consent is enthusiastically given.

Here are some safety and consent tips hypnosis tops can use, especially while getting familiar with new partners:

  1. Have a negotiation talk that's specific to hypnosis play. Ask your partner what interests them about hypnosis, as well as any preferences or limits they have. Also, clarify whether it is or isn't OK to touch them in specific places while they're in a state of trance. Erotic hypnosis can be performed with or without physical contact.

  2. Don't do erotic hypnosis while you or your partner are under the influence of drugs or alcohol, especially if you're not already extremely familiar with one another. Boundaries tend to get hazy while people are blasted.

  3. While talking your partner into a state of trance, include wording that sets them up with full agency. "You will always be able to communicate easily while hypnotized. You'll always have the power to come out of trance easily," etc.

  4. Negotiate a simple gesture or movement the individual can make if they experience discomfort while hypnotized. They may find it difficult to express themselves verbally while they're deeply in the zone.

  5. Give your partner a mental "out" while giving them suggestions. For instance, rather than saying "You trust me completely," you might say, "What would it feel like to trust me completely?" Keep your wording open-ended so the ball is in your partner's court.

  6. Some people are guided to create a tulpa (an imaginary friend, essentially,) who can keep an objective stance and protect the individual from straying into unwanted territory during trance. (I am not even remotely an expert on this. Better to ask The Almighty Google for more info!)

  7. Encourage your partner to let you know during aftercare if something could be better next time. This will give them incentive to collaborate with you on taking your hypnosis scenes in increasingly positive directions.

Overall, you never want to exert influence over your partner's subconscious on the sly, such as while they're asleep. They need to understand hypnosis and its risks in order to willingly participate.

The Risks of Erotic Hypnosis

Like anything else, mind control is all fun and games until it isn't. Here are some things to be aware of before you decide to dive deep:

Rape and Other Associated Horrors

Cases have been reported of hypnosis being used against unwitting participants for purposes of sexual abuse and other crimes. Imagine looking down and discovering your clothes have been removed but having no recollection of what happened. No good at all!

While erotic hypnosis is specifically meant to arouse participants, it's NOT a carte blanche for tops to do whatever they want while their partners are in a pliable and vulnerable state of mind.

Don't agree to be hypnotized by anyone who hasn't given you extremely good cause to trust them. If you start to experiment, take it slow and be on the lookout for red flags.

Unintended Psychological Effects

As Ayzad points out in his blog, Freud abandoned the use of hypnosis with his patients because he was unable to effectively control their subconscious minds in reliable ways.

The vast majority of erotic hypnotists in the BDSM scene aren't trained psychiatrists with proper awareness of what they're doing. So ask yourself, do you trust them more than Freud?

The mind is a powerful and unpredictable enigma. You have no way of knowing exactly what will happen if you let someone go digging around in your subconscious, proceed with care!

Untimely Triggers

Hypnotists often suggest triggers to participants. For example, "Every time you hear the words 'good girl,' you'll feel an uncontrollable urge to suck my cock."

Now imagine having to swat your horny sub off your dick at the park after she overhears some stranger praising their dog.

OK, that might actually be fun (tee hee hee) but similar occurrences can and do happen. Take care while working with triggers and consider all possible ramifications of absorbing them.

All the Risks That Normally Come With Power Exchange

Personally, I'm a risk-taking kinda gal and look forward to exploring erotic hypnosis more thoroughly in the future. So far, the people I've met in this corner of the scene have shown me that with planning, practice, safeguards and a commitment to ethical play, consensual mind control can be a fun tool intimate partners can use to dive deeper (and deeper and deeper and deeper and deeper...)

If you're the curious type and would like more info, check out this detailed guide for newbies to hypnokink, written by a friend with years of experience teaching as a hypno top.

If you're interested in getting involved in the community, search online for hypnokink events and classes in your local fetish community.