When you hear “impact play,” what comes to mind?

Are you think about a kinky spanking in your schoolgirl uniform? Maybe you’re imagining a whip and a St. Andrew’s Cross. You could be like me and think about being naked in the dungeon, with your arms suspended by rope over head while your partner decides whether they’ll hit you with a paddle, a flogger, a crop, or their hand.

All of that - and much more - is part of impact play. You don’t necessarily have to be a masochist or a sadist to enjoy impact play. It may be something you use in other parts of your kinky life. Wherever you fall on the spectrum, from “just a little tap, please” to “make it burn, make me bleed!” there’s plenty to learn, try, and enjoy in impact play.

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Impact Play and Kink

People who enjoy any form of impact play, from over-the-knee spankings to whipping until blood is drawn, have their own reasons for it. Not every kinkster enjoys it for the same reason. In fact, impact play can hit multiple kinks.

Sadism and Masochism

This probably seems obvious, but many people enjoy impact play because they want to feel or cause pain. They’re either sadists or masochists. Not all pains are created equal, though. Just because someone likes the sting of a bare hand doesn’t mean they’ll enjoy the piercing pain of a cane. Many kinksters separate pain into stinging pain and thuddy pain and often have a clear preference for one or the other. Some people love pain so much they don’t care what kind it is.

Read: Why Pain Makes Us Horny: The Process That Turns Pain Into Pleasure

Discipline

Some forms of impact play are done in response to other behavior. In a power exchange relationship, a spanking, whipping, or flogging could be used as an endurance test for the bottom or submissive. How long can they take the impact or the pain before screaming, moving, or reacting in some other way?

Punishment and Funishment

In many (but not all) power exchange relationships, impact play can be used as a form of punishment for bad behavior. Broken rules, missed tasks, and a sassy mouth can earn a willing submissive a red bottom or a few welts. On the other hand, funishment is a fun form of “punishment” when both the Dom and sub know the bad behavior isn’t meant to be disrespectful, but to earn the pleasurable experience of the impact.

Humiliation

Humiliation fetishes can take a variety of forms from licking boots to groveling and begging. Spankings can be very humiliating for someone who doesn’t want to be a “bad girl” or “bad boy.” On the other hand, from a personal perspective, being slapped in the face is humiliating because it’s a very personal kind of strike and not something we associate with sex or love. For those of us who get off on humiliation, this can be fun. However, tops and Dominants need to be aware that some acts can trigger bad memories and feelings. If you’re using impact play as part of humiliation play, check in with your partner frequently.

Types of Impact Play

Impact play comes in many forms. You can enjoy one type of play, like a spanking, and not be interested in others. With all impact play, the top (or Dominant) who will be striking their partner should never do so until they’ve practiced and gotten a feel for how it works. Pillows, beds, and other non-people surfaces are a good place to begin.

Safewords and gestures are a must in any impact play. Real physical injury can occur, and a bottom or submissive needs to be able to end a scene or play the moment something doesn’t feel right. Gestures, like dropping an item, snapping, or even stomping a foot, are necessary if the sub is gagged or cannot speak or make noise for any other reason.

Dominants, don’t be shy about stopping a scene even if your partner is still willing. If you’re concerned for their safety and well-being, it’s better to stop and check on them.

Spanking

Probably the most common form of impact play is spanking. It can range from something you do during sex to a form of punishment in a power exchange relationship. Most spanking is done with your hand but plenty of other implements can be used:

Basically, if it has a flat edge and can be held in your hand, it can be used to spank someone’s bottom.

Silicone Spanking Paddle
Anything with a flat edge can be used for spanking, like this simple silicone paddle.

The Ultimate Guide to Impact Play
This double leather slapper is simple enough, but it delivers a loud slap and a nice bite.

Spanking Tips

If you’re new to spanking, start with your hand. Rub your partner’s bottom. This sends a signal to them that you’re about to begin. And, in my experience, a gentle touch reminds your partner that you’re doing this in a willing or even loving way.

Pull back and bring your palm down on their butt. Pick a cheek, any cheek. You don’t want to start out hitting them as hard as you can. One, your hand will get tired more quickly. Two, it may be too much for your partner, and they’ll end things with a safeword sooner than either of you would like. Start slow. Alternate where your hand lands. As their skin begins to turn pink, you might want to pick up speed or intensity. For really red marks or intense sensations, land a few (or several) smacks in the same spot.

Watch your partner’s body language. If they pull away, cry, or make sounds that don’t sound like they’re having a good time, ask if they want you to continue. Slow down if the intensity is too much for them. Many people like to use a color system:

  • Green means keep going
  • Yellow means slow down
  • Red means stop

As you and your partner get more comfortable with spanking, feel free to add other implements like a paddle or hairbrush. (Learn more in What's the difference between a wood, leather or silicone spanking paddle?)

Flogging

Flogging is a form of impact play that allows you to strike your partner on multiple parts of their body and create different sensations depending on the technique and type of flogger you use. There are many different types of floggers:

Strands of almost any type of material that can be bundled together with a handle can be called a flogger.

Suede Flogger
This simple, inexpensive suede flogger is perfect for beginners.

Before you flog a person, watch videos, go to a class at your local club or dungeon, and practice on pillows or the bed. Never strike a person with any amount of force until you know how to use your flogger. The basic technique is to rotate your wrist in a figure eight motion while holding the handle so that the strands make contact with the body. As you become more comfortable, you can practice a method called florentine where you use a flogger in each hand.

Your partner can be positioned on the bed, against the wall, bent over a table, standing in the middle of the room, or against a Saint Andrew's Cross. What matters most is that you have access to their body and room to swing the flogger.

Flogging can be as gentle or as painful as you and your partner enjoy. Slow and steady swings will produce a deep thud sensation. Quick and sharp movements, so that the tips of the flogger hit the skin first, create a sting. Varying your speed and intensity will give your partner plenty of physical stimulation and keep them on their toes, both literally and figuratively.

Where the flogger strikes is as important as the intensity. The back is the most common target for a flogger but once you’ve had some practice, you can try the chest, thighs, and even their genitals (with care!). Avoid the sides of the body and stomach because you could do real damage to their internal organs.

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Whipping

Whipping is similar to flogging in that you have an item made of some type of material, most often leather, making impact with your partner as you hold a handle and move your wrist and arm. Because whipping can inflict welts and cuts and even draw blood, it’s extremely important that you practice on a pillow, a bench, a dummy, or something other than a person until you’re comfortable with the whip.

The most common whip scene typically includes the bull whip - a long whip that can snake around a person’s body on impact. Because of the potential danger to internal organs, you want to learn from someone with a great deal of experience before playing with any whip, but especially the bull whip, on your partner. Other types of whips include:

  • Dragon Tail - A very popular beginner whip that’s easy to use and control
  • Stock Whip - With it’s long handle, you flick it like you’re casting a fishing rod and can get a nice cracking sound.
  • Quirt - Similar to a stock whip but smaller with a forked tail at the end. Great for beginners.
  • Snake Whip

Leather Whip
This 4-foot leather whip is designed for quality impact play.

The ouch factor on a whip? A definite sting.

As with any implement in impact play, the amount and type of pain felt depends on how hard and fast the whip strikes the body. Always have a safeword with any impact play, but especially whipping because injury is a very real threat.

Cuts and drawn blood are very real possibilities. Make sure you know how to hold the whip, how far away you need to be, how to move your wrist, and what to do to strike your partner so that they feel the pain without being injured.

Caning

Ask people who enjoy impact play how they feel about the cane (assuming they’ve tried it), and you’ll get one of two reactions.

“I looooooove the cane!”

“OMG, please, not the cane!”

Personally, I have a love-hate relationship with caning. My Dominant partner adores the cane. A cane is a long, cylindrical rod that is used to strike the body in large muscle areas, but they are sometimes used on the bottom of the feet and other areas of the body. Like other impact play toys, they can be made of almost anything: bamboo, wooden dowels, plastic. Canes also come in many lengths from 12 or 18 inches long to a few feet in length.

The driving characteristic of the cane is the ability to localize the sensation, discomfort and, in my opinion, the burning pain that makes you think you’ve just been ripped in half upon impact. Because the impact is centralized to a very specific location on the body, typically the bottom, it has the ability to leave behind marks and bruises without as many strikes or quite as much force as other toys.

If your partner is sensitive to pain and can only handle a few strikes, consider mixing in other sensations between each use of the cane or saving it until the end of your play or scene and finishing off with a few quick strikes. My partner treats caning like an exclamation at the end of a sentence when we scene.

For those who really enjoy the sensation of the cane, you can use it for as long as both you and your partner can stand it, but it’s safest to start slow and build up the intensity and speed of your strikes. The nice thing about the cane is that a little can go a long way.

Plastic Impact Cane
This plastic cane is light, durable and designed to provide tremendous sensation.

Punching and Slapping

Punching and slapping are less common forms of impact play which probably has to do with the stigma surrounding them both and how we’re taught to treat people. A slap is an open-handed strike while a punch is with a closed fist. Neither should be administered in anger or without consent as with any other impact play.

As a masochist and submissive who loves rough sex, both punching and slapping have places in my personal kinky fun. A quick slap to the cheek can get your partner’s attention or cause a physical reaction throughout the rest of their body. In my experience, if I’m slapped during sex, my body will clench and clamp down over his cock. At the same time, I’m sent into a bit of subspace from the impact.

When you’re the one doing the slapping, you can stroke your partner’s cheek as a signal of what’s about to happen. As the one being slapped, I recommend relaxing your jaw when you think a slap is coming. A clenched jaw makes it hurt worse and can rattle your teeth.

Punching is completely different and should not be done on the face. You also don’t want to hit your partner with your knuckles. Instead, use the flat part of your fist and only strike large muscle groups. Where can you punch your partner? Note that wherever you can punch your partner, you can usually slap them, too.

  • Along the back and shoulders in the muscles next to the spine. Never punch someone in the spine.
  • Across their bottom
  • On their thighs - back and front
  • Calves
  • Arm
  • Chest - for women this will likely be above your breasts; slapping, however, is great for breasts especially if yours are sensitive.

You’ll likely punch your partner down their back and over their butt more than any other place. Listen to your partner’s verbal cues and watch their reaction. When my partner punches me, if he’s not careful, his hand turns, and I feel his knuckles. For me, this isn’t a good pain, and I tell him so.

Like other forms of impact play, you want to avoid the sides and stomach where the internal organs are located. You should also go slow and practice on your own leg or a pillow before striking your partner for the first time.

Aftercare

All kinky play needs some form of aftercare, but it’s especially important in impact play. Your partner has just been struck with an object or by hand many times. They may have entered subspace as a result and not be completely lucid. Marks might be appearing and muscles may be sore. They may also be dealing with any emotions that were released as part of the impact, pain, or experience.

Aftercare is an absolute must.

Everyone needs something different, but basic aftercare consists of water, a blanket, being held or holding your partner’s hand, and talking to them even if they’re not yet able to talk back. Because everyone is unique, you may find that your partner doesn’t want a blanket but needs a stuffed animal. They might not want you to talk until they can talk to you first. Maybe they need music. If this is your first time playing and neither of you is sure what aftercare will look like, start with the basics.

Doms and tops should check in with their partner a few hours later and the next day to make sure the bottom or submissive is doing OK mentally and physically. Subdrop is a very real thing, and some bruising, marks, or soreness may appear the next day.

Impact play, like other forms of kinky fun, can be as big or as small and as wild or as calm as you want it. Grab a wooden spoon and spank your partner. Go to the leather shop and check out the whips. Try your hand (no pun intended) at punching and slapping. Whatever interests you and your partner, it’s out there to try. The important thing is to go slow, play safe, and experiment.

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