The number one top complaint is definitely “I can’t read your mind!” But it gets stiff competition from its close cousin: “Give me real reactions, dammit!”
This I can sympathise with. Scening is all about what’s going on in the bottom’s head. Me and my kind naturally have privileged access to this contested territory, but tops need external validation, poor souls.
But I do have a question. What are these not-real reactions? Faked overreactions? Because I haven’t seen them. I’m sure they do happen – my experience is extremely limited. But to me it looks like the far more common problem is lack of reaction.
And it’s not simply willful repression. I was utterly baffled when I watched my first demo classes, because again and again, bottoms said they weren’t scared, though we could all see them shaking. And I don’t think they were lying. Because when I myself was in the hot seat, I didn’t even know I was trembling.
So it’s not just a few stoic bottoms. To some extent, I think it’s all of us.
Why on earth does this happen? I scratched my head for months and couldn’t work it out. But luckily one of my kinky friends wrangles people’s minds for a living. I took my confusion to her and she nodded sagely. “Dissociation.”
Huh. That makes a lot of sense. I used to think dissociation meant full-blown multiple personality disorder, or the fugue states beloved of mystery authors because even the murderer doesn’t know he’s done it. But according to The Myth of Sanity by Harvard psychologist Martha Stout, everyone experiences dissociation. Maybe not the kind of rage that makes you wonder who smashed all the dishes. But it also counts if you’ve ever commuted on autopilot while consumed with grief or anxiety.
In my case, dissociation is a very old friend. As I’ve said before, writing about pre-scene jitters:
I was mostly terrified that I wouldn’t be terrified. I know me. When I miss a plane, I shrug and call the airline. When I get dumped, I smile and give my best wishes. And so forth. I have a long history of shutting down in emotional crisis.
And I don’t even know it’s happening till it goes away. I just freeze into total indifference to the crisis trigger. Scares the hell out of my ex-doms. They’ve never met this brisk, friendly grown-up before.
But then they’ve seen me dissociate when I’m scening, too, just a bit differently. Too much pain, too much real fear, and all the interesting noises shut off like a tap. Same with the grovelling gratitude, the wide eyes and trembling. Instead you get my vanilla reaction to pain and danger, which resembles nothing so much as sardonic sports commentator trying very hard for saintly patience. If you can’t imagine how that plays out, let me refer you to my CollarMe review.
Obviously this is no fun at all for the top. But believe me, it’s no fun from down here, either. I love losing my vanilla observer – in fact, it’s one of the best things about scening. When it works, I am 100% present and reacting. With the laser focus of a deer in the headlights, in fact. Dissociation is the opposite of that. It’s a hedgehog curling up when poked. Great defence mechanism against stress. But it gets in the way of our fun, dammit!
So what can we do about it?
The kinky mind-wrangler and I do have some ideas. But I’d love to hear yours first.
Or just go on to Part 2 with my blessing.