There is a crossroads, a nexus, a hub that few people know about. It is quiet little place away from the crowds and the popular attractions of kink. All around it are thriving communities and yet it is not only not used, it is often flat out avoided. Edge players and role players are not often thought of as having much in common but there are so many ways that these two groups can overlap. Role players can find more depth and realism in their games if they understood the dark nature of their characters. Edge players could incorporate method acting to engage in some the most horrible feelings and worlds we can imagine.
I have found that most role players disappoint me. They are stuck in their seats not thinking about the role they are in as a real person but as a two dimensional fantasy. This is a common feeling and I understand where it comes from. Most of us want to role play because it was how we got into sex in the first place. I remember seeing girls in my middle school in jean skirts and big hair. I remember the goth girls that hid their sexuality in short cropped hair and dark lipstick. I remember masturbating to fantasies of them sucking my cock, leaving burgundy rings as they went. I can still feel the new sex excitement when I think of the smell of denim soaked in her juices as we played around in the back of the car. These triggers are what we are trying to recreate in role-playing. We are looking to make the past real again or to manifest dreams. In either case the perfection of the moment makes it difficult to leave the third person head space. To truly enjoy the moment you have to become the character. When the fantasy is too over developed in your head it becomes difficult to get past. Dark fantasies have helped me by giving me a character that is strong enough in himself that I can fall into the role almost completely. These dark roles do not need back story. They do not need to have a motivation explained for you. They are understandable. They are flatter, more purely emotional people. Anger, greed, lust, are ll not only feelings but personas that can be manifest in dark edge play games. Do not over think them, let them be simple and horrible. What you will find is that a feeling role can be liberating and it helps to lay the groundwork for more complex characters later. It is not unlike wearing a path through the woods.
In many of the same ways that edge play helps a role player get in touch with the depth of his role, role play let’s an edge player get in touch with his more horrible side. As a sadist I struggle with my desire to hurt people. It is not just that I want to see them in pain but that I often want to see them suffer. If I am playing hard and exploring the blackest parts of my soul I used to need more aftercare than my bottom. I wanted to know that I was still a good man. I wanted to feel as if what I had done was ok. I was not comfortable in my sadism. I have heard similar stories from masochists as well. The guilt and shame one feels for desiring something which is not only shunned by society at larger but disavowed by many in our own community is often too much to handle. We hide this side away until it must come out and when it must come out, it is usually an explosion. If we can find ways to let it out, we are healthier and happier. If we can limit this shame and guilt the more we are comfortable we are at letting it out. Role play allows you to put the feelings on the character. The anger is not yours, the rage is someone else. You can explore it a little at a time. I find it interesting that the habits we are trying to break away from in role-playing (dissociation) is what we are using as a buffer in edge play. Slowly you become more and more comfortable with the feelings and let them become part of who you are.
Role playing can make things more real or less real depending on the angle from which you enter it. Emotional edge play can make a scene more intense if you are willing to commit to the feelings it brings. When these two kinks cross it is an amazing place to be standing. The realism of the feelings, the fear and terror of watching yourself become this monster, the ability to lose yourself in the role all work to create far more intense and satisfying scenes. We have to learn to see that many of the kinks we see can and do cross each other if we look hard enough. It is the complexity of what we do that makes this an endless game.
Edge play is one of the most nebulous things I have come across in all of kink. You can talk to ten different perverts and get ten different definitions of what it is and what it is not. As I was sitting down to write another post I found myself having to define what I meant by edge play. After about three paragraphs of this tangent I realized that it was a post of its own that needed to be written first.
Noun: The outside limit of an object, area, or surface; a place or part farthest away from the center of something.
Noun: Activity engaged in for enjoyment and recreation.
We come to kink for different reasons but one of the common threads to our varied journeys is that we are looking to explore. We want to push ourselves, our partners, conventional wisdom beyond the point of comfort. Is pleasure always good? Is pain always bad? Is a full and complete life one that does not experience the darkness? We want to see if there is more to life than the happiness we are told daily we should be seeking. Even in the community, there are those who fell that the questions are not answered with flogging scenes and nipple clamps. There are those of us who need to be pushed even farther.
A place farthest away from the center of something…
This piece of the definition holds the key to why we have such varied ideas of what edge play is. Farthest away from the center of what? The center of society? The center of happiness? The center of safety? The center of self? Each of these is true in a different definition and often overlap.
- Society: Society is a power influence. It is the consensus of what is acceptable and what is not. American society is hetero, male, white middle class. The farther you are from that image the more toward the edge you are. Gender bending, cross dressing, sexual fluidity and other ways of living outside this norm push the comfort zone of conventional wisdom. Is this edge play? To many, yes it is. You are putting your exploration in the face of all that you have been taught to be accepted. But for many this is not an edge. For many this is where they want to live not because it is outside the norm but because it is their personal norm. One person’s edge is another person’s home.
- Safety: I have pulled a half a pint of blood out of someone and covered her in it. I have used electricity, knives, needles and breath play to see what the human body can take. Are these edges? Yes. Playing with tools that are inherently dangerous, opening the body up, exploring the world with weapons are all things that can end badly. If you have a sub tied to a cross as you flog her, the number of things that can go horribly wrong are limited; when you pull a knife out and trace it along the body, more so. Many physical edge players will tell you that they do not practice SSC (Safe, Sane, Consensual) kink but instead prefer RACK (Risk Aware Consensual Kink). They know that what they are doing carries risk of injury but are willing to play with it anyway. They take the precautions they feel are necessary and move ahead ready to deal with the outcomes whatever they may be. This is a place of contention within the community. Many see it as personal responsibility to manage how each person plays, others feel a need to keep people safe and educated to the dangers. It is true that some people play with fire without understanding the dangers associated with it but the debate for the ages is whether it is the communities responsibility to manage them.
- Self: One man’s kink is another man’s nightmare. The world is full of triggers and phobias. What is the end of the world for one person may be nothing more than the start of the journey for another. If you have a fear not being able to move, rope may be too much for you to handle. If you grew up in a house with a domineering father, playing with D/s may be a trigger. To someone outside your personal experience may see what you are doing as nothing out of the ordinary but for you it is hard, intense, life changing.
Why the fuck would you do that?!?
There are risks in every kind of play. Hell, you can step out of your house an be hit by a bus.* Edge play just happens to be more so. So what makes a person want to risk life, limb and sanity with such dangerous “games”? The answers depend on the person but most will tell you it is about being alive. I have run into more than one edge “player” who takes great offense to the play nomenclature. This is not a game, it is not a joke. It is as real as anything they experience walking down the street. To many (myself included) what they experience in an intense scene is more real. It is in the moment that the false trappings of civilization fall away and the soul is left bare. At the edge you stare off into the existential abyss.
* If you live in the boondocks and are thinking “Ah Ha! There are no buses near my house!” Replace Bus with Bear and hit with eaten
With great power…
Edge play is about personal freedom. It is about exploring the darkest corners of the psyche and looking into the void and seeing The Nothing looking back. It should not be seen as a bad thing when you want to play on the edge. It should not be seen as a pathology that needs to be monitored. We are all adults. This means that we have the right to make our own choices about what risks we are willing to take on. It also means that we have a responsibility to not make others feel outcast for what they do. When a kinkster is outcast in his own community, do you think he stops doing it? No! he goes underground, he hides in his bedroom and does what he wants to do without having the support of the community to help him do it as safely as possible. When we shun the ABDL, when we cringe at the Furry, when we turn up our noses at the auto-erotic asphyxiator we are saying more about us than them and in the process, weakening our community.