What is impact play? (and should you try it…)

What is impact play?

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Impact play is a form of BDSM that involves consensual striking or hitting of the body for pleasure. It can range from light spanking to more intense forms like flogging or caning.

Impact play is…well…physically impacting something onto someone.

Impact play is not about causing harm. It’s about exploring sensations with your partner, building trust, and ultimately giving each other pleasure.

What impact play is right for you?

What you use to do the impacting and on which part of the body you want to impact are up to you and your partner.

Personally I tend to use my hand. It creates a nice sting, I can be exact about how much power I want to put into the impact, and no other equipment is needed.

Other people will want a more stingy sensation, in which case an implement with less surface area is better. Think cane, whip, or thin paddle.

We’ve found that women tend to be able to produce more stingy sensations with their hands because they are smaller than men! Smaller hands equals the same force through a smaller surface area, equals a more stingy sensation (I knew highschool physics would come in use some day!)

Types of impact play

Types of impact play include:

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  • Spanking
  • Paddling
  • Whipping
  • Flogging
  • Caning
  • Slapping
  • Punching

I’ve ordered these roughly according to how painful they are, least painful first. 

Beginners should start with spanking and paddling.

Only if you have plenty of experience should you consider caning, slapping, and punching. 

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The further down the list you go, the more trust you need to have with your partner. The techniques at the bottom are far more dangerous than those at the top.

Why do people enjoy impact play?

BDSM practitioners enjoy impact play for two general reasons: physical sensation and to enhance their power dynamic. 

Pain and pleasure

Impact play causes pain, but this can result in pleasure. 

Think of when you do a really hard session at the gym, which causes temporary physical pain. After a tough set or a long session you might experience a sense of accomplishment at having pushed your body to its limits, and because of the chemical changes that are taking place. 

The same goes during impact play. The temporary pain is exhilarating to some. It feels good to feel pain. It brings your mind into the present so you can’t focus on your worries and stresses.

Endorphins might be released that cause subspace in the bottom, and a sense of power in the top resulting in topspace (domspace). 

Psychological stimulation

As well as the physical stimulation, the Dom and sub can use power play to amplify the power exchange in their dynamic. 

Impact play can be used to:

  • Punish the submissive for breaking rules 
  • Correct unwanted behaviour
  • Reward the submissive for good behaviour (that’s right, some people enjoy impact play so much it’s a treat)
  • Remind the submissive of their position in the dynamic. Moineau and I someone do ‘Maintenance Spankings’ – 10-20 quick spanks on the backside to remind each other that we are in a power dynamic. 
  • To ground the submissive. Sometimes impact play can be used as a grounding exercise. Perhaps the submissive is feeling tense, or nervous, or anxious, or finding it difficult to concentrate. Impact play can be used as a mindfulness exercise, bringing them into the present and grounding them.
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In these ways impact play is used for psychological effect, not solely to impact physical pain.

Tools and equipment

Anything (within reason) can be used to strike someone. But the most common types of impact play toys are:

Each has advantages and disadvantages, and create a different sensation for the submissive.

As mentioned earlier, I advise beginners to start with hands, paddles and floggers.

After you have experience, and are sure you’re partner enjoys impact play, you can progress to more intense and painful implements.

Most sex shops sell paddles and floggers nowadays. The quality varies massively.

As a beginner, I recommend buying a cheap paddle to see if you like it. Once you’re sure you can purchase pricier and higher quality toys from specialist BDSM suppliers or Etsy. 

There’s no point in buying expensive toys if you don’t even know if you like impact play yet.

Risk of impact play

Impact play is risky.

There’s a real risk of physical harm, short-term and long-term. 

The degree of risk depends on:

  • Implements used (using a cane is more likely to break skin than a spank with a hand)
  • Where on the body you are struck. Hitting the fleshy part of the bum is still risky, but not as risky as hitting someone in the face. 
  • Force used. Obviously how much force is used in the strike changes risk. A light spank carries very low risk whereas a hard spank can leave bruises. 
  • Sensitivity. Some people bruise more easily than others. 
  • Experience level. Those experienced in impact play can reduce risk by being more accurate with their aim, being better at communication, and being better at judging how much force their submissive can take before injury occurs. 
  • Health. If a bottom has a blood infection, this could be spread if skin is broken during an impact play session. 
  • Aftercare. Swelling can be reduced using cremes and ice packs, and other first aid. 

You and your partner must be aware of the risks of impact play and have discussed them before you start. 

If in any doubt then do not engage in impact play.

If you accept the risks then go ahead, understanding that no BDSM activity is 100% safe.

Reducing the risk during impact play 

I hope you now understand that impact play is risky, and consent and communication is key.

To reduce the risk ensure you:

  • And your partner have fully discussed and agreed to what is going to be done and with what. For example, as a submissive you could say to your partner that you agree to being slapped on the bum with a hand or flogger but you do not consent to being struck anywhere else on your body or with any other implement. 
  • Have agreed on safe words and safe signals. A signal is important in case you are unable to talk (perhaps due to subspace, pain, or a gag).
  • Have a first aid kit with bandages and plasters on hand. 
  • Know what to do in case of emergency. 
  • Start slow. Don’t use full force for your first impact play session. Stick to types of impact play that carry less risk to begin with.
  • Quit whilst the going is good. End the impact play session before your limits are reached. You can always come back for more another time. 
  • Debrief with your partner after the session to understand what went well, what you enjoyed, and what needs to change next time.
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What if I don’t like impact play?

That’s totally fine!

Don’t let anyone tell you that you’re not a proper Dom or sub because you don’t enjoy impact play. 

It’s just another activity which you can choose to include in your BDSM activities or leave out entirely. 

What if I like impact play but my partner doesn’t?

This is where your communication skills are essential. 

Never force your partner to engage in impact play if they don’t enjoy it. 

Everything you do in BDSM MUST be consensual. That means both you AND whoever you are playing with understand the risks, what’s involved, what they are agreeing to, and haven’t been coerced in any way. 

If you’re a submissive and enjoy impact play but your Dominant doesn’t, don’t guilt trip then by claiming ‘good Doms’ should enjoy it. 

Likewise, if you’re a Dominant who enjoys impact play but your partner doesn’t, don’t abuse the power play in a D/s dynamic to get them to agree to engaging in it with you. 


Impact play is what most people think of if you say you are into BDSM. It is a widely practiced part of BDSM, but only if both people enjoy and have consented to it.

It is on the riskier end of BDSM activities. Therefore it should only be done with someone you trust. Start slow and build up to the more painful and risky impact play activities. 

Before you start make sure you fully understand the risks, and agree exactly what is going to happen in your play session ahead of time. 

Have a safe word and safe signal in place just in case. 

If you follow these tips you’ll minimise the risks involved, and are much more likely to have an enjoyable experience. 

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