Friday, September 16, 2011

What is “edge play”?
How do you do “edge play” in a contest fantasy?

For our contest, we had a weekend theme of “Edge Play”.  Each of the regions for ILSb (sixteen of them) are assigned a theme (at random, I think).  In past years, our region has had Rough Trade and Outdoors, among others.  I’m not sure how tightly integrated these are into the contests for each region.  For our contest, we were supposed to include Edge Play into our fantasy, although without any discussion of what that means (and what it doesn’t mean).

Here’s what the International site says:
The themes are intended to inspire contestants’ onstage fantasies that are appropriate to the image of masculine leather sexuality and to showcase the diversity of leather interests.  The themes are not intended to be restrictive.  ILSb contestants are encouraged to be creative and expand the boundaries of their themes.
Here are a few definitions from online sources:
In BDSM, edgeplay is a subjective term for types of sexual play that are considered to be pushing on the edge of the traditional safe, sane and consensual creed.
EDGE PLAY is the action of offering new challenges to the Edges of play you and your submissive are already familiar with.  Every physical challenge is equally mentally challenging as it is asking your submissive to reach beyond where they think they can
Steel-Door Newsletter
Refers to rough and deviant sex play, intercourse and foreplay
The most widely used definition of “edge play” at the moment is playing at the threshold of someone’s limits of fear, pain or endurance.  For someone who has never been tied up before and is terrified of bondage, that first rope around their wrists might well be edge play.  But if he or she has no fear of bondage then the first rope isn’t edge play at all.  It doesn’t become edge play until the Top and bottom go on the journey all the way out to the edge (whatever and wherever that may be) - and then stop and play there for a while.
John Pendal, International Mr. Leather 2003
  1. Edgeplay is SM play that involves a chance of harm, either physically or emotionally.  It’s also subjective to the players involved; what is risky for me might not be risky for you and visa versa.  A few examples of edge play under this definition are fireplay, gunplay, rough body play including punching and wrestling, breath play and blood play.
  2. Edgeplay can also literally mean play with an edge.  Such examples of play are cutting, knives, swords and other sharp implements.  These forms of edge play also fall under the broad term in #1.
  3. Any practice which challenges the limits or boundaries of one or more of the participants.
In my own experience, especially as comes to contest stage fantasies (which let’s be frank, are playing at Edge Play, not Edge Play themselves), Edge Play typically takes one of two forms: Abduction/Rape fantasies (that is, non-consensual/no safeword) or Gun/Knife (that is, inherent danger.  Those two forms are what people have come to expect in an Edge Play presentation.  And thus stuff which should be edgy actually becomes old hat because it has been done enough that the edge has been scraped right off it.

Personally, I like the last definition piece above: challenging limits and boundaries.  I like that because it allows any scene to tackle Edge Play — you don’t have to involve violence or physical danger, but you still have to push boundaries for what is comfortable, allowed, and accepted.  This allows more freedom to reach for the edge, but only if you are willing to take that freedom.  If the bottom can’t handle being restrained, any ropeplay can be edge for him.  Turning the tables on a 100% top can be edge play to the top.

In a contest fantasy, doing “edge play” is two steps more difficult.  First, this is a stage presentation, and most things are thus faked up to some degree.  (Things are at least somewhat pre-choreographed, both parties know the script, warm-up and foreplay get left out, and everything gets compacted to fit in a few minutes of real time.)  Depending on the venue rules, you likely can’t do actual penetration.  You can’t fellate a real gun; you can’t actually cut the bottom or put in hooks or anything resulting in blood and body fluids other than spit; you can’t use open flames.  And the audience knows this, so the power of a takedown, an abduction, a gang rape very quickly evaporates — how long can the audience’s willing suspension of disbelief last when people around them are chit chatting?  Second, the stage fantasy is performance art, and the meaning of art is in the eye of the audience.  It isn’t just you and a partner up there, it is you and a partner and the judges and the audience.  Even if what you are doing is/would be edge play to you, it probably isn’t edge play to everyone present.  (As they say, “What I do is normal, what he does is edge play.”  It doesn’t matter what it is you are doing, someone finds it scary, someone finds it hot, and someone did it three years ago at Inferno and is looking for something new.)

Is watersports edge play?  Is fisting edge play?  Is foodplay edge play?  Is suspension play?  Predicament bondage?  Blindfolded anonymous sex?  Breathplay?  Gender play?  Domestic violence?  Scat?

(Now put the word “simulated” before each of those, and “to the judges and audience” after them.)

With my fantasy, a couple of the judges scoresheets indicated that they didn’t think the fantasy was very edgy.  On the other hand two prominent leather community members who were present (both former titleholders) turned out to have hard limits with foodplay, and the themes in my fantasy totally squicked them.  For myself, portions of the fantasy were right in line with my regular kink actitivities, portions were an area I’ve only been able to explore my own limits with in the past few months, and portions were completely new ground for me.  (So it was in some was personal edge play.)

(One portion of the fantasy didn’t come off quite as hoped for; things would have been about three steps further into “edge play” if it had, and if I redo the fantasy at Northwest Sash Bash or International next year, I will ensure that component gets done right.)

In retrospect, I can see two places that I failed to accomplish the edge play aspects as well as perhaps I should have (but these are also things which can be fixed next time!):
  • While deciding to not do the expected (overdone) versions of Edge Play, I perhaps ended up playing things too subtle, so that the judges and others looking for Edge Play would need to look harder, beyond their own preconceived notions, which isn’t always easy for someone to do.  I could have included some “danger” references, for example, to give people looking for something standard a tidbit to chew on.
  • I relied on the uncommon nature of the activities being done in the fantasy, and the frequent setting and violating of expectations, to carry across the “edge” nature of things.  I could have been more upfront about that, having the dialogue and body language indicate reluctance and fear of the activities being done, to carry that the actions were edge play in the fantasy (rather than just another Saturday night at the bar).
For most of the audience, I don’t think they had a clue that “edge play” was supposed to be involved, nor had much thought as to what that might entail.  But niether do I think they cared.  They were just fucking well entertained by what they got!

Updated on September 19
Alternately, I could have just tied up the bottom and forced him to list to U2 songs.  Because then he would have heard (bad pun alert) the Edge play.

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