Impact Play 101: Everything You Need to Know

What makes impact play intriguing?  |  What is impact play?  |  Impact Play in BDSM  |  Why do people enjoy impact play?  |  How to Warm Up for Spankings  |  Thuddy vs. Stingy Spankings  |  Types of Impact Play  |  Impact Play Safety  |  High & Low Risk Impact Areas  |  Aftercare

It is only by way of pain one arrives at pleasure — Marquis de Sade. 

The French nobleman was famed for his libertine sexuality, and we’re sure he could teach us a thing or two about impact play if he were alive today. In his absence, we’ll do our best to give you the lowdown on impact play, BDSM, and everything in between. 

Welcome to Impact Play 101, the ultimate guide on impact play for beginners and those who just want to learn more. Here we’ll answer the all-important question “What is impact play?”

Explore the many different types of impact play, take a closer look at Impact play toys and equipment, and discover how to engage in impact play safely.

Why impact play is so intriguing…

So why do some people get turned on by having their buttocks slapped, paddled, flogged, caned, and whipped? 

If you enjoy impact, or like the idea of it, you’re not alone. The thought of spanking or being spanked has naughty connotations.

Perhaps you were spanked as a child, or punished at school by a strict teacher. You might have read a piece of erotic fiction, witnessed someone else being spanked, or found yourself hot and bothered whilst watching a naughty movie scene featuring BDSM. 

Whatever the reason for your interest, it’s the perfect time to explore those deep desires and feelings. Allow us to let you in on a secret: impact play is sexy as hell and a great deal of fun. A heady mixture of intensity and pleasurable pain.

What does impact play mean?

To put it simply, impact play in the context of BDSM is impacting (read: spanking or hitting) another person often in an effort to achieve that sweet mix of pain and pleasure. 

Impact is versatile and can be used to meet a variety of needs. There are so many impact play toys available such as floggers, paddles, hairbrushes, and many others.

How hard you play is down to you. Some appreciate feather strokes designed to tickle and tease. Others prefer heavy impact play — harsh strokes applied with force (and often with an implement), which can leave behind red marks, bruises, and welts. There’s no right or wrong, as long as you’re both consenting and you’re both enjoying the experience. 


How does impact play fit into BDSM & kink?

Now you’ve gotten a grip on the meaning of impact play we can move on to how it fits into the world of BDSM & kink. Just to make sure we're on all the same page, BDSM stands for Bondage, Domination/Discipline, Sadism/Submission, and Masochism. 

One of the best aspects of BDSM is that you can mix and match the different forms of BDSM to find what you enjoy. 

If you're curious and exploring impact play and spanking, we highly recommend giving the book Spanking for Lovers by Janet W. Hardy a read. She compiled a brief list of ways you can incorporate spanking into your BDSM scenes. Read below for some inspiration!

  • Good girl/boy spankings as a reward 
  • Introductory disciplinary spankings — a ritual at the beginning of a discipline relationship to reinforce the new relationship dynamic and to learn the spankee's emotional and physical reaction to discipline 
  • Submission spankings, given simply because the spanker feels like it
  • Maintenance spankings to reinforce your relationship dynamic and to fulfill the spankee's desires 
  • Punishment spankings that are given in retribution for bad behavior

Make note that there are many other ways spanking can be incorporated in your play that aren't included on this list — we encourage you to explore!

Why do people enjoy impact play?

Janet Hardy explains it in her book that many who enjoy spanking love the catharsis of spanking. In Spanking for Lovers, she writes, "spanking offers an opportunity to release the pent-up angers, fears, and frustrations which real life inevitably entails...the protected environment of a good spanking scene is a rare and magical place to let go."

You might associate impact with pain, but spanking and impact play can also elicit pleasure and arousal. Handing over power to the dominant can facilitate stress relief too, allowing the submissive to enter into a unique headspace, sometimes known as subspace.


"a good spanking scene is a rare and magical place to let go"


Subspace can be difficult to explain, and it’s not something we should get hung up on when we’re talking about impact play for beginners. However, with practice, the sub can immerse themselves more fully and may start to experience a “trance-like” state. Submissives often liken subspace to feeling “floaty” and enjoying a sense of contentment and well-being. 

Impact Sensations

There’s more to impact play than a firm slap across the buttocks (although that’s great fun too)! The sub can enjoy a range of sensations, depending on which implement the Dom uses and the style of spanking used.

Warming Up

Remember — it's imperative to warm up first and then start with light impact play. All being well, you can then move on to more intense impact

Start with light spankings to bring the blood to the surface — if you’re just beginning to explore impact play, we recommend using your bare hands to warm up. 

The skin should begin to show signs of warmth (appearance, temperature, etc.).

You can work your way up from light to harder spankings. Be sure to keep in communication with your partner as you warm up and get consent before moving onto using your impact toys. 

Thuddy vs Stingy Sensations

As a general rule, a wide tool striking a large area will create a thuddy impact. Paddles, heavy floggers, and even some household items can be used to good effect (but do be careful about which items you are using as they were not meant for impact play and could be damaging). 

Stingy impact feels a little different, producing a sharper, more tingly pain. A cane, riding crop, belt, and whip will all produce an exhilarating sting as they land on your skin. 

Tools vary in design too. You can buy hard, rigid wooden paddles in varying sizes or leather paddles (which have a little more give — some even have a furry side too, perfect for sensation play). Will you choose a harsh leather flogger or one made from soft suede?

Types of Impact Play

When it comes to impact play, the possibilities are varied. Let’s check out different types of fun you can enjoy.

Hand Spanking 

An open palm can deliver a compelling slap, especially when the spanker smacks with force and consistency. The beauty of a hand-spank is you don’t need to carry anything with you, and when coupled with a stern lecture, over-the-knee, and even corner time, hand-spanking can prove even more memorable.  


We’re not talking about a dip in the sea! A BDSM impact play paddle is a flat implement designed to inflict pain. They are usually associated with thuddy play, but smaller paddles can also deliver a sharp sting.  


A favorite of ours, Joseph Bean writes in his aptly named book Flogging "There is no one way to do a flogging, no one way to feel about the activity of flogging, but there is one truth about flogging that is immutable: the result is pleasure, even joy for both parties." 

Flogging is another great form of impact play, and there are two methods. First, we have the single stroke — where the flogger strands strike once and then come to a stop before you strike again. Alternatively, there’s the cyclic stroke. For this, the dominant strikes with the flogger continuously (they might twist their wrist to form a figure 8 pattern or something similar). A relentless flogging may launch the sub into subspace, but it’s important to build up momentum first.  

Canes & Crops

As impact play toys go, a crop and cane are considered a little more hardcore than some of their counterparts. As with most implements, you can purchase a range of lengths and widths to deliver a spanking of varying intensity. Both a caning and a riding crop spanking can leave the submissive with noticeable welts and bruises, so go easy when you start out.   

Punching & Kicking

How about using your hands and feet as impact play toys? Punching and kicking might sound a bit rough and ready, but some enjoy the sensation of a pummeling fist or a well-aimed stomp to certain areas.  


Belts, slippers, and rulers are just a few of the items you have sitting around that make for excellent spanking implements. But let’s not forget that innocuous-looking spatula sitting in your utensil pot, or how about that wooden spoon? The Dom can get creative and introduce all sorts of household items to impact play.

How to Be Safe During Impact Play

Research your tools and techniques before playing

Got a shiny new tool to try out? Then you’re going to have lots of fun, but before you unleash it on a willing play partner you should really take it for a test drive yourself. This is the perfect opportunity to give yourself a few taps on the arm or leg, just to get a feel for how it feels (it’s the least you can do if you’re going to strike someone else). 

You can also try out your skills on a nice soft pillow, prop it up (around the same height as the submissive will be when bent over), and dish out a dozen or so thwacks — a great way to get your swing just right.

Always negotiate before play

Let’s start with the most important — all play should be safe, sane, and consensual. Negotiation is key to any BDSM scene, regardless of whether you’re part of a long-standing relationship or casual playmates. Talk about play in advance, set boundaries, establish safe words and build a rapport before anyone strikes anyone. 

RACK (risk-aware consensual kink) is the only way to play. Keep that in mind and you can look forward to mesmerizing experiences that can enhance foreplay, improve sexual intercourse, and boost the intensity of your orgasms.

Don’t wait until the first blow strikes to discuss how far you’re willing to go! All negotiations should be done upfront to avoid confusion, facilitate safety and promote an enjoyable experience for all. Talk about your boundaries and hard limits (the things that are an absolute no-go) and discuss how the scene will play out. 

The negotiation should involve questions relating to how much pain a submissive will accept. E.g., is light impact preferable, intense impact, or a mix of both? Remember play can leave marks, and it’s important the submissive outlines their feelings on bruises, scratches, welts, etc. The use of implements should also be discussed, which are considered acceptable and which are not? Will anyone else be involved in play? Will clothing be removed? Don’t forget to discuss aftercare too (more about that later). There’s plenty to discuss and when the initial negotiations are over communication doesn’t end there.

Be sure to communicate while playing

We’ve touched on safe words earlier, but again, we need to emphasize the importance of establishing and using them. In the world of kink amber and red are often used — amber to ask the dominant to slow things down and red to bring the play to a full stop. 


Establish your safe words & always follow them. 


If the submissive is wearing a gag or hood make sure they have a way to communicate the need to slow down or stop. This could be a hand tapping on the side of the spanking bench, a foot moving from side to side, or something else, but whatever you choose make sure you are both aware of it.

The dominant needs to be mindful and watchful of the submissive at all times. If it’s your first foray into play you can’t rely on grunts and gestures to give you an accurate overview of how play is progressing, but you can use the cues to help you along.

The submissive may cry, shout, or even scream, and it’s good practice for the dominant to check-in during play to make sure their play partner is doing ok (even if the safe word hasn’t been uttered).

Impact Play Areas: Low Risk and High-Risk Places on the Body

Ok, so you’ve got your toy box at the ready, you’ve got a play partner and you’ve negotiated the scene — you’re almost good to go. But before you get all impact happy let’s just remind ourselves of the dos and don’ts in terms of impact play areas. 

Here’s a quick guide to the bits and bobs you want to steer clear of during impact play: 

  • Spine: the broad area of the back fairs up to impact well, but the spine isn’t as robust. It’s easy to bruise the area and damage the discs, so we suggest staying clear. 
  • Tailbone: found at the bottom of the spine, the tailbone isn’t a good spot for impact. The area is delicate and can bruise badly, not very comfortable for the sub.  
  • Kidneys: the kidneys are way too fragile to deal with any sort of beating. You’ll find them around the back, located on top of the buttocks and just underneath the rib cage.
  • Hips: the hips tend to be bony and there are a few nerves in that area that may be prone to damage, so direct your flogger or cane away from this area of the body. 
  • Neck: it may be small, but the neck plays host to tendons, glands, arteries, and airways. This is a no-impact area so stay well away. 
  • Face: face-slapping is fine as long as the dominant is mindful of their aim and aware of how much the submissive is willing to take (and providing consent has been given, of course). Ears are delicate and the eardrums are privy to damage, so it’s best not to get too close.

Don’t forget to warm up before playing and keep a first aid kit nearby!

Every good session begins with impact play warm-up. The body and skin are going to come under fire, so it’s best to start slowly and build up. Rush in with a heavy thrashing and the submissive won’t be able to tolerate as much (unless they are very experienced and enjoy hardcore play from the off). It’s always wise to keep a first aid kit nearby too — just in case.

Aftercare is Important Too

You should discuss aftercare before a scene, submissives have different needs following play, and dominants also have aftercare needs. Play may carry both partners into a different headspace, and it’s important to allow time to return to reality. 

The submissive may be cold, thirsty, hungry, and in need of cuddles and reassurance; or they may want to dance, flirt, and get passionate! The dominant should try to address these needs efficiently — a warm blanket, a fresh bottle of water, a biscuit or two, a pair of strong arms, and loving words whispered in the ear can finish off a play session perfectly. 

Sub-drop is common amongst submissives, and even with adequate aftercare, a sub can crash at some point. Emotions run high after a session, and a day or two later a sub might feel depleted from the session. A good dominant always checks in to make sure their play partner is doing ok. 

The dominant may require aftercare too (after they have cleaned down equipment and looked after the needs of their submissive). A drink and a chat are often welcome after a session.

When time allows and when you’re both in the right headspace, it’s good to have a debrief too. How did the session go? Did you both enjoy it? What could have been better and what worked well? This mini-evaluation should help to highlight the good and not-so-good — handy if you’re planning to play again. 

Here’s to Impact Play, BDSM, and All Things Kinky

We hope you enjoyed Impact Play 101. Hopefully, you’ll know what to say if someone asks you “What is impact play?” You can impart your knowledge on the importance of safe play, talk openly about toys and tell them what they’re missing out on if they’ve yet to try it out. With that, there’s only one thing left to say…

Happy Spanking!

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