Scare My Pants Off: The Interplay of Fear and Desire
Your eyes always wander— in search of somewhere or something, to surprise me with— to keep me at the edge of my seat.
I follow your gaze in an attempt to keep up, but you’re always a step ahead. Your perverted mastermind knows no bounds. You see potential everywhere. Like, right now, as you pull a metal clothing hanger off of my coat rack and bend it effortlessly into a cane.
I look at it, then up at you as you let it glide slowly through your palm. You wink at me and smile slyly.
— Oh no, not that! I shudder at the thought of the metal meeting my bare ass.
— Wrong answer, you tease, the question was, how many?
You’re dead-serious and playful at once. I’m shaking in my pants, even as warmth betrays my groin.
—Ten? I attempt, already knowing you’ll raise my bet.
photo by Jay S. Laffat
I don’t remember how and when I realized fear turns me on, but I suppose it’s always been a part of me. Ever since childhood, I’ve enjoyed challenges and anything that gets my heart rate way up.
It was the pursuit of those thrills that led my younger self to binge horror movies, brave roller coasters, bareback ride horses through the woods, hike glaciers, rock climb, white water raft, and do sketch comedy.
Perhaps it’s also what sent me halfway across the planet for university seventeen years ago, not to return since. Is it also what keeps me choosing the freelance lifestyle, where monthly paychecks are forever a question mark? I thrive on the edge of comfort. I feel alive there.
More recently my affinity for adventure led me to the BDSM scene. Here I found ways to satiate my appetite in a safe, sane, and consensual environment.
This is where I found you.
photo by Jay S. Laffat
I’ll never forget our first date. We met in a quiet café on a crisp fall afternoon. Having already chatted and shared photos, we knew we were attracted to each other and would likely end up in bed — if we clicked in person.
We shared many of the same kinks too; you were a strong dominant, and I was exploring my submissive side. Far more knowledgeable of BDSM dynamics, I sensed you were about to take me on a journey into the unknown — one I had longed for.
I was right.
You were polite and courteous, yet a little mysterious. You complimented me; made me feel seen, and most of all, safe. Something about you made me feel like I’d let you do just about anything to me.
I ended up being right about that too.
After coffee, you asked if I’d come for a walk. I sensed from the glimmer in your eyes you had ulterior motives. And so naturally, I agreed.
We made our way, side by side, down the cobblestone streets. Immediately, your eyes began to wander: They went into back allies. They crawled behind bushes. They crept past walls.
You wanted to take me there. You wanted to take me there…
My body tensed at the thought: Were you going to grab my arm and pull me somewhere? I wanted you to. Yet, I was nervous that you actually would. The suspense was killing me—and turning me on.
We kept walking, talking about our likes and dislikes, our past experiences, our expectations, our fantasies. I told you I was into getting choked, but that it required immense trust. You told me you had experience; you had practised martial arts and knew the drill. You knew the human body and its many pressure points. Evidently, you knew a thing or two about the mind too.
I felt myself getting flushed; the brisk wind changing from sharp to soothing.
You made a hard right, into the courtyard of a large industrial building.
Grabbing my now-clammy hand you pulled me up a hidden staircase. Our footsteps echoed in the concrete, drowning out the sound of my pounding heart.
—Where are we going? My voice was jittery with excitement.
—Let’s find out… You winked back and continued to lead me higher.
Then, without forewarning, you stopped, placed a hand on my neck, and pushed me up against the cold wall.
With your face a few millimetres from mine, you looked me straight in the eyes and whispered:
— I want to see that lovely ass of yours in person.
— What? Now? Here? What if someone…
— Ssshhhhh… You placed a finger on my lips and commanded firmly: Now!
With quivering hands, while looking back into your eyes, I unbuttoned my pants and let them fall to my ankles. With a light gesture, you turned me around to get a good view.
Taking a few steps from side to side, you looked at me approvingly, as if checking out a shiny, new car before sealing the deal. It felt undeniably objectifying — and hot as hell.
— Beautiful! you whispered, your lips almost touching my neck and your warm breath rousing the hairs.
I was now trembling, with lust, and also with the fear that you’d want to take me here, in public, where someone could pass by at any time. I held my safeword on the tip of my tongue.
Swift like a fox, you flipped and pushed me to the wall again, your thumb and middle fingers squeezing each of my carotids. I was lightheaded in seconds, which signalled you knew exactly what you were doing.
— I want you! You said unflinchingly. But not today. I’m a patient hunter…
Just as you released my neck to allow me a gulp of air, somebody's steps echoed up the stairs. Quickly, I dressed and we shuffled to look less suspicious as a man in a suit passed by.
Full of giggles from the tension and adrenaline rush, we made our way out, walked to the next corner, and kissed goodbye .
photo by Jay S. Laffat
This was the beginning of our relationship. The two of us were lovers for many months and each time I waited for you my heart skipped and my skin still prickled as it had on that first autumn walk.
Most of what we shared had an element of erotic tension; neither of us ever cleaned a dish in each other’s presence or performed any other such mundane task, nor did we ever watch Netflix, or even a YouTube video together. Our precious time was filled with steamy, hot powerplay, sneaky outdoor and public escapades, sex parties, threesomes, and hotel suite shenanigans.
I felt utterly safe in your hands. Yet, my senses were always heightened; anxious for what was to come next.
Fear play only works if you’re actually scared, yet, you can only get to that place with someone if you know, deep down, that they won’t really cause you harm. This dynamic requires a keen understanding of the human psyche, and of our brains:
The stress hormone, cortisol, is released by the brain’s amygdala when it senses anything non-routine or unexpected, to activate the so-called 'fight or flight' reflex. Our cortex, which provides us with the executive function (the ability to assess a situation and make decisions thereafter) can override the instinct to escape.
When playing with fear, we must be able to trigger the release of the stress hormone, while having established enough trust in order to defeat the urge to flee (or fight back) . We can do this when we know, rationally, that we’re safe despite our bodies telling us otherwise.
photo by Author
The theory of misattribution of arousal tells us that when we’re otherwise alert, such as while watching a horror movie, crossing a shaky suspension bridge, or having just exercised vigorously, we might find the person next to us more sexually attractive compared to when we’re in a calm state.
This is explained by how the feeling of being sexually aroused shares many similarities with being fearful or anxious:
“Increased heart rate, focused attention, sweaty palms, dry mouth, big breaths followed by bigger sighs. (…) It is a state of wakefulness, more alert and aware than normal, in which your mind is paying full attention to the moment.” (Source)
Further, there’s a clear distinction between true fear, where we’re actually scared for our lives, and the kind of fear we experience riding roller coasters or playing with thrilling BDSM scenarios. While the first, especially if experienced over long periods of time, can cause mental and physical sickness, the latter can provide a natural high and subsequent release.
Fear play is a type of edge-play (not to be confused with edging) which teeters the line between fear and play. It’s a precarious path that must be walked with caution. We’re literally playing with danger and a misstep or breach in communication could cause real harm.
This was the path we walked—and sometimes even danced —until one day, a fork in the road forced us to choose between comfort and commotion and led us to part ways. Whether or not misattribution of arousal is what I experienced with you, I don’t know. Regardless, those months were some of the most thrilling I’ve had.
So long as everybody is consenting and nobody is getting hurt, pleasure’s not-so-distant-cousin, fear, is well worth inviting for a play date.