He begins by telling me to undress. And the ‘telling’, here, is key. It’s not ‘please could you undress’ but ‘undress.’ Just like that. Stark and simple and commanding. Establishing, with a single word, that he is the one in control: on top. This is the start of the story.

A BDSM scene doesn’t always begin this way, but it does usually have a well-defined beginning. And a middle, and an end. Like storytelling, play scenes do often adhere to structure – but within that structure there is limitless possibility.

Like a well-told story, the beginning of a scene usually features some introduction and establishment of character: the top will offer a symbol or a signal that he is the one in charge. It may be the aforementioned order to undress, or perhaps instructing me to kneel, or take up a particular position. Maybe before I kneel I’m told to remove my shoes and knickers: how striking to begin a story by rendering one character vulnerable, while the other towers above! Maybe it’s more visual and visceral than that: slipping a collar around my neck, so that during our time together I can feel the weight of his presence – his dominance – gently tugging at my throat.

Once our characters have arrived, it’s time to send them on a journey. And the journey will depend on what kind of top you are. Consider: what story do you want this scene to tell? You may not have thought about this before – after all, so much of what we do behind closed doors appears to be driven by instinct. But by examining your instincts you can start to draft the outline of the tale you wish to tell. What will our characters do, and what plot will you lead us through as we play?

Perhaps it’s something formal and strict: spankings delivered as punishment with orgasms as reward. Maybe a challenge, in which I’m encouraged to test my own self-control as you blindfold then tease me in deliciously cruel ways: a touch here, a smack there, all designed to make me cry out despite your orders that I remain silent. A journey of growth, where I learn to stay quiet, or one which ends in a battle, as I eventually succumb and cry out. It may be a little more Cinderella – one in which I, the pliant submissive, am yours to do with what you will. I stand naked before you, my face to the wall and hands on head, muscles taut with the effort of holding the position you’ve placed me in, while you trail a whip across my trembling skin.

There are many types of journey. But a good one leads neatly – naturally – towards the denouement.

This is not to say that you need to plot your entire journey before you begin. The middle can be tempered by improvisation and instinct – that’s part of the fun! But as a top, the climax is within your control, so it is often helpful to know, before you start, roughly where you would like your story to end.

Where would you like it to end? With the damsel lying bound and prostrate before you, biting her lip to distract from the pain of clamps attached tightly to her taut nipples? With her on her knees, bound and helpless, as you guide her mouth around the aching hardness of your cock? Perhaps it ends with reward: her twisting and wriggling under your hand as you bring her to the brink of pleasure, then plunge inside to take satisfaction of your own, soothing her pain – and your desire – with one and the same movement.

You don’t need to be a great storyteller to be a great top. But understanding the structure of your desire can prove invaluable. Establishing the characters and their power dynamic, plotting key points in the journey you wish to take us on, and building naturally to a climax that satisfies and delights.

There are blank pages between ‘Once upon a time’ and ‘The End’: with what will you choose to fill them?

2019 — Louisa Knight