Mastering the Dynamics of Thud and Sting
Feb 24, 2012
Reposted with the author's permission.
“Thud” and “sting” are often discussed in SM educational forums, but seldom rigorously defined in even the best SM literature in print. And that’s a shame, because mastering the dynamics of thud and sting can greatly improve your impact play technique, be it flogging, spanking, caning, or singletails. Nuanced control of thud and sting gives the top tremendous control over the pacing and composition of the scenes they orchestrate and provides the bottom a richer, deeper bottoming experience. This article will define thud and sting in simple, pragmatic terms, and show how to harness the mechanics of thud and sting to expand the power and range of the toys you already own, and develop impact scenes with greater variety, flavor, and nuance.
What are thud and sting? Thud and sting are physical sensations felt in the human body: the two very different sensations of being hit. If SM were music, thud and sting would be opposite ends of the piano keyboard.
Sting is a piercing, cutting stripe of pain, a burning blaze of heat, largely felt in the surface of the skin. Sting is usually left by a fast blow with a small impact area. When marks are produced they tend to be thin lines, weals, and cuts to the skin. In patches it can leave a tingly sensitive residue in its wake.
Thud is a deep, penetrating blow, felt deep in the muscle and flesh, less so in the skin. Thud is made by a heavier toy, usually a slower moving blow with a wider impact area. When marks are produced they tend to be larger pink, red, or bruised areas.
So “thud” is the bassnote. “Sting” is high C. Many players have a distinct preference for one over the other. Some have a surprisingly high tolerance for one, but not the other. I know a woman who loves being whipped with nettles, rubber straps and bundles of electrical wire, but who groans in discomfort when socked with a soft heavy flogger or spanked with a closed fist.
Lets talk about the tools of the trade. Impact toys have an increasingly diverse range of configuration. In my own scenes I use everything from a three pound drill hammer, to a three foot shot whip. Impact toy manufacturers usually describe their products by identifying their place on the thud / sting continuum.
STING TOYS are high velocity. That attribute captures sting better than any other. Many also have a small impact area such as canes singletails, canes, thin braided floggers but their critical attribute is speed. A fast slap will sting more than a slow push. Stiffness is another driver. Paint stirrers sting like the dickens. And the most painful (ie stingy) thing I’ve ever been hit with is a large industrial spatula on a long handle. So whether it’s a dressage whip laid across your ass, or a volleyball spiked into your sunburned face, speed makes sting. A stingy impact blow makes a high ringing note, and often whistles as it moves through the air. The ultimate sting toy might be a singletail, or because of its stiffness, a fraternity paddle. For nature buffs, the ultimate sting is a willow sap, a bouquet of nettles, a bundle of briars.
THUD TOYS: If a volleyball spike to the face describes sting, thud is a medicine ball dropped from four feet and landing on your chest. Thud toys are bigger, heavier, consequently slower moving, and make a larger impact area (Big mop floggers are near the ultimate in pure thud). They are in laymen’s terms “harder hitting” since greater mass equates with greater force. A sting blow won’t typically knock you off balance but a sufficiently heavy thud blow could. They make quieter, deeper, thumping sound on impact. And a large impact area is a key attribute since heavy thud compressed to a point would be a jab, a sensation less familiar to routine SM. Examples of thud toys include big thick floggers, prison straps, police batons or a meaty fist pounding slowly, rhythmically on the back or the ass.
Some toys exhibit attributes of both thud and sting; both deeply penetrating AND leave a burning sensation on the skin. Fraternity paddles, sjamboks or the massive prison strap I often lug around all share qualities of both thud and sting (“thing” perhaps? Or “stud?”). because they are RIGID. All of these toys are massive, slow moving, have a large strike area and are stingy as all hell because of their stiffness. Paddles that are really stiff, sting at almost any speed.
So there it is! A singletail stings because it moves fast and takes a narrow slice, cutting like a knife blade. A thud blow is massive and penetrating, like the punch of a boxing glove. “Thick: thud, thin: sting,” goes the adage about impact toys.
MAKING STING TOYS THUD; MAKING THUD TOYS STING
Now I know what your thinking. Speed? Impact Area? These are factors you can vary with each stroke! And your right. For any toy, varying the speed and varying the impact area, alters how the toy feels to the person being hit. You can even make your soft little bunny fur flogger sting a little, sting a lot, or sting not at all by varying the speed and size of the contact area in your victims back. By dropping the speed of a single tail whip way, way down, you discover surprisingly sweet flavors that almost any bottom could enjoy. The same is true for canes.
Expanding the range of sensations each toy can create not only widens the vocabulary of what your toys can do, it saves you money in the toy buying department. Once you’ve learned to pop your dearskin flogger like a four foot shot whip, you don’t need to buy one! And it’s good to know how to create a rainbow of sensations with a single toy. It can seem almost magical until you see how it’s done. It takes practice of course but the technique is surprisingly easy:
For greater sting, less thud: Hit faster and with a smaller contact area. Snap that whip! Even that fluffy deerskin beginners whip you never use anymore can sting like mad if the throw is fast enough, and you merely graze your target with the tips of the whip.
For greater thud, less sting: Precisely the opposite approach: Hit with the whole mass of the flogger, not just the tips. Imagine your using the flogger as an ink brush, and your trying to make the largest mark on the body possible with each throw. Don’t worry about speed. A nominally stingy tool like a horsehair flogger can be made to “thud” with a slower moving throw that strikes the target with more of the tails. Alternating between fast blows with slower ones can give the appearance of switching from one toy to another.
In short, almost all thud tools can cover the range from sting to deep, massaging thud depending on the speed of your swing and size of the contact area. Not so for most sting toys. Canes and singletails, dressage whips and riding bats lack the heft to ever deliver heavy thud but the degree of sting can be ratcheted down by reducing the impact speed.
Play with it. Alternate between hitting with just the tips of your flogger and slowing down your swing, letting all the full weight of the whip collide with your partners back.
APPLYING THE THEORY: NOTES ON SPANKING
But don’t take my word for any of this. Put it to the test. Barehanded spanking is ideal for exploring the dynamics of thud and sting, because your hand itself shares the sensation of each blow. Test it. Start by spanking your partner slowly. Slow, heavy, thumping, slaps. Now slow it down: let the weight of your arm simply drop to hit the lower cheeks with your fist and forearm. Slow it down further still. Eventually you will slow down till your hand is bare moving at all as it pushes into the rear, giving more of a massage than a strike. Keep it at the slow rhythmic pace for a while, and then gradually… very gradually… start increasing the speed. Don’t rush it. Turn up the gain slowly, each blow just slightly quicker than the one before. Listen for the tone of the slap and notice how it rises with the speed of your blow. As the speed of the blows increase notice the sting building up in your spanking hand. This is a taste of what your bottom is feeling. Eventually you will reach the high ringing thwacks we all associate with spanking in mainstream movies, TV, and in porn videos.
Getting to be too much? Start slowing down the speed of your strike. Slower. Slooooowwer. Feel how it hurts the hand less? Hear how the sound of the impact descends in pitch? Notice how your partner has stopped caterwauling? Keep slowing it down. Slow it down even more abd ball your hand into a fist. Think of dropping something heavy from about a foot out. It’s amazing how slowly you can swing your hand in a spanking scene, and have it feel really greaT. Spankers rarely explore the slow sensuous end of the spectrum down where sting vanishes into pure thud and that's like banishing the color red from a painting palette for no good cause.
And now start increasing the speed of each blow. But bring the speed up slowly. Sloooooowly. Keep increasing the speed of your slap and the tone will start rising too. The sting will rise too; you’ll feel it in your palm. Speed it up each stroke even faster. Keep the same wait between them but make each blow fast. And watch for the scrunched up eyebrows, clenched fists, tensed muscles and vary your approach to accommodate your bottoms reactions. If they’re falling asleep, turn up the heat. If their all tense and grimacing, ramp back on the sting by dropping the speed. Allow a little break between fast stingy spankings if you want to bestow mercy or if the bottom needs it. Or if your hand is red hot.
You can go on like this as long as you want. By modulating the amount of sting, spankings can go longer, build much slower, and get into a meditative trancelike zone that is delicious and peaceful. It also saves your spankings from being monotonous. You can heat things up, and then cool them down to build drama. You can build to shattering crescendos by slapping fast and just with the fingertips. The music you make is up to you. Control of thud and sting just gives you access to more piano keys.
NOTES ON FLOGGING
As soon as you place an impact tool between your hand and the person your hitting you loose first hand knowledge of what the blows feel like. So watch to make sure the tips don’t wrap. And listen for the sound of the blows: you can gauge thud and sting by sound. High ringing tones mean sting. Deep thumping sounds mean thud. Taking the notes way up and then way down is one way to pace an impact scene.
NOTES ON SINGLE TAILS, QUIRTS, AND TAWSES
The art of single tail whipping is often taught as an esoteric advanced technique, something that only very skilled, very experienced craftsman can use. Not true. All basic flogging throws can be done with a single tail. The only thing you can’t do is make it thud. In some ways working a single tail is simpler than working a flogger since don’t have a whole tangle of tresses to deal with. True, a hard snap with a single tail can break the skin if your not careful, and the action on a single tail requires some getting used to. But a three or four foot whip, contrary to its elitist hype is something you can start having fun with right away.
What can you do to make it less stingy, more seductive, frankly less dangerous? Slow it way down. Be gentle. It doesn’t need to be a bazooka. Make it a feather. Touch touch touch touch nip. No wind up. No thunderclap. Just flick it back and forth….flick flick flick. Is the length a problem? Choke up on it by grabbing it in the middle and only using the section between there and the tip. Support the base of whip in your weak hand and use the other to hold the the whip two feet from the tip and just flick it from there like a towel. You can pick at someone all afternoon – never even throw a fast one - and reduce your victim to happily quivering jelly. You really don’t need all the circus tricks to become an amazing singletail player. Are those tricks fun? Sure. Hard to master? Yes. Necessary? Not at all.
Run the same drill described in the spanking section. Apply gentle flick flick flicks and then toss one in that’s just a little faster. Alternate between gentle flicks and slightly faster snaps. Watch for how your partners taking it. Communicate. Improvise and explore. It’s easier than you might think.
NOTES ON CANING
Canning is similar to single tail whipping in many respects. It is principally a sting toy and a potentially severe one. They have very little mass so thud is all but impossible. And like singletail whipping, caning has a well earned rep as an advanced technique because of the damage you can do. Canes, however, are pretty stiff, rendering many flogger and singletail throws unusable. In fact laying on individual strokes is really the only way to use them. High intensity caning requires the same investment of practice that high intensity singletailing does, but like that other art it can be practiced at low speed to remarkable effect, even by newbies.
In traditional “English” style caning the goal is delivering white hot stripes of sting, (usually in groups of six) and usually drawing the arm back and swinging the cane in a four to six foot arc at furious speed. But other creative possibilities exist too. By drumming on the bottom with short rhythmic tapping, you can induce a gradually deepening trance effect. You can always throw in some fast ones for sizzle, even the wide screamingly painful fast shots used in English style. But you’re not locked into high speed/ high pain play. The double handed drumming style of Neal B ( formerly of Black Rose) is some of the most innovative impact play I’ve seen in years.
How to explore thud and sting dynamics with caning? Same way as with singletailing: slow it waaaay down. How? No windup. No running start. No whistling scream as it flies through the air making contact in a red explosion of broken skin. Just tap. Tap tap tap tap tap. Create rhythm using your partner’s body as a drum. Since canes are so light compared to floggers you can tap out rhythms all day without tiring, or wearing out your partner. And those rhythms become utterly hypnotic for the bottom and the top over time.
Play Safe and Play Hot!
Links for Chris M
Additional Articles by Chris M
- The Black Rose DM Guide
- "Safe Sane and Consensual" a Proposed Definition
- Eight Techniques for Maintaning Communication and Trust During a Scene
- The Rap on Wrapping: A discussion of Impact Play
- Mastering the Dynamics of Thud and Sting
- American Leather Goes Mainstream: Anger, Arnett and Life Magazine
- A Brief History of the Black Rose of Washington DC
- Part One: The First Fifteen Years (The Nancy Miler Years)
- Part Two: Pending
- Delta Diary 1996
- Black Roses and Pink Flamingoes: The BR10 Anniversary Event and how it changed our Club by Chris M.
- Gifts of the Circle: A Chronicle of the Hook Pull performed by Fakir Musafar and Cleo Duboise at Black Rose 2002
- A Brief History of Leatherbars (Featuring the DC Eagle)