A check in is where either partner provides clues as to their comfort, pain tolerance, pleasure level or other information during a scene or play session. Even the most experienced players continue to check in with their partners during play; it is a good practice to have. Whether you are playing with your partner or someone new, learning how to give good information during a check in is vital to your enjoyment and comfort. I am going to explain what a check in might look or sound like and what information to provide that will be best received and used.
Before you begin playing you should negotiate the scene. If you are in a committed relationship with your partner this is likely skipped, but if there is something you need to express make sure you have the time to do that before play begins. In the negotiation, you should find out what the check in symbol is; if it's a voiced question or another sign. Knowing this before play can set a mental trigger to pay attention to these things if you find yourself a bit foggy during play.
The Check In
A check in is a moment when play is suspended to see if everything is still okay and that your partner is willing to continue. The top or bottom can perform a check in, however, it is more common for the top to do so.
On the most basic level, a check in is the top asking, "How are you?" "Do you remember your safeword?" or "Is everything okay?" Other ways to check in are a squeeze of the hand, leg, etc. as a nonverbal check in. It could be a whisper or a special touch. All of these can be ways in which to check in with their partner.
Your response to these simple questions can give a lot of information to the top. From your mental/emotional state to whether you've reached your pain limit. A good top will be able to hear what you aren't saying and can read body language and tone of your voice for more information but don't assume that a top you have never played with will understand these things.
Provide Good Information
When asked to check in, never just say you are fine. Tell the top if you feel good, or bad. Express how excited you are or even that your back/ass are really sore and hot. Take this time to share about numb limbs or other discomforts you may not have noticed until this request to check in. If you need water or a break, do not be afraid to say so. It doesn't make you any less of a bottom for requesting these things.
Expressing how foggy-headed you are feeling if you are close to subspace and whether or not you want to go there and any requests for intensity changes or implement changes should be voiced in a check in.
Warnings to Pay Attention To
Frequent check ins can be annoying and the submissive may think that the Dominant's constant need for reassurance is a sign of lack of confidence. A Dominant should not be expected to play without any feedback at all either. Find a happy medium during negotiation so that you can continue to play safely and make it enjoyable.
If at any point you feel dizzy or shaky or weak make sure you check in immediately as these can be signs of non-diabetic hypoglycemia. In this condition, you could faint, pass out, go into shock and if left untreated, you could die. Play is not worth that. Make sure you have simple sugars available for these moments. Why do you think they give you orange juice and cookies when you donate blood? It's to spike your insulin levels while your body works to replace the blood you just gave. It works here as well.
Using check ins wisely will keep your play fun and exciting for all involved.
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Final Thoughts: If you know of anything else to provide during a play session check in, please let me know in the comments.