Playing With Fire and Ice
The full range of temperature play, how to do it, and what to look out for
By Ena Dahl • 9 min read • ENGLISH
By Ena Dahl • 9 min read • ENGLISH
Fire and Ice was the first poem I was tasked to recite from memory in my high school English literature class, and to this day it’s etched into the fibers of my brain. Robert Frost was right though; there aren’t many elements more powerful than the two, all though, I know them to have uses far beyond destruction. How about a bit of titillation? Or a dash of shock and surprise, followed by a soothing touch? And, why not oscillate between the two, from hot to cold and back again? Perhaps wear some blindfolds and try to guess what’s coming next?
BDSM is so much more than pain and humiliation, and while those certainly have their place, I’m personally a sucker for the subtler sensations. A sensualist above all, nothing gets me like trembling anticipation; the uncertainty of what’s to come grounded in absolute trust, and the mindfuck of having to sharpen each sense to decipher, only to be pleasantly startled by the unexpected.
These are key elements in sensation play, which can be described as any activity related to the senses, often involving either intense stimuli or deprivation of either sight, taste, smell, hearing, touch—or of several at the same time.
Only our imaginations limit what we can do with sensation play, and it’s a great place to start exploring BDSM since it doesn’t require specialized skill—apart from a bit of caution—or any fancy equipment. You likely have more than enough tools to play with at home, from feathers and other soft or tickling objects, silk scarves for blindfolding or gentle bondage, and headphones to block out sound. For temperature play, which is what we’ll focus on here, ice cubes and some candles can set the stage for a sizzling session.
Because there are so many ways to play with these elements, I’ve compiled this handy guide to get you started:
I’ll never forget the first time I was properly introduced to ice play; I was tied up and blindfolded and could hear the sounds of my play partner rummaging through the freezer. A true sadist, he (of course) went straight for the extra-large cocktail ice cubes and stuffed me with one. The shock of the freezing cold against my warmest warmth was immense and sent shivers all through me. Thankfully I was so hot after an already long scene that the huge orb melted and shrunk almost immediately—because more intense than the cold was the size of that cube. While I found it quite titillating at the time, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend starting here, and definitely not without prior negotiation.
The below list starts with the easy-breezy and moves to the truly chilling. Start where you want and don’t move past your comfort zone until you’re ready.
Lube or a bottle of massage oil can be cooled in the fridge or a bowl of ice cubes. You can also put them in the freezer as long as you don’t leave them in there for too long.
You’ll want to test the temperature on the inside of your wrist before you apply wherever you normally would, and, remember that lube is safe anywhere on the body, while oil is generally not recommended internally—and it will compromise latex.
Before applying ice cubes directly onto the skin, try sucking on one to offer your partner frozen kisses, starting on their lips and moving all over the body. How about some icy oral sex?
Having someone touch your bare skin just after returning from a frosty day outside can feel startling and not necessarily in a good way, but in a sexy setting, you can turn that sensation into an unexpected thrill. Try to place your hands on an ice pack or in a bowl of ice cubes for an extra cool hand-job.
I have a thing for adding food to sex and vice versa—perhaps because the only thing I like as much as the two is to make a mess! While eating ice cream in bed is the cliché signifier of being sad or heartbroken, eating ice cream, or any other cold foods, off of your partner in bed is a recipe for happiness.
As always, keep the edibles out of vaginas to not disturb its natural bacterial flora. And it probably goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway; we don’t want ice cream inside the butt either (!!!). Everywhere else? Indulge!
Let’s up the intensity and bring out the ice cubes. You can start by letting them melt in your hands and onto your partner’s body before gliding them across the skin, then, pause to do pirouettes around the nipples before you follow each curve and line all the way down south.
Rim skating is when you slide an ice cube around the opening of the anus, which will certainly add an edge to any anal play—all though, this might not do a great job at relaxing the muscles, so keep that in mind before you go further.
Some like ice on their labia and genitals in general, while for others it may be too much. Pay attention to your partner and communicate, look out for excessive redness or swelling and make sure you don’t hold an ice cube in the same place for very long; keep moving.
If very cold, the dry ice might stick to the skin when it comes straight from the freezer. To avoid this, let them thaw in a bowl for five to ten minutes first. This also makes them nice and slippery on the skin.
There’s some disagreeing about whether or not frozen items should be inserted in the vagina and anus. As a rule, you want to be cautious since the finer skin is more sensitive to frostbite, and you shouldn’t keep anything frozen or extremely cold in there for more than five minutes. This means that ice cubes in the butt are even worse of an idea than ice cream… As always, only flared plugs and dildos that are easily removed go in this door!
This brings me to toys: If you happen to own any high-quality glass or stainless steel insertables, these are great to put in the fridge, freezer, or a tub of ice to give your partner, or yourself, an unusual sensation. Or, what about double icicle penetration? I personally haven’t gone there, yet…but I might have just added something new to my (ice) bucket list.
I’m not recommending that you play with real fire unless you’re a trained pyrotechnic, firefighter, or otherwise really know what you’re doing. The play partner from above, the one with the giant ice cube, also once doused me in rubbing alcohol and lit me on fire during a performance in a BDSM club. But I’ll tell you a secret; this party trick looks far more impressive than it feels and is over in seconds. It’s not really worth the risk of lighting anything—or one— on fire, let alone your home.
I’d much rather indulge in a drawn-out wax play session. Below are a few hot tips to get you started:
As above, lube and oil can also be heated which is done best by leaving it in very hot (not boiling) water until it’s reached the desired temperature. Your glass or metal toys can also be placed in a bowl or you can simply run them under hot tap water. Again, always test before you start. How about keeping one bottle or tube of each and move between hot and cold? A cold butt plug with warm lube, or the other way around? The options and combinations are endless.
Warm wax dripped or poured on the skin can be highly tantalizing. I especially love it while blindfolded as it adds the thrill of not knowing where the wax will hit next. For anyone feeling artistic, playing with different patterns and colors to make a masterpiece on your partner’s body can add to the fun.
Wax play is one of those things that can range from mild to quite intense depending on a few factors:
Different types of wax burn at different temperatures with soy being the lowest followed by pure paraffin. Dyes and other mixtures alter the burning temperature, so always test them first. Beeswax burns the hottest and is not recommended for wax play at all – it will burn and mark the skin, potentially severely.
You can buy low-temperature-burning candles specially made for this purpose, either online or in a well-stocked sex toy shop. I personally love massage candles for their multifunctionality; you’ll get some wax play first with a massage after—and, there hardly any clean-up since the wax-oil gets absorbed into the skin. For this reason, I recommend choosing a good quality one with natural ingredients!
The distance from the candle to the skin matters a lot too; the closer the hotter, while some distance gives the wax a moment to cool down before it makes contact. Start from farther away and move closer until you find the right distance.
Now that you’ve got the wax candles out, it could be tempting to use the actual flame. Fire play is considered edge-play, which is any kind of play that challenges the conventional SSC (safe, sane, and consensual) scheme and may involve the consequences of potential harm. It’s therefore only with a lot of caution and while paying strict attention to your partner, that this can be done safely—while adding extra thrill.
Keeping a wet towel and fire-safe blanket close, you can move the flame close to, or all the way up to a partner’s skin. For those familiar with predicaments, a flame can also be incorporated into D/s play and used to keep someone in the desired position, meaning that if they move, they will burn themselves. A shibari-rigger friend of mine sometimes places a small candle on the floor under the heel of his rope-model to keep them on their toes. A sadistic, yet brilliant move, if you ask me!