A Beginner’s Guide to Temperature Play

Years before I ever gave a blowjob, I learned that sucking on an ice cube before blowing somebody was the very height of kink. At least that’s what an early-2010s issue of Cosmopolitan told me. 

Looking back now with years of vanilla and kink experience, I can say: Yes, bringing ice cubes into the bedroom is a great idea. But there’s so much more to try if you’re curious about how to make hot and cold sensations feel incredible during sex.

Whether you’re a rookie or heavy player, if you’re looking to heat up—or cool down—your sex life or kinky playtime, you’ve come to the right place. Equipped with this guide, your safewords, and a good aftercare plan, you’ll be ready to Netflix and literally chill…or Hulu and hot ‘n’ heavy? I’m open to suggestions. 

What is temperature play?

Temperature play is a type of sensation play that utilizes different—you guessed it—temperatures. As with most kinds of BDSM play, incorporating heat and cold into sex can have differing levels of intensity, from low risk and less painful to high risk and more painful. There’s a lot of middle ground between using a warming lube or having your partner run ice over your nipples and getting straight-up branded.

Why do people enjoy temperature play?

Each person is drawn to temperature play for different reasons. Leigh Cowart, a journalist and the author of Hurts So Good: The Science and Culture of Pain on Purpose, is all about pain. They said that sexual masochism works for them because it’s very straightforward about consent, so you’re given an opportunity to experiment with otherwise inaccessible, difficult, or scary sensations in a safe environment that opens up possibilities to create new relationships with pain. For them, “pain brings an intensity of focus that is hard to capture otherwise.” And the release of endorphins can’t hurt (pun intended). 

For others, it’s not necessarily the pain but sensations in general. Ember, a Bay Area-based kink aficionado and educator, especially loves the sensory experience of wax play. “I often feel overstimulated and overwhelmed,” they said. “Wax has the ability to help me ground and center, whether I'm receiving or pouring.” When doing a scene with wax, they enjoy every part—from the feeling of hot wax dripping on their skin to the way it feels to rub melted wax in, to the smell of burning candles and the sight of flames. 

Before you get started

As always, engaging in BDSM only happens with consent and ideally with a detailed discussion about limits, likes, and dislikes—aka negotiation. If you’re a total newbie (we all were at some point), read this guide to learn how to find events, vet partners, negotiate scenes, practice aftercare, and more. 

We don’t want any of our scenes involving flames to turn into a Smokey Bear PSA, so a few safety tips can help—whether or not you’re doing actual fire play or simply using fire to light a candle. First and foremost, an experienced fire top should be first aid certified. Every fire expert mentions the importance of having a safety kit before fire play even begins, with a flame-retardant fire blanket or towel that can quickly put out fires in an emergency. Having access to burn creams is important for any scene involving heat, and tops and bottoms alike can benefit from using aloe after even if no one was actually burned. Good old-fashioned hair ties can ensure that no one’s hair is in flame’s way. Lastly, it’s never a bad idea to have a water bottle to hydrate before and after.

Every fire expert mentions the importance of having a safety kit before fire play even begins.

Always take stock of your surroundings and communicate with your partner. Ian, a Washington DC-based kinkster, has a tried and true workflow when getting ready for a scene. For fire play, he makes sure the bottom’s body is “free of flammable oils or fragrances” and instructs them “on how to place their hair for safety.” To be extra safe, it can be a good idea for the bottom to rinse off first. He then gauges how comfortable they are with disrobing, keeping in mind certain synthetic fabrics can melt and burn you. (Pro tip from me: your acrylic nails are quite flammable.) After making sure the surface has no flammable fuels on it and that he has a safe and stable place to store his supplies, it’s time to begin. 

If you’re looking to play with cold temps, the prep is less involved, though it can take time. Make sure to have ice on hand to avoid a frantic and horny deli run, or store glass/metal toys in the fridge for a bit before use. If your cold play involves being exposed to the snow or freezing temperatures, have blankets and fuzzy socks available to help warm up the person after the scene. It would be extra nice to get those finger and toe warmers, too.

Advice for fire play

Fire play encompasses many different activities, but the thing that unites them all is the understanding that fire is dangerous. It’s what many would consider edge play or high-risk play. Once you accept that (and re-read the safety tips above), you might be ready to feel a fire torch graze your skin or try your hand at fire cupping. 

So now that I’ve gotten you hot and bothered (teehee), how do you actually use fire in play? One experienced practitioner, Dracarys shares that he often uses torches he fashioned “out of a fondue fork (with the pointy ends bent inwards), cotton gauze, cotton finger sleeve, and cotton string.” The material is important, he said, “because cotton burns, it doesn't melt.” If it did, it might drip onto his partner, burning them. The torch is then soaked in isopropyl alcohol with the excess squeezed out and lit on fire. Like Dracarys, Ian also plays with torches (also called fire wands), and his strategy is to first bring the flame close to the bottom’s skin without touching it, letting them get acquainted with the feeling. Then, he’ll begin “pressing the wand lightly against their skin, moving swiftly not letting the flame linger and start to burn.” Using his free hand, he “will follow closely behind the fire wand hand, pressing down on the skin and immediately snuffing out any lingering flames on the body.” Ian said the tool is versatile and can be used to “blow the heat of the flame onto the body” or as an implement for impact play, always followed by the free hand pressing down to snuff out any remaining flame.  

This next technique is for you if you literally want to be set on fire. Pandaddy, a Brooklyn-based scene creator and kinkster, was a professional fire performer who was trained through a local fire department—a program some major cities have. In kink, he plays with fire torches and “flammable bubbles filled with propane gas that [he] can put on a person’s skin.” The way these work, he said, is “by pushing propane gas through a water and dish soap bubble mixture, which creates bubbles that look normal but are filled with propane instead of oxygen.” When an open flame meets the bubbles, it creates a big flame for one to four seconds before dissipating. This sounds exciting (and looks incredible), but he does not “suggest people make the mixture at home because not only does it involve fire but also pressurized propane tanks.” Instead, only do this if someone in your community is or has access to an experienced fire practitioner and engineer for safety.

You may recognize cupping as a traditional Chinese medicine practice or as the thing that left marks on Michael Phelps’ back at the 2016 Olympics. They have a kink application, though. For fire cupping, Dracarys rubs a lit torch (like the ones mentioned above) inside the glass cup, increasing the inside temperature. Once placed on the body (places like the upper back, arms, legs, and butt), “the air inside the cup cools down, which creates a vacuum, sucking in the skin and muscle.” There are a lot of modifications you can make. He said, “it can also feel good to add a vibrator on the cups in order to intensify the sensation.” If you’re just doing cupping (and no other fire play), he suggests rubbing “oil or body lotion on the bottom's body and then gently moving the cups along the back.”

Playing with wax

Wax play has a lot of the thrill of fire play, with lower risk, making it a good intro to temp play. It—unsurprisingly–involves heating up the wax from a candle—with fire or a candle warming plate or hot water bath—and using the melted wax on your own or someone else’s skin. 

The very first thing to do is to figure out the composition of the candle. Ember explained that what it’s made of (soy, paraffin, beeswax), any added fragrance, or any colored dyes will all affect the melting point of the candle. Don’t start eyeing the lavender bergamot candle on your coffee table. The best thing to do for anyone interested in wax is to buy from a reputable fetish vendor. My favorite are the paraffin candles from Agreeable Agony, which are made specifically for kink and even mention the melt temperature. Make sure to check with the bottom about allergies, so you don’t use a candle with ingredients you or your partner have sensitivities to. 

Wax play has a lot of the thrill of fire play, with lower risk, making it a good intro to temp play.

Then, figure out where you’re going to play. Ember loves the bathtub because you can use the warm water to make the feeling of the wax feel less intense for beginners, plus cleaning up is a lot easier. Otherwise, they say, “it's good to use a surface protector like a tarp” to prevent staining sheets or getting wax in your carpet. 

After lighting the candles, Ember “likes to use a cooking thermometer to measure the temperature of the wax before [they] pour it.” And it can be helpful to “review burn exposure charts to minimize the risk of blisters and burns.” Make sure to blow out the candle before you start playing. As the wax travels through the air, it’ll cool a bit, so start from a higher distance for beginners and always keep in mind the distance from which you’re pouring because too close can definitely hurt. 

Ideas for ice play

To cool down from fire and wax, you might want to try playing with ice, which was my first foray into temperature play. Using it directly after heat can feel really nice (or really intense).

Reeru, a 32-year-old sadist top, said ice can be more pleasurable and sensual—or meaner—depending on the mood. His suggestion for sensation is to put a (reasonably sized) piece of ice in your mouth and run your mouth on different body parts. This is fun, he said, because normally we imagine kisses to feel warm, but with the ice, “they can have a cold tingle.” Putting the ice in your mouth also ensures that it will be melted down enough not to stick to the bottom’s skin or burn it. But there are ways to run ice directly on someone’s skin safely, too. Wear gloves if you’re handling the ice and run it briefly under cold water to bring down the surface temperature, then rub the ice over the bottom’s body to your and their hearts’ content. 

If you’re looking to be a bit more sadistic, like Reeru generally is, he suggests making the bottom put a plastic bag full of ice or an ice pack in their underwear until they safe word. Even eviler, he said, is to make your bottom put a condom-contained ice dildo in their vagina or anus. Do not forget to run the ice dildo under cold water briefly to stop it from sticking, and use lube. This one is definitely not for the faint of heart. 

And more

Topicals like capsaicin peppers, Tiger Balm, or cooling ointments can be a unique way to play with temperature. Leigh mentioned capsaicin specifically, saying, “It's a heat mimic, so it tricks your [body] into signaling that you are burning with real heat, even though it's just the pepper.” 

Cold exposure can involve being made to take an ice bath or being splashed or hosed with cold water in a hot room, as Reeru suggested. Leigh once did a scene where they were stripped naked and shoved out into a snowy night. “The act immediately flooded me with fear and panic,” they recalled, “and I was left to contend with desire for agony and my desire for warmth.” They had studied hypothermia and its signs before engaging and ended up sticking it out for a short period of time, in clear view of their scene partner. Looking back, they said, “it was so cold that it made my brain immediately focus on only one thing (cold!!!!),” but they “really loved how…being naked in the snow made it impossible to think about anything else.”


You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

Leave a Reply

Powered by WordPress | Designed by: Premium WordPress Themes | Thanks to Themes Gallery, Bromoney and Wordpress Themes