Identifying as “Primal”

There are a lot of terms used by both Dominants and submissives to describe their roles, activities, preferences, and personalities.  This on Primal will examine many of the common terms used by those in the community which help them express their raw, visceral, and primal identity within the lifestyle.  What I offer below, is based on my experience, community discussion, and research.  It is not meant to be definitive, but rather to serve as a starting point for your own reflection and discovery.

Why Primal?

The focus among those that identify themselves as Primal is appealing to the raw and primitive side of the human senses and experience.  Primal denotes a tendency to engage and relate to a form of connection or interaction that speaks to the primitive mind and needs. Thus it often relies on our most basic human senses: sight, scent, taste, and touch.  The communication, similarly, is equally basic – typically engaging through direct physical expressions of desire, want, and hunger.

Literally, primal means “first, original, primeval” as well as “fundamental” and “of first importance”.  It is therefore about getting in touch with and connecting through, our first, original, and most fundamental states of existence – our senses.  As it happens, these often stimulus for our most powerful emotions.

The Senses

Much of the primal state is about perceiving the world based on our raw senses, and interacting through our most fundamental needs. The model of the five human senses is commonly cited as being originated from Aristotle’s De Anima (On the Soul) where he provides a chapter to each of the 5 physical senses; vision, hearing, touch, smell and taste.  These are our most primary and “mechanical” senses, sensed through specific dedicated organs, receiving information about the world around us:

  • Audition – the sense of hearing and sound perception
  • Gustation – the sense of taste or flavor
  • Olifaction – the sense of smell or detection of odor
  • Tactation – the sense of touch or affecting through touch
  • Vision – the sense of sight and detection of light & color

In comparison, there are also 4 additional complex senses that informs us of our relationship with our environment.  These inform us of our state of present being and rates of change, and compares the two. In other words, these are the senses that often signal changes from what we expect or to which we have adapted.  These include:

  • Proprioception – the kinesthetic sense of bodily position, weight, and movement in space
  • Equilibrioception – the vestibular sense of balance, momentum, and acceleration
  • Thermoception – the sense of temperature externally and internally
  • Nociception – the perception of physiological pain and damage to tissues

Lastly, there are other internal senses which inform us of what our bodies are experiencing from within. These are known as Interoception, and are typically stimulated from within the body such as hunger, thirst, breath & heart rates, urination, and other bodily functions.

Visceral Experience

The combined inputs from these various senses, and responding to such inputs without analysis, is what many primalists refer to as “getting in touch with the Visceral experience”.  Visceral means- of, relating to, or affecting the viscera. This is typically characterized as proceeding from instinct rather than intellect: a visceral reaction; characterized by or dealing with coarse or base emotions.  From this we derive our most primal needs: Fight, Flight, Feed, and Fuck.

Primal communication is experienced viscerally and immediately. These experiences take a shortcut around the cognitive mind and proceed straight to the brainstem where the majority of our instinct resides.  Instinct is, by its nature, an inborn tendency to act in a way that is typically common, natural, or of an innate fashion.  Of course, when we speak of instinct, we are talking about our inborn tendency as a species.

The history of that instinct spans hundreds of thousands of years of interaction and response to external stimuli and environments, including partners.  Primalists therefore often focus on the use of the 5 primary senses to stimulate and activate those emotions, and then build by upon them with the 4 complex senses.  Interaction may be to grip a subs back of the neck (tactation), and then apply direction to offset their balance (equilibrioception).

Examples of visceral and primal actions follow below. Far from complete, these are merely common expressions of primal interaction – basic expressions of contact and engagement through the most primitive and visceral means.  What appears below purposefully omits some of the more dangerous or “edgier” expressions:

·        Biting & Nipping

·        Gripping / Grabbing

·        Hair Pulling / Yanking

·        Inhaling / Scent

·        Licking  (full tongue)

·        Marking (hickies/love bites)

·        Pinning / Holding Down

·        Pulling / Tugging / Grappling

·        Pushing / Shoving

·        Scratching / Clawing


The visceral and the instinct are directly linked – for in no clearer way do we describe our sense of instinct as a “gut” feel.  Similar to the sense of hunger, lust, eager anticipation, and much more.  These are all types of Interoception senses – a way of relating an emotional or sub-cognitive process into a bodily feeling from within.  As a result, we often process this feeling immediately and only reflect on it after the fact.  Afterwards we are relying heavily on our memory – something that can be distorted by our lingering emotions, and the difference between our thoughts and feelings (dissonance).

Another aspect of immediacy is how readily and instantaneously this can be used in daily interactions or scenes.  It requires no planning, no staging, and yet it requires a huge amount of understanding.  Timing is the key, because acted upon done abruptly, you may trigger a defensive mechanism. Done at the right time however, and you can steal their breath away, make their heart leap, and go from cool and collected to breathless, hot and wet.

Immediacy is therefore the primary benefit to interacting in the primal fashion.  We can shut off the noise and chatter of the mind, and immerse ourselves in the state of Being, here and now, as completely and totally engaged with our partner and ourselves.

The Primal Mindset:  Contradiction in Practice

The primal mindset does not care about modern conventions.  It does not pay attention to notions of fairness, permission, consensuality.  It merely feels, wants, and acts.   Of course, this cannot be true in modern society and the responsible practice of BDSM or power exchange where consensuality is absolutely required.  The challenge is the contradiction – to practice the primal behaviors or actions yet ensure there is consensuality and agreement.

To act without doubt and to respond without hesitation ONLY comes through effort.  There is an effort needed to reach an understanding of desires and limits – primarily through early negotiation (*please see prior post on negotiation).  It is through negotiation we understand how we can act and engage with the other responsibly, yet without needing to second guess ourselves.  We are able, via negotiation, to free ourselves even when limits and conditions may be present – and they will be present.

If one progresses far enough along within a relationship that you can achieve a comfortable state, or have an agreement of consensual non-consent, then you can act without much reservation of concern.  This takes significant time and effort within a stable relationship so that it may become effortless and reduce (but never eliminate) the potential risks.


Part of bringing the Primal dynamic to the relationship is building the association of your presence or action to a desired response.  This greatly diminishes the issue of timing by creating triggers which preconditions the partner to receptiveness.  Building that association depends on your partner’s individual needs and fears.

At the heart of this building this association between Dominant and submissive is often about Safety.  The majority of timing is about sending signals to your partner that, despite the visceral aggressiveness, they are still safe and in good hands. This allows the submissive to be open to the experience without needing to feel a potential vulnerability or threat. Such reduces the need for defensive mechanisms which dampen responses (e.g. pulling away emotionally for safety).

As previously stated, consent is needed. If there is consent, then you need to demonstrate you will provide reliable safety and are respecting stated limits. Only then can you expect to see those boundaries expand and the play to become more spontaneous and intense.  Establishing an association of the individual with respect and safety, are the two keys to opening doors of the heart, mind, and spirit.


– Sir Vice
© Limits Unleashed 2017