I started writing this and had so much to say on rope safety and BDSM safety in general that I am just splitting it up into bite-sized safety bits:
Rope Safety Part I
Rope bunny — The person being tied up. Also known as a sub, slave, submissive, captive or rope doll. I prefer female ones. Female subs, in my humble opinion, tend to be prettier and look best securely bound in rope.
Dom — The person doing the tying. Also known as a Domme (if female), top, rigger, rope top, or Master.
1) Rope is Dangerous: You must be aware that rope play has inherent dangers — many experienced people have caused considerable and permanent damage. Not taking safety seriously can lead to disaster so always err on the side of caution.
2) Know your partner: The person you are playing with may have specific needs and medical conditions that apply to them only. So always check in with them –especially if you are new to each other. Ask them lots of questions and don’t assume that they are ok because they were okay 5 minutes ago. If you are a sub, make sure you trust them and that the Dom is not trying to do thing way outside of his experience level. Specifically ask about:
- carpal-tunnel issues (someone with carpal-tunnel can lose circulation and experience numbness in the hands very quickly.
- shoulder, back or neck injuries or surgeries.
- fainting or other respiratory issues.
- history of claustrophobia (rope bondage can definitely cause claustrophobic reactions.
- Is she diabetic. Diabetes has a whole lot of added circulation risks.
3) Both the Dom and the sub are responsible for safety: You are both fully responsible for safety and must speak up if you notice something that could be an issue. Be open to discussing things beforehand and debriefing afterward.
4) Don’t play hard if you aren’t alert: Since things are dangerous, it makes sense to be fucking alert so you don’t fuck up. Keep in mind that tiredness causes way more accidents than drunk driving. Also see #5.
5) Don’t play intoxicated. Drugs and alcohol impair your judgement and make things far riskier. Just fuck if you need to — but hardcore scenes are a bad bad idea.
— Agree on a safeword or two before you start so you can quickly communicate dangers and stop the scene as needed. You may wish to add a safeword specifically for ‘cut the ropes and get me out asap.’ Note: ASAP means ‘as soon as possible’ and that means cutting the ropes. Click here for more info on safewords
7) Don’t plan your scene based on videos: I’ve seen some very dangerous things done on videos. Videos can be outright dangerous to totally non-functional. Especially if you are just starting out — don’t try to imitate videos.
8) Learn from real life people if you can: Having an experienced rigger there can save you all kinds of heartache. An experienced rigger can spot and immediately point out dangerous practices as well as teach you the easiest ways to do things.
9) Have Cutting Gear:
Have rope cutting knives
, EMT scissors, or some other way to cut the ropes in case of emergency.
10) Use the right rope.
Simple, right? Use the right rope for the job. If you are doing a suspension…you’re gonna need a stronger rope that can take the weight by several times to ensure it never gives way. See the Rope Guide
for types of rope.
11) Suspensions are advanced. If you arenot very experienced in other kinds of rope…you are not ready for suspension. Suspensions put a whole bunch
This is advanced. Mhmm.
of weight on potentially a small width of rope…which can cause damage in seconds. Don’t do it without proper training.
12) Don’t take safety lightly. I’ve spoken with very experienced people in the community and all have stories about injuries and take safety seriously. Being experienced means you are more likely to do dangerous things…and try to do them as safely as possible. Inexperienced people attempting the same things will almost certainly cause injuries. Rope can and does cause permanent damage (especially to nerves.) So learn first and always err on the side of caution.
13) Chains need Boltcutters. If you want to use chains instead of rope, you must have sharp adn functional bolt cutters handy. Personally, if you’re just starting, stick with rope…but some may *need* to use chains so you should be warned that chains are less flexible, impossible to cut and cause more severe and localized pressure points. While chains look cool: I don’t recommend them.
14) Nerve Damage is the Most Common Injury. Educate yourself on nerves and compression injuries. The shorter the time and lighter the compression, the less damage is done.
15) Learn so First-Aid. As a Dom, it should be required to know first aid. It’s another of the many skills we need to learn to be a Master.
16) Learn about nerves and the anatomy of the human body. I will do a post on this (I’ve been working on it for awhile but it’s not done yet.) A little knowledge can go a long way to avoiding injuries.
17) Nerve damage is cumulative. Yes, it can heal (sometimes taking days or weeks), but it can also build up. So if you use the exact same tie 25 times with no problems…there is still a risk that something may show up on the 26th tie. So always be alert.
18) Don’t think of her having to endure. Never tell her to endure the discomfort. Pain means damage it’s your job to keep your toys in working order. So if she’s in pain, fix it. So the mindset of a Dom making her endure for your pleasure — has to be thrown out the window.
- Tie wrists and ankles last: Wrists and ankles have lots of nerves veins that are
- Watch for cold hands and/limbs:
Check to see if her bound feet are cold
Cold hands is a bad sign meaning not enough blood is flowing into the area to keep the area warm. The sub probably has numb hands at this point or will soon. Loose the ropes and ease the compression that may be causing it.
- NEVER tie rope around the front of the neck: Specifically, no ropes should be put around the front of the neck with any kind of pressure or tension. For ropes dresses and chest harnesses, wrap the rope around the back of the neck. The reason, in case you couldn’t guess, is to avoid strangulation. A dead rope bunny should be avoided at all costs, sure, but if she strangled she’s gonna get pretty distressed and probably won’t want to play anymore.
- Never leave her alone. A person that is bound should never be left unattended. She may be fine when you leave but soon loses circulation in a limb. If you’re not there to untie and readjust, she can permanently damage her.
- Be aware of her breathing. When you bind someone with their arms and chest held in restricted positions this can severely effect their ability to breathe. People are different and what one person can do easily can throw another into distress. Tight binding around the chest can restrict the diaphragm and make it difficult for her to grab a breathe. So avoid tying too tight directly over the diaphragm area. Breathing distress can develop over time so always be mindful of her breathing (breathing is also a good thing to watch for clues about her emotional state so you should be watching her breathing anyway.) Small breasted women are the best to tie as their boobs don’t restrict where your rope can go — and push the rope over the diaphragm.
- Avoid Tying around her nose and mouth. It’s best to keep airways open and unobstructed. If she suddenly becomes ill and vomits, this can be disastrous.
- Avoid tying over the top 2 inches of the upper arm. This area is sensitive to compression with the associated nerve damage and loss of circulation.
- Use multiple wraps. Using multiple wraps or ‘turns’ can make a huge difference.
- Never use knots that cinch. Never use a slip knot either. You want
Multiple wraps around her arms
to control the tie and not have it change on you over time or as she struggles or changes positions.
- Not too tight! To do effective rope bondage you don’t need to make it tight! In fact, tight rope are bad a thing. But multiple wraps and good rope positioning is the way to create the best and most limiting ties. The rope doesn’t need to push into the skin to do it’s job.
- Avoid pressure points. You should avoid tying on points where the veins and nerves run close to the surface of the skin. Try to tie above or below joints and not directly on them. Try to avoid binding wrists, elbows, ankles and knees directly. Of course, wrists can be bound but you have to use special techniques to avoid cutting off the nerves and circulation. Make sure you time them last so they are first to access for untying.
- Use Wrist and Ankle Cuffs. The easiest way to greatly reduce the difficulties of wrist and ankle nerve damage is to use wrist and ankle cuffs (leather, of course.) They have the added advantage of being able to be clipped and unclipped with caribiners and you can also remove them quickly by undoing the leather straps. Cuffs are highly recommended for beginners.
- Use short ropes for complex ties. Shibari artists typically use several shorter ropes in place of one long one because if you need to go back and adjust her for comfort or circulation, you can ‘break’ the rope where it was tied to together.
- Communicate with her. You are not a mind reader. Talk to your rope bunny
frequently and get feedback on her exact physical state. Her hands might not feel cold but they might feel tingly to her. Ask. The best idicator of possible nerve damage is what she feels in her body. So ask her about her arms, legs, tingling etc to protect her.
- Always adjust for discomforts. Always. Permanent nerve damage is permanent.
Compressed nerves typically give shooting pains up or down a limb. This has to be fixed ASAP. Cut the ropes if you have to but fix it fast. You do not want to cause an injury that never goes away. Not even once. Rope costs nothing compared the how she’ll value the feeling in her hands the rest of her life. So cut the damn ropes. Even without shooting pains, numbness and tingling are a bad sign and should be adjusted quickly.
- Avoid Rope Burn: Pulling rope so it drags along the skin can cause a lot of heat to build up very quickly due to friction. This can burn the skin and cause blisters and skin to be removed. Also, some types of rope can splinter and piece the skin in places where it is dragged along. So be mindful of where the rope is and don’t pull it along if it is next to her skin.
- Time Yourself. A rope bunny can probably stand to be bound and motionless for about an hour — in the right position. If you are just learning or trying a new position, set a timer for 15 minutes and then change the position up after that. It’s especially good to vary arm and leg positions. This will get you more experience with tying and help you learn you rope bunny’s limits. As you get comfortable, you can gradually increase the time she is in one position.
- Crochet Hooks are Handy. Have a stubborn knot that won’t come undone? Use a crochet hook to get at that beast and loosen it. They are surprisingly handy.
- Pliers are Perfect. A pair of needle nose pliers is super handy for pulling knots apart. Have some in your emergency bag.
- Nerves can be Stretched. If you stretch your bunny’s arms up and over her head for long periods of time, you can stretch the nerves and cause damage.
- Avoid using the Rope as a Whip. If you are pulling ropes around a lot and flailing them everywhere, you can cause rope burn but also unintentionally whip your rope bunny or yourself. This is especially dangerous if it hits her or your eye. It is also incredibly embarrassing to partially blind yourself in front of her…so slow down a little and avoid rope whips.
- Large Knots Hurt. If you tie a great big knot, it will hurt for her to lay down on it or if she must shift her weight onto it. Smaller knots are best.
- Order Her to Speak. Order your sub to inform of instantly of any numbness, tingling or shooting pains. Some subs think of it as a failure on their part to ‘complain’ so give them clear orders and be sure they obey you. Silence is not acceptable.
- Insert a Finger. Insert a finger between the rope and the sub’s skin to ensure you are not tying it too tight. This ensures there is always a gap and bit of wiggle room so compression damage is less likely. This is my favorite rule because it sounds dirty.
- Watch for Darkening Skin. Darkening skin or going little purple is a clear
indication that blood is pooling around the ropes instead of flowing under them. Adjust and loosen the rope immediately.
- Keep the area padded. Depending on how you tie her, she may fall over and be completely unable to check her fall. Sharp edges, corners of tables and hard objects should be removed to ensure that if she does fall, she hits with a satisfying faceplant. Er…I mean, if she does fall she doesn’t hurt herself. That said, be mindful that she can’t check her falls and look out for her!
- Fainting Danger from Standing. Standing bondage for extended periods can cause pooling in the lower legs. This cause eventually cause too little blood to be pumped by the heart up into the brain –causing fainting. If she faints, sit her down but don’t lay her down! Laying down cause a a rush of deoxyginated blood to enter the heart — a bad thing. If this happens:
- loosen all leg binding
- sit her down
- support her so she stays sitting
- have her breathe slowly
- give her small sips of water
- The Squeeze Test. If you are wanting to test your sub for nerve impairment, have her grip and squeeze your fingers as hard as she can and hold this. If she can’t do this, it’s a clear indicator of nerve imparment and the ropes should be untied and/or shifted. But keep in mind that passing this test doesn’t mean there is no possibility of damage.
- Adjust Frequently. Little shifts in the rope position and easing the compression on an area even for a few seconds can make all the difference.
- Tie the Meat. Stick to the meatiest places to tie as the muscle being presses into other muscle is way less likely to cause any lasting damage.
After a scene, a subbie may notice some weakness, numbness, tingling or loss of fine motor control. This usually resolves within an hour but can last days, weeks, years or forever. These are indicators of damage and should be warning signs to improve your work and safety practices.
And finally, there are rope marks. Ropes often leave lovely red trails behind. Enjoy them.
|Ropemarks on Kitten’s side immediately after removing a zip tie
Instead of all the pressure being applied to one strand of 1/2″ rope, you wrap the limb 6 times and the pressure is spread over 3 inches…greatly reducing the chance of causing problems.
easily compressed. They are probably the easiest to damage on the body to damage so tie them last if you can. They are the points that cause hands and feet to go numb from nerve compression or loss of circulation.