General BDSM Safety

Introduction:Technique is a controversial issue. As players become more experienced their techniques change. There isn’t anything wrong with that, but when a novice sees advanced techniques he or she can become discouraged or worse, be tempted to try something beyond his or her abilities. Here we are going to focus on the basics emphasizing safety. If you want to learn advanced techniques, watch and learn from those who have experience in what you want to know. As with everything we do, learn, practice, discuss, communicate. It should be noted that nothing is absolutely without risk. The key is to take all the precautions you can to be as safe as possible, while realizing that BDSM can have unforeseen problems. Finally, none of these warnings or cautions are intended to scare you away from the scene, but rather, they are there to make you aware of potential risks. Remember, play hard, play safe.

Bondage:
Bondage techniques vary a lot. There are many in our community who can boast of their bondage prowess, and rightly so. We talked about the type of rope to start with in toys, so beyond that there are some things to know before you tie someone up.Bondage safety involves 3 principle concerns, nerves, circulation, and breathing. It doesn’t really matter what you use, be it rope or a thousand dollar plus bondage bag, the concerns are the same. When bondage is too tight in the wrong place, it can compress a nerve. The symptoms of a compressed nerve are instant numbness in the affected body part, as opposed to the gradual numbness that comes from reduced circulation. This should not be ignored! Remember, the dom is not a mind reader so if the sub feels a limb or other extremity go numb he/she needs to tell the dom. Subs are famous for not wanting to interrupt a scene, but don’t let this go. Overlapping ropes or too tight cuffs can cause pressure points that can lead to nerve compression, so the sub has to be interactive in a bondage scene (remember safe words/signals). When a sub goes into deep head space, he or she may not recognize the numbness right away. You must check periodically if your sub is in tight bondage.

Circulation is the next concern. There have been studies that show lack of circulation for a short period doesn’t do a lot of harm. Still, prolonged lack of circulation is not a good idea. You shouldn’t start a scene with the idea that circulation will be cut off from the start. Signs of a circulation problem are affected parts going cold and/or changing color (turning a purplish blue). This isn’t a panic situation, but it shouldn’t be ignored. Consider it a time to do something else, change position and bondage etc.. Also subs will lie about circulation, either not wanting to interrupt the scene or because they are having to much fun and don’t want to stop. The dom has to be proactive in this and check to see if extremities feel cold or are changing color.

Breathing concerns might seem obvious but they can come from unexpected directions. Constriction around the chest can make breathing difficult. This is especially true with elastic constriction such as an ACE bandage. When people become excited they tend to breath faster. Couple that with constricted breathing and potential problems can arise. Remember, back in Basics when we talked about Safe, Sane, and Consensual? Being safe is knowing the potential risks and taking precautions. Being sane is knowing your limitations, not trying advanced technique until you’ve learned how to do it safely, realizing that the elaborate Japanese style bondage you saw on the “net” may be beyond your abilities for now. Consensual, means discussing with your partner what you are going to do and honoring limits. More then anything bondage is about trust and trust should be earned, not expected.

Another concern is claustrophobia. Some people just can’t handle bondage but they may not know that until they actually try it. Dom’s should be alert for panic reactions and have the safety scissors handy.
Bondage can involve more than rope, but most of the safety concerns are the same. Plastic wrap, the already mentioned ACE bandage, duct tape, cuffs, harnesses and rubber items all have their devotees, and many people like all of the above. With plastic wrap, you also need to think about the temperature of the room. A person can get pretty warm in plastic wrap. Although some like the warm sweaty feeling of plastic wrap, they will also become dehydrated. So watch for that. Some things like ACE bandages can also get tighter over time due to their elasticity.Basic technique is pretty easy to learn, and there are many works devoted to this. You can visit some of the links on our resource page, or check out Jay Weismans Erotic Bondage Handbook available in our book section. For advice on knots try Ropers Knot Page. How elaborate you get depends on your skill level and the limits of your sub. Some people have used things like thread, wrapping the easily broken material around their subs wrists and ankles, telling them that no matter what happens the they must not break the thread. Others are into heavy bondage involving heavy leather, chains and lots and lots of rope. There have been bondage scenes that have taken an hour or more just to get into, and there are scenes that take a minute or less. The wonderful thing about the endless universe that is the scene community, is that as long as safety isn’t ignored the world is our oyster. Remember, when you put someone into bondage that you are responsible for them. Their physical and mental safety are in your hands. While you shouldn’t let that responsibility weigh you down to where you can’t have fun, you shouldn’t take it to lightly either. Don’t leave them alone and don’t go beyond your abilities. Have fun but be careful.

Paddles and StrapsWe talked about safety in toys but just to recap….. you should take care not to hit with the edge of the paddle or strap, and be careful not to wrap in the case of straps. You do want to take care where you hit the body with a paddle or strap (we will just say paddle after this, if something is unique to straps we’ll say so). Most people would not enjoy being paddled on the shins for example. You will also want to avoid areas like the kidneys and lower back and the spinal column. Anywhere on the body that is not padded by muscle and where the paddle is likely to hit bone isn’t a good, safe idea. To be delicate about it, levels of padding will vary with the individual and therefore are a negotiation topic. In figure 1, you can see the safe areas for paddles on the back, the darker area is for whips not for paddles, figure 2 shows safe areas for the front. (Remember safe is relativeFig 1 Safe striking areas REAR to the physical condition of the bottom. Always ask if they have any health problems or sensitive body areas) You will see the same areas for whips. The difference a heavy paddle is going to feel much different on the back then it does on the behind, a LOT different. Generally, you are going to use a lighter paddle (something along the lines of a ruler) on the areas the are more lightly padded. Although the behind is the classic paddle target, if you bend your sub over a horse or spanking bench, you are going to stretch the muscles of the buttocks. On a thinner person the muscles might be stretched enough so the paddle starts to irritate the sciatic nerve. That can be very painful (BAD PAIN) and can lead to a condition called sciatica that will put your sub off limits for a long time. A good position for a thinner person is lying on their stomach, maybe not as fun as other positions, but safer. When using a paddle on the front, some extra care has to be taken. Most people are not going to like paddling on the front (negotiation), or they are going to want only lighter percussion. Yes, you can paddle the chest but if you use a percussion device on the female breast there is one more consideration. Although divided on the subject, some medical authorities feel that heavy breast play could promote the formation of fibroids in women who are prone to them. Although fibroids aren’t dangerous in and of themselves they can trigger a false positive during a Mammagram. Most women will know if they are prone to this. Percussive play on the genitals is another area where care should be exercised. Some heavy subs will like this type of play, others won’t tolerate it. Even if it is tolerated, take care. The roughest, badest bottom alive can still be seriously hurts if things get to drastic. Like everything else, all of this will vary depending on mood, level of excitement, and other factors. Finally, although figures 1 and 2 don’t show it, you can also use a paddle on the inside of the thighs.

By and large, straps tend to be more intense then paddles.. This might be because they conform to the target area. Straps are also a little harder to use, because they do bend. A paddles effect is fairly easy to predict, the flat part hits the target. A strap is more complex as it will tend to have a whipping effect. The point of this is to take it easy with a strap. Practice making it go where you want it to (striking a pillow is helpful)
You may consider a paddle with holes. That’s fine, but be aware that any given paddle will be more severe with holes in it. That’s because holes decrease resistance to the air, and decrease the mass of the paddle, making it easier to get it moving. They also decrease the surface area of the paddle, making a smaller area to distribute force. Mumbo-jumbo aside, just be sure the person you are playing with is up to it before you bore holes in a paddle.
A variation on the paddle is the crop. The classic riding crop is easy to control and fairly cheap to buy. They are available at tack shops and many farm supply stores.Back to top

Whips and FloggersWhip technique varies as much as that of bondage, everybody has a favorite style of whip stroke. The most important thing you can learn is hitting what you aim at. The falls of a well made whip will go where you want them, but you need to learn what you can and can’t do. Start by practicing on a pillow. (some people advocate putting shoe polish on the ends of the whip and striking a wall to see where the polish marks the wall. Do this only if you want to and have fun cleaning your whip) Try different strokes, overhand, side to side etc. to see what feels best to you. You also shouldn’t start with that too big for you flogger. If you have to work too hard, your ability to control the whip will suffer. When you areFig 2 Safe striking areas FRONT accurate you are ready to try a person. See figure 1 and 2 for safe whipping areas, the darker areas in figure 1 are the preferred areas for whipping on the back. Go slowly at first, especially if you are both new to the scene. Communicate, find out what feels good and what doesn’t. Remember, these are the basics. You don’t really have to hit like a thunderbolt. The end of the whip can get moving more then fast enough to have the desired effect. Most people require a gradual work up to a heavy whipping. You should start out with light whips and work up to the bigger ones. You should also vary your striking areas and the intensity of your strokes. The idea is to keep things interesting, if you whip like a metronome, even the most dedicated whip fan will become bored. There are many variants on the basics. Be careful not to wrap the whip, (where the ends of the whip go beyond the target and wrap around the body) the ends will be moving much faster then you intend and can do real damage. We talked about this is conjunction with straps, but it is much more of problem with whips and generally more severe. Also move your strokes around. If you keep hitting the same area it will get pretty intense pretty quickly. It also bears repeating that when you buy a whip, you should try it on yourself so you have some idea of the effect it will have on your sub.

When whipping the front, take care when striking around the nipples and genitals. There are those who like very heavy play in those areas but even then, you should be careful. There are specialized whips for that type of play, one is in the picture of the whips in the toys section, and you might consider one of those. You should also take care around the chest area as it a short distance from there to the eyes. If the sub can handle it, a blindfold comes in handy as it protects the eyes. Some people have even used things like a fencers mask.

Whips can draw blood, if that does happen, that’s what the first aid kit is for. You can clean the area, bandage it and keep going, or you can stop. Whatever you do, don’t let something like that go. The safe part of SSC means taking care with any bodily fluids.

We’ve talked about paddles, straps and whips for beginners. You no doubt know that there are other types of toys. Such things as single tails, canes and heavy paddles aren’t for beginners and should NEVER be attempted with receiving instruction and practicing. These items and others have the potential to do serious physical damage.

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