Mentoring, self-help and submissive exploration

Bondage

Bondage (voluntary sexual slavery) or ligotage is consensually tying, binding, or restraining a partner for erotic, aesthetic, and/or somatosensory stimulation. Rope, cuffs, bondage tape, self-adhesive bandages, or other restraints may be used for this purpose.

Bondage itself does not imply sadomasochism. Bondage may be used as an end into itself, as in the case of rope bondage and breast bondage. It may also be used as a part of sex or in conjunction with other BDSM activities. The letter “B” in the acronym “BDSM” comes from the word “bondage”. Sexuality and erotica are an important aspect in bondage, but are often not the end in itself. Aesthetics also plays an important role in bondage.

A common reason for the active partner to tie up their partner is so both may gain pleasure from the restrained partner’s submission and the feeling of the temporary transfer of control and power. For sadomasochistic people, bondage is often used as a means to an end, where the restrained partner is more accessible to other sadomasochistic behaviour. However, bondage can also be used for its own sake. The active partner can derive visual pleasure from seeing their partner tied up, and the restrained partner can derive tactile pleasure from the feeling of helplessness and immobility.

Bondage features prominently in BDSM scenes and sexual roleplay. It is the best known aspect of BDSM even outside the BDSM scene, and does not require a BDSM-oriented sexual identity to practice. Even so-called “vanilla” people can become masters of the technical aspects of tying their partners up.

Bondage has a sexual appeal to people of all sexes and all sexual orientations, in a switchdominant (top) or submissive (bottom) role.

There are also some common fantasy settings in which bondage may be a component. These include:

  • Rape, ravishment and/or abduction: The top fictitiously seizes or abducts the consenting bottom and has complete control.
  • Dominance/submission: A training session occurs in which rewards for obedience and punishment for defiance are given. Humiliation is usually involved.
  • Predicament bondage: The bottom is given a choice between two tortures. For example, caning on the rear or flogging on the chest. If the bottom cannot stand one any longer, the top will start the other. This can also be done mechanically, like having a bottom squat and rigging a crotch rope to tighten if they attempt to stand.

Bondage is often combined with other sexual and BDSM techniques.

Self-bondage is more complex, and may involve special techniques to apply bondage to oneself, and also to effect a release after a lapsed period of time. Self-bondage is also notably risky: see the safety notes below.

A large variety of bondage equipment is available for use in BDSM scenes for a number of results. These include rope, straps, or harnesses which can be used to hold limbs together; spreader bars, x-frames which can be used to keep limbs apart; the body or limbs can be tied to an object, such as to chairs or stocks; the body may be suspended from another object, as in suspension bondage; or it may used to restrict normal movement, such as use of hobble skirts, handcuffs, or pony harness. Bondage may also be used to wrap the whole body or a part of it in bindings, such as cloth or plastic (saran wrap or cling film “mummification”) as well as sleep sack bondage.

One of the purposes of bondage in BDSM is to restrain a person (typically called the bottom) in a BDSM position. This may involve simply tying the hands together in front or behind. Other positions involve the use of a waist belt to anchor the hands to the front, back or sides. Other popular positions are the spread eagle, with the limbs splayed out and fastened by wrists and ankles to bedposts, door frame or some other anchoring point; the hogtie, which secures each wrist to its corresponding ankle behind the back (wider, padded restraints such as bondage cuffs are recommended for this); the balltie, which secures wrists to ankles, in front, with the knees drawn up to the chest; the crotch rope, which involves pulling a rope between the labia to apply pressure to the female genitals. Sometimes a knot is placed in the rope at the position of the clitoris to intensify the sensation. A crotch rope can also be used on males, either placing pressure directly on the scrotum or including a tie to capture the scrotum. Other positions include the reverse prayer position (not recommended unless the subject has flexible shoulders), and an over-arm tie, in which the arms are brought over the head, and the wrists fastened together behind the head and then by a length of rope, chain or strapping to a belt at the waist.

The types of restraints used in bondage include rope, which is often preferred because of its flexibility. Rigging, however, requires considerable skill and practice to do safely. Other types of restraints include chains, handcuffs, thumbcuffs and belly chains. Institutional restraints, such as straitjackets may be used in some roleplays, and purpose-made bondage gear, such as monogloves, sleepsacks, bondage hooks and bondage tables, are also available.

Some BDSM play parties offer “bondage workshops”, where couples, or people otherwise consenting with each other, can practice tying under the instruction and supervision of an experiencedbondage rigger.

Safety

Bondage is safer when conducted between sober, trusted partners who are fully aware of the risks involved and the precautions necessary to ensure safety, such as informed consent. Partners who are in committed relationships may have a greater basis for trusting each other. Performing acts in a supervised location, such as a dungeon, or with a group of trusted friends may also increase safety.

There is also a subculture of people who seek out others interested in bondage and pursue such activities with people who they do not know well. This subculture has given rise to Safe, Sane & Consensual.

Safety precautions include:

  • The use of a “safeword”, or some clear way for the subject to indicate genuine distress and a wish to discontinue, temporarily stop or vary the activities of the play.  In Germany, “Mayday” is a common safeword in BDSM parties.
  • Never leaving a bound person alone.
  • Avoiding positions or restraints which may induce postural asphyxia.
  • Making sure that the subject changes positions at least once an hour (to avoid circulation problems).
  • Making sure that the subject can be released quickly in an emergency.
  • Avoiding restraints which impair breathing. (Gags or hoods which block the mouth can become asphyxial hazards if the subject vomits or the nose becomes otherwise blocked.)
  • Remaining sober; alcohol and drugs should be avoided.

Accidents and lasting damage can generally be avoided by very simple security precautions and a rudimentary knowledge of the human anatomy. One very simple safety measure is to ask the subject every so often if he or she is all right. Another is to check body parts like hands and feet for numbness or coldness, which can happen if nerves have been pinched or blood circulation has been blocked. Another is to check for skin discoloration. Skin that does not get enough oxygen turns bluish. If blood can get in, but cannot get out because one of the veins has been blocked, that part of the body turns purple.

If the subject has been gagged or can otherwise not verbally communicate, a different form of the safeword is needed. For instance, they may hum a simple tune, or opening and closing one or both hands repeatedly, or releasing an object held in one hand (such as a rubber ball, or a scarf).

Some simple preparations may also be helpful:

  • Food. It is common for people (especially those on diets) to faint during a long session. Having a regular meal beforehand is recommended; being fed small snacks during play may also help prevent fainting.
  • Cutting tools. A pair of EMT scissors is recommended (useful for safely cutting rope and tape off skin).
  • Keyed-alike padlocks, if chains are being used.

It should be noted that scenes depicted in bondage photographs and videos are chosen for their visual appeal and fantasy value. Sometimes these positions are dangerous or cannot be maintained for more than a few minutes (i.e., “don’t try this at home”) such as inverted bondage or suspension from the wrists and ankles. In many cases they cannot be “acted out” with good results and are only for extremely physically fit and very experienced BDSM participants. Especially in highly artistic Japanese bondage, years of experience of bondage is required to avoid the risks.

Self-bondage carries a higher risk, particularly because it violates an important principle of bondage safety; to never leave a bound person alone. For the feeling of being tied up to be as authentic as possible, practitioners of self-bondage can use time-limit clocks, freeze their keys in blocks of ice, or use self-invented devices, in order to temporarily abandon power over their own restraint and freedom (called “tunnel play”).

Without someone to release them in the event of an emergency or medical crisis, self-bondage can lead to severe and permanent physical damage. Especially in combination with asphyxiation, self-bondage can be lethal to its practitioners.

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