Jun 252011
 

Bondage(noun): the state or practice of being physically restrained, as by being tied up, chained, or put in handcuffs, for sexual gratification. Bondage can be done with many materials, including: rope, chains, body wraps, and cuffs (whether metal, leather, hand- or thumb-). Today we’re focusing on rope bondage.

A few notes before we begin: First, remember BDSM should never be done without consent. Also, consider using a safeword. Second, some acts may be illegal in your jurisdiction. Please check your laws and choose your actions accordingly. Third, I won’t be talking about suspension, or self-bondage. Those are topics for another time. And lastly, for simplicity’s sake, I’m going to use the term “top” for the person doing the tying, and “bottom” for the person being tied.

Rope? Yep, rope. What kind? Many kinds! Multifilament, nylon, and hemp are common materials for rope. Natural materials usually need some conditioning before use. Make sure the rope doesn’t have the potential to splinter, stretch or shrink.

A warning: Do Not use things like ribbons, scarves, or ties instead of rope. They narrow as they tighten and can end up cutting through skin. Ow!! Essentially: don’t use ribbons/scarves/etc any place you wouldn’t be willing to use dental floss.

Safety concerns:

  • Falling: Restrained arms and legs limit how well the bottom can balance. This increases the chance of a fall. If the bottom’s arms or hands are tied, they may not be able to catch themselves. Falls can be avoided by: a) having the bottom sitting, lying down, or leaning, b) watching the bottom carefully, c) making sure they don’t get lightheaded, d) tying certain areas but not others (e.g., the ankles, but not the hands).
  • Fainting. Yes, bottoms can and do faint. Some people are more prone to fainting than others. Bondage can create a light-headed sensation. Be careful when doing bondage with those at higher risk.
  • Joint issues. The positions involved in some bondage can make some joint problems worse. Choose positions accordingly, and change positions as needed. Discomfort should be taken seriously, since it can signal an imminent problem, like torn ligaments or dislocated joints. Ow!
  • Restricted blood flow. Without fresh oxygen, provided by blood flow, tissue can die. Dead tissue cannot magically recover. Check bound extremities (hands and feet) frequently. If they are cool to the touch or pale in color, loosen the binding. Also watch out for tingling and burning sensations.
  • Rope burn. Rope can burn skin when it’s dragged across it, just like a carpet burn. Synthetic fibers are particularly prone to this. Slow down.
  • Nerve damage. Tingling and/or numbness in a limb? Loosen the rope immediately! The best way to help prevent this is to communicate frequently.
  • Breathing constrictions. Some positions can make breathing difficult – avoid these or limit the bottom’s time in them and communicate frequently.
  • Emotional. Bondage can be a very emotional experience. Aftercare is highly recommended. If you think you might need professional help, there are bondage-friendly professionals you can turn to.

Special precautions may need to be taken with people with certain medical conditions, like diabetes (which affects circulation), fibromyalgia, or joint problems.

So… how can you improve the safety of rope bondage?

  • Frequent, open, and clear communication before, during and after the experience. Don’t just rely on a safeword!
  • Be careful about who you do bondage with. This goes for both tops and bottoms – both are vulnerable here.
  • Be very careful about mind-altering substances, like alcohol and marijuana. Many people avoid them altogether when doing BDSM. The ability to think and judge clearly is very important for safety.
  • Never tie certain areas of the body, like the neck and joints. I really do mean Never on this. Neck restriction can choke, and joint restriction can do a lot of damage. Just don’t do it.
  • Make sure the rope isn’t too tight. One way to tell is the “one finger” rule: Can you slide one finger between skin and rope?
  • Keep EMT (bandage) scissors nearby, just in case. They’re designed to cut fabric off skin without hurting the skin.

Curious? Want more information? Check out these resources (recommendations are always appreciated!):

  • SM 101 by Jay Wiseman. Has a good beginner’s section on bondage, including technique and rope selection.
  • Bondage safety on Wipi
  • Wikipedia’s article
  • TwistedMonk.com has tutorials
  • Graydancer’s Ropecast (a podcast)
  • And, as always, your local BDSM community and its workshops. Can’t find your local group? Try your adult shops, or FetLife.

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  4 Responses to “Rope Bondage”

  1. Here are a few more key points, in my experience:

    First, hydration!

    It’s particularly easy for a bottom to get dehydrated – and tops aren’t invulnerable either. After all this stuff can be hard work, and physically exhausting for both parties. Also, if you are hydrated, you’re less likely to do that passing-out thing.

    Tops should always make sure their bottoms get a chance to rehydrate once or twice during the session – more if they’re playing for longer than a couple hours. Tops should also ensure that they themselves are taken care of, so that they’re capable of looking after their partner.

    Also, my quick-and-easy rule of thumb is that main pressure from a restraint (especially rope) should never rest against tendons, i.e. the back of the knee, the Achilles’ tendon, the underside of the forearm. Pressure resulting from limb restraints should be against a body part that is muscle and bone, which is built to put up with that sort of thing.

    Some of this rule is covered by No Joint Restraint, but the underside of the forearm is especially vulnerable. The pressure doesn’t have to be at the wrist joint to make those nerves unhappy – even three inches away, there’s still stuff that really doesn’t like being compressed. Placing the knot or attachment point of a restraint at this location is an easy way to ensure any pulling or pressure will be on the durable top of the forearm.

    Collars are a good safe alternative to neck bondage – I was taught the rule is to fit two fingers between neck and collar, which should be plenty snug for most folks. So long as they don’t go exerting significant or prolonged pressure, especially on the front (with all that important stuff for breathing and the brain’s blood supply), it’s quite safe.

    Alas, most of my BDSM links are gone to the great browser in the sky – and they were probably outdated anyway. Most of them would have been circa ’98 or ’99… oh my god I’m old D:

    • Thanks for the thoughts! 🙂 I chose not to go into this kind of detail in the post itself.

      Re: forearms. Ohhh man do we have a lot of tendons and muscles there. Did you know we’ve got muscles that just move our index fingers? And that we have muscles just for our pinkies (“digiti minimi”)? Hah. But seriously – there are three main nerve bundles in the forearm – one on the radius side, one on the ulna side, and one between the radius and ulna. The radial and ulnar nerves don’t pass through the carpal tunnel – the median nerve does (and thus carpal tunnel syndrome). This page has links to diagrams that show which nerve goes where and to which muscle, and controls what part of the hand. Er… right. Sorry. I like this stuff a lot. 🙂

      Pity about your links. I’m afraid the same happened to my links – such as they were. 🙁

      Edit: BTW, fixed your comments. 🙂

    • what does two fingers under the collar really mean? i got a new one recently and i can wear it on its widest setting and fit two fingers under, but it pushes my skin back a bit. does it mean that or does it just mean there should be 2 fingers worth of full open space around it?

  2. […] Open minded health : Bondage […]

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