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Safe Bondage: The Products and Discussions that Keep Your Kink Connected

“I’ve always wanted to try BDSM, but isn’t it… dangerous?”

I can’t count how many times I’ve been asked that question. Okay, I can (it’s probably like seven times). Regardless, it is something people wonder about. When you first hear about BDSM, the connotations are dark, shadowy, and even bruise-purple. It’s part of our cultural assumptions.

To be fair, there are reasons for it. Anytime bodies intertwine, they can get bumped or knocked or kneed. And when you add in intentional intensity, through bondage, S&M, and more, there is an element of danger. When you are experimenting with delicious pain, there is always the chance of risk.

But those chances can be minimized, if not eliminated completely, in a few ways. One, know what you are doing. Don’t just jump into bondage; if you are a beginner, learn the (sometimes literal) ropes.

You also don’t have to go full 50 Shades, much less Marquis de Sade. There is what we call “vanilla bondage,” which can help you test the water of BDSM and explore your comfort zone.

But no matter what your flavor of BDSM looks like, three elements of safe bondage remain universal. These are:

  • Consent
  • Communication
  • Equipment

If you want to be safe, you have to follow the rules of unquestionable consent, constant communication, and using well-made products and toys. This goes without question. It is about respect, for yourself and your partner. That’s what BDSM is all about, so make sure you follow those to the letter.

Because when it comes to safe bondage, no matter where you want to whip, you can’t half-ass it.

Consent: The Key to Safe Bondage

We all know what is meant by consent in any sexual situation: both partners have to agree to any intercourse, outercourse, kissing, hugging, groping... Everything. In the #metoo era, it is finally clear that your body isn’t anyone’s property (that applies to women and men). Consent can be withdrawn at any time.

When it comes to bondage, that concept of continuous consent is almost doubled. Because people are pushing limits, and because part of role-playing might be one person pretending not to listen or not to respect their partner, consent needs to be made clear beforehand and can be revoked at any time.

Before starting bondage, you have to understand what someone wants, and what they don’t. And you have to understand that, no matter how hard you are leaning into a Bad Lieutenant fantasy when the sexy suspect says they want to stop… you stop.

Remember, whatever the game you are playing, it is about respect. That means discussing things beforehand: establishing the rules, as well as how to withdraw consent—which is always your right.

Communication Before Bondage

You lay that groundwork of consent in your initial communication, where you establish what you are going to do, what you aren’t going to do, and how you are going to stop doing it. There are a few things to discuss, and they are all part of a piece.

Share fantasies

When my husband and I first started talking about really trying out bondage, we spent a long time talking about things that turned us on. Not everything was a very special fantasy; some were mere fancies. Some things sort of scared us, even as they got us excited. But the point is: we talked about them. 

We shared what we wanted, and that opened both our imaginations. It also showed us some things we don’t want. There were a few activities that were beyond the pale for both of us. Those were our limits.

Hard limits and soft limits

Hard limits are something you definitely don’t want approached in any given session; soft limits are things you aren’t sure about and may be somewhat leery of. These could, in theory, be tried during a BDSM session, but they should be done very cautiously. Hard limits should never be broached.

Here’s an example. A woman I know was really interested in being tied up and penetrated. She had fantasies of someone breaking in, and her partner obliged. Her soft limits were that she didn’t really want anal play. Her hard limits were no slapping or hair-pulling or anything that was really violent.

So, if her partner felt that it was right, she might use a vibrator on her backside. But she’d never, ever do anything violent, even if she felt it “made the scenario better.” You should be encouraged to freelance and use your imagination, of course, but not go too far.

Sex isn’t scripted. But to be clear, limits are what help you avoid a script. It gives you boundaries and opportunities but avoids situations where you have to stop.

Safe words

This is the most famous BDSM tip. In the example above, when the partner started using the vibrator, my friend might start to say “no.” But saying “no” could be part of the fantasy. The partner might not want to stop, because maybe that was exciting to both of them, but she also might not want to continue, in case she actually meant it.

That’s where safe words come in. These can be as simple as “yellow” (slow down or be careful) and “red” (stop). They can be variants. They can be anything that you remember.

And they work. If my friend had said “red,” her partner would immediately stop and move on to something else. She respected her soft limits and stayed away from the hard limits. But away from those, all their fantasies could be fulfilled.

Note: “Hard limits” don’t mean “I never want to do this in my entire life.” You might have a firm limit at one point, and they want to experiment later on. These can be continually talked over. By the same token, wanting to do something once is not a lifetime pass. Consent can be revoked at any time, and wanting to not try something again (or for the time being) is your inalienable right.

The Importance of Using Good Products

Here’s something else I’ve heard from a friend.

“We’re really thinking about trying some bondage, but we don’t need anything fancy. We’ll just use what we have here.”

“Here,” it needs to be clear, was not a fully-stocked sex shop. It was her home. I didn’t know what she meant to use: extension cords, maybe, and like a fly swatter?

Lots of people feel that they can use just anything for BDSM. But that’s misguided. It can actually be more dangerous and can increase the chances of an accident.

You’re not likely to encounter problems if you use scarves as a blindfold or a feather duster to tickle and tease, but when you get more binding, you need to be careful. Here are a few examples of what can go wrong without the correct products, and what you need instead.

Cuffs:

It’s easy to think that you can just tie yourself up with anything—long socks or ropes or cheap handcuffs you won at skee-ball. The problem is that in all the sexual activity, these can get tight or bind too hard. Bad knots can slip (or tighten), and bad handcuffs can dig in. You want cuffs that actually bind correctly can be secured properly (and release quickly), and won’t continually tighten due to more movement. You want them sturdy, but you can use fuzzy cuffs over that sturdy base, or perhaps soft and secure neoprene cuffs.

Impact Toys

It seems like anything could be used to slap a partner’s bottom (or wherever). Just cut a switch, right? Nope: well-designed impact toys (from floggers to crops to paddles and beyond) have the right amount of give, are designed to disperse impact area in order to lessen pain, and won’t snap or splinter (ouch!). You want to be able to have at it, without worrying about the tool breaking or not bending enough.

Under the bed bondage equipment

We all love the idea of being tied up in bed, arms and legs splayed out, spread-eagled and open-bodied. But what are you going to do without the right equipment? Put some ropes under the mattress? Staple a couple of pairs of long underwear to the corners? That can be dangerous, as they can bind too tightly, causing pain, bruising, and loss of circulation. We recommend adjustable under-the-bed bondage restraints that are designed to fit your mattress—and your kinky ideas.

Blindfolds

This seems like an easy one to do at home, and it is true that anything can be used as a blindfold. But if you want something to really block out vision, and you don’t have a proper blindfold, you have to tie it tight. You have to go a little extreme. Why not use a blindfold designed expressly to block vision but rest comfortably on the head? It’s the best of both worlds.

Communication During Bondage

It’s hard to communicate during sex, other than “yes” and “I love that” and “unnnngghhhoooohhh” (approximately). It’s even harder during bondage sessions, where normal words might have a different meaning (or there’s a gag in the way). So what do you do?

Check-in

If you are new, relatively new, or even old bondage hands who are trying new things, feel free to check in. Ask “is this okay?” Don’t worry about breaking character or whatever. Because when you check in, you can make it better. You let your partner know that they are free to speak up.

And remember: this isn’t the only time you’re going to have sex, and probably won’t be the only time you try this particular act. If you “break character,” you aren’t really spoiling the mood. Because if it is okay, you can go right back at it, and you don’t even have to really pause. A simple, “you okay?” and then keep at it. And if it isn’t? Try something else.

Non-Verbal Cues

Look, it can be hard, in the heat of the moment, to want or ask to stop. People are honestly scared of hurting their partner’s feelings, or ruining something, or being a prude. They might not want to stop. They may not want to say anything.

So try your best to read non-verbal cues. I know that can be tough when there is an element of danger and pain, and when you are preoccupied, but you should be able to sense genuine reluctance or hesitation.

All of these elements, from the first discussion to the gasps and writhes throughout, flow together. Understand what your partner wants, and what they don’t. Understand their limits and fantasies. Be receptive to their need, as you expect them to be receptive to yours.

If you know your partner, have a plan and use the right equipment, you’ll hit the bondage sweet spot. You’ll embrace danger while being perfectly safe. That’s the ideal.


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