B is for BONDAGE

There are a million ways to play the game of BONDAGE.  This topic is extra enormous so I’ll be introducing a bunch of concepts below, and “getting into bondage” (ha) from some diverse angles.  Some of what I bring up will one day become blog entries all their own, and we’ll definitely revisit this particular subject many more times on ABCs…

Smiling Girl in Ropes

Yours Truly bound up “Ebi” style. Photo and ropework by Zee.

Babysteps:  What is Bondage?  According to the online free dictionary, bondage (n.) is:

  1. The state of one who is bound as a slave or serf.  (so, in BDSM/kinkland let’s acknowledge this as a sub/slave type of bind – someone who’s agreed to be in the power of their Dominant/Master for a period of time)
  2. A state of subjection to a force, power, or influence.  (chances are if you’re bottoming in a scene, you’re being subjected to something)
  3. The practice of being physically restrained, as with cords or handcuffs, as a means of attaining sexual gratification.  (pretty straight forward, and probably the definition most people think of)
  4. Villeinage.  (24/7 relationship status achieved!, unless you’re just momentarily play-acting Master/villein, that is)

All of these definitions can be used in the employ of sexual gratification and have pertinence to BDSM/kink.  The basic purpose of bondage is in keeping someone (someone’s body parts or mind/loyalty/actions) where you want them through physical, emotional, intellectual, legal, or psychological restraint.  What I find fascinating about bondage is that it is so much more expansive an enterprise than simply tying someone up.  So, bondage is a relational device or a power play, as well as a physical restriction.  Here I’ll point out the social contract(s) one puts themselves in regarding their relationships when considered “not single”.  Also, within a scene if you tell someone to “stay put” and they comply, then you have successfully “bound” your partner through the device of power exchange (utilizing their loyalty and will or desire to obey you) – and nary a rope tree nor a handcuff bush had to be chopped down for your kinky enjoyment.  Fun stuff, huh?!

Why Bondage?  Why not, sings the bondage enthusiast (yours truly)?!  It’s useful as well as sensual, fun, practical, emotional, aesthetic, sexy, connective, challenging, and creative.  Isn’t that enough?  What more do you want from me?!

  • Useful: To keep someone from getting away, or you could create a handle on your “human luggage” to move them around easily…
  • Sensual: Think silken handkerchiefs and fur-lined cuffs
  • Fun: To play “Mistress, Mister, or Person in Distress”
  • Practical: Suspend someone bound up into a perfect position for functioning as a human sex-swing
  • Emotional: Try mummification sometime… then again, what about kink isn’t emotional in some way/shape/form?
  • Aesthetic: Did you seeeee the photos in this blog?!  And if my ass ain’t your thing, try on my friends’ “Dudes in Distress” tumblr for a change of scenery
  • Sexy: Like a submissive with her hands on the desk (everyone’s seen “The Secretary”, right?)
  • Connective: Be the human dog on that leash
  • Challenging: Getting a lot of tiny little ties CBT (Cock and Ball Torture) style on your favorite volunteer
  • Creative:  Think really hard and deep for a minute and come up with your own bondage scenario!  What flavors of bondage best suit you?
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A video still from the short film “Legitimate”.  I was asked to do a variation of my “Ropes” act in this film.*

What are all the different ways you can play with Bondage?  There are several mentioned above, but this question has no end of answers, and there are a LOT of different points of view to approach bondage from, so I’ll outline a few of the popular ones I’ve made particular note of:

Bondage as Physical Restraint:  This approach to restraint refers to tying someone up or otherwise immobilizing parts of their body in some way physically.  Whether you are tying a limb to another limb, tying someone into a particular position (like the “Ebi” tie pictured above), securing a body to a hard point (like the headboard of your bed, a furnace, the leg of a couch…), wrestling to immobilize another person, or any number of other scenarios, some of the toys you might use are:  rope, your hands/arms/legs/bodyweight, handcuffs/anklecuffs, straps, furniture, tight clothing (including corsets or straightjackets), zip ties (be careful of circulation issues!), cords, plastic wrap and duct tape, leashes and collars, handkerchiefs, ties, belts, cages, hooks, spreader bars, chastity devices, body bags…  really just look around the room and think to yourself “what could I consensually and safely immobilize someone around here with?”, and there you have it!

Emotional or Psychological Restraint: This approach refers to tying someone up by using an emotional or psychological device.  The bondage in this case is connected often to a power exchange, D/s ropleplay or relationship agreement, the use of encouragement, loyalty, and pushing someone’s willpower in a scene.  “Predicament bondage” fits right in here too (kind of as a crossover bondage of the physical and psychological varieties).  Tools this bondage aficionado could use might be: verbal command, seduction and/or manipulation, threat of punishment, promise of reward, fear tactics, predicaments (think adult real life “mousetrap” scenario creation), orgasm control or orgasm denial, coercion, inspiration, goal-oriented challenges…  Think about what you would like someone to do, and figure out how you’ll get them to do it.

Bondage because Specific Materials:  Some people are into bondage because they’re into certain types of toys or materials.  If you aren’t really into restraint just for restraint sake, or power exchange, or predicament, perhaps you are into playing with particular gear and the gear you are into is perfect for bondage (and therefore perfect for playing with people who get off on being bound!).  Probably the most popular example of players like this are Rope Enthusiasts!  People who love rope, it seems to me, tend to REALLY really love rope.  They will love the particular type and feel of rope (twisted or braided, hemp, jute, nylon/MFP, cotton, coconut, twine, the list goes on…), they will love the various thickness of the rope (3mm, 6mm…), and they will be interested in various types of tying aesthetics and techniques (Shibari/Kinbaku, Western Bondage, Asymmetrical, Ornamental…).  And this general outline of thinking applies across the board for other types of bondage equipment.  Are there materials you like using for bondage that you enjoy more than the actual bondage itself?

Spreader bars and wrist cuffs!

Spreader bars, wrist and ankle cuffs!

Safety, Karin, Safety!?  I’m so glad you mentioned this all-important stop along the way of “fun and freaky, but hold the harm.”  Bondage has a lot of different safety concerns associated with it.  Before starting you should know about the circulatory system, as tying anyone up or restricting their movement can cause impaired or cut off circulation, which could lead to a lot of medical or physical consequences – some more permanent than others.  There are arteries, pressure points, and nerve-rich areas of the body that can be damaged if they are restricted in the wrong way or for too long.  Know your instruments of bondage and what damage they’ll do – is that rope going to cut the skin if you tie it that tight, or are those handcuffs going to crank down too hard and cut off circulation to the hands, is that psychological/emotional scene going to go too far or bring on triggers?  Also knowing your partner’s status on a whole lot of health issues is important:  do they have high blood pressure, hypertension, asthma, physical injuries (like a bad back or shoulder), physical limitations (are they not flexible in really particular ways or unable to hold a particular amount of weight for a long time), are there places you should avoid touching on that person when they are bound, how sexual or NOT do they give permission for the scene to get, are there positions you can bind them in that are only ok for a short amount of time, or ways in which they should not struggle while restricted, have they been to the ER recently, have grass allergies (if so consider not using hemp, jute, or some other natural fibers if tying them with rope), are they on any medications and do they have those medications with them, an epipen or inhaler, do they have heart issues, blood issues, epilepsy, blood-born illnesses you should be aware of, psychological triggers that playing in this way might bring up, what should you do if something DOES go wrong…  the list goes on and it should probably end with a discussion about how aftercare should go for all the people involved.  Remember you can always communicate about what’s going on WHILE it’s happening too – check in about how tight the cuffs are or how painful the stretch is while you’re being locked down, it’s only going to get more tiring to your joints and muscles over time.  Also remember: ALWAYS HAVE A WAY TO SAFEWORD OUT OF WHAT’S HAPPENING!  If a mouth will be covered or the person bottoming cannot speak for some reason, figure out a system of dropping a ball or scarf or moaning in a particular rhythm to alert the top of danger or doneness.  If someone needs out it is really important to stop and address that immediately.  Have a pair of safety scissors on hand, and an extra handcuff key (or 5) around, and if your partner needs out faster than you can untie, cut your ropes and save a scene partner.

What do you think of Bondage, Mr. Webb?  I LOVE BONDAGE!  In so many ways!  And there are parts of bondage that scare me too (but I kinda like being scared, so that generally works for me).  From rope to mummification, from bondage that hurts because it’s too tight or with barbed toys/rope, to the soft holding of my hands over my head while being kissed, from struggling in a wrestling hold, to predicament decisions, to will power challenges, to power exchanges, to playing the part of the person in distress, I LOVE BONDAGE!  Generally I am pretty much a bottom/submissive type, though I will say there are particular partners and materials that I seem to rise to the top for too…  All in all, where bondage is concerned, I’m completely ready to play!

Where can I learn more?  There are a million places to learn more about bondage and the particular types you are most interested in – and I DO recommend learning as much as you possibly can before playtime…  But, some of my personal favorite teachers and resources are:  Max Teaches Bondage (in Seattle or possibly a Con near you), Gray Dancer (who’s unconference, the DC GRUE is coming up the last weekend in November – I’ll be there), I took a couple great classes by Professor Oni at this last “Bound in Boston” convention concerning connecting to your partner through rope, and negotiation for suspension…  he might have brought the rope top right out of me(!).  As always I highly recommend the Kink Academy as a comprehensive resource, and checking out your local munches or kink organizations for the events near you…  Now go have fun putting the “B” in BDSM!

To Breath and Being,
~ Karin

*You can check out the film short “Legitimate” by following it on FB here.  The film made its rounds at festivals and got great reviews.

If you like my blog, please check out my Patreon Page and consider supporting me, or just click here: Support the Artist

~Thank you.

Questions, curiosities, or just wanna know more? Email: Karin@ABCsOfKink.com

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