W is for Whip

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By Edward Lund from Atlanta, in Edgewood, 30307, United States ([1]) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Does the sound of a whipcrack terrify you? In a good way? Please do read on… I have had a number of run-ins with the singletail whip, dragontail whip, and snake whip over the years; the most recent being about a month or two ago. So far my experiences with whips and their wielders have been absolutely fabulous ones, and they have left me wanting more. There are, as you can imagine, important things to think about and negotiate as a whip bottom. Whip play is an advanced activity which can leave permanent damage. Be smart, know what you’re getting into, and know what you want out of a scene. Here are some tips for playing with whips…

Negotiations: The first thing I want to know as a whip bottom is how much experience my Top has, however when I’m negotiating a scene with whips I’ll ask my partner a bunch of other things too, like these questions:

  • Have they ever scened with a whip before, and specifically with the whip they intend on using with me?

Not all whips are the same length, have the same rigidness or balance, are made from the same materials, or have the same handle style and weight. These factors and others can determine whether someone who swings a whip will do so confidently, accurately, and with an amount of force that’s appropriate.

  • Who taught them their whip skills (local groups or convention classes, specific teachers, online tutorials, other means of learning) and are they practiced at it?

I like to know my Tops are educated and have taken the time to cultivate a skill before letting them hit me with an object that can tear through my flesh and scar me forever. Notes for whip Tops too: If you don’t know where to get good instruction, I absolutely LOVE Kink Academy as a learning site. They have scads of great instructors sharing their knowledge and techniques through essays and videos ready for you whenever you want them. The membership doesn’t cost too much, and I think it is completely worth it. There may also be local groups who do whip practices or “munch” about it, so I enjoy using Fetlife as a way to find potential local help anywhere I go.

  • How do they deal with mistakes?

Playing with whips requires skill. Everyone makes mistakes. Having an idea about how your Top will react if a mistake is made is important. You should have an idea about how you’d like to be treated if you’re harmed during play, and make sure you don’t play with people who can’t or won’t care for you in those ways.

  • Does anyone have any blood-borne diseases or complications?

Ask. Find out the answers. Make informed choices about who you’re playing with and what precautions should be in place. When there’s a whip in play blood making an appearance is a possible (even probable) outcome. Have a plan about how blood and bodily fluids get dealt with, cleaned up, attended to, and how surfaces post-play get responsibly disinfected. If you are playing with someone who has hemophilia you need to think about breaking skin (even just a little) very differently than you do with people whose blood naturally clots.

  • Do you consent to being marked?

This one is really important to answer. If you do not consent to being marked do not get hit with a whip! It’s that simple, really. There are still a bunch of ways whips can make it into your scene, which I’ll mention a little later.

Checking in during a scene: Yes, it’s pretty straightforward, but important to remember nonetheless. Know your communication agreements with your top! Make sure you have clear signals. If you’re using safewords be clear on what they are and that they can be heard — your Top in this scenario will be a few feet behind you after all, not petting your back and staring lovingly into your eyes. Depending on where you’re playing you may or may not be able to hear one another over music or room sounds. The last time I played with whips I was at a party with loud music, and I was bracing myself on a kneeling bench. When my top asked me to react more loudly so they could gauge my reactions better over the music, rather than feel as though I had to “act out” all of my reactions during the scene, I asked to move the bench in front of a big mirror so we could see one another better. It was fantastic! I could surrender fully to each heavenly moment of pain processing masochistic zen, and my partner could see every inch of smile plastered on my face. They could see when I needed a second longer, and they could really enjoy the moments of terrified glee flit across my kisser as they threatened and challenged my limits with words and whip cracks… It made communication between us simple and clear, and in an hour+ long whip scene, that’s a pacing blessing! If you don’t have (or don’t want to use) a mirror, making sure you are using your safeword is important, as is checking in with the bottom regularly and reading body language. I enjoy using the “red, yellow, or green?” inquiry system every now and then during a scene, which can help pacing in a scene, as well as the scene’s intensity grow and cooldown smoothly.

My very happy butt after an hour of being hit with whips of many makes…

Marks and First Aid: Whips can bruise, whips can break skin, whips can make you bleed, whips can leave marks, scars, keloids, and long term discoloration. I am a performance artist. Therefore when I am counting back how many days I have to heal before my next audience reveal, I count in weeks (sometimes months) rather than days for whip play. Whips often leave textured marks which take much longer than straight up bruising to heal, and they often stay discolored for a very long time before fully (if ever) fading. As with everything blood play: BE PREPARED! Have rubbing alcohol in a spray bottle nearby to clean anything that gets blood on it. Have adhesive bandages, gloves, and antiseptic ointment at the ready. You may also want to have water, juice, and a snack around, as the bottom may need to pep up from lowered blood-sugar, or a shaky overdose of adrenaline. Have a working phone available to call for help if something goes terribly wrong, or to call a cab if the bottom thought they’d be ready to operate heavy machinery and their post-scene blood-buzzing subspace-drunkenness won’t let up… Know how to clean and dress a wound. Know how to disinfect the whip and playspace after.

The Whip Itself: Whips can break skin and make you bleed. Whips also often smell like leather, which if you’re anything like me can cause you to rub up against them like a cat in heat… Therefore many people owning lovely, expensive, and hard to clean whips will only use them on people they are familiar with and care to clean up after. Whips are often made of leather — not a material you can just throw in the dishwasher — in fact, a material which requires specific and sometimes many-stepped maintenance. It is important to keep one’s whip’s clean, disease-free, and uncontaminated with skin irritants. It is just as important to make sure the whip used is in good repair — no braiding tears or other issues which could cause a mistake to happen during play. Ask your Top how they care for their whips and clean them, and whether blood or come ever come in contact with the parts you’ll be touching or touched with. Someone who knows how to care for their tools may not know equally well how to care for you, but at least they have proven they are inclined toward learning.

Other ways of using a whip: Not all whip play is about getting stripes laid down. Before I ever had the pleasure of having a whip crack like a white lightening bolt of pain across my skin, I was introduced to the use of one as a psychological torture device. During a Fetish Fair class about various types of bondage, just the sound of a whipcrack nearby was all one sub needed to: “not move until I say so”… The handle can be used for impact too or for prodding sensitive bits. The smell of leather is a wonderful part of leather toys, as is the feeling of one draped over your back and shoulders and snaked all over your body. If you enjoy some Catwoman, Zorro, or Indiana Jones fantasy play, a whip might be in your costume closet, and that’s not even touching the level of gear fetishization which can come from being into pet play as a human horse handler!

Your own intuition and voice: Your body is an amazing thing which will heal from all sorts of roughhousing and abuse, especially with a good warm-up… This doesn’t mean you should let anyone use your body for whatever they like (even within the bounds of your requests) based solely on a promise to respect you. People have different ideas about what things mean and miscommunication rules our lives here on Earth. So use your sense when you negotiate. Pay attention to how someone makes you feel: does negotiation feel safe with this person; are they saying all the right things but you feel strange about something; are they listening or only talking about what they want out of the scene; do you get the sense your safety is being taken seriously; does this person come off angry or resentful or potentially abusive or in other ways unsafe? There are a million things we ask when we’re negotiating — particularly with someone new — and I find there are a million other things I realize I forgot to ask in the moments between the negotiation ending and a scene beginning. For Tops and bottoms both: use your gut! Use your voice. If you have to stop or pause a scene to ask a question or clear up what you think might be a misunderstanding, do it. Much better to ruin the moment than ruin a play partner, a relationship, or your reputation. Also there’s no shame in starting off small, if you are a little unsure about how someone plays, consider leaving the whips for session 2 or 3 or 10, when you have a clearer idea about how flow and communication works between you and what your partner’s style and abilities are like. First get hit with something that probably won’t leave you with a big burly scar, to see if you like the way a new Top pays attention to your pain threshold and physical well being. While trust is an important component to successful kinky play, do not trust blindly — no one can take care of you as well as you can.

Whips are a practically universal symbol of the “Dominatrix look”, and are a fitting one too, as the proper use of a whip requires time, thought, energy, skill, practice, and consideration. As exciting as it may be to have a new experience, remember that not all toys will do the same types of harm, negotiate wisely, and play with mates who will treat you — in pain, in pleasure, in perfect scene, or in a moment of mistake — well.

Play On My Friends,
~ Karin

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