BDSM Safety and Common Sense Guidelines

BDSM Safety and Common Sense

Note: This is not intended as a "safe-sex" site. There are plenty of those available elsewhere on the Web. The focus of this page is narrower; it's intended as a general, common-sense safety guide for newcomers to BDSM.

General Guidelines

• If you are going to play with bondage or spanking or resistance play or role-playing, it's often wise to establish a "safeword," which is a code word that means 'Stop, now, I'm serious.' This word should be something you won't forget and that won't come up in any other way. Many people use "Green-Yellow-Red:" Green means "everything's fine," Yellow means "Don't stop, but don't do anything harder than that," Red means "Stop everything right now."

• Be very careful when playing with a new partner for the first time--particularly in cases where you do not already know this person, and most particularly in cases where you will be meeting someone you don't know very well in any circumstance that could get you into trouble. Always arrange your first meetings in public places. Don't accompany a stranger everywhere. While it may seem like common sense (and it applies equally well to any dating situation, not just a BDSM relationship), it's still sometimes easy to forget.

One thing that is sometimes useful if you are going to be meeting someone you don't know well in a private setting is to arrange to have a friend call you at certain times throughout the night. Set up a secret code word with your friend; if you do NOT say that code word during the calls, or if you do not answer the calls, your friend should immediately notify the authorities. Make sure your friend knows where you will be, and make sure your partner knows that you have arranged these calls. A partner who objects is probably not a safe partner.

Spanking, flogging, sensation play

• Many people like to experiment with flogging, which is whipping with a multi-tailed whip called a flogger. Floggers are very scary-looking, but they feel nothing like they look, and often (depending on the type of flogger and how it's used) they're not painful at all.

However, you should avoid the cheap, stiff floggers sold at many sex toy stores and novelty stores; the lashes are thick and stiff, and the edges are not rounded, meaning they're painful and can cause injury. A good flogger has soft lashes and won't injure you. A very soft flogger, such as a deerskin flogger, does not hurt at all.

• If you are paddling or spanking someone, you should be careful where you hit. It's okay to paddle, flog, or spank someone's butt, thighs, or upper back; if you are careful, you can also spank or flog someone's breasts. Stay away from kidneys, lower back, and neck. NEVER strike someone in the face or on the neck with any object. Avoid joints, such as ankles, knees, and elbows--they're surprisingly fragile and easy to damage. Remember that a person who is bent over or in some other position that stretches the long muscles is more vulnerable, and can not take as much, as a person who is in a position where the body's long muscles are not extended.

Hot candle wax is excellent for sensation play. However, all candles are not created equal! If you want to experiment with candle wax, it's best to use plain white paraffin candles, of the kind usually sold in grocery stores as "emergency candles." Scented and colored candles can contain plasticisers that make them burn much hotter. In particular, avoid all-black candles and beeswax candles; these typically burn very hot.

Bondage and restraint

Many people like the idea of tying down their lover, but would rather do it with silk scarves than with ropes or chains, on the idea that silk scarves are more "gentle" and less threatening. Silk scarves, nylon stockings, and so on are actually quite dangerous for bondage, fir two reasons: they tend to pull very tight, making knots difficult to remove; and they tend to pinch, which can cause nerve damage. Good old-fashioned rope is actually far safer.

• Spread-eagle restraint can become uncomfortable or painful very quickly. Positions in which the submissive's arms are tied out to the side or are tied to the submissive's waist can be maintained for much longer than positions in which the submissive's arms are over the head.

Handcuffs: the kind you find in sex toy stores are not safe for bondage, because they do not have a "double lock.' real police handcuffs can be double locked, which means that they can be set so that they won't tighten up if you press or sit on them. Cheap handcuffs without a double lock tend to get tighter and tighter if you press on them, sit on them, or struggle against them. You can find real police handcuffs just about anywhere. I got mine in a knife store at a mall.

• In general, when you have someone tied up, always be alert for tingling, numbness, or coldness. If you are restrained, and your hands or feet tingle or get numb, this usually means that the restraint is pressing on a nerve. Tell your partner! have your partner loosen the restraints slightly and/or move you so that the tingling goes away. If your hands or feet become cold to the touch, your circulation is being cut off. Again, loosen the restraints or reposition.

Do not leave a restrained person alone for any reason!

Do not place anything over the nose and mouth. If you gag your partner, make sure his or her nose is not covered.

Keep a pair of scissors handy, in case you need to get your partner loose in a hurry and don't have time to untie the ropes. Best is a pair of "bandage scissors," which you can get at a drug store. Bandage scissors have a pointed upper blade but a blunt lower blade; you can slip them beneath a rope without poking or cutting your partner. They're very cheap.

Breath Control

This is also called "erotic asphyxiation," "gasping," "erotic strangulation," and so on. The idea is to choke or strangle someone during sex, to intensify an orgasm.

This is possibly one of the most dangerous of sexual practices. There is no safe way to do it. There is an article on the subject here, written by Jay Wiseman, who in addition to being an experienced health-care professional is also experienced with BDSM , and has written several books on the subject.

The greatest danger of gasping is not strangulation. Most people who die doing this die of a massive heart attack, usually 15 or 20 minutes after they're done. So if you think you can just let go of someone's throat and you're safe, you are mistaken.

I won't say "Don't do this," because the people who do this are going to do it anyway. I will say that if you're going to do it, make sure you know the risks! Learn CPR. Know how to deal with coronary arrest. And never, ever, ever, under any circumstances, do it alone.

Anal play

Anal sex, if it is done right, is painless and intensely pleasureable. There are millions of nerve endings in and around your ass, and stimulating these can easily cause orgasm. It should not be painful even the first time you do it, if you do it right.

Relax. That's the first rule. If you feel yourself tightening up, you aren't relaxed. Relaxation is all it takes to make it painless.

Of course, there is a trick to this. The muscles of the sphincter don't act like other muscles. With other muscles, like in your arm for example, if you are relaxed the muscle goes limp; you have to exert effort and do work to make the muscle tighten. With the sphincter, it is tight all the time; you have to do work to make it relax.

This is something you can learn how to do. Start by pressing the ball of your finger against the entrance, without trying to push it in. Then, try to make the sphincter relax. You might be surprised that it takes effort to do this; try bearing down until you feel it start to open. Don't penetrate yourself any faster than what it can take; in time, you can teach yourself to relax this muscle at will.

• Use plenty of lubrication--preferably not a water-based lube like KY. Also, avoid so-called "numbing" lubricants; these can mask the sensation of serious injury.

Never penetrate anyone vaginally with any object or body part that has been inserted anally. Doing this is just begging for a bacterial infection.

• Penetrate your partner slowly, especially if you aren't experienced with anal sex! Give your partner time to relax, especially if you're new at it. Nervousness and fear make you tense up. Take it very slowly, until your partner relaxes. Penetrating a partner who is not relaxed is painful and may cause tears or abrasions, and you don't want either.

• If you want to use anal toys, it's often wise to look for toys which are intended expressly for anal play. Anal toys usually have a flared base, which prevents them from being inserted too far and getting lost. In particular, avoid "bullet" or "egg" style toys for anal play; often, the wires that connect these toys to the battery pack aren't particularly strong, and can easily break if you try to remove the toy by pulling on the wire, leaving the toy in place.