|the deviants' dictionary Factsheet Updated 1 August 1997|
by Dirk and Slakker
INTRO | FRAMES | INDEX
ENTRIES: A-D E-I J-M N-Q R-T U-Z
CONTRIBUTORS | BOOKLIST | LINKS | HELP
There are countless different bondage techniques: some bondage practitioners become highly skilled and take pride in their originality and invention, and bondage competitions are popular features of many SM events. On the other hand, the simple act of tying someone's hands behind their back with a plain but reliable knot can carry such a profound symbolic charge that it may be as effective as an elaborate creation involving total immobility.
These bondage factsheets cover general bondage techniques and safety notes, with special emphasis on the use of rope and restraints. Some more specialised bondage techniques are dealth with in detail elsewhere in the dictionary under ball torture, blindfolds, cock torture, gags, hoods, mummification, and suspension.
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What to UseA vast range of equipment can be put to use in bondage. Below we've discussed the most common items under several headings:
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Types of Rope
Rope is usually made by twisting individual fibres into yarns. Several yarns (usually three) are then twisted together in the opposite direction to form strands. The strands are then twisted now back in the same direction as the original fibres to form the rope. It can be made from a number of materials but the most usual ones today are nylon and natural hemp.
Nylon is a great general-purpose rope: it's strong, it wears well, it's relatively comfortable, and it looks good, too. Good, basic nylon 3-ply is highly recommended for beginners. The ends of cut nylon rope can be prevented from unravelling by heat sealing, which can sometimes by carried out by your supplier. Otherwise it is a relatively simple operation carried out by momentarily pressing on the newly cut ends of the rope with a hot knife to melt the nylon.
Traditional hemp rope is attractive to some people for its rugged look and its scratchy, uncomfortable feel. But compared to synthetic fibres it is more difficult to work, weaker, susceptible to rot and must be stored away from moisture and sunlight. It also is sensitive to abrasion, so your bottom might find ways to fray it by rubbing it along a sharp or jagged edge. The ends of hemp rope must be whipped to keep it from unravelling.
For general bondage applications, large diameter rope is preferred because it is less likely to cause circulation problems: 8-10mm (3/8"-5/8") diameter is ideal; look for softer nylon rope too if you want to avoid chafing . If you use smaller rope, you will need to leave more slack and keep an especially close eye on all extremities (see Safety. A variety of lengths is useful, and you will certainly need some shorter lengths of 1-2m (3'-6').
Whipping is a technique for binding the ends of rope to keep the individual fibres from unravelling. Not only is whipping necessary to maintain the appearance of the rope ends, but clean, neat whippings make the rope much easier to work with.
|To whip your rope, you will need a very strong, thin string or twine. Make a 'U' near one end of the whipping, and lay it against the rope to be whipped.
|Using the longer end of the whipping, wrap the rope tightly, keeping the individual strands of the whipping close together so you can see none of the underlying rope between them.
Continue to wrap until you have laid down approximately 15-25mm (1/2" to 1") of whipping, depending on the size of the rope. The loop formed by the 'U' in the whipping should still be visible, and the working end of the whipping should be on the same side.
|Pass the working end of the whipping through the loop, and pull the other end of the whipping. The loop should disappear under the wrappings, pulling the other end of the whipping with it. You will have to estimate the position of the end of the loop as it moves underneath the wrappings.
When you believe it is approximately in the middle of the wrappings, trim the ends of the whipping flush.
It is easiest to whip your rope before cutting it. If you are going to cut your rope into lengths, whip on each side of the intended cuts, then sever the rope between the whippings. The same technique can be used when whipping the ends. Whip a foot or so back from the end of the rope, then trim the end to the whipping. Leave a small amount of rope extending beyond the whipping: the fibres will spread out slightly, and prevent the whipping from being pulled off the end of the rope.
Another trick is to wrap the ends of a rope temporarily with masking tape, which will keep them from unravelling while you complete a whipping further down the rope.
Store rope neatly coiled, since kinks and twists can cause undue wear, and in a cool, dry place, away from direct sunlight, such as an indoor cupboard or closet. Never store it outside, or even in a garage. Fluctuations in temperature and humidity will weaken it and may cause rot. Even so-called 'water resistant' marine grade rope will eventually wear and break under moist conditions; it will just take longer to deteriorate.
Properly stored rope will last a long time and serve you well. Poor care will cause rope to weaken and eventually to break. This is particularly important to remember if safety could be compromised by rope failure, as in techniques like suspension. It is difficult to tell how much damage time, moisture, and the sun have caused to a rope: it could look completely sound, but still let you down. The only way to maintain safety is to take proper care in looking after it.
Rope stored neatly will also be much more convenient to use during a scene. Don't embarass yourself by keeping an eager partner waiting while you wrestle with a spaghetti of ropes! Some well-organised bondage enthusiasts find it useful to keep coils of rope sorted or even colour-coded by length and type.
See Ways to Play for some ideas about using rope and The Knots Sourcesheet for details of common knots.
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Steel or aluminium chains are more limited than rope and more likely to cause damage by pressing against nerves and blood vessels if wrapped round the body. They can, however, provide strong and sturdy connections between softer restraints. Available from hardware stores, who will have wire cutters to cut them to length. Use in conjuction with padlocks or other fastenings (see below). Stringing a chain along a length of wood or a stretcher is an easy way of creating an adjustable restraint with a range of fixing points.
There is a variety of different styles and strengths and for simple restraining of body parts you may choose simply on the basis of looks and price. But if you intend to rely on the strength of the chain for safety, as in suspension scenes, make sure you check how much weight it is intended to support.
Padlocks and Clips
For easily fixing restraints and chains together, a wide range of fastening devices are on sale in hardware stores, yacht chandlers and so on. What you choose will depend on how securely you want to restrain someone: some players are happy with fastenings that the bottom could undo if they tried, for others only padlocks will do.
Padlocks come in a variety of sizes and strengths, are reasonably priced, and ideal for use with chains. However, as with all lockable items, always make sure you have the keys to hand before locking them on, and bear in mind they can be fiddly to unlock in an emergency. If you have several, make sure you can find the right key for the right lock quickly. Worth hunting out are sets of padlocks which are all operated by the same key. Combination locks are another alternative but once again make sure there is a failsafe and remember these can be very fiddly.
Other security locks may have their uses: consider those designed for pushbikes, from the traditional barrel shaped combination locks to modern thief-proof devices.
Non-lockable clips of various kinds are easier to use and can be quite sturdy. Unless you are very clever, however, a determined bottom will be able to undo them -- unless you compromise their dexterity by, for example, putting their hands in mitts or clingfilm (saran wrap). Consider:
As always, if safety depends on a particular lock or fastening taking weight, make sure it is desinged to do so. Small padlocks, for example, should keep restrained wrists securely fastened together but may not cope with the weight of a suspended body, and if they fail in the latter circumstances the consequences could be far worse than a frustrating interruption of the scene.
These are narrow belts, about 30cm (1') long and only 4mm (1/8") wide, made of tough plastic with a specially designed slot at one end so that they can be threaded back on themselves and locked tight. They are 'disposables': once locked they can only be removed by cutting with scissors, but they are very strong and cheap. Since they're so thin and with potentially sharp edges, they are best used to fasten between other restraints rather than directly on the skin, except when several are used over clothing.
Tapes and Wraps
Adhesive tapes and wraps like clingfilm (saran wrap) are popular for mummification but can also be used in more general bondage: for example, in the hand bindings mentioned above under padlocks.
Gaffa (duct) tape is a cheap binding that's convenient in some circumstances and is readily available in black or silver. However, be careful about applying it to bare skin: ripping it off will remove hairs and possibly even skin and can be painful, and irritation may result from contact with the adhesive. Go easy, or apply it over a barrier material such as old cloth or cling film. You may also be able to find tapes (such as the US 'gaffer's tape') that are less sticky and consequently less problematic to remove. Brown vinyl packing tape is a cheaper alternative.
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Purpose-made Restraint Devices
A huge variety of items are available that are desinged and made for fixing round the body in various ways. The humble leather belt is the simplest and most everyday of such items and can be adapted for bondage use; many more items are made either for institutional non-consensual restraint or for erotic use.
Straps and Restraints
Purpose-made restraints are most commonly found in leather but can be made from rubber or neoprene. They are constructed from straps that wrap round parts of the body with some form of fastening device to hold them in place: most often a buckle but sometimes a more lockable arrangement. One or more metal rings, usually D-rings, are usually fixed to the straps to provide anchor points for further restraint.
The simplest, a common sight in many BDSM toyboxes, are Ankle and Wrist restraints, single bands for ankles and wrists that can be used to cuff someone's hands or hobble them. But there are many possibilities for other types of restraints: an example bondage catalogue also offers restraints for elbows ('conjoined below and above elbow straps with buckle fastenings'), thighs, knees, collar to wrists, neck to wrists, double wrists to ankles, and a hog tie restraint with a collar and affixed straps for wrists and ankles.
Restraints can be adapted from belts, dog collars or horse tackle but are best purpose made, either for bondage purposes or for institutional use such as the very sturdy 'Humane Restraints' from the USA, with a matching locking system and the facility to cuff wrists to belt.
Thicker and softer restraints are more comfortable and fur-lined ones are sometimes available. Well-made restraints will last longer, be more reliable and satisfying to use than cheap and shoddy ones so it is worth looking around, comparing prices, and being prepared to pay more for quality. And as always make sure the item is up to the strain you intend to put on it, particularly if safety will depend on it.
Collars and Leads
Collars are one of the more popular bondage items: even among people who don't practise much bondage the wearing of a collar can be a powerful submissive symbol. But they are also one of the more potentially dangerous items since they go round the neck. They should never be so tight that they press on the Adam's Apple, nor have too much pressure placed on them, particularly against the throat -- leads should be pulled from the front and not behind so the pressure is on the back of the neck. Dogs have much better protected necks than humans, and devices designed for them such as choke chains and training collars with inward pointing studs should be used with extreme care on other species!
Decent leads should be available at surprisingly high prices in the local pet shop.
Harnesses consist of a network of straps designed to form a web over a large area of the body. The best known are body harnesses for wearing around the upper torso. Purpose made ones in leather or rubber come in a bewildering number of styles that have some tradition in the leather community: the 'master harness' simply criss-crosses the chest but the (male) slave harness has extra straps to fix to the genitals. There is a further choice between closed back styles, where the straps cross over the back, and open back, where they down the sides, leaving the back free for attention. Bondage catalogues may offer such exotica as the 'master dress harness' and the 'intensifier jockstrap harness'.
Fabric parachute and safety harnesses (available from safety equipment suppliers) are also adaptable for bondage use, and for a real cheap alternative, learn how to make an effective harness out of rope.
Body harnesses can be used to anchor other restraints, for appearance and for tightness and restriction: some are specifically designed to be progressively tightened, giving a corset-like sensation. They are also a popular accessory in suspension scenes -- though make absolutely sure here that the harness you intend to use is capable of supporting the weight of the suspended person safely. Many bondage suppliers offer special heavy duty harnesses specifically for suspension, implying that they do not consider their ordinary harnesses strong enough.
Head harnesses typically consist of straps round the forehead and jaw, over the head and possibly round the collar as well. They can be used for placing blindfolds and gags, and/or for attaching the head to something else. Great care must always be taken when involving the head in bondage, because of the danger of placing undue strain on the neck.
Handcuffs, familiar from police use, are another one of those well-known SM icons that have real practical drawbacks: they're made for temporary use on prisoners in transit and designed to be potentially painful so they can be very uncomfortable and damaging to nerves and bones (see Medical Problems below). Many serious bondage practitioners avoid using them, or use them only symbolically rather than relying on them to secure a subject. If you do use them, make sure they aren't too tight (the wrist should move easily inside them), avoid putting any kind of tension or pressure on them once on (don't pull someone by them) and avoid putting weight on them (such as lying face-up with hands cuffed behind back).
There are a variety of different types: the two most popular are the U-shapes with a cross-piece and the ratchet type which must always be locked in use to avoid it tightening further, usually by poking a hole on the side adjacent to the keyhole. Variations on the theme are 'straight 8s' with both cuffs as one solid piece rather than joined with a chain, thumb cuffs (usually mini straight 8s) and ankle cuffs with a longer chain. Avoid the novelty reproduction cuffs sold cheaply in joke and souvenir shops: better to spend more money on a genuine reliable pair.
Yossie's Handcuff Collection is the ultimate page for handcuff perves - you won't believe there are so many different kinds!
Manacles and Irons
Manacles are metal rings joined by a chain to restrain wrists or ankles. The 'real things' were often fastened with rivets and could only be removed with a bolt cropper or saw; most BDSM versions rely on padlocks. Leather bands joined by a chain are a kinder and less potentially dangerous alternative.
For those who want the full mediaeval or Georgia chain gang experience, a variety of reproductions are available. A bondage catalogue offers 'Combo Irons: Collar, wrist and ankle/boot cuffs interconnected with heavy duty chain' and 'rigid collar and wrist cuffs with 3 screw locks'.
Special safety precautions apply with rigid bondage items: check out 'Steel Bondage Safety' by Harold Cox and David Stein at the AltSex site.
These are restraints separated by a long solid object, usually a length of wooden dowel or a metal bar, to force certain parts of the body apart. Commonest examples are leg stretchers with two ankle straps separated by a 1m (3') length of wood to force the legs apart.
You can make simple stretchers easily and cheaply. The easiest and most basic design is to use wooden broom handles, obtainable at the hardware store. Screw metal eyes into them for convenient fixing points, and use them in conjunction with wrist and ankle restraints. But remember they may not be very strong. Alternatively, get a 1m (3') length of 20mm (3/4") diameter chrome-plated metal tube, of the sort used in bathroom towel rails, and run a length of heavy chain down the middle, terminated by some form of fastener such as a screw-in D shackle from yacht chandler or hardware store.
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The classic bondage garment is the strait jacket with closed sleeves terminating in straps that can be used to fasten the arms crossed over the chest. As well as the canvas 'asylum' version fetish suppliers make these in leather or rubber. Other bondage garments are 'monogloves' which force both hands into a specially made bag, 'leg bags' which do the same for both legs, and sleepsacks made in restrictive sizes.
US Marine Corps Modular Sleeping Bag (MSB) by Tennier Industries. Stores as a 39200 ml (1991 cu.in.) cube weighing 2kg (4.5 lbs). Check your military surplus store!
|For the perve on a budget, an ordinary sleeping bag can be adapted as a cheap alternative to a sleepsack. Place the subject in the bag, then wrap the outside of the bag thoroughtly with rope.|
There are other garments that, since they restrict movement, can be classed as bondage items: indeed many women's fashions fall into this category, especially when their characteristics are exagerrated in fetish wear. Consider the hobble skirt, a narrow skirt with its hemline just below the knee whose effectiveness in forcing the wearer to shuffle about slowly and helplessly can be as good as any set of ankle restraints. Even high heels have a restrictive effect on gait. On the other hand, the so-called bondage trousers of the punk era are generally made for looks rather than effectiveness -- the straps connecting each leg are wide enough to enable normal movement, though they could of course be modified.
The maledom site POWERotics has some information on restrictive clothing.
The various kinds of chastity belts and devices are also types of bondage clothing, but they are really worthy of a discussion in their own right. See chastity.
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Furniture and fixtures
In current BDSM usage, racks are most commonly just horizontal platforms or tables where bottoms can be stretched out on their backs or fronts: rarely do they provide the facility for progressive stretching familiar from the popular image of the mediaeval torture chamber. They are normally used in conjunction with rope or with limb restraints.
Such items are easily improvised: a sturdy table of appropriate size will do the trick, with the legs providing fixing points. Make sure the table can take the weight, bearing in mind that its occupant is likely to struggle. Massage tables are not cheap but are sturdy enough and easily packed away into a suitcase-sized portable package: they are just the right size to give a standing top easy access to the whole body without having to reach over too much spare tabletop and their comfortable but firm padding is appealing.
Ordinary beds are commonly adapted for bondage use too: most provide at least some form of fixing point. One disadvantage is that they are too low to work at while standing and the size of double beds in particular can cause problems. The problems are compounded with mattresses that are too soft and yielding; the bottom can sink into the middle and the top can find moving around awkward. Futon bases are lower still but the ones based on wooden pallets have plenty of possibilities for fixing people down, and futons themselves are also comfortable but firm and supportive. Old pallets themselves can also be pressed into service. The advantage with wooden items is that you can easily add your own screw-in eyes to provide extra flexibility.
DIY Dave (1984b) gives a simple design for a home-made rack based on a standard scaffold plank, 2.7m x 200mm (9'x7.5"), checked to make sure it isn't too warped, cleaned and sanded. Wrap three layers of sheeting or one layer of blanket all round, fasten with a staple gun or tacks, then fasten black vinyl or PVC over the sheeting. Add a shackle (from DIY or yacht shops) at each end, in the centre of the board and about 150mm (6") from the end, by drilling and bolting all the way through the board. Then screw two large hooks into each edge of the board (four hooks in total), level with the shackles.
To raise the rack up to working level, rest it on a workbench or trunk, or make your own trestles. Cut 4 pieces of 18mm (2/3") ply or blockboard into wedge shapes, 800mm (2'6") high, 600mm (2') across the bottom and 300mm (12" across the top. Screw and glue lengths of 50 x 25mm (2" x 1") wood along the top edge of each board. Hinge together these panels with 100mm (4") hinges, two per board. Add a couple of chains at the bottom to stop them opening too far. Then finish the trestles either with paint or by covering in vinyl. Add two long screws to each trestle, protruding vertically from the hinged panels about just under 50mm from each edge, to act as stops when the board is laid in place. Wrap or pad them well.
Crosses, Stocks, Posts
Wooden crosses provide convenient points for stretching arms out of the way and exposing someone, and are particular popular for back-whipping or flogging scenes. The straight (St George's) cross may look good and have powerful associations for some people but a far more flexible and practically comfortable design is x-shaped or St Andrew's cross. These are normally built to lean slightly inwards so that the bottom can rest against them: the arms can be stretched above the shoulders or, for longer scenes where comfort is required, fixed downwards on the other side of the cross. It's important that the cross is stable and the dimensions and the angle of the lean have a big impact on its usefulness. Crosses are available purpose made; we hope to eventually carry DIY plans for one here.
Other purpose-made wooden items borrow their inspiration from past real-life punishments. Stocks are basically constructed from two pieces of wood with semi-circular indentations that fix together to trap arms, legs or neck: there are a variety of designs, from ankle stocks that fix the bottom in a sitting position to wrist-and-neck stocks that bend him or her over. They can be quite uncomfortable and lining the holes is suggested. They can be made at home or bought from specialist suppliers. Whipping posts are simple fixed wooden posts, with two metal wrist shackles fixed at about waist height, and were formerly found on many village greens in conjunction with stocks. The bottom can be either standing with hands below or kneeling with hands above.
Chairs and Horses
Elaborate bondage chairs are available at a price from perve suppliers, but much can be done with the simple domestic variety. Choose a sturdy wooden chair with plenty of struts to use as fixing points. A chair with arms enables the bottom's arms to be secured very thoroughly, but one without arms gives more access and flexibility. As well as having the bottom sit in a chair in a conventional way, consider the possibilities of having them facing the chair back (leaning forward slightly here exposes the shoulders wonderfully) or kneeling with waist across the seat.
This latter position is essentially using the chair as a horse to expose the buttocks and arsehole. Similar results can be achieved using a stool of suitable height, or even a padded horse intended for gymnastics. A gym horse will take a standing person, rather than a kneeling one, which can be an advantage.
Cages are a sort of bondage for the whole body: they can be big enough to occupy relatively comfortably or small enough to cramp the body into an unnatural posture (with careful time limits). Cages made for large dogs, or for large birds such as Amazon Parrots and Macaws, are also suitable for human occupants too: they are available in sizes up to 1.3 x 1.3 x 1.7m (4' x 4' x 5'). A welded cage designed for a human occupant will set you back. A reliable cage is difficult to improvise, but some have obtained good results from the wirework trolleys sometimes used in supermarkets and warehouses.
What sort of cage you go for will depend on what you want to evoke. An animal-style cage might be suitable if the thrill comes from treating humans like animals. But it is also possible to obtain reproductions of 'highwaymen's coffins', the cylindrical cages designed for suspension in which offenders were once imprisoned in the open air and left to die. These permit very little movement.
Much can be achieved by adding items like large, sturdy hooks, eyes and rings to walls, floors and ceilings, though what you can do will depend on the construction of your rooms and how much discretion you need to exercise with potential visitors. Floorboards are ideal for locating hooks and eyes; but plasterboard dividing walls cannot be expected to take any serious weight. With all such modifications, test them thoroughly first before subjecting a bottom to them.
Hooks in the ceiling are a very useful addition, but safe installation is not as simple as it sounds, especially if they are to carry the weight of a body under suspension. DIY Dave (1984a) points out that the safest method is when you can get into the roof space above the ceiling, when the room is on the top floor with an attic above. Then you can accurately locate the centre of the ceiling joist to provide a sturdy home for your hook. From above, drill two small holes through the ceiling hard against each side of the joist: then you can locate your hook exactly halfway between them from below. Use the longest screw eye or hook you can, at least 100mm (4") long with plenty of depth to the screw thread. For maximum sturdiness, install two hooks on the same joist, a few centimetres apart, then 'plate over' the joist: from above nail lengths of 80 x 80 mm (3" x 3") or 80 x 110 mm (3" x 4") timber at right angles across the joist you've used and a couple of neighbouring joists on each side to spread the load.
If the room is not on the top floor, the only way to get a look at the joists will be to take up some of the flooring. If this isn't practicable, or you don't have access to the roof space, then trial and error is the only method. Whatever you do, test the hooks thoroughly by slinging a rope with a noose over them, raising yourself up on the rope and jerking as hard as you can. A safe hook should stay in place without bringing down any plaster or flooring!
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Links and Resources
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