It’s one of the most common symbols of kink, and one of the simplest; it’s one of the few things that both newbies and jaded players do with their partners; it can be an afterthought, a prelude, or all by itself the act that turns a bottom into a quivering mass of anticipation and sexual energy.
It’s binding the wrists. Nothing more, but nothing less, either. When the wrists are tied, it takes control away from the one being bound and gives it to…someone else. Think about that: if opposable thumbs are the only thing that really sets us apart from most of the animal kingdom, what happens when they are taken away?
Sometimes it’s something as innocuous and playful as Couch Bondage Tickling as demonstrated by Tickle Pete & Savannah Sly, but it can also be the beginning of an intense journey through pain and submission, cathartic food for the soul.
Wherever your play falls on that spectrum it is important to be aware of the risks involved and how to mitigate them.
One of the common concerns raised by newcomers to online bondage forums is when something has gone “wrong” in their play, usually involving the nerves in the arms and wrists. Often they worry about whose “fault” it is, and take the blame on themselves. Blame is useless, though, as Janet Hardy has explained in The Topping Book. If you play long enough and hard enough, accidents will happen, just as any extreme sport.
Also, like sports, the equipment you use can really affect the risks of things going wrong. For example, if you use a couple of padded leather cuffs with a restraint system from Leather By Danny it can reduce the chances of nerve compression as well as decreasing the marks left from being bound. Leather cuffs are also usually very secure and won’t come apart or loose, and are very uncomplicated. If you can buckle a belt you likely are able to fasten leather cuffs on your partner, and this is why leather cuffs are the most popular of the bondage devices out there for wrists or ankles.
One of the most common way kinky play is portrayed is with handcuffs – which is unfortunate, because for the untrained explorer these can be one of the easiest ways to get hurt when playing. There’s a reason that police officers are trained in the use of handcuffs, and why expert sex educators like Miss Simone offer classes like “Handcuffs: Fuzzy & More.” It may seem safer to purchase some kind of cheap plastic, but that actually increases the odds of something breaking, sharp edges and marks being left on the skin, and other problems. The shiny metal shackles are sexy as hell, though, so if that’s what you and your partner are hot for it’s worth exploring.
The third way you see wrist and ankles bound is with good old-fashioned rope. In movies and TV people are secured for days with just a few quick wraps of cord, so it seems like a pretty easy and cheap way to play “prisoner”, right? If your partner is into “acting”, that might just work – but if you want real control of the hands and feet, you need to learn how to tie both efficiently and safely.
There are two requirements for a safe rope cuff: first, it needs to not get smaller under tension, and second, it needs to have all the loops on the rope pulling evenly. Once you know that, though, you are free to choose from dozens of methods to make it happen. Probably the simplest are the Speed Wrist Cuffs taught by Lee Harrington – just a few seconds to tie! However, they also aren’t all that secure, and if you want to have your bottom tied for longer you might be better off using something like the Leather Yenta’s L-7 cuff with nylon rope. It works with other kinds of rope and on ankles, thighs, and upper arms as well.
Regardless of what you’re using for restraint, the warning signs are the same:
- Discoloration of the skin or gradual tingling: this usually means that circulation is being affected. It’s not an emergency, but it’s something to be aware of, much like when your hand falls asleep because you slept on it funny.
- Sudden tingling or numbness in the fingers: This usually indicates a compressed nerve, which can lead to more serious problems. It’s a good idea to take off the bindings and re-evaluate how the play is going.
- Sharp pain: One of the pioneers of bondage education, Jay Wiseman, coined a phrase that is a great tool for evaluating what might be going wrong: Good pain good. Bad pain bad. If you feel like things are wrong, they probably are.
Every body is different, and it’s best to start small and build up as you learn how your body handles being bound. Remember that accidents happen – that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do bondage, it means that like every other bondage enthusiast in the world you still have things to learn. What counts the most is how the top and bottom take care of each other when things go wrong, and how they try to keep it from happening again. The more you learn, the faster you get to pull out those restraints and get kinky all over again!