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Introduction to Bondage safety

Bondage is probably the most risky area of BDSM, but also the most popular,
especially with newcomers. Accidents do happen. Many of the most experienced
practitioners have had incidents. Shibari, in its original form, was designed not only to
restrain, but to torture and kill. Do not underestimate the effects of even relatively
simple bondage. Have fun but go slowly and don't take chances.
Since suspension massively increases the risks, it should not be attempted without the
personal guidance of an experienced practitioner.
Do not rely on bondage pictures you see on the net as a guide to what is safe bondage
practice. They are likely to be of experienced bondage models in positions only held
for the few seconds it takes to shoot the picture and are staged by an entire crew.
Much of it is definitely not safe. Also, with the use of photo-editing software, the
impossible can easily be faked.

Always keep a safe tool capable of quickly


cutting your strongest rope to hand, e.g. EMT shears or bandage scissors. If you use
chains, you'll need bolt cutters. If you need them, you are likely to need them quickly.
Monitor the bound person very carefully. Communication is essential. Check to see if
there is any unwelcome discomfort, whether a knot or rope could be adjusted for
better effect. A knot digging in or a rope chaffing can adversely affect the whole
experience. Eye contact will tell you volumes. Observe breathing and skin
temperature.
Make sure you have unambiguous safewords.
A safeword can be any pre-arranged signal or word to end or change the pace of the
session. This is vital when screaming or other pleas to stop could be just part of the
game. For example, colors are popular choices, e.g. red = stop immediately, orange =
I'm approaching my limits and green = go on. Safe-words are important and must
always be obeyed instantly. Don't even joke about ignoring them. If you have any
doubt that the person tying you will not respect them, walk away. An experienced
dominant should be aware enough to pre-empt their use and any good one will take
their use seriously.

The 'double squeeze' technique is a sensible safeguard, i.e. the binder gives two
squeezes of the hand to the bound person; if all is OK, they return them. Failure to
respond should set the alarm bells ringing. It is recommended that you are familiar
with basic First Aid and resuscitation.
Falling and fainting
The most obvious hazard to both falling and fainting are impact injuries through
striking the floor or other objects. In order to minimize the risk of fainting, you should
make sure that the bound person has eaten fairly recently and does not become
dehydrated. Energy drinks, water and snacks are good to have handy. Alcohol and
drugs (legal or otherwise) should be avoided as they increase the likelihood of
accidents.
However, bondage carries additional risks. Be very careful what you tie to fixed or
heavy objects. For example, the consequences of tying piercings in this way and a fall
could be very unpleasant - what could happen to genitals doesn't even bear thinking
about.
Fainting or a fall can easily result in dislocation or strangulation, as ropes can be
pulled out of position or result in unexpected stresses.
Tight bondage and hands above the head positions tend to figure in many fainting
incidents. I have also noticed that corsets appear to exacerbate the problem. However,
suspension is the most likely type of bondage to cause fainting as it produces extra
stresses and is likely to make breathing difficult. Recently, after suspension, I had one
sub faint as she was being removed from the bondage and another come close to it.
Fortunately, in both cases, the warning signs were heeded and they were both brought
to the ground safely. Make very sure you know what you are doing before trying
suspension.
At the risk of stating the obvious, make sure that any fixing or suspension points are
very secure. For overhead points, you can be reasonably sure that floor joists are
strong enough. However, your fixings should be of suitable specification and properly
mounted. Miss a joist and you will almost certainly bring the ceiling down.
Guaranteed to kill your passion, if not you or the other person. Wall mounted points
for suspension will either need to be screwed into brickwork with Raw plugs or
directly into the battens in a cavity wall. If in doubt, get qualified help.
A further point to consider is what will happen if the dominant faints for any reason
(such as epilepsy, accident or over-excitement). There should always be a margin of
safe time when the person being bound can remain as they are while the one binding
recovers.
Fire and emergency
If the worst happened, how quickly could you get you and your playmate out of the
house? It is all too easy for a candle or cigarette to get forgotten in the heat of the
moment and start a fire. Could you find your safety scissors in time?

Leaving a bound person unattended is just plain irresponsible. Any of the problems in
this section could occur, and with no means of escape, the consequences could be
damaging or lethal.
Medical contra-indications
Common sense should apply. In my opinion, those with conditions such as heart,
breathing problems, blackouts or fits should avoid bondage. Bondage can be very
stressful. One should also be aware of injuries or anything, which may be
exacerbated.
Rope burn and splinters
Test ropes on yourself. Pull the rope across your own skin (a soft and sensitive area)
and note how fast it has to travel before it becomes uncomfortable. Synthetic rope
heats up at much slower speeds than natural fibre. Some natural fibers can be very
harsh and prickly, e.g. sisal. Washing or boiling the ropes solves this problem. Fabric
conditioners or an oil, such as Mink oil, can be used to soften the ropes further. Stray
fibres can be carefully burnt off with a candle.
Cheap polypropylene ropes often seen in builders merchants and DIY stores are
unsuitable as they can shed minute splinters, especially when they become old.
Choking, strangulation and breathing difficulties
To minimize the risk of strangulation, never place a rope over the front of the neck or
around the neck. Nooses are definitely out. The only safe configuration is halter neck
style, so any pressure is on the back of the neck. You should also be aware of ropes,
which may slip and end up around the neck. The risks are multiplied with suspension
or if the bound person falls or faints.
A bound person cannot remove a gag. It is your responsibility, so you need to be
observant and not leave them unattended. Never use anything that could be
swallowed, become lodged in the throat or obstruct the airways. Breathing difficulties
can also be caused by constriction, e.g. of the rib cage. Don't tie too tight. Remember
that as you add wraps of rope or cinch the bindings, the tightness will increase.
Certain positions can make breathing difficult. The degree of stress to which the
bound person is subjected can also increase breathing rates. Never underestimate the
effect of being bound in a fixed position can have over time. The muscles, if overstressed can become exhausted, and the result is positional asphyxia. This is very
unlikely to happen to somebody who is being monitored but it is a serious risk if you
leave somebody alone for a long time or fail in a self-bondage escape.
In particular, suspension needs to be treated with extreme care as it can turn normally
comfortable ties into crushing constriction. Suspension was used as a method of
torture in the original forms of Shibari. It can kill. Most serious incidents are a result
of self-bondage or auto-erotic asphyxiation gone wrong. For example, the fool-proof
escape system can become impossible with numb hands or cramp. The old adage If
it can go wrong, it will is worth considering.

Circulation
At best, lack of circulation causes 'Pins and needles' and numbness. At worst, body
parts are damaged or even die without a blood supply.
Restricting circulation should be avoided by keeping a little slack in the ropes. The
'one finger rule' is that you should be able to slip a finger under the bondage. Keep an
eye out for ropes tightening during play or as you build up the bondage. Insist that
they should not to try to be a hero and inform you immediately of any tingling,
unpleasant pain or loss of sensation.
Avoid placing knots on blood vessels, e.g. on inside of wrists. Also, tie above, not on
joints. The thicker the rope and the more turns, the lower the risk. Anything less that
6mm (1/4) should be avoided for general use. Hands usually suffer first. So as not to
end your scene prematurely and for safety, it is a very good idea to do your bondage
so that the hands can be easily released without having to untie everything else.
Temperature is a good indicator. Note how warm the person's hands and feet are at the
start of the scene. If they become noticeably colder, it is possible that circulation has
been restricted. Another test is to squeeze a finger or toe and see how quickly the
color returns to the nail. The slower the return, the worse the circulation.
Nerve damage

Nerve damage can be


painless and thus occur without any warning. It can be permanent. The first method of
minimizing damage is to stick to the 'one finger rule'. The second is to familiarize
yourself with the major nerves and where they are at risk from compression.

It is a very serious risk with suspension bondage as this increases all the loads and
stresses. The most common problem seems to be radial nerve damage, often due to
pressure on the outer side of the upper arm, Problems can arise when a 'box tie' or
chest-harness which also surrounds the arms , as opposed to only the chest, is used as
a suspension point. Make sure you know where this nerve runs. The point in the
middle of the upper arm is very vulnerable, roughly where the nerve disappears
behind the bone in the diagram.
Dislocation
Obviously, physical force should be used with care. Moving a bound person around
can put unexpected strains on limbs. Falling creates, probably, the biggest hazard; not
only from contact with the ground, but also where limbs are attached to a static object.
Hoists, pulleys etc. should be used with care, the extra mechanical 'muscle' they
provide could easily result in dislocations.
Always be aware of the risk of the person falling. Having the arms tied will hamper
their balance. Loose or surplus rope can cause a tripping hazard. It is not a bad idea to
attach a safety rope to part of the body harness to a secure overhead point, especially
if the bondage evolves balancing on one leg.
Where not to tie
I make no apology for reiterating that you should never place a rope across the throat
or in a way that it could obstruct circulation or breathing. Passing the rope over the
back of the neck 'halter-neck style' is the only safe method and even then it should not
be so tight as to press on the throat.
In general, bindings should not be placed on joints, except the hips. This can lead to
loss of circulation or nerve damage. Take care to place arm or leg bindings above the
bony area of the joint. Leave plenty of slack as cinching will often tighten the binding
more than you expect. Use the 'one finger' rule.

Vulnerable areas include:

Neck/throat
o Trachea
o Carotid arteries
o Jugulars
o Cervical vertebrae
Armpits
o Brachial artery
o Brachial vein
Inner bicep
o Brachial artery
o Medial cutaneous nerve
o Cephic vein
o Basilic vein
o Medial cutaneous nerves
Elbow
o Lateral and posterior cutaneous nerve of forearm
Inner thighs
o Femoral artery
o Femoral vein
Back of knee
o Nerves and arteries

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