The Ultimate Thrill Ride: Ten Tips for BDSM Safety

The Ultimate Thrill Ride: Ten Tips for BDSM Safety
By Joey W. Hill, 11/20/2012

There is a growing interest in bondage in the bedroom, and many of my readers are giving it a try in an effort to spice up their sex lives. It’s fun and feels a little bit dangerous, like a roller coaster, right? But you know why a roller coaster is so thrilling? Because deep down you – the rider – know you’re safe, and the designer and operator intend to keep you that way from beginning to end.

Good BDSM practices are the same. The Dominant is both the designer and operator. He or she plans the scene and is ultimately responsible for keeping it safe, sane and consensual, but the submissive has responsibility as well. Just like the passenger on the roller coaster, he or she has to acknowledge and follow a set of basic rules.
I know, I know. You’re already rolling your eyes.

“Let’s get to the fun part. Bring on the flogger and candle wax. Where are those fuzzy handcuffs?”

No argument here, BDSM can be wonderful fun and an over-the-top sexual experience. However, if you care about your partner, you need to realize one very important thing about it. Even the simplest BDSM play can result in serious injury.

That would be a real buzz kill, right? At best, it would ruin the mood you’re trying to create together. At worst, you end up in the ER. One of the guiding acronyms in BDSM is RACK – Risk Aware Consensual Kink. It’s an acknowledgment that there are risks to this kind of play.

Don’t freak out. The great news is that keeping one another safe isn’t hard. It just requires you to pay attention, observe some basic safety tips and make your partner’s well-being your top priority. Which is what we should be doing in a caring relationship anyway, right?

So here we go. This list isn’t exhaustive by any means, but here are ten BDSM safety tips that can help get you in the right mindset:

1) Establish a safe word
This is the word the submissive uses to bring any BDSM play to an immediate halt. And I do mean immediate. This isn’t like when you tried to fill in ten more circles during the SATs after the “pencils down” order. A Dom who instantly responds to a safe word makes a sub feel secure, and the trust that grows as a result will lead to better scenes together. You can also establish levels of safe words. Many partners use the traffic light colors red, yellow, and green because it’s easy to understand. Green is “Go, everything is fine;” yellow means “I don’t want to stop, but maybe ease up or take it slower?” Red is “Stop now or I will beat the crap out of you as soon as I get free of these restraints.”
An important note – the existence of safe words helps the Dom tremendously, but it doesn’t relieve him or her of all responsibility. Sometimes a submissive can get into a euphoric state where he/she might not notice that hands have gone numb or breathing is becoming more labored. The sub’s well being is the Dom’s top priority, over and above anything happening in the scene (noticing a theme?).

2) Protect circulation to extremities
As a BDSM newbie, one of the first things I wanted to try was being tied to the bed. Why not use scarves or rope? Well, scarves tighten around the wrists and ankles if you’re passionately writhing, and ropes, if not knotted correctly, can slip and also constrict blood vessels. Our very best BDSM investment was a set of Velcro cuffs, available from online fetish stores or your local Adam & Eve type novelty shop. Ours have an attached snap closure so the cuffs can be locked to one another. Since a D-ring on each cuff was also part of the design, my husband could tether the cuffs in a variety of ways without ever tying anything around my wrists or ankles. The other awesome thing about Velcro cuffs is they can be released immediately by either Dom OR sub.

Once we learned safe knot practices and progressed to rope, we always had scissors handy if there was any need to cut the bindings right away. Whenever you use any kind of restraints, always check the extremities frequently, making sure they remain a normal color and temperature. If you’re the one tied up, bring any tingling or numbness to your partner’s attention right away.

3) No compression around the throat. Never. EVER.
Pressure on the windpipe or constriction of the carotid arteries is extremely dangerous. It’s truly scary how little pressure it takes to cause serious damage or even death this way—and it can happen very fast. It is not a safe BDSM practice. If your lover likes the feel of a collar (and many of us submissive types do), apply the rule we use with our beloved pets. Two fingers should fit comfortably beneath it. NEVER tether the collar in such a way that your partner might be straining toward you, pressing the collar against windpipe or arteries in mindless aroused response.

Side note: if you push someone face down on a bed and they can’t turn his or her head, you may be blocking oxygen flow during an activity known to inspire heavy breathing. As well as gasping, panting, screaming…

4) Flogging/Spanking
Many areas can be stimulated by corporal punishment, but there are places you want to avoid. The lower back is a no-no, because of tailbone and kidneys. Stay away from the spine—too many bony protrusions. A lot of important organs can be affected by trauma in the upper chest/sternum area. After #3, I don’t have to say, “don’t hit the throat,” right? If I do, I’m coming over there and giving you a spanking, and not the good kind! Flogging around genitalia and slapping the face is doable, but with care (watch the eardrums especially). Always start gentle, regardless of where you’re hitting. Everyone’s capacity for pain is different, and arousal changes it. For instance, if you start whaling on your lover with a paddle the second he/she arrives at your apartment, he/she won’t be happy. On the flip side, you’ll be delighted by how hard they might want you to spank them once they’re close to orgasm. Endorphins are a wonderful thing.

5) Choking hazards
You wouldn’t give your dog a ball or toy he could swallow, and the same should apply to your partner. For instance, never insert a ball gag into your sub’s mouth without attached straps to buckle it around the head. I recently learned an at-home trick – put a rubber ball inside a strip of panty hose and tie the panty hose around the head. (Brave souls, feel free to pin this idea to your DIY board on Pinterest.) Anything that provides an anchor for the ball outside the mouth makes it safer. And when it comes to phallic-shaped toys, make sure there’s a flared base.

6) Hygiene
Thorough cleaning of sex toys after every use is essential. The type of infections you can get may or may not be life threatening, but UTIs are very uncomfortable and leave a lasting negative impression of the BDSM experience.

7) Joints
Avoid putting pressure and strain on shoulders, elbows, ankles, knees, etc. For example, if you wrapped your lover’s forearms snugly together behind her back, then made her lie down on the bed face up, that position could cause discomfort to the wrists, neck and shoulders. Keep in mind, if you’re role playing, you don’t have to break scene to make sure all’s well:

“Prisoner X, you better answer my questions or you’ll be punished. Do your wrists hurt? How much?” If the prisoner responds that she’s in pain, you can do something that fits the scene to change her position.

If you start looking at BDSM sites online, you’re going to see a lot of very cool suspension ideas. Do not attempt ANY suspension of your partner until you thoroughly research this technique and work with someone already experienced in it. Suspension is very advanced BDSM stuff. Stay grounded until you’re sure you know what you’re doing and can keep your partner safe. Dislocated shoulders or back injuries are NOT hot.

8) Clamps
Who doesn’t love a good nipple clamp? Be sure to test any clamp on your own flesh before popping it onto your submissive. Even then, remember tolerance for pain is different for everyone. Like flogging, it also depends on the timing/level of arousal. Oh, and no matter what you saw on that adult video, clamps on sensitive body parts are not meant to be worn for hours. They can cause serious circulation issues to the affected areas (again, checking color and temperature of the flesh is a good idea). When you remove a clamp, the rush of blood back to the area can be a cool pleasure-pain mix, but it’s a fine balance. You may find some of your sensitive areas clamped with extreme prejudice if you don’t take care with your lover’s.

9) Do not ever leave a bound person alone
Even if they seem perfectly secure, the fact is they are helpless at that point, and yes, once again: the Dom’s first priority is the sub’s well-being.

10) Personal safety
This article assumes you are in a relationship with your partner. When you’re exploring BDSM as an unattached single, all the same safety precautions for dating apply to considering a potential Dom or sub. Meeting in a neutral public place, negotiating/discussing your scenes thoroughly before executing them, doing them in a safe “public” club or BDSM organization environment…in short, until you are VERY comfortable with this person, do not allow them to restrain you and make you helpless.

Sounds like a no-brainer, but you can’t imagine how many people make this mistake in their excitement to find the perfect Dom. Likewise, for a Dom, bringing home a mentally unstable submissive can be a catastrophe. It’s your word against theirs as to what happened when you were alone. Most law enforcement officers don’t take kindly to the words: “Officer, he tied me up and beat me against my will, and here are the cuffs and whip…”

Every BDSM practitioner has a favorite resource for basic techniques and safety, and mine is Screw the Roses, Send Me The Thorns by Philip Miller and Molly Devon. It has a fun, conversational style, and they cover all of the above in greater detail – with pictures. You can also find more by visiting reputable BDSM sites like Fetlife.com (Novices and Newbies section is good) or Extreme Restraints University, which provides free online educational videos. And that’s just a handful of what’s out there, resource-wise.

Though an article on BDSM safety may seem like a drag, I promise you will never regret taking the time to learn how to keep one another safe. And for those of you who are considering taking on the role of a Dominant, believe me — there’s nothing sexier than a lover who puts the care of his or her partner first.

The Ultimate Thrill Ride: Ten Tips for BDSM Safety
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