On the Perimeter of Safe and Sane
At the bondage companies Ive worked for, they never wanted me to write or talk about the dumb things Ive done to myself during my private scenes. Sure, who can blame them, we dont want to dwell on the negative side, do we? But its a legitimate concern.
The reason safety is on my mind is because of the recent threesome of accidental skiing deaths. Everyone is very sad about these deaths. But no ones said "people shouldnt ski." Its a hobby that has risks, but that risk is considered acceptable by our society.
On the other hand, much of my fetish play is an active sport. Yet whenever I get a sports injury, I have people shaking their heads, "you shouldnt do this bondage/wrestling/spanking stuff."
So whats up with that?
My brother, an experienced wrestler, got into an odd position during a match, and the guy accidentally broke my brothers elbow, and everybody was quite understanding about it and didnt blame either participant. But you can imagine what people would say if I was wrestling during sex and broke my elbow. People would blame my partner. Or people would tell me I shouldnt be into "rough stuff."
The fact is, most hobbies and sports bring us a certain exhilaration and high-spiritedness and confidence, and sooner or later we bump our noggin and say "oops." This doesnt mean that people shouldnt have highly physical hobbies or sports activities. It only means that we should go in with our eyes open, know what the risks are, and then choose for ourselves what risk level is acceptable for our own happiness.
That being said: these days, it still seems difficult for people to find out what the risks are. No one likes to talk about the bad scenes. Masters especially do not like to talk about accidents -- they dont want to look stupid. I understand that. But if we dont tell each other what our mistakes have been, then everyones doomed to repeat history.
So here are some mistakes and accidents Ive had or my friends have had. I hope you learn from them and can avoid having them happen to you.
THE CLASSIC BONDAGE-SCENE BOOBOO: FAINTING
Fainting is the most common bondage-scene-gone-wrong. There are several contributing factors.
In the classic fainting scenario, the captive hasnt eaten in at least 4 hours. Shes in an upright position. The wrists have been placed above the shoulders or above the head. The scene starts out great and is going long. Everyones engrossed in an entertaining activity. The captive notices shes starting to feel a bit warm. A few moments later she says "could you lower my hands?" The Dom is about to do just that and Blunk! -- suddenly the captive is out like a light, dangling in her bonds. Dom panics and cuts everything loose and lowers captive to the floor. Captive comes to. She then gets an endorphin rush and starts laughing.
My own fainting scenes were few but memorable. My first year of play, I got Chaz to agree to tie me to a tree, something Id never tried. As he was tying me I kept saying "pull tighter" and "cinch everything." He got me finished and took a few photos, and then I started to feel too warm. I asked him to loosen the ropes, and he started doing so. Then I was feeling dizzy. I asked him to untie me. He was attacking a dozen knots at once. Then my eyesight started to seem really dark. I told him I was going to faint. He grabbed scissors and cut through my entire rope collection.
He lowered me to the ground and within a few moments I was back from the brink. I lay quietly with my head on his lap and looked at the sky. I got a huge high at this point, but back then I didnt know what endorphins were, so I didnt know what was going on.
Youd think Id have learned my lesson, but Im a bit of an enthusiastic lunatic when it comes to my bondage.
A few years later, Eric Holman and I went to a fancy hotel to play. When we got into the hotel room, I was very excited to see that there was a floor-to-ceiling square post. I insisted that he tie me to it. It was on a landing so I couldnt stand upright; instead, I kneeled and we tied my knees up so that I was balanced on knee-point. When he was tying my chest and stomach I was saying "tighter." (Warning! Warning, Will Robinson!) Of course, as soon as he finished I got that heat flash, the black speckles in my vision, and asked him to untie me.
So I promised myself Id back off with the "tighter, tighter" stuff. But I still had one more thing to learn. Not long after that, Eric and I were shooting some video footage, and he tied me leaning back on a ladder. I was kneeling and my ankles were pulled up and behind me. You guessed it -- before long I was getting the heat-warning. As soon as my ankles were let down and the knees were unbent, I was fine.
So Ive learned some things about my body, how it reacts to bondage. Hands over the head, balancing on knee-point, tight chest ropes -- these are strict elements for me. I can usually take on one strict element at a time, but if I combine too many, Im in for trouble.
ANOTHER COMMON BONDAGE-SCENE BOOBOO: FALLING
Falling in bondage is almost always blamed on the Dom. I know otherwise. The truth is, a happy captive often gets very excited and animated. One minute theyre standing there serenely as you apply the ropes. The next minute you turn around to grab another rope, and when you turn back, and shes hopping across the room giggling.
Your captive is having a good time, thats great. But the happier they get, the more likely they are to start moving around and expressing that exhilaration. And if you just stand there and chaperone them and hold on to them 100% of the time, nothing else is going to happen. So theyre going to have to take part of the responsibility for their own safety.
My way to combat this is frequent reminders. Often, Ill repeat several times to my captive, "Dont fall." I know it sounds stupid! But it makes them aware that you expect them to stay still and not go willy-nilly. Also, if I ask my captive to go from kneeling to lying down, Ill frequently phrase it as "I want you to lie down. But dont do it quickly, and dont bump your head." It may sound idiotic, but better safe than sorry.
My own falls have always been caused by my excitement -- I get carried away by the experience. Ive been tied up so many times that Ive gotten very good at hopping, standing, lying, rolling, and leaning in bondage. And I can do it like an acrobat -- if Im not overloaded with endorphins :)
In sports and hobbies, its not always the beginners who injure themselves. Often, its the "experts" -- the people who have gotten far enough to acquire a lot of knowledge, confidence, and speed. You get careless, you like to push yourself. To return to my starting point, a beginning skier starts on the beginners slope, goes slow, falls down slow, gets up again. But when an experienced skier gets injured, theyre going fast and theyre probably testing their own agility or skill. Hence more dramatic injuries.
Human beings are like that. We like to push ourselves. Its a positive aspect of instinct. Its just that it can get us into trouble :)
THE STEALTH BOOBOO -- THE MORNING AFTER
Sometimes a bondage scene is going so great! Wow! Youre both flying like kites on massive surges of endorphins! You feel like you could do this for hours! And you do!
And the next morning you wake up with a pain. Whats this? What happened?
Hee hee. What can I say.
Suppose Catharine came over every night for a month, and every night I used the same set of ropes to tie her wrists behind her back, her ankles together, and her knees together. And suppose each time I included a crotchrope, a yoke chest-harness with a t-back and a bikini-V, then hogtied her.
Every night this tie would feel a little different to her. Some nights it would seem snug, other nights it would seem tight. Sometimes the knots would feel funny. Other times shed probably ask me to re-tie her hands.
Bondage is infinitely variable. Even someone who has roped a thousand times cannot reproduce those infinite variables exactly the same every time. And your captive is NOT the same body every night. Some nights shes tired. Or sore from walking too much. Or her hormones are peaking and she wants to be tied up for hours. Or shes at the end of her menstrual cycle, so parts of her are tender and sensitive. Or shes been working out at the gym, and her muscles are losing flexibility. One night you can put her into a pretzel hogtie, and the next night she tells you she cant possibly hold this position. Thats just how it is. Work with it and stay flexible. Just because she "took it" last month doesnt mean youre not injuring her this time around. The human body is an ever-changing organism, and our play changes with it.
Having given you this massive lecture and all these warnings, now I want you to go out there and have fun! No, really!
And Ill tell you right up front: I know Im going to have more mistakes in the future. Thats par for the course -- due to a bondagers natural love of experimentation and exploration!
This article was originally posted January 1998.