The First Rule: Top or Bottom, YOU are responsible for your own safety.
You are responsible for your own safety. Bondage is never risk-free. You need to know what you are doing. Top or bottom, read everything on this page.
If you are a bottom, read the stuff for the tops. Learn how to recognize when your top knows what they are doing and when they do not. Make a clear decision about the risks before you put yourself entirely into another person’s hands.
If you are a top, read the stuff for the bottoms. Understand their considerations just as much as yours. Play within your level of skill and leverage mentorship to increase that skill.
Know what you are doing.
Safety considerations for Tops
You are the Top – Once your partner is bound, safety is your responsibility. Period.
- This is a major exchange of power.
- Never play when you are not at your best, whether from lack of sleep, drugs, alcohol, etc.
Leave your ego at the door
- Do not attempt anything complex you are not well-trained in.
- You can go from 0 to intermediate in knowledge in one weekend, but you still need practice to internalize that knowledge, to make it second nature, …to become competent.
- Master the basics and then get personal training from an experienced person before you try advanced bondage techniques and suspensions, etc.
Respect and care for your Bottom.
- You have no power until the Bottom grants it to you. RESPECT THAT. Protect that trust.
- Make sure you know your Bottom’s limits, and respect them scrupulously. Nothing will damage you so much in the scene as being known as someone who violates trust.
- Never leave someone in bondage alone.
- The scene is not over until the Bottom is completely untied – help them out of the rope slowly, carefully stretching the muscles that have been under tension.
Aftercare – Provide it.
- It is a time of reconnection and a time to bring your Bottom back to themselves.
- This can be critical to a person’s mental well-being. Some people really sink into a different place when in bondage and they need to be reclaimed.
- This is a rule that can have exceptions. Some bottoms explicitly want to be left alone to wallow in the sensations after a scene. Ask your partner about this point as part of your negotiations.
Communication is critical. You must enable your partner to tell you things that you cannot know yourself.
- Have a safe word and a safe gesture set up ahead of time. If they are gagged, they still need to tell you if they are having a problem. Give them something noisy like a bell or piece of chain they can drop as their safeword, or agree that three rapid screams/grunts/thumps/anything–three sounds repeated over and over–will act as a safeword. They can alway make at least some sound or motion.
- Fight any shyness you may have, and talk about what you want to do. (You may find that just the act of doing so can turn on your partner.)
- Ask what your partner wants, and be sure to build these elements into your plan as well.
Know your Bottom’s physical condition and health issues:
- Physical injuries and previous surgeries that may impact a person’s capabilities.
- Bone issues, diabetes, asthma, breathing/cardiac issues, etc. – Anything that can impact a person’s ability to breath or that can mess with their blood pressure when under stress.
- Flexibility – Very few people can actually touch their elbows behind their back. Be realistic about your partner’s capabilities.
- Skin temperature – Learn what is normal for your Bottom, so you know what is not normal.
- Be constantly aware of the Bottom’s breathing. Faster or slower could mean excitement or signal trouble.
- Understand any mental or emotional triggers that may be touched by what you have planned. If your partner is sensative about being called stupid, worthless or fat, you effing well need to know and respect that. If they have a history of real abuse and use bdsm as a way of processing that past, very real, pain, you need to know that so that if they start screaming about that past event, you can handle it constructively.
Emergencies – plan for the worst case
- Make sure to have something immediately within reach that will allow you to cut the ropes. EMT shears, hook blade, etc., work for this, but unless they are unusually sharp, this can take time.
- In an emergency, don’t hesitate – your Bottom’s safety is more important than your rope.
- Using shorter ropes gives you more options in emergencies.
Before you start:
- Check the condition of your rope before you use it. Look for frays, dirt, etc.
- Body fluids can accumulate on rope, so wash your rope and/or have a set of rope dedicated for use on a given regular partner.
- Food and water – Physical resources enable you to play, so don’t skimp on them.
- Never use slip knots or knots that can lock down on themselves.
- Remember that changing the Bottom’s position after the tie can change muscle tightness. What was an acceptable tightness in one position, may be way too tight if you then move the person into a different position. It is best to have your partner generally in the desired end position as you are tieing him or her.
- Don’t put a knot in middle of your partner’s spine if you’re going to lay them on their back.
- Don’t put a knot in your partner’s armpit.
Regularly test for restricted blood flow or nerve pinches:
- Check your partner’s skin temperature before and during the scene. Know what is normal for your partner so you can tell what is not normal
- Have the bottom squeeze two of your fingers together before the scene and periodically throughout to monitor the strength of their grip. If their strength weakens noticeably, you need to wrap up your scene and get them untied.
- If you tie the wrists and ankles last, you can adjust more easily. These areas are most prone to having issues, and prolonged compression can cause nerve damage or numbness. But if you do this, keep in mind my tip about rope tightness changing if you change your partner’s position. Have them assume the correct position while being tied, even if you do tie the wrists last.
Certain nerves and blood vessels need special consideration in bondage:
- Radial nerve – on the outside of the arm in the valley between the triceps and the deltoid
- No rope in or just below this valley.
- If you place a rope anywhere in this vicinity and your partner tells you their hand went numb–particularly if it went numb quickly–move that rope now, do not wait.
- Brachial plexus – in the armpit
- No knots, bulges or joins in the armpit.
- This area can be impacted by rope OR mere positioning (holding the arm back awkwardly can pinch it over time).
- Again, as this is impingment on a nerve, you need to relieve this quickly if your partner tells your their hands have become numb.
- To avoid neuropathy, don’t pinch the nerves in the wrist.
- There are also a lot of blood vessels in the interior of the wrist; you don’t want to have knots or too much pressure on the inside of the wrists. Always make sure you can slip one or two fingers under the strands, wrapped around the thighs.
- Femoral artery – about 4 inches below the groin
- Do not restrict the flow of blood to the legs.
- Always make sure you can slip two fingers under the strands, wrapped around the thighs.
- All nerves and veins in the neck
- Turns out brains need blood and have a lot to do with nerves.
- Never put rope across the front of the neck.
On these graphics, the green areas are OK to strike at reasonable levels, while the red areas should be avoided. The white areas are fine for sensation, but not heavy sensation. For example, punching someone in the stomache can cause severe damamage if it is too hard; whereas slapping it up to a moderate level, but not too hard, is normally fine. But as always, talk with your partner first and work up to things so you don’t push too far.
When doing impact play:
- Only strike big muscles and big muscle groups: Pectorals, upper back, ass, thighs, hamstrings, calves, bottom of the feet
- Never strike the kidneys (lower back between the rib case and pevic bone) – Strong blows to the kidney will be painful and may result in serious injury.
If any type of sexual contact may be part of your scene, be aware of the risks STDs and use barrier methods, even for oral sex.
- Have a variety of options available for different kinds of contact.
- You can make a dental dam out of a condom by cutting off both ends and the slicing one side down the length to form a latex rectangle.
Safety considerations for Bottoms
You are a person with your own mind and body, your own physical, emotional, and mental needs and limitations. It is crucial that you learn about yourself and be able to talk about these things, to give appropriate input to your Top. Be very honest about everything:
- What you want to do
- What you are willing to do
- What you prefer not to do (but might be willing to try)
- What you do not want to do under any circumstances
- Your physical capabilities and or limitations
- Any medical issues that may impact what you want to do (see the section for Tops to read about common medical issues you need to disclose.
- If you do not communicate the relevant details about your medical, physical, emotional and mental state before you begin, your Top will be unable to properly plan for your safety.
- If you do not communicate issues that are occurring while in scene, your Top will be unable to react and fix those issues. You need to tell your Top if things are feeling numb/tingling/cold or if you are feeling “bad pain”.
- Don’t be afraid to speak up when you think something “off” is happening. Warning your Top before something becomes a real problem will allow him or her to react smoothly to fix the issue before it becomes so intolerable that the scene must be stopped.
Make sure you have a connection with your Top and feel you can trust them;
by giving them this control, you are trusting them with a lot, perhaps even your life.
- To maximize your safety and comfort while in scene, work on strength and flexibility training.
- Warm up before a scene – stretch.
- Be aware of less experienced Tops who do not control trailing rope ends – guard your face!
- Aftercare – Accept it unless you know yourself well enough to know that you do not. …But be respectful of your Top as well, and let them know when you are back to being yourself.
- Check out a great guide for rope bottoming.
Negotiation and being realistic
- What medical issues might be relevant to the scene? (See the medical list in the Tops section) Flexibility?
- What level of sexual activity are you each looking for?
- How does the Bottom feel about rope marks, and their location (do they need to be able to cover them for work?)
- Are you looking for a very personal interaction, or a distant one?
- Does the Bottom enjoy objectification? Humiliation?
- Is the bottom able to orgasm while in scene or is this something that is not common for them?
- Does the Bottom enjoy multiple orgasms? What should happen after orgasm? Immediate release? Continued teasing?
- How does the Bottom prefer to be untied – should you emphasize sensuality or speed?
- What level of aftercare is sought? For how long?
- There are people who hear about our world and try to join it because they think things will be easier for them or they are predators.
- For both Top and Bottom: Check references and don’t accept a person’s word without the corroboration of someone you trust, preferably more than one person.
- Bottoms: There are dangerous Tops, people who play outside their ability, who don’t respect boundaries, are just careless, or may even be predators.
- Tops: There are also dangerous Bottoms, people who are not honest about their abilities or what they want and can thus contribute to getting physically or emotionally hurt. If this happens, it can backlash on you.
- Use all of the “keep me safe” skills you have learned as part of a wired world:
- Ask for and check references. Vet the person through well-known people in the local scene, look up local groups on fetlife and talk to the leaders there, and/or get the opinion of another Bottom who has played with them, if possible.
- Meet in public or at events put on by local bdsm groups first.
- Play at parties or events first, establishing trust before ever meeting alone.
- Set up a safe call when you are meeting someone alone.