Bondage

Table of Contents

Written by

Quinn

Honorary Community Member

Flower Arrangement 2

Definition

 

Bondage refers to the act of being bound, tied up or restrained. This is achieved either by someone else or by yourself. The context may be erotic or not, as is the case with most of the practices within BDSM - they're not always necessarily sexual. Restriction of movement can be considered to be at the core of bondage, and this goal can be achieved in many ways, not only through the use of ropes, but also with cuffs for example. Bondage is not only limited to tying with ropes, but can also include activities such as locking one up in chains, cuffs, collars, or other more unique forms of restraint, like a straitjacket, special furniture or tape. 

Safety Basics

 

(Note: we use “top” for the person doing the rigging, and bottom for the one being tied up in this article)

  • It is advisable to read about injury and safety before you try anything out in practice on yourself or others. Learning about circulation, nerve damage, and the common radial nerve compression injury is an essential start. Talk to your partner(s) about safety too—make sure to agree on a safe word beforehand and discuss the scene before and after. Along with reading this entry, check out some of the trusted resources linked below—there are books, videos, and websites! 

 

  • It is important to always consider what can go wrong in a bondage scene: knots can jam, people can get injured, and sometimes a person just needs to get out of the rope quicker than one can untie. Plan a scene out when you’re implementing bondage and consider all the “what if’s” in your process—especially if it is solo play. 

 

  • As a top, do not leave someone alone after you tie them up. You can place a blindfold on the bottom and make loud footsteps to pretend as if you were leaving the room, but it is not safe to leave someone bound unattended because someone needs to be actively monitoring circulation.

 

  • It may sound silly, but moving with bound limbs makes us more clumsy than usual. Simply walking with cuffed hands can be a little difficult. It is important to consider worst case scenarios when we play, and a common one is tied-up people falling—oftentimes on their face. Again, you should consider all the “what if’s” of the scene, such as a person who is tied up possibly falling over, and you should try your best to minimize such risks. 

Tips for beginners

 
  • Using thicker diameter ropes can lower the undue stress placed on pressure points. The standard width for ropes is between 4-8mm, dependent on the person, but thicker diameters would be no thinner than 6 mm. Rope length can range between 15-50 feet in length typically, however that is dependent on the bottom’s size and what you are planning to do with the rope. Certain more elaborate ties require more rope, so that is another variable to consider. Smaller diameters are better for lower profile bondage (hidden beneath clothes), but it is important to remember that smaller diameter also means more pressure across a small area which can be more of an intense sensation. 

 

  • If there is too little rope then you can’t finish simple ties, but if you are handling too long of rope, it can become cumbersome to manage.  

 

  • It is advisable to always have safety shears on deck in case of emergency. You may need to cut yourself out of a sticky situation and please remember that rope is replaceable!

 

  • It is advisable to have a cell phone nearby with voice activation if possible- speed dial is useful too. If neither of those are an option for you, find some other easy method to contact a mentor or someone you trust who is aware and knowledgeable of bondage to come help you if an emergency arises. It is important to always have a way out planned prior to play. If you are playing alone (especially if this is relatively new), letting someone else know of your solo play is crucial in case of emergency 

 

  • Negotiation and boundaries should be discussed and honored before play- - As with all BDSM play, but it is important to re-emphasize in this section because folks are being tied up.

 

  • If you want to make a basic kit and don’t want to buy one because they are pretty expensive, I would suggest making one using your own wingspan. You can measure the length of the rope bottom’s arm span- - approximate height- - and base pieces on that length. Cut a few pieces that length, as well as a few pieces cut half that length, twice that length and four times that length. 

Injury and how to avoid it

 

Nerve Damage

There is a large misunderstanding in the BDSM community that mild tingling and numbness in play are just due to minimal lost circulation. This is actually more likely the symptoms of nerve compression and damage. Loss of circulation is associated with symptoms such as cold skin or white/purple skin. Generally speaking, there's no reason to tie so tightly that you are cutting off circulation. With most ties, you should be able to easily slip a finger under the rope when it is properly tensioned.

 

The most common symptoms of nerve compression while it's happening are tingling and numbness. This sensation is very similar to how you feel when your foot falls asleep from pressure. However, nerve compression can present as any sensation nerves create, for instance, sharp pain, itching, burning, and cold have all been reported at the time a nerve injury was occurring. Most dangerously, sometimes nerve injury is not accompanied by any sensation at all; there are many reports of people who felt completely normal while tied, only to discover a nerve injury after the fact. This is what makes check-ins so crucial. 

 

Two signs that nerve compression symptoms are particularly likely to be serious are if they come on very quickly or are highly localized (ex: only one side of a hand tingling). However, nerve injury can also occur when the symptoms of compression seem very mild. The best bet is to treat all tingling/numbness as a potential safety issue. 

 

An amazing article on first aid for nerve damage: [1]

Risk zones for injury in bondage

 

Wrists

  • Rope can get easily lodged in the groove between the bones in the arm and hand. This is a site for a common injury called Handcuff Neuropathy. When beginning a tie on the wrist, be careful of this bump and start your tie above it significantly. 

Knees and Elbows

  • There are tons of nerves near the joints that are important and should not have rope pressure applied to them. 

Upper Arm

  • There is a very vulnerable nerve in the upper arm known as the radial nerve. Compressing this nerve can result in wrist drop which can affect arm extension and finger spreading/mobility. 

Check ins are essential

 

Whenever you are using a tie with the potential for nerve compression, it is essential to periodically check for normal nerve function, since a rope bottom's body may not provide any warning signals of impending injury. Any ties that have rope that crosses the arm or the wrist would be ones that are especially of concern for nerve compression issues. 


Using the hand check is a great way of checking on motor nerves. The hand check is when the top places their index finger in the bottom’s open palm and in response they squeeze their fingers around it. Then, the top wraps their fingers around the bottom’s wrist and in response to that they open against the presence. This tests the muscles in both directions to see if they have full strength If there is numbness, it is usually a sensory nerve related injury. A self-hand check that bottoms can use is to put the tip of their first two fingers onto the back of their thumb and press upward with their thumb. This provides a quick sensory and motor check of the radial nerve which a bottom can do themselves, more frequently than would be practical to do a partner hand check.

Types of ropes

 

In large part, you can use what you have at first- - it doesn’t have to be fancy. In fact, hardware stores sell cheap cotton rope by the foot usually. After you experiment a bit with cheap rope and decide you enjoy bondage, then look into the kinds of rope that would make you happy. 

 

There are a number of different materials out there when it comes to rope and if you ask five people, you're likely to get twenty-five different answers on the 'right rope'. Here is a list of a few to help you get started:

  • Soft Cotton - Great starter rope for those who only know how to tie their shoes. This rope is easy to get down the basic foundations, but admittedly terrible to untie as the knots will tighten beyond belief. This type of rope is rather cheap and can be found at most adult shops without a second glance- - just make sure to avoid the cotton ropes that have a core. 

  • Hemp/Jute - The typical natural materials of choice for intermediate to advanced rope are hemp and jute. Jute is lighter than hemp so it can fly better in suspensions, but the debate between which is nicer is largely personal preference. There are many advantages to using natural ropes, which won't be listed here, but a starter kit can easily cost you $140-$300 USD, will probably have to be ordered online and will need to be recycled with regular use. 

  • MFP or synthetics - Excellent for those dabbling in rope and not looking to spend too much to start. These ropes are pretty much bomb-proof- - they can get dirty, wet, stand washing, and are flat out the most durable rope, but pretty soft too. However, you may want to also purchase wax to help condition your rope to perfection. You can pick up plenty at your local hardware store finishing a starter kit for around $30 or shop online for some pretty colors. The drawbacks to synthetics include a higher risk for rope burn, an increased tendency for the rope to slip or stretch, but many ties can be adapted. However, synthetics can still be looked down upon by some purists. If you do go with this material DO NOT melt the ends because the rough edges will hurt when they come in contact with the skin.

Classic knots and common uses

 

Images coming soon!

Lark’s Head Single Column

  • A single column tie is any tie that goes around a limb or body part that is stable when pulled and will not construct. This is used typically when you want to attach a line to a body part

  • This tie uses two knots (a lark’s head and a half hitch) which are commonly used in other rope patterns too. 

  • This tie is commonly used around the torso, thigh, and other large body parts. 

  • Not the fastest to tie in the heat of the moment, it is a safe way to cuff a body part without the worry of constricting or tightening. 

Lark’s Head Double Column

  • A double column tie essentially means that two stable column-like body parts will be tied together. This includes body parts like wrists, arms, legs, or ankles being tied together.

Taut Line Hitch

  • An ideal knot for tying a person to another object that it fixed, such as a post, because it is resistant to slipping under movement and can instead be adjusted by grabbing and pulling the part of the rope that exits through the middle.

Figure Eight Knot

  • A general-purpose stopper knot 

Shibari

 

The word came into common use around the 1990’s to describe a type of artistic bondage known as Kinbaku. The word “shibari” is a Japanese word that translates into English as “to tie” or “to bind”. This style of bondage involves visually intricate designs that typically involve multiple pieces of thinner rope. 

 

The popular rope diameter sizes range from 4 to 8mm (I tend to use 6mm) which is about the same as 1/4 to 5/8 inches. Average rope length ranges between 7-8 meters long. This gives a good range of coverage but is still easy to work. 

 

Rope is not the only material utilized in this form. Others use lace, ribbon, or other embroidery in addition to work done with ropes. The focus tends to be on artistry or aesthetic, so folks often come up with their own patterns or designs. There are tutorials on YouTube and books which can be helpful in learning some beginning techniques. An issue with knots to be wary of is that some can create a sort of tourniquet because the knots continue to tighten if not tied properly. It is also advisable to avoid single rope wrappings because they apply undo pressure to the skin- - most shibari ties pass twice.

 

Doug Kent’s Complete Shibari book or Lee Harington’s New Shibari You Can Use are great resources for beginners looking to read more about shibari. Rory’s brainworks is a great video resource for fun tutorials.

Trusted resources

 

References

 

Crash Restraint. https://crash-restraint.com/

Kent, D. (2009). The better built bondage book: a complete guide to making your own sex toys, furniture and Bdsm equipment. Revel. 

 

Miller, Philip and Molly Devon. Screw the Roses, Send Me the Thorns. Fairfield: Mystic Rose, 1995.

Redmayne, L. TheDuchy. https://www.theduchy.com/

Rope 365. https://rope365.com/. 

Utley, L. (2006).  Two Knotty Boys Showing You The Ropes: A Step-by-Step, Illustrated Guide for Tying Sensual and Decorative Rope. Green Candy Press.

Vane, E. (2017). The Little Guide to Getting Tied Up. Wantan Press.

 

Wiseman, Jay. Jay Wisemans Erotic Bondage Handbook. Emeryville, CA: Greenery Press, 2000.

Listed Above:

  • The Better Built Bondage Book by Douglas Kent 

 

  • The Little Guide to Getting tied up by Evie Vane 

 

  • Two Knotty Boys: Showing You the Ropes 

 

  • Screw the Roses, Send Me the Thorns by Molly Devon and Phillip Miller
     

  • Jay Wiseman’s Erotic Bondage Handbook by Jay Wiseman

 

  • Topologist’s websites → Crash restraint, the Duchy and Rope360