So the last post was an overview of the physical risks with rope bondage.
It may have left a distinctly scary impression.
That was intentional. There is a lot of risk with bondage. And it needs to be acknowledged.
That stuff CAN happen.
So today, I’m going to give you the knowledge you need to fix those problems before they even come up.
There’s no way to eliminate risk entirely; but you can do all kinds of things to make it much, much less likely to happen; this means you can relax and enjoy the good stuff. Which is basically what we’re all about. Having a great time with sexy people, doing sexy things.
Problems And Fixes!
Problem: Asphyxiation (death from not being able to breathe)
Fix 1: Breath play is interesting, and can be a lot of fun – but is always edge play if you’re using a physical object to cause it (instead of, for example, telling someone when to breathe and when not to breathe).
In my own opinion (others may disagree) the risk increases most when you tie something off around the neck. When that happens, you’re no longer directly controlling the tension, and it becomes easier to miss something important while you’re busy at another part of the body.
That violent shuddering wasn’t an orgasm; that was them freaking out as they began to suffocate. Oops.
So my recommendation? Avoid tying off that rope around the neck.
Fix 2: MONITOR THE PERSON YOU ARE TYING.
Do not leave them alone. If you’re keeping an eye on them, you’ll notice when they can’t breathe. You’ll see if they’re near water, if they’re choking on something unexpected, if they’re in a position that simply prevents them from breathing. All kinds of stuff can be easily avoided if you just keep an eye on what’s happening.
If you’re not putting rope around their neck, they’re ungagged, and it’s a reasonably safe environment, then staying within yelling distance at the very least is still highly recommended. That’s how important being close by is.
A girl told me once how her partner tied her up on the bed and left her there for five hours while he went to work. She thought it was the hottest thing ever.
I thought it was fucking insane. Fire, burglars, earthquake, accident, asthma… someone finding her and taking advantage of her (e.g. flatmates)… so very many things could have gone horribly wrong, taking the situation from “hot” to “tragic accident” or “crime”.
Problem: Circulation Impairment
Fix 1: Simply be able to slide a finger beneath the rope at all times. If it’s too tight for that, then there’s an increased risk that you should really address.
It is however really, really easy to fix. Move the rope, untie a bit and loosen slightly, then re-tie. Done.
Fix 2: Know Your Warning Signs
Warning Signs of Circulation Impairment Can Include:
- unusual colour
- unusual temperature (much colder, usually)
- unusual size (limb can swell or shrink)
This is another area where getting to know someone first helps a lot. It really helps to know the normal colour of their limbs/skin, normal skin temperature and to know about any underlying circulation issues.
If a rope is too tight, and circulation is being altered, then the flesh on one side of the rope will tend to differ markedly from the flesh further up.
You can also administer squeeze tests; pinching a finger nail, for example, will cause it to go briefly white and then the capillaries will quickly refill, causing it to go pink again quickly. If this is happening a lot slower than usual, then you know circulation is affected.
You can generally tell if a rope is way too tight; first, the person you’re tying should indicate that it hurts. Bad pain is a warning sign, not a reason to tell them to harden up.
If the colour changes very quickly (e.g. redder, paler, or even bluish) then it’s likely too tight. Some people discolour very easily; they should be able to report that themselves if they’ve done bondage a few times. If discolouration occurs with no other issues at all and very little tightness, it may just be a freak thing and you’ll have to rely on other indicators, e.g. temperature and movement, tingling, etc.
However, for the most part, that kind of quick discolouration means significantly impaired circulation. Squeeze test will give you a lot of paleness which is slow to re-colour. Tingling will most likely develop rapidly.
If I’m playing with someone and any of this is happening, then the longest I’ll ever leave it is twenty minutes, and usually not even that. I get uncomfortable with that kind of thing going on.
Fix 1: Risk is heightened during suspension. A lot. Most common cause of falling from suspension: equipment failure, or Not Checking Your Hard Point and Equipment. Check that stuff every time, because lives depend on it. Refer to the previous post for explanations about why falling is Very Bad.
(Also, if you want to learn suspension and how to do it safely, learn it from someone who you know is good at it. Don’t rely on their word about how good they are. Do your research.)
Fix 2: For things other than suspension, Use Your Common Sense.
Think ahead. Use your brain. You have a lot of responsibility in this situation. If you tie someone’s legs and they’re standing up, that puts them in a very precarious position, especially if their hands are tied and they can’t use them to balance as they normally would. This is not a good way to keep your play partner intact.
If you still want to do something like this because your Incredibly Brilliant Idea requires it, then lean them up against a bed (or have some other safety factor in place e.g. a safety line) so they have something to flop down onto when they inevitably lose their balance. Trim that risk down.
Fix 3: An important note to the person being tied: If someone ties your legs and tells you to hop across the room and you do it, or anything similar, you’re placing yourself at risk by obeying that person. Said person is placing you at risk by telling you to do it, but you’re placing yourself at risk by obeying them. You can hard limit, safeword, or otherwise simply refuse to do that shit.
You may decide to do it; but by doing so you’re choosing to value your obedience to that person over your own personal safety.
You are actively participating, so you’re assuming both risk and responsibility. Think about what you are agreeing to do.
Problem: Nerve Damage
Fix 1: Don’t tie too tightly (you should be able to slip at least one finger beneath the rope). Be aware that if you put a lot of pressure on any band of rope, risk increases, particularly if that rope is across a particularly vulnerable area. Suspension is high risk for this.
Fix 2: Know Where To Put Your Rope.
Generally, if a body has a natural indentation, the rope wants to go there. However, natural indentations between muscles e.g. (that little dip between muscles on the outside of the upper arm) often mean nerve pathways are more exposed. That’s bad, mkay.
Vulnerable places like behind knees or over joints are a bad idea. You can mess with their functioning. When tying wrists or ankles, tying above the actual joints is generally better. There is a nerve plexus on the inside of the upper arm as well, and places in the armpits and insides of joints where you just don’t want things (e.g. knots) to press too hard.
Fix 3: Know Your Warning Signs.
Warning Signs With Nerves
This is a very gray area, because it differs so much between people and incidents. Tingling, numbness, shooting pain, generally any bad or “not right” feelings from where the rope is sitting. Numbness in fingers could indicate a nerve is being pinched.
Tingling is sort of a gray area in itself; I’ve seen information that says it’s most likely nerve damage, other writers have said it can result from poor circulation. In general, when tingling occurs, it’s time to either loosen or move some rope, or change position. I’ve had impressive tingling happen simply from shoulders being pulled back into a constrained position, so I abandoned using that position for that person. The muscles were probably pinching a nerve. However, something wasn’t right, and that was all I needed to know.
Most important thing: If you’re being tied, and you ignore these warning signs… the person tying you isn’t going to know, until they untie you and you realize bits of you aren’t working. They can’t see the tingling. Communicate with your partner!
(Can happen for any number of reasons. So the “Fixes” for fainting are really more preventatives)
Fix 1: Make sure all parties have had enough sleep, sufficient food and water, etc.
Fix 2: Make the wise choice not to participate in bondage when physically, mentally, or emotionally unwell. (This includes having been overly stressed over the last 24, 48, or however many hours. Stress takes a massive toll on all of your health, physical, mental, and emotional. Consider your limits.)
Don’t try to push through things just because you’re super excited about rope or this person or whatever; play it safe. Look after yourself, whether you’re tying or being tied. Imagine how awful it would be if you’ve tied someone up, you faint, and then they’re stuck there, helpless.
Problem: Medical Emergency
Fix 1: Keep your partner informed about whatever conditions you might have, including allergies (allergy to bees, beeswax treated rope; could be an issue), or STI’s. Because we don’t want to get that in our rope.
Fix 2: Keep whatever medications might be needed close by.
Fix 3: Make sure wherever you are, you have access to a phone, and that emergency services can get to you in a reasonable space of time. This also means it is very unwise to take risks when you’re in the middle of nowhere, where no one can help you if things go wrong.
Fix 4: Be prepared to get the rope off in a hurry. You may have to cut the rope to accomplish this, so have something ready to cut them out. (Preferably not a machete or something ridiculous like that (they’re dangerous, unwieldy, and difficult to slide under tightly restrictive rope).
I use a pair of EMT shears, and I highly recommend them. You can get various different types easily from sites such as eBay or Trademe; I got mine from an equestrian shop for about $10.
EMT shears have a flat, blunt tipped lower blade which allows you to slide them along skin without accidentally cutting the person you’re trying to help. You can also get really high powered ones such as Raptor EMT shears that will cut through any kind of rope or fabric very, very quickly. Bit expensive though. Have a look online.
Most knives I would not recommend for cutting someone out of rope; however, if you want a back up method of getting someone out of rope, a Karambit knife with a smooth blunt outer edge is probably one of the best knife options.
The curved blade with that blunt outer edge help protect the person you’re cutting free when applied appropriately (spine to skin).
I’ve also had people recommend seatbelt cutters, as long as they have a wide enough aperture to fit around your rope and are sharp enough. No reason not to use those.
Whichever method you use, know exactly where it is in case of emergency. There are some situations (e.g. being naked) that would make it difficult to have it on you, but you should know where it is before the fun begins, and it should be near at hand. Light coloured handles may make them easier to find in a dark room.
Problem: Environmental Emergency
Fix 1: Be careful with any fire risks. Turn off elements etc; use tealight candles instead of tapers, put them on saucers, keep them away from curtains, the usual.
Fix 2: See above with regard to getting people out of rope quickly. If earthquake, then I highly discourage the use of any knife at all. Go with EMT shears first if you can.
Problem: The Predator
Fix 1: Get to know the person you’re planning to do rope bondage with before you play. I can’t emphasize that enough.
Check for red flags or warning signs, e.g. being in too much of a rush, not wanting you to talk to others about them, not willing to admit ignorance on a topic, being quick to anger, or quick to become defensive and accuse you of not trusting them.
Some of these types are also quick to disparage all others who might have similar skills, or to set themselves up as the Ultimate Authority. If they appear to want to isolate you, or to be isolated themselves, there is likely a reason for that, and it’s probably not good.
Find out what sort of reputation the person you’re about to play with has. Who they’ve played with in the past, and how that went. Ask around, particularly if you’re going to be tied up by this person.
Fix 2: Set up a safe call for the first few times you play. A means of communication and a plan with someone else, who will know where you’re going to be and who you’re going to be with, and what to do if they don’t hear from you. I strongly recommend exploring the topic of safe calls online for more information; also there’s a fantastic free app called Glympse which allows a friend to track your phone’s GPS for a length of time decided by you. Very cool.
If the person isn’t okay with you doing any of this… big, big red flag.
So those are the specific fixes for the problems I mentioned in the last post, when I highlighted the extent of the physical risks that come up with rope bondage.
General Guidelines For Reducing Risk
1. Take your time.
Get to know each other before you play. Get to know each other’s bodies, medical conditions, likes, dislikes, expectations, levels of experience, and reputation in the community. Learn about each other; from each other, and from other people. Find out where the boundaries are, and don’t be in a hurry to push or expand them. Take your time trying new things as you play; we’re all different, and what works for one person may not work for another.
2. Plan Ahead.
If you’re going to get tied, prep for that; stretch, think about whether the circumstances make it safe for you to play (health, stress levels, food, sleep, drink, safety, trust, etc). Think about what you’ll be doing that day, and whether it fits with the circumstances required of rope bondage.
A note: I’ve had people do remarkably silly things like stay out in the sun all day the day before we were going to be exploring rope together, and come to me burned as hell over a fairly extensive amount of their body. As you can imagine, this made things a lot more problematic than it would have been with a bit of forethought. Yeah, I was annoyed.
If you’re going to be tying, prep for that; the same requirements about health, stress, food, sleep, etc, plus some kind of plan for what you’ll be doing. Think about the risks, and how to lessen them. Check your equipment etc carefully. Make sure you have your cutting tool handy, and that it will be accessible in the midst of things if need be.
(Also make sure you’ve done at least some research on how to tie safely; all you need is a few single or double column ties to have a good time; equally, all you need is one tie going wrong to have a very bad time.)
The more you plan in advance, the less you have to worry about during the fun part 😉
3. Know When Not To Do Rope Bondage.
This is really important. There is absolutely no shame in choosing not to do it, if either of you don’t feel safe or up to doing it at that time. Rope can be a lot of fun, but it can be risky as hell, too; better to do it when you’re both feeling well and up for it.
Be aware that rope when intoxicated by anything at all is likely to be far riskier than usual. Both intoxication and overtiredness can lead to very poor decisions, and often vital cues are missed, either by the person tying or the person being tied.
4. Communicate, communicate, communicate!
The most important, most effective way of keeping risk down, is for both of you to be on the same page. You’re both responsible for safety, and you can both contribute to that. Communicate about where you’re at, what you want to do, when something is going wrong during. And how great it was afterwards 🙂
Considerations Before Doing Rope Bondage
- Do you feel safe with this person? Do you have good reasons to feel safe with this person (e.g. references?)
- Do you have someone ready to call the police if it turns out they’re an unexpected predator?
- Do you feel safe to do this sort of play, at this time?
- Do you feel physically, mentally, and emotionally well at this time?
- Are you both informed about any relevant issues/conditions the other might have?
- Do you have a means to get out, or get someone else out of rope near at hand?
- If things go horribly, horribly wrong; do you have access to emergency services in your location?
- Do you have medications for any medical conditions you or they might have?
Annnnnnd….. we’re done.
Whew! That was a long one.
Safety is an important topic to me. It’s important to me to take it into account when I’m tying, and when I’m teaching, which is why I usually cover it in the first lesson.
It’s also important that everyone I play with have some idea of the risks before we play; otherwise it’s not informed consent, and that’s not okay.
Every “how to” post I share on this site is written with safety in mind; every piece of information will have “reduced risk” as an underlying value.
Keep in mind that I’m learning too; and I’m certainly open to learning more about how to do rope safely. Feel free to add additional tips as you can in comments below. Thanks for reading!
For further information about safety, nerve damage and placement, and other topics for keeping risk to a minimum, I highly recommend Esinem’s free safety course at Shibariclasses.com. He tends to work hard on putting lots of useful information into his tutorials, and I have a lot of respect for that.