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Welcome to the Ultimate Guide to Bondage / BDSM

What is Bondage / BDSM?

BDSM is actually an acronym derived by fusing together a number of other acronyms as follows:

  • B/D: Bondage / Discipline
  • D/s: Dominance / submission
  • SM: Sadism / Masochism (Sadomasochism)

So it is actually an umbrella term for all of the above. However, people regularly use “bondage” interchangeably with BDSM albeit that is technically not accurate.

Bondage / Discipline

Bondage technically refers to tying someone up; for example tying someone to a bed or handcuffing their wrists together. While there is usually a sexual aspect to bondage, there need not be. Some people find the aesthetics alone of bondage pleasurable while others find the act of being bound enjoyable in and of itself. However, for the most part, bondage and sex generally do go hand in glove.
While discipline and bondage are grouped together in the BD of BDSM, there need not be discipline as part of a bondage session. For example, it is regular for one partner to handcuff another to the bed post, perhaps while blindfolded, in order to perform oral sex on him/her. Both parties are equals here with the bound person just enjoying the thrill of being bound and stimulated simultaneously. However, for other couples, bondage is a tool to enforce discipline on their partner and here it overlaps with D/s and even SM. More on this to follow below.
Discipline, as you would imagine, is about one partner dutifully following the command and instructions of the other partner. For example, a dominant partner (dom) may instruct the submissive partner (sub) to “get on the bed and put your ass in the air” and the submissive party dutifully obliges. The dom is in charge and the sub dutifully carries out the orders in a disciplined manner. The instructions of the dom are typically sexual but can be non sexual eg “get on the floor and crawl like a dog!” This command would be designed to enforce the dom’s control but also to insult and humiliate the sub and so overlaps into sadomasochism; more on sadomasochism below.

Domination / Submission

Domination and submission is effectively about a transfer of power from one person to another. This can be psychological in the form of, for example, dutifully accepting derogatory, insulting language from the domineering partner. Physical submission can be for example being bound (bondage) to the foot of a bed while wearing a bit gag. Be it physical or emotional or both, the concept of domination and submission is that one partner assumes a form of control over the other who willingly accepts this domination.

Sadism / Masochism (Sadomasochism)

Sadism is the deriving of pleasure through inflicting pain while masochism is enjoying the taking of pain. In some BDSM sessions, the dominant partner may go beyond just insulting and humiliating the sub but go on to inflict pain. For example a sub may be bound to a bed and whipped in order to enforce his/her domination over the sub and also derive enjoyment from hurting him/her while the sub enjoys being hurt. The dom can derive pleasure from the sense of power associated with having complete control over another human to the point that (s)he will obediently follow all commands and even dutifully accept physical violence. The dom typically insults and uses degrading language to the sub throughout the session; the sub dutifully accepts this abuse as if it is deserved. Physical punishment can vary from light caning up to more extreme acts such as violently pulling hair, burning with candle wax or pushing a pinwheel on the sub’s body to inflict pain. As with most things in BDSM, there is quite a broad scale from the mild to the extreme!

Common BDSM Activities
Common BDSM Activities
Broadly speaking, BDSM activities can be categorised into one of four sub-categories.
Restriction

For example tying someone’s arms together with a pair of armbinders or perhaps using bondage rope to tie someone into the hogtie position.

Administration of Pain

This is done by sadists to willing masochists who enjoy having pain inflicted upon them to please their dom. The pleasure of enduring pain seems contradictory to the uninitiated but many bondage enthusiasts say that the line between the two is blurred with many thoroughly enjoying the sensation of pain during bondage that would be unpleasant in normal life.

Humiliation

This is the psychological side of the sadist’s arsenal of pain inflicting techniques ie the infliction of mental pain through humiliation. At a mild level, this can involve name calling and general insults but can progress into physical acts of humiliation such as walking a sub on his/her hands and knees on a leash and in extreme SM, the use of “golden showers” where the dom urinates on the sub.

Sexual Behaviour

While sexual behaviour doesn’t necessarily have to accompany a BDSM session, it typically is a fundamental part. For example anally penetrating a dom while (s)he is tied up. Another example would be forcing the penis down the throat of the dom while pinching their nose. This makes the dom’s sexual gratification a simultaneous act of pain and humiliation for the sub.

Why do People Enjoy Bondage / BDSM?

People Enjoy Bondage / BDSM

This is not an easy question to answer for a number of reasons, chief amongst which is the broadness of the term and the spectrum of activities that it encompasses. For example, a married couple who add some handcuffs to a vanilla (regular) sex session are likely enjoying bondage for different reasons than an experienced dom who drips candle wax on the thighs of a sub who is bound, gagged with legs forced open with a spreader bar. Below we have listed some of the reasons that people get a thrill out of bondage.

It’s Fun!

Even the most vibrant sex lives can dull over time with sex becoming boring, predictable, even formulaic. Many couples use bondage as a way of breaking the routine, injecting some role play and / or props to spice things up and bring back some of the spark. BDSM can bring back a sense of excitement and thrill to a stale love life.

Escapism

Many people enjoy the sheer disconnect with the real world and all the associated stresses and strains that BDSM can deliver. It is so different to anything that goes on in “ordinary life” that it feels like a new and exciting, totally different world with an alien set of rules and norms. The sheer abnormality of it means that while engaging in bondage, many people move to an almost trance like state and utterly forget their real world responsibilities and problems. In this way, it is often compared to a drug with many comparing the mental state during a bondage session to being high. For example, a high powered executive with a demanding job may find being ridden by a dom as (s)he walks on all fours wearing a bit gag and butt plug tail mimicking a pony to be utterly liberating. In that session (s)he dutifully obeys his/her dom and makes no decisions at all. This can be exhilarating to someone who is used to having to make every decision and bear the often significant consequences.

Feeling of Power

They say power is a drug and many people crave power even more than money. With this in mind, it’s not surprising that escaping into a world where you have total power over another person up to and including using their bodies for your sexual gratification with impunity is a turn on for many. This desire for power can be particularly attractive to those who may not be in positions of power perhaps in other parts of their lives. Bondage offers them the opportunity to be in total control and that gives a thrill.

Feeling of Security

Some psychologists have said the desire to be dominated traces its routes back to childhood when kids are rewarded for being good, for doing as they’re told by an authority figure. This yearning to please another person even to the point of hurting oneself is a common turn on for those who enjoy being subs.

Understanding the Terminology

Understanding the Terminology
Dom / Top / Master or Mistress

These are all used interchangeably (except master and mistress) but have slightly different meanings. The dom (dominator) is the person in control, in charge of the session. This may not necessarily mean the infliction of pain or humiliation but typically does. The top is technically the active participant in the session ie the person administering the sexual activity such as penetrating the sub. However a top need not necessarily be a dom in that (s)he and the partner may be equals in the session with no pain or humiliation. A master or mistress is the name given to a dom whose power extends over longer periods of time than just a BDSM session but rather on an ongoing 24/7 day to day basis. Master / Slave relationships move from a sexual fetish into more of a lifestyle choice.

Sub / Bottom / Slave

The sub is the submissive and on the receiving end of the humiliation and pain from the dom. The bottom is the receiver of the sexual activity eg the person being penetrated while the slave is the day to day “property” of his/her master who must please the master at all times not just during a BDSM session. A “switch” is someone who, as the name suggests switches from sub to dom or vice versa.

Safe Words / Safe Acts

BDSM often involves role play, for example, pretending that someone has been kidnapped and is being submitted to sexual acts, usually while bound. Part of the excitement and gratification comes from the bottom begging the master to stop. However, this is just part of the act; in reality, the bottom is enjoying the pain and wants it to continue. As you can imagine, this can get quite confusing when deciphering whether the person actually wants to stop the game or not. The solution to this are safe words or safe acts. A safe word is a word that when said, means that the bottom actually wants the play to stop as it has gone too far. Partners may agree on a safeword of “wheelbarrow” for example as this word won’t otherwise come up during play. This allows the slave to outwardly beg the master to stop while allowing the master to know that (s)he doesn’t actually have to stop. There can also be degrees of safe words; for example, orange means “this is getting close to my limit, reduce intensity but don’t stop” while red means “stop immediately” and is typically used when a hard limit has been breached.
Communication lies at the very heart of BDSM; it is done together by two or more willing partners ideally who have agreed in advance the limits of what's acceptable and what isn't. Many will go as far as writing these limits down in a formal contract. It is important to point out that sometimes a dom will be gagged and unable to speak so a safe act may be agreed on such as the shaking of one’s head vigorously while screaming or dropping an item held in the hand throughout the session eg a butt plug.

Soft Limits

Soft limits are acts that the bottom finds uncomfortable but can tolerate and even embrace in the context of an intense session. Examples of soft limits may be hair pulling, anal penetration, caning or having candle wax dripped on the naked body.

Hard Limits

Hard limits are acts that the bottom will not tolerate under any circumstances. An examples of a hard limit may be any act involving blood, urine or feces.

BDSM Session / Roleplay

BDSM enthusiasts will often act out scenes or situations in which both partner has a role. A common “play” is where the dom kidnaps the sub and makes him/her a sex slave for the duration of the session. Once over, both go back to being themselves again. As above, some go beyond sessions with start and end times but rather live their lives as masters and slaves.

Dungeon Master

BDSM enthusiasts often get together to engage in BDSM sessions. A dungeon master oversees the session to ensure that everyone is playing by the rules eg respecting safe words.

What Tools Are Used in Bondage / BDSM?

Restraints

A vital part of bondage is the feeling of power and domination by having another, typically naked, person bound and even gagged. In this section, we look at the various devices used to bind the bottoms to ensure they are helpless to protect themselves from their master’s punishment.

Bed Restraints
Bed Restraints

While advanced bondage participants may invest in a bondage bed (a purpose built bed for bondage), for many, some simple and inexpensive restraints can be used to “retrofit” their bed into a bondage bed.

Handcuffs
Handcuffs

Handcuffs are used by tops to immobilise the arms of bottoms. While simply putting on the handcuffs can give a thrill to light bondage enthusiasts, the more adventurous may use them to bind the wrists to the to the feet in a hogtie position for example.

Bondage Rope
Bondage Rope

Bondage rope is used to restrain a bottom either to a piece of furniture such as a bed or to fix the sub into a position that pleases the dom. Rope can also be used to humiliate the bottom by fixing to a harness and leading him/her around the room perhaps while whipping. Using rope for bondage requires a little training and skill so is more suited to experienced bondage practitioners.

Bondage Tape
Bondage Tape

Bondage tape differs from regular tape in that it doesn’t stick to the skin or hair but only to itself. As such it can be used to bind a bottom or even over the mouth perhaps when acting out an abduction scene. Care must be taken not to apply too tightly so as not to restrict circulation.

Spreader Bars
Spreader Bars

Spreader bars are bars with cuffs at either end which can be used to restrain the sub at the ankles, wrists or knees to hold them “in place” and give the top free access to the sub’s body.

Ties & Straps
Ties & Straps

Ties and straps come in a range of materials and are used in bondage to restrain the sub.

Thigh Restraints & Cuffs
Thigh Restraints & Cuffs

Thigh restraints are fixed to both thighs with wrists in turn shackled to these restraints thereby rendering the wearer’s arms immobilised.

Armbinders
Armbinders

Armbinders, as the name suggests, binds the wearer’s arms behind his/her back.

Bondage Harnesses
Bondage Harnesses

Bondage harnesses are, typically leather, harnesses worn by men or women during bondage sessions. The harness can simply be worn almost as a kinky item of clothing during roleplay but often is used to restrain the wearer, for example to a bed. Also the wearer’s arms can be secured behind his/her back to the harness or if connected to a leash, the wearer can be walked like an animal as part of humiliation.

Gags

Gags are used to obscure the mouth of a sub during a bondage session. By preventing the sub from speaking, the dom further enforces its control. For example, the sub may be bound and gagged, perhaps in a hogtie position; the sub is totally powerless with the dom in a position of total authority.
When acting out a kidnapping, the gag can be used as a means of stopping the wearer from calling for help. Gags come is a wide variety of types, some of which are covered below. There is no “right” choice of gag and, as with all things in bondage, it really comes down to personal preference.

Ball Gag
Ball Gag

Ball gags are certainly the most common and best known of all gags. As the name suggests, the gag is in the shape of a ball which sits in the mouth behind the teeth and is held in place by a strap that wraps around the head. When shouting for help, the sub can make unintelligible noises and often drools. The helplessness of the sub turns on the dom even more as (s)he exerts total control, even to the point of stopping the sub from talking.

Bit Gag
Bit Gag

A bit gag is designed like a horse’s bridle and instead of a ball being placed in the mouth, instead the wearer is forced to bite down on a bar between the teeth. Bit gags are often used in animal role play with the wearer pretending to be a pony maybe while wearing a pony tail butt plug, for example.

Harness Gag
Harness Gag

A harness gag wraps around the whole head with straps typically coming under the chin and around the back of the head. Some harnesses allow the gag type to be changed eg from an o ring to a ball gag to a bit gag for example. Also, many head harnesses incorporate blindfolds to render the sub totally helpless.

Inflatable Gag
Inflatable Gag

An inflatable gag allows to dom to expand the size of the gag in the dom’s mouth via a pump control. By inflating the gag, the sub can be rendered literally totally speechless and so giving the dom still more power to humiliate and control the sub.

Muzzle Gag
Muzzle Gag

A muzzle gag, as the name suggests, represents a muzzle used on animals. The gag is strapped to the head and muzzles the mouth. This is ideal for those who want to treat their subs like a dog, maybe walking them on all fours while on a leash.

Open Mouth Gags

Open mouth gags differ slightly from ball gags in that the mouth is forced open and unlike the ball gag, the mouth is open for the dom, for example, to force oral sex on the sub.

Spider Gag
Spider Gag

A spider gag is a form of open mouth gag with the wearer’s mouth forced open by four bars, one in each corner of the mouth. The open mouth and four bars together look like a spider and hence the name.

O Ring Gag
O Ring Gag

A ring gag, also known as an o-ring gag, is similar to a ball bag, except instead of a ball, a hollow ring is inserted in the wearer’s mouth thereby forcing it to stay open. This open position means the mouth available for a penis or breast to be forced into the mouth for example to assert the dom’s authority over the sub while being pleasured at the same time.

Pleasure & Pain Devices

Pleasure and pain and the interplay and overlap between the two is at the very core of BDSM. There are a multitude of tools and devices to inflict pain and pleasure in equal amounts!

Bondage Whips
Bondage Whips

Whips are used by the doms to physically punish their subs.

Spanking Paddles
Spanking Paddles

Spanking paddles are used by doms to punish their subs by spanking their buttocks. In more extreme sessions, the buttocks can be marked due to forceful and ongoing “paddling”.

Bondage Crops
Bondage Crops

Crops are used to whip subs to inflict pain and assert dominance.

Bondage Floggers
Bondage Floggers

A flogger is used for much the same reason as a crop or a paddle but differs in design in that the end has multiple strands instead of just a single loop for a crop for example. The flogger can be used to whip and punish the sub.

Bondage Candles
Bondage Candles

Bondage candles are an amazing addition to the pleasure / pain game with the hot wax being used to punish the sub by dripping all over the body and even on genitalia. Bondage candle wax is hot enough to cause pain but not so hot to burn.

Wartenberg Pinwheels
Wartenberg Pinwheels

The pinwheel is designed as a punishment tool that can be rolled along the sub’s body as a pain inflicter. These are typically used by more experienced BDSM players.

Nipple Clamps
Nipple Clamps

Nipple clamps are used by doms to inflict pain on the nipples of their subs. Nipple clamps are often connected by a chain and sometimes have weights to inflict yet more pain. A “Y-Clamp” is when a chain runs from the centre of the chain joining the two nipple clamps down the body to a clamp on the cltoris of a woman or the penis of a man.

Feather Ticklers
Feather Ticklers

Feather ticklers are used by bondage enthusiasts and in plain vanilla sex alike as are pretty non intimidating and easy to use. Simply run the feathers along the surface of the skin for a sensuous and sexy experience that will make the recipient ultra horny.

BDSM & The Law

It is important to remember that a key part of bondage is the mutual consent of all parties. For example, tying someone up and using them as your sex slave while they beg for mercy is legal so long as the person begging actually wants the session to continue. However, if the sub uses a safe word and so wants the session to end, but this is ignored by the dom, it can in some locations turn the act into an illegal one. So it is crucial that both parties know the others’ boundaries and these are respected at all times.

Bondage & 50 Shades of Grey

Before 50 Shades of Grey, bondage / BDSM was quite a niche almost underground activity rarely coming up in general discourse. The movie, which heavily feature acts of BDSM, has pushed bondage very much into the mainstream with more and more people now aware of and open to trying bondage. The movie is a must for those embarking on their first tentative steps into this new amazing world.

This video is a behind the scenes look at the BDSM element of the Fifty Shades of Grey movie. BDSM technical consultant Liam Helmer assists in the process and explains how he helped the actors delve into the intriguing world of bondage and all things associated.

Getting Started with Bondage

Understanding the Terminology

To the uninitiated, spreader bars, floggers, masters, slaves etc can all seem a little overwhelming and leave an aspiring sub, dom or switch a little confused! Our advice is to start off slow and ease yourself in. For example, some handcuffs, a feather tickler and a blindfold is more than enough to dip your toe in the water. Handcuff your partner to the bed post, slip on the blindfold before beginning to stroke him/her all over the body with the feather. Run it along erogenous areas like the penis, clitoris, breasts and all over the body. The sensory deprivation of being blindfolded will heighten the sense of arousal leaving your partner like a coiled spring waiting to be taken. You are now after getting started into the world of bondage and if it is for you, you can gradually progress down a rabbit hole of increasingly erotic and stimulating acts and role plays becoming as advanced and and as extreme as you want.

Enjoy!

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