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Bondage Basics Pt. 02

Don't think I don't know what you're thinking, sometimes, dear readers. It's a lonely job, being the voice of reason, y'know? I don't like it any more than some of you do! I've spent going on 25 years being a unrepentantly kinky deviant, literally since before it was cool, when most people's images of BDSM came from Judas Priest videos. That's a long time being risky and crazy. That's really my main qualification to write this, you know? That I managed to go so long being a diehard weirdo without dying, going to prison or asylum, or giving up and trying to be normal. Now, here I am, moaning on about going slow and being safe and really unsexy words like being responsible and accountable and sensible and mature. More often I know I'm conjuring images of a high school hall monitor in a sweater vest wailing alarmedly about no running or horseplay being allowed, rather than some cool, brooding dominant kinkster.

But, I do have a job to do, darnit! And that job is to try to make BDSM, D/s and power exchange topics accessible and safely practicable to everyone. I know full well that most of you are sensible, sane, mature, good natured adults who don't need my nannying and just really want to get to the good parts. But I also have to write for those people who are a little bit too enthusiastic about diving in half-cocked, as well as making it seem reasonably sane and sensible to those trepidatious folks who really aren't terribly sure about all of this, at all! So, yes, my writings tend to be a bit more prosaic and less full of yummy imagery than all those naughty stories or taboo videos that I love too, full of fantasies that never really need to be as grounded in reality, safety, or sensibility as our personal private practices do. So if it helps any of you who feel my constant caution gets excessive, I only ask you to reflect that you or someone you care about might some day be in a relationship with one of those shall we say less naturally grounded members of my potential readership. And considering this play, even when done well and properly is only separated from dangerous abuse by the sensibilities of the dominant, hopefully you'll be more grateful for my caution, then!

But every now and then, I do get to the fun parts, and this is one of those days! Today, kiddies, we get to tie up our classmates. So let's move on to the fun uses of bondage. Why do we love to tie people up and fit them into those creepy pieces of BDSM furniture that look like a nautilus machine humped an HR Geiger sculpture and had a baby? What is our purpose in this madness? And once we know that purpose, what methods are best for accomplishing our deviance?

First, obviously, maybe we just want someone to hold still so we can do whatever to them. That is what this stuff was invented for, right? Someone is struggling and won't hold still. *CLICK!* Problem solved! That, alas, is not an acceptable answer, because, y'know, that would technically be rape. Sadly, we don't live in a civilized culture where we can use restraints to force anything on a partner that they wouldn't willingly consent to. I know, it sucks, but the traditional, old fashioned use for rope and handcuffs and chains sadly isn't valid, anymore.

So, let's find another excuse to tie them up!

Maybe we want to prevent them from doing something that would be dangerous to themselves or others? Like, maybe, seeking revenge on us for something we just did to them? Or, like, escape? Alas, again, no. The fascists in charge actually call that kidnapping. And sadly, though I've tried to argue it, you can't legally self-deputize as a mental health care enforcer. So, again, nope.

Let's try, again.

Surely, then, it's useful for keeping people from backing out of a play session? I mean once they're bound consensually in place, they're not going anywhere, so we can use it to keep them from withdrawing from a play session just when we (if not them) are just starting to have some serious fun. Right?

No, no, no, you psychotic bastards, you. At any point, if you become aware of a partner's wish to be removed from bondage, even if they're gagged and bound so they can't directly communicate it, you are bound to release them!

So what good is it? It sounds like bondage play is really just cosmetic, just for show, if you can't ethically use it for all those purposes God created it for! I mean, we might as well just be using those plastic and fake fur handcuffs they sell in gag shops!

Well, not quite.

We can, ethically, use bondage to prevent anything that they consent to us preventing. I know, I know, that sounds like doubletalk. But as long as the partner is not exercising the avenues that we're obliged to allow them to demand we release them from that bondage, then we are more or less kosher.

For example, if we're doing a flogging or spanking or even caning session, we can use bondage to make them hold still and not resist. Trust me, especially with caning, they'll get nearly irresistible urges to resist. Until they express their wish for those bonds to be removed, then, they will be helpless for us.

Also, we can incentivize their consent in any way that also would be respectful of their rights. For example, we have the right to say that if they withdraw their consent from whatever bondage we've placed them in, all play is over for that session. Not coincidentally, that pretty much describes the arrangement of many people's use of a safeword. They can stop it, but then everything stops.

We can create consequences for their withdrawal of consent. However, if that consequence is something they can also reserve consent from, it does take a bit of wind out of those sails. This often requires a bit of cunning on the part of a dominant. For example, we can say that if they ask us to release them, there will be a spanking. However, they can then not consent to that spanking, and we're a bit stuck. However, if we say that if they make this request there will be no spankings, then there's not much they can do about it.

Many submissives really look forward to their spankings, after all.

Also, we always have the recourse of holding firm in that there will be no play in the future until they consent to this consequence that you made them aware of. That spanking that they wouldn't consent to? You're perfectly fine if you refuse to engage in any further kink or even romantic or sexual activity, until they consent to it. This can get disruptive or messy in a relationship, though, if either side pushes beyond a sense of reasonable context or proportion, which in a way helps to form a bit of a check and balance system.

Then there's always the consequence of your displeasure. Submissives want to please their dominant. It's a lovely thing. Often allowing them to know that they've failed to do that is one of the most severe consequences you can devise.

All of this adds up to bondage having a lot of teeth and being far from cosmetic or purely role-play. And you can use it to some serious, profound effects without needing to flirt with your partner's verge of withdrawing consent. Essentially, there is usually more legal and ethical wiggle room in bondage (pun intended) than there is in being sensible and healthy with it; you generally can get away with a lot more than you ought to.

All that said, many of these effects are beyond the purely mechanical function of restraint. Yes, it's more of a psychological tool than a strictly practical one. But psychological tools are often far more potent than physical ones. Having a partner tie you up for the purpose of 'doing things to you' while you are, in that moment, at least until you demand release, helpless? That is a pretty heady feeling.

And that describes the legitimate use of bondage. It can be used to create certain feelings in the subject, particularly in conjunction with other play. Think of a rollercoaster. When that bar to hold you in comes down you know that you're along for the ride. But you also know that the people who built and are operating it have a big vested interest in keeping your experience safe and positive enough for you to want to return. And knowing intellectually that you're not at all likely that you're going to go flying out and plummeting to the ground doesn't prevent less rational parts of your mind and body from reacting as though precisely that event was imminent.

That's the thrill of bondage. Yes, maybe it's more illusion, even showmanship than actual threat, but it is potent. And just like roller coasters can have a wide range of potential effects on various riders; excitement, terror, glee, nausea, etc, we can learn to artfully employ bondage to create an equally wide range of emotional responses in our partner.

And learning to use this tool to exert more control over a partner's emotional state than they can consciously accomplish willfully on their own is at the core of being a dominant! So let's run through the range of potential; a Dantesque tour of the many potential rings of bondage over which you can become empowered to preside. We'll start near the surface and move deeper and more intense, as we go.

Relaxation

The first ring might be surprising to many and in fact isn't terribly scary at all. I've written a few times about the frequent yet often apparently counterintuitive effect of bondage being one of relaxation for the subject. We, as dominants, may never fully empathize, but physical bondage and being placed in restraints is often soothing to a submissive. This effect is most common among experienced participants who have had enough positive sessions under their collars to have accumulated a pleasant emotional association.

That is actually precisely the effect that many dominants, myself included, advocate seeking to create over time in BDSM play. Additionally, the effect of being placed in bondage often helps to relieve the stress that many submissives inherently experience in order to perform pleasingly, particularly in play situations.

One recommendation I have regarding the first ring in particular, but to an extent applying to all your play, is to deliberately assist this process by consciously selecting a particular type or piece of physical bondage equipment for each mood of play. If you want to do something scary, maybe have one type of cuff or restraint, and when you want to do a more pleasant, lower key session or even segment of a session, switch to another, likely comfier piece of gear. Over time the subconscious association with it can become quite a potent tool. For example, if you want to do a cool down phase in a play session, or your subject is edgy or uneasy for play, for some reason, you'll be amazed how quickly something like this can clear it up!

A little trickier is building that positive association with consensual bondage, as we described in part 1. But you can see examples of it used effectually and powerfully in a lot of Master/slave style play that involve repetitive protocols. For example, a submissive who is trained to present herself in a particular posture at the beginning of a play session, such as kneeling. Some of these even grow more specific as they go, so that the specific angles of their posture, of their head and eyes and shoulders, are all dictated by the structured protocol. This is a bit advanced, though, because consensual bondage relies purely on the associations cultivated through experience and repetition, lacking the immediate effect of the dominant taking the burden of their freedom and choice and therefore need to perform pleasingly off of their shoulders.

Excitement.

The next ring is excitement. This can manifest edgy anticipation, wariness, glee, etc. A lot of dominants will build an association for the strategic use of this effect, as well. It serves admirably for warm-up phases of a session, where you are building up to the emotional impact that you wish to impart. Many choose less 'safe' restraints for this purpose; metal or less comfy or padded handcuffs, particular outfits of the sort they're unaccustomed to, and yes, even nudity or sexy outfits, if prescribed by a dominant, might be considered a form of bondage. After all, it inhibits or restricts their capacity for modesty.

If you do use bondage devices that have an edgy feel at the expense of safety, one option is, as you progress through the warm up phase into more intense play, you can also swap out the riskier bonds for ones that are safer as the likely of instinctual or reflexive struggle escalates the likelihood of injury or damage to your subject. Changing from the scary metal cuffs to the 'business cuffs' when you're ready to get serious can serve to kick your submissive into an even higher state of excitement.

One of the nice things about consensual bondage is that you're limited only by your imagination in all of the little nuances of posture that can be used to create subtly different emotional responses in your subject. For example, if you have your slave kneel for you, instructing them to keep their knees together, their hands on their thighs, or their eyes on you, can all have profoundly different effects than instructing them to position their knees open, spread apart on the ground, their wrists crossed behind their back, or their eyes lowered.

You'll likely need to cater to each individual for maximum potency. What might make one person tend to feel vulnerable might not particularly phase another. But having set specific interchangeable protocols that compares directly to how others might perform, as often occurs in M/s protocols or communities, can also be potent tools.

Vulnerability

The next ring moves from excitement into vulnerability. I think of this as a higher octave of excitement, and also as the main sort of 'point' if you will of bondage play. It's that feeling of being bound driven home and demonstrated in an open way. And it's yummy!

The state of being submissive is a vulnerable one. And often through the process of living their lives, people with deeply submissive inclinations demonstrate that vulnerability in situations that leave them emotionally stung. Over time, many develop a kind of defense mechanism to protect against that sort of hurt and wounding. Very much like people who experience traumatic loss of loved ones often subconsciously inhibit themselves from forming similar tight bonds, again, to spare themselves the potential emotional anguish of repeated loss. I feel a submissives defensiveness can be compared to this sort of attachment and intimacy issue, especially in that even when someone realizes fully consciously that they are exhibiting the behavior, they can do relatively little to rid themselves of that anxiety, themselves. That's where this comes in.

It's natural that anyone should be most defensive and wary of exposing their most vulnerable state. The process of building intimacy, however, requires just that. So, sometimes a dominant has to very carefully and expertly take what a submissive can't bring themselves to freely give. By placing them in a position of extreme vulnerability again and again in play sessions that each turn out to be rewarding, pleasant, positive experiences, a good, careful, insightful dominant can allow them to open up layers of intimacy that are otherwise nearly impossible for the average couple to experience through normal, vanilla means on their own.

Bringing about feelings of vulnerability requires a bit more insight than the former possibilities. A dominant has to specifically isolate the specifics of particular inhibitions on a submissive's part. He then has to tweak them, just so, just enough to get a certain emotional charge from the submissive. He then rewards that with some sort of pleasurable release, and carefully and slowly walks them back out into safer territory.

That's another point to consider with this ring. With a session that focuses only on excitement and arousal, you can follow basically the simple basic pattern most are familiar with from vanilla sexual activity. That is you build up the excitement, find release, and basically are done, maybe to cuddle a bit in some more slower paced after care. With this, however, you're walking the submissive into a state where you need to walk them out of, again. They feel insecure and you are intentionally setting yourself up as their sole source of emotionally security. If you are not careful to get them back onto safe, stable emotional ground before withdrawing the lifeline of your guidance, some pretty ugly emotionally states can develop.

Many call this 'sub-drop' or a form of sub-drop. They suddenly have to jar themselves back behind those emotional barriers that you had stripped away with the play session. But instead of coming down more easily and thoroughly, next time, next time they will be even more deeply entrenched in the need for emotional safety.

To stress the point one last time, this is where we get serious. The stages of relaxation and comfort at worst can result in frustration with a bad session. This is where the results can be significantly damaging to a relationship.

So far as tips on isolating a submissive's particular vulnerabilities, that's something that needs to be probed carefully. In general, exposure of various sorts including stages of revealing dress or semi nudity, various sorts of objectifying or suggestive postures, physical restriction that openly creates access to their body, particularly genitalia or sexualized areas, even if that physical access isn't acted upon, are all things that a dominant can experiment with to measure the submissive's reactions. Again, don't try to push them too hard too soon.

A little bit goes a long way.

And now I have a confession to make. I usually don't outline these posts beforehand. So, sometimes they turn out way longer than I had planned. Like this time! So, I'm going to get this one out there with a 'to be continued' and will finish our guided tour next time.

Updated: December 18, 2016 — 3:59 am
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