Before engaging in play with someone, it is extremely important to have good communication and safety so that the experience can be a positive one, often a lack of communication can cause more damage than good, even though it can be thrilling and an adrenaline rush for someone to play without so much vocalising and talking before, it can then lead to boundaries being pushed and miscommunication which can be traumatic. Consent is sexy, and you can absolutely make the check-ins part of your foreplay! Here is a bit of a guide for what to ask and some safety considerations when engaging in BDSM play but I advise you to research as much as you can if you really want to get into more intense play as getting hurt in the wrong way is definitely a mood killer and can affect the ‘tops’ confidence and the ‘bottoms’ sense of safety and trust.
How are you feeling emotionally?
What kind of experience are you looking for?
Have you done this before?
Do you have any injuries/health conditions to be aware of?
Can we check-in mid play, what are our safe words and signals (verbal and non-verbal)
What are your hard limits? Soft limits?
Can we leave marks? What sort and where?
Are you sober? If not what have you had and how can we make this safer?
Who is this scene for?
Could this be triggering?
What parts of the body do we not want involved?
If genitals are in contact, what safer sex practices are we using/considering?
Any specific aftercare requests?
Any time limits for the scene or any other things we need to consider?
Do you have scissors nearby if doing rope bondage, or some way to end the scene quickly if there is an emergency?
Rope and Bondage safety
Always be clear with rules, expectations and boundaries before, and have ways of continuous communication throughout (non-verbal and verbal)
Check in constantly, move ropes every now and then in high pressure points, watch the face for responses and breathing.
Silent double squeeze- every now and then if the ‘bottom’ is quiet/still, squeeze their hand and make them squeeze back to confirm they are ok.
Verbally check in- Do you like this? Are you ok? Is this getting too much? Do you want to change positions? Simple questions with yes or no answers so they can nod or shake their head if they aren’t able to vocalise.
Always have scissors available in case of emergency.
Stretch before being tied.
Correct someones posture before binding them in a position.
Make sure the ‘bottom’ has eaten properly recently and is well hydrated.
Be aware if they have issues like low blood pressure, it is best to not do extended standing positions for people with hypermobility syndrome or other low blood pressure causing issues.
Alcohol and drugs can dramatically increase chances of fainting so make sure you are aware of what someone has taken.
Having the hands tied above the head can increase the risk of fainting and shouldn’t be done for extended periods of time, especially in a standing position. Dislocations could happen from fainting in these position.
Clamminess and a rise in body temperature is a warning of possible fainting, support them and slacken the ropes or remove them. If they are close to fainting or have blood pressure issues, position them with their head lowered (childs pose or on a seat) or lay them on their back with legs raised.
Falling dangers include impact on the floor or surroundings, dislocation of joints if body position is tied in a strange position and anxiety of not feeling safe/protected which can be traumatic in a healing/surrender experience. Having a safety line can help this or being constantly in contact and aware of your partner for all positions where falling is a risk.
This can be painless and happen fast!
Generally it takes 2-12 weeks for nerve damage to correct itself without seeing a specialist, but sometimes the damage is permanent so it should be taken seriously.
Make sure you always leave at least 1 fingers space between ropes and the skin, check when you change positions as lying on the rope or adding weight to it can cause extra tightness and tension so what can be ok in 1 position can be too tight when you change.
Look out for skin going extremely pale, red/purple fingers and other circulation issue signs.
Some of the most vulnerable areas are
The hand notch- the gap around the thumb before the wrist
Above the elbow on the inside
About 1 hand distance down from the shoulder between the muscles
Inside the upper arm and armpit
Inside thighs around the panty line
Most joints are not good for tying except the hips. Try to place ropes above the joints in fleshy areas when possible.
Nerves can be exposed in different positions for example when you sit cross legged and bend forward.
Nerve damage can feel like tingling, twinges, pain or a total loss of sensation. Rope bottoms should watch out for these feelings and be sure to say something/communicate when it feels off. It is common that the bottom will feel the warning signs and chose to ignore it because they are enjoying the scene and don’t want to stop but then they have damage after.
The bottom can check their own hands by pressing their thumb nail into their fingertips, if they don't feel anything then they should untie the hands.
‘Wrist drop’ aka radial nerve palsy is a condition where the radial nerve which comes from the shoulder to the hand is compressed for too long or damaged in an intense impact injury and causes the wrist to go limp. This is often caused by people sleeping with one arm under the other while it is compressed or falling asleep on a chair with the armpit blocking the flow or with crutches, and can also be caused by bondage of the nerve. Watch out for signs of this before it is too late as treatment is a pain for this condition!
Pins and needles and numbness are the first warning signs that the ropes are too tight and the blood supply is affected, this can lead to damaged limbs if it is not corrected and even death in extreme cases after extended periods. Hands can be the easiest effected so ideally tie so they can be undone without the rest of the rope work needing to come off. Hands can become noticeably colder with restricted blood supply so try to notice how it feels before the scene starts and check in.
You can check with the nails, pressing the fingernail and seeing how long it takes for the pink colour to return.
Also notice any extreme colour change difference on either side of your bindings, some people go purple/red very easily with no damage so check in with them.
Never bind in front of the neck (noose) for any suspension or full body play, you can use rope to apply pressure but don’t tie it in that area for a harness, a halterneck style tie is the only safe option.
If the person is gagged make sure you check often to make sure they are ok and breathing fine.
Be aware that being restrained in a certain position for an extended amount of time can cause different breathing issues that are even more prominent when the person is affected by drugs/alcohol or has weight issues or other health problems. Never leave someone alone while bound as most deaths related to this are because people aren’t able to get help when they start noticing the breathing issues.
If someone is wearing a corset, don’t bind their chest as it can severely affect breathing.
Always try to pull slowly, you can test on your own skin how fast a rope has to be pulled to be uncomfortable. Synthetic ropes tend to burn more than natural ones so test with different fibers.
When pulling a rope under some other bindings try to make space with your fingers so it doesn’t cause too much friction, especially around sensitive areas like armpits. Also it helps to guide the rope away from the skin when pulling through faster.
Subspace vs Freeze trigger response.
This is what we call it when the sub/bottom gets into a deep state of meditation and surrender from the play. This is an amazing headspace to be in but also requires extra care from the ‘top’ as often the bottom will not be easily able to communicate, it is possible that someone could mistake what is actually something more serious for subspace, like a dropping blood pressure and fainting, so you should try to keep the communication via hand squeezes or very simple yes or no questions where they can nod or shake their head.
Another issue could be mistaking the ‘freeze’ trigger response for subspace, if someone is triggered by trauma they can freeze up and struggle to communicate that they want things to stop, this is usually accompanied by stiffness and a raised heart rate. Great care should be taken if your partner is triggered to make them feel safe and stop the play, sometimes minimal body contact while untying or sometimes they need more contact and to be held, perhaps getting them a blanket to feel safe and warm. Try to get them to respond to ‘yes/no’ questions about how to continue and untie them if they freeze, try to get eye contact and make the best judgement you can and give them the time to process before talking it through, sometimes someone might need to leave and process alone then talk about it another day and this should be respected.
Play safe and take care of your partner while you experiment with the wonderful world of BDSM and sensuality!
If you have extra safety tips that you think should be on here, please contact me and let me know. I'm always wanting to expand my knowledge on safety practices and how to best teach and facilitate healthy BDSM.