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BDSM and Saftey

A lot of reading enjoy..

Don’t think for a second that just because you are familiar with the safety guidelines on this page that you know everything you need to know for any scene. Also please note that there reportedly have been more injuries due to bondage than sadistic activities such as whipping; activities which pose subtle dangers often result in more harm than ones which have blatantly obvious, and thus easily avoided, dangers.

There are probably exceptions to almost any safety rule. These are guidelines; when you step outside the guidelines you need to take even more stringent precautions which compensate for the particular guidelines you are violating.

You will find some safety warnings here that you are unlikely to find other sites. There will also be warnings on other sites that I have failed to include here.

  • Never leave a person in bondage alone. They could have a panic attack or emotional crisis, drown in their own vomit, have a seizure, lose circulation, or otherwise be severely harmed. Lots of fantasy material involves leaving someone for an extended period of time (the top goes to the local watering hole for a hour or two or even leaves the sub tied up overnight); this is very risky. If you really want to leave your sub alone for a while, at least consider closed circuit television – with audio; even then, you may not notice problems which you would if you were in the same room (for example, can you tell if someone stops breathing from looking at a video monitor?)
  • Beware of constricting blood flow or pinching nerves. This can be a danger just from wrist restraints; there are important nerves and veins on the inside of the wrist. The backs of the knees are also problem areas. Make sure all bondage gear is lose enough (you should be able to easily slip a finger under it) and is non-constricting.
  • Arms raised above shoulder height for more than a half hour may not get adequate circulation. Any coldness or tingling of the hands is a very important warning sign which a sub should be instructed to report immediately.
  • Never tie anything around the front of the neck or which could apply pressure to the front of the neck when things shift.
  • Don’t whip the lower back – the kidneys are very close to the surface and easily damaged. Don’t whip where bones are close to the surface without adequate padding (long before you damage the bone, nerves and arteries can easily be pinched between your implement and the bone). Don’t whip anywhere where internal organs are not protected by bone.
  • Before placing any bondage around the chest, have the sub inhale and hold their breath; the chest cavity needs room to expand. The sub may not notice they are unable to breath properly at rest but when their oxygen needs increase due to exertion or excitement they may need more room.
  • In general, whip only the buttocks (avoid the tailbone!), upper half of the back, and maybe the inner thighs unless you have been properly trained and know where all the internal organs, arteries, veins, and nerves are located. You should familiarize yourself through both medical/anatomical sources and BDSM sources.
  • The nerves which serve the genital area actually travel from around the midpoint of the spine and diagonally down around the waist and stomach. Even a tight or heavily loaded belt or fanny pack can cause serious damage to these nerves; imagine what kind of permanent damage a piece of rope could cause. This does not seem to be very well known inside or outside the BDSM community.
  • Use extreme caution when constricting an airway such as the nose or the mouth. Leave at least one of the two open. Even that may not be adequate could be easily blocked by vomit, snot, or other causes.
  • There is some controversy over whipping the breasts. Some believe it can promote cysts or tumors.
  • Sanitize whips if there is any possibility that skin has been broken (even if you are fairly gentle, popping a zit is enough) or it has come into contact with bodily fluids.
  • Sanitize all penetration toys between uses if they are used for more than one person. A condom may be used to “customize” dildos and other toys.
  • Before blindfolding someone, check if they are wearing contacts; permanent eye damage may occur.
  • Some candles melt at higher temperatures and will cause burns. More information on candle safety is in the section on Candle Wax.
  • Ass play has many risks. Fecal material can pose a significant biological hazard even to the person who generated it; the lower end of the alimentary canal harbors many microorganisms which can cause problems if they are introduced to the mouth or vagina. Many diseases, not merely sexually transmitted ones, can be transmitted via fecal material; Cholera is epidemic in some areas with inadequate sanitation, for example. Anal penetration without adequate lubrication can cause not only extreme discomfort (typically not the erotic variety) but also serious damage; use KY jelly or other suitable lubricant and ignore those fantasies you may have read about merely using a little vaginal lubrication. Dental Dams are commonly used for protection during analingus and a piece cut from a latex glove or saran wrap can also be used; note, however, that none of these are as effective a barrier as a condom. The odds of HIV transmission via unprotected anal sex is about ten times greater than via unprotected vaginal sex. Use of a good quality condom (many popular ones are not so good) improves the odds by around a factor of ten, which makes protected anal sex about as dangerous as unprotected vaginal sex.
  • Golden Showers are considerably less risky than ass play. Urine is normally pretty sterile and has even been used as an antiseptic in third world countries and during wartime when others were not available. There are some diseases which can survive or be transmitted by urine, however; just ask anyone with a urinary tract infection. Hepatitis B, in particular, can be present in urine. The risk of disease transmission may be less than for unprotected vaginal intercourse.
  • Submissives should take caution when meeting someone they do not know in real life for play. You may well find yourself at the mercy of a predator or someone who doesn’t intend to cause harm but does not know how to prevent it. Meet the person in a public place to get to know them before considering play. Get references. Before you meet for play, let someone you trust know who you will be with and where you will be and arrange phone calls and code words to call the police; an organization called safetyNET has some more precautions and may be able to arrange a safety buddy.
  • Establish safe words.
  • There is some question about whether whipping or beating breasts can contribute to cancer. Trauma to the breasts or oxygen deprivation due to bondage can cause Fat Necrosis which will cause lumps which mimic breast cancer and may need to be surgically removed. For more information, visit Healthy Brest Bondage. Lengths of time you can keep the breasts bound based on the number of fingers you can insert under the rope: 0 fingers – 15 minutes, 1 finger 30 minutes, 2-3 fingers 45 minutes. After the specified duration, the breasts should be unbound for a minimum of 15 minutes.
  • Don’t trust a dominant who is put off by your safety precautions or tells you you are not a good submissive if you don’t take risks you are not comfortable with.
  • You should be able to release a submissive from bondage and/or suspension quickly in the event of an emergency. EMT shears may be used to cut ropes and other bondage. Bolt cutters can be used to cut locks and other hardware. Beware of hardware which requires you to lift a sub before you can lower them. Quick release hardware or cutting ropes may not allow you to safely lower someone in an emergency; it is better to have a setup which allows controlled lowering rather than just release.
  • Beware of hardware which may fail under the weight of a thrashing submissive. Eyebolts/screws which miss the center of a ceiling joist or are to small or which can unscrew can cause an accident. Hardware which is too small can fail; use hardware which has a specific load rating (and use a safety factor of 7-10). Quality hardware can be obtained from marine and caving/climbing suppliers.
  • If the submissive has Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in the wrists, you may need to use special bondage restraints. Bondage gloves or CTS wrist braces may be modified to make restraints.
  • People with TMJ may not be able to open the mouths far enough or long enough for traditional penetrative oral sex. In many cases, however, they may be able to provide good oral service just using their lips and tongue.
  • A top/dominant should find out if the bottom/sub has any medical conditions which could cause problems during a scene. Many, if not most, medical conditions may require special precautions for various types of scenes and in some cases may preclude certain scenes.

Sanitation

A 10% bleach solution, 70% isotropy alcohol, or hydrogen peroxide are effective in destroying HIV. Clean the item with soap and water, dry, clean with sanitizer, and then rinse and dry. Leather toys are harder to sanitize. Leather is porous and may harbor microorganisms and may be damaged by washing and/or sanitizing. Leather items may need reconditioning after washing and/or sanitizing; a little neats foot oil can often be used to recondition the leather. Suede and other delicate leathers can be particularly easily damaged. Some items can be sanitized using heat, although this will damage many others. Boiling for 20 minutes is pretty effective. Metal instruments can be autoclaved. Alcohols are not effective against bacterial spores. Bleach solutions should be made the same day. Alcohol is highly flammable; be careful around candles and other open source of flame. Soap helps remove oils which may harbor bacteria and viruses but doesn’t disinfect itself. Nicks, cracks, pores, etc. can harbor infections agents. Rinsing in water helps dilute infectious agents. Using more than one sterilizing agent may improve effectiveness. Air drying helps kill HIV and many others, although you may also pick up air borne agents. If you will be intentionally breaking skin, you probably want to take more precautions than outlined here. Betadine solution is frequently used and blades, needles, and whips are often reserved exclusively for use on a single person. Some people are allergic to iodine based antibacterial agents like betadine. Alcohol stings when used on open wounds.

I have a surplus medical sterilizer. Unfortunately, it is basically a boiling water setup which does not get hot enough to kill some of the more hardy pathogens although it will destroy many including HIV and it makes a good prop for a medical scene An ordinary pressure cooker can be used as an autoclave. Be sure to follow the manufacturers directions for exhausting the air or it won’t be effective. Heat sensitive autoclave tape may be used inside to tell if you have reached the necessary temperature.

I also have a real autoclave. Autoclaving and Dry Heat Sterilization (the latter requires tempertures high enough to damage most BDSM gear) are the only effective means of sterilizing things. Hepatitis B and C viruses (HBV and HCV) are resistant to all chemical sterilizers. Any toys which have been exposed to blood, and possibly other bodily fluids, need to be autoclaved or dry heat sterilized (at higher temperature and for a longer time than autoclave). Ethelene Oxide sterilizers might or might not be effective against diseases such as HBV, HCV, and TB. HCV is reportedly only found in blood, not other bodily fluids. This means that ordinary sex is unlikely to transmit the disease (provided there are no cuts or lesions) but anything that involves even undetectably small amounts of blood is risky. There is no immunization against HCV. HBV is very easy to transmit and is found in many body fluids and can be transmitted by indetectibly small quantities of those fluids. There is a vaccine to immunize against HBV (although it is not effective in 20% of individuals); vaccination against HBV is advisable for BDSM players.

Whips made from nylon, and which don’t use cheap glues, can be subjected to much more serious disinfecting. There are instructions for making whips from nylon rope on this page; these are very inexpensive so you can have one for each person or they can be thoroughly washed and sterilized.

It should also be noted that there are many other blood borne diseases that are not normally considered STDs that could be transmitted by play which involves blood, even incidentally.

Hepatitis C was found int 35% of saliva samples and 57% of urine specimens taken from patients with HCV. The virus was detected with a modified PCR test which is very sensitive The amount present was 1E5/units/ml in serum, 5E1/units/ml in saliva, and 3E1 units/mil in urine. So, it would appear that blood has about 2000 times as much HCV as urine or saliva. J Med Virol 41: 120-8 (1993)[94110774] As little as 0.000040ml of blood can cause HBV infection.

Comfort

Even if your sub wants you to flog the shit out of them, seemingly minor discomforts such as being too hot, to cold, or needing a pillow for their head may ruin a scene. Be careful not to cause any pain or discomfort other than that which is intended. And uncomfortable bondage gear can be worse than a distraction; pinched nerves and cutoff circulation can cause permanent harm.

Hot Wax

Beeswax candles melt at a much higher, and damaging temperature; beeswax itself only melts 10 degrees hotter but they typically have more temperature raising additives than parafin based candles. Colorants and perfumes can raise the melting point although they apparently don’t do so by much. Metallic chips in candles can get very hot and cause burns. Sterine is used as a hardener in candles and can raise the melting point substantially; long burning candles have too much stearine and will cause harm. The top should always test candles by dripping wax on the back of the hand. The greater the height wax is dropped from, the more time it has to cool. Wax temperature can exceed the melting point if it is not in equilibrium with solid wax; if you use a pot of some sort to heat the wax, be very careful about temperature (a thermometer is a good idea). Taper candles apparently produce hotter wax than larger and enclosed candles where the wax pools and reaches equilibrium with the solid parafin. An article on Candle Composition gives some more information. Avoid areas with hair – it is hard to remove wax from these areas and you might permanently remove the hair (although if you use a low temperature wax and remove the wax with a flea comb you can probably get away with it). There is a little metal dodad at the bottom of the wick of many candles. If the wax has melted down to the dodad it may fall onto your sub and cause burns. Removing the dodad, however, poses a fire hazard. The dodad is there partly to hold the wick in place while the candle is poured but it has another function which is to spread the heat from the wick and keep the wick from burning down within a quarter inch of the glass; without it, the glass is likely to break from the heat; even with it, don’t trust glass, particularly untempered glass, to contain a burning candle. Mason jars will probably withstand the heat better than many other jars, since mason jars are intended to be heated, but they may be exposed to temperatures, and temperature differentials, beyond what they were designed for. Use of an open flame around alcohol (as might be used in a scene for its sanitizing, cooling, and/or stinging properties) can pose a substantial fire and burn hazard. Candles left unattended (perhaps while you sleep) can pose a serious fire hazard. At the very least, put the candle in a metal container. Sir Michael describes in an article how a pillar candle, which they forgot to extinguish before going to bed, split down the side exposing more wick resulting in a larger flame which quickly burned down to the furniture underneath and set their dungeon on fire causing $10,000 worth of damage before the smoke detector woke them up. The area directly over the candle can get hot enough to ignite even at a considerable distance from the candle; use a metal baffle, or at least a piece of aluminum foil, if you are burning a candle without several feet of clearance overhead.

You can purchase bulk parafin, sterine, wicks, and candle molds at some crafts stores and make your own candles to fit your own needs. You can also purchase parafin at many grocery stores along with other canning supplies. You can purchase bulk parafin, sterine, wicks, and candle molds at some crafts stores and make your own candles to fit your own needs. You can also purchase parafin at many grocery stores along with other canning supplies. Used wax may be remolded into candles (don’t add even more sterate or other additives unless that is what you really want) the heat from the molding and/or burning processes should kill most nasty pathogens. You can hold scraps of wax over a burning candle to quickly increase the size of the pool of parafin; give this wax a little time to reach equilibrium with the solid wax. Wax melted in this way will have some black carbon contamination (which may affect the melting point) and if you add too much wax this way you may actually extinguish the candle. Also, wax may be easier to remove from hairy areas while it is still slightly warm and if it has been applied thinly. Fully refined parafin melts at 130-135 degrees F. Beewswax without additives melts at around 143-145 degrees F (lower if refined) but more temperature raising additives are typically used when making candles. Spectrum’s Hot Wax article gives the results of some experiments on wax and downplays the affect of candle composition while emphasizing candle shape. I intend to update the section above based on my interpretation of spectrum’s results.

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2 comments on “BDSM and Saftey

  1. Thank you for posting this. 🙂 The information is very helpful.

    • Thank you for reading and sharing, safety is very important. Many submissives put themselves in harms way.. With either Dominants who do not care, or those who do not have a clue to what there doing.

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