The FAQ List

Part 1 of 3

What do B&D, S&M, D&S, "top", "bottom" mean?

The easy part first: B&D = "bondage & dominance" or "bondage & discipline." S&M = "sadism & masochism." D&S = "dominance & submission."

People who read a.s.b are generally interested in ways to have sex that are outside the mainstream. One of the recurrent threads on a.s.b is the question of "what to call ourselves", since there is no one set of sexual practices we all enjoy or are interested in, yet there is a lot in common among all the things we talk about.

Some people enjoy submitting to another person, placing themselves under the power of another, in a sexual context. It can be a very hot thing for someone to say to you, "I'm yours. Use my body for your pleasure." This is D&S; one person is dominating, the other submitting. Slave/master, harem girl/sultan, boy/daddy, student/ schoolmistress. D&S is an erotic power game, where both people are getting off--one on the thrill of controlling, the other on the thrill of being controlled. This is also where the terms "top" and "bottom" come in; the top is, roughly, the dominant; the bottom is, roughly, the submissive.

What do tops and bottoms do with each other? Well, one good possibility is they have lots of hot sex. Another possibility is the top ties the bottom up in some manner, which directly and physically puts the bottom at the top's mercy, and then the top plays with the bottom, teasing, seducing, frustrating, and hopefully finally satisfying. This is a bondage & dominance sort of game. Some people enjoy playing with punishment--"You've been bad and now I have to tie you up and spank you!" That's bondage & discipline for you.

Then there's the sort of game described by S&M--"sadism and masochism". Whips, canes, nipple clamps, all the wonderful things that are designed to cause, in greater or lesser degree, pain. It can be a powerful thing to submit to someone else who wants to hurt you; it's a fantastic gesture of trust. And as will be discussed later, pain is not really pain anymore in an S&M game; it becomes overwhelmingly intense stimulation, which when administered by a skilled top can bring a bottom to entirely new heights of ecstasy. Sometimes the D&S aspect becomes secondary to the sensual trip; you don't have to enjoy obeying another's commands to enjoy being tied up and whipped! And of course, pain (whether light or heavy) is only one sort of sensation; there are many others, and all of them can be lots of fun to play with.

This sort of trip, merging pain and pleasure to create an amazingly powerful experience for the bottom, is sometimes known as SM: Sex Magick. The precise definitions of B&D, S&M, whatever, don't matter so much as do the experiences they point towards. All these areas, as you can see, overlap and intermingle in many many ways, but for me they all meet in the single concept of Sex Magick: taking a fantasy and turning it into reality, creating a magical space in which anything can happen!

While we're sorta on the subject of abbreviations, here are some more: motos = Member Of The Opposite Sex; motss = Member Of The Same Sex; IMHO = In My Humble Opinion; BTW = By The Way; SO = Significant Other (i.e. lover); SMBDLMNOP = SM and BD and whatever else it is that we're always talking about here on a.s.b; "Munch" refers to "any social gathering of local people who read a.s.b" (it's short for "Burgermunch", a tradition started in Palo Alto); "plonk"--see question 32; YMMV = Your Mileage May Vary (i.e. this is my experience, yours may be different); ObBDSM = "Obligatory BDSM"--if a post here contains little BDSM content, the poster will put "ObBDSM: " at the end of the post; YKINOK = "Your Kink Is Not OK"--see question 17... and of course FAQ = Frequently Asked Questions.

Oh, and the reason I refer to SM behavior as "play" here is because, well, it ain't work! Play means nothing other than activities done for recreation and for pleasure, and hence "play" is a fine word for many BDSM behaviors. Many of my friends use "play" similarly. (Though let me begin the many YMMV's by stating that many other people who do BDSM consider it to be a very real, and deep, part of their sexual orientation; these people find that the term "play" doesn't adequately express how important and fundamental these behaviors and relationships are to them. I am increasingly finding myself to be one of these people. And for still other people, some BDSM is play and some isn't. Confused yet?)

Just so it is totally clear at the outset, none of this material advocates any kind of nonconsensual behavior. What I am describing here is a variety of ways for lovers to enjoy one another, if and only if they both want to, and both give their consent. Anyone who claims that this information is in some way advocating nonconsensual, criminal acts is hereby charged with having failed to read and understand what I am saying. When I use the term "SM" in this FAQ, I refer specifically to consensual behavior. (See question 21 for more on this.)

Finally, you've probably already noticed that we talk about more here than just sex and bondage. If that bothers you, please, post something yourself about either or both topics! Complaining "where are all the sex and bondage posts?" is unproductive; if you want to see more of something, put it out there yourself. Everyone on a.s.b is posting for their own reasons, which don't often include titillating strangers.

But then again, this whole group is about titillation--about sonscious eroticism, about getting what you want, and the first step is often admitting it. Read on, and enjoy! Who knows, you might be a different person by the time you finish this FAQ... it's happened to others before you. :-)

What is a "scene", and what is "negotiation"?

SM has definite connotations of theater. The fact that you are a submissive while you're playing sexually does not mean you are a pushover in real life, nor does your being a dominant while playing mean that you are an overbearing egotist. These are roles that you can play; you are in some sense an actor.

Hence the concept of a "scene". A scene is a particular interaction between a group of players, usually revolving around a bottom. It's not a formal concept, just a handy way to describe the action. "That was the hottest whipping scene I've ever seen!" "Our last scene really pushed me, Master; I've never felt like that before." Usually a scene has a momentum of its own: you (a top) will begin fucking/ whipping/sucking/whatever your bottom, you'll both be fantastically into it, one or both of you comes/peaks/starts getting tired, and you wind down and rest for a while and talk about what worked and what didn't, about how the scene was for you.

Novice SM players may profit from actually taking this loose descrip- tion and using it to structure your first scenes. If there's something you want to try, first negotiate it with your partner; discuss what you want out of the scene (bondage? orgasm?), what your limits are (no fucking, no tickling), and what safeword you want to use (see the next question). Then get "into scene"--assume your roles (if any), put on the collar (or whatever), get into the mood to play... and play! And after the scene is over, take time to discuss what the scene felt like for each of you. Make sure to listen to your partner and learn how they felt, and thank your partner for playing... after an intense scene, it's really nice to cuddle and connect, rather than stopping abruptly and going home. A scene has a beginning, middle, and end; all three parts are very important. (And not necessarily disjoint; talking about how you feel and what you want can continue right through the whole process!)

This "negotiation" concept in the SM community simply means open, honest communication about what you do and don't want. Negotiation in this sense is not a bargaining process, where one person is trying to get something at the expense of someone else; it's a win-win technique where you're both talking about what you've done and what excites and doesn't excite you, so you can feel more comfortable and turned on together. It's completely legitimate to talk both about your fantasies and your boundaries--about what makes you wet, and about what makes you cringe and tense up. Telling your partner about things that you don't want them to do is valuable, as you deserve to have those limits respected... and if you don't tell your partner those things, they may do them, and neither of you will enjoy it. (If you do express your limits, and your partner ignores them, that's non- consensual, and you will want to think hard about whether you can trust your partner. Negotiation can bring these issues into clear focus, which can help.)

If you're just getting into SM, or just into a new relationship, negotiation is a very valuable process. It can be as upfront as "I'd really like to kiss you, does that sound good?" or as nasty as "Tell me your deepest darkest fantasy or I'm going to stop rubbing your cock!" Talking about what you want from your sexual relationships can be difficult at first, but the more you do it the easier it gets and the more you get out of it! And note that none of this is necessarily specific to SM; negotiation is useful on all levels in all relationships, whether they involve SM or not. Consent is much more than a simple "yes"--any relationship, and especially SM relationships, will do better with lots of honest talk about what you both want, and why, and how much, and what you don't want.

There are some who feel that negotiating--talking--"ruins the momen- tum". The image they seem to have is of the lovers who need say no words; every touch, every action, is perfect. That's great when it happens, but it doesn't happen automatically. My personal experience is that talking upfront makes me feel much better about whoever it is I'm with, and much more confident that they won't do something I'm not ready for... this in turn means I can throw myself wholeheartedly into whatever we've negotiated. Plus, as you get to know each other better, you'll know what you like and don't like... because you'll have negotiated it! Then the momentum really gets rolling!

The other connotation of "scene" applies to the whole B/D/S/M population; sometimes someone will ask another SM player "Is X in the scene?" or "I've seen Y around the scene before." If you want to get into the scene in this sense, look up one of the organizations I've mentioned at the end of this FAQ list--especially the NLA, which may well have a chapter in your area! Doing this can be very worth- while; you can make new friends, get lots of good ideas, and find a community that shares your interests.

What is a "safeword"?

One of the thrills of SM is that it can stretch your limitations. If you enjoy this sort of play, you can naturally find yourself trying more and more new things, accepting greater and greater levels of sensation, doing and feeling more than you've ever done or felt before.

But the process is slow and gradual, and people are not telepathic. It may be that you are the bottom in a whipping scene, and your top is whipping you, and suddenly it doesn't feel good anymore!! and you want them to STOP!!! That is what a safeword is: a word that means "This isn't working! This scene is going wrong somehow! Please stop!"

A safeword needs to be taken seriously. Sometimes you may be playing with a top you don't know that well, and if they do something to you you don't want, it's important that you have a way to let them know, Immediatly. Especially if you're tied up or otherwise made helpless.

Everyone has their own favorite safeword. I personally use "Yellow!" to mean "Something's too intense; I need you to lighten up, but I don't want to stop the scene," and I use "Red!" to mean "I'm in trouble and I want everything to stop now, no more games, scene over, let me outta here!" Some people just have one flavor of safeword, and use "aardvark" or some other weird word they'd never say in the context of a scene. At many parties, the universal safeword is "Safeword!" It's up to you. All it is is a safety valve for when things get out of control. If your top doesn't respect your safeword, it's a safe bet that they won't respect other limits of yours, and you will need to decide whether you want to play with someone who doesn't acknowledge your boundaries.

Using a safeword can be hard to do sometimes. It's important to realize that no one is perfect, and if you as top do something that squicks your bottom (i.e. pushes beyond your bottom's limits-- "squick" is a recent bit of a.s.b jargon), it doesn't mean you're a bad lover or a bad person. It only means that you ran into a limit you didn't know was there, or you were tired or disconnected and not in tune with your bottom. It happens to everyone from time to time. If you as top feel burned out and want to stop the scene suddenly, or you get a powerful reaction you weren't expecting and aren't sure how to continue, you can use a safeword too; safewords aren't just for bottoms! If you as bottom feel like your top is pushing you, and you don't want to play anymore, it's not fun, that's when you want to use a safeword--your top will be glad you used it to tell them where you were at.

A safeword is just a communication tool, nothing more, nothing less. If you're playing intensely, it may feel hard to stop the scene, to come back from the edge via a safeword... but if you need to, that's what they're for. Some tops deliberately push their bottoms until their bottoms call safeword; this way, the bottom gets the experience of using it. A safeword that's never used can seem unusable, which isn't a good property for a safeword.

Sometimes a top will want to gag you, whether because you're being too noisy or they want to increase your helplessness or you've been being impertinent or whatever. You may still want a safeword to let the top know when a rope is too tight or the nipple clamps are pinching or whatever. Some people put a handkerchief in the bottom's hand; if they let go and the handkerchief falls, they know there's something up. I personally use the old SOS signal: three loud yells spaced evenly; "Unh! Unh! Unh!" No gag I've ever seen can stop all noise, and that signal works even if my hands are in mittens or a straitjacket and unable to hold anything at all.

Before playing with someone, it's a good idea to negotiate, not only what safeword you want to use, but how you'll handle it if you need to use the safeword. When you're just getting into SM, it's almost inevitable that some scenes will end prematurely or abruptly. If you acknowledge this possibility in advance, and talk about what kinds of comforting or remedy you might like, it'll make recovering from a mishap a lot easier and more pleasant. And because a scene goes wrong is no reason to think that you or your partner is fundamentally bad or untrustworthy--mistakes will happen. (If your partner doesn't want to hear your concerns about the mishap, though, or if they belittle or deride your concerns, you may well be unable to avoid future mishaps. If your relationship doesn't learn from painful experience, it may not be ready to handle doing SM. Of course, this kind of processing is a vital part of every healthy relationship, SM or not.)

Not every SM player uses safewords. Some people into SM don't find them useful for the style of play they prefer; more straightforward communication suffices for them. Some partners find their need for a safeword gradually diminishes as they come to know each other better. Some people do SM in which the bottom doesn't want to have a verbal escape route, for the duration of the scene. (This "no-safeword" play is also sometimes called "edge play.") One thing that you will learn about the BDSMLMNOP scene is that styles vary wildly, and peoples' experiences are astonishingly diverse. But for many people beginning their explorations (and many who've explored enormously), safewords have proved very helpful.

When is pain not pain?

Often people outside the scene don't see the appeal in any of the things SM people do that look painful. What's enjoyable about being hit? Where's the fun in getting bruised?

Well, think about this. Have you ever had intense sex and afterwards noticed bite marks on your neck of which you had no memory? What happened was your love partner bit you, hard, hard enough that it bruised you, and all you felt was another jolt of pleasure. If they bit you that hard when you _weren't_ having sex, you would scream "OUCH!!!" because it would hurt a lot! But when you are sexually aroused, your pain tolerance goes way up, and stimulation that you usually feel as pain is now actually pleasurable.

This is common knowledge. Another usual explanation is that the brain produces endorphins, natural opiates, to compensate for pain. You actually get high off the sensation. The "runner's high" comes from pushing the body painfully for so long that the endorphins kick in; the rush you get after eating chili peppers comes from the same source; and that's what makes it enjoyable for SM players to be whipped or spanked or whatever. It's not pain, it's pleasure! All athletes that are "hooked on exercise" are essentially masochists who enjoy stressing their bodies to get that chemical response. So your friend who enjoys being spanked may actually be a lot less masochistic than your average marathon runner!

For just this reason, Pat Califia (a very well-known writer and SM player in the Bay Area) uses pain as a reward, when she's topping a masochist. Pain as a punishment can have the reverse effect, when your bottom likes getting whipped!

Endorphins are by no means The Single Explanation for why masochists find intense sensation to be desirable. Not every masochist floats away blissfully while being whipped, nor would they all even want to. The ways to experience intense sensation vary from dreamlike rush to stinging ouch to irritating maddening burn to soothing warmth to tears-in-the-eyes throbbing... and whatever the sensation, there is likely someone who enjoys it.

Also, pain is a continuum. There are many different kinds of sensation that you can use in your lovemaking--light scratches with fingernails, open-hand spankings, pinches, squeezes... there are many many ways to touch someone, and all of them can be enjoyable. Different people enjoy different levels of sensation; "different strokes for different folks." What may be a wonderfully sensual caress to one person may be practically unnoticeable to another, and what may be a delightful flogging to one person may be no fun at all to someone else. Ongoing negotiation is the secret to finding the happy medium.

Some people consider all this absurd. "How could you want pain?" The best answer I can give is that some people simply seem to be calibrated differently. They want more sensation; they find the intensity thrilling and exciting, whereas someone else might find it overpowering and agonizing. People like different amounts of spice in their food; why not in their sexual encounters? Each person experiences sensation differently, and if you want more, there are safe ways for you to get it. Getting what you want, safely, can make your life much happier.

(For much more about sensations and sensation play, I strongly recommend Pat Califia's book Sensuous Magic. See the resource list at the end of part 3 of this FAQ.)

What are some basics of safe SM, emotionally and physically?

SM is often play, and as such is fun! But SM can also get intense and powerful. Here are some useful tips for people just getting started.

First of all, communicate. Let your partner know what you want and don't want. Keep the dialogue going; watch your partner, be aware of what she or he is feeling and thinking, and respect his or her limits. Establish a safeword, and make it very clear that it will be taken extremely seriously if used. Don't assume that your partner shares a fantasy of yours unless you've explicitly discussed it with them; just because someone likes being blindfolded doesn't mean they'll enjoy being tied up. And most important, give full permission to both people playing to stop at any time for any reason; respect each other enough to commit to call a halt and work things out if something goes wrong.

Be sensitive. SM play, which can (doesn't have to! but can) involve helplessness, intense sensation, and psychological domination, is strong stuff; it can reach deeply into someone's soul and bring up childhood traumas or hidden fears, without warning. Be aware that you are swimming in deep waters, and be respectful, loving, and careful. Don't let this reality scare you away from SM, though, if you want to experiment; let it make you more aware and open to what both of you are feeling. Most of all, decide for yourself whether SM (or elements of SM) has a place in your sex life; don't listen when someone else tells you "SM will be OK for you" or "SM will not be OK for you". Only you can make that decision.

Be honest. If you do not want to do something, don't let your partner pressure you into it. When you begin exploring SM, you may often find yourself with a partner who wants something more than you have experience giving, or who's right now in the mood for something that you're not in the mood for. In my experience, it's generally better to say, "Whoa, I think we're wanting different things. Let's talk." Doing a scene when you don't really want to can result in anything from a lukewarm scene to something you just wish was over. There is plenty of time... honesty, and not pushing, will lay a foundation of trust that will stand you in good stead later.

One especially charged kind of D/S play is dominance and submission, in which the bottom gives up some of their freedom of choice to the top, who can command them. Though many people with strong boundaries can play like this perfectly safely (and indeed derive enormous happiness and satisfaction from doing it), this kind of play can carry some real emotional risks for people with low self-esteem. The risk is that the dominant will wind up abusing their power, using the D/S dynamic to make the submissive feel ever more worthless and powerless, and hence willing to let the dominant take over more of their independence.

If you have issues around your personal sense of self-worth, and if you feel that being submissive (albeit perhaps an enticing idea) might serve to confirm and consolidate your negative self-image, you would do well to think hard about whether D/S play is for you at this stage of your life. The answer may well be "no." (And conversely, if you are considering topping someone who wants to submit because they deserve no better, you might consider whether you want a partner who thinks so little of themselves.) In general, it's imperative for everyone who does SM to look hard at their motivations and their boundaries, and to be clear on whether the SM (whatever form it may take) is self-actualizing or self-destructive.

It may not be all black-and-white, either; there may be some particular activities or roles or words that will make you feel unsafe, scared, or worthless, and you may well want to avoid those activities/roles/words. That is exactly what negotiation is for; you have the right to do what feels good to you and avoid what does not, and you have the right to insist your partner respect your boundaries. (This goes for any relationship, of course, BDSM or no.) The discussion of "when do dom/sub relationships become excessive or abusive" is an ongoing one on a.s.b, and for good reason; it's an important topic.

BDSM may at times be theraputic, but it is in no sense a substitute for therapy. It's been said that "you can't take power from the powerless." A healthy D/S relationship is grounded in mutual respect, and in the knowledge that both partners are choosing this life in a fully informed, non-coerced manner; the submissive is proud to submit, and the dominant is proud to receive the gift of their submission. It is a very different thing from an abusive relationship in which one partner controls the other partner's entire world, with the goal of making that partner irrevocably and helplessly dependent.

Back to the physical plane: If you are the top, and you are tying your bottom up, keep your attention on what you're doing. Your bottom is going to be blissing out; it's up to you to see that they're comfortable and kept amused. The "amusement" can be as nasty as you please, but see that they don't get bored; that's seldom fun.) Indeed, if you as top really are displeased with your submissive for breaking an agreement the two of you had made, ignoring them or sending them away may be the harshest punishment you can administer. But that's pretty advanced.)

Remember AIDS. Almost everything beyond closed-lips kissing and bare-skin contact is potentially unsafe, unless some kind of latex barrier is used. No unprotected contact between any combination of fingers, genitals, mouth, and anus; use a latex dam (or saran wrap) for cunnilingus or rimming (i.e. oral-anal contact), gloves for manual penetration, condoms on dildos and dicks. Use water-based lubricants such as ForPlay, Astroglide, Wet, KY Jelly; if the lube has nonoxynol-9 in it (which kills HIV) all the better (but some are allergic to nono-9). Oils and oil-based lubes dissolve latex; keep the mineral or massage oil away from your gloves and condoms (and latex clothing for that matter!).

Blood, semen, female secretions, urine... all can carry HIV. Play hard, but play safe. (One interesting thing about SM is that it expands the range of safe ways for people to pleasure each other! But it also expands the range of unsafe ways to play....) There are more safety tips, but if you want the in-depth skinny check some of the books at the end.

Many tops come up with an SM safety kit, containing (among other things) such items as a flashlight, duplicate keys for all locks, bandage scissors (with one flat blade) for speedy bondage removal, a first aid kit with all the standard first aid items, disinfectant (such as Bactine or Hibiclens) for toys which come in contact with bodily fluids, safer sex supplies (sometimes including several varieties of lubricant--different people like different sorts), and so on. See SM 101 (a book listed in the Resources section) for an excellent description of such a kit.

And there are some things that are commonly regarded as potentially too dangerous to do unless you've been taught by someone who knows. Suspension is one: there are lots of things that can go wrong, and many of them can result in severe injury. Crucifixion is an especially hazardous form of suspension. And body piercing is also not for the novice; it takes know-how and precision, and a mistake can result in a really big mess.

Fortunately, most SM activities, such as bondage, spanking, and teasing, are not nearly so severe; you can start out light and build up the intensity as far as you both want to go. Pay attention to what you're doing and use common sense and you'll likely be fine. In general, start out slow and practice! You will learn quickly and you'll have fun all along the way, and soon you'll be places you'd only dreamt about!

Is everyone either a top or a bottom?

One perception that some people can have, looking into the scene from outside, is that people are either tops or bottoms. Either you like to dominate, or you like to be dominated. And sometimes novices become confused, because they're excited by both possibilities.

The facts are, everyone is different, and everyone has their own preferences. I personally greatly enjoy topping my girlfriend, and also greatly enjoy submitting to her. Some people are tops in every play situation, just as some are bottoms in every play situation--but I know people who top men but bottom to women, people who sometimes switch roles multiple times within one date, and every other spectrum of possibility!

Whole scenes can revolve around the "who's on top?" question. Maybe you can have a wrestling match, and the person who gets pinned first will wind up being tied up. Maybe you can set a timer, and when the timer dings, it's time to switch positions! There are as many possi- bilities as your imagination can dream of!

Then again, maybe only one side of the balance holds any appeal for you, and in that case, you'll want to play with folks who have little desire for your side... it takes all kinds, and all kinds are out there.

It is also the case that there is no necessary relation between whether someone is dominant or submissive in everyday life and whether they are a top or a bottom. Some of the most domineering executives secretly love being abased and abused... it's a chance for them to lose control, to give up responsibility. And some of the most quiet, meek, shy-looking people you've ever seen turn into demonic geniuses of pain and pleasure when given someone to play with. Endless variety.

It's not at all unheard of for someone who's done only one thing (for example, bottoming) to one day start feeling the urge to top, or vice versa. People change, preferences change, it's nothing unusual. This, though, leads into the next question....

How can I learn to be a good top?

When first getting into the scene, it can often be somewhat intimidating to try playing with SM for the first time, especially if neither of you have done it before. Here's this wonderful person, who wants you to dominate them. You tie them up, and they're helpless, wriggling with anticipation and lust... and now what do you do?

Play with them! There are all kinds of common objects that produce intense and enjoyable sensations when applied to a helpless lover. Combs for dragging across the skin, feathers for tickling a frantic foot, clothespins (use a couple or use many in artistic rows--these can be as intense as you want to make them!), ice cubes, chocolate syrup, strawberries (ever see 9 1/2 Weeks?), leather belts for slapping or spanking, hairbrushes for scuffing or beating, and of course your own fingers, mouth, genitals, and everything else. Enjoy taking your time with your willing victim; drive them to distraction, then bring them to the edge of ecstasy, then back off and make them beg for more!

Remember, you can set the mood as you wish. You can be playful, amused at your own ineptitude even while your bottom is moaning with desire. You can be stern and commanding, sympathetic but nasty, jolly yet sadistic--anything you please. As long as you focus your attention on your bottom, your bottom will have a great time! Relax, go with the flow, and if you stop enjoying it, call safeword--tops can use safewords too.

Of course, there's no need to feel like you need to put all your attention into pleasing your bottom; what's a good slave for if not for pleasing their master? I've several times played with my girlfriend and used her for my own selfish pleasure, giving little attention to hers--and she loved it! But there is no doubt that with pleasure it is as good to give as to receive. Just remember, communicate, be sensitive to what your bottom is feeling, and you'll have no problem.

The one thing that is quite important to remember as a top is that you are responsible for your bottom. As you begin playing with SM, you may well be placing your bottom in situations in which he or she is physically helpless and/or emotionally vulnerable. It is important that you recognize they are placing a great deal of trust in you, and in your ability to handle any situations that may come up. If you're in the middle of a hot scene, and suddenly someone unexpectedly bangs on the door, you may both be startled and shocked--but your bottom will be immediately looking to you for protection. If something happens that you didn't expect, take care of your bottom first -- reassure them that you're not going to let anything happen to them, and then deal with the problem calmly and sensitively.

And don't be limited by preconceptions of what you "ought" to be doing, or worries about how you're not topping "correctly". If you start to feel pressured or insecure, take a step back, and ask yourself what you want out of the scene. Sometimes, when I've been bottoming for my girlfriend, she hasn't been in the mood to play with me sexually--so she made me her slave and commanded me to... bathe her and wash her! This was lots of relaxed fun for both of us, and it let her unwind enough to keep playing the way she wanted to play. Be honest, not only with your bottom, but with yourself. And if you are in the middle of a scene, and suddenly your honesty says "I don't want to be doing this" or "I don't know what my partner wants, or even what I want," then by all means stop the scene--gracefully if possible. Better that than for the scene to drag on until both of you are sick of it.

If you still don't have any ideas, and if your bottom is really hot to trot, you can always start playing with your bottom and getting them excited in whatever way you know how, and demand that they tell you a fantasy of theirs, or you'll stop. Talking dirty to each other --trading hot fantasies, knowing that you can make then happen if you want to--is the best way I know of getting ideas for scenes. This actually goes for ALL sexual play, whether it involves SM or not!

If you want detailed descriptions of positions, possible scenes, and so forth, you would do well to find a copy of Sensual Magicor SM 101. See the resource list at the end of the third part of this FAQ (and order some mail-order catalogs of SM books; lots of ideas!). Or, post with your questions to, asking for any and all suggestions.

How can I learn to be a good bottom?

It can also be hard to learn to bottom, if what you're used to is topping. Giving up control, surrendering, can be a difficult thing, when you're used to holding the reins in your hands. If you find yourself manipulating your top, trying to coerce them into giving you what you want, then you're what is called a "pushy bottom"--a bottom who is not really submitting, but just trying to turn the situation around to the way they want it to go.

Some tops get off on bottoms who are defiant or subtly disobedient, and use it as an excuse to punish; but for other tops, especially inexperienced ones, it can be anything but fun. Making your top feel like they don't know what they're doing is no fun for either of you; I know, I've been there, as the pushy bottom. The solution? The next time you play, tell yourself that you are the top's property, that their will is yours, and that your deepest desire is to please them. Before, if they did something you didn't like, you might have suggested they try it another way; now, they are doing exactly what they want to be doing, and you are grateful they're doing it. Let go of your urges to be in control; surrender to them, and let them have their way with you. I guarantee you will have a lot more fun than when you were trying to top from the bottom--I know I did!

If you are still not quite getting what you want, as a bottom, this solution may not last very long; you will probably want to talk to your top about what your needs and desires are, and about how you can both have fun getting to them. But the time to negotiate about what your bottom fantasies are, and how you might want to manifest them, is not necessarily while you're in the middle of a scene which you've pre-negotiated. Don't get into the "Oh, yes, Mistress, anything you want--um, uh, Mistress, you're not quite doing it right!" trap. (Can you tell I speak from experience here?)

Relax, and respond. Quite often a top will enjoy topping you because of your reactions--the way you wriggle, and squirm, and cry out. If you clench every muscle and strive to endure without giving any sign that you're feeling anything, your top may get frustrated with the lack of feedback. Let yourself feel. And don't hold your breath! Or rather, don't forget to breathe. (If, of course, you negotiated a "stoic endurance" scene, that's different. But don't feel you have to act that way. I like it when my bottoms struggle--they have a safeword if they need it....)

Of course, nothing is cut-and-dried; just because you're on the bottom doesn't mean you're a puppet. But there is a big difference between being open and communicative, and trying to force things in your preferred direction. A good bottom is one who is enthusiastic, devoted to their top's pleasure, willing to surrender to their top's will, open about their own desires (in a respectful manner, of course), and happy to be bottoming.

There's a piece of common wisdom that's been around the scene for a long time, which is: the best tops are those who started at the bottom. I believe it's true. If you have been there, felt the bite of the whip, struggled to get free as you were brought slowly and teasingly to orgasm, tranced out as the sensation from the clothespins washed over and through you... then you will be much better able to guide someone else through that intensely magical space as a top, because you will literally have been there. Plus, starting as a bottom means you'll pick up a lot of hands-on (if you will) experience! (And as with any generalized statement about SM, there are plenty of people whose mileage varies; bottoms who've never topped and never want to, or tops who've never gone under and are still damn good. But even such tops often experiment with sensations on themselves before trying them with their bottoms.)

Why is bondage fun?

Lots of reasons. For many people, the knowledge that they are helpless, that someone else can do things with their body and they can't prevent them, is a powerful turn-on. "I'm going to make you come and there's nothing you can do about it." It's a very strong statement of trust to let someone bind you helplessly, or even non-helplessly. How erotic, to feel yourself spread open, wanton and wet, and to see your lover kneeling between your legs, ready to use you for their pleasure--or to pleasure you unendurably....

For others, the simple sensation of bondage feels good. Tight constriction can create very intense stimulation, and lots of tight bondage can be a sensory trip, just as a whipping scene can be. Bondage can feel comforting, pleasantly confining; you don't need to worry about anything, since what can you do? You're all tied up, and all that's left is to enjoy.

For yet others, it's a charge to struggle, to let your body lose control. It can really intensify an orgasm when you come with every muscle straining against your bonds, trying to get your hands free to smash your lover's face into your crotch, your body shaking. If you weren't tied down you'd hurt yourself!

For me, it's all three of these reasons. :-)

An especially intense form of bondage is verbal bondage: putting your bottom in some position (spread-eagled, kneeling, whatever) and commanding them not to move... and then tormenting them! One kinky variation on this is as follows: have your bottom hold their hands out in front of them, fingers splayed, each fingertip touching the opposite fingertip. Put a penny between each pair of fingertips so they're holding five pennies. Now order them not to let a single one drop, on pain of some punishment or other, and then go to work! This works best on a hard floor so you can hear the coin drop.

There are a bunch of common-sense things to know about if you want to get into bondage. Most of these are pretty obvious, but they're stated here because that's what a FAQ's for! The basic idea, though, is to experiment. The first few times you won't really know what you're doing, and that's fine! Take your time trying different positions, different kinds of rope, whatever. And if you've got a new idea that you want to try out before your big date... well, why not try it on yourself? If you can get into a position comfortably, you can probably make your bottom comfortable in that position!

Make sure your bottom's extremities don't start getting cold or turning blue; those are both sure signs that blood isn't flowing the way it ought to, and that isn't what you want to have happen. If your bottom's hands are bound inside mittens or some other place that's not accessible to you, ask them to wiggle their fingers or toes or whatever and see if they're losing any feeling. It can be tricky to tie someone up without making it too tight; in general, a good rule is to tie loosely with lots of turns of rope. You can tighten such a tie with just another turn around all the rest, and it can be a real drag to have a bottom's foot fall asleep in the middle of a scene; this kind of thing can feel very annoying and distracting, and can make it hard for your bottom to concentrate on what you are making them feel.

Silk scarves, bandannas, etc. also have this problem with tightening under tension; sometimes they get so tight they have to be cut off. If you're a novice, you may want to avoid these hassles by purchasing a pair of basic ankle and wrist cuffs (in leather, velcro, or whatever) at an adult toy store; and if you get embarrassed, remember the old standby excuse: "It's a gag wedding gift!"

Handcuffs are sexy, but they can also be a pain. Shoddy cuffs (the kind you buy at the sporting goods store) are liable to break while being worn--then you have to file them off. If you want to play with handcuffs, get a good quality pair; the usual brand is Peerless, and they'll cost about $30, with a double lock so you can snap them on and then lock them so they won't get tighter under pressure (as cheap cuffs will). Handcuffs are also bare metal, and aren't good to struggle against, as they can easily pinch nerves... padded, buckling bondage cuffs are better for those sorts of games.

Do not leave a bound person alone. Though it is a hot fantasy to tie someone up in some precarious position (possibly with vibrators or other devices buzzing away) and leave them to stew, in reality you must consider: what if the house is burgled? catches on fire? earthquake? any sort of emergency? Fun is fun, but a helpless person is just that: helpless. A willing partner is too precious to take risks with.

Be very careful about tying anything around the neck; anything that puts any pressure AT ALL on the front of the neck can lead to unconsciousness quickly, as the carotid arteries go right to the brain. Likewise be careful with gags or things tied in the mouth; as well as restricting breathing, they can trigger a gag reflex, which could be really nasty if the bottom can't get the gag out. See the advice in question 3 on safewords for use while gagged.

Also, be aware that if someone is standing for any length of time in any sort of tight bondage, it can lead to less circulation to their head; if you suddenly do something intense to that person, it may trigger a headrush which could easily result in a faint. Always use hooks which can be released instantly even with the bottom's full weight on them (these are sometimes called "panic snaps" and can be found in good hardware stores), and keep a pair of bandage scissors handy in case ropes or straps need to be cut loose.

Be careful what you tie your bottom to; if an exposed water pipe is handy, be aware it may heat up. Likewise with candles; be careful when you're waving flame around someone who's bound, as they can't flinch the way unbound people can.

If you don't have anything handy to tie someone to, you can always tie their wrists behind their back and then to their waist. Or if your bed doesn't hae any posts, you can wrap ropes around the legs of the bed and spread-eagle your bottom that way. In general, there are a million ways to tie someone up, and a little practice--on your bottom or on yourself!--will let you improvise in almost any situation.

Below I list a few sorts of common bondage devices mentioned here in stories and postings. If you read a term here which you don't understand, write me and I'll add a description.

Mummification or Cocooning: About the most complete form of bondage is to wrap someone up so they are completely immobile. The most popular way to mummify someone is with plastic wrap. A common technique is to wrap each limb separately, then wrap the arms to the sides, and then wrap the legs together--and then help the bottom lie down on an adjacent soft surface. You can then cut holes (carefully!) to access any especially sensitive areas, or wrap duct tape over it all for extra security, or add gags, blindfolds, etc. One way the body releases heat is by sweating, and while mummified you can't sweat too much, so make sure your bottom doesn't overheat--and have a blanket ready to cover them with when you cut them out of their cocoon, using the bandage scissors (obtainable from medical supply stores--one flat blade makes cutting easier) which you of course have ready to hand. And as always, monitor your bottom very carefully; they are helpless, and your neglect or inattention could spell disaster.

Hoods: Many leather stores and artisans make bondage hoods. These are typically constricted of leather or rubber. Some have simple zippers, and you zip them up to secure them. Others have laces on the back and/ or the sides, to enable the hood to be laced more tightly, for greater bondage effect. Some hoods have eye holes, some don't. Some hoods have mouth holes, some don't. Some deluxe hoods have built-in earmuffs or even space for earphones, for sensory deprivation. Almost all hoods have nose holes, for obvious reasons. Hoods can restrict a bottom's breathing quite seriously, and tops must remain continually aware of their bottom's condition while their bottom is wearing a hood--especially if the hood is combined with any form of gag. Do not leave a hooded bottom alone; breathing difficulty can come on quickly. Some people believe that any hood without a zipper or other extra-quick-release mechanism is too dangerous to use on a bottom. In any case, you should have some bandage scissors at the ready if the hood needs to be removed in a big hurry.

Bodybags: If you like being bound, the ultimate extreme is bondage which encompasses your entire body, leaving you with no motion whatever. Bondage bodybags (or "sleepsacks") resemble a well-tailored, snug sleeping bag, often made out of leather or spandex. Spandex bodybags are the least expensive, and if made from heavy enough spandex can be very restrictive indeed. Often bodybags have an opening at the upper end, through which you slide your feet, pulling the bag up to your neck. Many have other openings for genitals or nipples, so your botttom can be pleasured or tortured while immobile. Leather bodybags can be arbitrarily complex (and expensive); some have built-in internal arm sleeves to further minimize motion, or suspension straps so the bag, bottom and all, can be lifted into the air. Some have laces around the outside so the bag can be cinched to a downright painful tightness. If you really have money to burn, you can even get inflatable rubber bodybags--get in it and pump it up, and float away! Caveats about breathing and quick- release apply here as well.

Hobble skirts: Fetish clothing is often designed not just to look good and feel good, but to act almost as bondage in its own right. Hobble skirts are a perfect example: they are simply skirts which fit very snugly from waist down to ankles. Often the wearer can take steps of only a few inches while wearing the skirt (thus the term "hobble skirt"). When combined with a pair of high heels, these skirts can be almost totally immobilizing, even without any other bondage. Leather or rubber are (again) the typical materials, though some dedicated tailors make their own from velvet or satin or other sensuous materials.

Armbinders: Restraints, typically leather, that bind both arms behind the back. Some resemble large gloves that pull up over both arms and buckle around the shoulders. Others are straps that go down the middle of the back and have attached wrist cuffs. In general, there are lots of kinds of bondage gear, and you can even invent your own....

Why is whipping fun?

One way of thinking about whipping is as another way of touching someone. People who are just getting into SM frequently play with spanking; it's fun to be spanked! It's a punishment, it's a strong stimulus, it hurts very pleasurably. But if you've ever spanked anyone for a long time you know that your spanking hand wears out quickly!

Well, that's what whips are for--to allow you to hit someone for a longer time, without tiring out. There are many varieties of whips (cat-o-nine tails, heavy floggers, canes, light braided switches, suede pussy whips, and on and on), all of which feel very different and which have their own individual effect. A whip-loving top will often carry a veritable arsenal of different floggers, but they are all extensions of the top's touch. Indeed, when I whip or cane someone, I feel as though I am touching them--as though the instrument is an extension of my arm and my desire.

There are deeper reasons why the variety is so diverse. A whipping scene will often start off very lightly, with the top using a small whip to sensitize the bottom and get them into the rhythm of the scene, switching to heavier and heavier whips as the bottom gets deeper and deeper, more and more receptive to additional sensation. Of course, the top may choose to lead the bottom on any kind of tactile journey the top desires--switching from stinging light switches to biting canes to soft fleeces. (Yes, it can feel great when your top stops hitting you and suddenly brushes a velvet cloth against your back! Or maybe an ice cube....) It's all about physical sensation.

Quite often people in the scene describe whips as being "thuddy" or "stingy". Thuddy whips land with a solid impact; they shove you, they feel like a cross between a hug and a punch. Stingy whips land with a bite; they feel like a cross between a scratch and a slap. Both kinds of sensation are enjoyable in different ways, and a skilled top can alternate thud and sting (and then some!) to create waves of sensation that wash their bottom into ecstasy.

Most people enjoy a slow buildup when being whipped. This can culminate in an explosive climax of impacts, leaving both top and bottom drained and delighted. Or it can wind down gently, ending casually. Or it can stop feeling good suddenly, resulting in a safweord. Or it can turn into a galloping intense sex scene! But the general "start slow, build up, end intensely" tempo is common to many SM scenes: from gentle to stronger to wow and then back to gentle, then a little stronger, then WOW... and gentle again. It's the motion of the ocean, as they say. It takes practice to know how to use this to blow your bottom's mind, but the more you learn, the more skilled you will be, and believe me, these skills-- teasing your partner and making them feel better and better and better--are very useful in non-SM contexts as well!

Whips aren't the end of the story. Some people use paddles--of leather or wood, sometimes with holes cut in them to decrease air resistance and make for a harder impact. Paddles produce a solid "smack!" which can feel like a super-powerful spanking. Some players like canes, which can be thick or thin, stiff or relatively flexible. Canes can produce some of the strongest impacts of all--the "whick!" of a quick-moving cane is distinctive. Not everyone can handle the intensely focused pain canes can produce, but those who can tend to greatly enjoy it. Wooden spoons and kitchen spatulas have been pressed into service as instruments of flagellation. For a while, Nerf bats were very popular in some San Francisco parties I went to. (Bonk!) If none of this makes any sense to you, well, if you have to ask, you might not understand.

Whipping or spanking is sometimes used as part of a "punishment" scene, in which the pretext for the scene is that the bottom has been disobedient or naughty in some way which requires chastisement. This can be fun to do as role-playing, but it may not work in a more long-term D&S dynamic. Bottoms often find it erotic to receive non-damaging sensation from their top--and of course any scene causing permanent damage is not safe nor sane. If your bottom learns that the best way to get enjoyably beaten is to misbehave, you will have a very bad bottom on your hands. It is often then best to separate "play" punishments--which are intended to be fun-- from "real" punishments involving seriously broken agreements. Here is where reality and fantasy need to be delicately separated, and here is where the real world differs from S&M fiction.

When whipping someone, be careful. Heavy whipping is usually done on the back or ass, simply because those are the parts of the body which can take it most readily. Be careful of hitting the spine, which can break the skin where the vertebrae come close to the surface. Stay away from the kidneys, as kidney damage can occur if you hit them too hard. Stay away from the neck, for the same reasons you avoided the spine.

Be aware that if you hit someone hard enough (which may be lighter than you'd think) you will bruise them, and if you keep going you can break the skin, which is decidedly unsafe sex; and leather or string whips are tough to clean. For this reason, some dedicated masochists have their own toys which have come in contact with their blood, and henceforth can be used only on them. Whippings like this are very strenuous, but as with all SM, you can start out light and get only as heavy as you want! Bruises will heal (even large ones), as will light cuts or abrasions, but you should know how to avoid unintended damage that won't be so accomodating.

One thing to watch for (a distant risk, but worth knowing): melanoma, a form of skin cancer, can be worsened by skin trauma. If you see a mole on your bottom's back that looks uneven, discolored, or different than it used to, avoid that area, and have them see a dermatologist.

There have been posts on a.s.b that go into MUCH more detail about the hows and whys of flogging. If you want to know more, post to a.s.b and ask, or check out the resources. (This FAQ is not intended to be comprehensive in every area... though it would be nice....)

What is body piercing? What is "C&B" play, or "genitorture"?

Piercings aren't just done to ears. People on this list have their nipples, navels, eyebrows, clitoris hoods, penises, labia, and other body parts pierced, and bits of metal permanently in the piercings. These are the bare facts, but this practice, it turns out, has a lot to do with SM.

Getting a piercing, first of all, is an incredibly intense rush, on a purely physical level. It's a very powerful thing to willingly have someone push a sharp piece of metal through your body. It can be a level of sensation beyond any you've experienced in your life.

Once you have the piercing, it can completely change the way that part of the body feels to you. One friend of mine said that his nipple piercings turned his nipples from little places that felt OK to full-fledged erotic zones connected right to his cock. He calls his nipple piercings the best thing he's ever done for his body and his sex life, and he seems damn sincere! The same goes for all the piercings in the genital area; they can really make sex more fun! There is some medical evidence that nerves around the pierced location become much more sensitive, so this isn't mere folklore. In case it wasn't clear, once a piercing heals, it doesn't hurt at all; quite the opposite!

Some people get into play piercings, which are done temporarily with very thin needles, which are removed at the end of the scene. This is basically another kind of sensory trip, which some find very enjoyable. The needles don't hurt, exactly, but you certainly do know they're in there, and they sure do get those endorphins pumping!

You don't want to try permanent piercings unless you've been personally trained by a professional; there is a lot of knowledge involved, and you definitely don't want to get stuck with a bad piercing. Play piercings are less hardcore, but you still want to make sure you know sterile technique (remember safe sex!).

Does nipple piercing cause problems with nursing? Sometimes yes, sometimes no; there are stories both ways. There are many milk ducts in an average nipple, so the chances are good that nursing can still happen, but nothing is certain.

For more information about piercings, see rec.arts.bodyart (or possibly later editions of this FAQ).

"C&B play" stands for cock & ball play. "Genitorture" stands for "genital torture". This is a subject that makes some men clutch their nuts and run in fear, and makes other men instantly erect and greedy for more. The male genitals are at once the most vulnerable and most sensitive part of the male body, so of course many tops enjoy playing with them.

Cockrings are rings that go around your cock, typically around the base of it, behind the balls. The penis becomes erect when the blood vessels at its base constrict (because of arousal), trapping blood in the cock and causing it to swell. Cock rings have a similar effect, prolonging erection in most men that use them. (They also constrict the urethra, which will make any orgasm more painful, or even cause ejaculate to back up into the bladder. This is not dangerous unless done repeatedly. Experiment to find out how much tightness is too much.)

Most are made of leather, with adjustable snaps, so you can tighten or loosen them to fit (as well as remove them easily). Some are made of rubber. Some are even made of metal, but metal ones can be hazardous; if you put a too-small one on your non-erect cock, your cock may become so erect that you can no longer remove it--and if it is too tight, it will prevent your cock from softening. This may involve a trip to the emergency room and the use of bolt cutters. No joke. Some cock rings have multiple rings, for behind the balls, around the balls themselves, and around the base of the shaft. Some people like using lots of cock rings, to stretch the balls out away from the body.

Safety tips: The broadest guideline is to go slowly until you know how much you can take. If the pain from a particular activity starts to spread into other areas of the body, or if the pain lasts for a long time after the stimulation ends, you have probably gone beyond your limits. You won't reach this point generally if you take your time. As with any SM practice, if you find yourself in pain later, or if you notice any abnormalities in your cock or balls when flaccid or erect, see a doctor. Of course, avoid any practice that seriously wrenches or twists the genitals; there are many ligaments and blood vessels in there, damage to which may make it hard for you to get hard. But the cock and balls can handle light whipping or slapping, provided it is done with care.

Of course, cock and ball bondage can be done with leather strips, ribbons, velvet cords, etc. Be as ornamental as you please; tying up an erect cock can create a luscious work of art, and teasing it can be even more artistic. Don't expect C&B bondage to keep a cock hard indefinitely; cocks will usually get soft if not stimulated, and bondage which will keep it hard may be dangerously tight. In any event, be sure you can remove your bondage quickly, as always.

A great deal can also be done with female genitalia. Some women love having clothespins on their pussy lips; some love light whipping on their outer labia, or even their clitoris. Sometimes body piercings can be used for bondage; labia piercings can hold a pussy open very delightfully, or clit hood piercings can be tied up out of the way with thread, leaving the clit naked and exposed. Some women like soft fur on their pussy; others like to be alternately soothed and tormented until they can stand no more.

Again, go slowly. Do not blow into the vagina, whatever else you do. Don't leave clamps on very long until you know how much your partner enjoys (and how it will feel to her the next day when the scene is over). Too much of one kind of sensation can become irritating quickly; change the stimulation, keep your bottom aroused and surprised. There are all sorts of things that can be used on female genitals; one article I have lists "bamboo skewers, candles, cheese graters, clips, flyswatter, ice cubes, knives, latex squares, leather thongs, massage bongers, rabbit fur, ropes, scalp scrubber, silk, spoons, towels, weights, and whips" as items that can be useful in giving your bottom's genitals a ride they won't forget. (And no, you don't do this until you cause real damage, any more than you do with male genitals. Don't be scraping, scabbing, or scarring--these are the most sensitive parts of the body you're playing with!)

Communication is paramount in female genital play; women's pussies vary as much as any other part of womens' bodies (or more), and responses will vary equally dramatically. In general, the same sort of rhythm discussed in the whipping section is useful in cunt play, though if anything the top needs to go even more slowly, as the sensations will be more intense and focused than in almost any other kind of sensation scene.

One final tidbit: apparently, for many women, a common pre-orgasmic response is for the clit to retreat into its hood. If you are giving your partner some very delicious sensation (possibly combined with some just-right pain) and her clit disappears, don't stop! (Unless you want to avoid her orgasm... don't push this too far, unless your bottom's feet are tied down--she may kick.) And know your limits; if your bottom really wants an orgasm to end the scene, giving her one may make her extremely grateful to you, and waiting too long may burn you both out. This is good stuff to negotiate about beforehand in any scene--how would you like the scene to end? Breaking such an agreement will engender mistrust, but honesty, as always, will help everyone get what they want.

What is cutting/burning/branding?

Just what they sound like. Cutting is having someone cut you, carefully and lovingly, in the context of a scene. Burning is playing with fire, whether it's molten wax, candles, or alcohol. Branding is... well... branding! They're all very intense SM trips that can be an incredible amount of fun if you enjoy them, just like all SM. They are, of course, extremely severe and possibly dangerous, but they're not the kind of things novices tend to get right into.

Molten wax can be mild or intense. The higher you hold the candle, the cooler the drops will be--to a certain extent. They'll definitely make your bottom yelp no matter what! Don't use beeswax candles, though--they melt at a much higher temperature. If you like hot wax, you might like ice cubes, too....

I'm considering including safety information about cutting, but since there doesn't seem to be much demand for it I haven't written any up yet. If you want to know more, see The Lesbian S/M Safety Manual (in the resource list at the end of part 3). The best safety advice: be taught by someone who knows how to do cuttings safely. This is literally edge play.

Electrical play is using electricity of one form or another to generate sensation. This is another advanced form of play which can be fatal (lethal, deadly, murderous) if done improperly. Any electrical play that involves current flowing through the body should ONLY BE DONE BELOW THE WAIST; any current above the waist or through the heart can induce immediate cardiac arrest.

There are two main kinds of electrical toys I've seen. One is a TENS unit (Trans-Electric Nerve Stimulator, or something like that); these units typically are battery-powered, with control of pulse intensity and pulse frequency, and two leads that can be attached to electric cock rings, dildoes, or what have you. These can produce sensations ranging from a mild tingle to a thrilling trembling buzz to a serious jolt. The other sort of toy is known as a "violet wand"; these rather resemble hand-held power tools with little glass bulbs sticking out of one end. When turned on, the bulb glows violet and crackles; touching it will cause static sparks to jump to your skin, with an associated "zap!" and a sharp shock. These do not send current through the body, and are safe for use anywhere except the eyes--though prolonged use will burn the skin.

What is it about breath control? Is it safe to make someone pass out?

Some people enjoy playing with cutting off their air during heavy scenes. This can be as simple as squeezing someone's neck while you kiss them deeply, or as complex as a full-head latex hood and gas mask over a straitjacket. As your air is cut off, you can feel sensation more intensely; it is also a deeply intimate thing to allow someone else to be in control of the very air you breathe. One simple explanation is that the body's natural reaction as orgasm approaches is shallow, rapid breathing--just like in breath control.

Needless to say, there are many things that can go very wrong; if you pass out and someone isn't there to cut you loose and make sure you're breathing, you can die. Not for novices. One simple way to start is to try squeezing your lover's neck gently as you make love to them. If it feels good, they will let you know, most demonstratively. And you can stop instantly just by letting go. In any form of breath control, it is critical that all equipment be fail-safe, and that the bottom's breathing is only impaired by the top's direct action--not by anything (noose, gas mask, etc) that would continue to obstruct air if the top (for example) fainted suddenly.

Many people die each year practicing "autoerotic asphyxiation"--wherein someone will masturbate while restricting their own breathing, and one night they wait too long to take the bag off their head or release the pressure on their neck, and they black out and die. Some think, "Well, just play with a partner, then, if you want to black out." However, losing consciousness, even for a moment, can trigger cardiac arrest. This is why making your bottom black out is almost certainly a much riskier idea than you would think.

The same goes for anesthesia. Sometimes people think, "Hmm, it'd be hot if I could drug my play partner--like in the movies--and she'd wake up all bound!" Even if your play partner likes this idea, don't do it. There is no safe way to force someone into unconsciousness; anesthesiologists spend their lives learning how to do it, with the best equipment, and still mishaps occur. Don't play with ether, or chloroform, or suffocation to unconsciousness... unless you and your partner really want to take a substantial risk of death. More experienced people than you have died.

What are "golden showers"? How about "scat"?

Another kind of play, also known as "water sports". Basically, some people enjoy urinating on their lovers, or having their lovers piss on them. Pissing is really a very intimate thing; your urine is a part of you, it's warm and wet, it feels good to let it out, it comes from your genitals. Some get a thrill of power from having someone bound beneath them who can do nothing but take it as the shower lets loose; others get off on being made to pee, to wet their pants, it's naughty and they need to be punished for it.

Safety-wise, urine is essentially sterile; it's not necessarily free of HIV, so it's not safer sex to drink someone else's urine. Also, urine contains mostly salts that your body is trying to eliminate, so drinking it again will strain your kidneys. If you're drinking urine, make sure to drink lots of water as well.

Some people are into scat play, which is playing with shit. I don't know any who are, but they're out there. Scat is obviously even less safe than water sports; in particular, hepatitis and intestinal parasites can be spread by oral contact with even a tiny bit of feces. People who enjoy rimming (oral-anal contact) should be aware of this, and clean themselves very thoroughly at the least, although even thorough cleaning will not eliminate all risk. For more on this, see the next question.

Hope you learned something! Remember, your sexuality is wonderful; treasure it and nourish it! (And see parts 2 and 3 if you haven't already!)

Contents copyright (c) 1994 by Rob Jellinghaus. Redistribution of this FAQ from to any BBS or other electronic forum, or to the newsletter or membership of any BDSM organization, requires permission of the author. Copies for individual use are OK. (This clause is mainly so I can keep some track of where my words are going, rather than because I like to litigate. Thanks for spreading the knowledge.)

Rob Jellinghaus

Converted into HTML format by E. Lloyd Olson, Esq.