Bondage (BDSM)

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'Sexual Bondage is the act (art?) of restraining a partner for the purpose of sexually exciting their partner, in anticipation of a sexual act.

The phrase Sexual Bondage is used to differentiate bondage for the purposes of sex (consentual) as opposed to bondage for incarceration of restraint or sex (non-consensual).

It is worth noting that bondage has sexual appeal to persons of both sexes and all sexual orientations. However, a subculture of gay men, sometimes called leathermen, were arguably among the first group to make obvious hints of their tastes in bondage in public.


The growth of the gay leather subculture parallels the biker culture that arose after World War II -- a number of early leathermen were WWII veterans, and the military traditions of discipline and structure were an important influence in Old Guard leather. While the bikers were not identified as homosexual, the leathermen admired their toughness, tenacity, and willingness to ignore mainstream social mores. Consequently, they adopted the biker style of dress, particularly the use of black leather. While this served a utilitarian purpose for the bikers, in providing warmth and protection from "road rash", it was primarily of fashion and fetishistic value to the leathermen, who for the most part did not ride motorcycles extensively (although there have been and are numerous gay leather motorcycle clubs).


Beginning in the late 1960s, heterosexual groups began to come together to explore bondage and power exchange. With time, these groups have grown and have raised their profile somewhat, to the point where most U.S. cities of any size have one or more such groups. A major goal of most of these groups is to provide semi-public opportunities for BDSM, in an effort to provide a safe environment for relative strangers to engage in such activities. As such, these groups attach high importance to objective safety rules, such as the use of safewords.

Couples and bondage

Although reliable data is unavailable, the financial success of companies that market bondage equipment testifies to the fact that it is more than fantasy to many; it is plausible that a sizeable proportion of couples have made regular use of bondage in their sexual activities at some point in their relationships. This is especially plausible considering that common household items can be used for play, such as rope for restraint or a padlock for a ball lock.

For the most part, such bondage games end in sex. In contrast, bondage games between more casually acquainted players in the BDSM subculture frequently end in masturbation only, or in some cases include no sexual release at all.

Safety rules followed by couples in a committed relationship are frequently more subjective and trust-based. These differences can lead to culture clash where a couple with a history of bondage games together encounters the BDSM subculture: the couple can't understand the insistence on safewords, while the members of the subculture can't understand the focus on sexual intercourse.

Bondage erotica

Studies of men's sexual fantasies have shown that the fantasy of being bound during intercourse is second in frequency only to the basic fantasy of sex with a voluptuous nude woman. Consequently, it should be no surprise that bondage themes have been present in pornography for some time.

Bondage pornography for heterosexual men almost overwhelmingly depicts bound women, rather than bound men, despite the most common fantasy in both sexes being one of being bound.

There are also a few male bondage models in heterosexual erotica, but most male bondage models appear in homosexual erotica. A small yet profitable niche of male-in-bondage erotica includes men cross-dressed and in bondage that caters toward heterosexual men.


Early examples of bondage erotica include

Technique

Purpose-made bondage gear, such as monogloves, sleepsacks, bondage hooks and bondage tables.

  • Some simple bondage techniques:
    • Verbal bondage, in which (as the name suggests) the top simply tells the bottom to do something.
    • Simply tying the hands together in front or behind.
    • Anchoring the hands to the front, back or sides of a belt at the waist.
    • A spread eagle, with the limbs splayed out and fastened by wrists and ankles to bedposts, door frame or some other anchoring point.
    • A hogtie securing each wrist to its corresponding ankle behind the back (wider, padded restraints such as bondage cuffs are recommended for this).
    • The crotch rope involves pulling a rope between the labia to apply pressure to the female genitals. Sometimes a knot is placed in the rope at the position of the clitoris to intensify the sensation.
  • Some more complex techniques:
    • The reverse prayer position (not recommended unless the subject has flexible shoulders).
    • An over-arm tie, in which the arms are brought over the head, and the wrists fastened together behind the head and then by a length of rope, chain or strapping to a belt at the waist.
  • There are also some common fantasy settings in which bondage is often played:
    • Rape fantasy: The top fictitiously abducts the consenting bottom and has complete control to do what he/she pleases.
    • Domination/slavery: A training session occurs in which rewards for obedience and punishment for defiance are given. Humiliation is usually involved.
    • Predicament bondage: The bottom is given a choice between two tortures. For example, caning on the rear or flogging on the chest. If the bottom cannot stand one any longer, the top will start the other. This can also be done mechanically, like having a bottom squat and rigging a crotch rope to tighten if they attempt to stand.

Bondage is often combined with other sexual and BDSM techniques. See list of bondage positions and list of bondage equipment for more details.


Technique in self-bondage is more complex, involving special methods to apply the bondage to oneself, and also to effect a release after a lapsed period of time. Self-bondage is also notably risky: see the safety notes below.


Why bondage?

People who find it erotic to be tied up find it so for a variety of reasons:

The most frequently cited reason is a mental freedom from inhibitions and responsibility since they have, in a way, given up control of the sexual situation to follow. This is sometimes referred to as a "power exchange."
Some like the tactile feeling of restraint, that is, the feeling of pressure or pulling.

Some enjoy the feeling of helplessness for its own sake. Some like to struggle aggressively against their bonds, particularly when being sexually or otherwise stimulated. There are some in this category who play bondage games that do not include a significant sexual component.

To intensify the experience of orgasm control or of orgasm denial.
Some derive pleasure from symbolic degradation (less common). People who enjoy role playing prison or mental hospital situations probably fit best in this category.
Fetishistic interest in the mechanics of bondage, with particular interest in the equipment and restraints used. Some of these people are interested in the look, feel, and aroma of leather and rubber restraints. Others are fascinated by the relationship between the geometry of the tie, the degrees of freedom remaining and the feelings elicited.

As an adjunct to other BDSM activities

Like hang gliding or mountaineering, some feel that bondage allows them to do something potentially dangerous in a safe way.

Extreme forms of bondage such as mummification some people enjoy because it is like being placed in a sensory deprivation tank and may allow the person being placed in extreme bondage to experience an out-of-body experience.

In the wide range of human sexual experience, there are probably a few other reasons.

People who enjoy tying other people up are motivated by a variety of reasons, including: Taking pleasure in the erotic submission of their partner

The feeling of trust which comes from another person placing their physical freedom in their hands Wishing to please their partner, and the stimulation engendered by their partner's pleasure in it Fetishistic interest in the elegance of bondage, with particular interest in the geometric patterns and symmetry (or artistic asymmetry) of the restraint

Using bondage as an adjunct to other BDSM activities

Enjoyment of the power and control one has over a restrained partner; people for whom this is a principal motivation may have trouble making it much fun for the other person.

Bondage philosophy

Perhaps the most interesting and ardent "bondage philosopher" was Michel Foucault. While it is believed Foucault had only a limited personal involvement in the practice of bondage, he wrote a number of intellectual explorations of BDSM culture. He was particularly interested in the power relations that bondage brought to the surface, and how these relations reflected upon a larger societal discourse. Of further interest was the notion of a "Limit Experience", wherein the participant attempted to navigate the line between the most intense pleasure and nearly unbearable pain. While some have derided "Limit Experience" as a perverse manifestation of the Freudian "death instinct", Focault believed bondage could provide a safe and telling environment for studying this concept.

Bondage and relationships

The mechanics of bondage are trivial compared to the relationship issues. Start with a committed relationship with a lot of trust and plenty of sexual activity together.

  • Talk things through first.
  • Start slow and easy.
  • Take turns being the one being tied up.
  • Take the simple safety precautions listed above.

Some members of the BDSM subculture take another route and seek out partners who share their interest in bondage. Many act out their bondage fantasies within the confines of private "play parties" where overt genital contact is not allowed between participants.

Some bondage practitioners go through a process often called "negotiation" with potential partners, be they long time partners or more casual relationships. Negotiation is essentially a conversation conducted well before any sexual activity has begun in which each party frankly outlines what they are interested in and what their boundaries are, and out of that shared information comes to a mutual agreement about potential bondage play in upcoming sexual activity. Although some people may find this embarrassing at first, this frank and forthright exchange allows both parties to feel confident about bondage activity and to understand their partner's needs. Due to the vast range of activities and intensities that are possible in bondage play and fetish sex, negotiation is an excellent technique to make sure both parties have realistic expectations and that the anticipated acts will be enjoyable to all involved.

Depictions of bondage in popular culture

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Bondage received a positive (if brief) treatment in The Joy of Sex, a mainstream sex manual popular in the 1970s. The publication of Madonna's book, Sex, which included photographs of bound nudes, did a great deal to improve public awareness and acceptance of bondage.

By the 1990s, references to bondage could be found in mainstream prime-time television series such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, where equipment such as handcuffs or collars and concepts such as the safeword were included as a matter of course.



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