A Bondage Hood (also called a Gimp Mask) is a fetishistic hood. It may be made from rubber, latex, PVC (Polyvinyl chloride), spandex, darlex or leather.
There are several kinds of bondage hoods. A full-face hood is designed to completely cover the head, and is thus accommodated with an opening at the back to extend the neck hole for adorning, which may be sealed up with a zip or cord. (Spandex hoods are often stretchy enough to go on without any extension of the neck hole.) Other optional openings include two eye holes (sometimes these can be closed using zips, as in an episode of the popular TV show, Family Guy), nostril openings, and a mouth opening (which is often closed with a zip or used by a gag that goes over the hood).
Spandex hoods are see-through so a blindfold is also required if the intention is to keep the person from seeing. Darlex lets very little light through, and the other materials allow virtually no light through at all (though some may get in through breathing holes for the mouth and nostrils and/or poor eye zips).
Wearing a hood is potentially extremely dangerous, as blocking all access to air will result in rapid asphyxiation. The safety warnings regarding gags also apply. It is wise to use a hood with a mouth hole and a gag over the hood that can be removed quickly.
There are also similar tight-fitting open-faced hoods which are much safer to use because they do not obstruct the wearer's breathing. One of the most popular kinds is the "ponygirl" hood which covers the wearer's entire head and neck with a large opening in front that frames the face in the manner of a medieval wimple or traditional nun's habit.
The open-faced hood, which fits snugly over the head much like a swimming cap, sometimes tapers down at the center of the wearer's forehead in a curved V-shape, thus creating a kind of heart-shaped frame for the face.
These hoods may have a small opening at the top, allowing lengthy strands of the wearer's hair to be tightly gathered, threaded through and left hanging down the back of the head as a ponytail. Other hoods of this type have no such opening for hair and instead feature a plume made of artificial strands (usually plastic or nylon) protruding from the top and down the back of the head as a kind of decorative mock-ponytail.
An animal hood is a hood designed to give the wearer the features of an animal, often a pony, dog or a pig. Animal hoods are often used as part of an animal transformation fantasy.
An executioner hood is a loose fitting leather hood covering the head and most of the face. The design is based on the hoods worn by medieval executioners to protect their identity when executing prisoners on the scaffold. Executioner hoods are typically worn by dominant men to give them a sense of menace in a scene.
Fetish hoods are hoods whose design inspirations are taken from fetish fashion and clubbing. Hoods are typically made from thin latex and can come in a endless variety of colour and designs.
A gimp mask or slave hood is an icon of BDSM imagery. Usually made from black leather, it is close-fitting amd completely covers the head. The primary purpose of the hood is to objectify the wearer, to reduce them to the status of a sexual object rather than a person. Gimp masks share many qualities of bondage hoods and isolation hoods but tend to be simpler in construction and made from thinner leather as they do not need to deaden sound or provide secure anchorage points for bondage. Many designs of slave hood will have detachable blindfolds and mouth coverings; some will have zip openings for the mouth and eyes.
As well as leather, slave hoods are available in spandex, darlex and latex.
The term gimp was brought into the mainstream by the film Pulp Fiction which featured a scene where a man wearing a gimp mask was kept in the basement of two homosexual rapists. A track on the film soundtrack has one of the rapists saying "Bring out the gimp".
An isolation hood is a more extreme version of a bondage hood. It is designed to disorientate the wearer by keeping them in total darkness and making it very difficult to hear anything. The heavy leather used in the construction of these hoods is usually enough to block out most noise. However, ear plugs can be used to block out any residual sounds that penetrate the hood. A few designs incorporate pockets to fit headphones in. This allows the dominant partner to play white noise, music, or spoken words to the the sub, for example to shut out any sounds that might otherwise be audible, to cause sleep deprivation or to reinforce a sense of humiliation verbally.
Most isolation hoods also incorporate gags to enhance the sensation of loss of control and helplessness felt by the victim. This is potentially extremely dangerous, as blocking all access to air will result in rapid asphyxiation. The safety warnings regarding gags also apply.
Part of the thrill of wearing an isolation hood is the sense of being cocooned in a dark space. For this to be effective, the hood needs to fit tightly to the head. The most common technique manufactures use is to provide a set of laces at the back of hood which can be adjusted to pull the hood tight around the victim's head. A variation is to have two sets of laces on either site of the hood. This has the advantage that the hood will have a much greater range of adjustment (the same hood could fit both a man and a woman's head) but will need to be made from a softer and more flexible leather. A less common technique is to have an inflatable bladder at the back of the hood. The hood is first zipped on to the victim; once this is done, the bladder is inflated pulling the hood tight.
Most isolation hoods focus on how they control the victim's sight or lack of. The simplest simply dispense with eye holes alltogther. Many people, for whom powerplay is important, like to control when and if their sub can see. The most common technique is to provide removable blindfolds which can be attached to the hood by velcro, press studs, or straps. An alternative design uses an outer hood which can be zipped over the inner (containing the mouth and eye holes) to prevent the sub from seeing.
A strap mask or face cage is a cross between a hood and a head harness. Instead of using solid leather panels, the body of the hood is constructed of a lattice-work of straps. Unlike a head harness, which will typically use no more than half a dozen straps, a strap mask might use up to 20 or more criss-crossing the face. Most designs use rivets to join the straps together. Although strap masks are usually worn by the submissive partner, the visual effect is more Mad Max than BDSM.
The use of bondage hoods in BDSM
Bondage hoods are most notably used in BDSM, their function being to objectify the wearer as well as providing sensory deprivation, and thus reduce them to the status of a sexual toy, rather than a sexual partner, as part of a scene. A rigid, tight-fitting hood (which typically means leather or latex) greatly reduces a gagged person's ability to make any noise at all. Ponygirl bondage hoods are often an essential fetish garment for BDSM ponyplay.
A hood can also serve the function of disguising someone's identity when desired, for example at play parties. Tight-fitting open-faced bondage hoods are sometimes worn by Dominatrices to depersonalize and erotically objectify the wearer, projecting an image of intimidating sexual power and superiority. Some feel that the aesthetic appeal of these open-faced hoods in BDSM lies in the way they define the shape of the wearer's head with a smooth, shiny, luxuriant form-fitting fabric and emphasize the dominating woman's stern and haughty expression by elegantly framing her face.
- To objectify the wearer: Beacuse they obscure the face, hoods can play a major role in objctification fantasies. For a submissive, they will reduce them to the status of a sexual toy, rather than a sexual partner. For the dominant, the hood will help make them appear more distant and impersonal, projecting an image of sexual power and superiority.
- Sensory deprivation: Heavy latex or leather hoods can be used by the dominant partner to control the sub's ability to see and hear. This will enhance the sub's feelings of helplessness and loss of control in a scene. Inbuilt gags are often used to increase still further the sense of helplessness by limiting the ability of the sub to communicate. Heavy hoods can greatly increase the efficacy of a gag, reducing the ability of the gagged person to make any sound.
- Transformation: Animal hoods can be used as part of an animal transformation fantasy, giving the wearer the features of, say, a dog. The transformation can be more abstract; hoods used in ponyplay often have holes at the top of the hood to allow long hair to be pulled through or have false hair attached to the top of the hood, forming a cascade not unlike a horse's tail.
- Visual impact: Hoods have a strong visual appeal, especially highly coloured latex designs, and are very popular as club wear.
- Total enclosure: Many fetishists are turned on by the second skin elements of fetishism; hoods form an integral part of this.
- As a bondage hood device: Hoods can encorporate attachement points for ropes and chains to secure the head as part of a bondage scene.
- To disguise the wearer: Hoods can also serve the function of disguising identity when desired, for example at play parties.
Types of hood
Because of their popularity and the multitude of reasons for wanting to wear a hood, there is a massive range of different designs available from a wide range of suppliers. This article attempts to classify hoods into a number of basic types. However, many hoods will combine elements of more than one type in their design.
- Animal hood
- bondage hood
- Executioner hood
- Face mask
- Fetish hood
- Gas mask hood
- Gimp mask or Slave hood
- Inflatable hood
- Isolation hood
- Open face hood
- Ponytail hood
- Strap mask
Buying a hood
A trawl through the web will quickly bring up a bewildering array of suppliers selling every type of hood imaginable with prices from $30 to $300. Generally you will get what you pay for, the more expensive hoods being better quality and more sophisticated in their design. Manufacturers will differ in how they go about constructing the hood, some concentrating on the quality of the stitching whilst others focus on the strength of construction. The most important thing though is the fit and this is best done by trying the hood on before buing it. If a hood is too tight it will quickly become uncomfortable and will end up not being used. If it is too loose much of the sensory delight in wearing a hood will be lost.
The most popualar materials for hoods are leather and latex. Leather due to its strength tends to be more popular for BDSM and Bondage use, latex due to it smoothness and range of colours is ever popular at fetish clubs.