Bondage Pick-Up Play “Real Talk” (aka, bondage negotiation basics)

Let’s have some “real talk.”DOWF16 00009

I’m a bondage safety geek. I have a ridiculously detailed web site that digs deep into the nuances of applying research on intraoperative positioning nerve damage to bondage-related injuries (and load of similar topics). But most of you probably don’t give a shit about all that geekery- you just want to tie people up! And sometimes, so do I.

I have lately found myself doing quite a lot of bondage/suspension pick-up play. Sometimes this is part of a formal “bondage ride” sampler-type thing, but more often it’s just something I’m doing on my own. Giving “bondage rides” suits me quite well- I’m a fluffy service top (that is said completely without sarcasm or shame) and I get off on giving people new experiences.

Negotiation is something I think about a lot. I’ve written long articles on what I consider to be “ideal” (in the sense of being thorough) negotiation for bondage- you can find those HERE and HERE, for example.

But I said we were going to have real talk, and in the real world, when I’m doing bondage pick-up play, I don’t take an hour on negotiation. I do a very focused negotiation, only asking the questions that matter most to me AND that will actually change something that I’m doing (because if the answer doesn’t change anything… why ask the question?). I don’t ask the exact same questions every time- there are always cues based on context that inform where I focus. Still, my basic pick-up play bondage negotiation has two parts: 1) Asking some basic questions, and 2) Giving some basic risk-awareness education.

I go into these negotiation having a general plan for a few relatively “fluffy” beginning rope scenes (floorwork, partial or full suspensions) I can do. I know that I’m looking for a “platonic” scene that just involves friendly tying and letting my partner experience bondage- so I start by telling them that’s my plan for the “mood” of the scene. This sets the expectations, and allows me to skip lots of questions (pertaining to, say, limits around sexual penetration or impact play) that just don’t apply to what I plan to do. For beginning bondage scenes, I avoid sexual stimulation or intense impact play (as these may interfere with the bottom’s ability to monitor their body) and I avoid rope around the upper arms (a higher risk area for nerve damage, requiring more advanced body awareness from the bottom). YMMV- these are my personal choices as a top, given my relatively low tolerance for risk and enjoyment of this type of “platonic” scene.

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Basic Questions

Anytime you’re asking questions in negotiation, you should know WHY you’re asking- what will change based on your partner’s answers? That in mind, here are the questions I ask and a quick discussion of what the answers mean to me:

  • What experience do you have with bondage?

    • What does the answer mean: Alright. Real talk. There are people who will tell you that you should NEVER do a full suspension on a bondage virgin- that the ONE TWUE WAY for someone to be a bondage bottom is to work up from floor work to partial to full suspension over the space of months (if not years). Yeah, some people will tell you that. I’m not one of them. Generally speaking- the less experience someone has with rope, the fluffier I will be. Fluffier = more rope, go slower, put less strain on their body, leave them bound for less time, etc. I think it’s important to note that while *overall* there are increased risks with suspension, floor work doesn’t automatically equal safer. I could easily do floor work that would be much riskier and more challenging than the usual fluffy beginner suspension that I do. I don’t think there’s one bondage path that’s right for everyone. That said, this is where my next question comes in:

  • Are you interested in being tied up fully on the ground, doing a partial suspension where you’re attached to a point above but still touching the ground, or a full suspension?

    • What does the answer mean: I like to err on the side of going too slow and being too fluffy. If the person is at all unsure, like “maybe I could do a full suspension… maybe a partial…” then I err on the side of scaling back.

  • Tell me about your health.

    • Why this question: I ask this in an open-ended way- asking “do you have any health problems” usually just gets you a knee-jerk “no.”

    • What does the answer mean: Detailed discussion of health for bondage can be found here.

  • Do you take any daily medications?

  • Do you have any allergies?

    • What does the answer mean: If the person has environmental allergies (grass, seasonal allergies, etc) then they may react to natural fiber rope. People may also be allergic to the oils used to process natural fiber ropes. I generally use MFP (haven’t met anyone allergic to that) but if I’m planning to use my hemp, I ask about allergies.

  • Do you have asthma or diabetes?

    • Why this question: Yes, it’s a duplicate question. Asthma and diabetes are my “big two” health concerns (fairly common and important for bondage) so I always specifically ask about them.

    • What does the answer mean: *See notation below!

  • How naked do you want to get?

    • What does the answer mean: I personally choose not to tie chest harnesses over underwire bras. If the person is wearing an underwire bra and doesn’t want to remove it, that limits our bondage choices. There are some clothes that I won’t tie over (polished latex, for example). But tying over tights/sports bra/sweats is fine with me, if that’s what they’re comfortable with.

  • Where shouldn’t I touch you?

    • Why this question: Tying someone up involves touching them! I like to be explicitly consensual on this point.

    • What does the answer mean: If they don’t want my hands near their crotch, I won’t be able to tie a hip harness. If they don’t want their feet touched, I know I can’t do gravity boots. Etc.

  • Tell me about how physically active and flexible you are.

    • Why this question: This greatly impacts the type of tie that I will decide to do.

    • What does the answer mean: This will depend on the specific ties you have in mind as options. I have a few that are suitable for most bottoms (simple side or face up suspension), and some that are better suited for bottoms with some degree of fitness (mobile suspension with chest and hip harness).

  • Are you here with someone? Are they named “Bubba”? Is Bubba the jealous type? Does Bubba own a gun?

  • Anything else you’d like me to know?

  • Is there anything you’d like to ask me?

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It takes up a lot of room on the page, but generally speaking, going through these questions takes just a couple minutes- if the answers are “I have no chronic health issues, I take no meds, I’m not diabetic, I don’t have asthma, I’m happy to get naked, you can touch me anywhere, and I go hiking three times a week” then this is a really quick negotiation. Of course, if you come up with more “positives” then it starts to take longer!

 

Basic Risk Awareness Education

After the questions I do a quick risk awareness spiel. I also carry Remedial Ropes bondage flyers with me (side 1 and side 2), and generally give one to my bottom to read while I’m unpacking/organizing my rope. My risk awareness spiel goes something like this:

“There are a few things I want you to know about bondage. First, you could get rope marks. They are most likely to be [places they are likely to be, given the bondage I have in mind]. They could possibly last a week or even longer. Is that OK with you?” [if the answer is “no” then we’re going to be doing very fluffy floorwork and nothing else.]

“You should know that there are risks associated with bondage. Some of those risks could include falling, fainting, joint injury, or having a negative psychological reaction. I think all of that is fairly unlikely, but it’s possible. Do you have questions about any of those risks?” [here I can address any concerns- this could include discussion of my training/skills, the hardpoint, the rope I’m using, what I’d do if something went wrong, etc.]

“One risk that’s really important for you to know about is nerve damage. I tie in a way designed to minimize this risk as much as possible, but it’s something that could happen and I won’t be able to see it happening- I’ll only know if you tell me. Signs of nerve damage include sharp shooting pains, numbness, tingling, tightness, or feeling like you can’t move. If you have any sensations like that, or if you’re concerned in any way, please tell me right away, OK?” [Wait for them to agree that they will tell me.]

“Bondage involves “intense sensation”- as long as you’re not having the symptoms I mentioned above, try to give your body a moment to settle into the bondage. It will be very helpful to me if you can monitor your body to know when you’re nearing- not AT- the end of your tolerance. Ideally, let me know that you’re almost ready to come down/be released with a minute or more of “warning”** rather than an urgent “I need down right now”- OK?”

I’m sure there are things that I’ve not listed above that you always ask, and you should definately individualize this for your own bondage practices! In the really real world, for the specific type of bondage that I do, that’s my bondage negotiation.

*Diabetes, asthma, and rope: This became too long for the body of the post, so it gets a separate little section. If someone has diabetes or asthma, I start by asking them what they know about how their diabetes/asthma affects their play (and their lives in general). They are the experts on their own bodies and can likely give you some excellent information. If they have asthma, the most important questions to follow up with are: do they have an albuterol (rescue) inhaler? Where is it? When did they last have to use it? What triggers their asthma? Bondage can trigger asthma attacks, so it’s critical that their inhaler is nearby. Face down suspensions put more pressure on the chest and can be more difficulty for people with respiratory issues, so I’d likely choose a different bondage position (like face up) for someone with asthma. If they have diabetes, then follow up questions include: when did you last eat? When did you last check your blood sugar? Have you been diagnosed with peripheral neuropathy (nerve damage)? One big concern is that they could experience a drop in their blood sugar during play, so I’d make sure there is a handy sugar source (like juice) for them to have if they need it. If their diabetes is poorly controlled, they likely have some degree of peripheral neuropathy of their lower extremities. This increases their risk for nerve damage and would promp me to be more careful with tying their ankles- more wrapping turns, taking care to spread the load (for instance by adding an extra thigh rope), etc. This is an overview- I could (and likely at some point will) write an entire article on asthma and diabetes for BDSM.

** There was some great discussion on the FetLife version of this article. Several people commented that they ask bottoms to give them a “5 minute warning” rather than the “minute or more of warning” that I suggest above. I used to ask for a 5 minute warning, but I don’t anymore- here’s why:

1) 5 minutes is quite a long time. I’m never surprised if the ENTIRE duration of time the bottom is fully suspended for their first time up is less than 5 minutes. I don’t feel that new bottoms know their bodies/rope tolerance enough to know when they’re at their “5 minute mark”- I’m a quite experienced rope bottom, and it’s hard for ME to know when I’m at that mark. I know when I have a couple minutes left and need to start being untied, but I don’t always know when I’m in a place where I have a few more minutes in the air and then will need to be let down. So to me, the “minute or more of warning” that means I immediately start untying and lowering is an easier mark to identify and a more reasonable thing to ask of newbie bondage bottoms. YMMV. In addition to asking for this warning, I monitor the bottom closely for body language indicating they’re getting close to their limit and I check in frequently. In about half of the newbie suspensions I do, I decide they’re done and take them down before they give me any warning at all, and often when they’re telling me they’re fine and want to stay up. I’m the rigger, I’m responsible, and I’m very comfortable drawing the line when I think they’re done… after all, it’s always better to “leave ’em wanting more” than to go too far.

2) With the newbie suspensions that I do, it doesn’t take me 5 minutes to get someone down. It takes me less than one minute to get them down. When I do marionettes, it takes less than 20 seconds to get the bottom fully on the ground. Other suspensions are still well less than a minute to turn into partials, and not much longer to be completely free from the point. So a simple “I think I need to come down” that is given with the understanding that it’s a 1-2 minute process is more than adequate for my purposes.

About the writer:

This article was written by me (Shay)- I’m an ER nurse and ACLS (Advanced Cardiac Life Support) instructor who has spent WAYYY too much time geeking out over BDSM safety. I would, however, note that nurses (and doctors!) can and do say idiotic/incorrect things, so using your own judgement no matter how “qualified” the source is always a good thing. I always welcome feedback or suggestions on how my articles can be improved!

Murphy BaGG 2

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