I'm clearly not the best one to be making a list like this, but these are the kinds of things that everyone should know when trying this stuff for the first time that can be problematic to be ignorant of. Some will actually be common knowledge. Some will be just logic. And unfortunately, some may be kind of a buzzkill. But nevertheless, you should know about it, and taking the time to double check or find out from your partner can save you a lot of time, energy, and hopefully pain (unless you're into that) down the road.
Some of these are first-hand experiences. I'll be the first to admit that my first attempt went a bit awry due to my own ineptitude, with things that could have been easily avoided if I took the time to Do The Research.
Now, I should point out one thing before we begin. I am a straight, dominate male, so this list will most likely apply to those in male dom / female sub situations. I honestly wouldn't know the specific differences between that and other combinations (other than the obvious), but everything will most likely still apply. Just for future reference, I will refer to the dom(me) as "he" and the sub as "she" simply for the sake of easy labeling.
Also, if you have any suggestions to add to this list, then please don't hesitate to mention it. This would be a pretty crappy list if I missed something, wouldn't it?
So, without further ado, ONWARD!
Know your sub and her preferences.
-A somewhat uncommon but potentially problematic situation is if you and your partner are on two different levels. Sexual bondage can be generally categorized into DID (damsel-in-distress) and BDSM (bondage, sadism & masochism). Knowing the differences between them is like knowing the difference between a lighter and a blowtorch; thematically similar, but on two totally different levels.
--First off is DID. This is probably what most newbies think of, especially since it's how pretty much everyone gets into it. I still remember watching Scooby Doo as a kid and getting a thrill every time Daphne was kidnapped, hoping to see a bit of ropes, and if I was lucky, one of those purely aesthetic dangly OTM gags used in retro cartoons that wouldn't silence squat, but we loved anyway. That, my friends, is Damsel In Distress. Or Guy In Distress if that's your cup of tea. Summarized, it focuses almost entirely on the helplessness and not much else. Like if you were to be subjected to a home invader that tied you to a chair and left with whatever expensive-looking junk he could get his mitts on and hightailed it like his ass was on fire. This is the "lighter" side of bondage, and is best for starting out. Sometimes you may get one that wants to start right off in BDSM, which is just as good, but can go wrong easier. It's up to you to make those decisions.
--Which subsequently makes BDSM the hardcore stuff. Have you ever seen a show where a character somehow gets an image of bondage in their head, and it's pretty much always leather masks, chains, whips, clamps, strange wooden structures and a completely random safe word like "banana" or "flooglehorn"? Those are all parts of it, among countless other options, but that doesn't mean it's all super kinky, crazy stuff. But most of it still is. One of the main differences is the impact on the sub. DID is Exactly What It Says On The Tin: you have the sub tied up. That pretty much covers it. That's not to say it isn't a thrill for fans of it, because it is if you do it right. But BDSM dips more into the psychological aspect of it; things like humiliation and dominance, rather than just helplessness. Want to take some baby steps from DID to BDSM? Make her wear a collar and leash, and better yet, give her an embarrassing pet name that you can use during your roleplay. Make sure you clear it with her beforehand, though. You don't want to start calling her "bitch" out of the blue, because she might take it as sincere if you're dealing with a rather sensitive one. But then again, if that's the case, I doubt she would be too keen on BDSM in the first place.
---In short, have a quick chat with your partner (if you haven't already) to find out where their preferences lie. You don't want to break out the leather harness and nipple clamps on the first go when she still thinks of bondage as handcuffs and a handkerchief over the mouth. That probably wouldn't go over well.
Know who's stronger.
-Confession: I don't work out. As such, I'm a bit lacking in the physical strength department. That made things a little difficult when I overestimated myself and tried for a realistic kidnapping attempt with my ex-sub the first time. Being the dominant is basically a big ego trip; this situation was the exact opposite. Don't repeat my mistakes.
--But of course, don't interpret that as me saying if you're weaker than your sub, then don't bother. Just keep this sort of thing in mind before spending hours planning out a scenario that you screw up in the first few minutes because you wanted authenticity but couldn't deliver. It damages the mood a little when you both start laughing.
-Anyone that's ever seen something in my gallery is probably aware that I'm a huge fan of the elbow tie, and the nigh-impossible reverse prayer. But, not everyone can touch their elbows together, and not everyone can arch their back enough for that super strict hogtie, and not everyone can bend far enough down for that vertical-arms strappado. Well, that's how things work. I guess the point of this one is that you shouldn't get your hopes up too much, just in case. Of course, if you're lucky enough to get a sub that can pull off that one position you've been dreaming of seeing, then give it a shot.
--Something I do occasionally before drawing is, if I'm dealing with what looks like a particularly difficult position, I try it myself. I'm a kind of out-of-shape, non-flexible person, so if I can almost touch my elbows behind my back, then it may be more common than you think.
-This is the first obvious one, but it's important to note that different people have different levels of tolerance for that sort of thing. For example, thick legs means that tighter ropes can compress them more than they would on a girl with slender legs. Subsequently, it's easier to cut off circulation. The simplest solution is to just tie a bit looser than you may want. Even if you're like me and like to see them really tight, consider this: would you rather have your sub be comfortable and able to be bound for longer, or go tighter anyway and lose blood flow after a few minutes? It's easier to overestimate than you would think. A simple way around this is to use cuffs or bondage tape.
--A noteworthy aspect that BDSM has over DID is that, usually, the sub is either mostly or completely naked. While this is can be fun for both, keep in mind that clothing makes an excellent extra layer of protection. Whether you opt for that feminine and revealing cocktail dress or a simple t-shirt and jeans (which can still be sexy in its own right) is really up to you. But if you plan to have her tied up for an extended period of time, you may want to consider using looser ties or letting her stay dressed. At least until later.
-One of the most irritating things that can happen is, after you've spent all day thinking of ideas for positions and gags and
let's say, "activities"
you're finally about to start and
well, crap. You can't find your ropes, or tape, or your roommate is coming back early, or your sub is panicking and you can't find scissors. The list goes on and on for things that can royally screw up a bondage session. And like with everything else, the more complicated it gets, the more likely it is that something will go wrong.
--Which is part of what makes it so rewarding when everything goes according to plan. Your sub at your feet, moaning past her gag as her breath returns from yet another orgasm, brought on by your expertly planned and executed schemes. If you think it's fun during, then just wait until she's begging for more. Which actually brings me to the next topic.
--You read that right. So your sub is quivering in pure ecstasy (or maybe she's just chilly) and she's stiff, sore, and exhausted. What do you do? Lay her face-down on a soft surface and work those joints. Maybe ask how she's feeling, or if she's thirsty (if you're good, she will be). Regardless of how you do it, do not underestimate the effectiveness of the massage. I cannot stress this enough. It's such a simple act that is easy to do, doesn't take too long, and is a perfect ending to any bondage session.
---As fellow doms are aware, the appeal to BDSM is largely in the dominance. However, pretty much anyone will tell you that healthy relationships require equality to some degree. That's the main reason why I'm including this one; the sub has fully committed herself to your desires, maybe for an hour, maybe all day, proving that you are in charge, and subsequently, better. But since we don't really want the sub feeling like just a pet or slave (she still has to function in society, after all) then taking the time when you're finished to tend to her needs tips the scale back into place. It's pretty much a trade off: she services you, then you service her. It's perfectly fine to let the power trip run it's course, as long as you go back to being a gentleman afterward.
Use safe words.
-This one should be a given. But for the sake of argument, let's say that your sub is bound on the floor. You got out your nice armbinder, laced it up, wrapped her legs in tape, and now you're about to employ the coup de grâce (not literally, just a phrase) by tightening that strap on her shoulders to pull her ankles up into a super strict hogtie. So you pull, and pull, and your sub moans, making quiet pleads for mercy, just the way you like. So you pull harder, and her back arches more, and her voice starts to change. Okay, it should. The tie is getting stricter, so that makes sense. So you keep in going, maybe not even paying attention; until you hear something along the lines of "GOD MY FUCKING BACK IS BREAKING, STOP PULLING YOU STUPID FUCK".
--That, ladies and gentlemen, is why we have safe words.
---Role playing is arguably the most fun part of bondage. It's what makes the scene feel real. So, chances are, your sub is going to do a little begging and complaining. However, if she gets really into it, it can be impossible to discern her acting hurt and scared and actually being those things, among others. A safe word is a unique word or phrase that would normally never come up, like "pineapple", or "seagull", or "good God almighty I think I'm going to die". Things like that.
----Whenever you hear the safe word, STOP. I don't care if you're three seconds away from blowing your load, because she certainly won't. A good bondage relationship is built almost entirely on trust, and if you defy that trust by ignoring the safe word, then the best-case scenario is probably going to be your sub being completely turned off from trying it again, maybe permanently, depending on the situation. Worst-case scenario? See the last two sentences of the "Know your fetish" section below.
This one is closely related to the previous point, and can all loop back to "Know your sub". Gags are arguably one of the best things about bondage play because they pretty much complete the setup (aside from suspension; see below), and there are so many ways to go about them. Cleave, OTM, OTN, tape, wraparound, ball, ring, panel, bit, muzzle... hell, even a sock would work. As long as you use a clean one, at least.
-But, as you've probably realized, they have their problems. Some people have difficulty breathing through their noses, for example (ring and breather gags can prevent this). And, most importantly, they prevent most safe words. As much as they complete the sensation of utter helplessness, you have to know what you're doing before you use them, just in case. But, if your safe word is easy to pronounce, then you might still be good to go.
--There's a lot of variation in gags, like I mentioned before, despite how simple they are in concept. Some fit better for different situations (ball, ring, and bit gags go with harnesses, for example) and I've found that even different faces can go with different types. For example, one of my favourite bondage models, Eve Ellis, has the face for ball gags, and another, Eden Wells, goes with OTMs. If you're a stickler for details, this may be something to take into account.
---There's also availability and convenience. Tape and rope are easy enough to come by, but BDSM-oriented ones are another story. Even if you can find a store in your area with that kind of thing, from what I've heard, they don't tend to be very good quality. And that's assuming you're comfortable enough to actually walk in the place, because if you're like me, then it feels like you have a neon sign above your head saying "Hello world! I'm a kinky bastard and I would like to purchase this rubber ball on a strap to stuff in my girlfriend's mouth while I tie her up for kicks."
----But maybe you won't have that problem. Either way, buying online would probably be your best bet. That's where all the best stuff is if you know where to look, plus it has a much wider variety. But regardless of what you use, just make sure you use it right, and if your sub doesn't want to be gagged or prefers something less elaborate, then you'd best listen to her.
-----It's important to keep in mind that online stores can just as easily sell you complete crap, but you can rather easily find ways to learn which ones are best. The expensive way is to try them yourself, so it's obviously better to ask someone that would know, either if you know this person for whatever reason already, or you managed to find a good message board (or something along those lines) where you can ask questions like that. It's important to find out because you certainly don't want to waste money on something that either breaks after a few uses or just sucks in general, and (I hope) all bondage stores have a no-return policy, at least for gags, sex toys, and the like. Though frankly, you shouldn't return those anyway even if you could. That's just unsanitary.
------I might write up a separate list just for gags. Who knows, it might be interesting.
It's weird. Accept it.
-This is an interesting point that I first heard made by a friend here on DA. You will probably hear closet bondage fans (and sometimes haters) comment on how it just seems
well, weird. But that's mostly because it is, and the sooner you come to terms with that, the better off you'll be. It isn't some kind of strange illness that you can ignore and hope it goes away, because it doesn't. The best thing you can do is take some time to look into it. If you understand it better, then it won't feel so foreign, and you may even find yourself enjoying it.
--That being said, it's still kinky as all get out, and you're a pervert for thinking about it. But, who cares? PERV PRIDE!
Okay, soapbox time. A common thing I find "outsiders" thinking is that all bondage fans are kidnappers and rapists just biding their time until their next victim to satiate some kind of sick, sadistic agenda. I think I speak for us all when I say that such assumptions are personally insulting. Another confession: I may be a complete sadist with my gallery here on DA and my blog, but that almost directly contradicts my actual personality. I wanted to be mean to my sub, humiliate her, and most importantly, prove who was in charge, and I tried. But I couldn't really get into it, because even though it was just roleplaying, I didn't like her being mad at me, or being mean to her, and this is coming from a die-hard spanking fetishist (it doesn't show up much in my gallery, but it's there). There's a dissonance between what someone can imagine and what they will do, even in fake situations. So people that actually go out and kidnap or molest or rape real people are sick bastards and deserve what's coming to them. But as long as it's fake and with someone you can trust, then it's all good. Believe it or not, rape isn't really an uncommon fantasy for women; granted, it's usually not the beat-down-gang-bang-dump-in-ditch kind, which is unfortunately how these things can go, but the fact remains. The reason why media featuring this subject matter usually features non-consensual activities is pretty much because that's when this kind of thing happens. It's completely fake, and anyone that thinks otherwise of us simply because we like it is a dumbass.
Know her fears.
-It's uncommon, but that can come into play, especially fears like claustrophobia. Hell, there's even a fear of bondage (Merinthophobia). For example, my ex-sub is afraid of belts due to some terrible experiences in her past. Yep, belts. Things that seem harmless enough to you may not seem that way to someone else. I know someone that pretty much has to breathe through her mouth or she could suffocate, obviously making most gags out of the question (see "Gags" section if you haven't already). This isn't really a fear, but it's a similar concept, so I listed them together.
--Even more importantly, your sub may have allergies to some materials. The only one I'm aware of that may actually come into play is latex; hope for everyone's sake that this isn't a problem. You don't want to waste hundreds of dollars on gear that you can't use because your sub is allergic.
Know your tools.
-It may be crucial to know what you're doing, but some would argue that it's just as important to know how to do it properly. Granted, most gear and devices don't have that much too them, but you don't want to accidentally break something and end up having wasted your money. Or, even worse, you don't want to hurt your sub. In the bad way, at least.
--Oddly enough, in direct contradiction to what I just said, you may be surprised at what things have to be used properly. An interesting case comes from a friend about how he had his sub in a rubber catsuit for 12 hours straight. By the end, it stunk to high heaven and was ruined irreparably. My recommendation would be using one for only a few hours at the most, if that, and it would probably be a good idea to wash it afterward.
---The point to take away from this segment is to take the time to learn the dos and don'ts of whatever you're using. If there's nothing to learn, great. If there is, then you better remember it.
-Simplified, the Id is the name used by Sigmund Freud to describe a human being's instinctual nature; knee-jerk reactions like recoiling when you see something flying at your face, or, to stay on topic, being tempted by pleasure. Much like the first note of this list, it's important to know yourself as much as your sub. I fell victim to this myself my first time. My sub was hogtied and blindfolded with a triple-layer gag, wearing just a quite revealing minidress. As you can imagine, my hands didn't keep to themselves. I was fortunate enough to find that she enjoyed it, but you may not be so lucky.
--There's an interesting balance of risk and reward here. If you know your sub well enough already and your relationship is at the point of being physical, then surprising her with some well-placed fingers (if you know what I mean) can be just the thing you need. But you don't want to jump the gun if she's not comfortable with the situation (or you, for that matter).
-This one is easily avoidable, but can be disastrous if not handled. Essentially, if you plan on partaking in bondage for extended periods of time, just be sure to give your sub a chance to relieve herself if necessary.
--This one is kind of subjective, since different people have different tolerances for this kind of thing. I suppose this one loops back to the first note in a way. In the end, it's up to you to make those decisions.
Know your fetish.
-This one is kind of like a combination of "Know Your Sub" and "The Id". However, it applies to yourself, and refers to things other than bondage. There are about as many fetishes out there as there are people; everyone has their own weird thing that turns them on (for me it's elf ears, go figure). I suppose what I'm trying to get across here is that, even if you know all there is to know about tying up your sub, chances are you're going to add elements of other things as well. Even simple things like spanking have things you should be aware of.
--One that stands out in my mind is what they call "breath play". I've well established now that domination and power are two major players in BDSM, so it actually makes sense for the master or mistress to want absolute control. And what's the most effective way to simulate that? Regulate her breathing.
---I shouldn't even have to make my point on this one, but I will anyway; be acutely aware of what you're doing and how you're doing it AT ALL TIMES. Don't slack on ANYTHING, especially in situations like this. Breath and water play, suspension, spanking, humiliation, and just about everything else can cause some serious problems if you screw up. It's not enough that you know how to make safe and functional ties, but if you plan on choking your sub while you bang her, for god's sake, pay attention. You think the safe word can kill the mood? Not as much as jail time for manslaughter.
Suspension is DANGEROUS.
-There is no doubt about it, a damsel hanging in midair is just about the Crowning Moment of Awesome for bondage fetishists; there isn't really anywhere else to go at that point. As such, it's normal to want to try it out whenever the moment arises. But that doesn't mean you should, especially if you're even relatively new. PROFESSIONALS ONLY.
--I'm kind of a hypocrite for saying this, because this is something I really want to take a crack at. However, there are some things to take into strict account. First and foremost is that suspension is very rough on the body if not done properly, which in itself is very difficult. Media that depicts this often has the victim hanging from her wrists or torso, or maybe even ankles. In reality, if you thought plain old ropes around your wrists are uncomfortable, then imagine your entire weight being placed on them for extended periods of time. Not a fun experience.
---To put simply, if your sub is suspended, suspend everything. The more you disperse the stress, the easier it will be on her. A well-made suspension will support the body typically by the shoulders, upper arms, torso, hips, legs, and ankles, and extensively so for each one. I suppose an acceptable exception would be if the sub was just lifted up a little and could still reach the ground, in which case just arms and torso might do the trick. But, don't quote me on that. I haven't tried it, so this is just speculation. Even if I am right, it still wouldn't be a good idea to do this for too long. On top of that, you have to have a secure point to attach her to. You can't just tie her to the ceiling fan and expect that work (and that's not even taking into account the whole FAN thing). A good way to check if something is strong enough is to just grab hold and lift yourself up. Do this a few times and if it doesn't strain whatever you're testing, then it's good. Another option is to do the dispersion in the opposite direction; use multiple attach points.
----There are alternatives to traditional rope suspension as well. One option would be a sex swing, although it somewhat limits your options as far as bindings go. I believe there are also suspension cuffs and other tools you can buy, but I can't vouch for their effectiveness.
-----Don't take all this info as an excuse to try this stuff yourself. Like I said, this stuff can go terribly wrong if you aren't careful, potentially resulting in major cramps, vertigo, bruises, concussions, and even broken bones if the whole thing suddenly snaps. On top of that, vertical suspension can actually shut down the cardiovascular system after about thirty minutes (or so I've heard, but I haven't found any evidence for this). Attempt at your own, and much more importantly, your sub's risk. Do not try this without thoroughly discussing it with your partner and planning out exactly what you'll be doing. And even then, only for veterans.
-This is arguably one of the most important points on this entire list, and should be one of the most obvious. Basically, if you're stupid enough to partake in bondage play drunk or high (or even tired in some cases), then just... don't. Really.
--I mean it.
Hopefully that sheds some light on the topic for any newbies out there with questions but don't know where to look, so follow these rules and you'll be taking your bondage session Up To Eleven in no time.
I'm sure there are plenty more things that could be added to this list, but until then, practice safe and consensual bondage, and everyone has fun. Better yet, look up some cool techniques and practice them on your own so you can surprise your sub the next time you fool around.
don't go overboard.