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Safety With Rope

by Tatu
January 1996
(Revised June 98 / June01 / May 05)

Basics Safety Guidelines  

1.  First one must be respectful of the idea that "Rope Play", by its very nature carries with it some inherent dangers that could lead to a injury or even disaster if one does not take necessary precautions.

2. Know the current physical condition (health and medical history )of the captive you are working on. Ask questions like:

  • Have you ever had any back or neck injuries or surgeries.
  • Any shoulder injuries or surgeries.
  • Any history of problems with Circulation,
  • Respiration
  • Fainting
  • Does the female have breast implants?
  • Ever have any heart problems?

3.  Both Dominant and submissive should together plan and revise scenes. They should continuously discuss safety issues and update procedures.

4. As a Rope Top, Dominant, Rope Artist, Rigger you must be open to learn all you can and realize that safety is totally in your hands once play has begun.

5.  Never play when you're not sharp and alert.

6.  Drugs or alcohol are a NO NO and should never be an influence around bondage play.

7.  Rope Art and Doms with big egos don't mix.  Never try things before you are ready.   Beginners should never attempt any kind of suspension until proper training is received working with an experienced Bondager. 

8.   Never put rope around the front of the neck in such a way that allows for any kind of pressure to be placed on the front of the neck. When beginning a chest harness or rope dress, always begin behind the neck and come forward over the shoulders to the front.

9.   Never leave a person in bondage alone.

10.   As for Knots:

        * Before you attempt your first scene, make sure you know a few basic knots, and especially a "Square Knot" and one called a  "Bowline"  which will not allow any slippage. Instructions on this knot will follow in later discussion.

        * Forget you ever learned how to tie a slip knot

11.   Don't trust everything you see in the bondage videos.  These are actors, and many I have seen don't have a clue as to what they are doing.   They do some pretty dangerous and stupid things on some of  these videos, especially when it comes to knot tying. Invariably they immediately start out with a simple loop & wrap that will slip and tighten and cause circulation problems.  

12.   Plan ahead. As you are binding your lively, remember you also have to untie her. Think about how you would release her safely and quickly if needed. Think about whether or not the chair she is tied to could tip over, or is the frame or suspension point really strong enough and safe to use.

13. Save the wrists and ankles for last and learn quick release techniques. Generally speaking those are the two most vulnerable areas for numbness or circulation problems. So do most everything else first and then pull those arms behind to bind the wrists last. You will also want to untie the wrist and feet first and release any pressure on the shoulders, as you work backwards to release her.

14.  Breathing. Be aware of restricted breathing. Loss of a clear oxygen supply can lead to fainting. You must be alert to your captive's physical limitations and reactions. Be aware when you pull both arms behind the back that you can possibly be impinging nerves in the shoulders, so be careful about how long they are in that or any position.Avoid the diaphragm area. Be careful about tight ropes underneath the breasts. Be aware to keep the rope high enough so it is above the diaphragm and up on the rib cage. This is especially important in face down suspensions. It is difficult to get the rope high enough on larger breasted women to stay above the diaphragm.

15. Think Ahead. If your captive is seated or standing think about a worst case scenario. If you have a struggler, are there any nearby dangerous objects, sharp corners, etc that she might injure herself is she tipped over the chair or the ropes came undone and she fell.

16. Use shorter Ropes. Japanese Rope teaches the use of a number of shorter ropes vs. one longer continuous rope. The practicality of tying, untying, and adjusting is very clear when using several shorter ropes.

Numbness and Tingling.... limbs falling asleep

I am not a physician, but have been told the following by those in the health professions:

1. Circulation
The ankles and wrists are the two areas of concern. One must constantly be concerned if what one is doing will hinder circulation. A numbness or slight tingling can be experienced at times. Sometimes it will feel uncomfortable, sometimes not. (We've all had the experience of having a foot fall asleep.) Temporary hindrance to circulation I am told is not a problem unless one is feeling pain. The Dom should continuously be checking the wrists and ankles to feel for coldness.  You should ask your subject whether she wants the bondage adjusted or removed. The captives decision is final.

2. Understanding Nerves and Nerve Endings

Even the most experienced can make mistakes. Ask Mistress Midori, who related in one of her workshops how she suffered permanent nerve damage at the hands of one of the most experienced bondagers in the scene. Do no take anything about harming someone lightly.

If nerve endings are being hampered, you will feel shooting pains, if the restraints are pinching nerve paths. You want to be very careful to be aware of locations on the body where ropes and knots can interfere with nerve paths. If your captive indicates that there is abnormal feeling or loss of sensation, you should immediately cut them loose.

Be careful on the insides of the wrists, and at the back of the knees.

Also realize that pulling the shoulders back for long periods of time with a harness over the outside of the arms can harm the brachial nerve, which is a long nerve that runs through your shoulder joint all the way down your arm.  Symptoms might be numbness or tingling in your hands or wrists even though the impingement is in the upper arm or shoulder.

Rope Strength

If doing any suspension, make sure the rope you are using in load rated high enough to support the weight you want to suspend. It is usually written on the package or the spool you buy it from.

Rope Marks

Rope Marks:  Rope marks especially those left by twisted ropes, can be quiet lovely to observe. Bondagers love those spiraling pink or red indentations where rope tightly pressed against the ankle or wrist .  Don't worry, rope marks will fade in 15 minutes to several hours, depending on the bondage.

Rope Burn
Rope burn can happen depending on the intensity of the scene. Accidental burns can happen simply by pulling the rope along the skin, leaving a light pink mark.

Sometimes suspensions can lead to a pinching of the skin or even leaving some skin raw.  Heavy struggle by the victim can lead to a heavy rope burn, resulting in some issue of blood.

Rug Burn

Captives also sometimes get rug burn from rolling around on the carpet while tied. I would suggest you put a quilt down over the carpet if you have a "struggler" on your hands.

Tape Burns and Allergic Reactions

If you are into using tape in your scenes, either for over the mouth gagging or on limbs, etc, you will need to be very careful. Some people are allergic to the glue in different tapes. When removed there can be a red allergic reaction revealed that might last for several days.

Using a tape with a very strong adhesive can lead to a burning of the skin when it is removed.

Time Limits
Usually a captive can stay in one position for about an hour. Beginners should start with a maximum of about a half hour. Change positions often. If you're trying something new, be sure and stretch your muscles, and don't go for more that about 15 - 20  minutes. Gradually build up, vary arm and hand positions.


A Safeword is a word, sound or action that is used to communicate during a scene. If you are not playing "roles" during a scene, you can just tell each other when you want something, but if you're gagged or "in role," communication can be more difficult. The most common safewords are "red" or  "mercy,".  We recommend a safe action, such as snapping your fingers, or dropping an object like a clothes pin or a ring of keys from your hand.  One of my captives favorite signals is stomping her heel to get my attention.

Quick Release

For Rope, a really sharp knife in trained and experienced hands is one way to cut away the rope quickly.  However in the wrong hands a knife can be a very dangerous option. So unless you are skilled in the handling and use of a knife, there is probably a better option.  

EMT Scissors   can be purchased at pharmacies for probably less than $10. Don't confuse EMT Scissor with medical or bandage scissors. Those won't cut rope easily.

Designed for removing bandages, the scissors have a flat outer side to protect skin when cutting binds. These will work for small diameter rope and are perfect for completing saran-wrap scenes.

If you use thick bondage equipment such as leather or fat ropes, keep industrial scissors or EMT scissors on hand too.  

Breast Safety

(See Special Essays on this topic)

Healthy Breast Bondage by Susan Wright

Breast Safety by Tatu