It has a horizontal board mounted several feet off the ground on a wooden post or frame (the name comes from the Latin for pillar). The board is in two parts, with holes through which the victim's head and hands are placed, then the two parts of the board are closed, clamping the person in, without direct pressure on the body parts. Instead of a board, hinged iron rings can also be used. Pillories can be designed either to hold the captive standing or kneeling. In the standing position the pillory can be combined with stocks to hold the captives feet apart.
A captive in a pillory is more exposed than someone in the stocks, which hold a person by similar means. With hands trapped, they are unable to protect themselves or to move out of the way of any flagellation.
For BDSM play pillories need to be designed with solid and stable bases. If the scene is intense it is likely that the captive will struggle; if the pillory is not properly constructed there is a risk that it will topple over, causing serious neck and wrist injury.
A variation on the pillory made common in Spain has the boards horizontal. The prisoner's head and hands are therefore upright. This exposes the breasts more and tends to be far less comfortable unless the height is adjustable to suit the person's height. An interesting variation of this is the table pillory - see Pillory dinette
A very small version of the pillory is the finger pillory. Once common for domestic punishment, they hold the fingers at the second joint.
Another variation is a horizontal pillory holding the neck only. This pillory requires that the hands are secured by other means. Designs vary but commonly force the captive into a squatting position .