Self bondage

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Self bondage in a Savage fold

Self bondage is the practice of bondage without a partner. This means tying or otherwise restraining oneself for the purpose of sexual pleasure. The idea of self bondage can also be extended by using release mechanisms to restrain two (or more) people for a period which they cannot control.[1] As self-bondage is usually performed alone, it has several distinctive features not present in conventional bondage, including:

  • an increased element of risk
  • a need for reliable release mechanisms (after a delay), and
  • special techniques for applying complex bondage to oneself at a time when movement is increasingly restricted.

Self-bondage is also characterised by experimentation and ingenuity, and the opportunity to devise novel schemes and variations — in or out of fictional stories — is part of the appeal, and part of the increased danger.


Risks of self-bondage

Self-bondage is considered a higher risk activity than many other BDSM practices — particularly when combined with autoerotic asphyxia — and has led to many recorded deaths. It is estimated that there are 500 to 1,000 autoerotic fatalities each year in the United States, of which a substantial proportion include self-bondage as a factor. The death in 1994 of Stephen Milligan, the British Conservative MP for Eastleigh, was a case of autoerotic asphyxiation combined with self-bondage, and rumours persist that it was also the cause of death of rock singer Michael Hutchence.

Self-bondage has all the risks of physical restraint and sexual bondage, with the added factor that should anything go wrong, there is no-one to effect a rescue. For example, if blood circulation cuts off sensation in limbs, the planned escape mechanism may not be useable.

Despite this, many practitioners insist that self-bondage can be performed relatively safely if it is conducted with a view to minimising risk. Common safety advice includes measures such as:

  • Abstaining from "strict" self-bondage entirely (see below).
  • Avoiding anything that might restrict breathing, such as restraints on the chest or neck, or gags.
  • Using multiple release mechanisms as a backup in case one fails.
  • Ensuring that assistance can be called for if needed, or arranging for someone to check at a specified time.
  • Avoiding anything that can cause limbs to go numb or cut off circulation, such as metal handcuffs or overly tight ropes.
  • Building up the complexity of the bondage slowly over several sessions, and only adding elements one at a time.
  • Abstaining from substances that might impair judgment, such as alcohol.

Strict versus sensual

A distinction can be made between strict and sensual self-bondage [2]. In sensual self-bondage, escape from restraints is simple and available immediately, if desired. For example, the keys may be within reach or the knots loosely tied. The chief aim is the sensation of immobility and of constrained movement.

Strict self-bondage, by contrast, requires that the means of escape is unavailable for a period of time and the person must remain in bondage until the release mechanism is activated, regardless of whether or not they would voluntarily continue the scene further if they had the choice. Although strict self-bondage is potentially more hazardous, some practise it for the greater feeling of helplessness.

There is an alternative approach sometimes recommended which takes the middle ground, and achieves a compromise between safety and strictness. The method is to use a backup release mechanism that is available immediately, but carries with it some penalty or cost with its use. For example, keys could be placed in a bucket of paint. The person in self-bondage can escape quickly if necessary, such as a fire breaking out, or excessive numbness of limbs. However, the annoyance of cleaning up the paint afterwards would coerce the person into waiting for the main release mechanism to come into effect if they were merely bored or uncomfortable.

Release mechanisms

Many release mechanisms are used in self-bondage to allow the practitioner to escape the restraints after a period of time. There are various trade-offs to be made between ease of use, reliability, precision of timing, cost, and so forth. Often, several mechanisms are used concurrently.

  • Ice cubes: Ice cubes are commonly used in release mechanisms. One method — there are many variants, but the principle is the same — is to place ice in a sock and slide a key ring over it. The sock is then attached to an out-of-reach place. When the ice melts, the keys fall, allowing escape. Advantages include simplicity and reliability (ice is easily obtained, and inevitably melts). The disadvantage is that it can be difficult to gauge precisely how long a scenario will last, although some enjoy the uncertainty.
  • Combination lock: Combination locks may be used as release mechanisms. There are two approaches: those that rely on the time needed to try every possibility for an unknown combination, and those that rely on light in order to see to enter the known combination correctly.
    • Unknown combination: The idea is that the lock is reset to an unknown combination, then used to lock the bondage in place. The person must find the correct combination by trial and error. A three digit combination lock contains a thousand possibilities. At a second per attempt, this would take approximately 15 minutes. For a four-digit lock, it is nearer two hours. Disadvantages include the fact that it may be distracting to actively "crack" the lock.
    • In darkness: Even if the number is known, for many locks, it is not possible to enter the combination without being able to see the faces of the dials. This release mechanism relies on darkness. The light can be provided either by the morning sunlight, or, preferably, through a light on a timer switch. The advantages include a large amount of control over how long the bondage lasts (with a timer), and a backup of the onset of daylight. The disadvantages are only being able to use the technique at night, and having to perform the bondage in the dark. Another approach is to remain permanently blinded, with a blindfold on, until the combination is correctly guessed. When taking this approach, the practitioner must be fed at regular intervals.
  • Electromagnets: Electromagnets can be used to release keys after a delay. If combined with electronics or a computer, a large amount of control is possible over the timing, and the mechanism is somewhat "fail-safe" — if power fails, the key will fall early. Disadvantages include complexity and cost. The powerful electromagnets used in door locks can also be adapted for use directly as restraints; in this case, an additional fail-safe is possible by running the eletromagnets from a battery. In the event of a control failure, the battery(s) will inevitably run flat in a fairly short time.
  • The use of a delivery/messenger service or regular mail in order to obtain the object (usually key/keys) needed in order to become released. This relies on the delivery service being 100% reliable.


Apart from release mechanisms, self-bondage poses a somewhat awkward problem of getting into bondage, especially when using rope. What might be a relatively simple matter for couples can be considerably more complex alone.

With rope, the main difficulty is tying the hands in a way that is not easy to untie. One common solution is to use a cinch noose — essentially a kind of slip knot — together with a coil (a loop of rope). The wrists are placed through the coil with the cinch noose between the wrists and around the coil. To achieve a basic hogtie position, the cinch noose is tied to the ankles. With pressure, the noose tightens the wrist coil, securing the hands. It proves very difficult to escape from, and usually a knife or scissors is required to cut free.

Equipment that can be tightened only, and not loosened, often has application in self-bondage. This includes handcuffs, zip ties and ratcheting pulleys.

Commercial equipment

While for the most part self-bondage is performed using ordinary and easily available equipment (indeed, it lends itself to impromptu adaptation and a "do it yourself" approach), a few commercial products have appeared — in the United States for the most part — catering for the self-bondage practitioner. One such toy is a pair of delayed release handcuffs which operate using the principle of melting ice [3]. Another vendor sells "Solo Play Straitjackets" [4].

The YOUniverse Time Lock Safe [5] can be used for self-bondage. (This product is intended only as a children's toy, and can easily be opened by a moderately strong adult.)

Meo sells a Self Bondage Lock [6]. Gay Royal Webshop has some instructions on use [7].

See also

External links

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