BDSM etiquette

Community Etiquette

A quick guide to BDSM etiquette -Ms. Manners would approve of.

It can be overwhelming to be in a new social situation where the rules appear to completely have gone out the window. People are naked! people are hitting each other, people in cat suits are kissing puppy players!

Actually a lot of the usual social rules still apply. Just differently than you might expect.


  • Read any event rules
  • Thank your host/DMs
  • Do clean up after yourself
  • Introduce yourself and make small talk
  • Do ask people questions if you’re unsure
  • Behave appropriately outside the venue


  • Touch without asking
  • Don’t talk loudly or stand nearby someone’s scene
  • Don’t pry about peoples jobs or other personal information (they may not be ‘out’)
  • Talk to people right after a scene or during aftercare
  • If coming from a different subculture, assume the same rules apply here
  • Don’t ask twice or argue with a no, consent should be enthusiastically given

Ask your DM/Host

  • Ask a DM if there’s a waitlist for playspaces
  • Ask the host if there are any rules if none are posted
  • Where to find cleaning supplies, first aid  etc.
  • Ask the DM if edge play is allowed if you plan to attempt them 

Some Commonly banned edge play:

  • Breath play
  • Blood play
  • Messy play
  • Scat/urine play
  • CNC/rape play
  • Take downs (aggressive wrestling etc)
  • Sex

After the Event

  • Message the host or organizer to thank them
  • Message people you met with an introduction on Fetlife/IG etc
  • Remember if you see people from the event in public pretend like you’ve never seen them before, they probably don’t want to be outted as kinky in public.

General saftey tips:

  • Don’t meet people from the internet in a private place, meet publicly first.
  • Don’t give out too much personal information ( last name, employer etc).


The above image was reviewed and created with a licensed physical therapist, to help identify places where nerves are close to the surface and rope might be placed.

The most common nerve injuries from rope are “handcuff thumb”  and Ulnar nerve Damage.

Nerve Damage can be sensory (hot/cold/tingly/buzzing) or functional (affecting motor coordination). Because nerve damage can feel similar to circulation loss it’s important to come out of ties once circulation starts to cause any alteration in sensation. Nerve Damage is generally cumulative, which means each time damage is caused it compounds any existing damage. Because of this it’s important to create good habits early on to prevent injury.

  • Hand cuff thumb aka radial nerve damage can be prevented by tying noncollapsible ties and not tying too tightly
  • Ulnar nerve compression from rope on the upper arms is also very common, this can be prevented by not tying rope over the upper arms, especially in positions where the nerve would be fully exposed (rotated backwards)

 Other less common nerve injuries we’ve heard of include:

  • Thoracic Outlet syndrome (look for winging of the scapula and weakness in arm)
  • Femoral nerve affects ability to extend knee
  • Foot Drop (perinatal nerve located in the ankle)

Bottoms can assist their tops by performing “hand checks” to confirm they still have full motor control of their hands. These checks are used by neurologists but kinksters have adapted them to help spot issues. The common hand checks are:

  • Live long and prosper (make the spock hand sign)
  • “OK” (Index finger to thumb)
  • “Scouts Honor” (pinky to thumb)
  • make a closed fist

Personally I like to make a fist then tap each fingertip to my thumb and then make the “Spock” hand shape, but I can imagine you could string these into a colorful little ASL ditty if you were so inclined.

While it’s impossible to remove all risk with kink there are ways to mitigate risk, if you’re worried about nerve damage avoiding the TKs (box ties which rotate the shoulders and arms behinds the back) seems like the easiest way to us given it’s by the far the most common tie associated with injuries and nerve compression in the rope incident reports.

Rope Bottoming Resources


Pain processing

Bottoms need to learn how to triage sensations in their body and communicate it efficiently, much like a nurse in the ER knows to ignore the screaming baby and bring the man with half his face drooping first…not because he’s loud but because he’s having a stroke and it needs to be prioritized.

Some questions to ask about a new tie:

  • Where am I going to feel pressure from the tie?
  • What is the load placement and body position of the tie?
  • Does it restrict breathing?

Pain management techniques

  • Box breathing
  • Shifting weight to alter loading of harness
  • Distract yourself (do hand checks, talk to your top etc)
  • Acceptance or surrender to the pain.

Timer Exercise

One thing bottoms are often asked is “How long do you have in this tie/position?” The timer exercise helps us determine how long we actually have. Tops should tie the bottom in a challenging position (perhaps a hogtie or ebi) and start a timer.

Bottoms give an estimate of how long they can be in the position and what they think is going to cause them to “time out”. As they sit in the position they can give feedback to the top about what aspects are the most challenging.

Giving Feedback in bondage

When giving feedback it’s helpful to frame it’s urgency for the Top:

  • I need this changed now. I feel dizzy.
  • When you have a moment I’d like my chest line dressed soon.
  • I might need to have my ankle lowered  later.


Nerve Checks


If you just want to get tied up that’s possible regardless of your level of physical fitness, but if you want to regularly bottom for suspension bondage it’s worth putting some time and energy into strength training. Suspension in many ways is similar to aerial arts (lyra, pole, silks etc), you need to have a strong core, shoulders and good body awareness. (If you’re topping suspension bondage it’s definitely worth doing strength training, so bring your top with you to the gym).

Empower Physiotherapy has a great youtube channel with rope bottoming strengthening exercises. If you’re in Seattle they are a great queer and kink friendly physical therapist who can help you with your individual needs.

What’s in your gear bag

Since some people have expressed interest in what I pack in my gear bag I’ve assembled a list of what I keep in my play bag. I use packing cubes to keep my rope organized.

  • Saftey sheers
  • battery operated carabineer light
  • vet wrap (for gags, blindfolds, first aid etc)
  • Handkerchief (for blindfolds, cleaning etc)
  • earplugs
  • 4 Petzel pear shaped carabineers and
  • 2 3 inch diameter rappel rings
  • 60mm Black diamond sling
  • suspension ring
  • Uplines 5mm POSH rope (4 30ft lengths)
  • Body Rope 6mm hemp from Damn Good Rope company
    • 6 30 ft
    • 3 15 ft
    • 2 7 ft

Understanding what “intermediate” means for you

I love Shibari Study, it is definitely one of the best online resources, however their ranking of “beginner” to “expert” appears to be completely random. It doesn’t account for difficulty for the bottom nor does it break out why a tie is intermediate.

Some ties which Shibari study has listed as “intermediate” which I disagree with vehemently due to the difficulty for the bottom and the importance of tension management for the top are the Reverse Prayer and Stappado. They also list the M suspension as a expert tie, which while it is a suspension it’s arguably the easiest suspension for both the top and bottom.

I feel like part of the issue is people tend to rank a ties difficulty only by the number of frictions and not how much prerequisite knowledge is needed for the top or level of flexibility is needed for the bottom.

Tie difficulty rubric

Beginner ties: requires no more than 3 knots or frictions and no understanding of tension of anatomy. For bottoms these positions should be accessible to your grandma, nothing requiring major flexibility or strength.

Intermediate ties: These ties require either

  • Advanced/unique knots or more than 3 types of knots or frictions
  • The tie requires appropriate tension to maintain it’s form
  • The tie requires correct anatomical placement to maintain it’s form

For bottoms these ties require some body awareness but not extreme flexibility or strength.

Advanced Ties:

  • requires risk management (neck rope, suspension, placement near nerves)
  • The tie requires appropriate tension to maintain it’s form
  • The tie requires correct anatomical placement to maintain it’s form

For Bottoms these ties require positions which are outside the normal range of flexibility (arms behind the back), body awareness and strength.


  • Suspension in combination with all the aspects of advanced ties.
  • For Bottoms these ties require positions which are outside the normal range of flexibility (arms behind the back), body awareness and strength.

Easy partials

Many people think of partials as being only used for predicaments or making your bottom wobble around on their toes. However partials can be used for many other things.

  • Allow tops to practice uplines in a low stress environment
  • Introduce a bottom to the sensation of suspension
  • Allow for longer more sustainable scenes than a suspension
  • Make certain body parts more accessible while still being comfortable.

These most sustainable partial positions maybe your ideal solution.

As a general rule to make a sustainable partial the bottoms feet, back or chest should be on the ground.

Try running a upline from a hip harness to keep your bottom upright for sex or impact play.

increase the difficulty of a hog tie by running a upline off the back or ankles.

Gravity Boot

The “knee high” gravity boot.

The Gravity Boot

Obviously the most common use we see of the gravity boot is for single ankle inversions however it can also be great for assisting in transitions into hip inversions.
We like the gravity boot because it’s pretty and super sustainable.

How to Tie a gravity boot.

Step 1: using a 15ft length (30 ft for calf variation) of rope place the bight (middle of the rope) around the big toe

Step 2: wrap the rope to the far side of the foot (wrap towards the ankle on the outside of the foot)
[in calf variation wrap across top of shin- slightly to left or right of shin bone to avoid shin pain, and then wrap around the top of the calf]
Step 3: wrap around the ankle and down towards the arch of the foot (the rope should be making an ‘X’ shape across the top of the foot)
Step 4: wrap under the foot
repeat steps 2 -4 until you have 3 wraps then remove the loop of rope from around the toe pull towards the bottom of the foot and tie off with a half hitch.

Notes on tying the gravity boot

  • When tying calf version, maintain even tension (first pass behind calf is key)
  • In general, tension of first pass is critical
  • Limit yourself to 3 wraps, more wraps will crowd the ankle bones. Additionally note that you use the metatarsal shelf as an anchor point.
  • Weaving ties like this tend to tighten as they go -so start looser and increase tension with each progressive weave, the first should seem almost excessively loose. Weaving tends to be pretty forgiving even when loose it doesn’t tend to shift so feel free to experiment with different tensions and see what feels good.
  • Where you start wrapping from ( using the big toe and running to the far side of the able versus the closer side parallel to the foot) will alter the amount of tie off line.
  • As you can see if you tie this looser the rope will tend to move more towards the middle of the arch
  • You have two options for attaching the gravity boot, either run the excess line (use a 30ft length to tie) to the hard point or add a carabiner under the foot

You’ll want the tie to be looser if you want to attach using a carabiner so you don’t put pressure from the carabiner on the bottoms foot.

Additionally centering the attachment will be import in making this sustainable.

  • You can do this tie without weaving, however weaving adds stability and will tend to spread tension more evenly.
  • Using post-suspension marking to evaluate evenness of loading

Some ideas of possible uses:

  • Attach your gravity boots to a hip line, chest harness, hands, hair tie or crotch line for a hogtie
  • Attach to a bedpost for more comfortable spread eagle
  • Attach your running lines behind hips for a forced seated lotus or cross legged position
  • For a predicament partial attach a gravity boot to arms (run through ring), the bottom can choose will need to choose between the stretch of having their leg pulled up or fully extending their arms and keep their balance, use a hip line here for safety
  • Could be used to hobble a bottom, this tie already places a large knot on the bottom of the foot, you could make this larger to create a attractive hobbler.

This post was created in collaboration with Tornus a wonderful instructor – you can see more of his work at Full Circle Kink.

Hishi Chest Harness

Want a beautiful and functional chest harness?

Look no further!

Step 1: Tie a reverse-tension single column around the waist, placing the knot in the back.

Step 2: Run the rope over one side of the shoulder coming down the waist line and do a cow hitch to reverse the direction.

Cow hitch

Step 3: Place the first half hitch roughly at nipple height

First Half Hitch roughly at nipple height
second half hitch

Step 4: Tie the second half hitch below the collarbone.

Step 5: Run the line back over shoulder.

run line back over shoulder

Step 6: Place a hitch along the stem a few inches below the armpit and bring line under the arm to the other side of the body

Step 7: Draw the line through the opening in the front stem below

the top half hitch and gently pull while bracing the other side,

spreading the stem to create a diamond

Run line through top half hitch (spread to create diamond)
run rope under step and repeat the previous step to create a diamond shape

Step 8: Run rope to the back and under the stem and repeat the previous step on the other side to create a diamond shape.

Step 9: Now, bring the line to the back stem and do a full moon friction to lock the upper bands.

Step 10: Do a 360* turn around the stem so the line is coming out from

under the stem.

Step 11: Draw the line to the front and through the opening in the front stem

Now we are going to do a full moon to lock the upper bands

reverse tension under stem
pass under chest band
pass under chest band
end where you began
pull across top of stem
We will then repeat the previous steps
after spreading the second diamond create another full moon friction

Step 11: Draw the line to the front and through the opening in the front stem between the cow hitch and the middle friction

Step 12: Bring line back and under the stem, repeating the previous step on other side

Step 13: Do a full moon friction to lock off lower band

Step 14: Spiral line down to the waist line then back up the stem to top and lock off. This keeps the frictions from sliding and makes the harness

suspension worthy. Additionally, it creates greater stability in the stem.

Step 15 (optional): Weave line to below the top moon friction then bring line under one arm, use to spread the band near the neck off the collarbone for comfort, travel back under the back stem, repeat on other side, then lock off with a moon friction in the back.

we spread the bands near the neck off the collarbone for comfort.

You’re done!


model Spontaneity,

Rigging Roxanne,

Photos: Megan

writing and editing by Roxanne and Megan

Risk Mitigation for New Riggers

Suspension is a dangerous activity and your first year or two of tying or being tied are the time when you’re most likely to make mistakes. Here’s some of my suggested risk mitigations

  • Only suspend with people you know (or experienced bottoms)

You may ask why, there’s the thing, when you first start suspending you’re not ready to give bondage rides, you ideally want to tie long term partners or experienced bottoms – because they can give you feedback, someone you’ve never tied with before or who is new to suspension can’t give you good feedback or good warnings if you make a mistake. You’re also less attuned to someone you don’t know and are more likely to have issues communicating.

  • Don’t do inversions (or only do inversions with padding)

One of the few reasons people end up in the hospital for suspension is from dropping people on their head on concrete. A very simple way to avoid this worst case scenario is don’t do inversions over cement, high off the ground, or at all.

  • Only do suspensions with a spotter or DM present

By having another person around you’re going to be able to get help if something goes wrong. Additionally a experienced rigger friend is a great way to get good feedback on your tie and how to improve.

  • Don’t tie TKs, Strappados, Tengus or other harnesses where the arms are load bearing.

The most common rope injury we hear about consistently is nerve and shoulder issues from box ties. You need to spend a lot of time labbing out these kind of ties to get them right and ensure you’re not impinging any nerves, they can be great ties but we strongly recommend you don’t start your suspension journey with these unless you’ve already been tying them on the ground for over a year.

  • Use synthetic uplines.

Remember how we said one of the few ways people end up in the hospital is for bonking their head? well one of the reasons people fall is related to using up-lines which are not rated or intended for handle that much weight or all the swinging and monkeying around that’s being done. Go full over kill, get something like POSH or hempX and never worry about your rope being the reason something goes wrong.

  • Tie below your level

What do we mean by that? don’t get fancy, do ties you feel comfortable with in suspension until it feels natural, you already have to manage the new skill of up lines and lifting, don’t make it harder on yourself than it needs to be.

  • Don’t do single point suspensions

with the exception of a hip harness all single point suspensions are very challenging on the bottom and require the top to know how to get them in and out of the suspension (which usually involves a transition or dead-lifting…both challenging options).

  • Don’t do neck rope

Neck rope can be super hot, we totally get it, if you’re into that kind of play don’t mix it with suspension until you’ve dialed it in….like way in…you don’t want to attach someones neck to something load bearing or that will compress. We recommend you only do one deadly thing at a time!