Bound and Shagged: In a Bind

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

So now you know a little bit about what the D and S are for in BDSM: that in one sense, they stand for dominance and submission. If you’ll remember, though, both those letters take part in two acronyms. Today, we’ll get into the first part of B&D – bondage.

There are two major types of bondage: physical bondage and mental bondage. Physical bondage is the kind that people most commonly think of. It involves some sort of physical restraint – rope, cuffs, chain, tape, scarves, neckties, etc. Mental bondage involves mental restraint. In my first column, I mentioned that a command to keep eyes closed could be as effective as a blindfold. Mental bondage works the same way. Picture this: a Dominant wants their submissive’s hands behind their back. The Dominant could tie them there of cuff them there. Or, they could tell their sub to put each hand on the opposite elbow, and not to move or else.

A submissive will rarely willingly disobey when threatened with punishment, rendering this command as effective as a rope or cuff would be. However, there are some positions that a body cannot get itself into. For these positions, and if the binder desires for the bound to struggle, physical restraint is the way to go. The spread eagle, tying hands together at the wrist and threading them into a headboard, and then restraining the ankles at opposite ends of a footboard, is a simple favorite where the struggle is particularly enticing.

Above, I listed a number of popular restraint tools. There are endless possibilities – someone clever can find a way to restrain a body with almost anything (I, myself, was once frogtied with a telephone cord; I’ve also been restrained by the precarious placement of a book) but one of the most popular, versatile, and sexy tools is rope.

There are a number of different kinds of rope. As far as bondage is concerned, they first divide into two categories: twisted and braided. Twisted rope bites more into the skin, doesn’t slide easily, and leaves diagonal bondage marks on the skin. Braided rope is softer on the skin, doesn’t leave behind diagonal marks, and is easier to slide, knot and handle.

These two types of rope can come in a huge variety of materials. Choosing a material for rope depends on comfort, purpose and aesthetic. Cotton rope is soft on the skin and will get softer after washing, ideal for restraining and leaves minimal marking on the skin. Hemp is rough and can leave rope burns on the skin but will leave deep diagonal marks that are intensely pretty and will chafe if the bound moves at all. Nylon has the feeling of cotton but is stronger and is therefore the appropriate choice for suspension bondage. Jute is similar to hemp, but is slightly softer. If you’re new to ropes, nylon is a good choice. It is soft, easy to handle, leaves markings but not overly visible ones and can be easily cut in an emergency.

So what do you do, once you’ve acquired some rope? There are a few positions that are fun to try – I mentioned the frogtie before. In this position, the bound’s ankles are tied to their thighs. This leaves the bound with little-to-no ability to obscure their “secret garden,” as Ellen Degeneres would say. (Look up her reading of 50 Shades of Grey, if you don’t get this reference. You won’t regret it.)

The lotus tie is very popular. In this tie, the lower legs are placed together pointing in opposite directions so that each foot is near the knee of the other leg. The legs are held in a triangle with the knees wide apart, permitting easy access. Frequently, the elbows are also tied together behind the back in this position, forcing the body into an arch and forcing the chest out. This is a great position in which to administer punishment, as there is no way to cover the body from the blow of a whip or a paddle or a flogger. There are hundreds of other positions, from elaborate shibhari to simply tying the hands to a headboard. Look it up, if you’re interested – there’s a world of beautiful pictures to be found.

So why restrain? What is the appeal? Well, for someone who loves to be restrained, it’s all about the anticipation, the helplessness, the loss of control, the complete freedom from self-consciousness. If you are bound, it is the farthest thing from you mind whether your position is beautiful, whether your partner can see your stomach the way you are standing. Your partner has tied you that way. Your partner can see you – all the pieces of you that you have strategically learned to hide – and, if your partner is deserving of your trust, they will find you beautiful. Also, not being able to move while someone’s hands are on you makes it so much more exciting to be touched. And punished. And fucked.

We return to the power dynamic discussed last week. Taking away someone’s ability to move creates an incredible amount of vulnerability, vulnerability which plays nicely into the power dynamic of dominance and submission. There’s also something sexy about easy access, and certainly about the helplessness that reduced movement creates. Additionally, restraint is perhaps the most powerful method of sensory deprivation. When restrained, every touch is intensified, be it gentle or forceful. And speaking of forceful, restraint has a hugely important role in the discipline part of B&D. But that’s for next week – tune in, or else.


  1. I’m confused about why these are articles in our school news. I understand that we have a freedom of speech and the ability to write about whatever we want…but THIS is what we choose to write about? How is this appropriate? Is this not a public site? That prospective students, parents, donors, alumni etc, all have access to? I hope that the DG and it’s authors can take a moment to think about the image you are portraying to the greater Swarthmore Community.

    What would President Chopp say if she read this? How about Nancy Nicely? Your grandmother? Michael Dukakis? Alice Paul? Peter Bart? David Geiber? Neil Austrian? Dave Bayer? Carl Levin? Eugene Lang?

    I think you get my point.

    • Dear Rows,

      Thank you for your comment.

      Our mission at The Daily Gazette is to be a public forum that fully represents our readership of students, faculty, staff, and alumni. We do this through reporting on news, arts, and sports and publishing columns on politics, student life, and yes, even sex. Sex columns have a long tradition at The Daily Gazette, having provided readers with pleasure and fulfillment for generations. We do know they’re not for everybody, but ignoring sex, a large part of student life for many, would be to shame and demonize a natural and healthy part of the human experience. We stand behind our decision to publish sex columns – whether they be from queer, heterosexual, or even S & M voices – and let our readers censor themselves.

      We hope you keep reading as we put out daily.

      Thank you,

      Max Nesterak ’13
      Co-Editor in Chief

      P.S. I personally wouldn’t shame Rebecca Chopp, Michael Dukakis, or my grandmother by desexualizing them so quickly.

    • and to be clear: my grandmother, and your grandmother, and all of our grandmothers, got laid, often multiple times—often because they liked it!—and none of us would be here if it wasn’t for this grandmotherly sex.

    • BDSM is actually a super relevant view to publish. It’s estimated to be the post popular philia, with 10% of the population participating in some sort of BDSM activity during sex.
      So maybe stop assuming that you know everyone so well, because chances are someone very close to you is into this and hasn’t told you. You listed 11 people up there, suggesting they wouldn’t approve – it’s entirely possible that at least one of those people would approve very, very much.
      Just because you personally are too closeminded to be interested in a view like this doesn’t mean that you should be dismissive of this type of sex or lifestyle. If you have a problem with the column, don’t read it. It’s not like the headline is at all secretive about what it’s going to be about.

  2. I’m not saying people don’t have sex. I’m saying that this doesn’t seem like the appropriate forum for this. The Phoenix has a sex column but it is humorous and much more appropriate. I’m not “desexualizing” anyone, no shame, but I do not think that these people would be so proud to see Swarthmore College writing articles about the right kind of rope to use during bondage…

  3. The students contribute for no pay to the DG, just out of love – as far as I’m concerned that alone gives them the privilege to write on whatever they like as long as it relates to Swarthmore’s student body. Especially the sexy student body.

    Do I find this article shocking and tangential?…yes. But that’s why you check the headlines of the DG routinely.

  4. @Rows: Your views of what alums would think about this sort of thing are orthogonal to the views of every alum I have talked to/known. Stop projecting and own your own opinions.

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