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Strict Self-Bondage

Author: David Stein

Filed in: bondage

If nothing else, self-bondage has the advantage (as an anonymous wit once said of masturbation) that you don't have to look your best. You needn't impress or arouse anyone else. You can do it when you want, where you want (up to a point!), whatever way you want, and for as long as you want. But the one thing you must do to achieve safe and satisfying self-bondage is to keep your head! Flying solo isn't better or worse than flying with a partner, but solo bondage is a lot more demanding of the bottom (who's also, of course, the top!) in terms of skill, discipline, and the ability to stay cool under pressure.

In Part I ("Doing It Yourself") I distinguished two different kinds of self-bondage, the "sensual" (where the sensations of immobility or constraint matter more than the idea of inescapability) and the "strict" (where inescapability for a preset time is the main turn-on). All the safety principles I discussed earlier for sensual self-bondage apply just as much to strict self-bondage, so let me repeat a few key points:

* Stay sober. Self-bondage can be fatal! Not often, but it does happen. You need a clear mind and a steady hand to do it safely.

* Never combine breath control with self-bondage, and be especially careful with gags. Getting yourself out of self-imposed bondage will almost certainly take longer than getting into it. Safe use of gags, however, requires that someone--normally an unbound topman--be able to react instantly if the bottom has a breathing problem. The same goes for a minimal-risk breath-control scene (I don't think any breath-control scene can be risk-free). When you're flying solo, it's important not to add any unnecessary risks to those already inherent in the situation. If you use a gag, stick with a kind you can still breathe around if your nose clogs up, such as a bit gag or a rope gag between the teeth, and be sure you can remove it quickly and easily if necessary. Gags that completely fill and seal the mouth, or lock on, or are applied underneath other restraints (like a head harness or hood) are far too risky for a solo bondage scene.

* Don't tie yourself up with rope. I know, I know--rope is cheap, it's easy to use, it feels good, it has all kinds of sexy associations. Unfortunately, it's just not safe enough for self-bondage. Rope ties can be slippery and unpredictable, and they make it much too easy to get yourself into a situation you can't get out of. Locking steel cuffs, chains and padlocks, and leather straps or cuffs secured by buckles or padlocks are all much easier to control when you're doing it yourself. If you earned a merit badge in knot-tying and feel you're an expert rope wrangler, fine, but make sure you leave a good knife in reach!

* Cut yourself some slack. Despite the temptation to snug it all up just a little more, leave enough slack to insure you can escape when you've had enough. There won't be anyone else to release you if you can't (or at least not without a long wait, horrible anxiety, and a great deal of embarrassment at best). Self-bondage is risky enough without pushing your limits every time.

* Handcuffs are much easier to put on than to take off even when you have the key. Practice thoroughly with them alone before you combine handcuffs with any other restraint that may escalate the difficulty. If possible, practice getting into and out of handcuffs locked behind your back with a partner present until you're sure you can do it easily on your own.


I don't believe there is any way to make what I've been calling "strict" self-bondage--the kind where you cannot escape until some release mechanism is triggered--absolutely safe. You can reduce the risks until you're comfortable with them, but don't fool yourself that you've eliminated risk entirely. As with solo mountain-climbing, skin-diving, or cave-crawling, even when you take every reasonable precaution, accidents can still happen, and you could die from one. On the other hand, you could be hit by a truck crossing the street with the light. I'm not suggesting that we can or should avoid all risks, only that we need to be realistic about them--and not let our itchy pricks lead us to take greater risks than we'd otherwise be comfortable with.

And there's no reason to be stupid about the risks we accept, either. Peter Boots, who's been happily getting himself into and out of severe bondage for more than two decades, advises that when it comes to release mechanisms, it's best "to rely on very basic things: Ice melts, gravity makes things drop, the sun rises in the morning. Some people use timers, motors, electronics, but as soon as the power goes or something malfunctions they're stuck. So far I have not come across a mechanical or electronic fail-safe mechanism I would trust." (Issue #25 of Bound&Gagged includes a scary story about just such a situation, "The Day the Fail-Safe Failed." Of course, the writer of the story managed to get out anyway, but it was a very near escape, and it cured him, at least, of reliance on such mechanisms.)

For overnight scenes without a hood or blindfold, Peter uses a four-digit combination lock to attach his cuffed hands and ankles to a chain stretched across his bed (he likes to sleep in fetal position with his hands and feet close together); you could use a similar setup to chain yourself to the wall, the floor, or a post. "It's very tedious to try to get out while it's dark," he notes, "as there are 10,000 different combinations to try, but as soon as it gets light I can open the lock instantly." Peter strongly advises against using a dial-type combination lock, as it's too easy to make a mistake in the series of back-and-forth twists and turns needed to unlock it even when you can see what you're doing.


A combination lock you know the code for is hardly inescapable during the day, however, or if you're restrained loosely enough that you can move around and turn on a light. For nonbedtime scenes, or shorter scenes, which may involve a spreadeagle or other stretched-out position, Peter favors ice and gravity for time release, and he uses a setup that involves two separate strings or cords. At the end of one string is the critical key that will enable him to free himself; the other end is attached to a hook on the wall or ceiling in such a way that the key will hang straight down within easy reach once he's in position on the bed.

Typically, the key unlocks either of the padlocks (they're keyed identically) at the ends of a chain between one of his locking wrist cuffs and one of the screw eyes at the corners of his bed. In a spreadeagle position the key is handy to his right hand if he's on his back, to the left hand if he's on his stomach. (Other arrangements are possible, such as locking both wrist cuffs to the center of a chain stretched between the screw eyes at the top corners of the bed, and similarly for the ankles, with the cuffs attached to a chain at the foot of the bed.) If Peter weren't interested in a delayed-release bondage scene, he could leave it at that--when he was ready to release himself, he'd just grasp the dangling key and use it. The trick of "strict" self-bondage, however, is to make the key unavailable until after a certain amount of time has passed.

Therefore, Peter prepares a second string whose sole function is to pull the first string (the key string) out of reach. The second string has one end frozen inside an ice cube (he always keeps several strings frozen into cubes in his freezer!). He puts the ice cube under several other cubes in a coffee mug, ties the free end of the frozen string to the first string somewhere above the key, and places the mug far enough from the bed that the tension on the frozen string pulls the key-holding string away from its previous straight line down to his hand, thus holding the key out of reach. Until the ice melts enough for the frozen string to pull free of the mug, the key to his freedom might as well be in the next county, and Peter can enjoy the feeling of being inescapably bound. How long that lasts is determined by the temperature of the room and the size of the ice cubes.

Peter has experimented so that he knows just how long the key will stay out of reach at his bedroom's normal room temperature. Of course, if it's wintertime and the heat in the apartment goes off without warning, he may have a longer wait, but with ordinary-size ice cubes it's unlikely to be an intolerable one. Peter's experiments also covered some obvious variations, such as freezing the second string in a whole cupful of water instead of in one ice cube--the trouble is, the larger block of ice takes much longer to melt, and the timing can vary over a much wider range, so he doesn't recommend it. I also asked him about freezing the key itself in an ice cube or cup of water and leaving that within reach, dispensing with the strings entirely, but he pointed out that in that case there are a number of ways you could accelerate the melting process (warming the ice with your hand or another part of your body, blowing or pissing on it). Forcing the ice to melt faster would get you out of bondage sooner, but that contradicts the whole idea of a preset time during which you cannot escape.

Peter's use of two strings is very important in making his arrangements "fail-safe." I've read many single-string self-bondage scenarios in which a key is suspended from a string frozen in ice so that it will drop into your hand when the ice melts--but what if it misses your hand and falls to the floor? Or bounces underneath the bed or behind a cabinet? It's far safer to begin, as Peter does, with a tethered key hanging within reach, and then use ice to keep it pulled out of the way for a preset time. Thus, instead of depending on a time-release mechanism to reach the key, you're depending on such a mechanism to withhold it from you; if the mechanism fails, you can escape.

Peter stresses that in order to minimize the risks of delayed-release self-bondage, good planning and lots of practice are essential--but practice each step by itself, before you combine them into an arrangement that's inescapable. "Test and check everything several times before you get going," he says. And if you possibly can, notify a friend before you embark on a solo bondage scene, so that he can let you out if something goes wrong and you don't call him back by an arranged time.

Above all, if things go wrong, try not to panic. "Often there is an alternative way out, however difficult," Peter notes. "But if the worst should happen, you just have to make noise until the neighbors call the police." That's another reason not to use a severe gag on yourself during any strict self-bondage session, and it also suggests that it's safer not to practice self-restraint in isolated locations far from any possible aid. If that's where you happen to live, of course, you have to make the best of it, but it's not a good idea to place yourself beyond all possible rescue if you don't have to.


No one knows better than I do the frustration of really needing to be tied up, but having no one willing, able, and trustworthy available to do the honors. (For some reason, the supply of good tops is woefully short of the demand--maybe because bottoms really do have more fun?) I've taken stupid risks myself when need drove me, but as I've gotten older, wiser, and more experienced, I find it easier to take a deep breath and think before snapping the cuffs closed on my wrists or the padlock shut on the zipper of my hood. I ask myself several questions, and unless I have a good answer to every one of them, I either abort the session or go back to square one and plan it all over again: Exactly how will I get out? Will I still be able to get out after a few hours of lying, sitting, or standing in these restraints? What will I do if my planned escape doesn't work? What is the worst that can happen if I can't release myself?

It's said that a hard cock has no conscience. It also doesn't have any common sense, but no one is forcing us to reduce ourselves to our hard cocks. If you want to enjoy self-bondage not only once but again and again, stay sober and alert, plan carefully, don't push your limits too hard, and practice, practice, practice!

Special thanks to Peter Boots for his help with these columns on self-bondage, and also to Bandana Boy and others on the Net whose posts I learned from.

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