Rope is probably the most popular medium of erotic bondage, for good reason. It’s secure, versatile, beautiful. It provides a range of unique visuals and textures. It’s traditional, archetypal, the obvious choice for bondage.
I love rope.
But, unlike some people, I don’t love rope itself more than I love bondage in general. I’m into restraint, and while I can appreciate the tactile experience of some fine hemp rope, the end goal– helplessness– is more important to me than the means of achieving it.
(Of course, some people use bondage for purposes other than restraint, such as decoration. I’m not really into that so I’m not going to write about it. Sorry.)
This post is the first in a series about how to do bondage using pretty much everything I can think of that isn’t rope.
For this installment, I will focus on the only form of sex bondage that might be more infamous and obvious than rope– police style handcuffs.
Handcuffs: Not a Beginner’s Toy
If you are like me, the very first kinky sex toy you bought was a pair of police style cuffs.
If you are like many people who did this, you probably used them once or twice, and then discarded them as fiddly and shockingly uncomfortable.
Maybe, in those early experiments, you even had the super fun experience of losing the key– or suffering nerve damage to your wrists.
Subsequently you probably went out and got some rope, or some soft leather buckling cuffs, and let your police cuffs gather dust in the bottom of your toy box forever more.
This is the central paradox of handcuffs– they are the first form of bondage that many people try, and yet they are a poor point of entry to bondage– dangerous, uncomfortable, and perilously inescapable.
At the same time, despite their inherent riskiness, some experienced kinksters have come to look upon handcuffs as “fluffy” toys for kink dilettantes and lightweights, the mark of the newb and the poseur. Fuzzy handcuffs have practically become the official symbol of “that guy from Tinder who said he was really kinky but had no idea what he was doing.”
I’d like to lay all these stereotypes and misconceptions to rest, right now, with some simple facts.
Handcuffs are not “fluffy.” They are highly secure and can be extremely dangerous. Even fuzzy cuffs are generally not well padded enough to significantly decrease the risk of nerve damage. (In fact, cheap fuzzy cuffs from the vanilla sex shop might be even more dangerous because they are shoddily made and often do not double lock. We’ll get into double-locking versus single-locking later.)
Handcuffs are literally used by professionals (the police) to inescapably restrain people. Everything that is bad and good about handcuffs from a kinky perspective is encapsulated in that sentence.
I’m going to take a moment to give you a run-down of the risks and draw backs of using police cuffs in kinky play.
If you put a pair of cuffs on someone tightly enough that they can’t squeeze their hands out, and then lock the cuffs, the person is not going to get out of them without a key.
That’s good for a bottom who craves inescapable bondage. No one is going to Houdini their way out of unbreakable locking cuffs.
That can also be really bad.
For example, if you put cuffs on yourself during an unsupervised solo play session, and then drop the key where you can’t reach it… you are stuck.
If you lock your partner up in cuffs, or let them do the same to you, and then whoever is topping loses the key… you are screwed.
Just imagine if there was a fire or other emergency in either of those scenarios. That’s all you’d need, right?
So that’s rule number one: always keep track of the key. Always have spare handcuff keys, keep them close by and know exactly where they are. I always have at least one handcuff key attached to my key chain, right next to my house keys and all that other important stuff. I also like to wear a handcuff key on a chain around my neck– they are elegant looking and fairly discreet, a good way to quietly signal kinkiness to like-minded people while also keeping track of your spare handcuff key!
On a related note, your handcuff keys should all look like this:
Not like these:
I will explain why in a minute. It’s related to double-locking versus single-locking cuffs. Hint: that little pointy bit at the top is super important.
Handcuffs are super unforgiving, being made of hard, completely inflexible metal. That means they can potentially damage your nerves even more easily than rope can.
When nerve damage is happening, you may experience numbness, pain, lack of sensation, or impaired movement in extremities. If any of these symptoms occur, remove the bondage immediately.
Handcuff injuries are more common in people who are actually getting arrested than in people who are using them for kinky play, because unlike cops, tops usually care about the person they are cuffing. Cops often put handcuffs on super tightly, and do not double lock them. They also refuse to remove handcuffs from people who are complaining of pain, numbness and other signs of nerve injury.
Don’t be like a cop. DO double lock. DON’T put the cuffs on too tight. And DO remove the cuffs immediately if your bottom starts complaining.
These are the nerves of your hand and wrist:
As you can see, the ulnar and median nerves run closest to the surface on the inside of the wrist. The radial nerve runs along the side near the thumb and towards the back.
So put the goddamn handcuffs on like this:
NOT LIKE THIS:
In the first image, with the hands naturally facing inwards, you can see how the backs of the wrists are taking most of the pressure. There’s even a little bit of space between the cuff and the inside of the wrist, yet they are still on tight enough to prevent escape. This is good.
In the second image, with the palms rotated outward and the cuffs on very tight, pressure is going directly on the ulnar and median nerves. Even the radial nerve is probably taking a bunch of pressure, given the angle of the thumb.
So tops, put the cuffs on sensibly.
And bottoms? Don’t struggle a too much while wearing police cuffs. They’re inescapable anyway. You’ll only hurt yourself.
Quality and Double-Locking
Let me say this loud and clear:
You MUST buy police quality cuffs that double lock.
These are bad, bad handcuffs:
Not because they are pink and fuzzy. In fact, the pink fuzzy sleeves are the only good thing about these. Slide those off and put them on your police quality cuffs if you like.
These are bad because they don’t double lock. How can I tell? The keys are the wrong shape. They don’t have that little pointy tip.
Also, look at the flimsy, crappy chain, the shoddy hollow body of the cuffs. These are terrible. Crappily made cuffs like these might have unexpected failures of the locking mechanism, causing them to either come undone unexpectedly (bad) or not open at all (worse). Don’t fuck with these. You can get good handcuffs for as low as twenty bucks a pair. There’s no reason to buy crap.
This is how your handcuffs should look:
Solid and double-locking. Feel free to add fuzzy sleeves.
Here is how that double-lock mechanism I won’t shut up about works:
Ahhh, that’s why that pointy key-tip thingy is such a big deal!
To unlock double-locking cuffs, insert the key in the keyhole and rotate first in one direction, then the other. Voila. You are free.
So what IS double-locking?
Well, when you first snap handcuffs onto somebody, they lock automatically in one direction– you can tighten them by squeezing them shut, but not loosen them. That means, obviously, that the cuffs can just keep getting tighter. Since they are made of inflexible metal, that is very very bad.
Just imagine those cuffs tightening relentlessly, pressing your nerves against your bone, eventually cutting off circulation to your hands. Would you want to bottom to someone who gave you that experience? I didn’t think so.
Double-locking means the cuffs can’t loosen OR tighten. They stay in place.
That is GOOD. That is what you WANT.
So, to recap: your cuffs must be professional grade, and double-locking. Buy from a brand like Peerless, Fury, or Smith & Wesson.
Tool of the Police State
Finally, a word about an often neglected topic– the psychological implications of police style cuffs.
We live in a world where a lot of good people have super legit trauma around police and being arrested.
For some of them, police style cuffs will represent horrible, terrifying memories, rather than sexy fun times.
For some others of them, police style cuffs will represent horrible, terrifying memories… that they also have a desire to reenact consensually, through psychologically intense sexy fun times.
Some people who want to use handcuffs, but are super turned off by their associations with police, may find throwing some fuzzy hot pink or leopard print sleeves on the bracelets will be enough to neutralize negative associations. Others will not.
As always, be sensitive to the fact that the things we play with are super edgy, and don’t foist your kinks on others without careful discussion. You might think bringing out the handcuffs will be a sexy surprise for your lover, but end up accidentally triggering a panic attack.
(BDSM “surprises” aren’t usually sexy so much as non-consensual and a terrible idea. Negotiate!)
The Bottom Line
This article is only a start. There is probably a lot more to know about playing with police cuffs that I am not aware of.
As with all things: do your own research, beyond this blog. Negotiate carefully with your partner. Be aware of safety risks at all times. Use good quality gear that won’t fail on you in some unexpected way.
And never, ever, lose your keys.