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Introduction to Gags in BDSM (keeping her quiet - pt. 2)

After bondage and blindfolds, gags are one of the most common elements found in erotic BDSM images.  With that in mind, I'd like to welcome you, my dear reader, to the 2nd installment of keeping her quiet, a series of posts detailing gags as they are used in BDSM.  The first installment was all about duct tape gags, but, as the title indicates, today's post won't focus on any specific type of gag.  Instead, it's intended to be a general introduction to gags as they are used in BDSM.

I'd also like to immediately note that the title "keeping her quiet" is not intended to be chauvinistic or sexist in any way, instead it simply reflects my personal sexual orientation. I am a 48 year old man involved in a Master/slave relationship, married to my slave/wife Serafina.  My choice of a female pronoun is not intended to imply that female submissives, nor women in general, should be gagged or stifled from expressing themselves.  This is about the use of gags for BDSM scenes, not life in general.

Observations and lessons from this series are almost always equally applicable to the use of gags on submissives of any gender or sexual orientation, but the pronouns and examples I use are from my three decades of experience with BDSM.  About 99% of my experience is with female submissives, although my my former submissive and ex-wife did enjoy having a houseboy for a few months, once upon a time.  With that in mind, I have slapped a gag into a boy's mouth a couple times before he was forced to watch me torment his Mistress.
GAGS 101 ~ Introduction to Gags in BDSM
Definition
A gag is an element used in a BDSM scene as a fetish item, and to heighten erotic tension by increasing a submissive's sense of helplessness.  The basic purpose of a gag is to prevent the individual wearing it from communicating with their voice.

Gags come in a great variety of shapes and sizes ranging from a simple scarf or bandanna, to intricate harnesses with several leather straps securing the gag and virtually encasing their victim's head.  The great variety of available gags means that they all vary somewhat in terms of their individual effectiveness, and their safety.

Reactions
I've seen a variety of reactions to the use of a gag.  For some, being gagged can be a very erotic experience, they get wonderful sexual excitement from the strong sense of submission a gag enforces.  For some individuals gags have strong connotations of both punishment and control, which they may either crave or dread, sometimes feeling a mixture of both emotions.  Other individuals derive excitement from feelings of humiliation elicited by being gagged.

Some submissives don't care for being gagged, but submit to it for their dominant.  Other individuals detest the practice, and only submit to it under special circumstances, or for a special individual.  And finally, there are some individuals who consider being gagged to be a hard limit, and will not submit to being silenced in this way under any circumstance.  I'm guessing that later group is no longer even reading along . . .


I haven't done aftercare, nor have I interviewed another dominant after a scene, so I can only discuss a Master's outlook on gags from my own personal perspective.  I love gags!  I love the aura of helplessness and loss of control a submissive inevitably associates with wearing a gag and being unable to speak.  I even love the way they look. That's not true for everyone.

I think it's safe to say that I'm also aroused by the sound a gagged person makes when attempting to communicate.   There's something adorable about the muffled mews that come from a gagged lady that I find irresistible.

Some fetishists are also very turned on by the vision of the uncontrollable drooling gags commonly cause.  Although I do appreciate the visible and obvious loss of control signified by such drooling, it's not as erotic for me as the look of the gag itself, and the sounds gags elicit.

Safety
The biggest single safety issue facing individuals using gags for BDSM play is the danger of cutting off the wearer's ability to breathe and causing asphxia, death from lack of oxygen.  For this reason it's essential to stay in constant visual contact with a gagged submissive.  It's never safe to leave an individual who has been gagged alone, not even for a short period of time.  

Because many gags prevent a submissive from breathing through their mouth, it becomes absolutely essential that they be able to breath well though their nose.  If a submissive is suffering from the effects of seasonal allergies, a sinus infection, the common cold, or influenza (the flu) then it is not safe to use a gag.

Because they can quickly cause a simple vomiting episode to escalate into a serious emergency, I'd also suggest that gags are not suitable for use on a submissive who's feeling nauseous.  To err on the side of absolute safety, like the old wisdom our Mother's probably shared with you about the dangers of eating and swimming, I'd even go so far as to recommend that the use of gags be avoided for at least a short period of time directly after the consumption of a large meal.

It should go without saying, but cannot remain unsaid, that I also suggest avoiding gags if the user has been drinking alcohol, or using any kind of narcotic drug.  I don't personally mix BDSM play with any kind of non-medicinal or recreational drug use. I find that there's no need to alter my state of consciousness going into a scene, as the headspace created by the scene is it's own reward.

I must also confess that I wasn't always so enlightened, and there was a time when I combined the consumption of hallucinogenic drugs and/or alcohol with my BDSM play.  While I count my lucky stars that I escaped such reckless behavior without any serious emergency arising, I also know that such a mixture is like playing with fire, it's not a question of if you'll get burned, it's simply a question of when the conflagration will inevitably occur.
Dita Von Tease bound and gagged
Communication
Communicating with your partner is big a key to successful BDSM, and it's even more essential when it comes to safely using a gag with your partner.  On the surface this seems counter intuitive, leading to the obvious question - How can communication become more important when a gag is literally taking away your submissive's voice?  It's one of life's delicious ironies I guess, but by taking away a submissive's voice, a gag makes communication before the scene more important.

Because gags can elicit such a wide range of reactions from submissives, good communication and negotiation before their use is is an absolute essential.  Not only does this include assuring yourself that the submissive is physically and mentally up the the challenges a gag will present, it also means checking closely on their current health status.

The use of a gag also requires prearranged physical signs to signal emergency or distress, as a safeword can't be used when a gag is in place.  Instead of a safeword, a different kind of prearranged signal must be adopted.

While gags prevent their wearing from articulating words, they don't usually prevent all sounds, so a series of three grunts, or three of any vocalization in quick succession are a commonly used way for a submissive to signal for help.  Three slaps of a hand, three stops of the foot, and when bound so tightly that those aren't option, blinking deliberately three times in obvious succession, are other commonly used distress signals.

Obviously then, the use of gags require tremendous awareness and continual diligence on the part of a dominant.  When playing with gags, you have to be alert and on top of your game.  For this reason, I'd make the same suggestions for a dominant that I would for a submissive.  If you are feeling ill with cold or flu, if you have taken especially strong prescription medication, avoid gags.

Even if you are especially tired on any given day, it's probably not a good idea to include gags in your play, save it for a time when there's no doubt you'll catch even the most subtly signs of real distress your submissive might give.
Are Gags Edge Play?
Are gags to be considered to be a form of edge play?  I guess, as with many things in life, that depends on your perspective, as the term edge play itself is subjective.  What qualifies as edge play in my mind may be totally different than where you'd categorize the same activity, so it's a bit nebulous as a term.  When it comes to edge play activities it's said:
It is nearly universally held that they should not be attempted without proper training, supervision, safety precautions, etc. as appropriate
And that's certainly applicable to gags and gagging.  But there's a problem with calling gags a form of edge play.  That's because the full definition of the term edge play also includes the following:
In BDSM, edgeplay is a subjective term for types of sexual play that are "on the edge" of the traditional safe, sane and consensual creed. These forms of BDSM activity are regarded by many as inadvisable and dangerous.
Yes, the use of gags has a greater inherent danger than many other BDSM activities, but gags are commonly seen and used by a wide variety of people.  Certainly, when used with proper precautions and a bit of common sense, gags are not so inherently dangerous that they'd be considered absolutely inadvisable.

Keeping Her Quiet is an ongoing discussion about gags and gagging in BDSM.  Other postings in this series (so far) include:
  1. Keeping Her Quiet (pt. 1) - Duct Tape Gags
  2. Keeping Her Quiet (pt. 2) - Introduction to Gags
  3. Keeping Her Quiet (pt. 3) - Variations on a Gag
  4. Keeping Her Quiet (pt. 4) - Wiffle Gag
  5. Keeping Her Quiet (pt. 5) - Serafina's Assignment
  6. Keeping Her Quiet (pt. 6) - Hand Gag
  7. Keeping Her Quiet (pt. 7) - Drooling!
  8. Keeping Her Quiet (pt 8) - Gag Maker Extraordinaire

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