X marks the spots where you shouldn’t flog

A flogging scene doesn’t have to be ‘heavy’ or
risky in order to be erotic, and most such scenes involve no legal,
health or safety problems. This note concentrates on best practice
and what can go wrong. This is not intended to scare anyone away
from an activity that can provide a great deal of mutual pleasure
and satisfaction. Whether you pick up a whip intending to titillate
your partner with a few light strokes or are hoping to push his
limits and give him a scene of a lifetime, sensible precautions
will help you avoid illegal acts, injury and unintentional pain.
Easy sanitary procedures can virtually eliminate the chances of
transmitting infectious diseases via flogging equipment.

The recommendations given here are deliberately quite conservative.
You may witness someone “break the rules” without problems,
or have done so yourself. There’s also a slight chance that
you could get hurt, or hurt someone else, even if you follow every
rule. Safety is never absolute. We are dealing in probabilities
here. The “rules,” which are based on the experience
of many people over many years, as well as on current medical
knowledge, are intended to minimise risk for most people in most
scenes most of the time.

Flogging terminology is often imprecise. As used in these notes, flogging means hitting with a whip, cat, or any other implement having one or more flexible lashes. Whip is occasionally used loosely as a generic term for all flogging implements but usually refers only to implements with a single lash. Cat refers to multi lashed implements whose tails are braided and flogger to multi lashed implements whose tails are flat and unbraided. As far as safety is concerned, belts and straps are very much like floggers – just don’t hit with the buckle. Hitting with a paddle, cane, truncheon or other relatively inflexible implement is different from flogging and raises issues not covered by this note, though what is said here about safe areas to hit and about bruises is also applicable.
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Playing safe

A stationary target is easier to hit accurately than a moving one, so it is usually preferable for the bottom to be restrained during a flogging. While many of us have an image of flogging that involves the bottom tied standing up, it is easier for most bottoms to sustain a long scene if their weight is supported in some way. A St. Andrew’s cross or A-frame tilted off the vertical can be very comfortable, as can being restrained horizontally on a bed or table. Kneeling with the chest and head supported on a bed, bench, chair, etc. is also a safe and comfortable position, particularly for ass floggings. Any setup for flogging should include sufficient lighting so the top can see where he’s hitting and the precise effect of his blows. If the light distracts the bottom, use a blindfold or hood, but never risk doing a flogging in inadequate light. Before the scene, it is important to agree a stop word or signal which the bottom can use to stop the scene completely and immediately. Also, most experienced whipmasters put a kidney belt (a weight lifter’s belt) on the bottom before any heavy flogging of the ass and back. Even an expert can miss a shot, and knowing that this most vulnerable area of the bottom’s back side is protected will allow both top and bottom to relax and enjoy the scene more. If the upper back is going to be a major target, a heavy collar, the wider the better, is advisable as well, and a heavyweight hood can protect both the neck and the head. Some bottoms may be less nervous about a flogging or whipping if you leave them at least partially clothed. Clothing can absorb some of the force of the blows and most of the sting (and the cutting potential) of thin whips, as well as protecting against stray blows to areas that should not be hit.

Depending upon individual preference, anything from T-shirt and briefs to denims to full leather may be worn. A leather waistcoat can make it a lot easier for an inexperienced bottom to take a back flogging. Leather chaps can be a good protection for vulnerable parts of the legs as well as framing the ass and making it a better target. Leather jeans can make even a heavy ass whipping tolerable for a novice. It’s a trade off, however, as there are real disadvantages to flogging a clothed bottom. For one thing the top has to swing harder to give enough force to his heaviest blows (some may enjoy being able to “work up a sweat” with less fear of damaging their partners). Also, without being able to see the effect of your blows – reddening of the skin, visible cuts, bruises – it can be harder to pace the scene. And, rough fabric and hard leather can wear away the ends of a fine flogging implement!
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How to hit

The cardinal rule is learn to hit where you aim. Most of the accidental injuries in flogging occur because the top did not have enough control to hit the part of the body he was aiming at and hit some off limits area instead – or in addition (as when a whip wraps around the torso). Good flogging technique requires extensive practice on an inanimate object, such as a pillow, teddy bear, hanging towel or piece of carpet, or upholstered chair: anything that can absorb the blows without damage yet also show where they landed. And, you’ll need to practise with each flogging implement you want to use. The many kinds all handle differently; no one can achieve acceptable accuracy with unfamiliar equipment. Although anyone can miss a stroke occasionally, until you can hit a precise target area with virtually every swing, you have no business using a whip on a person.

As a corollary, hit with just the tip of the lash or tails, not the full length. (The exception is when you use a short cat or flogger and are skilled enough to make the whole length of the tails land where you want them to – something virtually impossible to do when the tails are longer than, say, 2 feet.) For one thing, the end of a whip, cat, or flogger is easier to control than its body, and for another, if you try to land its body in a certain place on your bottom, the tip is almost certain to wrap around and hit him somewhere else out of sight. And because the tip travels faster than the body, when it wraps it will hit much harder than the blow from the body of the whip on the side of his body that you can see. The result will usually be much more pain than you intended, often in a part of his body that you shouldn’t be hitting at all (such as the side of the rib cage), and you could damage a vital organ in the process. To avoid the spine when you’re flogging the back, just land the tip of your implement on one side of his back or the other don’t try to lay it across the whole width. Don’t worry if you trail the whip across his spine as you draw it back, as long as the primary blows avoid it. Causing cuts, scrapes, and bleeding is illegal, and can usually be avoided, or at least minimised, by limiting the force of your blows, particularly with whips that can cut or scrape the skin easily, and by not hitting an already bruised or lacerated area again. (Some tops immediately bandage/put a plaster on every cut they notice, both to protect it and to help them remember not to hit the same spot again.) In general, you are most likely to break the skin if you hit hard again and again in the same places, least likely if you distribute lighter blows over a wider area. But a lighter, well distributed flogging that lasts a long time can have a cumulative effect in terms of pain and stimulation very similar to that of a heavier, more concentrated flogging.
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Where to hit

Hit only well padded areas of the body. The more muscle and fat covering bones, ligaments, nerves, major blood vessels, and organs, the better. People differ, obviously, in how well padded they are, and the only universally safe target areas are the buttocks and the thighs (especially on the rear below the buttocks). Within any particular bottom’s limits, these are the areas where you can strike hardest and longest.

The upper back is a safe target area for moderate flogging on most men. You can go heavier on someone with a very muscular back or someone who’s toughened his back through previous floggings over the course of years. The application of witch hazel over a period of time will toughen the back. Avoid flogging someone’s back if he’s skinny and the bones are very prominent, or at least go very lightly. The upper chest (the pectoral region), like the upper back, is an area where some enjoy being flogged while others cannot tolerate it at all. Go very lightly until you’ve gauged his tolerance, and never flog this area as heavily as the buttocks or thighs. The soles of the feet, the calves, and the cock and balls can usually take a light flogging without damage, though individual tolerance varies. Remember that the feet are full of bones and nerves, the calves carry major nerve channels and blood vessels, and the genitals contain many delicate structures. The abdomen (including the chest below the nipples) should almost always be avoided, the exception being when the bottom is a bodybuilder who has exceptionally strong musculature in that area.

Certain areas should be avoided absolutely, including the face, the neck, the joints, the hands, the lower back (just above the buttocks), the sides of the torso (armpits to waist), and most of the legs and feet (excepting only the calves and soles as noted above). When flogging the back, the spine should never be a target and should be avoided as much as possible. Incorrect flogging technique, or simply a missed shot, can result in damage to parts of the body that should not be involved at all, such as the eyes and the rest of the face, the nerves and blood vessels in the joints (especially the elbows and the knees), the spine, and internal organs (especially the kidneys). Damage in these areas can be so serious, even life threatening, that you should not think in terms of minimising it. Rather, make every effort to avoid it altogether.
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During a scene

Always pay attention to what you’re doing and the effects of your blows. Check for cuts and developing bruises, and avoid striking those areas again. Even if you think you’re not wrapping, check the bottom’s other side from time to time to be sure. The bottom, too, should remain aware of where he’s being hit and how hard – not just the overall effect – so he can let the top know if he’s missing targets or exceeding limits. Of course, neither partner can keep a clear head if he’s under the influence of drugs or alcohol. If you make a mistake and hit harder than you intended, acknowledge the slip for what it was and re-establish rapport with your bottom by touching or talking to him. An error need not “blow” the whole scene – no worthwhile bottom will panic because you’re not perfect, but he may need reassurance that you know what you’re doing and are in control. If a bottom feels a top is incompetent or is exceeding his limits and won’t stop, he could easily panic or be terrorised. Such emotional wounds may make it difficult for the bottom to enjoy subsequent S/M action, and they can even generate psychic stress that impairs other areas of his life. If he wants to quit the scene and the top doesn’t, it’s the top’s responsibility to persuade – not bully – him into continuing. Anything else is brutality, not consensual S/M. If you feel sure that he can take more, see if he’ll let you continue with a different type of flogging implement, a different target area, or a slower pace and lighter blows. Such measures can help him recover from a premature “overload” and get into the scene again. You can build to a new peak later, or simply continue until you can end the scene at your initiative. Bottoms can push or exceed a top’s limits too, both need to know when to say “enough.”
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Although an erotic flogging is rarely bloody, (and thus clearly illegal), many kinds of flogging implements can open the surface of the skin, either by cutting or scraping previously undamaged skin or by causing the weakened skin over a bruise to break. Thin whips such as bullwhips, tightly braided cats, and thin tailed quirts are most likely to cut, nylon tipped whips and rubber floggers to scrape (abrade), and heavy, wide tailed rubber or leather floggers and cats to bruise, but similar effects can also be caused by
other implements.

The chief danger from breaking the skin is infection. For the bottom, the most serious risk is becoming infected with a disease through blood or colourless lymph body fluid, which can carry HIV and other viruses, left on the flogging implement from a previous scene, if it was inadequately cleaned or not cleaned at all. Less serious, is that the open wound is vulnerable to airborne bacteria as well as contaminants spread by the top’s hands or his own, causing the wound to fail to heal or heal properly. Infectious agents in the bottom’s system might be transferred from an open wound to the flogging implement, where they could be picked up later by the top, or by other bottoms if it is not cleaned before reuse. The possibility of infection with HIV, hepatitis or other communicable diseases via a flogging scene must be taken seriously but should not be exaggerated to the point of paranoia. In most cases only a tiny amount of blood or lymph is exuded, and even less is actually picked up by the business end of the flogger, cat or whip. Moreover, the HIV microbe in particular dies quickly when exposed to air, though hepatitis viruses and some others are much hardier. If you follow reasonable precautions in using and cleaning flogging equipment and use standard first aid procedures in treating whatever wounds do occur, the risk should be remote or non existent. Whip cuts can cause scarring. While unwanted scarring can be reduced by proper care for wounds, the risk cannot be completely eliminated in any especially heavy scene.
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First aid

Even in a very heavy scene, blood flow from a whip cut or scrape should stop by itself in a few seconds. If it doesn’t, press on the wound, using a sterile gauze to keep blood off your hand. After blood flow has stopped, clean the wound and skin around it with sterile gauze soaked in Betadine (the best choice but will stain brown), or dilute Hydrogen Peroxide. Alcohol is not an adequate disinfectant in this case, and it will sting a lot more. Once cleaned, shallow cuts and most abrasions should not be bandaged (free air flow promotes healing) and should not require medical attention if kept clean. Do not apply greasy ointments. If there is any reason wounds can’t be kept clean without bandaging, bandage them loosely, using lint free gauze pads.

Bruising may not develop until well after a scene is over, and any flogging implements will not cause bruises in any case. (Bruising is most likely to be caused by implements that land with a “thud” rather than a “crack,” such as a very heavy cat as well as rigid, blunt instruments like nightsticks or truncheons. These do little or no damage to the surface skin but crush deeper tissue and the vessels running through it.) Small bruises do not need any special attention, though some think a light rubbing with Vitamin E oil can reduce pain and promote healing. For larger bruises apply an ice pack to reduce swelling, followed by Vitamin E oil. Do not use heat, as this could increase internal bleeding
and make things worse.
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Cleaning up

The business end of flogging equipment should be cleaned religiously after every scene to kill any bacteria or viruses they may have picked up. Do not use the same implement on different bottoms in the same scene – even if there is no visible bleeding. Small cuts and scrapes can exude colourless lymph body fluid before they start bleeding (if at all), and lymph can carry HIV and other viruses. Use latex gloves when cleaning equipment that was used in a bloody scene.

At a minimum, after a light to moderate scene with no visible bleeding or surface “sweat” raised on the bottom’s back (which might be lymphatic secretions), spray or soak the tips or ends of your whips, cats, floggers, etc. for several minutes with Hydrogen Peroxide, wipe away the excess with clean paper towels, and let them air dry for at least a few hours before reuse (preferably overnight or longer – 36 hours). Just dabbing or wiping your equipment with disinfectant isn’t enough, particularly with braided whips, because microbes can lodge in cracks and crannies. Rubber and plastic whips and floggers can be cleaned with a bleach solution (10 parts water to 1 part bleach is adequate). Leather equipment will have to be reconditioned with Lexol, saddle dressing or hide rejuvenator, after it’s dry.

After a heavy flogging and whenever blood is drawn, the cleaning procedure recommended by most respected whipmasters adds another step: First thoroughly scrub the ends – and any other soiled parts – of the implements with water and a foaming cleanser (such as Simple Green, a US cleanser) or soap (Lux soap flakes dissolved in water at half normal strength) using a hard-bristled brush (such as a hard toothbrush), to clean out any crannies. Rinse. Then spray or soak for several minutes with Hydrogen Peroxide as above, air dry, and recondition. Both cleaning steps can be repeated several times for greater safety. An implement that draws a tiny amount of blood can be made safe for reuse on another person if the procedure above is followed, but a whip that cuts someone’s back to shreds should probably be reserved for future use on that person alone even after cleaning.

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