Safer, Sensual Suspension by John Warren
Who hasn’t looked at a suspended body with a touch of awe? Each ligament stands out; breasts are erect and proud, and the sense of helplessness overwhelming, perhaps for this reason, many people think of suspension as something they must do; not so, Safe suspension is difficult and can be dangerous. It is something like bullwhipping; if you want to do it, be prepared to put in a lot of work and preparation. If it isn’t a “must do,” something that your soul or the soul of your submissive cries for, direct your play to areas with less potential for disaster. However, if the call is there, few things can be more exciting.
Like the Scottish recipe for rabbit stew (First catch two rabbits…), let’s start at the beginning. Where are you going to do your suspension? You’re not going to be hanging a swag lamp or a suspended plant. (However, it is a good cover story when the in-laws come calling.) The human body is heavy…and to make it worse, most submissives don’t hang peacefully like a good plant. Some can get pretty damned active. The best advice I’ve received from engineers is that static loads (the plant) should be supported by cable able to handle twice the expected load; Dynamic loads (a whipped, orgasm-driven submissive) require support equal to from five to ten times the expected load, Let’s put these engineering terms into English. If you’ve got a 200 pound submissive whom you’d rather not drop on the floor, you should rig up support with which you’d feel comfortable hoisting a 1960’s Volkswagen. In case you haven’t guessed by now, the shower rod in the bathroom ain’t gonna do the job.
The ideal situation is an exposed beam that you can throw a length of chain over, Unfortunately most of us don’t live in Tudor houses. The supports in most ceilings are generally topped by the next floor up.., and to make thing worse, hidden by the ceiling itself, It is possible to find the ceiling studs with a stud finder –not Cindy Crawford — a gadget you get in a hardware store. The temptation, then, is to take a big, solid screw eye and screw it right through the ceiling and into the support. Wrong! In fact, Double Wrong! First, the stud finder gives you a general idea of where the support is. In most houses, this support is two inches wide. Miss the center by half an inch and the screw will be almost at the surface of the support. Put a bit of lateral pressure on it, and it may pull out of the stud. Thud! Result? One unhappy submissive. Also, think about how you screwed it in; you pushed up and turned it. Now, how would it come out best? Pull down and turn. What do you think hanging someone from the screw eye will do? You got it! We’ll get into this more, but a vertical screw is not a safe way of hanging someone. (Of course, once you have them hanging, a screwing vertically could be fun.)
Shucks, I guess you are going to have to get out the old hammer and smash a hold through the ceiling? Don’t really feel like doing that? Well, let’s look elsewhere. If you are lucky enough have a basement it may well have a treasure throve of exposed beams. It will also have a bunch of exposed pipes. More than one aspiring suspension fan has taken advantage of those pipes, figuring that few things are stronger than steel pipe. This is true. Unfortunately, plumbers being cost conscious (not your cost; their cost) attach the pipes to the overheads with connectors sufficient to support the weight of the pipe and nor much more. They just don’t consider that someone might want to hang a struggling submissive from their handiwork. (Well, most of them don’t; my plumber happens to be a fellow kinkster.) Let’s consider the result. Body hung. Pipes pull loose. Pipes break. If it is water pipe; glub glub, glub. It is a sewer pipe; ecch! It is a gas pipe;… boom! However, the wooden overhead supports in a basement are quite suitable for suspension… if you’ve got a basement.
If you haven’t and (aren’t about to perform elective surgery on your ceiling with a hammer. You might consider building an interior frame, I have two. One is sort of an inverted U made from 2x4s and a 4×4. The 2x4s are fastened to the walls of a short passageway and the 4×4 rests on their ends. This, of course, supposes that you are willing to damage the walls by attaching the 2x4s. The other is more complex: an open cube made from 4x4s. It is 4 feet wide by 4 feet deep and is about 7 feet tall. Being self supporting, it requires no attachment to either the walls or the ceiling The bad news is that the thing is so damned massive I had to build it right in our dungeon room and there is not a shred of doubt about what it actually is. No plausible deniability or stories about hanging plants here.
Let’s assume by this time you’ve found a place that is safe from which to suspend someone. Cuphooks are not going to do it. My recommendation is an eyebolt at least 1/2th thick and long enough to go through the support with at least a half inch of thread visible on the other side. Drill a horizontal hole about two thirds of the way up the support. Put a washer on the eyebolt, run it through the hole, put another washer on it, and tighten the nut. The eye itself should be vertical, with the gap where the metal has been bent back to form the eye on the top. Screw eyes of a similar size and long enough almost to go through the support are also relatively safe. Use a pilot hole so you don’t split the support (Figure A).
What to hang with! Believe it or not, I’ve seen people try using that plastic chain intended for the border of garden paths. Don’t even think about it. Actually, the material isn’t as important as the strength; remember five to ten times the actual weight! Chain is good and has the advantage of not needing to be tied. (Some people hold the ability to tie solid knots in an almost superstitious awe.) I use the kind of repair links you thread through the links and then squeeze shut for attaching it in locations where I’m not going to need to take it up and down, and threaded replacement clips for other locations. (Clips with a threaded section that open and close with a wrench are also handy substitutes for padlocks.)
I prefer welded link chain to twisted link both because it is more aesthetically pleasing and because, should someone rub up against it, it feels nice. Double-ended dog clips should not be used for suspension as most are not made of strong enough material to support safely the weight involved. Steel cable is harder to use and not as pretty as chain but a but a bit cheaper. You’ll need to cut it to length and then attach bolt fasteners on each end. Rope has the advantage of flexibility. You can tie it easily, knots really aren’t that hard and it is easy to cut. Nylon rope is the strongest but it stretches. In one- or two-foot lengths, this isn’t a problem, but longer pieces can provide unwanted surprises. a friend had his submissive stand on a chair while he attached her to an overhead beam in their Upstate New York barn with about 18 feet of nylon rope. It was worth the long drive from Boston to see their faces when she stepped off the chair… right onto the floor. Not a couple which gives up easily, he had her stand on a barrel while he shortened the rope. This time her feet didn’t quite touch the ground, but the elastic rope set her bobbing up and down in a manner that was more laughable than it was erotic.
Some people like to use a winch to raise and lower their submissive. This can be particularly erotic because the strain comes on the arms slowly and the feeling of helplessness builds deliberately. When installing a winch keep in mind that the strain on the overhead is going to be doubled (remember high school physics) and the winch has to be fastened just as securely as the overhead pulley. It doesn’t do any good to have a solidly anchored pulley when the winch tears out of the wall.
There are basically three kinds of winches: electric, cam and screw. The electric winches are easiest to use, but are expensive and require a power supply. In cam winches, the crank turns a gear which turns the drum. A cam drops into place as the gear turns, preventing it from rotating backward. This causes the familiar clink clink clink of the winch. In screw winches, the crank turns a wormscrew that rotates the gear on the drum. Screw winches are quieter because they don’t have a cam. Also, the cam can’t get stuck accidentally in the up position, allowing the drum to rotate uncontrollably in reverse. However, this can be a drawback because you can’t lower someone quickly with a screw winch. With a cam winch, the cam can be taken out of action and the crank turned quickly backwards.
Other enthusiasts have suggested blocks and tackles from sailing stores. Like good-quality winches, these come with load ratings. Some sets also have built-in quick-release cleats that work when you give the line a quick jerk.
However you suspend someone, you must have a way of quickly lowering them to the ground and getting them out of bondage. We’ve already addressed that with winches and blocks and tackles, but not many people can afford these items and the “engineering” (a nice way of saying “messed up walls”) that goes with them. This is where the safety snaps come in. These are units that have a hinged hook held closed with a sleeve. Their big advantage is that they can be released even when there is considerable strain on them. This is not true of conventional snaps and such. With them, the routine usually is: Have the person step on a stand to take the weight off the gear. Release the snap. Person steps down. The assumption is that the person is conscious. Later in article, we’ll go into why such an assumption may well be in error, but let’s accept it for now. With a safety snap, you put one arm around the unconscious person and, with the other hand, slide the sleeve up releasing the hook. If the person is so heavy you can’t support his or her weight, fall backward in a controlled collapse (practicing this is a good idea) so your muscles break the fall for both of you. The preferred place to get these safety snaps is at a marine supply store. Similar ones are sold in tack shops, but the metal used by the boating enthusiasts is of much better quality (often stainless steel) than that used by the horse and hoof people (pot metal). However, you can safely use even the cheap snaps, if you rig up a safety chain. Connect a short length of chain with a split link to the chain below the snap. Put a solid hook on the main chain above the safety snap. If the snap breaks, the safety chain will take up the strain. If you need to use the safety snap, just unhook the safety chain first.
Finally, we reach the place where to suspension meets the meat. Proper cuffs for suspension is as critical, if not more critical, than all that has gone before. Even good quality leather cuffs are not really suitable for suspension. No one but a complete idiot would use unpadded metal cuffs Or handcuffs. That is the domain of whack-off fiction written by whacked-off writers. There are many different designs of suspension cuffs, but they all share several necessary characteristics (Figure B). First, they are comfortable. In many cases, incredibly comfortable. This is because suspension magnifies any design error or mistake in a pair of cuffs. Second, they put the pressure on the back of the wrist. That’s where the bones are. Cuffs that put pressure on the inside of the wrist cut off blood flow. Cutting off blood flow is not a good thing. Third, they are designed so that they do not put undue pressure on to outside base of the thumb. This is because a major nerve runs through this area. Pressing on nerves is what they do in the screaming karate movies.
However, in real life, sometimes nerves don’ t come back to life for the sequel. Good suspension cuffs are not cheap, but not using them can be a lot more expensive… and not just in money. Fiction abounds with tales of submissives bound and hanging for hours and days. Reality is not so kind. Wrist suspension is a very stressful activity. Not only is there a lot of pressure on the wrists and shoulders, the stresses tend to put tension on the muscle sheath around the chest, compressing it. This makes it difficult for someone in bondage to breathe. People who were crucified, a form of suspension, died in most cases from slow suffocation.
One alternative that some people have tried in an attempt to take pressure off the arms and wrists is to put a loop of rope around the chest and under the armpits, lifting the person with this arrangement. Unfortunately, there is a very sensitive nerve cluster in the armpit that doesn’t take kindly to being used as a hoisting point. The best you can expect is a bit of numbness in the arms. The worst! How would you like to have to spoon-feed your sub missive for the rest of his or her life? Fortunately, there are alternatives to these less than recommended suspensions. The easiest is simply to buy a child’s swing, When the submissive stands on the swing and is tied to the support chains, you have a situation that is quite satisfactory. The off the floor help less feeling is still there, as well as much of conventional suspension’s “availability factor.” He or she can be swung back and forth, twisted about, whipped and tormented with ease.
The method I prefer is a bit more complex but uses an identical rationale. In my dungeon, I have two long chains, each of which ends in a stirrup. Further up the chain, and attached to it by a removable clamp, is a cuff. The stirrups are connected by a chain about 18 inches long. In practice, my submissive steps up into the stirrups while holding on to the cuffs around her wrists her weight is supported by the stirrups, and the cuffs are only holding her in place.
If I wish to get a bit decorative, I can loop parachute chute cord through the loops in the opposing chains and lace her tightly into this suspended bondage. A truly evil alternative is to disconnect the chain correcting the cuffs. When this is done, her weight tends to make them spread apart unless she constantly fights to keep them together. A woman or a man in this position begins to feel very vulnerable.
Any kind of chains can be used to support the stirrups, but I prefer welded link because the subject is very likely to be rubbing against them as she moves, Twisted link chain has more sharp edges and is less “comfortable.” I’m sure that people in military surplus stores wonder why their castoff parachute harnesses fly off the shelves. On second thought, maybe they are kinky enough to know why. The reason, obviously, is that these harnesses are the perfect suspension toy. The two D-rings intended for the shroud lines (military people have such a wonderful vocabulary) can be attached to any sufficiently strong overhead sup , and anyone cuffed and buckled in the harness will simply hang, helpless. The major drawback is that the designers have arranged the harness so that several heavy straps pass over the crotch region. This may make good engineering sense, but it does make that area in women somewhat unavailable for casual play. (Male genitals protrude from the webbing most fetchingly.) You can also used mountain-climbing harnesses available at many outdoor-sports stores. They also have the advantage of leaving the genitals nicely exposed. Another approach is to use bondage swings. These are designed for just this purpose, and do their job most efficiently.
Fortunately a bit of forethought can keep a lady’s pussy from feeling neglected. Simply insert one of those “dancing ball” vibrators with the detached speed control/battery pack. Turning it on and off while she is in suspension can work wonders at getting her to pay attention.
Surprisingly enough, the legs are much better designed to be used for suspension. It is relatively easy to cuff the ankles, particularly when care is taken not to put pressure on the Achilles tendon. In fact, “gravity boots” were an exercise fad that featured people hanging upside down. Scene crafters make purpose-designed inverted suspension cuffs, and some people make homemade suspension boots are often constructed with a piece of wood inside the boot attached through the sole to an eyebolt. Also, since the lungs are in the upper part of the chest, inverted suspension doesn’t put any pressure on them, and since legs are designed to go straight down from the body, they go straight up with equal ease. The warnings here have largely to do with the circulatory system. Inverted suspension causes blood to drain into the arteries in the head. This can lead to a risk of stroke and even, particularly in diabetics, eye damage. Another factor is that the risks of falling are magnified by the position. In regular suspension, the falling submissive would land first on his or her feet; in inverted suspension, the head and neck reach the floor first.
Suspension can be fun and exciting, but it takes a lot of work and a lot of thought. Do it carefully; do it safely.