fbpx A Guide to Bondage for Disabled People

A Guide to Bondage for Disabled People

The world of exploration offers equal opportunity: Everyone has the right to sex and sensuality.
Hannah Shewan Stevens
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Hannah Shewan Stevens

Experimentation in the bedroom keeps pleasure thrumming and relationships thriving. Rope play, for example, can provide euphoric results. Bondage requires a few adjustments, however, for disabled people.

Despite misconceptions fed by society and media, disabled people are sexual beings and many are kinky, too. Hedonistic delights connect them with their raw desires to explore new heights of gratification—and they should offer equal opportunities for all.

Venturing into a new area of sexuality is always a little daunting. Bondage could be a thrilling option for the 61 million disabled adults in the United States, yet some people may feel they can't experiment with it safely. However, kink is a game with adaptable options for every player imaginable.

Barriers to bondage

Beyond any physical barriers, the biggest obstacles for disabled people exploring their kinky side are the misconceptions around disabled sexuality. These inaccurate beliefs have historically stereotyped the community as asexual, undesirable or infantilized.

"The stigmatization of disabled sexuality and BDSM in our society has, unfortunately, affected people's willingness to try it out," said Emerson Karsh, a U.S.-based sex and kink educator. "We do not see a lot of representation of BDSM in society, and unfortunately, the representation of BDSM we do see is centered around white, able-bodied, heterosexual practitioners, which creates barriers to trying it out."

BDSM is a compound acronym that stands for bondage, discipline, dominance and submission, sadism and masochism.

The physicality of bondage is intense, and some ties require holding stressful positions for lengthy periods of time, which is a health risk for physically disabled people. On top of the practical barriers, the kink community is not always inclusive of disabled people's needs.

"My first experiences with rope bondage as a disabled person were really frustrating," said Almond Linden, who lives in Toronto and works as a sex educator prioritizing the experiences of disabled people and those in chronic pain. "My fat and disabled body were not represented nor taken into account in any of the 'mainstream' rope education platforms. I found myself quite triggered and believing that rope bondage just wasn't possible for my body."

The representation of disabled bodies in "vanilla" sexual situations is poor; add BDSM or kink to the equation and it is as though disabled people disappear. Without guidance that considers disabled people's needs, entering the world of kink is a risk.

"At first, I wasn't able to accommodate what I was learning to my disabilities," Linden explained. "It took several months to have big feelings about it, then eventually, I slowly started to imagine adaptations that felt doable but most importantly, exciting. With time, I've dissected what educators have shared and pieced it back together in ways that make sense for my body."

Safe bondage practice is an absolute necessity, but unfortunately, tutorials often neglect to adapt ties for disabled bodies or accommodate the pain tolerance of chronic pain patients.

Pain is an important aspect of bondage because it signals to the brain a tie is too tight or a limit has been reached. However, for disabled folks in chronic pain, these signals may be conflicting, and additional symptoms, such as joint pops, burning pain or hypersensitivity, can complicate play.

Benefits of bondage for disabled people

As a disabled person, bondage practice feels innately freeing. We are bound by societal limitations and rampant ableism, so choosing to restrict ourselves in an exhilarating way creates an electrifying release.

Besides the obvious sensual thrill, some people have discovered therapeutic benefits in bondage play.

"I find bondage to be extremely empowering," explained Linden, who created a "Rope and Chronic Pain" workshop series to help people engage in the practice. "It asks me to tune in to my body and in to presence with the person I'm tying with. When I tie, I enjoy the artistry of weaving together ropes, flesh, breath and rhythm. When I'm being tied, I enjoy the discovery of how my body feels when supported by rope."

As an unconventional approach to physiotherapy, which should be explored carefully, Linden uses ties that help with her stretching and mobility physiotherapy routines.

Making the ground rules

Communication is the foundation of all BDSM practice, but for someone with physical or mental disabilities, it is absolutely essential for safe play.

For novices, Karsh advised utilizing the ABCs of bondage play: "Airways should be unobstructed at all times; breathing should be gentle and controlled; circulation should always be maintained; and scissors should be on hand at all times to quickly remove restraints."

Understanding your physical and mental limitations is a must. If you have physical disabilities, understanding your pain triggers, sensitive pressure points and absolute no-go positions can prevent a lot of pain. The same applies to people with mental health conditions. Take it slow and experiment carefully, never allowing the thrill to eclipse safety protocols.

"I recommend starting with some bondage tools such as handcuffs made of silicone, pleather or neoprene, bondage tape or blindfolds to figure out if you like bondage and restraints," Karsh advised. "Bondage tape is a great, cheap, accessible tool that can be used for figuring out restraints with flexibility, low intensity and the ability to be removed by scissors quickly in case of emergencies."

Practical tips

No amateur should venture into the world of complicated rope ties without tutelage or research. When we enjoy something, it's tempting to rush, but bondage requires foresight, planning and clear consent practices, especially for disabled folks.

Safe words or tap-out cues need to be established. Some people with mental health diagnoses struggle with verbal cues, which means players may not be able to rely on the verbal traffic light system: saying "green" means go, "yellow" means yield, and "red" means stop. Some people may be nonverbal, while others may be unable to use physical signals. Alternatives include tapping, noises agreed to in advance, shaking the head and regular check-ins.

Remember, the first priority is your own safety.

"The first thing I do is make sure that I'm honoring my body," Linden said. "If I'm being tied, I bring myself into a position that is as comfortable as possible for my body and then we add ropes. My body, my safety, my comfort come first. The ropes come second."

No one should give in to preconceived notions about kink, either, Karsh added.

"Due to the popularization of bondage, especially shibari-style suspension bondage that we see all over Instagram, there can feel this pressure of bondage looking a certain way," Karsh said. "Bondage can look whatever you want it to look like, and take ownership of that. The most important thing is how you feel about bondage and the way you engage in it. Allow your interests and limits to guide your bondage exploration."