Self Bondage: How It Works
  Copyright 2004 by dungeonmouse

      First let me say what this essay is not.  I am not a psychiatrist and have no training in the medical or mental arts.  I've had three hours therapy in my entire life.  During those three hours, I learned that I am sane and functional and that was enough for me.  I'm also male, so any applications to the female psyche should be undertaken with caution.  I have researched self bondage on the web and in books but this essay comes mainly from my own experience and the experiences of other self bondage fans whom I've met.  That being said, I think these experiences are common among those blessed with a passion for self bondage.
     The technical term for self bondage is "autoerotic bondage" which simply means using bondage while alone for sexual gratification.  "Autoerotic" is defined as "using your own body as a sexual object."  In short, self bondage involves masturbation and the attending fantasies.  Self bondage fans may also exhibit some masochistic (deriving sexual pleasure from punishment) and sadistic (deriving sexual pleasure from causing punishment) tendencies.  Self bondage can also be classified as a fetish because "sexual gratification comes from a fetish object or non-sexual body part." 
     We self bondage fans are wired this way.  Self bondage is not a disease you catch or a lifestyle you choose.  Our interest begins at a very early age, typically during the grade school years.  For many, our first sexual thoughts involved bondage. Our bondage fantasies do not result from trauma or abuse.  Instead, our fantasies arise as pleasant or exciting thoughts.  (Some people in this world do pursue bondage because of trauma or abuse.  I'm not one of them and I'm not talking about them in this essay.)  Enjoying bondage seems very natural and obvious to us.  We realize our thoughts differ from other's and we usually hide our fantasies.  Yet within our minds, there is nothing unusual about enjoying being bound; it seems the most natural thing in the world.  I've been told by two psychiatrists that the "cure" rate for self bondage fans is abysmally low.  Therapy rarely produces more than a temporary pause in self bondage activity.  All these factors plus my own 40-year affair with self bondage lead me to conclude that we self bondage fans are wired this way: our brains focus on bondage as a sexual activity because that was how our brains were assembled.
     I've been asked if I'm straight, gay or just kinky.  None of those labels really apply so I coined the term "ferro-sexual."  I'm in love with chains.  ("Ferro" is Latin for "iron.")  I make love to the chains and they make love to me.  When I'm with a human partner, I'm always in a three-some: my partner, me and the chains.  Even if the chains are only in my head, they are always there, always participating in the action.  I can truthfully say I've never had non-bondage sex because bondage has always been in my head during sex.
     While an interest in self bondage doesn't make you insane or even particularly abnormal, it doesn't guarantee you good mental health either.  Interest in self bondage defines where the focus of your sexual interest lies, nothing more.  You can still get hung up on guilt trips or make poor choices on your sexual partners.  You can enjoy self bondage and still be bipolar or manic-depressive or passive-aggressive.  Some self bondage fans drink too much, smoke too much or eat too much.  Self bondage is just one part of you mental make-up.  It isn't in and of itself unhealthy.  Like everything else in life, it depends how you use it.
     Self bondage fans are generally intelligent people who enjoy being in control.  Many are Type A personalities.  Most are male.  All these descriptions apply to me.  I've heard the explanation that we spend our public lives running things so we enjoy letting go and savoring the surrender that bondage brings.  That explanation sounds reasonable but my own experience indicates the joy of bondage runs deeper than a simple escapist fantasy.
     We live dual lives.  For most of us, our sexual fantasies remain in the closet, so we have the obvious dual lives: public and fantasy.  You usually can't pick out the self bondage fans in Wal-Mart.  We look and act just like everyone else in public.  We also have the above mentioned dual personality: we enjoy control in our public lives while embracing a total loss of control in our fantasy lives.  We display a public penchant for rules and order that contrasts with our fantasy life where we flaunt social convention.  We  serve as both the top and the bottom in our bondage sessions.  A self bondage fan designs his own bondage, puts the chains on himself then submits to the chains.  An old joke says masturbation is the perfect sex act because during masturbation both partners receive exactly the same pleasure and always orgasm together.  Self bondage has that same appeal.  Your fantasy always matches your partner's fantasy because you are your partner.  Finally, most self bondage fans have an ambivalent attitude towards our kink: we enjoy our bondage fantasy in private but we also dream of coming out of the closet and telling the whole world who we really are.  Hiding our fantasies is a natural reaction to society's distrust towards anyone different.  (Those of us living in the Europe and America are especially blessed.  Despite the occasional perception that our western societies are run by puritanical prudes, we actually enjoy a freedom of behavior never before experienced in human history.)  Our yearning for public acceptance springs from the deep-seated, permanent nature of our kink.  Self bondage is who we are and dual lives are hard to live.
     Our dual nature is not a split personality unless we make it one.  The two sides of our sexual personality are like the other different parts of our being.  For instance, a man can be a husband, a son and a father.  His wife, mother and daughter each see a different person in him and have a different relationship with these three personas.  Yet all three personas are the same man.  His triple personality surprises no one because we are all like him.  We all have multiple personalities that we share with various people in our lives.  My dual bondage personality works the same way.  I have one relationship with the world when I'm in public and a different one when I'm in chains.  Both are me, both are rational, both make sense.  They're just different parts of the whole me.
     Risk-taking is another common characteristic among self bondage fans.  We typically pursue two risks.  First, we take the chance that our bondage will be too long or too severe, that it will cross the line from fantasy into reality.  We take this risk for the same reason motorcycle riders take curves going fast or mountain climbers tackle dangerous climbs: we enjoy the adrenaline rush when we push the limits.  As in-control, Type A personalities, we see risks as how we expand our limits.  As a submissive, we risk becoming permanently bound because that is the ultimate submission, the ultimate self bondage rush.  We push the limits too far sometimes.  Every year, people die during self bondage sessions when the bondage literally lasts the rest of their lives.  While these deaths are tragic, remember that many more motorcyclists and mountain climbers die each year when they push the limits too far.  Self bondage is simply another risky endeavor pursued by humans and if we flaunt the risks, we get hurt.
     Secondly, we risk being discovered by someone and our kink becoming public.  We risk discovery because we want to come out but we are concerned about the public reaction.  So, we put our outing in the hands of fate.
     We tend to follow our impulses.  Often, when we first visualize a new fantasy, we try it immediatly.  I don't think self bondage fans are any more or less impulsive than the average human but our impulses, when they occur, are very strong.  There are few experiences more exciting than coming home after work, stripping off all your clothes and diving headlong into an intense self bondage session, especially one where you are trapped for an extended time period.  The sudden transition from one life to the other adds a special spark to the proceedings.  Our impulses also get us in trouble.  A poorly planned self bondage scene frequently ends in trouble.
     Our interest in self bondage runs in cycles just like the rest of our lives.  In our early years, we may have fairly violent swings in our attitudes towards bondage.  We enjoy a thrilling bondage session then cannot wait to remove our bonds, clean everything up and return to "normal."  The return-to-normal desire is so strong that we sometimes destroy or throw away our bondage gear following an intense session.  Most older self bondage fans recall wistfully all the neat gear they lost over the years.  In the bdsm community, this cycle is known as "purging."  I think the purging cycle is a hormone reaction, at least in men.  We generate hormones during arousal.  These hormones drive our arousal even higher until we reach climax.  After climax, the hormones rapidly return to normal and our brain tries to return our activities to "normal" as well.  Many women have probably noticed a "run away" behavior in young men following sex.  At least in my experience, both the "run away" behavior following straight sex and the purging behavior following bondage feel exactly the same.  Both the "run away" and purging behaviors are most noticeable in young people where the hormone levels are very high and hormone fluctuations very violent.  As we get older, our hormones calm down and we adopt a more stable attitude towards our bondage.
     We also have longer periods where our interest waxes and wanes over a period of some months.  I've been keeping records of my own activities for several years and have noticed my interest in bondage waxes and wanes over a period of 15 to 18 months.  My bondage interest never goes away; it intensifies for six or eight months then tapers off somewhat over the next six or eight months.  These long-term cycles have dampened as I've grown older as well.
     I've noticed something in my own fantasies that some researchers have mentioned.  Many male self bondage fans view themselves as women during their fantasies.  They do not see themselves as homosexual; they view themselves as physically transformed into a woman.  The research opined this fantasy originates in our culture.  Western culture views women as the submissive sex so a man taking the submissive role in a fantasy may see himself as a woman.  I viewed myself in this way when I was young.  I know many male self bondage fans on the web who use female screen names.  I assume they view themselves this way, too.  Self bondage fans seem very open about this transgender aspect; most list their true (male) name on their profiles and list their sex as male, yet their online comments and stories sound like a woman talking.  Something not mentioned in the research happened as I grew older: my fantasy self-image changed from female to male to me.  When I reached my mid-thirties I began viewing myself as a generic male figure.  In my forties, I began seeing my real self in my fantasies.  Any psychiatrists out there feel free to analyze that one.
    So, what exactly do self bondage fans do?  Short answer: we tie ourselves up.  David Stein on his website defines two forms of self bondage, sensual and inescapable.  Sensual self bondage involves wearing bondage gear for the pleasure that the bonds bring.  Sensual self bondage involves anything from tying your wrists together as an aid to masturbation to wearing your handcuffs and leg irons all day.  Self bondage fans generally enjoy longer and longer periods of bondage as we age.  We favor the long, slow burn over the quick arousal.  Many make sensual self bondage part of their daily routine, doing the dishes, digging in the garden or even sleeping in our bondage gear.  I've noticed it's easier to lose weight when I practice sensual bondage regularly for large portions of the day.  I don't eat for pleasure since the chains provide that enjoyment and the sustained arousal apparently raises my metabolism.  I don't have any trouble falling asleep nor staying asleep all night while chained but after a week sleeping in chains, I notice a mild fatigue.  I suspect the slow burn continues during the night and disturbs my REM sleep in some fashion.  Public sensual self bondage usually involves wearing bondage items under your clothes or wearing clothing items than look normal but carry a self bondage message for the wearer.  Common under-clothing items include genital bondage for men, vaginal plugs for women and anal plugs for both.  Conducting serious public business while wearing steel around your genitals or feeling a plug squishing around inside you must be experienced to be believed.  Common outer wear items include large metal bracelets for women and heavy leather watch bands for men.  The punk and gothic fashions have created many opportunities for public self bondage while appearing merely hip or rebellious.  The common thread in all sensual self bondage is the key or the escape mechanism lies readily available.  You can let yourself out at any time, say when the neighbor rings the doorbell or you must leave to pick up the kids from school.
     Inescapable self bondage means just that: you can't get out.  Well, hopefully you can get out eventually, just not right now nor when you feel like it.  Inescapable self bondage usually involves a timer mechanism that releases the keys after a preset time period.  The simplest and most reliable release mechanism is the sun.  You chain yourself to something sturdy just after dark using combination locks.  You cannot unlock yourself until the sun comes up and provides light so you can see the combination dial.  Other methods use electronic timers that release the keys or turn on a light.  The most popular method currently in the self bondage community is the ice cube.  There are many variations but all involve using melting ice cubes to release the keys to your bonds.  If you are really safe, you will have a safety person check on you periodically and release you if you have a problem.  Few of us regularly use a human safety, preferring to work "without a net."  Inescapable self bondage sessions run from a few hours to several days in length.
     Inescapable self bondage induces different sensations from sensual self bondage.  Where sensual self bondage typically produces a slow, burning arousal, inescapable self bondage provokes cycles of struggle and acceptance as your mind grapples with the idea that you cannot escape.  These cycles of struggle and acceptance can be extremely violent with the attending emotions incredibly intense.  Many use gags during inescapable self bondage simply so we won't wake the whole neighborhood.  You can read about an extended inescapable self bondage session in my story "
Down the Rabbit Hole."  The scenario in that story is fictitious; the emotions and mental images are very real.
     Bondage walking combines many self bondage elements into one exciting package.  Although bondage walking can be done as sensual self bondage by carrying the keys with you, most people bondage walk in inescapable self bondage.  We put the keys where we must travel to get them.  Simply put, bondage walking is stripping naked, putting on your chains and taking a long walk.  Bondage walking is mostly a night sport, for obvious reasons.  Hiking around at night while naked and chained embodies the dual nature of self bondage very dramatically.  You are inescapably bound yet you are free to walk where ever you wish.  You are hidden by the dark yet you are out in the open.  For a bondage walking tale, read "
Night Walkers."  The plot has some fictional elements but the sensations and thoughts are real.  For a lighter take on the future of bondage walking, see, "XTreme Sports."  Bondage camping is the logical extension of bondage walking and I hope to explore that sport soon.
     If this essay didn't make much sense to you, then you were probably not wired for self bondage during your creation.  Too bad.  If something here stuck a familiar chord, you are in luck.  Thanks to the Internet, we self bondage fans can now communicate amongst our tribe. 
The Plaza Forum is a great place to start.  You can find other good places around the Net as well.  If you have additional insights on how self bondage has worked in your life, please email me.


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