Flogging is a human sexual practice in which one person (the bottom) is struck (usually repeatedly) by another person (the top) with a whip or flogger  It is considered a form of BDSMFlagellation or flogging is the act of methodically beating or whipping (Latin flagellum, “whip”) for the sexual gratification of either or both parties. Specialized implements for it include floggers, rods, switches, the cat o’ nine tails and the sjambok.

Flogger: The Tool

A flogger is comprised of a handle with many strands of material attached to create the fall or business end of the whip. It can be made of almost any material.

The best type of whip to start with is a light suede or horse hair “flogger” or “cat of nine tails”. A flogger can provide a wide range of sensations with a minimal amount of risk. A good flogger can be purchased at most sex shops or you can make one in the comfort of your own home (see appendix for flogger making plans). When buying a flogger, insist on testing each model you are considering on a bare part of your own body such as your own arm. Buy the one that feels best, as opposed to the one that looks best. Your first flogger should be gentle. You can always buy bigger nastier floggers once you know what you are doing.

Safety Issues

Breaking the Skin

Although an erotic flogging is rarely bloody, 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, which can occur in various ways. For the bottom, the most serious risk is becoming infected with a disease through blood or lymph (a colorless body fluid that collects in bruises and other wounds and can be exuded from a cut or scrape even if there is no visible bleeding) left on the flogging implement from a previous scene if it was inadequately cleaned (or not cleaned at all). Less seriously, an open wound is vulnerable to airborne viruses and bacteria and contaminants spread by hands and other body parts as well as the implement itself, so all cuts and scrapes should be treated with disinfectant (see Preventing Infection below).

Infectious agents might also 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. In a very heavy flogging, blood may spatter from some blows, but the droplets will usually land elsewhere on the bottom’s body or very close by and are unlikely to cause problems by landing on the top or spectators.

The possibility of infection with HIV, hepatitis or other communicable diseases must be taken very seriously, but it should also 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 whip, cat, or flogger. Moreover, the HIV microbe in particular dies quickly when exposed to air, though the 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 nonexistent.

Whip cuts can also cause scarring. Unwanted scarring can be reduced by proper care for wounds, but the risk cannot be completely eliminated in any especially heavy scene.

Bruises and Hematomas

bruise results when blood vessels are broken under the skin. Most bruises are caused by the rupture of tiny capillaries just under the surface. The discoloration and tenderness to touch comes from the accumulation of blood, lymph, and waste products at the site of the wound as the body reacts to heal itself. Most simple bruises are not dangerous and will go away in time without treatment. More serious is a hematoma which results from bleeding between deeper layers of the skin or flesh and can range in size from about 1 to 12cm (0.5″-5″) in diameter. On the surface, a hematoma looks like a very bad bruise. The site will be hard and hot to the touch, as well as very tender and painful, and it may be puffy. Small hematomas, like bruises, can heal by themselves if they’re not abused further. Large ones can be very dangerous, since the pooled blood clots and hardens, putting pressure on adjacent nerves, undamaged blood vessels, and even internal organs. They need to be treated with medication to dissolve the clotting safely.

Psychological Trauma

An incompetent flogging could panic or terrorize the bottom, and even a technically expert flogging may go well beyond a particular bottom’s limits. Such emotional wounds may make it difficult for the bottom to enjoy subsequent SM action, and they can even generate psychic stress that impairs other areas of life. Granted, some tops deliberately try to instill terror, and some bottoms get off on it, but terrorization is an extremely hazardous technique. It should be used only by tops who know exactly what they’re doing and how to deal with the results. Tops should also be prepared to deal with panic, which is almost always unintentional, by being able to calm the bottom down.

Other Damage

While cuts, scrapes, and bruises are occupational hazards and sometimes even the desired outcome of even the most impeccable flogging, bad technique or 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 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 minimizing it. Rather, make every effort to avoid it altogether by following the safety rules below.

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