A while back, a local friend (‘Mister’ on FL) started doing something a bit unusual; chain bondage. I initially found the idea intriguing, as metal restraints are something I find more than a bit appealing.
Then I saw photos of what exactly he was doing, how he was not simply binding, but actually suspending people wrapped in roughly their body weight of chain. The heaviness of the chain contrasted with the seeming lightness of the person floating in it, made for some powerful imagery.
I had a chance to see him in action at a recent event. I was particularly impressed by both his utter professionalism and the reactions of the people he was suspending. This, I thought, was something that needed further investigation, and more widespread publicity. You gotta see this.
The interview was conducted via email with copy-editing by me.
Q: So why chain? How did you come up with the idea of suspending people with chain? What drew you to it?
A: When I first started in the kink scene about 10 years ago (not that is a measure of anything other than longevity) many, many people implied to me that rope was the end all of bondage, and that if I wanted to be kinky I had to learn how to tie both knots and people with rope. One of the first events I ever attended was a local event where Jay Wiseman taught some rope bondage, and I learned that I was horribly incompetent at it.
Future “101” events that tried to teach rope were equally as galling as, to me, rope work looks like magic; anyone who’s good at it looks like a wizard. I’m lucky that I can lace and tie my boots, and keep shit from moving around in a van.
The TL;DR version is that it grew out of my wanting to do bondage, but knew that I was incapable of learning rope techniques. I was also heavily influenced by a chain aerial performance that occurred during Winterfire 2017 or 2018 (I forgot which).
So having been incompetent with rope, and noticing that the majority of suspension photos used rope, I wanted to see if I could do it with something different. I’ve observed suspensions with duct tape and pallet wrap, but those are disposable mediums, and you have to utilize a pretty significant amount to get someone in the air.
I knew that if I wanted to suspend people using alternative bondage techniques, I had to evaluate certain criteria: Is the medium strong/reliable? Can it support a person? Is it reasonable in cost and is accessible? Can it be adaptable and configurable?
From an engineering perspective, chain is all of these things. I think the technical feasibility drew me to figuring out how I could make it work in the ways that I thought were appealing, creative, and aesthetic.
Q: When did you first realize that people found the idea of chain bondage appealing?
A: I didn’t really consider that people would find it appealing. I had seen chain bondage photos of some techniques that didn’t look great, and I thought that I could improve on it in a way that was much more visually appealing and traditional in terms of what rope is capable of.
I think it’s only been the past few weeks (as of March 27, 2019) that people have started to gain an interest in it, aside from the few observers that we’ve had when I’ve/We’ve done this thing at Dark Odyssey:Summer Camp in 2018, the Leather Flea & Play Party in Fall 2018 and Spring 2019, and Dark Odyssey:Winter Fire in 2019.
Summer Camp 2018 was the first time were I did any chain bondage that people could watch, and a huge thank you goes to ‘BondagePupNHeels’ and ‘devab’ for bidding on my first public chain bondage scene at the auction! They really made me feel like I was doing something great and it gave me a huge confidence boost to keep going forward.
Q: How did you decide what chain to use and what sort of equipment you’d need?
A: When I first acquired a few lengths of chain, I knew I needed lengths long enough to wrap around a torso, as well as the waist. I also needed shorter lengths because, sometimes, you just need a smaller piece.
The size of chain was chosen because I wanted connectors and equipment that were well-rated for supporting human beings, but weren’t anything that felt too big or too heavy in the hand. The bigger the connectors are, the heavier they are and the more space they take up next to the skin. In the end it was purely out of practicality more than anything else: smaller chain wouldn’t have been sufficient for holding people up, which was something I knew I eventually I wanted to do.
Q: Do you use anything besides chain?
In the past I have used tubular, high-strength nylon webbing to lift people or limbs in the air, but I haven’t utilized it nearly as much. I’ve found that I simply don’t have sufficient body mass to counter-weight most other people, even using mechanical advantage techniques.
However, I definitely use leather cuffs for ankles and wrists. I’d like to give a shout out to Leather By Danny for making some pretty resilient cuffs. I’m sure I’m using them in a way that he never really considered, but so far they’ve held up nicely.
Q: Where do you get your chain? Do you do any preparation on it? What do you do to maintain it? How is it stored?
A: I get my chain and connectors from hardware stores. However, recently I’ve found that I can get similarly rated and sized connectors directly from manufacturers or suppliers, avoiding the retail markup. It brings the cost down quite a lot.
I don’t do any special preparation on it other than cleaning it with appropriate wipes or solvents as necessary. I try not to store it connected together with any other devices because of galvanic corrosion (an oxidation that occurs when dissimilar metals are in contact with each other while exposed to the elements). It tends to make the surfaces of the chain links and connectors become dulled and really unappealing to look at or to handle.
I accidentally had this happen during Summer Camp 2018 when it rained where my chain and connectors were stored in a backpack. While all of my connectors are stainless steel, the chain is zinc-plated and it looked really bad by the time I got home. Thankfully, you can clean the surfaces with vinegar to restore the appearance. You can either spray and rinse it, or dip it in vinegar and rinse, then let it dry. It doesn’t hurt the surface very much. You definitely don’t want corrosion happening long term, as it will eventually start to damage the metal.
Currently, all of my chain is separated by length in bags with my connectors grouped together by type in a bucket with a rubber-sealed snap-on lid. It works great for keeping everything together but, no shit, now the bucket weighs 60 pounds! So it’s not the best solution. I’ll be looking into wheeled boxes soon as it’s finally becoming unreasonable to lug around.
Q: What’s the cost to become a “chain novice”?
A: If you source the connectors from direct suppliers or manufacturers, the cost can be pretty reasonable for a few lengths of chain and connectors. The size of chain I use is a little over US $2.00/foot, and the shackles I get are about US $2.00 a unit. You can get a lot of chain and connectors for $50-100, as long as you aren’t buying stainless chain. I’d like to replace all of my chain with stainless steel, but the cost is high and ranges wildly. That should get you a decent amount of chain to start doing regular, non-suspension bondage.
Also, try not to buy from chain marine supply stores if you can avoid it, as the markup is outrageous. Look for their suppliers and the stuff that they sell. Call and visit manufacturers and ask around. You’ll find that industry people will give you the names of places that they recommend. You don’t have to tell them what you need it for. It’s not weird. Just pretend you’re looking for good prices on chain and chain accessories. You can buy in bulk and generally people won’t ask questions.
Q: How much chain would you need to start, and what type/how many connectors?
A: It depends on what your initial exploration and interest is. I didn’t have very many lengths to begin with, and I found myself running short. The more complicated the bondage became, the more chain I needed, even as I made sure to buy lengths that I thought would be more accommodating for various body types and areas.
I recommend people buy zinc/nickel plated chain to begin with as it has a pretty good surface finish for the price. You can buy plastic chain, which is incredibly cheap and is about the same size as most connectors (at least those that have a fairly good rated WLL) but only for practice, experimentation and play-bondage. I’ve thought about buying a bunch in case I ever have the chance to teach.
So far as connectors, you should factor that you need at least one connector per attachment point for each link of chain. If you’re going to use ankle cuffs, you might need one or two per cuff depending on how you intend to support it and how your cuff is made. If you want to connect multiple ends together, think about the connector(s) that you need to accomplish that.
I’ve ended up making multiple trips to stores to buy different connectors as needed, and sometimes I’ve still run short when I’m doing a major project or something with an uncertain execution.
Think about the types of connectors that are available as well. Some connectors are a loop that has an opening, which can attach multiple links together but can only be opened one way in one orientation. Some connectors have two attachment points with only one point able to be opened. For those you’ll need an additional connector to attach to the closed point. Some quick releases are like this.
I can’t stress enough that planning is your greatest asset in this kink.
While I’m on the subject of connectors, don’t ever use padlocks to connect chain links that will be under tension. Padlocks are actually horribly unreliable as load bearing members, and often a little bit of force can cause them to fail. They’re okay for predicament bondage and funsies, but they shouldn’t be relied upon.
The shank of a padlock, no matter the type, is usually one of first points of attack in brute-force security penetration and lockpicking, as it’s often the weakest. Again, don’t rely on any type of lock whatsoever. It’s just a bad idea.
Q: What are the potential dangers of using chain, and what sort of precautions should be taken?
A: Metal allergies are a thing, and it’s important to include it in your negotiation.
It’s direly important to not use connectors for more than what they’re rated for. Do not exceed the Weight Load Limit (WLL) of a connector, even though you are using them all in a system. Don’t use a connector with a low WLL in a main down line. I think this is the worst, possibly most negligent and ill-informed way that you could seriously hurt somebody.
But this comes with a caveat that’s kind of a tip, and kind of a warning; you should be consciously aware of the WLL of connectors you are using to hold up what parts of the body. If you’re holding up someone’s center of mass, you’ll need a stronger connector with a higher WLL than you will if you’re only supporting a leg on its own.
As a rule, it’s always better to have more support than less.
Chain is hard to cut in an emergency, so you should use connectors that can be undone in a hurry. Some connectors when placed under tension don’t allow you to manipulate the orientation to release chain segments. To not fall into this trap, you have to plan ahead accordingly with whatever you’re doing. You can cut chain links with bolt cutters if you have to, but I’m not sure that’s the first emergency step. You might expend more energy and time cutting the chain links than disassembling your bondage. If you plan your bondage well, you can undo a lot of it with the removal or loosening of a few strategic connectors.
You could end up in a situation where someone is stuck in a configuration because you connected chain segments under tension. That can be dangerous, because they may not have the strength, stamina, energy, or the flexibility to be manipulated in a way to remove that tension in order to loosen the connector. Really get familiar with how your connectors work before you make a choice to use them in certain configurations.
It’s possible to squeeze somebody in a way that could be damaging. Think of a lasso that is fixed in size, and you pull on two ends of it, creating a pinching ellipse around the body, or a limb.
You can totally accidentally drop a load of chain on someone’s foot, and it could hurt. It doesn’t feel great when that happens.
It’s possible to cut or pinch fingers and skin while managing connectors and chain. On my stainless carabiner I’ve pinched my finger often, causing a cut that seems to bleed for a little bit. Carry a styptic pencil in your kit to stop the bleeding, because when you bleed all over your chain it gets a little slick.
It’s only happened once that someone started to have what I think was a panic attack, and they were only experiencing a chest harness. Thankfully it happened early in the scene and it didn’t take very long to get them out.
Q: What’s involved with a “chain scene”? How did you come to determine what makes for an effective scene?
A: As with any bondage, have a specific goal in mind. It can be to be bound tightly, suspended, be in a predicament, or to experience sensation.
At this point if I’m thinking of a chain suspension scene, I plan on the logistics of how it might go in my mind. I think about how and where the drop lines are going, what kind of harnesses or lines I need, and how I’m going to support the person so they can let go and sink into the flight. There’s a lot of pre-planning behind a pose or a configuration.
What has worked well is that in the advance negotiation, I bring up the pose that I’m interested in to see if the person is capable of being in that position, whether or not it conflicts with any of their potential health issues. I also discuss how the chain and harnesses will go on. If it’s agreed upon and satisfactory, then that’s how the pose will go.
During the scene, if there are any complications or any places where the chain feels wrong or harmful, I make adjustments as necessary. I check in regularly to make sure that there aren’t any issues as it’s happening. Once they’re in the position, they can move around a little to make adjustments, but I still check up on them. If they have even the remotest feeling that they want to come down or that something is wrong that can’t be quickly adjusted, then that’s when the scene’s over and the descent starts. I am usually able to get the chain off pretty quickly. Then I’ll inquire about any pain or difficulty, doing a follow-up if there are any problems.
I suppose it sounds way less sexy and exciting this way, but I’d much rather have informed and enthusiastic/affirmative consent beforehand. I think the more the person knows about how it should go down and what we’ll be doing, the better the scene, as we’re all on the same page.
I haven’t done a lot of “spontaneous” chain bondage. Firstly, transitions are a thing that I’m still working on developing. Secondly, the few times I’ve done it, it ended up looking pretty chaotic. There’s a lot of refinement that needs to happen, which is why I suppose all of our photos look like a “finished product”.
Q: What sort of scenes do you engage in publically? Are they different privately? Is it good for intimate scenes?
A: Publicly, I’d do any kind of scene so long as there’s a sober negotiation beforehand. There’s nothing sexual or different in the scenes that I do publicly or privately because, for me, this is more of an art form and less about sexual experiences.
It can be more than a bit of a challenge to figure out how to make it relatively comfortable while also aesthetically pleasing. A successful scene brings me a great deal of satisfaction and I feel pretty accomplished when I manage to do something to which I aspired.
Is it good for intimate scenes? I’m not sure. Maybe. I don’t really have the finesse at this point to “gently slide the links over the bosoms and clasp the link behind in a commanding way.” I’m pretty mechanical about it, but I think and hope I’m not a bondage robot. I suppose that it could be “sexy” if you use smaller chain, more for looks and for minor restraining, as that’s much easier to handle. It’s also relative, as what some people might find intimate others may not.
Q: What do people say about your scenes? What is it they find appealing? What do you see as the appeal?
A: Most people who’ve never seen it before are fascinated or impressed. We’ve had people come up to us afterwards and tell us that it looked really neat, but they haven’t gone into detail about what it is that makes it interesting, so it’s hard to say what the appeal is. It might be the case that the what we’re doing it is new, in making it look like the way rope does artistically.
People don’t expect chain to be used in this way and are surprised that it can be. Chain tends to be seen as secondary in kink, holding cuffs together, extending a hard point, or things of that nature. Here we’re using it as a primary medium, so people are surprised when my play partner or others who’ve experienced it speak of its comfort and sturdiness.
I feel like another appeal is that it erases the stigma of body types in bondage, particularly suspension. Chain is sturdy enough to support anybody, and I see that as a plus. My play partner and I have conversations about this regularly, about how some rope tops refuse to suspend bigger partners and how frustrating that can be.
Q: Where do you see it going? Would you like to see chain become more widespread in BDSM? Do you feel as if you’re perhaps sort of the “Godfather of chain”?
A: I’d like to see more people doing it in the way that we’re doing it. It’s hard to get better in a vacuum, and I’m sure there are more and better techniques we simply haven’t discovered. It’s still pretty experimental, and I look back on the first few photos/work that we did and cringe over how little we knew.
Now that we’ve been able to settle on a few techniques that work, this would be the time for more development and criticism. Because our photos and work are starting to look more like rope suspension, I suspect people might be taking more of an interest. If anyone had skepticism of it before we started making it look less amateur, it was totally justified.
I’m hesitant to call myself the “Godfather”, as anything you release into the public space is open to anybody. Certainly there’ve been people throughout history who were bondage pioneers. As time’s progressed, there’re people who’ve really ascended to an advanced level with rope bondage, and their work is recognized and appreciated, such that they might be considered a minor authority on the subject.
When I started there were huge shortcomings in the way people had used chain in bondage. Most photos I’d seen used chain similarly to rope, and that’s not a good approach. It doesn’t embrace the strengths, form, and functionality of chain. Sometime in the future someone could take a similar approach to mine, having it take off in ways I’d never considered. Perhaps more elaborate designs of harnesses which are just as supportive, or even more so.
If there’s anything I’d like to be known for in the realm of bondage, it’s for changing up the way people think about what bondage looks like, that rope isn’t the only way of suspending and binding in a visually appealing way.
I’d like to give a shout out to ‘ClimbTheWorld’, as she’s had a ton of input on what works and what doesn’t, utilizing her experience in rope and suspension. Without bouncing ideas, thoughts, and experiments off of her, I wouldn’t be doing this in the way that I am. When I refer to “Us”, or “We”, that’s the other half.
PirateStan has been involved in his local BDSM community for over 11 years, after having had a lifelong inclination towards it. He currently lives a contented life in Southeastern Virginia with his girl, zeirah, while working by day for a Major Metropolitan Publication.