Bondage 101: Cuffs and How to Use Them: Beyond basic cuffs

Cuffs are often used to restrain a person by wrists or ankles. Their utility does not end there, though; this page explores how to take restraint a step further, and talks about types of cuffs beyond the simple handcuff or wrist cuff.


Humans are a clever species, so it stands to reason that we have invented all sorts of devious variants on the theme of cuffing someone's wrists and ankles to the bed. Some of these ideas are handy to keep in your repertoire of kinky sex ideas, because you can find all sorts of solutions to the most common problems you'll find with cuffing your partner to the bed. In fact, you'll find that there are all sorts of things you can do without a bed at all!

One problem with being tied down being tied down is that if you're spreadeagle, it really isn't that comfortable over the long term. Keeping your arms up over your head while you're lying down isn't really a very natural position, and if you do this for long enough, you'll probably find that eventually your arms and shoulders start hurting. So being cuffed or tied to the bed in a spreadeagle position works great for a while, but isn't really suitable for long-term play.

A more natural, and more sustainable, way to be bound is on your back with your legs and ankles restrained, and your wrists bound at your sides. This is actually easier than it sounds to do, and there are several different ways to go about it.

The simplest is by the use of thigh cuffs. A thigh cuff, as the name suggests, is simply a cuff that wraps around the upper thigh rather than around a wrist or ankle. Thigh cuffs, like wrist and ankle cuffs, have a tie-down point, which is most often attached to a wrist cuff to bind the wrists to the sides, preventing freedom of motion without discomfort. Thigh cuffs are usually designed to be worn for extended periods of time; when you tie your partner's wrists to his or her thighs, you can keep your partner bound for a long time while you work your will.

Variations on this basic theme,, including waist cuffs and bondage belts, exist as well. As the name suggests, these are long cuffs, usually with multiple rings or attachment points, which wrap around the wearer's waist. Cuffs can be attached to the belt, keeping your partner's hands bound at his or her sides.

Special-purpose shoulder-length gloves can be handy as well. These gloves are designed to buckle around your partner's arms so they can not be removed, and have many attachment points along them which allow you to attach them to each other, to thigh or waist cuffs, or to the sides of the bed.

You can use thigh cuffs to hold your partner's kegs apart, by attaching ropes or straps to the connection points, then fixing the other ends of the ropes or straps to the sides of the bed to prevent your partner from closing his or her legs. (Some people find that this increases the psychological impact of bondage, because it reduces freedom of motion even more than simply being bound at wrist or ankle). If you like, you can even place a short spreader bar between a pair of thigh cuffs, holding the legs apart.

While we're on the subject, spreader bars can be used in quite a number of ways to extend the versatility of cuffs and to restrain your partner in virtually any position you can imagine. At its simplest, a spreader bar is simply a rigid bar or dowel with an eye hook on each end; by attaching the spreader bar to, for example, a set of ankle cuffs, you can hold your partner's ankles apart and prevent your partner from closing his or her legs even if you do not tie your partner to the bed. Spreader bars are quite common in situations where you wish to cuff or bind your partner standing up; you do not need to tie your partner's ankles to a fixed point, as the spreader bar will often hold your partner's legs apart sufficiently for whatever you want to do.

Simple spreader bars can be made cheaply and quickly from a length of broomstick and a couple of large eyebolts; you merely need to cut the broomstick to the length you want and attach the eyebolts to each end. These spreader bars have a significant disadvantage, though, in that you can not adjust how long they are, so they can't be used for different purposes (or, sometimes, on different people).

More elaborate spreader bars are usually made of metal, and can be adjusted in length, often by sliding the ends over a center piece and then holding them in place with a removable pin:

Spreader bars with this design are a great companion to cuffs, and increase the range of possibilities available to you. Some spreader bars have built-in cuffs permanently attached to the ends, rather than eyebolts, for even easier (and more secure) bondage play.

If you want to get a bit more fancy (and really turn some heads), you can make an illuminated spreader bar using the plans I've posted here.

Off the Bed

You need not restrain your partner lying down; in fact, sometimes, if you want access to both sides of your partner's body (say, for sensation play or impact play), it's advantageous not to. The suspension cuffs and suspension bar mentioned in the first page of this section are useful for more than just suspension. One fun way to use a suspension bar is to hang it from the ceiling at just about the height of your partner's outstretched arms, bind your partner to it using cuffs, then use a spreader bar to hold your partner's legs apart. Your partner will end up standing upright on the floor, arms overhead, and immobile, but without being suspended off the ground.

Of course, not everyone can be hanging things from the ceiling, and it's especially difficult if you're in some place like a hotel room...and, fortunately, human ingenuity has solved that problem as well. Doorways, of all things, make very convenient ways to tie up your partner, with no extra hardware required. All you need is a short piece of rope, about five inches long, a thick wooden dowel, and a metal O-ring.

Drill a hole through the center of the wooden dowel, tie one end of the rope to it, and tie the other end of the rope to the ring, Open the door, drape the rope over the top of the door with the ring toward the inside and the dowel toward the outside, and close the door. The dowel prevents the rope from coming through the door, and the ring provides an attachment point for the cuffs. (If you prefer, you can buy over-the-door bondage kits already assembled for you.)

As for the things you can actually do with these various types of cuffs and restraints: we'll get into that in the next section.

What you'll need

Thigh Cuffs
Adjustable nylon cuffs
with soft neoprene lining
These cuffs make a good addition to wrist cuffs. They're comfortable enough for extended wear and can be used to bind your partner's thighs together, restrain your partner's wrists at his or her sides, or (with a spreader bar) hold your partner's thighs apart.

Lockable Bondage Belt
Leather with metal hardware and
attachment points on front, back,
and sides
A bondage belt is a great way to explore bondage comfortably. You can use this belt to restrain your partner's hands at his or her sides, or in front or behind; or tie your partner's waist to a bed or fixture to further decrease movement. Adjustable, lockable, and available in a range of sizes.

Over-the-door cuffs
Includes straps designed to be
looped over the door, two nylon
and Velcro adjustable wrist
cuffs, and two snap hooks.
If you don't have any place that's convenient to attach cuffs, or you travel, or you just want to try something different, this inexpensive set of cuffs and straps will get you going in no time. Turns any doorway into a place to tie your partner up for a little fun.

Thigh spreaders
18" metal bar with two permanently
attached thigh cuffs,
available in black or chrome.
The ultimate in convenience: a set of thigh cuffs with a built-in spreader bar. This device is very handy for keeping your partner's legs apart, and the spreader bar has permanent eye hooks for all kinds of restraint possibilities.

Adjustable spreader bar
Adjusts from 25" to 37",
available in black or chrome.
This spreader bar has built-in eyebolts on each end and is adjusted by locking steel pins that are removed to slide the bar open or closed. It can be used with wrist or ankle cuffs, with your partner standing, sitting, or lying down, and is perfect for making sure your partner is conveniently accessible for whatever you have in mind. This makes a surprisingly useful addition to anyone's toy collection.

If you prefer fixed-width spreader bars in whatever custom sizes you like, you can find them here.

I've listed these cuffs under "intermediate exploration" because I don't generally recommend them for people who are new to bondage. Metal cuffs like these they should be used with care; they're very hard, and can cause injury if your partner struggles against them. I strongly recommend that you do not use single-locking metal cuffs for bondage play.

Double-Locking Thumb cuffs
Nickel-plated thumb cuffs
with double locking mechanism,
two keys, and pouch.
Thumb cuffs are surprisingly secure. I've owned several pair, and even brought one to an engraver's shop to have a friend's initials engraved on them--they make a fun and unusual gift. Small enough to carry in your pocket, secure enough for bondage scenes, and just the right thing for surprising your partner.

Leather Bondage Gloves
All-leather shoulder-length
gloves with integrated straps
and D-rings
If you're serious about bondage play and like something that's elegant and classy in bondage gear, these bondage gloves are just the thing. They're made of soft, very high-grade leather, and lace up the sides. The straps and attachment points at the end allow you to restrain your partner to a fixed object, or keep your partner's arms in front or behind, or attach the arms to the bed or to other fixed points. These gloves are versatile, beautiful, and classy.

Posture Bar
Adjustable-length steel bar with
lockable leather collar and
lockable leather cuffs;
black or chrome
A posture bar is a fun and unusual piece of equipment that has a leather collar attached to a steel bar which ends in two leather wrist cuffs. You use it to restrain your partner's hands in front of his or her body, or behind his or her back. The bar and collar prevent freedom of motion, and force your partner to stand up perfectly straight. Sexy and uncommon, this takes bondage in new directions.


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