Introduction to Flogging: How to Choose a Flogger

"Flogging" is the act of using a flogger, which is any multi-tailed whip.

When most folks hear "flogger," they usually think of something like a cat o' nine tails. But floggers come in all kinds of shapes, sizes, and textures. They're capable of a very wide range of sensations, from soft and gentle to hard and stinging.

You don't need to be into pain in order to enjoy floggers; many floggers have soft lashes which feel delightful on bare skin, and are more like a massage than an old Navy punishment.

On this page, I'll talk a bit about different kinds of floggers and how to choose a flogger for the kind of sensation you enjoy.

Flogging is one of the most common of all BDSM activities, but it can also look very intimidating and scary when seen from the outside. At first glance, it looks like the kind of thing that only people who are really into hardcore pain might do; the floggers themselves can look pretty threatening, and if you've ever seen an intense flogging session, it's easy to see why you might come away thinking that this is not for you.

In fact, I felt the same way myself for many years. Even though I considered myself quite experimental, I drew the line at anything that involved flogging or floggers; it just seemed too much.

What I learned, though, is that the sensation of being flogged is nothing like what I imagined, and it doesn't need to be painful at all; in fact, with the right flogger, it's quite relaxing and sensual. There is no need to make it something that's about pain or discomfort; many floggers are made of very soft materials such as suede or deerskin, and are very, very gentle. These kinds of floggers, which are easy to learn and safe to use, make a great introduction to the fine and varied art of flogging.


Different types of floggers produce different types of sensations, so a good flogger is a very individualistic choice. The most significant factors in what a flogger feels like are the number of tails, the width of the tails, and the material the tails are made of.

Sometimes, sex toy stores sell cheap novelty floggers. Often, these floggers are poorly made, with rough, unfinished leather tails poorly affixed to the handles. I generally recommend avoiding these floggers; the poor construction and the roughness of the lashes make them potentially dangerous. A good flogger will last many, many years; it's worth investing in.

The sensation of a flogger is difficult to describe; if you've never felt one, it's not really like what you might imagine. Floggers are often described in terms of "sting" and "thud;" some floggers produce a stinging sensation, other floggers produce a heavy, dull impact, and some floggers produce a combination of both.

The tails on a flogger are most often made of leather, suede, or deerskin; occasionally, other materials are used. Suede and deerskin floggers have very soft tails, and are quite gentle. All other things being equal, deerskin and suede floggers feel less intense than leather floggers; the softest of deerskin floggers are not painful at all even with a very firm stroke.

Some floggers have wide, flat tails; other floggers have narrow tails. All other things being equal, narrow tails produce more of a "sting" sensation than wider tails, and thicker tails produce more of a stinging sensation than thinner tails. Most deerskin and suede floggers have wide tails; leather floggers may have tails of any width or thickness, and some leather floggers have tails which are square in cross-section, approximately the size of a leather shoelace. Floggers of this design tend to produce intense sensation.

Different floggers also vary in the number of tails in the design. All other things being equal, a flogger with a large number of tails produces more of a dull, thumpy "thud" sensation; floggers with a smaller number of tails produce a sharper sting. Likewise, the length of the lashes varies; all other things being equal, longer lashes have more heavy "thud" than shorter lashes.

Floggers may also be made of rope or cord. Floggers made of soft, wide rope are very gentle; floggers whose lashes are thin cord tend to be fairly intense. Other materials, such as horsehair, may be used as well; some of these floggers produce a very sharp sting.

When choosing a flogger, think about the kind of sensation you want to create. A suede flogger with a large number of relatively wide lashes is a good beginner's choice; for someone who wants an extremely gentle flogger unlikely to produce any pain at all, a deerskin flogger is a good bet. If you're looking for a flogger that produces a stronger sensation, a good choice is a leather flogger with relatively narrow lashes; such floggers can be quite gentle if they're used lightly, but still produce a sharp sting if used more firmly. For floggers that produce a very intense sensation, check out designs using a small number of narrow lashes, or designs using cord or horsehair. Martinets, which are short floggers whose lashes are short and square in cross-section, are quite stingy.

Occasionally, floggers may have knotted or braided lashes. Knotting or braiding the lashes gives the flogger considerably more "bite" and makes the sensation it produces very intense.

Good-quality floggers range in price from around $60 or so to several hundred dollars. Most floggers are hand-made, and the more expensive floggers often have an amazing degree of craftsmanship. As the price increases, the quality of the materials and the complexity of the flogger increases; less expensive floggers usually have simple wood handles, which are often wrapped in leather, while more expensive floggers may have counterweighted handles, or handles braided in leather, or handles made of carved hardwood. Any decent flogger should last virtually forever, with proper care, so in my opinion investing in just the right flogger is worthwhile. I've seen floggers with handles made of milled steel, transparent polycarbonate plastic, and other, more exotic materials, but at the end of the day, it's how the flogger feels that really matters.

So you're a proficient and experienced flogger. You have a collection in your toy bag, and know exactly the right flogger to create just the sensation you're looking for. If this describes you, then you've probably seen, and may even own, a swivel-handled flogger like this beauty with a transparent acrylic handle I picked up from a vendor at a fetish convention:

One interesting variant on this style of flogger you may not have tried yet is using it with the finger loops from a set of poi rather than with a conventional rigid handle.

I spin fire (it's great fun and good exercise), and I've discovered that the same handles on my fire poi work beautifully on a flogger as well. Indeed, many of the same maneuvers and patterns one uses when spinning poi translate beautifully to floggers, and poi handles provide excellent control.

You can find floggers already made with poi handles, or add poi handles to a swivel flogger easily. Just cut a series of strips of leather or whatever material you like in the width you want, twice as long as you'd like the finished flogger to be, loop the strips through a snap swivel with a D-ring on it, wrap another piece of leather around the falls near the snap swivel to old it in place, and attach the poi handles. Floggers made like this are great for florentining and other two-handed techniques.

Once you've chosen a flogger (or floggers), it's time to do something with the flogger. So, let's continue on to Part 2, introduction to using a flogger!

What you'll need

A flogger or two, of course! Or more; you may find that you like them enough, and there's enough variation in the sensation that different floggers produce, that you'll want a variety on hand for different occasions.

Most major cities have a BDSM community of some sort, and most BDSM communities have one or two people who hand-make floggers in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors. If you're not acquainted with the folks who do this in your area, you can always find floggers online. The ones shown below are available through the Internet, from JT's Stockroom.

" target="_blank"> Basic Leather Flogger
24" long, eighteen relatively stiff leather lashes, angled ends, moderately heavy
This leather flogger is moderately "stingy" and moderately "thuddy," and is a very good value--the price is hard to beat anywhere. A good overall introductory flogger for people who like mild to moderate sensation.

Short Basic Suede Flogger
This small suede flogger is moderately heavy, very gentle, and easy to control. This is an awesome choice for beginners and makes an excellent first flogger.

Basic Suede Flogger
24" long, very mild, with soft suede lashes.
Suede makes for a gentle, not painful sensation that's "thuddy" but doesn't sting. The suede lashes are quite soft, and make this flogger a good choice for people who might want a mild flogger with a gentle feel. This is a great choice for a beginning flogger or for a soft "warm up" flogger for more experienced people. It's also quite a bargain; my first suede flogger was considerably more expensive.

Deerskin Flogger
Mild and very gentle.
This gorgeous deerskin flogger is soft and amazingly supple; it feels incredibly sensual. No "sting," moderate to heavy "thud." This is a great choice for people who like sensations ranging from soft, sensual caress to fairly heavy "thump;" it's really hard to go wrong with this delightful item.

Diamond-handled Floggers
Leather lashes, braided handles,
moderately heavy.
Add some style to your kink! This work of art has a diamond-patterned handle and exceptional quality finish overall. It's a good balance between sting and thud, and its weight and balance makes it ideal for novices and intermediate users alike. And it will turn heads when taken out of the toy bag of the most experienced flogging aficionados. This flogger will get you noticed.

Knotted Flogger
25" long, narrow laced leather lashes,
knotted, light.
This evil little item has 24 very narrow lashes, knotted at the end for extra sensation. Very high "sting," low "thud," this is an excellent choice for people who like intense sensation in a flogger and are skilled in the use of floggers. If you want to make your partner sit up and take notice, this is how you do it!

Rubber Flogger
24" long
Rubber floggers are the Stealth bomber of the BDSM world. They look innocent, so you never see them coming. They produce quite a lot of sting for the size and weight, which means they're perfect for that person who gets just a little bit too cocky before a scene.

Horsehair Flogger
25" long, horsehair with
leather-wrapped handle
For times when nothing but OUCH! will do. Horsehair floggers produce a very intense sting with almost no "thud" at all, and are the definitive flogger style for those who like a nice sharp sensation. Of course, like any flogger, they can also be used softly as well. Good horsehair floggers can be difficult to find; this flogger is a remarkable value for the price.

For people who like a solid, thumpy "thud" sensation without any "sting" at all, the universal standard for "thump" in any impact toy has got to be the famous Dread Koosh Flogger, a flogger made from rubber Koosh balls, first invented by a user of a Usenet newsgroup dedicated to BDSM. The Dread Koosh Flogger has a special place in the folklore of BDSM; while I'm not aware of anyone manufacturing them commercially or offering them in any retail outlet, they're easy to make with a modicum of leatherworking skill, or even just some Koosh balls and rope. A picture of the first Dread Koosh Flogger, made from rope and Koosh balls, is here.


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