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Sunday, April 7, 2013

Soft Bondage and Hard Bondage Definition (s)

A good definition should readily include all the things that it is designed to describe, and exclude all the things that are not meant to be described by the word or phrase in question. This is a LOT harder than it looks in many cases, as many things exist on a continuum and the definitions tend to get blurry on the margins. So I thought I'd get my nerd on and try to explain various terms involving bondage that I've seen of late that are hard to define. Actually, I suspect I will mostly be whining about why these things are difficult to define, definitely speaking.

Hard Bondage vs. Soft Bondage

To do research for this section, I went through my bondage image stash and looked at them, trying to sort out which were hard bondage and which were soft bondage, according to my definition. It was suprisingly easy, though my definition might not work for everyone.

I would say that for most people soft bondage (aka light bondage) involves silk scarves and blindfolds, perhaps ropes, perhaps fur-lined handcuffs, but no more! No more! Hard bondage involves things like suspension, leather armbinders, ass hooks, head harnesses, etc.

I don't buy these definitions, I think they are too gear-oriented. Before I offer my definition, take a look at these photos and see which ones you think are hard bondage and which you think are soft bondage:


Here's how I rank the images: 1-soft bondage, 2-hard bondage, but iffy, 3-hard bondage, 4-hard bondage, 5-soft bondage, 6-soft bondage, 7-hard bondage, 8-soft bondage, 9-soft bondage. Image source: all images are from the good folks at Kink.com.

Now, on what basis did I form these opinions? Well I have a sort of threefold axis on which I judge bondage: one, does it look painful? If it's painful-looking enough to make you go eeeeeew, it's definitely hard bondage, if it just makes you think, "that looks like it might hurt after a while," that moves into the realm of hard bondage, but may not in and of itself be definitive. The other axis: is it all about the sex, or the bondage? If someone is tied up in such a way that you don't have access to their fun parts, it's generally about the bondage, not the sex. That moves an image into the hard bondage category And the third axis is, how complicated and how much gear does the bondage require? If it takes half an hour to set up the bondage or very complex gear, it probably is hard bondage, if it's something you can keep in a box under the bed and be in full bound and fucking mode in five minutes, it's probably soft bondage. And if the bondage can very easily cause injury if you do it wrong (any bondage can injure if done wrong, but some more than others, see suspension bondage) then it's probably hard bondage.

It sounds complex, but it's actually kinda easy in practice. Let's look at how it determined my definitions.

One is soft bondage -- she's basically tied sitting in a chair, it's comfy, not painful looking at all, and her pussy is hanging right out there, ready for playtime. The chair she's in is kind of gear-ish looking but it's not necessary to the bondage, it would work as well in another chair, and so, soft bondage.

Two is soft bondage, though it's much more problematical and if you want to call it hard bondage I won't put up much of an argument. That's a very specialized device she's sitting on, definitely hard bondage territory. On the other hand, she's definitely available for sex, and in fact is getting fucked. Her pose looks kinda uncomfy, but maybe not, with the padding on the bars and all the straps keeping her weight easily centered on the bars. The head harness LOOKS fierce, but it's basically just a ballgag with lots of extra straps. The breast bondage looks kinda painful, but maybe not all THAT painful, so ... hard call. I could call it hard bondage, it's one of those images that kind of defines the line, because moving a little bit one way or the other might make it definitely soft or definitely hard bondage.

Three is hard bondage, no doubt about it. In suspension, using unusual gear, it doesn't look comfy at all, especially for her back, and she wears a ring gag. She is not easily fuckable with her butt hiked up in the air like that, though her wide spread legs look like a vibrator or some probing fingers might work her pussy easily. If this is soft bondage to you, you have to wonder what is hard bondage.

Four is also hard bondage. Tied to a specialty device, if she breathed through her breasts she'd be strangling because of those tight leather bands, her vagina pressed tight against a metal pole, and her naughty bits not accessible at all. Hard bondage on all counts, your honor!

Five is clearly soft bondage, the only thing bound is her hands, which are cuffed together under the bench, and she wears a ball gag. While James Deen has her legs spread nice and wide so he can fuck her, there's nothing about the pose that is innately painful. Softcore all the way, baby. If this is hardcore to you, you need to recalibrate.

Six is also soft core bondage. Granted, the gynecological exam table she's strapped into is an unusual bit of gear, but it's all there is to make this hardcore. She's relatively comfy, her pussy is very available, and her bondage isn't all that complex.

Seven is hardcore. Suspended with a butt hook tied to her hair? Oh, nothing comfy about that.She's sexually available I guess, though it's hard to tell how high in the air she is. I suspect she'd need lowering to be fuckable. Makes no difference, she gets there on the basis of the suspension alone.

Eight is soft core. Sure, lots of ropes on the women, but they're mostly ornamental, all that's really tied is their hands, which are behind their backs. One wears a ballgag and is being fucked, and they're on a nice comfy bed. Shibari has a way of LOOKING hardcore, but not BEING hardcore.

Nine is also soft core. It's just wrist ankle bondage with an added bit of rope securing her elbows to her knees. I'm not sure if this has any practical effect, as I've never tried it. But there's nothing particularly painful looking about the bondage, she's being fucked on a nice comfy cushion. She wears a chain collar around her neck but it's basically decorative, not secured to anything. So, soft core for sure.

Now you may have disagreements with my definitions and the way they work, and that's fine. Feel free to argue in the comments. I suspect that my attempt to forge a definition is doomed as far as the mainstream is concerned. I suspect the definitions will arise as a result of the aggregate of the way the words are used, and soft bondage will wind up being silk scarves over the eyes and fur lined cuffs and maaaaaybe a rope spreadeagle on a comfy bed, and nothing much else, i.e., anything involving a gag or a wrist-ankle tie would be hard bondage. But we shall see.


"I'm ready for my extreme dental exam scene, Mr. DeMille!" Image source: Device Bondage.com.

And finally, we have WTF (What The Fuck?) bondage, the form of bondage which leaves you saying only, "What the FUCK?" I mean, check out that cutie in the inset photo, she looks kind of like a young Doris Day, all snub-nose and twinkle-eyes and perfect teeth with a happy smile. Her waifish blond hair is not a wig, by the way. That's the real deal. They shaved it off ... that IS her in the main pic.

And my personal feeling is, if that pic of her with her head shaved and wearing a nose hook and a dental gag that stretches her cheeks way back so you can see her back molars gives you a chubby, well ... you have gone to a place where I have never been and have no wish to go to. It's not that we don't have a meeting of the minds, it's that I have no wish to meet your mind. I can only say, "What the fuck?"

That said, I am well aware that some of the images I have identified as soft bondage will get a WTF out of some people. In fact, I'm sure ANY kind of bondage gives some people a WTF reaction. so it's mainly a delimiter of your own personal tastes. A handy term nonetheless.

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