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Safe S/M

This information was partly taken from"SM Sex Safely" produced by the Stop AIDS Project with the help of Trevor Jacques, Peter Fiske, Philip Turner, Karen Kircher, Jed Herman and others. Please feel free to email us any suggestions to make it better.

S/M Risk Reduction...

...is every player's responsibility. Most S/M activities are low-risk for passing HIV and other STDs, but there are other safety concerns involved. Responsible S/M has always meant practicing safety. Learning from an experienced player is a traditional way you can learn new techniques or types of play.

The 15 Association and the other groups listed on our LINKS pages are a good place to connect with people while enjoying educational and social opportunities.

S/M Etiquette...

...is based on respect for yourself and the people you play with. You should discuss what you want to do, and what you will not do, and a safe word before the scene starts. A safe word or signal is used by any participant to stop the scene immediately. It can be used if either the bottom or the Top need a break, or to ask a question or to end the play session now. There's no shame in using your safe word; that's what it's there for. Along with each players limits and feelings, safe words should be respected. Tops should gather as much information as possible and practice on inanimate objects before performing an unfamiliar S/M activity, it's best if you ask experienced Tops about it, watch them do it, and find an experienced bottom to guide you through it. As a bottom you need to let the Top know your experience level, particularly if the activity is new to you. Doing this allows you to relax and enjoy the play, instead of worrying. Always ask before touching someone else's toy, or someone else's bottom. Never break into someone else's scene. Indicate your interest and wait to be invited. See our page on further S/M COURTESY.

Oh boy! Toys...

...make playtime fun, but forget everything you've ever heard about sharing! Sex toys should be used with one person and put aside until they are thoroughly cleaned before being used again. Anything that has been inside someone, or in contact with blood, cum, piss or shit, could transmit HIV or other STDs. Toys that can't be cleaned completely should only be used on one person.

Cleaning Sex Toys...

...is easy, if you always use a condom with insertion toys, just remove it and most of the mess goes with it. Later, wash the toy in hot, soapy water (use antibacterial soap), wipe it with an alcohol wipe, or soak it in water mixed with bleach (nine parts water to one part bleach) for at least 20 minutes. Remember to wear exam gloves while washing! Rinse well under running water and let air dry.

Other toys have different needs. Porous things like leather floggers and wooden paddles that have drawn blood should be wiped but not soaked with antibacterial soap and hot water or with a desinfectant toy cleaner available at toy shops. Scrub (a hard toothbrush is good) to make sure the cleaner gets into nooks and crannies, let it sit for a few minutes, rinse and let dry overnight. Leather should be treated with a conditioner after drying; canes will periodically need to be re-varnished. Rubber and latex toys should be washed with hot, soapy water, wiped with alcohol pads, rinsed under running water and allow to air dry. It's always a good idea when purchasing a toy to ask the maker or seller the best way to clean and care for it.

Metal toys are the easiest to clean. Neuro wheels, clothespins and other metal non-insertable toys can be sterilized by soaking in the bleach and water solution described above and rinsed thoroughly under running water.

Metal toys that are going to be inserted into the body, such us sounds or piercing jewelry, must be autoclaved. You can get this done at a piercing shop for a small fee.

Clips and Clamps...

...often break skin, intentionally or by surprise. For these reason they should be cleaned (see "Toys") or thrown out (one of the joys of clothespins is how cheap they are!). Be prepared by having exam gloves handy, and wipe up blood with alcohol wipes. To dispose of bloody wipes, gather them in the palm of your gloved hand and pull the glove off inside out, enclosing the soiled items inside. Tie the glove closed and put it in a garbage bag.


...can also break the skin, so be ready before you start. If you have gloves and wipes within reach, there's no reason to stop the scene when blood flows. Be aware that droplets of blood may be flicked from the ends of the toy on the back swing. This requires precautions in a crowded playspace. If you are watching a scene do so away enough. And of course you'll clean your toys when finished!

Blood Sports...

...include piercing and cutting. Permanent piercing is best done by a professional piercer in shop with the right equipment and conditions. Some shops have piercing seminars that can teach you the basics you need if you want to do a piercing in a scene. Better yet have a proffesional piercer do it or at least present. For play piercing, use new, sterile, disposable needles, or "points." Use them only once, and do not recap after taking them out; that's when you are most likely to get stuck. Put them in a sharps container when you remove them. These containers are made to safely hold used needles, scalpels, etc.

Cutting the skin can be done with a knife or a disposable scalpel. The blade of the knife must be cleaned before and after, by soaking on alcohol, or bleach and water for at least 20 minutes and rinsed under running water. Disposable scalpels can be bought at most medical supply stores, are sterile, cheap, and made for cutting skin. Again do not reuse or recap, just put the whole thing in a sharps container.

Shaving should be done using a new, disposable razor, get one with disposable blades. If you know how to use a straight razor, clean it before and after using as you would a knife. Before piercing, cutting or shaving, the skin should be wiped with alcohol on a cotton ball or prep pad or with a betadine swab, available at drug stores. Allow the skin to air dry. Wear at least two pairs of gloves, because alcohol and other cleaners eat through latex and you will likely have holes in the outer one after cleaning the skin. Just peel it off and you can continue.

Afterwards, blot up any blood with sterile cotton balls or gauze pads. Gather them in the palm of you hand and pull the glove off inside out, enclosing the soiled items inside. Tie the glove and put it in your sharps container.

Temperature Play...

...such as with cigars, cigarettes, and candles can be great fun. Disease transmission can only happen if blisters or charring cause broken skin. The safest candles are plumbers candles, unscented and untinted. These burn at the most consistent temperature. Playing with fire can be quite exciting, part of what makes it exciting is the huge risks involved, and it's definitely something you should learn from an experienced player before doing.


...is a low risk activity for transmission of STDs. If you use a violet wand on broken skin, just wipe the wand off with alcohol when done. Electrical contact pads, used with TENS and similar units, are sticky and can't be cleaned, so you should have a pair for each partner. Throw them out if they get body fluids in them.

Additional Resources

More in-depth information on the scene and safety can be found in publications like:

"On the Safe Edge: A Manual for SM Play"
by Trevor Jacques, et al

"SM 101" by Jay Wiseman

"Learning the Ropes" by Race Bannon

"The Lesbian SM Safety Manual" edited by Pat Califia