An Introduction to Flogging
Produced by the Society for Human Sexuality
at the University of Washington
Section 1: Copyright and Disclaimer
This document contains sexually explicit information for the benefit of adults. It is provided for informational purposes only, and the Society for Human Sexuality is not responsible for any injuries or damages associated with the techniques described in this document. We also do not guarantee the accuracy of this document.
This document may only be distributed in its entirety, unaltered and free of charge. If you wish to review this document or include it in another publication, you must obtain permission from the Society for Human Sexuality by sending e-mail to .
Section 2: Assumptions
It is assumed throughout this document that the "whip" under consideration is a multi-tailed cat. The use of single-tailed whips requires advanced study, and is beyond the scope of this document.
It is assumed that the area one will primarily be flogging is the back. Intense flogging of other parts of the body can involve additional safety concerns and training, and is beyond the scope of this document.
It is also assumed that you have some familiarity with the theory and practice of modern SM. If you have no clue WHY a person would wish to be flogged, are not sure if SM is abuse, or are not aware that SM should be consensual, we suggest you examine a book such as _Sensuous Magic_ by Pat Califia. Such a discussion is beyond the socpe of this document.
Section 3: General Safety
Areas of the body such as joints, or places where internal organs are not protected by bones, should never be struck with anything harder than a caressing, brushing stroke. Also, avoid heavily striking areas over bones that aren't protected by layers of tissue, such as the collarbone and the anklebones. Don't strike the bottom's face when the bottom's eyes are open and unprotected, ever.
When flogging the back heavily, avoid the lower back below the ribcage, where the kidneys are exposed. Also, avoid striking the spine heavily and directly. Avoid heavily striking the base of the neck, or anything above it.
Especially if the bottom is restrained, it is good practice to have a "safeword", which, when used, will cause the Top to honor any request that follows it (including that play be terminated). If the bottom has a safeword, the Top should not hesitate to issue direct instructions to the bottom (i.e. Stand still!), when such instructions will benefit the flogging or the scene in general.
Especially if you are playing in public, concern may be necessary if any skin breaks on the bottom (perhaps caused by a pimple bursting). A conservative approach in such a situation would be to put on latex gloves, spray the area with a rubbing alcohol solution, wipe it with a sterile cloth, and then cover the wound with MicroFoam (see a medical shop for that product). Flogging may be done over MicroFoam, so the scene may then continue.
If blood or other body fluids come into contact with your flogger, you should clean the flogger before using it on anyone else (or perhaps just reserve it from then on for that bottom, if it cannot be cleaned). One may clean floggers by first scrubbing off (with a microbicidal soap) any obviously tainted spots, brushing or spraying the tails with something that will kill HIV and other bloodborne diseases but which will not harm or discolor the whip, and finally letting it sit for at least 10 minutes to dry. You may then have to treat leather floggers so they don't dry or crack (depending on the cleaning materials you chose). As it can be difficult to clean and treat suede without it becoming damaged, you may wish to avoid breaking skin with suede floggers. Also note that Hepatitis B is much harder to kill than other viruses, and you should consider getting the vaccination if you plan on receiving many heavy floggings during your life. Please note that there are many opinions and ideas in the SM community on how to clean and disinfect floggers, and that the best procedure may depend on the type of whip in question; you may wish to ask about such procedures at the time you purchase your whip.
When you're practicing, it's helpful to put pillows or towels over areas that are unsafe to strike.
Section 4: Comfort
Although A-frame standing racks are valuable for the bottom to lean against, and be restrained to, it is perfectly fine and comfortable for the bottom to simply lean, with both hands, against a wall.
It is often valuable to discuss before beginning a scene what the bottom is looking for out of the scene. Is he or she interested in a masochistic experience? In this case, flogging firmly, with little or no warm-up, may be appropriate. Is he or she interested in a sensual experience? In this case, beginning lightly and working to more intense sensation as endorphin levels rise may be appropriate. Is he or she interested in a spiritual experience? In this case, some ceremonial actions such as lighting candles or burning incense may be appropriate, along with slow build-up culminating in strong strokes separated by synchronized breathing.
When one is just learning flogging, or if one wishes "thud" rather than "sting" at all costs, it may be helpful for the bottom to wear a sweatshirt during the flogging.
Finally, it can greatly assist the experience of the bottom if he or she is encouraged to (and given the space to) keep his or her breathing show and deep during the course of the flogging.
Especially when the flogging is beginning, it's important that the room being used is warm enough, as the bare back and front of a bottom can become cool quite quickly. This is not generally the sensation either of you would desire.
Section 5: Stance
The best stance for flogging is often a lunging stance (such as that frequently assumed in fencing). The Top's legs are separated with the front of the Top's body pointing to one side. The foot nearer to the bottom points toward the bottom, and the rear foot points to the side.
The knees should be slightly bent, to facilitate easily crouching lower (to ease lower strikes) and side-to-side motion (to ease the use of different angles of impact).
The ideal stance is a flexible one, as the Top may want to move quickly from one position to another as the different strokes require. Good floggings often remind one of a dance.
Section 6: Wrapping
Wrapping is the uncomfortable effect caused by the tails of the flogger landing too high, and wrapping over the shoulder. This can be avoided when it happens by stepping back (so the tails CANNOT reach that far) and/or lowering one's stance into a deeper crouch.
Section 7: Grip
For most floggers (single-tail whips excepted), it is best to grip the whip near the base of the handle, away from the tails. This will facilitate the use of leverage to focus impact. It is also valuable to grip the flogger firmly. This will facilitate firm, confident strokes, with less lost energy.
Section 7: Build-Up and Cool-Down
Unless one's bottom is seeking a purely masochistic experience, it is generally best to begin the flogging slowly and lightly, progressing to greater intensities as time goes on. Let it begin ever-so caressingly, and build as endorphin levels rise to stronger strokes. Most skin exhibits redness when it is warmed up to the point where harder strokes may be done. It generally takes 15-20 minutes or more for endorphin levels in the body to increase.
For many people, an important part of build-up is the smell of leather; for such a person, at various points before and during the scene you may hold the whip near the bottom's face and allow him or her to smell and/or kiss it. For other people, an important part of build-up is the act of being put in restraints; if you are putting wrist restraints on such a person (perhaps to attach them to an A-frame rack before a flogging), do so very slowly.
It can be helpful for warm-up to have the whip come into contact LIGHTLY with all parts of the body; this is more psychological than anything else. Just draping the tails on the front of the body and swooshing them back and forth as you go down and over the fronts of the legs can help the whole body feel more included before beginning serious work on the back.
Many scenes have a point which is a peak (at which the bottom often either safewords, or comes very close to safewording). One may then enter a cool-down phase for the flogging (gradually lowering intensities). Cool-down may be omitted, depending on the preferences of the bottom and what sort of aftercare is being planned.
Section 8: Varying Sensations
Most people can take a longer and more intense flogging (and enjoy it more) if sensations are varied during the course of it. Periods of "thuddy" sensation may be alternated with periods of "stingy" sensation. It is VERY helpful to occasionally stop, and perhaps run one's fingers or a fur mitten gently over the bottom's back; after this interlude, one may build again to stronger strokes, often reaching a level which would have caused a safeword before the interlude.
It is very good practice to not always strike in the same place every time; this is annoying to many people, and is not considered desirable (unless one is TRYING to be annoying, and trying to end the scene with a safeword). A pattern of strokes will be discussed which automatically accomplishes this. But, at the very least, alternating sides of the back for strokes is good practice.
For many bottoms, whatever sensations may be varied, one aspect of the flogging must remain relatively constant; the pace of the strokes. Strokes that are rhythmic (and hence predictable) cause a hypnotic trance for many people. Strokes that are out of rhythm are jarring and can cause fear. This may be the effect desired, but a Top should be aware that this is the effect which out-of-rhythm strokes will have.
It's often helpful to switch floggers (perhaps going from a heavy-weight cat to a scourge, and back again) during the course of session, as desired. Working from lighter-weight floggers to heavier ones is also helpful.
If the bottom's back is becoming too hot, it is helpful to have on hand a water-spray bottle, to cool him or her down during a break. Another option to accomplish the same purpose is to have on a hand a large sheet of leather or cloth, and to fan the bottom's back with it. If the sheet in question is a sheet of leather, such as deerskin, it may also be used to strike the back with (perhaps folded, as well) to achieve a very thuddy sensation. When the scene is over, it can be very comforting to the bottom to drape this sheet over his or her back, and perhaps hug him or her through it.
Section 9: The Use of Sexual Stimulation
Many people find floggings much more pleasurable if they are sexually aroused, or become so during the course of the flogging. If for no other reason, sexual arousal can stimulate the release of the same hormones that are released as the body experiences a flogging, thus facilitating the body's natural response.
During interludes between heavy strokes, one may manually stimulate the genitals with one's hand (possibly gloved for safety). One may also, with a heavy flogger, lightly stroke upwards between the legs, causing the tails to brush the entire genital area (for women) or the erogenous zones to the rear of the testicles (for men). Some women can experience orgasm through such flogger strokes, but this is somewhat rare.
If an A-frame rack is being used, one option many people choose is to have another person (a "spotter") stand inside the rack and sexually stimulate the bottom as he or she is being flogged. For many people, this works wonders.
Other people, however, may prefer no genital contact during a flogging; it is a matter of personal preference.
Section 10: Tips on Flogging Technique
Move into a deeper crouch, or side-to-side, as necessary. Stances should not be rigid.
Simplify the motion of the stroke as much as possible, and use the weight of momentum and the lever of the arm/flogger combination as much as possible. Let the whip do the work! One may also lean forwards and backwards during the course of a stroke to put one's weight into the stroke.
One may slightly twist the hand halfway through the stroke, if the tails of the whip tend to splay out too much on impact.
The best way to practice, and focus one's attention, is to see on the bottom the point you wish to strike, and then try to hit that spot. One may practice in a similar way on walls, pillows, and light switches.
For a lighter stroke, one may slow the velocity of the whip as it reaches the top of its arc, and let the tails gently fall on the bottom.
Generally, the more directly the tips strike the bottom, the thuddier the sensation is. When the tips of the flogger tails brush against the bottom, and do so quickly, the sensation is often stingier.
The tips of the flogger, as they strike, convey the greatest force of the stroke. Thus, when one is flogging heavily, it is helpful to strike in such a way that the tips land first; this will also help one avoid "wrapping", which occurs when the middle of the tails strikes a good area, but the tips (which land later) wrap around to strike over the shoulders or around the torso. This is generally considered bad form.
It is difficult to judge what strokes and whips to use on a bottom at a particular time, if one does not know what those strokes feel like. Thus, it is important as a Top to experience each of the sensations which you have in your repertoire. Consider bottoming regularly in order to become a better Top.
Section 11: Different Types of Strokes
Omitted from discussion here are specialty strokes such as double-flogger (a technique borrowed from Kendo), snapping, two-handed, and side strokes.
One basic stroke is the overhand stroke. It consists of striking overhand, with the palm towards the bottom. One may use the second knuckle of the first finger as a "sight" for follow through.
Another basic stroke is the backhand stroke. It consists of striking overhand, with the palm towards you. Again, one may use the second knuckle of the first finger as a "sight" for follow through. The backhand stroke feels the same to the bottom as the overhand stroke, but the overhand stroke and the backhand stroke may be put together to form a continuous "figure 8" pattern, which is very useful.
A final basic stroke is the punching stroke, which may be either overhand or backhand, but which includes flipping the wrist to provide more of a sensation of the tails going straight into their target, rather than striking them obliquely. This is commonly perceived as "thuddier" than other strokes, and is valuable for providing a different sensation, as well as allowing strokes in body areas (especially lower ones) that might otherwise be difficult to strike. It is often easier to learn the punching stroke if you use your non-flogging hand on your shoulder as a guide for the whip tails as they begin their motion.
Another type of stroke which is sometimes used is one where the whip is held loosely (perhaps by the loop at the end) and twirled in a great circle. The continuous twirling can be brought near the bottom's back, so the tails upon each revolution either come into contact with the back, or come close enough to it to move air in the general area. This can provide continuous sensation.
I suppose that the act of lightly draping the tails of the whip over the bottom's back, and gently caressing the back with them, could count as a type of stroke. In any case, it is very valuable and adds to the sensuality of the scene.
One principle that applies to ANY sort of flogging: every bottom is a little different, and has different likes, dislikes, and preferences. Some of these may be learned through pre-scene negotiation, but others will be discovered during the course of play. For this reason, no two floggings are ever identical; the best play is tailored to the people involved.
Section 12: A Useful Stroke Pattern
It is helpful for flogging purposes to think of the back as being divided into four sections: the top half of the ribcage left of the spine, the top half of the ribcage right of the spine, the bottom half of the ribcage left of the spine, and the bottom half of the ribcage right of the spine.
Stroke #1: Backhand, stroke direction diagonal (from the top to down, and from the left to right)
Stroke #2: Overhand, stroke direction diagonal (from the top to down, and from the right to left)
Stroke #3: Backhand, stroke direction diagonal (from the top to down, and from the left to right)
Stroke #4: Overhand, stroke direction diagonal (from the top to down, and from the right to left)
Stroke #5: Backhand, stroke direction diagonal (from the top to down, and from the left to right)
Stroke #6: Overhand Punching
Stroke #7: Backhand Punching
Stroke #8: Overhand, stroke direction diagonal (from the top to down, and from the right to left)
Stroke pairs 1/2 and 3/4 especially may be done in a figure-8 pattern. With practice, stroke pairs 5/6 and 7/8 will have a figure-8 feel to them as well.
Section 13: Music
Most people find that floggings are enhanced by the presence of good music. Currently popular titles include:
Peter Gabriel, "Passion"
Enigma, "Enigma II"
Tangerine Dream, "Canyon Dreams"
Andreas Vollenweider, "Down to the Moon"
Be careful that the music is not too loud to hear the bottom's safeword, if a verbal safeword is being used. One of the joys of SM for many people is hearing the cries, moans, and verbal feedback from the bottom; this is all lost if the volume is too high. Unfortunately, this difficulty often happens at many so-called "fetish nights" in bars. Most people find that it is much easier to set up a pleasant environment for SM at someone's residence or at dedicated SM community space.
Section 14: To Learn More
This document has covered only the basics. As is the case with many activities in life, the best way to learn is to observe and learn from someone who is highly skilled. Classes on SM technique, when available, can also be a terrific way to improve one's skills.
Section 15: Credits
This document is a "snapshot in time" of everything its author knew about flogging at the time it was written. Very few if any if the ideas are original, and most are common knowledge in the contemporary SM scene. Same of them came from reading books on SM technique, others came from personal conversations with and observations of skilled Tops, and even more came from workshops in SM technique that were attended at Living in Leather X and through SKIN (Seattle).
Section 16: On-Line Resources
Usenet: alt.sex.bondage (newsgroup and FAQ)
WWW: The Society for Human Sexuality
BBS: The English Palace: , or telnet to palace.com
Section 17: Classes
San Francisco: QSM
San Francisco: Janus
New York: TES
There are many, many more organizations that put on classes in SM and kink sexualities. Search the WWW on the internet, or ask on alt.sex.bondage to learn about a group in your area.
Section 18: Supplies
Currently, the world's finest single-tail and multi-tail whips are being made by Joe Wheeler (). Mr. Wheeler was at one time a student of David Morgan, but unlike David Morgan Joe Wheeler now interacts directly with the SM community, and so can make whips to suit community needs.
However, one cannot escape paying for quality. If you wish a more economical alternative, check your local resources and watch for local sales of used merchandise. Another option is to make your own whips: Lady Green's book _Kinkycrafts 101_ details this process, as does John Warren's book _The Loving Dominant_.
Section 19: Selected SM Bibliography
If no shop in your area carries such books, keep in mind that most bookstores in the country can put any book currently in print on special order, and that you may personally order almost any book directly from its publisher regardless of your location in the US. Consult a "Books in Print" reference for more information. Also, you can order most of the books mentioned below from a specialty mail-order book shop, such as Circlet Press:
Circlet Press, Inc.
Cambridge, MA 02140
Enclosed a self-addressed, stamped envelope when requesting their catalog.
_SandMUtopian Guardian_ (Magazine)
Antoniou, Laura, Ed. _Some Women_
Antoniou, Laura. _The Slave_, _The Marketplace_, _The Trainer_, (Fiction)
Bannon, Race. _Learning the Ropes_
Califia, Pat. _Macho Sluts_ (Fiction)
Califia, Pat. _Sensuous Magic_
Califia, Pat. _The Lesbian S/M Safety Manual_
Fatale Video. _Safe is Desire_ (Erotic Educational Video on Safer Sex)
Herrman, Bert. _Trust: The Hand Book_ (focus on anal "fisting")
House O' Chicks _Bittersweet_ (Erotic Video)
Jacques, Trevor. _On the Safe Edge_
Easton, Dossie and Catherine A. Liszt. _The Bottoming Book_
Lady Green. _Kinky Crafts: 101 Do-It-Yourself S/M Toys_
Lady Green. _The Sexually Dominant Woman_
Easton, Dossie and Catherine A. Liszt. _The Topping Book_
Miller, Philip and Molly Devon. _Screw the Roses, Send me the Thorns_
Morrin, Jack. _Anal Pleasure and Health_
Reage, Pauline. _The Story of O_ (Fiction)
Roquelaure, A.R. _The Sleeping Beauty Trilogy_ (Fiction)
Rosen, Michael. _Sexual Magic: The S-M Photographs_ (Photography)
Warren, John. _The Loving Dominant_
Winks, Cathy and Anne Semans. _The Good Vibrations Guide to Sex_
Wiseman, Jay. _SM 101_
Zee, Ona. _Learning the Ropes, Vol 1-12_ (Instructional Video)