Strappado bondage is a term describing when a person's arms are bound behind their back, then by use of some method of attachment such as a rope or chain that runs from their wrists to a securing point above, their arms are lifted behind them until the person is forced to bend forward.
The term "strappado" or "strappado torture" used to describe this position refers to a method of torture that is still practiced in some countries today, and has its roots in a form of medieval torture by the same name. While the strappado bondage position is considered to be a form of BDSM play, it shares its basic principles of restraint with the method of torture and therefore can very easily become just that if not practiced safely. In particular, there is a risk of many injuries detailed below.
While the general principle of a bondage strappado remains the same - with the arms bound upwards behind the subject - there are various methods and styles used to achieve this. The different styles can be summarized as follows and several can be combined:
- legs apart - spreader bar or attachment points
- legs together
- elbows bound / not bound (see also armbinder)
- rope around neck/collar pulling down to force increased bend (in the interests of safety, it is important to ensure that there is no pressure on the front of the neck)
- hair bondage or other head bondage to pull head back
- Use of a gag or blindfold.
- May create a sense of vulnerability in the subject's mind by exposing their buttocks and genital area.
The point of the tie is to restrict the ability to struggle by placing the body in an awkward position such that any struggling on their part could result in their losing balance. As a result of this, it is the bound subject who chooses not to move for fear of falling over.
The more common method of strappado often depicted in BDSM publications has the subject's legs bound together at the ankles and just above the knees. The arms may or may not be bound at the elbows. The arms are pulled up behind the subject and they are placed into the strappado position. A variation on this is to tie a loose-fitting rope around the subject's neck and to tie this rope to the ankle ropes, causing the subject to bend over more. This results in them having to bend their knees and push their buttocks further out. A collar around the neck is a safer method for securing the rope, as a loose rope can tighten and strangle the person. A different style is to make use of a spreader bar. By keeping the legs far apart both the sense of imbalance as well as that of vulnerability is increased. Making the subject wear high-heeled shoes or stand on a small surface in this position helps still further. If the elbows are to be bound together, even for very flexible people it is rarely possible to bind them touching together. As the arms are lifted towards a horizontal position in relation to the position of the subject's torso, the shoulder joints shift into a different position preventing the usual movement that occurs when the elbows are drawn together. Irrespective of this any elbow bondage, even minor, applied in this manner may severely increase tension and pain. Other rope techniques are sometimes added such as crotch ropes and breast bondage. The use of tight-fitting garments such as a corset increases the visual appeal of the position as well as restricting the subject's movements. By pulling the arms forward instead of just up the subject can be forced to bend over completely with their buttocks pointing up. The use of head bondage allows the subject's head to be pulled back to a front-facing position as opposed to hanging towards the floor and is often used to make the subject perform oral sex. In addition to the restrictiveness that this causes, if a suitable ring gag is used the subject may feel increasingly exposed to penetration and because the subject's head is facing down drooling may also occur. The normal reaction of the subject is to increase the forward bending as the arms are lifted. By further lifting the arms beyond a critical point this may become too difficult or even physically impossible to continue without lifting themselves off the floor and force them to stand more upright and increase the strain on the shoulder joints. The subject can also be secured to e.g. a frame and ropes or chains substituted for other bondage devices. By completely immobilising the subject's body the person in the dominant position can have complete and precise control over the tension and pain experienced. A form of predicament bondage is to tie one foot of the subject to the opposite thigh or another body part so they have to concentrate on not causing more pain. Their arms are raised to the point where they have to stand on their toes. To relieve pain in their foot they must lower their body and cause more pain in their shoulders. To relieve pain in their shoulders they must stand on tip-toes and cause more pain in their foot and leg. Another variation is to tie the subject's foot to a body part of another subject so they can relieve their own pain but increase it for the other subject. With the breasts pointing towards the floor, the use of nipple clamps, possibly with weights attached, can be used to stimulate the subject with more pain. Strappado bondage is most commonly used with the subject's feet on the ground. Very rarely will someone use this technique with their feet off the ground, because of the pain and possibly severe injury this can cause.
This type of BDSM play, due to the difficulty of maintaining this position, does not allow for long periods of being bound. Its major use is for sexual play with the bound subject. While bound like this, the subject is open to the use of various tools such as floggers, whips, etc., as well as general spanking. This position can also be used for sexual intercourse, or the use of vibrators and/or dildos to stimulate the bound person.
This bondage position is also used as a form of torture, therefore measures are usually taken to ensure that the subject bound in this position is not pushed beyond their physical capabilities. Any position that moves limbs into an extreme position and holds them there for an extended period of time can result in damage - sometimes permanent - to even the most flexible of people. It is possible, though very rare, for extreme iterations of this position to cause asphyxiation, as being suspended in this way can constrict the lungs and cause respiratory distress. Therefore it's a technique to be performed with safety foremost in mind.