Flogging 101: From Pillows to People
Sexistential Joy welcomes our first guest writer: Queerodactyl! Queerodactyl is an educator, activist and part-time reptile who's been working with BDSM communities for over 4 years. Their greatest passions are fire, flogging and flying, but they love to learn new skills and gnaw new people.
Hi there! Welcome to Flogging 101. Flogging is a type of impact play, which in the kink community refers to sexy (or non-sexy) funtime that involves a person being hit. Impact play can use hands, floggers, crops, paddles, and countless other toys. Sensual impact play can itself be arousing or otherwise feel good. The goal of harder, more painful impact play is usually to create an endorphin high (a happy floaty feeling caused by a body’s healing response to injury) without much physical risk.
Every person has different goals, limits, and sensory desires, and most scenes incorporate some mix of those two objectives to varying degrees.
Floggers are versatile and elegant toys (usually), and come in a wide variety of shapes and materials. Generally, any whip that has multiple falls (usually three or more) could be considered a flogger. They’re one of the few tools popularised by modern kink and BDSM culture that was originally designed for use on people. Most floggers are effective impact toys that pack a lot of punch and don’t carry a whole lot of risk.
Before we begin the how-to, a brief disclaimer: reading can’t replace community. This article can’t match instruction from a great flogger willing to help you practice, or feedback from an experienced floggee familiar with their body’s responses to impact. But, at SexistentialJoy, we know not everyone has access to kink workshops or accepting, openly kinky meetups, and we’re huge fans of doing your homework before you try a new thing with your playmates. We encourage you to seek out other resources and people to help you out on your kinky journey.
Choose an appropriate flogger.
A flogger that is ideally sized for you will have falls (the flexible material part that you strike with) that are about as long as your forearm, from wrist to elbow. You have an inch or two of leeway here. If you hold a flogger in your hand with your arm outstretched in front of you and your elbow slightly bent, and then move only your wrist to swing the flogger in a complete rotation, the falls should be short enough that you don’t smack yourself in the face.
Think about how you or your play partner want the impact to feel. Kinksters most commonly describe most impact play along a range of ‘stingy’ to ‘thuddy.’ Stinginess refers to a sharp, surface-level sensation, kind of like a stiff-handed slap. Thuddiness refers to a more dispersed impact that penetrates deeper and is more likely to move your center of gravity, like a punch. Some materials and styles of weaving falls can produce a stingy and thuddy effect, depending on their use, but most floggers will veer more toward one or the other. Generally, thinner falls and lighter, stiffer materials will be more stingy, and thicker, heavier, and more pliable materials will be more thuddy.
Choose one made of a well-wearing, sturdy material. Leather is by far the most popular, and different hides and methods of processing will result in a wide variety of consistencies and textures. Realistic-feeling vegan leather floggers are becoming more consistently available. Other great materials include rubber, latex, and paracord.
Check that a flogger is reasonably well balanced. A flogger’s center of gravity should be around the join of the falls to the handle. Spin a flogger to find out how it moves, and whether there are falls that stray from the bunch due to an inconsistent cut. Assume you’ll want a lighter flogger than you think you need. Holding a small amount of weight aloft for more than a few minutes can be surprisingly taxing, and flogging is more tiring for forearms than most other kinds of impact play. This might mean choosing one with a lighter handle and fewer falls than you might use later.
As the title implies, start with a pillow.
If you’ve never flogged before, practice with something that isn’t alive. It won’t mind if you hit it too hard and won’t complain when you miss. Practice dozens or hundreds of times, for three to five minutes whenever the mood strikes. Put on some rock or R&B and make it a mini-workout. This way, wielding your flogger will feel natural by the time you use it with a person, and you’ll be freer to think through adjusting as needed while you’re operating from muscle memory.
I recommend using a large pillow (that’s at least as wide as a set of hips) that isn’t overstuffed. If you make a clear dent in the fabric with each stroke, it will be easy to track how accurate and consistent your strokes are. You’ll also get some sense of how much force you’ve put behind a blow, or if you’re too close or far away. If you have one, or can afford one, throw a cheap, fleece-like blanket (one with fibers that catch the light differently depending on which way they’re angled) over the pillow to increase the visibility of your strokes.
Caption: Examples of butts to size your pillows against
Begin with single strokes.
Often folks are drawn to flogging when they see fancy whip-wielding at dungeons. But if you’ve just bought your first flogger, or have only been practicing occasionally with other people’s toys, don’t worry about stroke patterns to start. Focus all of your efforts first on being able to strike with near-perfect consistency, even if it means you’re only landing a strike once every 5 to 10 seconds.
Single strokes tend to be heavier and more precise than those doled out in a moving pattern. Aim to hit with the first centimeter of the flogger. Striking with the outermost edge of the falls will usually feel stingier.
Maintaining good form is the foundation of consistency. Think about flogging mostly with your wrists. Every other part of your arm should be fairly steady while flogging: how far you hold out your flogging arm from your torso should stay about the same stroke-to-stroke, and keep the crook of your arm at a consistent angle. Stand straight and face the person you’re flogging. Use your whole body to take small steps to make adjustments, rather than reaching or retracting with your arms and shoulders.
Caption: Hit with the first centimeter
Floggers with longer falls are more difficult to control - the falls tend to spread more widely on impact and are more prone to straying from the bunch mid-air. Using single strokes is a good way to get used to a long-falled flogger, in part because doing so allows you to gather your falls together and re-adjust your aim with each stroke. Short-falled floggers make a great choice for more rapid strokes, or striking in patterns.
Get comfy with figure-eights.
Caption: Overhanded figure eight path
You’re likely to find that while individual strikes offer a lot of power and precision, they can also wear out your arms. Figure-eights are a much more efficient way to flog for longer periods. They also tend to deliver milder strokes that are more sustainable for most people who like to be flogged. You can use simple patterns effectively to make your scenes last longer, give your bottom (or your wrist) a bit of respite, add variety to the scene, and create rhythmic beatings.
To start: Take your flogger in one hand and swing it underhanded, the way you would swing a shopping bag as you’re walking. Once you’ve done that a few times, as you are swinging it up, pass it to the other hand. Pass it from hand to hand each time you swing it in front of you. Once that feels comfortable, start swinging the flogger in a loop when it’s on each side. If you start on the right: Loop on the right side, and then as it comes forward again, pass to left hand, loop on the left side, and as it comes forward again, pass to the right hand. Once you’re comfortable looping underhanded and passing side-to-side, you can try just using one hand to loop on both sides of your body instead of passing it. This is an underhanded figure-eight.
Caption: Example of one handed figure eight. Views are above (Left) and front (Right).
It’s worth it to get used to flogging both underhanded and overhanded, because they can feel quite different. Overhanded wielding is great for particularly forceful strokes, or for when your aim needs to be particularly precise (nipples, anyone?). Gravity is on your side when flogging overhanded, which makes the falls easier to place and less likely to stray. Falls tend to scatter more when thrown underhand, and an upward strike will lose its momentum more quickly than a downward one. But, most humans prefer underhanded strokes (or at least find them more arousing). Flogging overhand, you’re most likely to interact with harder overlaying body structures (like shoulder blades, or the crests of a person’s hips). Underhanded strokes tend to be more sustainable, and striking upward (into, say, buttcheeks) makes it a lot easier to lay into the meatiest parts. Practice both.
Start to vary your strokes and incorporate new ones.
You probably wouldn’t want to build an hour-long scene on any one technique alone. Comfort with flogging overhanded, underhanded, in single strokes and figure-eights gives you more precise tools to work a bottom up to a pain threshold, help them plateau, hit them harder, and then scale back, all with one instrument. The nuances of different strokes can be hard for a top to see or intuit. When you’re building a scene, especially with a new partner, it’s best to calibrate your idea of how hard you throw your flogger with what it feels like to the bottom. A stroke that feels like a 3 on a scale of 1-10 to the person throwing may not register as a 3 to the person receiving.
When we talk about pain thresholds, keep in mind, we’re NOT talking about how much pain someone can possibly handle without breaking something or passing out. We’re trying to find out how much pain a person be in for a short period of time and still find it pleasurable. This is why building up a scene slowly and cycling through strokes of varying intensity is important. Pain triggers endorphin release, and that can cause a natural high and increase your tolerance for more pain. Most people will find a hard stroke much more fun after several minutes of medium-intensity strokes than if it came first. But, endorphin rushes usually end within a few minutes and take time to build up again, so it’s good practice to scale back to an intensity maybe slightly higher than where you started and gradually increase the intensity again. We can call this ‘pain cycling.’
Talk about how you want your whole scene to feel. For most people, a good scene includes a warm up well below a bottom’s threshold. Try spending 15 minutes on a warm-up with gradually increasing intensity, to start. The bulk of the scene might be varied strokes within the bottom’s threshold, punctuated by occasional harder strikes closer to their upper limit. Working your way through two pain cycles could easily take 20 minutes or longer. Talk about scene endings, too. Generally, tapering the intensity back down is a good way to close, though some folx like to go out with a bang, so to speak. Consider using the bottom’s favorite toy last.
Take care of your floggers.
You should store the floggers vertically with the falls hanging down. Floggers made of almost anything that isn't leather (rope, paracord, etc.) can be cleaned with soap and water if need be. Rubber, vinyl, and silicone can also be wiped down with alcohol or a cavicide (like chlorhexidine rinse) if you have good reason to be concerned that it’s come into contact with blood. For leather and many of its vegan alternatives, you can mist it lightly with some 70% isopropyl alcohol and give the falls a gentle wipe. This shouldn’t damage the leather much over time, and often isn’t necessary for each use, especially if the flogger is mostly used on one person. This will NOT sterilize the flogger; it will just give it a gentle clean to prevent sweat and grime buildup.
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