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"Play all you want, but do it safely. As the wonderful nurse at Howard Brown told me after my last check up: "Honey, I don't know what you're doing, but keep on doing it." Little did she know that I was just waiting for permission!!!"

SM and Safety
by Jack Rinella

Safe, sane, and consensual are the hallmarks of any Leather activity. Today we most often think of safe sex as taking precautions against the spread of AIDS, and well we should. But there are a lot of other things of which we need to be mindful.

Happily, Leather play can be both safe and fun. With just a slight amount of effort, we can fulfill all sorts of fantasies without harm. The key, of course, lies in having the right information, taking precautions, and using common sense. In the final analysis, you are responsible for your health and safety. Please act accordingly.

I will not pontificate as to what is safe activity between two consenting adults. I trust that you are adults and will act in a responsible manner.

Acting in a responsible means that you are informed. As in a court of Law, ignorance is no excuse. Face the facts as outlined by your physician and follow them. We've heard it before but it bears repeating: Don't allow another's blood or semen to come into contact with any open membrane in your body, ie.: mouth, rectum, vagina, eyes, cut, or wound.

I'm sure there are those out there who hate rubbers (condoms) as much as I do, but the inconvenience is well worth the reward. Sex is wonderful, but as the posters and ads say, "It's not worth dying for."

Happily, HIV is a lot less virile than many think. Don't make it an excuse to cut yourself off (so to speak) from the pleasures your body can give and receive from others. With the right information you can learn how to enjoy sex and stay healthy. There are many sexually active men and women who are still free of the AIDS virus. They stay that way by playing safely. HIV doesn't need spell the end of sex, only the end of unsafe sex!

But there are risks other than HIV. Several other STDs are in fact easier to catch. Though they may not be as deadly, they ought to be avoided.

Leather activity need not be dangerous. In fact, many Leather activities offer a high degree of erotic stimulation without any risk of disease. There is no transfer of body fluids in healthy tit work, or cock and ball torture. Understanding and adhering to the need for cleanliness in one's toys (dildoes, whips, paddles, clamps, etc.) opens up a wide variety of safe activities. A good spanking with a clean clothes brush won't give you the clap...

But there are other guidelines the CDC doesn't list. Tops and bottoms alike need to take responsibility for their safety and the safety of their partner. In any scene the top needs to to insure that the bottom's skin isn't broken with welts or cuts, that his or her circulation isn't impeded by ropes or restraints. Check frequently that extremities (hands and feet) don't get cold or fall asleep.

And being aware isn't only the top's responsibility. Bottoms ought not to be so "macho" as to endure health threatening domination. Don't be afraid to ask your top to stop. After all, they can't feel the effects as well as you can.

Often Leather partners will choose a "safe word" for the bottom to signal the top that there is some kind of danger or that the bottom's limits are being unwisely exceeded. There is no disgrace in asking for the scene to stop when one's health is endangered. Submitting oneself to danger is not "being a good slave", it is stupid.

In that regard, care should be taken with the use of hand cuffs as they are apt to cut off circulation. Tie those bottoms up well, but carefully. Put them in positions that they can maintain and use padded restraints.

Equipment ought to be clean and should never be shared in a scene. Make it strictly a "BYO" affair. Chlorine bleach (diluted in water in a one to ten solution) does wonders on dildoes. Soap and water never hurt anyone --- at least that's what my mom taught me.

Since I'm in a "do and don't" kind of mood, use lubricants with non-oxynol-9. If there is any amount of anal play, be sure your fingernails are well trimmed and wear latex gloves. They can be bought a box of 100 for under ten dollars. Use them once and throw them away. Remember: "No glove, no love".

If the taste of latex leaves something to be desired, use flavored lubricant and load on the non-oxynol-9 after the oral play and before insertion. You can also play well with chocolate, maple syrup, and whipped cream. But whip the cream in the kitchen with a beater, not a leather cat of nine tails!

Avail yourself of good information. Ask your physician, read any of the many guides to safe sex. Attend informational meetings put on by any of the Leather clubs or health organizations. The only stupid question is the one that isn't asked. After all, it's your health and that of your partners.

Play all you want, but do it safely. As the wonderful nurse at Howard Brown told me after my last check up: "Honey, I don't know what you're doing, but keep on doing it." Little did she know that I was just waiting for permission!!!

Copyright 2000 by Jack Rinella. This material may not be copied in any manner. For permission to reproduce this essay, contact

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