Guide to Sensuous Caning


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SENSUOUS CANING

Copyright (c) 1997 by Conrad Hodson

INTRODUCTION

Canes have a deserved reputation as The Victorian Terror Weapon. To most submissives, they mean severe punishment; to sensation-seeking S/M bottoms, overload. If we have care and patience, however, canes can be used in a loving and sensuous way. The very stiffness of a good cane, that makes a hard stroke so intense, allows the lightest taps to be given with perfect control. And a light canestroke is easy to aim, unlike a flexible whip that sags and flops at low power. In the kind of sensuous play I'm describing here, light strokes are far more prevalent and important than heavy ones.

This style is a matter of trust, patience, and finesse. If you can't gain, maintain, and deserve the bottom's trust, the whole thing is probably going to fail, or fall far short of what it could be. As for patience, don't even start a scene like this unless you have at least an hour available, and two is better. Finesse? Well, on two occasions bottoms have gone to sleep while I was caning them. They woke up black and blue, and giggling. That's finesse.

I'm not bragging, and I'm not saying I'm some kind of Caning God. It's learnable. That's why I'm writing this.

CANING TECHNIQUE

A single cane can deliver an entire symphony of sensation. A snappy blow that is pulled back a bit just before impact will emphasize surface sting. The same sort of blow carried past the moment of impact, with follow-through, will have much more thud and penetration.

The greatest intensity is delivered by the outer third or so of the cane's length. This is the portion that leaves marks, in a hard blow. In a light blow, this part of the cane will have a relatively stingy feel. Closer to the top's hand, the cane moves much more slowly, and the sensation will be more thuddy or even massage-like. This allows a good way of maintaining rhythm and atmosphere while giving some relief to a bottom who is showing signs of overload.

The very tip of a cane can be used on many targets that a full-length blow might harm, or be unable to even reach. Tip shots can work the inside of the sweet spot, the bottoms of the feet, the muscles between the spine and the shoulder blades. A traditional cane stroke in any of these areas would cross bony areas, causing bone bruises and pain that is not at all erotic; a hard one might chip bones or crush nerves, and cause truly harmful damage. DON'T try for these with any force until you are utterly sure of your aim! Lighter tip shots are much safer, and feel much like percussion massage.

SETUP

I prefer to have the bottom lying flat. When a person goes as deeply into bottom space as I hope to send them, the mere act of keeping their balance will be a distraction. Having them lie on a table is easiest on the top's back in these long scenes; massage tables are ideal, and cafeteria-type tables are sturdy and about the right height. Arrange padding if the table doesn't already have it; I usually bring a single-bed sheet and a roll of foam to parties and demos.

Second choice is ground level; on a mattress or futon, or the foam pad. Here the bottom will be laying prone and the top will sit or kneel beside them. On table or floor, it's nice to have three or four feet clear on either side of the bottom, so that you can switch sides. Since the tip of the cane always hits the hardest, switching sides will help to keep the caning symmetrical. Also, it allows the top's other hand to rove over a different part of the bottom's body. From one side, you can stroke, massage, caress, and collect feedback from feet, legs, and buttocks, and play with their crotch if it's that kind of scene. From the other, you caress their face, massage their back, grab hair or the back of their neck, play trust games with your finger between their teeth as you cane them...

A caning can be an awkward thing to deliver when the bottom is standing, especially if the top is taller. There is a strong tendency for strokes to land too high, on the bony upper half of the butt, when the bottom is standing up. Also, the sweet spot is hard to reach from this position. Going to one knee may help. Occasionally a play space may have a stage or platform of some kind, with bondage facilities near the edge of it. If you have the gear and knowhow to do it safely, suspension may also offer a way to get the bottom a foot or two higher.

I try to avoid the traditional bent positions for caning, where the recipient crouches or bends over a chair. For one thing, this stretched skin is much more sensitive. Victorian punishers wanted overload; for a sensuous caning we want to avoid it. For another, the tailbone comes up into harm's way when one bends over, and a hard canestroke is quite capable of chipping it and inflicting a painful lifetime disability. Damaged tailbones don't heal! There is a lot of perfectly good buttock area that is hard to work safely from these positions; when the bottom's body is straight, much more of the tailbone is protected. When in doubt, run your finger down the spine, all the way into the crack of their ass; you can feel how far the tailbone goes. Check this each time; the length varies surprisingly among different people.

WARMUP TECHNIQUE

The best precondition for a trip to Endorphin Heaven is for the bottom to be deeply relaxed, trusting, not anticipating the next stroke but rather accepting. Going too hard or too fast will drop them out of their bottom space (that warm, accepting state of trust) at just the time when you should be building it up. Their hindbrain will take charge, and its ancient survival reflexes will start screaming "We're taking damage! Get us the hell out of here!" A good bottom wants the scene to go well, and will be working to control panic and nervousness. For this particular style of scene, the top must build the intensity so smoothly that the bottom is supported rather than challenged in their efforts to stay centered and accepting.

Of course, some people warm up much faster than others. "Smooth" is one thing; boring is quite another. In initial negotiations, I mention this, and if we are using the "traffic light" safewords I point out that "green" is also a color, and that they can always call for a speedup if they want one.

As we begin, I like to promise that I will escalate the intensity very gradually - something like "no stroke will be more than a third harder than I've already given you". This helps them relax. You need to keep this promise, too; surprises will tense them up for a long while afterwards. Resist the temptation to tease them or fake them out, for the same reason.

I often begin with an ordinary massage. I explore the muscles of the back, buttocks, and legs, checking for tense spots and taking whatever time is needed to relax them and establish an expectation of pleasure from my touch. Massage is itself an endorphin releaser, and very non-threatening. When a bottom is new to this technique, their delighted surprise can relax them, build a lot of trust early on, and give them confidence that there are rewards to be had in exploring with you.

After achieving relaxation of any tense spots, do a little fingertip percussion on the muscled areas of the bottom's body. (Fingertip percussion is what a pianist does to strike several close keys all at once.) The fingers of one or both hands are crooked, and struck down in to the target area. Work the upper back, to either side of the spine, this way for a while. Do the same to the lower part of the buttocks, and down the backs of the legs. This sort of sensation is a perfect bridge between massage and flagellation; it's especially good for introducing beginners.

Now begin with the cane, tapping very lightly over the areas that had the percussion warmup. Don't tap any bony areas; this is a good time to develop the habit of avoiding them. Use the cane tip to reach areas that have bone close alongside. The blows should have less force than your fingertips did; the cane is hard and stingy, and the idea is to introduce the cane without breaking the relaxed and trusting glow of your warmup. Along with ordinary light taps, mix in a few that are feather-light; with practice you can deliver a flutter as light as the landing of a flock of butterflies. This is a wonderful contrast to harder strokes; as endorphins build up such a light flutter will often bring on a fit of giggles.

As you work, do single taps, double taps, quick flutters of various intensities. Your goal here is twofold. You are trying to teach the bottom that they cannot predict your strokes, but that it doesn't matter because they won't be harmed. It is a non-verbal trust-building exercise.. Done with care, you can give the bottom that wonderful open acceptance of whatever happens, the key to the very best bottom space.

Another key to good bottom space is breathing. Deep, careful breathing controls panic, and this is vital as intensity builds. Panic is really the unpleasant portion of pain; take panic away and what's left is just strong sensations. All kinds of wonderful things can be done with strong sensations...

If your bottom has ever done yoga, meditation, natural childbirth training, or anything like that, remind them that deep, slow breathing is important here, too. If they have never had such training, coach them as you go. If their breathing becomes short and choppy, ease up and remind them to relax and breathe deeply (unless they're coming, of course; that's to be encouraged, not interrupted with good advice!)

If your other hand keeps up a steady contact with caresses and massage, not only will it relax and comfort the bottom but you will be able to detect twitches, tension, or relaxation. Especially with bottoms who aren't very verbal or vocal, this is the best feedback you can have.

If they are vocalizing, watch out for a sharp edge to their tone. It warns of gradually building tension - if you continue to hear it, something isn't working, the bottom space is eroding. The muscles under your other hand should be more and more relaxed as the caning proceeds; if not, it's also a sign that your buildup is not succeeding. This sign is apparent even in a silent bottom.

As you gradually build the intensity, one useful trick is to follow a harder blow with a quick light rain of flutter strokes, right into the same area. These will distract the bottom from any overload (within reason) and take them back to the bottom space that has just been successfully processing light stuff. However, the harder blow will have done its work of moving the whole scene to a slightly higher level.

FURTHER CANING TECHNIQUE

If your warmup has opened the way for more powerful strokes, care must be taken. Canes may seem stiff, but a hard stroke can bend them ninety degrees and more, and a wraparound with a cane can be downright dangerous. Wraps are most common when a top goes to full power, after a well-aimed series of warmup or measuring strokes. The problem is in the top's body dynamics: the momentum of the arm goes up exponentially with increased speed, so the whole body is pulled forward as a heavier stroke is delivered. The full-power stroke automatically reaches several inches further than the lighter stroke that was supposed to "gauge the distance". It's physics; you can't keep it from happening, any more than you can walk on the ceiling. What you can do is allow for it, and train yourself to compensate. You can ease your feet back a bit, or pull your elbow or shoulder back as part of the swing. Or you can do as Mistress Nan Burrows recommends, and take your aiming stroke so that the cane tip lands in the middle of the far cheek, no further. This aiming point will land a full-power stroke that safely spans the full width of the buttocks and no further.

If you do wish to play with harder strokes, practice! Learn to pay close attention to where your cane is landing; this is how you learn to correct your aim. Mistress Nan advises a lot of practice on a cushion. There is a certain kind of upholstery that shows the stroke, but each blow shakes the surface and erases the trace of the preceding blow. Perfect feedback! The upholstery looks to be a kind of heavy-duty velvet; check thrift stores.

When you are ready to try powerful strokes on a human partner, try putting a cushion or blanket roll on the far side of them. This will catch a wraparound harmlessly. Be sure to confine hard strokes to the buttocks below the tailbone and the upper half of the thighs.

CANING AND OTHER PLEASURES

Sexual connections: perhaps a quarter of women, and a very few men, can actually get orgasms from the cane. I think this is incredibly hot, and it makes me very jealous! There will be others who may not actually climax, but get extremely turned on, which can offer a pleasant answer to the question of "what do we do next?"

The shock waves made by a cane are directional - they tend to continue through the target in the general direction the cane was moving when it hit. In fact, if you slide a hand under your partner's thigh or belly, you can feel the shock of a medium cane stroke go right through them. The "sweet spot" in the lower butt, to either side of the crack, is sweet for this reason; blows here can send waves up into a whole complex of muscles, nerves, and engorged tissue that is directly involved with sexual excitement. Many bottoms will enjoy a steady rhythm of light or medium blows on the sweet spot - especially if they are angled to send their shock waves up and forward. At least one lady I know has called the effect a "rattan vibrator".

One good sign of this sexual connection is a face-down bottom whose hips begin to rise and fall in a steady rhythm. You might try matching that rhythm, with light or medium strokes. Or use your other hand to massage the nerve points around the pelvic dimples and to either side of the last few inches of the spine.

POWER AND ROLEPLAY

Often when I do this, the scene is "pure S/M", sensation for sensation's sake. No roleplay, and no more power exchange than a massage. The concern for smoothness, the bottom's comfort and welfare, and cooperation is difficult to reconcile with many of the traditional roles and scenarios, where the top and bottom play as adversaries. However, there are a few roles possible wherein the person who hits you is not an enemy!

Mentor/Ritualist: The top is a trainer, preparing and coaching the bottom for some ritual ordeal. Or passing on the secrets of mind control, wherein pain becomes ecstasy. Or trying to send the bottom on an astral observation of whatever, or a spirit journey, etc.

Comrade: Who is preparing an agent, or coaching a fellow prisoner, to resist/survive an interrogation. (Of course, the interrogation can follow later, with the top moving into a new role, or new tops coming in for that part.)

Science Fiction: The aliens whose ship crashed think they can recharge the damaged drive crystals, but only by tapping the energy mobilized in what turns out to be this scene.

Some of these may sound hokey, but roleplay always sounds hokey to anyone who is not motivated toward that particular scenario. Find a script that works for you, and suspension of disbelief will come much more easily.

Also, endorphins can lead many bottoms into a profound submissive space. If you enjoy serious D/S or role play, you may find this endorphin-oriented warmup offers a startlingly good beginning to a more psychological sort of scene.

MAKING YOUR OWN TOYS

Traditional canes are made of rattan, a woody reed from the East Indies. It has a jointed stem that resembles bamboo, but is not hollow. Rattan is very tough and strong, and makes the most durable natural canes I know. Like bamboo, it comes in all sorts of diameters; traditional canes are about 8mm, but thicker and thinner ones are also useful.

Rattan can sometimes be found at craft stores or Oriental basketwork shops. It is used to make wicker furniture, so a repairer of that might have a stock of it as well. Unfortunately, most of the cane-sized rattan that comes into this country has been bent into coils, which warps and sometimes cracks it.

If you must deal with the coiled stuff, it should first be cut to length with a fine-toothed saw. Coping saws and hacksaws work well. A dressmaker's tape is a handy way to measure along the coils. Obviously, you should not include cracked places in your layout.

Less obviously, your canes will be much more durable if the tip includes one of the joints of the stem. The convoluted grain in each joint resists splitting, as opposed to the very straight grain that runs for the foot or so between joints. A lot of the coiled rattan has been peeled and sanded, but the joints are still noticeable if you look and feel carefully. Cut the stem about a stem diameter to one side of the joint; this will become the tip of the cane. (The ends without joints included are fine for handles - the tips are what take the shock and strain.)

You can make the canes any length you like; I prefer 20-30 inches (50-80cm) as they are easier to aim and more convenient in close quarters. Long ones have more power, but can be awkward. The natural variations in your coil will probably give you several choices.

Each tip needs to be rounded off; any kind of edge here will break skin far too easily. Coarse sandpaper works well, especially in a power sander of some kind. Hand sanding will also do, as will a fairly coarse metal file. Whatever you use, try for a smoothly rounded end. Now hand-sand the whole length of each cane with medium paper; try to remove the stray fibers you find sticking up from the wood. They are a nuisance during varnishing.

The cut pieces will have to be soaked and steamed to straighten them without breaking. I soak mind in the bathtub for a day or two, but any water will do. Don't let them dry out. After soaking comes steaming and straightening. You will need some way of keeping the canes straight as they dry; I lay them in a series of grooves I routed into a plank, and then clamp another plank on top of them. You can also try shoving each one down a length of pipe; plastic water pipe won't rust and stain the canes.

When you have your straightening rig set up, boil a big kettle of water. Wrap the canes in a towel or two, lay them in the (drained) tub and pour some boiling water over them. Dose them every minute or so for a few minutes, and then unwrap them; the scalding will make them limp and easy to uncurl. (Dishwashing gloves help keep your fingers from scalding, too.) Quickly, before they can cool, bend them straight and put them in the jig. Put the jig in a dry place with good ventilation for five days (10 if you're metric). :-)

Remove the canes and hang them up for air drying; I use clothespins on cords. After one day of air drying, brush them thoroughly with a coat of spar varnish; Varathane works well. Give each cane at least three coats; let each coat dry enough that you can sand off any lumps. Some newspapers on the floor under them will be a good ideas, since at least one of them will drip no matter how careful you are.

The handle end of each cane can be left as is, or a grip can be added for comfort or appearance. You can dip the handle ends in plastic tool dip - it will take several coats, and you can hang them from the same setup you used in the varnishing. The fumes of this stuff are truly nasty; be sure you have good ventilation. Less toxically, you can wrap the grips with cord or leather lacing, sew a scrap of leather or cloth around them, or cover them with tape. Bicycle handlebar tape makes a fine grip.

You can of course prepare other kinds of wooden rods this way - and avoid all the straightening hassle by picking ones that are straight to begin with. Bamboo is cheap and widely available, and also stiffer than rattan, which makes aiming easier. Bamboo, of course, is hollow and the tip must be made at a joint, just as described for rattan. Bamboo works fine for light to medium blows; heavy blows with it can be dangerous. Bamboo can split without warning, and the splits have edges like razors! Hardwood dowels from the hardware store can have the same problems. Avoid either of these materials for heavy canings.

Many other plants have canelike shoots. Forsythia is a very popular ornamental, and the older branches from the inside of the bush can make quite a reasonable cane. Prepare as you would rattan. They aren't as durable, but the price is right, especially if rattan is hard to buy where you live. Apple trees develop suckers each year, especially upward from the top branches. These grow straight, to about the right length, and are pruned off in great numbers every year. They are quite tough and durable. The buds make rough little bumps along the shoot; they can be sanded off if they seem too harsh.

Some twigs, such as birch or willow, are fine for scenes but far too flexible to be considered or used as canes. Handling them is a whole different topic.

There are also synthetic canes, mostly plastics. Plastics are much denser than wood, so they hit harder and the stroke is more penetrating. They are very easy to clean, which is a good thing because the thinner ones break skin quite easily.

There are shops in most large and medium cities that sell plastic supplies. There can be a confusing variety of materials there: Delrin, Lexan, and fiberglass are three kinds of rod that are tough enough to make good canes. Acrylic is not tough enough; I have broken several. If the clear look appeals to you, get Lexan. Sora, from San Francisco, makes some very nice Lexan canes, if you want to buy ready-made. If you prepare your own, you won't need to varnish them, but be sure to remember to round and smooth the tip!


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