A gag is a device designed to cover or be inserted into the mouth to prevent the wearer from talking or crying out. In BDSM, gags have a very strong symbolic value. They prevent the submissive from talking or communicating with the dominant in anything but the most basic way. This enhances the loss of control that the sub experiences in a scene which in turn can magnify the D/S dynamic between the players. The gag might also be an invasion of the sub's body which is another strong D/S signal. For many fetishists, the Freudian symbolism is part of the bondage ritual - the mouth is very intimate space, and controlling verbal control as well as the movements of the tongue and jaw can be very erotic for some subs.
There are myriad other ways to silence someone - lingerie casually stuffed in the mouth, with care taken that the fabric doesn't obstruct the airway; medical tape, applied in layers; cleave gags wound around the submissive's head very tightly. Many BDSM practitioners, however, prefer the stringent look and feel of leather mouth gags.
Note: Gags are profoundly erotic, but can KILL someone who is left unattended. Placing a gag on anybody is very risky, as it involves a substantial risk of asphyxia, particularly if the subject's nose is blocked by the gag. Using a gag on somebody who is ill, or affected by some condition such as the common cold, catarrh, hayfever or the flu, is also quite dangerous, as most gags inhibit breathing through the mouth. Vomiting and choking is also a risk, which further blocks the airway. For this reason, a gagged subject should never be left alone.
In practice, no gag is effective enough to completely silence someone without inhibiting breathing. Most gags that do stop the subject from making intelligible speech still allow loud inarticulate vocal noises to call for help. Thus, a pattern of noises, such as three grunts in rapid succession, is sometimes used as a safeword by BDSM players. It is also common to use an additional non-verbal safety mechanism, such as a solid object held in the hand, which can be released by the gagged person as a sign that they are in distress.
Most conventional wisdom dictates that this type of bondage be used with supervision and care. Practitioners of self-bondage need to be particularly careful with gag use.
Some people are sexually aroused by the sight of gags, or activities involving gags. One specific paraphilia relates to scenes on television in which the captor gags the damsel in distress to stop her screaming for help. Some people are sexually aroused by such seemingly mundane imagery, even if there is no nudity or sexual act present, sometimes going as far as to search video stores and websites for certain scenes.
Other people appear to find that being gagged exacerbates their sense of helplessness within a BDSM scene, and desire to be gagged for that reason. Gags also have connotations of punishment and control, and thus are often also used as a form of humiliation to the wearer. Others wear gags for the bondage effect, and the restraint against verbal communication.
Because gags obscure and deform the face, they are often used as a form of objectification, reducing the wearer to the status of an object rather than a person. A small number of manufacturers have produced gags which take this concept a stage further, entering into the realm of forniphilia. Modifications include attaching an ashtray to the gag; the slave then kneels next to the master/mistress keeping their head still so that they may be used as a human ashtray. Another variant is to attached a toilet brush to the gag, with their hands bound behind them they can be made to perform household cleaning tasks. Other variations are possible.
Types of gag
There are many different designs of gags which are used in BDSM play:
- Ball gag: A rubber or plastic ball held in the mouth.
- Bit gag: A rod forced between the teeth, based on a horses bit.
- Cleave gag: A cloth strip forced between the teeth.
- Funnel gag: A funnel and tube inserted into the mouth, designed for forced drinking of fluids
- Forniphilia gag: Modifcation of a gag to objectify the wearer.
- Inflatable gag: similar in concept to a ball gag, an inflatable ball placed in the mouth.
- Jennings gag: A medical device designed to hold the mouth open.
- Mouthguard gag: A less common design using a mouthguard as the gagging device
- Muzzle gag: A leather cover for the mouth, forcing the mouth closed and straps to keep the mouth shut.
- OTM (over-the-mouth) gag: A cloth strip wrapped over the mouth, not very effective.
- Penis gag: A short dildo forced into the mouth
- Ring gag: A ring inserted into the mouth holding it open.
- Spider gag : A variation on the ring gag.
- Stuff gag: A wad of cloth stuffed into the mouth
- Tape gag : The use of sticky take to close the mouth.
- Tube gag: A tube inserted into the mouth holding it open.
- Whitehead gag: A medical device designed to hold the mouth open.