Branding refers to refers to the use of the same physical techniques as in livestock branding on a human, notably the scarification of the body by a hot ( or sometimes cryogenically cold ) object. Persons are branded either with consent as a form of body modification; or under coercion, as a punishment or imposing masterly rights over a slave or other legally subservient inferior. It can also happen accidentally, for example from careless use of a violet wand, or purposely to create a slave mark.
For a more general coverage of this topic read the wikipedia article on human branding.
Branding is usually done with a hot metal object to scar the body. It is sometimes seen as an ultimate act of submission and commitment, to slavery if not to the relationship. A brand will be with the slave for many years, and is likely to show a mark for the rest of the person's lifetime. Brands are normally placed high on the outer thigh, on the belly just above the crotch or on the breast.
A mark, normally indicating identity or ownership, is burned into the skin just as might be done on the hide of a animal, with a hot iron. The human skin is much more fragile than, say, a bull's rawhide and a lot more care needs to be taken. A human branding mark is normally much smaller than one for cattle, so care needs to be taken with the design as something too complex is unlikely to work or last.
For some slaves and owners, branding is an intense desire, indicating total commitment and psychologically stamping the slave as property so the slave truly feels owned and wanted.
Branding is a common issue in Gorean slavery, since it is often talked about in John Norman's Chronicles of Gor series of science-fiction novels. On the planet Gor, a brand never specifically indicates a slave's individual owner, but is simply a generic mark of overall slave status; the vast majority of slaves on Gor are branded with either a k-like "kef" symbol (which stands for the first sound of the words kajira/kajirus) or a floral "dina" symbol. The remaining, less-common, brands on Gor sometimes provide an indication of where someone was initially enslaved, but not personal ownership:
"...the mark is an impersonal designation; when she is marked she understands herself not to be marked by a given man for a given man, to be uniquely his, but rather, so to speak, that she is marked for all men; to all men she is a slave girl (usually, of course, only one among them, at a given time, will be her master). The brand is impersonal, the collar is intensely personal: the brand marks her [as] property, the collar proclaims whose property she is, who it is who has either taken, or paid for, her." -- Tribesmen of Gor
Note that the branding methods described in Norman's books would not work in the real world to produce the desired results in any consistent or reliable manner that would hold up over the long term.
For those with a low pain tolerance or just wanting to pretend about branding, a mark can be applied with an ink marker. Cheat 'brands' can also be applied with tattoos.
Branding is not part of play; serious branding should not be considered as a 'scene' but should only be done by a knowledgeable practitioner. It can be quite dangerous, and in particular there is a risk of infection if everything is not kept sterile and the burn mark is not properly treated.
- Generally voluntary, though often under severe social pressure, branding may be used as a painful form of initiation, serving both as endurance and motivation test (rite of passage) and a permanent membership mark, mainly in violent 'macho' circles. Branding is thus practiced:
- by some street gangs
- in prisons
- as an extreme fraternity initiation in the (now marginalised) tradition of painful hazing (otherwise mostly paddling); it has been widely reported (even in a BBC feature) that U.S. president George W. Bush, while president of the Delta Kappa Epsilon chapter at Yale, was involved in introducing a practice in which pledges had to strip to be branded on the buttocks with a hot coat hanger bent into the shape of a capital delta , a surprising practice among the richest families' privileged youth in an Ivy League college
- Branding can be used as a strictly voluntary, even decorative, permanent body modification rather like many tattoos.
- Edgeplay - Snake bite branding (similar to cell popping) article and pictures also covers after care
- The Branding - including pictures
- Branding article on BMEzine wiki
- Branding aftercare on SM-201