The whip is one of the icons of BDSM imagery and practice. As an image, the whip is used by many masters and mistresses to symbolise the power and control they have over their slaves and submissives. As a practical tool for inflicting pain, in the hands of an experienced user, the whip can cause a range of sensation from the lightest touch to the most intense agony.
In general use, the word whip is usually used to describe a single stranded whip such as a bullwhip, but the term actually describes three basic types of tools:
- A long stick-like device, usually slightly flexible, with a small bit of leather or cord, called a "popper", on the end. Depending on length and flexibility, this type is often called a riding whip, riding crop or "bat". These were originally designed to help riders control their mount. They have been enthusiastically adopted by the BDSM world, as they are relatively safe to use on humans, and they dwell with most BDSM styles of dress.
- A long tapered flexible length of single-strand or plaited (braided) material (usually leather) with a stiff handle. Some whips of this type include the bullwhip and the stock whip. Each design has many variations and lengths for different purposes, often with different names. These types of whip, unlike the crop, need a lot of care when using them on a sub. They capable of causing serious injury if misused.
- A many-stranded whip attached to a solid or flexible handle, most commonly known as a flogger or cat o' nine tails.
Both the first two types of whip were originally designed for controlling animals and have been subverted for SM play with humans. The cat o' nine tails was designed as a flogging instrument, a means of control, corporal punishment or torture as opposed to animal control. The BDSM world has adapted the basic design into what is known as the flogger.
Apart from issues of basic construction, whips can be broadly classified into those designed (or suitable) for SM play and those suitable for display or demonstration use (by an expert) only. Crops and floggers very much fall into the suitable for SM play category; even if used by an overzealous novice, they are very unlikely to cause serious injury to the victim.
Single tail whips are however a more dangerous device altogether. The danger with single tails comes from their ability to concentrate a large amount of energy into a very small area. In general terms, the longer the whip the more energy can be imparted in the blow. However, the longer the whip the more difficult it is to control and so the risk of causing unintentional injury increases. Most single tail whips designed for SM play are about 1.2M (4 feet) in length; this allows the user to judge the fall of the whip much more accurately. Even single tail whips designed for SM play require considerable practice to use properly and the scope to cause serious injury is always present.
It is always advisable to familiarise oneself with the handling characteristics and impact intensity of a new whip before using it on a human subject. Overshooting with the tip or wrapping is a common problem with longer whips, curable with practice on inanimate objects. The sub's favourite teddy bears could almost have been made specifically for this purpose.
Kinds of whip
Single tail whips
- Snake whip
- Stock whip
- Cow whip
- Signal whip
- Buggy whip
- Dressage whip
- Lunging and Vaulting Whip
- Camel whips and English Hunting whip.