Intro to BDSM Knife Play

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Knife with damascus steel blade resting on sheepskin.
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Knife play is the use of knives for sensation, fear, or both in BDSM scenes. Sound exciting? It is! But there’s a lot to learn before you attempt this form of edge play. Our guide covers all the basics. 

What is knife play?

As we noted above, knife play involves using knives—or knife-like implements—on a partner to evoke fear or create different feelings on the skin as part of sensation play. For the purposes of this guide, knife play is not blood play. Blood play is generally not what people mean when they refer to knife play. In fact, many people who engage in blood play don’t even use knives; they prefer scalpels. This guide doesn’t cover anything related to cutting or piercing the skin because we don’t use knives that way and can’t speak to it.

Why do people like knife play?

Knife play appeals to different people for different reasons. Some are drawn to metal and blades in the way that others are drawn to leather—the materials themselves are a turn on. Other people, like us, enjoy knife play because of the heightened trust that comes with increased risk. Knife play first piqued Mimsy’s curiosity after using a Wartenberg wheel. She enjoyed the sensation of the wheel but was interested in intensifying the fear and danger, so knife play seemed like the logical next step.

How do you negotiate knife play?

Before engaging in any form of knife play, it’s crucial to make sure you and your partner are on the same page about what you want this type of play to involve and what feelings you want it to evoke. For instance, if your partner thinks knife play includes cutting and you don’t, this could lead to some terrible outcomes! Discuss how and why you want to try knife play and agree on an approach before you even think about picking up a knife. If you or your partner are planning to be the bottom in your knife play scene, make sure all limits are clearly discussed beforehand, such as areas of the body that are off limits, ticklish spots, and so on. If these limits aren’t known, use a knife-like implement to find out what they are (see How do you use a knife during BDSM scenes? below).

What kind of knife is appropriate for knife play?

There are many knives on the market, but not all of them are appropriate for knife play. Here are some general criteria to use when selecting a knife for knife play:

  • The shorter the blade, the more control you’ll have over the knife—2.5 to 4 inches is ideal.
  • If you’re using a fixed blade knife (meaning it doesn’t fold into itself), make sure it’s not serrated.
  • For fixed blade knives, it’s also a good idea to look for full tang knives, where the blade extends through the entire handle. There’s less risk of the blade loosening.
  • If you’re using a folding knife, make sure it locks in place when open. Folding knives that don’t lock, such as swiss army knives, are not safe for knife play.
  • Do not use a double-edged blade—they’re too dangerous.

How do you use a knife during BDSM scenes?

There are myriad ways to use a knife during a scene. But before you use an actual knife, we recommend using something less dangerous to experiment first, such as a shrimp deveiner, a wooden wax removal knife, a fork, or a Wartenberg wheel. This is so you can gauge your partner’s reaction in a relatively safe manner. You wouldn’t want to discover a ticklish spot with a real knife and have your partner move suddenly or uncontrollably. This could put you both at risk. Try all of these techniques on yourself before doing them to anyone else so you know what it feels like. That goes for a fake knife and a real knife, when you’re ready.

Some ideas for sensation play are: 

  • Drag the tip of the knife (or knife-like implement) across your partner’s skin, creating light scratch marks.
  • Poke your partner’s skin lightly with the tip.
  • Gently scrape the sharp side of the knife across your partner’s skin as if you were scraping a piece of burned toast or shaving.
  • Using the dull side of the knife, press it into your partner’s skin in a straight line.
  • Lay the whole blade flat on your partner so they can really feel the cold metal.
  • For an extra burst of cold, put the knife in the freezer before your scene.

Some ideas for fear play are:

  • Use mindfucks to your advantage. For instance, put a knife in plain view, but then blindfold your partner and use a fake knife (see suggestions above). 
  • Show your partner the sharp side of the knife while threatening them (“you’d better not move, or I’ll hurt you”), but then turn the knife when it’s close to their neck and hold the dull side against their throat. 
  • Cut an article of clothing off your partner, such as their underwear or shirt. When you do this, lift the fabric up and slip the knife under it with the sharp side facing you. Then, cut upward.
  • Use a fake knife during CNC if your partner is struggling a lot. But you can switch to a real knife if they’re restrained securely or you’ve agreed beforehand that they won’t thrash around when a real knife is involved.

How do you mitigate risk in knife play?

Let’s be clear: there is no way to make knife play 100 percent safe if you’re using a real knife, but there are ways to make it relatively safe.

  • Negotiate fully before you play (see above).
  • As noted above, if you’re a beginner, start out with knife-like implements that pose no real risk before advancing to actual knife play.
  • Never wave the knife around erratically.
  • Never cut clothing off your partner with the sharp edge facing them. 
  • Don’t do too much at once. Wielding a knife is serious business, so you shouldn’t attempt to mix in a lot of other activities at the same time. Even vigorous intercourse is probably too risky.
  • Don’t use a knife if you’re in a precarious position where you or your partner might slip or become imbalanced.
  • Make sure the hand you’re using to hold the knife isn’t slick with lube or bodily fluids. 
  • If you’re the bottom in a knife play scene, don’t make any sudden movements that could cause the knife to slip and hurt you.
  • Don’t purposely dull your knife unless you know what you’re doing. This can cause the blade to become jagged and more dangerous.
  • When the knife is not in use, make sure it’s fully closed or put away in its sheath.

If you’re interested in an unforgettable cautionary tale, Catherine Robbe-Grillet shares one in her book Women’s Rites (published under her pen name, Jeanne de Berg, in 1985). During the incident in question, she was standing above her sub who was sitting on the floor cross-legged. She pressed the tip of a knife into his throat and then slammed it down between his legs, causing him to jerk involuntarily. Instead of going into the floor, the knife went through his thigh completely. Needless to say, the sub was taken to the hospital immediately. He recovered but had permanent scarring, and Robbe-Grillet was scarred emotionally for a long time afterward.

What if an accident happens?

Even if you do everything right, accidents can still happen. If the knife slips and you unintentionally cut your partner, there are a few basic first aid rules to follow. If the wound is small, apply pressure for at least 5 minutes with a dry cloth without stopping. Increase the time to 10–15 minutes if the wound is bigger. Once the bleeding is under control, clean the wound under running water, apply a little soap, and rinse again. Then, apply a disinfectant ointment and a bandage.

If the wound doesn’t stop bleeding after continually applying pressure, it’s time to seek medical attention. The same is true for gaping, very deep, or jagged wounds. Wounds on the face, head, palms, genitals, or a joint are also likely to require medical attention.

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