Organic S&M with Nettles

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Organic S&M

They make tea and dye. American Indians used them to keep awake on long canoe voyages. English farmers used them to stimulate bulls and boars to do their duty. Early-English Mistresses found them equally useful, and they are almost as common in Victorian erotica as canes and birches. Stinging nettles can be the main element of a scene, or just serve to spice one up. They can be a threat, a warm-up, a tease, a punishment or a sensory enhancement. And, like BDSM itself, they don't feel how people expect them to. In fact, I expect most of us remember being stung as children, and how the pain of the initial sting soon fades to a warm glow. Now translate that to an adult scene.

Recall that lovely glow that comes just after the sharp pain of a whip stroke fades? Nettles are much the same, but the afterglow can last for hours. The first touch is very sharp and hot, fading slowly to a hot glow. This glow takes a long time to cool, and can't really be ignored because it has microscopic electric tingles in it, just often enough to keep you constantly aware. Nettles are perfect for anyone who likes overnight bondage, prolonged teasing, or going out in public with part of the scene hidden under street clothes. Besides the initial hot sting and later tingling glow, nettles leave the skin very sensitive. A feather can feel like a brush, a light spanking feels like a strap, a light strap or flogger can blow their minds. One nettle lover once asked me if the treatment she had just received would affect a spanking much. I gave her a few light swats with just my fingertips and after she had had her orgasm and she got her breath back she claimed that a "four-year-old could have me in agony." Incidentally, blows heavier than a slap are not boosted so dramatically heavy impact still feels like heavy impact. Only surface sensitivity goes up. Aside from re-sensitising tough, jaded bottoms, nettles may be used on areas that should not receive heavy blows because of underlying bones, tendons, or fragile organs. Nettles have an ability to deliver intense stimulation without corresponding damage, and that opens up all kind of possibilities. Men who always thought that condoms and celibacy felt a lot alike are often delighted to find that a good nettle treatment on their cock adds more sensitivity than a condom could take away! Safe sex suddenly becomes much more appealing. In terms of strength of sting, early nettles (they start to come up in March, go into leaf by April, and have the strongest stings between then and when they flower in the summer).

Using Nettles

Nettles sting with thin, delicate hollow hairs on the stems and underside of the leaves. Up close, they are just visible, like tiny pale bristles. They break open when touched, but nothing is felt unless that touch has actually driven them into the skin, in which case they inject a tiny amount of poison under the skin. Sideways pressure bends them over and breaks them, and usually wastes the sting. Each hair stings only once. The most efficient way to use nettles is to take one sprig or one leaf at a time, get down close to your target, and touch the nettle to the skin, with a close enough view that you can watch the hairs go in straight. When you can't work in that close, at least make sure that the stem or leaf comes down flat - parallel to the skin of the target area. Before I learned this, needed several whole stems to do a scene I now do with a half a dozen leaves. This careful application with a stem or leaf is not the only way to use nettles, but it is one of the best. It is appropriate for:

  1. Slow, ritualised or "anticipation" scenes
  2. For testing the bottom's response, either in an SM/sensual sense, or in a small application to test for allergies (more about this later)
  3. For precise targeting. A large sprig or stem covers a large area, and the top has no idea of where in that area the actual stimulation is happening. This is especially true when working around erogenous zones, the female genitalia or nipples.

Nettles can also be used as a birch. Whilst somewhat wasteful, this can be useful too:

  1. As a variation on whipping. Here it functions almost like a strap or paddle, sensitising the skin without bruising. It is also silent, though the bottom may not be! As with other nettle play, the tingling, glow and sensitivity will last hours rather than minutes. Don’t use too much power in the stroke, as the stems will break easily.
  2. As a good way to use up the tall summer plants, with their milder and sparser stings. To try this, cut a dozen stems 18-30" long and whip lightly with them. Do not use any "draw" or drag in your strokes, but rather get them to land flat. The stem ends can be wrapped with cloth to make a handle; after all, you are inflicting, not receiving!

Nettles can be used under other articles; they can be put into bras, knickers, underpants, tights, or other close-fitting gear. They can be added to body suits or mummification wraps. A nettle skirt can be made by tying short stems every few inches along a cord, and then tying the cord around your subject’s waist. A nice little fashion parade can then follow! Any of these uses are psychologically severe, because no one can possibly believe that removing them wouldn't really help. It’s too late - the stings will mostly have done their worst at first contact, but the sensations go on and on.

Nettles can be used for control. This is a refinement of bondage, where the nettles are placed so that they are difficult, but not impossible to avoid. This has something in common with scenes where the bottom is bound by tender parts like hair, balls, or piercings to punish excess motion.

  1. Nettles can provide motivation for holding difficult positions.
  2. A bunch can be placed almost touching the subject to limit motion during whipping or any other play. Try taping a bunch of nettles to a whipping post, and then securing your subbie's wrists above them with just a little slack...
  3. For male bottoms, there is always erection control. A vase of nettles just in front of a tightly bound male, who is then teased by whatever turns him on...can be really inspiring to watch. If he already has a hard on, the vase can be set a little lower to stimulate him every time his interest sags.

In any of these games, the bottom will not react at once. It takes a moment for the contents of a stinging hair to diffuse throughout the upper layer of the skin and find a nerve. The bottom will let you know. The intensity builds for a little while after that, so when you get a reaction, wait a bit before adding to it. Everything happens very much slower than with a whip stroke or a piercing needle, so take your time. Within a few minutes, the stings will usually be visible. Reactions vary, but most people show at least a reddening of the skin, and a series of little lumps, like small mosquito bites is common. On wrinkled skin, such as around a nipple or balls, they may not be visible at all but they are there.

Safety Issues

Since the stinging hairs on a nettle are so fragile, each will normally sting just once. The hairs do not draw blood, or even lymph, as far as I have seen. I would consider nettle play (the proper word is urtication from the Latin for nettle) to be a low-risk activity, but would still recommend the following: Use a given leaf, sprig or stem on only person. The end you hold can be kept away from the subject, or taped. Don't allow your own body fluids to contaminate your main bouquet of nettles. Tiny as the hairs are, viruses are smaller, so the idea here is to prevent viruses from hitching a ride on the hairs. Incidentally, thin latex surgical gloves will not protect you from the nettle stings! Even four or five thick! The stings also go through condoms, so never trust a condom that's been nettled. Your aim will be better on bare skin anyway - put the condom on later.

Besides these safe-sex issues, you should be aware of the possibility of allergy problems. I've never seen a bad reaction myself, but this means little. There is nothing in the world that someone, somewhere isn't allergic to. Four precautions are in order:

  1. Ask your bottom if they have ever been stung by nettles, whether in play or by accident outdoors, and did they have any reaction beyond the area of skin that was stung? Redness, itching, tingling or small swellings like mosquito bites are normal. Your concern here is for systemic reactions affecting other parts of the body. Anyone with a history of systemic reaction to nettles should avoid them in play. Always have a good anti-histamine spray or lotion close to hand. An application of this or, believe it or not, good old-fashioned dock leaves will immediately relieve swelling, reduce redness and take away some of the pain. Please be aware that hay-fever sufferers may not tolerate stings very well.
  2. Test your subject with a small dose first! Don't go straight for a large-scale application until you know that a person can tolerate small doses safely. The inside of the lower arm, between wrist and elbow, is a good place for such a test, and allow at least two hours before using more nettles. While waiting, you can explore the new sensitivities, or do other kinds of play.
  3. Because nettles can cause local swelling even in ordinary, non-allergic people, NEVER use them on the head or neck. Swelling here might interfere with breathing. Back, breasts, stomach, shoulders, limbs and genitalia are fine.
  4. If a subject feels faint, shows difficulty breathing, or has redness or itching away from the areas you have been nettling - stop using nettles, and be ready to get the person to help. These symptoms can mean a systemic allergic reaction; the kind people sometimes have to bee stings or medications. If there is a serious allergic reaction, call an ambulance immediately. They don’t care that you have been playing BDSM games, but YOU don’t want your bottom to die!

Finding Nettles

Nettles like to grow in deep rich soil with moist, shady conditions. That just about covers the whole of the UK. Basically, they are in every hedgerow, by the side of the roads or, if you are a wicked bitch like me, growing in my garden! Notwithstanding the fact that they are weeds and readily available, don’t treat them roughly. Try to treat them gently, because the hairs are so delicate, be careful how you cut and transport the nettles. If you cut a big bouquet of them, and drive for half an hour with the window down, the stems will thrash around in the breeze and lose about nine-tenths of their zap potential before you get to play. Also, as soon as they are cut, they start to wilt, and the stinging hairs wilt too, though like flowers they last longer if cut rather than picked. The best way to carry them is to put the ends of the stems into a plastic bag which has a wad of wet kitchen towel in the bottom. When you get them home, put them in water, and keep in a cool-ish place.

A Final Word

Have fun with your nettles! I like to play a game with my female slave which involves making her put a couple of stems  into each of 10 cheap plastic vases (no water), and then making her set them out randomly across the dungeon floor, memorising where they are. She is then blindfolded and has to crawl from one side of the dungeon to the other! Naturally, I never move the vases. I have also found the stings to be an excellent stimulant when applied to her labia, inner labia and clitoris, as well as to the sensitive skin around the anus and between the buttocks. The feeling she gets lasts for three or four hours, and is extremely intense. If you are dealing with men, then the head of the penis is an obvious target, and likewise the anus. It’s also fun to make the subbie go off and cut their own nettles, bringing them back and presenting them to you before their application. This also has the advantage of the subbie being stung, rather than Mistress!

And finally do you want to be a seriously wicked Mistress? You do? Then an application of either Tiger Balm or Deep Heat will nicely enhance the stings I usually tell my victims that I am applying a soothing lotion but then, I’m like that!

Enjoy your games, everyone, but please read the safety instructions first!