Caning is a form of BDSM impact play which involves striking a bottom or submissive with a cane or other rigid rod. Most commonly the portion of the body which is struck is the buttocks or upper thighs, but the hands, fingers, breasts, nipples, genitals, and the soles of the feet are also sometimes used.
Because of the cane's association with punishment in school, caning is sometimes a component of schoolboy/schoolgirl role play where it may be used as a form of discipline administered to the bottom/submissive who is either:
- Bent over some form of bench, or
- Is on their feet and leaning over a low table or school desk.
When the area being struck is the buttocks or is between the buttocks and the upper thighs, the pain or pleasure created by caning and the "glow" left behind can be similar to the results of spanking. This is particularly the case when the caning is designed to more of a thud than a sting.
Types of cane
Perhaps the most common material for canes amongst caning enthusiasts is rattan, though other materials which can be used include fibreglass, wood, and rubber. Choosing the right material for a cane is important as some materials, such as bamboo, can split or fracture in use leaving sharp edges which will cut or slice through skin on impact.
One of the most important characteristics of a cane is that it bends and flexes without fracturing or breaking.
Canes can be made with an inner core and an outer layer. For example, some enthusiasts will take a rattan core and cover it using a heat-shrink plastic to produce a cane with the same performance characteristics of rattan, but which is also smooth, even less prone to fracturing or splitting, and which is easy to clean and disinfect.
To increase the "thuddiness" of a cane, it's also possible to enclose a cane in a layer of leather. This gives the stiff and still bendy core but with a slightly softer outer layer.
Length of cane
The length of a cane often determines how much it hurts. A typical cane is about 3ft long (one metre). The tips of longer canes will be moving faster when they strike and so will hurt more than shorter canes whose tips will be moving more slowly on impact.
As you'll see below under target areas, some parts of the body require lighter strokes than others. For these areas, such as breasts and genitals, shorter canes are best. For more meaty and muscular parts of the body, such as the buttocks, longer canes are most effective.
Sting versus thud
The more narrow a cane, the more it will sting. The thicker the cane, the more it will thud.
Thud is perhaps more desirable for "recreational" caning, where the caning is used to create sexual arousal, or where subspace is a desired outcome. In this regard, there can be some parallels between thud-type caning and some forms of flogging. As noted above, a cane can be wrapped in leather to make it thicker, a little bit softer, and to increase how much it thuds instead of stings.
Sting is probably more desirable for punishment or discipline scenarios where it can be experienced simply as sharp pain. This is particularly applicable when guilt, either past or present, is a factor in the design of the caning scene.
Processing the pain
Advice for the submissive or bottom being caned:
- Breathe slowly and deeply, and
When you are tense the pain is harder to process. Consciously relax the muscles in your buttocks, and make sure you're as comfortable as possible if the scene allows it. The illustration at the very top of this article show a woman lying face down receiving a caning. This can be the best position because it is not fatiguing, you can relax fully, and it can be a convenient position and be an easier aim for your top as well. See also "assume the position", below.
Holding and aiming a cane
A cane bends and flexes. It isn't completely rigid like a stick or broom handle. It's important, therefore, to ensure that the tip of the cane doesn't wrap and unexpectedly hit some part of your bottom's body which you didn't intend. Wrapping is where the cane strikes your bottom somewhere along the length of the cane rather than with the tip, leaving the tip-end of the cane to continue moving and wrap itself around your bottom's body. This can be particularly nasty when, for example, you aim for your bottom's buttocks and the tip of the cane wraps around and strikes them on soft tissue above organs on their side or front.
Thus, when aiming a cane, make sure that you strike with the very end of the cane. When caning both buttocks, the cane should strike both buttocks equally hard and the tip of the cane itself should land on the buttock furthest away.
It's a very good idea when starting out with canes, or when using a new cane, that you practise on some inanimate object, such as a pillow, to get your range and to make sure you can hit where you intend each and every time. Many tops will hold a cane with their index finger resting along it to improve their aim. Don't hold a cane like an axe as this makes it clumsy to aim.
Because there are some delicate bits of body near the most common caning target areas, such as the tail bone just above the buttocks, one way of preventing mis-hits is to place thick, folded towels above and below the areas you intend to hit. This way, if a strike goes astray it won't cause any harm.
Because the distance between you and your bottom is important when making sure the tip doesn't wrap, when you want to hit more heavily, don't be tempted to lean forward but instead lift the cane higher.
Vertical strokes are often the easiest to aim, such as when your submissive is laying face down and you're aiming for their buttocks. Horizontal strokes can be the hardest to aim, such as when you're caning the buttocks of your bent-over submissive.
Types of stroke
There a number of different way to strike someone with a cane.
- Strike with immediate lift. This type of stroke tends to be effective when trying to achieve sting.
- Strike and hold or press the cane in place. This type of stroke can be effective when going for thud.
- Strike and allow the cane to bounce off your bottom.
- Strike at an angle so that there's not only the impact of the strike but also a grazing effect on their skin.
- Flick just with the tip of the cane.
The most common target areas are the buttocks and upper thighs. Some enthusiasts advocate the narrow crease area where the upper thighs join the buttocks (note the similarity with spanking). The "shock wave" from a cane stroke to the buttocks or upper thighs can, for some submissives, make its way to their genitals and be quite sexually arousing.
While the buttocks and upper thighs are robust target areas, other areas are suitable for lighter strokes, such as the breasts and genitals. Instead of using full-sized canes here, other devices such as conductor's batons or chop-sticks held by the narrow end can be safe and effective. Calves and the soles of the feet can be good targets for medium-sized canes. The amount of muscle in the target area is the guide here. The more muscle, the heavier the cane, and the more the strokes should come from your shoulder. The less muscle, the lighter the cane, and the more the strokes should come from just flicking your wrist.
Some targets are off-limits almost always. These include the head, spine, and areas above vital organs (such as around the waist). See the practical flogging article for a guide.
Some targets are also more appropriate for role play, such as the palms or fingers for schoolboy/schoolgirl punishment.
Hitting the same place or a different place with each stroke
Depending on the pain you want to impose, hitting the same place with each stroke can create very intense pain, with each stroke building on the previous one.
On the other hand (or buttock), striking a different place each time can create a more constant, sustained level of pain. This can be done by working your way down your submissive's buttocks with a series of parallel strokes.
In both these cases aim is obviously very important. In the first, it's vital to hit the same place each time, while in the second it's vital that you don't hit the same place twice.
A slower pace, with a few second between strokes, allows the pain to dissipate through the submissive's body (and perhaps allows them to savour it better). This can take up to ten seconds or so. A faster pace can keep the level of pain sustained.
Some tops like to get feedback from their partner that they are ready for the next stroke. This can be done by getting the bottom to count each stroke out loud. While there's still significant pain the bottom will have difficulty counting so the top knows that they need to wait. The sound of the bottom's voice also gives the top a clue about the effect of the strokes.
Not that if the goal is subspace, counting can be a distraction for the submissive.
"Assume the position"
There are a number of positions a bottom or submissive can adopt for a caning:
- The bottom can lie flat on their stomach on a massage table or similar. This is quite good because they can relax. If the target area is their buttocks or thighs, their top or dominant can sit down on a chair or stool and administer the strokes in comfort. You can also put a pillow or rolled-up towel under their tummy to lift their buttocks for a better presentation.
- Still with your submissive on a massage table, if you roll them over on their back and get them to grab their ankles, this nicely exposes their backside for attention.
- In a more disciplinary setting the bottom will be bending over a low table or bench. This tightens up the skin and muscles in the buttocks and thighs and can increase the potency (i.e., pain) of the strokes.
- Finally, a common position is standing up braced against a wall, or possibly bound to a St. Andrew's Cross.
Corporal punishment and role play
Because of its association with school days or with criminal punishment in some countries, some BDSM folk use caning differently than other impact play enthusiasts. In particular, caning can be used as a form of punishment rather than pleasure.
In these cases it is administered without warm-up.
When the imagery involved is school days, the caning should be administered with the person's pants or skirt dropped down around their ankles while they are leaning over a desk. This sort of exposure can add humiliation or embarrassment to the experience.
When the imagery is something akin to criminal punishment, the caning should be administered to the buttocks or back (carefully, and with a light, narrow and flexible cane) while the person is stripped to the waist.
In both the above scenarios, you use a predetermined number of strokes appropriate for the offence, such as "six of the best".
- Other objects, such as wooden spoons, can serve as de facto canes and can be used for light play and warm-up.
- Caning, not surprisingly, leaves the caned area quite sensitive and tender. This makes for fertile ground for subsequent sensation play such as wax play.
- When a male submissive bends over his testicles may get into the "line of fire" particularly when the target area is the upper thighs.
- Infection - canes or rods made of natural material, such as wood, are prone to becoming infected by blood products. They thus become a vehicles for spreading diseases such as HIV and Hepatitis. Once such a cane or rod has been exposed to someone's blood, it should not be used on anyone else.
- Bruising - there are salves which help heal bruising faster than the body might normally do on its own. Check at your local pharmacy.
- Broken skin, abrasions, etc. - clean, disinfect, and cover with a bandage.
- Clean your canes, rods, etc., with bleach or other disinfectant after each use.