Examining Emotions: Gun Play

Posted: October 25, 2010 by Isaac Cross in Advice, Learn Something, Philosophy

Recently, there was a massive discussion in one of the forums that I follow regarding gun play. Specifically, the discussion began with a person asserting that gun play should never be taught at public BDSM events because “it can never be safe.” (Check out the comments for an example of this type of person)

Upon further examination, it is clear that we, as a society, have worked so hard to scare people about the dangers of guns that we forget that they CAN be handled safely and that, without bullets, a gun is just a hunk of metal, no more dangerous than a steel pipe.

One of the first things that we must do, if we are going to talk about this subject, is to make sure we know what a “gun” is.

The word gun originates from the early 1300’s from the word Gunilda, which means “engine of war.”
Dictionary.com defines the word gun in the following ways:
a weapon consisting of a metal tube, with mechanical attachments, from which projectiles are shot by the force of an explosive; a piece of ordnance.
any portable firearm, as a rifle, shotgun, or revolver.
a long-barreled cannon having a relatively flat trajectory.
any device for shooting something under pressure: a paintgun; a staple gun.

If you use the last definition, then all of these things are guns:

A Staple gun from Home Depot

A rubber band gun from Toys R Us

A Boobie Squirt Gun from Fascinations

A straw from the cabinet in my kichen

And it seems a bit silly to argue about whether it is safe to play with spit balls or a booby squirt gun, so I won’t. Instead, I will focus on the first two definitions presented. I will focus on firearms and objects designed to look like firearms.

I have a background in theater. And in many plays that I performed in, we used props that had been designed to be exact replicas of firearms, but only in appearance. Their inner workings had been modified, or had never existed in the first place, such that it incapable of firing a bullet. Some of them did fire blanks, however, which made a sound and sometimes a flash of light for realism. Over the years, I pointed these “guns” at people and pulled the trigger on a number of occasions. But it was always safe. If blanks were being used, we had a ballistics specialist who inspected and loaded the gun immediately before it’s use, which both I and the person I would be firing at observed.

According to many people, what I was doing violated the “first rule of gun safety”, that a gun should never be point at anything unless I intend to destroy it. But why? If there was only negligible risk in the activity, what is the problem?

And if you can acknowledge that the dangers of the weapon had been mitigated in that example, then you should be able to see how the same can be done to a functioning weapon. If before you play, you ensure that no bullets are in the gun, not by assuming so, but by checking yourself to make sure, then the object which was formerly a weapon, is now nothing more than a complicated piece of metal that makes a little clicking noise, similar to one of these:

(A musical instrument called a "Ratchet")

An unloaded gun is not dangerous. If you insist that it is, then you are most likely reacting to an emotional trigger associated with guns (no pun intended). There’s nothing wrong with that. Lot’s of people have triggers. I have several of my own. But it’s important to be conscious of your triggers and own them, and not to project them onto others.

Everything that we do in BDSM has some sort of inherent risk. If a person bumps into you during knife play, you could slice the person open. You can mitigate this risk by not using sharp knives. If you make a mistake during single-tail whipping, you could permanently damage the person, a risk that can be mitigated by carefully choosing your targets and practicing the skills to maintain precision.

Gun play is no different. Yes, playing with a loaded weapon would be incredibly dangerous, but if the proper precautions are taken, which could range from ensuring that it isn’t loaded up to using facsimile weaponst. If these precautions are diligently observed, the risks of gun play are reduced to the level of risk involved with spanking.

But there is still the emotional reaction to consider. In fact, that reaction is exactly what makes gun play so appealing to those who use it. But it’s important to consider the reactions of others around you in addition to the person you are playing with. You may have negotiated with them, but you have likely not negotiated with everyone else at the play party. And for all you know, one of the people in the room was raped at gun point at some point in her life, or suffers from PTSD related to war combat. It is for this reason that guns are prohibited at most public events, a position that I agree with.

But in cases where the party or class has been specifically arranged to include gun play so that everyone who attends is aware and consents, and so long as stringent safety protocols are in place, I see no reason why this one topic should be avoided.

In fact, choosing to exclude this type of play from things like conventions increases its danger. Instead of learning how to properly handle a weapon and ensure safety, people will instead have to explore the fantasy of gun play on their own, and they are likely to not observe the safe practices which lower the risks.

It all comes down to the same argument, whether you are talking about breath play, blood play, or gun play. Education makes everyone safer. If you choose to exclude a type of play from your educational programming, you have to live with the consequences, which may include the death of one of your members.

Guns are scary. But ultimately they fall under the same umbrella, whether SSC or RACK or whatever, as everything else in BDSM. Know the risks, do everything within reason to mitigate them, and have the consent of everyone involved. That’s all we can ever demand.

  1. Newsub4a says:

    Great post! Although my first instinct with gun-play is to say “no, never!”, the truth is it is hot to some people. I have learned in this lifestyle that eventually the things you thought were hard limits over time become things that start to intrigue you.

    Maybe I have a “trigger” about guns, I don’t know. I do know that I have no desire to have my wife (or anyone else) point a gun at me… ever. I was raised with guns and taught to treat them with respect and to assume that they were loaded at all times.

    If others want to play with guns, it is there life. I am a firm believer in everyones right to their pursuit of happiness… as long as it is consensual for everyone involved.

  2. (A Real Person) says:

    You continue to miss the point.

    A gun is NEVER considered safe by the people who know them and use them all the time.


    A gunsmith back home, was cleaning a weapon (rifle) before working on it. It was checked and was suppsoedly clear. However, there was a stary round in it taht he, a trained, experienced, professional gunsmith who worked with guns everyday, missed.

    The bullet it fired however, did not miss. He was buried 3 days later.

    So some lunk head BDSMer is going to do this himself, play with it like it is a plastic toy and therefore “safe”.

    Right… Let me know when the funeral is.

    A death in NYC within the last year was done properly, and with consideration for risks.
    The pro Domme didnt keep chesk on her subm, bound and partially hung. In high heels.
    In they figure under five minutes after she left him, he toppled off the heels, and hung himself.

    But, he knew the risks, she took reasonable precautions…

    Certain things just shouldnt be EVER considered a toy.

    • Cross says:

      I’m not sure how I am “continuing” to miss the point, as I am quite sure that you and I have never discussed this. And phrases like “some lunk head BDSMer” bon’t give you much credibility around here.

      In any case, your view is simply irrational. To say that a gun is NEVER considered safe is simply an idiotic statement. If the weapon has been designed or modified so that it cannot be loaded or discharged, what is dangerous about it?

      If I buy a gun and never buy bullets, never have them in the house, and never load it, what is dangerous about it?

      A rifle and certain kinds of pistols can have a bullet inside without you being able to see it, but what about a revolver? It’s pretty obvious whether that’s loaded or not. So what’s so dangerous about an empty six-shooter?

      Some people seem to have their entire world constructed around the things they are afraid of. But a gun, for the purposes of BDSM play, is just a shape. It is metal that has been formed in such a way to evoke the notion of “gun”. It is only when explosives are added to it that it becomes a weapon. Only then does it become something dangerous. Before that, it is just a piece of metal.

      So people like you can try to spread the scare stories all you want. But the fact is that out of millions of gun owners in this country, there is only a handful of injuries or deaths resulting from an accidental discharge that didn’t involve a child. And I would bet you $20 that you can’t find me a single documented story from among those where BDSM play was the cause.

      All the stories you hear that are designed to make people afraid of guns, they all start with someone who should have known better, and it’s always a weapon that is regularly loaded and used as a weapon. “A bullet was accidentally left in the gun” is always how the story goes. But if there were never bullets in it to begin with, if a bullet has never come within 100ft of the gun, if it was never intended to be used to harm anyone and never treated as such.

      Then I ask you again, what is dangerous about it? Y’know besides that you might drop it on your foot or something.

      Anything can be done within reasonable bounds of safety with the proper precautions. Some old guy who got lazy and made a mistake is no reason to avoid the activity all together. If that were true, then you would never get in a car again. After all, there are over 100x more accidental deaths each year involving motor vehicles that firearms. But I’m guessing that doesn’t stop you from driving each day.

      Everyone, please choose to define the world around you by facts, not fear.

      And as far as your little story about the prodomme, you said “he knew the risks, she took reasonable precautions”. Well, if leaving him unsupervised, bound and hanging by his neck is your idea of reasonable precaution, than I probably wouldn’t want you playing with a gun either, or any other type of play for that matter. Because you don’t seem to know what the word precaution means.

  3. Differing opinion says:

    I do not know you in person and we have never spoken but I have noticed that a lot of your posts on fetlife and here on your blog are intended to spark discussion, which I appreciate. I’ve also noticed that when someone disagrees with you, not only do you get very defensive but also rather personal with your rebuttal (i.e. “your view is irrational”). I’m going to politely and respectfully disagree with your assessment and hope that you will do the same.

    I’m going to argue that a gun was created for the express purpose of being a weapon. It was intended to kill, maim, and do otherwise nasty stuff to the human body. As such, I do not believe it should not be used for “play” purposes. Maybe this is old school but I was raised with the belief that you treat every gun like it’s loaded, regardless of whether or not you are damn sure it’s unloaded. You say that a gun only becomes a weapon once an explosive, i.e. ammunition, is added to it. I’m going to argue on the side of, if it’s capable of holding/expelling a bullet – it’s a weapon. Don’t play with it. But hey, that’s just my opinion. If someone else feels differently, plays with one and has a great outcome, great, I hope it was a wonderful scene. On the flip side, if someone engages in gun play and has a bad outcome? Well, I guess they knew the risks, right? That is the definition of risk aware kink. I’m a staunch libertarian and believe if someone isn’t infringing on my rights or the rights of others – great, have at it. Which brings me to my next point – scenes/educational courses involving gun play at clubs/conventions. I’m not going to take the tack that guns can never be safe but rather, having a gun play scene at a public club is a non-consensual involvement of the people surrounding you. How do they know the gun isn’t loaded? How do they know you took the right precautions? What if they have a trigger or PTSD involving guns? Or what if they simply are of the same school of thought as me – that guns are weapons and shouldn’t be pointed at anyone? I believe at that point, having a gun scene IS infringing on the rights of others. If a person wants to engage in a gun scene, I believe they have the right to do so – just stay away from public venues and ensure all participants are aware of the risks.

    Just a few other random notes:

    I’m not sure if I read it here or on fetlife but I remember you mentioning blank guns. Just because they shoot blanks doesn’t make them safe. Blanks can do immense, even deadly, damage at close range. Calling it a negligible risk is foolhardy, at best.

    Why use a gun capable of shooting bullets at all? If you want to be as safe as you consistently claim you’d like to be, why not simply use a manufactured replica or something of that ilk? Yes, I’ll admit you did mention this already but then continued to argue about the use of functional unloaded guns as safe. Why take that risk at all when it is completely avoidable and entirely do-able? I argue that this doesn’t conform to “within reasonable bounds of safety with the proper precautions” that you so eloquently stated above. (I still advocate doing this at home and not in public venues. I don’t care of it’s a replica or not, I don’t want it pointed at me or waved around in my general vicinity).

    Additionally, you shot down one poster’s example of the person who accidentally shot themselves and then turned around and used an example of car accidents yourself. I’m sure we could come up with a million situations that involve risk that we participate in daily (virtually everything we do has some amount of risk). My rebuttal to it is this, I know the risks of driving a car. I mitigate them by wearing my seatbelt, staying alert and fighting the urge to multi-task (an urge I wish others would avoid more. cell phone + car = bad). I also know the risks of gun play and choose to not want to be involved, which is why I advocate keeping it a “at home, in your bedroom” type of thing. Again, let’s be fair to others and not unwillingly involve them in your scene.

    My final thought is this: you may be of the opinion that gun play can be done safely. Great! Let’s say someone mitigates their risk in a less safe manner than you seem to think yourself capable of and something goes wrong in a demo/scene at a public venue. You’re risking litigation against that venue, the participants, etc. and likely hurting the already poor public opinion of BDSM, in general. A club/convention has the right to not want gun play at their events. After all, it’s their asses on the line and can they truly want to be responsible for the possible irresponsible antics of their patrons? Just a thought.

    • Cross says:

      Well, whoever you are, let me first thank you for dropping by and commenting. As you noted, I have responded negatively to some comments, but that is because those individuals disagreed, not with rational comments or reasoning, but with emotions and prejudice. Your response, on the other hand, is thoughtful and appreciated. Civil discussion is very enjoyable to me and I am always happy for the opportunity.

      That said, here is my response to your message, paragraph by paragraph.

      Your attitude toward guns (treat it like it is loaded no matter what) is very common. But the mark of good logic is its ability to be applied to all contexts. Electric fences are designed to deliver electric shock, sometimes fatal, to anyone who touches it. By the “loaded gun” philosophy, you should never touch it for any reason, even if you just turned it off yourself, disconnected it from power yourself, and cut the cord yourself. In my view, if you are educated about a weapon, know exactly how to ensure that it is unloaded, and check it thoroughly, even have someone else confirm that it’s empty, then to continue to treat it as if it is loaded is to deny your own intelligence and ability to observe reality for what it is, instead of what it “could be”. However, you go on to say that it’s up to each individual to make that call and take that risk for themselves. I couldn’t agree with you more and have no need to respond to that point. After that, you talk about risks associated with public gun play. If you look again, you will see that we don’t disagree on this point. I said that I believe guns should be prohibited at public events unless the purpose of the event/class is gunplay. In other words, I only approve of it when everyone who attends was aware and made the choice to show up in spite of the risk. Furthermore, there are ways to teach classes on gun play without actually having a gun present, such as showing videos of the activity. But the discussion that inspired my writing began with a person asserting that the subject of gun play should never be taught, regardless of the method. I believe that view is flawed.

      It was someone else who mentioned blank guns. I spoke up and mentioned that they can be just as dangerous as real guns at close range. If you are having trouble finding it, it’s because the moderators of BDSM Theaory didn’t think the topic was worthy of their group and deleted it along with all of the comments and discussions that followed.

      To be clear, I don’t play with guns at all. And if I did, I probably would use replicas, as that’s what falls within my personal risk profile. But if I were to be playing with an ex-military officer who can spot a replica from a mile away, using a replica may decrease his/her enjoyment and experience of the scene. Again, I don’t do gun play, but the bottoms I know who do are in it for the thrill of it. If they know the gun is fake, they wouldn’t be able to get that.

      Again, I couldn’t agree more. Everyone involved or possibly involved with a gun play scene should be a consenting participant. And everyone who has control of the weapon, even for a moment, shares equal responsibility to ensure safety.

      You are right. Gunplay mishaps may harm the public opinion of BDSM. That’s exactly why gunplay should be taught in equal form to every other BDSM activity, in order to reduce the frequency of those mishaps. All I can say is that, if I owned a space and was having a gun demo, I would be inspecting all of their equipment myself, I wouldn’t allow ammunition in the building in any form, and I would require the instructor to advise all of the participants to seek extensive weapons safety education before attempting gunplay themselves. And finally, I would do it as a completely separate event on a completely separate day from any other events at the venue, so that everyone who comes would do so knowing exactly what they were attending, armed with the warnings and disclaimers that would appear in every listing of the event.

      Like I said, I’m happy to debate this stuff with you or anyone else, so long as the discussions is respectful and based in reason. But I have no patience for those who choose otherwise.

  4. Torp says:

    I agree, up to a point, with the gun respecters who say you should always treat a gun as if it was loaded. You should always treat a gun as loaded *until* you have properly examined it and concluded that it is, in fact, not. Anyone doing gun play, and especially anyone doing gun play and also use a gun for other purposes (even if it’s a different gun) should follow that rule, even if the gun play gun is never loaded and used for anything else. You might never have ammo in that play gun, so your partner is really safe, but what if you mess up your routines and suddenly don’t do proper safety checks with your live round gun? Our brains can sometimes be rather weird, and, say, make you hand the gun you just disarmed from an assailant back to him because that’s how the self defence lesson always went.

    I do not do gun play, but having been in the army, I’ve pointed a gun at other people (and fired) without actual intent to destroy. I sorta wonder if the anti-gun play people would consider military training, where you do point real (unloaded) weapons at other friendly soldiers as a breach of how to handle a gun.

    If I were ever to do gun play, something along the lines of the following steps would be good enough for me to make me feel certain that no risk existed:

    1. Remove and unload magazine.
    2. Check chamber for bullet, both visually and with a finger.
    3. Insert magazine back into weapon.
    4. Cock the weapon, so that if there were to be a bullet in the magazine, it would now be loaded.
    5. Fire the gun at a safe target, like a bucket filled with sand.

    That way, you’ve actually checked the weapon three times (visually, with a finger, and with the firing), and the chances of something like the case with the gunsmith mentioned above happening is next to nil.

    • Cross says:

      Yup. That’s pretty much how I feel. As I said, I don’t do gun play. It has no appeal for me and so is not worth the risk. But I have a problem with absolutists like the ones you are talking about.

      Thanks for the comment.

  5. R-B says:

    Real guns with modifications like removing firing pins, plugging the chamber or modifying the trigger group are all ways of making a gun completely useless as a firearm. However it is now perfect as a psychological tool for a scene.

    There are other options as well. Purpose made prop guns. The kind that look 90% real from the outside but couldn’t possibly be loaded or fired. Also, replica grade air soft guns are even better. Ever tie someone up and watch them squirm blindly back and forth trying to avoid the sting of little plastic bb’s?

    As someone that was raised around guns I would have issue with a live firearm. Live meaning loaded. And yes, its loaded. Always has been, always will be. Besides, I would want to be able to pull my “fake” gun at just the right time for a scene and know that its just a metal version of my finger pointed at her and saying bang. (which by the way, while in sub space, can be incredibly jarring by itself)

  6. Def1ance says:

    Firearms are mechanical devices which obey the laws of physics. Thus an unloaded firearm cannot cause physical harm to anyone (unless you throw it or something). Even when loaded, most modern firearms are designed such that it is near impossible for the weapon to discharge without actuation of the trigger.

    That said, gun safety rules aren’t about guns, they’re about people. People have been and will forever remain the most unreliable term of the firearm equation. People often assume they’ve already done something which they haven’t (say clearing the weapon) or forget that they just did something (such as load the weapon) and THAT is when the shit hits the fan. These rules aren’t there to prevent an unloaded gun from firing, they’re there to prevent humans from assuming that loaded guns are unloaded. This is why anyone familiar with firearms will tell you that BDSM play with live (as in functional) firearms is a horrible idea.

    Airsoft and paintball guns on the other hand are perfect for the job! Provided some basic safety precautions are observed (Eye or face protection is an absolute must! No matter how good a shot you are!!! Even if the target is facing away! Think ricochet!), most gun play scenarios I can think of can be served well enough by either (or both?).

    Generally speaking, airsoft guns tend to look and feel much more realistic (to the point where a lot of them operate exactly like the firearms they’re based on), while paintball guns tend to be more performance oriented (rather than look/feel). If S&M is where it’s at, both offer plenty of options. In my opinion, while airsoft guns do sting quite nicely (and the BBs are small enough to go into a belly button), paintball guns (loaded with rubber paintballs to keep the mess down) hurt much better. Adjustability (of power) is much more available on the paintball side, though many aftermarket power adjustment solutions exist for airsoft guns too. It really comes down to preference (I like both, I play with both :D).

    At the psychological end of play, an airsoft gun offers both the safety of a non-firearm replica and the risk of a good bit of pain (power-dependent) which a top won’t hesitate to unleash if called for. Some paintball guns, such as Tippman’s TPX/TiPX, also look quite realistic while offering the extra pain of a good paintball hit.

    Please consider these options before engaging in BDSM play with real firearms!

  7. Roberto Romano says:

    I doing the gunplay from always,with all the Ladies that had,with true guns but without bullets,or with blank cartridges or max with special bullets with only primers,without powder and very soft gum point, never risk or damage,max with gum bullets a little black sign that in 2-3 days go out. It’s the best exciting for me and my Ladies. Doing this for ever

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