Shock collars in BDSM play: Are they safe?

The use of dog shock collars in BDSM play isn’t that widespread, but they’ve been suggested as fun toys pretty much forever. And I can definitely see the appeal. Low effort, high impact: What’s not to love about pressing a button and bringing someone to attention (or to their knees)?

If you’ve ever gone to youtube and looked at videos of people testing shock collars (I mean, haven’t we ALL done that? What? Just me? Oh. Okay then), it looks both painful and hellishly funny. And sometimes it’s just really hot (I mean, look at this hottie with the self-torture: This is a complete delight :)).



If I was actually thinking of using a shock collar on a submissive, I’d do a bunch of research on the safety but I’ve never seriously considered it, so I’ve never really looked closely at the safety aspects.

But I came across this super-informative twitter thread by BusterBDSM, a BDSMer who’s a medical professional, and I thought it was worth sharing.

Spoiler: IT IS NOT SAFE TO USE A SHOCK COLLAR ANYWHERE ON THE NECK.

Read on for the detail.

Text of the tweets below in case the thread disappears at some point.

OK so time to talk about shock/Estim collars.

For reference I’m a specialist physiotherapist in neuromusculoskeletal (nerves, muscles and joints) long term conditions but also have specialist medical training in respiratory and central neurological assessment
LONGGGGGG THREAD 1/

In my medical opinion: there is no way to safely apply current to the neck. BDSM is all about risk recognition and mitigation. However,
I will argue that usual BDSM risk mitigation does not and cannot apply to the use of current in the neck. 2/

The most important thing with electro play is where to put the electrodes? What tissues will we effect?
Lets start with the anterior (or front) of the neck:
front of neck
3/

Here we see the front of the neck with the head tipped back. The most superficial (near the surface) structure, shown here pulled taut, is the sternocleidomastoid muscle on either side of the front of the neck. If current passes through these they can snap the neck back… 4/

crushing the exiting nerve roots at the back (more on those later). Then we have the voicebox or larynx, itself delicate folds of muscle. Quite easy to damage one, but usually through trauma, which usually results in a loss of voice and eating meals through a straw. 5/

We’re more worried about the nervous structures that supply the larynx. The *recurrent laryngeal nerve* runs down the inside of the throat as part of the *vagus nerve* which is quite well protected from the outside (just as well as it keeps you breathing and your heart pumping)6/

The ‘recurrent’ part of this nerve is that it loops back from the top of the chest and runs close under the skin up to the voicebox. If that nerve gets damaged (and even low level electro can cause nerve ‘software’ changes) the sub is facing potentially permanent disability 7/

Whats important to note is that nerve damage is rarely mechanical or trauma related. Changes to the sensitivity of the nerve through inflammation,chronic pain or electric impulse regularly cause ‘radiculopathy’ or a reduction in sensitivity and therefore function of that nerve 8/

So when you lightly tickle the recurrent laryngeal nerve, each time you’re taking a guess at whether you will cause nerve damage, and you won’t be able to see or gauge it until it’s too late. There’s no risk managing it – there are no warning signs. 9/

Also, in this area you have the windpipe, fairly obvious to see. Whats not obvious are the bands of muscle around the windpipe that open and close it. These are ‘smooth’ muscle tissue that are under control of the ‘autonomic’ or subconcious nervous system. 10/

The autonomic system doesn’t take influence from the conscious mind (maybe fear or particularly traumatic memory) but you can’t think yourself out of an asthma attack – which is what you can invoke by stimulating that muscle. 11/

The worst possible case for a dom is when your tied and bound sub suddenly can’t breath – they can’t exhale and no matter of airway clearance will treat them. They don’t have an inhaler because they don’t have asthma. Well they didn’t until you gave it to them… 12/

So lets move around the neck to the side, common location for shock collars. This image takes away the sterocleidomastoid (SCM) so we can see the delicious blood flowing within. Quite the bundle there, eh?
13/

That’s the carotid artery. You have one on each side. It’s what you’re aiming for when you choke someone out (which is hot AND risk manageable!*). Blocking it makes you pass out because it supplies blood to the brain in a roundabout sense. 14/

The jugular vein (shown cut and tied in blue near the top of the red bundle) carries blood out of the brain and back to the heart. The jugular is low pressure, the carotoid is high pressure. To cope with the pressure, the carotid is wrapped in our old friend, smooth muscle. 15/

Put that smooth muscle into spasm and you have a sub having a stroke. Low risk, sure, but once again *it is not possible to mitigate this risk*. We just have to cross our fingers and hope we don’t cause a life changing neurological event. 16/

Much of the risks of electro (even across the chest) are easily mitigated through use of bipolar leads, so current doesn’t travel distance. But not here. Local electrical stimulation can cause the sudden death or disablement of a sub and we are powerless to stop it. 17/

So what about the back of the neck? Here we see the front on view of the cervical (sir-v-eye-kal, not sirvic-al thats something else) spine, with nerves in yellow and blood vessels in red. The discs are in blue, dont worry about them.
18/

The cervical nerves supply sensation and muscle control to: the head (holding it up), the shoulders (shrugging and arms out to the side), the biceps, triceps, gripping muscles of the forearm, the small muscles in the hand and the thumbs. 19/

Putting electrodes across the back of the neck puts current across the *nerve root* which is the most sensitive part of the nerve. You see just inside the spine theres a little nodule on the nerve? this is the processing centre for the signal before it enters the spine. 20/

If that gets injured or inflamed (or has ‘software’ changes as mentioned before) then what can result are pins and needles, numbness, weakness of the arms and an inability to hold anything, possibly in both hands if the current is sudden like in a shock collar. 21/

(for the record long term conditions related to radiculopathy of these nerves is my particular specialist area). Radicular pain and radiculopathies are generally considered to be the most unpleasant types of pain a human body can go through. Don’t fuck around with nerve roots 22/

Of course in that area you’ve also got the spinal cord. Unless you want a paralysed sub with a colostomy and a catheter for the rest of his life I don’t think you want to go near the spinal cord. I don’t you need me to tell you not to fuck with the cord! Wait, do you? 23/

In summary, EVERYWHERE in the neck are HIGH RISK, HIGH SENSITIVITY STRUCTURE and IMPOSSIBLE TO MITIGATE risks- and at the end of the day when designing a scene – ask yourself ‘Is it worth it? Why not just attach the leads to his dick and make him cum 50 times as he screams?’. 24/

Just do something else, because the consequences of thinking you can manage this is that some poor lad has to spend years learning how to speak again, or can’t recognise his husband any more, or his mum. Or can’t use his arms. Is 10 mins of play control worth that? 25/ END

While looking for youtube videos for this post, I learnt that Tik Tok did a ‘shock collar challenge’ last year. Because of course they did. Yikes!

Well what about using the shock collar on other parts of the body?

I have zero expertise on this and didn’t go looking for credible resources on other body parts, but it seems to me that big muscle groups will cope just fine with it (no, balls are not ‘big muscle groups’ and I don’t care what he says). And no, youtube videos don’t count as research: They’re just for fun :D.
(I assume this video is age restricted because ‘don’t try this at home, kids’: It’s 100% SFW)


*Re BusterBDSM’s statement that choking someone out via the carotid artery is ‘hot and manageable’, I feel duty-bound to say out loud that he does not mean ‘ha ha it’s perfectly safe, just go for it without knowing what you’re doing’. A starting point for reading material about this is Jay Wiseman’s ‘Closing argument on breath play’.

Loves: 9
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16 comments

  1. I’ve pondered if a remote controlled egg vibrator could be put into a housing that looks like a shock collar. It wouldn’t fulfill all of the masochistic appeal of a shock collar at high settings, but wouldn’t be far from the tingling of the lower ones. Triggering it would still have the demanding, sudden, attention aspects.

    1. I think vibrations are much safer than electrical activity/shocking. I actually think some dog collars do have a vibrate mode: Worth checking out the safety of vibrations specifically.

      Ferns

  2. We’ve been using a shock collar for years. We do not use it around the neck. The strap is shortened, and it goes around my balls, with the shock mechanism under them. The effect is strong and safe. We’ve gone in public (you can’t see any evidence of the device under clothing), and my wife finds it funny to see me jump. This application is safe and exciting for both of us. Let me know if you want a picture.

    1. Sounds fun :).

      Has anyone in the medical profession written about the risks of electrical shocks to the balls? Even if there’s no visible damage, I’m curious if there are risks to any internal structures, or to fertility?

      If you know of any resources please link me: I’d love to be better informed about it.

      Ferns

      1. I love this idea! My wife rings a bell when she needs me but this system fails when I am out of hearing range. We have pondered the use of a remote shock collar but I thought the mechanism looked too bulky to attach to my balls. I like the notion of being ‘on call’ for service, anywhere and anytime, with the press of a button. And love the notion of watching her reach for the remote to bring me to my knees, or zap me in public, with no regard for the pain, discomfort or humiliation she may be causing. What make/model of shock collar do you use, Caged Lion? Meanwhile, I will certainly research the medical risks.

      2. There is a lot of misinformation about dog shock collars. First of all, they are like static electricity, very high voltage with low current. High voltage stays on the surface of the skin. Lower voltages, like a battery, penetrate deeper tissue. So, the shocks I get are on the surface of the skin.

        We play with the shock mechanism strapped under my balls. The scrotum is not just skin. It is also thin muscle tissue. That’s what makes men’s balls tighten or hang low. The shock from the collar makes the muscle briefly contract a little when I get a shock. That’s the extent of the physiological reaction. The shock is very uncomfortable. Sensitive nerves in the skin react. Unlike other pain, the sensation only lasts for the duration of the shock. It’s weird, but there is no residual sensation.

        I’ve done electrical play for many years as a top. Many sensation toys use micro-current. My favorite as a top was the Folsom Box. It can produce orgasms in women with little effort. Some men can get off with that toy. I never could. These electrostim toys can also induce sensations like the shock collar.

        From a psychological view, it’s amazing. You can be across a room from your bottom and press a button that will make him jump and try to avoid making a loud sound — in public ;) As both a bottom and a top, I think this play is big fun, and it’s safe.

  3. There are a few remote controlled e-stim devices that offer similar functionality to a shock collar, but are specifically designed for safe human use. I featured a couple in the past…

    http://www.femdom-resource.com/2020/07/12/remote-fun/

    Unfortunately they are a lot more expensive that a dog collar.

    I’ve been zapped hard by these kind of devices in all sorts of delicate parts with no issues. Although the neck is obviously still a no go area.

    -paltego

    1. Thanks paltego :).

      Gotta be honest with you though: “I’ve been zapped with no issues” isn’t the reassuring thing it sounds like. Pretty sure the vast majority of people who used shock collars around the neck (or who have done any other high risk activities) didn’t have any issues either.

      If people have all the information about risks from a credible medical professional, they can decide for themselves.

      I’d be interested in the power differential between those e-stim devices and dog shock collars, and what the cut-off is for ‘safe’ vs ‘unsafe’ (maybe dog shock collars at level 2 are the equivalent, I’ve no idea). Though frankly, I’m not interested enough to do the research :D.

      Ferns

  4. I found this post…shocking! But extremely informative. I think sadly peoplejust jump right into the “oh that looks fun” and not enough into researching the safety

    1. Boom-tish! :D

      And yeah, they do. And I imagine it works out just fine for the vast majority, but better to be informed of potential risks than not.

      Ferns

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