Kink Guides: Handcuffs and Wrist Restraints

You feel the cold of steel against your wrists and hear the clicking sound as the handcuffs tighten around you, slowly. There’s a fist in your hair, holding you still, and then you feel yourself get yanked to your knees before….

Does this sound like a fantasy of yours? You’re not the only one!

Our fantasies are shaped by many things, one of which is porn and other sexual media we consume. Unfortunately, sometimes what porn shows us is merely a fantasy and not actually how things work safely in real life.

For me, handcuffs were one of these items.

A set of handcuffs hooked over a balcony railingI saw them depicted so often, and police use them in real life, so they can’t be bad, can they (I thought this way before I had any understanding of police brutality, obviously)?

When I got my first set, I was surprised by how uncomfortable they were. My wrists hurt, they were finicky, and the keys didn’t seem to fit properly. It was too easy to shift and accidentally tighten them around my wrists and cut off circulation. I didn’t know much about kink or sexual safety at this point in time, so I merely shrugged off the discomfort and assumed that either I was doing something wrong or that this is just how bondage worked. After all, porn wouldn’t use handcuffs so often if they weren’t safe, would they??

Yes, yes they would.

Because porn caters to the fantasy, fantasy is built on part by porn, and therefore it builds and more porn is made with handcuffs.

So we’ve established that I think they are dangerous. Why? What are some safer options?

closeup of a closed handcuff. Keys are attatched to the chain between the two cuffsWhy handcuffs are dangerous:

  • If they are secured too tightly, they can cause permanent damage to your superficial radial nerve. This can cause weakness or difficulty moving your wrist, hand, or fingers and, in extreme cases, can require surgery to fix.
  • They can easily bruise/cut your wrists and damage the tendons in your wrists.
  • If you are securing someone to furniture with the restraints, any time the person strains against the cuffs, the metal will dig in and make the above more likely to happen.
  • Poor quality production means that the metal can wear out, bend, or break easily. If the shape warps (which all of mine have) or breaks, this exposes your skin to sharp metal that will cut or metal digging in at even worse positions.
  • There is no quick-release option; the keys and the locking mechanisms don’t work well, especially if there are any tension on the handcuffs. Therefore it can be very difficult to get someone out quickly if there’s an emergency.
  • For many people, especially BIPOC, queer and trans folk, people with disabilities, and/or sex workers, police-style handcuffs can be extremely triggering. Make sure to discuss with your partner(s) to ensure they are okay with this type of bondage before using them. 1

What about the furry kind?:

  • The thin layer of fabric is not nearly enough padding to protect yourself from the above dangers!
  • You’re also at an increased risk of getting friction burns from the fur.

If you must use police handcuffs, here are some tips to make it safer:

  • Make sure they aren’t too tight – you should be able to fit your little finger between the wrist and the cuff.
  • Do not secure the person to anything – simply use the handcuffs to keep the sub’s arms out of the way.
  • Definitely do not use these for suspension!!

What are ways of safely restraining wrists?:

  • If you want metal cuffs, go for ones that are oval (and preferably fitted to the specific wearer). This isn’t practical for many folks due to the increased price tag and the fact that it’s difficult to use these with multiple partners. These should have wide cuffs and smooth edges. Round cuffs won’t fit properly, will slide around, and are easy to escape from, so go for oval shapes! Look for a set like these from Stockroom.

A pair of leather bondage cuffs attached to a balcony railing

Other safety notes:

pink bondage tapecoiled white rope hangs from a window ledge

  • If you’re playing with rope or bondage tape, make sure to keep a pair of safety scissors on hand at all times.
  • For more information about rope play, check out Autostraddle’s guide.
  • Never leave the room when someone is in bondage.
  • For rope play, keep it loose enough that you can fit two fingers between the skin and the rope to avoid cutting off circulation.

Is there something I missed or something you’re curious about? Leave a comment below!


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  1. Edited to add this point 15 hours after original publication. Initially I intended this post to be focused on purely physical considerations and thus opted not to include how anything akin to police/jails may be triggering. That said, I later decided that it is a crucial piece to include in an essay on handcuff safety.