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Electro-Stimulation (a.k.a. Electric) Play

Electrical play, electro-stimulation, erotic electro-stim all basically mean the same thing: using electrically powered devices in safe, sane and consensual BDSM games! It may seem like a scary notion to many people, but it can easily be made safe provided two simple rules are followed: only use devices powered by low-powered batteries, or plug-in-powered appliances that have been designed to "step down" the voltage and regulates the power; and never place any contacts or electrodes above the waist (including on hands or arms), because even small currents in the heart or brain can disrupt those organs' own delicate electrical activity with serious consequences.

So, what gadgets can we play with?  There are many possibilities, including a few devices specifically made for electrical play, various electro-medical devices, etc. such as Low frequency AC or pulsed DC devices, such as “TENS” and  “EMS” units, as well as more sophisticated devices made especially for electrical play and high voltage, high frequency, ultra low current devices, or “Violet Wands”.

Now you ask, "How do voltage, resistance and current interact?" Just as having more water pressure or a larger hose will fill the swimming pool faster, the higher the voltage, and/or the lower the resistance, the more current will flow in an electrical circuit. (“Ohm’s Law”).

During electrical play we often have direct control over the voltage, usually by means of an intensity knob or perhaps a pair of buttons which raise and lower a device’s output level. We also have some control over the resistance in our electrical play circuit, because we determine the placement of electrodes on the body, and the type of electrodes used, including their size and shape.

There are factors which we don’t control however, such as the condition of the skin: Dry skin has a much higher resistance than moist skin does, and this can actually change during a scene as perspiration builds up (a common reaction to stress or to fear), or as the skin “blushes” or becomes “flushed” with arousal. Therefore, the best approach is to be prepared for compensated the unexpected reactions as the scene progresses! It is equally important to note that electrical (electro-stimulation) play is not an exact science, so even if you believe you know your "sub/patient's normal reactions" and your equipment, “setting the dial to 6” will not produce the same effect every time you play!

AC vs DC

There’s more to electrical play than just passing any old sort of current through someone’s naughty bits. We have many flavors to choose from, and electricity can be applied in a wide variety of different signals and patterns, all of which feel very different when applied to the body! To understand this we need to explore the differences between AC and DC voltages.

A DC signal has something called “polarity”. We’re all familiar with the fact that a battery (which supplies DC power) has two terminals, marked positive (+) and negative (–). Current flows from the positive to the negative terminal. This is called “direct current” electricity, or “DC”.  We can make a simple DC current more interesting by rapidly switching it on and off, creating a “square wave” signal. This can vary in its repetition rate, or “frequency”, and also in the width of the pulses “on time” as compared to their “off time”, usually called “pulse width” or sometimes “duty cycle”. This type of signal is commonly found in TENS and EMS units. A pulsed DC signal, there is still a positive and a negative terminal, and the current will always flow in one direction.

Some devices produce AC, or “alternating current” signals. An AC signal constantly changes polarity, and current flows first in one direction, then in the other. The rate at which the polarity changes is called the “frequency”, which we measure in cycles per second, or “Hertz”. (Hz.) AC signals can be simple or they can be very rich and complex.

The Violet Wand

A "violet wand" resembles a hand-held power tool with little glass bulbs sticking out of one end! When turned on, the bulb glows to a violet color light, while inside the bulb sizzles and crackles. By sweeping the glass electrodes (or any other of the wonderful accessories that come with a complete Violet Wand Kit)  will cause a static discharge and sparks to jump to the skin's surface giving a zap sensation! These do not send current through the body, therefore they are safe for use anywhere [except the eyes or major nerve clusters (i.e. the top of the spine)].

Most use the Violet Wand DIRECTLY. This means an electrode tube (a shaped glass lightbulb type apparatus) to send the arc of sparks from the Wand to the skin's surface. Another method is INDIRECTLY, which utilizes a "Body Contact" device, that allows the electrical current to pass from the Wand through the controller, thus making the entire body (and parts!) behave like an electrode!  Running electrified fingers over erogenous zones and experimenting with the many ways of using other body parts… even kissing and electrified oral sex are possible! Our Violet Wand Kits contain more detailed instructions and care guides

Power Box, Electro-Stimulation, TENS 

Trying the unit out on yourself is really the only way to learn. One thing to remember with anything that has settings or dials is that different people have different pain thresholds. Even the same person may experience and interpret sensations differently at different times -- just because one setting is pleasurable to one person doesn't mean another one else will find it so.

A good place to start exploring is the legs. Try putting one terminal on the inside of your thigh about three inches from the crotch, the other one on the inside of your ankle. Good lubrication of the skin/contact pads is essential -- water is fine for the genuine re-usable gel type pads that come with some of the units. For dry re-usable terminals or anything home-made, water-based lube (Surgical Lube) is OK,  or use Spectra Gel which is a conductive gel lubricant, if more conductivity is needed.

Experiment with the various settings of your unit, always with the unit turned off first and re-started after adjustments. A good start is to set intensity to about one third of maximum and then to dial in various pulse rates and widths of signal to experience the different sensations. Next choose approximately 40% pulse rate and signal width and increase intensity. You should feel either calf or thigh muscles respond by contracting (twitching) in rhythm with the pulse setting. You may need to adjust the position of the pads slightly or check for good contact if your muscles do not respond.

When you reach an intensity level at which your muscles contract comfortably, increase the pulse rate until you reach a point at which the pulse rate is too fast for your muscles to react -- they will cramp instead. Depending on your point of view this can be either unbearably painful or an incredible turn-on. Next try putting a pad on each ankle -- really nice. Then try putting one or both pads on the sole of your foot. Lastly, if you have two sets of outlets, put one set of pads on each leg.

From here on it's smooth sailing! If you can't remember basic human anatomy from school biology, take a look at a fitness or anatomy book at the library and see where all the leg, ass and stomach muscles are located. The principle is really simple -- place the contacts a little beyond where muscles connect to joints and tendons.

Placement of Electrodes

The devices output is applied to the body through either adhesive conductive gel pads, or through insertable electrodes, and it can take time and practice to find the electrode combinations and device settings that work best for a particular person. The best electrode placement will also depend upon the results you’re trying to achieve.

Making good contact between the skin and the electrodes is vital -- more on how to do that later. If you don't do this, you won't get good results with TENS units, while you might get electrical burns from some of the bigger toys like hand crank magnetos. You also need to know that the smaller the contact point, the more intense the sensation -- clips and clamps feel quite different than a contact pad! So always start at low power and work up slowly.

Another very important safety point is not to tie someone tightly when using electricity. You will be stimulating their muscles either directly, or make them jump with the sensations. They could injure themselves easily if they can't move. People react differently, so a setting that might make your leg twitch might cause a major leg movement in another -- consider this when tying someone.

For female electro stimulation genital play, the adhesive pads electrodes can be placed close to, and on either side of the clitoris, on the thighs, or above and on either side of the pubic mound also work well. Insertable vaginal plug electrodes and/or butt-plugs can also be used.

For male electro stimulation genital play, “contact bands” which stretch around the penis are commonly used, and conductive butt-plugs may also complete the circuit. There are now some extremely stimulating (pun intended) urethral insertables, such as the Sparklers or the Deep Throat.

BDSM “Power Boxes”

Several companies make TENS/EMS like devices which have been designed especially for BDMS Electrical Play, and for E-Stim. These devices tend to offer much higher maximum output levels than TENS and EMS units provide, and their waveforms are usually tailored to provide sensations more suitable for our purposes. The PES Power Box can be used with a 9 Volt battery or A/C powered, which is recommended for the strongest performance of the various attachments electrodes, which require more power.

The TENS units are battery-powered, with control of pulse intensity and pulse frequency, and two leads that can be attached to stimulation pads which adhere to the skin for contact. These can produce sensations ranging from a mild tingle to a thrilling trembling buzz to a serious jolt. Remember, below the waist only.

Erotic Electro Stimulation Play Aftercare

Prolonged and intense sessions with TENS, EMS and similar “power boxes” can sometimes result in electrolyte depletion, which is best treated with rest, and by drinking fluids to keep hydrated. (Sports drinks such as Gatorade work best.)

One common side effect is a temporary phantom tingling sensation called “after-buzz”. Some may also experience a temporary numbness, or perhaps muscle weakness in the area where electrodes were attached, or in areas served by the nerves which were affected.

If you’re using safe equipment and practices it’s actually pretty difficult to harm someone while doing electrical/electro stimulation play.  In the event of any mishaps, however, turning off and disconnecting any electrical play devices.

Healthy Tip: Electrical (electro stimulation) play is not for everyone; get a medical check up before participating in any BDSM play. This is even more important in the case of electrical play, if you have any doubts about your (or your play partner's) overall health. That's a huge part of safe and sane!

Basic BDSM credo: Safe, Sane and Consensual!

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