by Mistress Hu
Taping someone's mouth shut can seem as simple as running to the desk drawer, grabbing the first roll of sticky stuff you can find and cutting off a piece of it to put over their lips. Like a lot of things in the wide world of kink, though, tape gags can be incredibly wonderful but they can also be incredibly dangerous, so it's best to know as much as possible about tape gags before you start sealng up the nearest mouth you can find.
Basic Tape Gag Safety
The first rule of any kind of gag play is anyone wearing a gag has to be able to breathe. If your bottom has a stuffy nose, or is at risk of getting a stuffy nose due to allergies, then make sure that they can always breathe through their mouth. After you've rendered a bottom helpless through any kind of bondage, you have to treat them like they were a baby in your care: Check in on them regularly, make sure that they can breathe, and don't go too far away from them in case an emergency springs up.
The second rule of gag play is not to use gags over a prolonged period of time. Just like braces work to correct dentition -- the alignment of the teeth in the mouth -- gags can screw up dentition if they're used too frequently or for too long. If a bottom's teeth start feeling funny during or after a gagging, then that's probably a sign that gag play needs to stop for a while. Even if you're enough of a masochist to like the pain of a trip to a dentist, no one likes the pain of getting the dentist's bill afterward.
The Purpose of Gags
No safe gag can render a person completely silent. Sound travels through air, which means that even if a bottom's mouth is completely sealed up, some sound will always escape through the nose. (This is why people with stuffy noses "sound funny" when they talk.) Stuffing the mouth with a material that absorbs sound, like a wadded-up cloth or a leather pouch stuffed with foam, can dampen the volume of sound, but they can never completely eliminate it.
Gags are also used to render speech unintelligible, but stuffing the mouth actually renders speech slightly more intelligible. The reason for this is because we form vowel sounds by projecting our voice to certain parts of our mouth, and when the jaw is held closed without anything in it, like in a tape gag without stuffing, it makes it harder to produce different vowel sounds to go along with the mmmmmphing that gag lovers enjoy so much.
The Effectiveness of Tape Gags
One of the downsides of tape gags is that they can be easy to remove using just the mouth. The tongue and jaw muscles are among the strongest in the body, and the adhesives used on most rolls of tape can be easily defeated with saliva. There are ways to make tape gags more effective, like stuffing the mouth first or using a wraparound, but these might not be to your liking. (Many of us who grew up watching "tie up scenes" on television still romanticize the aesthetic beauty of a simple piece of tape over the mouth.)
As with other things in kink, though, you can make something effective simply by creating a penalty to pay for defeating it. If your bottom hates, for example, being caned on their genitals, then you can simply order them not to remove their gag or else you'll give them fifty cane strikes on their private parts. This can make even a tiny piece of Scotch tape on their mouth as effective of a gag as welding an iron plate over their lips.
Dozens of companies manufacture tape of all kinds, and not only can the quality of tape vary widely from company to company, but also from roll to roll. Particularly when buying duct tape made by smaller companies, it's possible to buy one roll of great tape, then buy a second roll from the same company that doesn't work nearly as well. This doesn't happen so often with larger manufacturers like 3M and Duck brand duct tape, but even they sometimes let a roll of low-quality tape slip through their fingers. This means that you have to test every new roll of tape you open to make sure that it works like the last roll you bought, but remember that testing also gives you an excuse to play some more after you've gotten the test out of the way.
In addition to the strength of the adhesive, tape can also vary in terms of how easy it is to cut or tear off of the roll, as well as how it behaves after it's cut off. Poorly-made tape can curl in on itself after it's pulled off, leaving you with a sticky wad of tape that's not usable later on. Some people also dislike the smells of certain kinds of tape, and that poses an obvious problem if you're sticking it right under their nose. (If a bottom has allergies, then make sure that the adhesive on any tape you apply to them isn't something that they're allergic to.)
Dealing with the Ouchies
Tape that isn't designed for human skin application, like duct tape, tends to hurt when coming off. This is largely because the skin on the face, especially around the lips, is much more sensitive than the skin on most other parts of the body. Even hardcore masochists can have trouble dealing with that pain. Removing the tape quickly can make it hurt less for some people, but for others it actually hurts more. If you have a partner brave enough to deal with the pain, then you might need to experiment to see what works best for them.
One way to make any kind of tape hurt less as it comes off is to apply the tape to a piece of clothing before putting it on someone's face. This will cause the "pills" of fabric on the clothing to stick to the tape, reducing the amount of the tape's surface area that actually comes into contact with skin. (Don't do this if you're making bondage photos or videos, though, because it creates a "shadow" around the edges of the tape that upsets a lot of gag enthusiasts.)
Kinds of Tape
Tape is made in hundreds of different ways, but most kinds of tape fall into a few broad categories, especially when it comes to tape gags.
Office tape: This incudes tapes like Scotch tape and packing tape, which generally aren't good for tape gags because they're designed to adhere to paper, not skin. Some people like packing tape because it's clear, allowing you to see the lips of the gagged bottom, and it's strong enough to work if it's used in a wraparound tape gag.
Sports and (older) medical tape: These are what you're most likely to find at your local drugstore. The adhesives used in these tapes are designed for human skin application, but they don't adhere much better than office tapes because they're designed to let the skin underneath "breathe" through the tape. They're still good for wraparound tape gags, but they don't work so well if you don't wrap them around the head.
Electrical tape: Although not designed for skin application, electrical tape tends to have much stronger adhesive than any of the tapes above. Most electrical tape comes in very thin rolls, which aren't ideal for making a gag out of, but you can find two-inch-wide rolls that are good for tape gags. Electrical tape has a bit of stretch to it, and many kinksters like using it because of its shiny appearance, pairing well with latex and PVC clothing.
Duct tape: Possibly the most popular tape used for gags, likely because of its reputation for strength. The growing availability of duct tape with different colors and patterns has made it possible to create all kinds of visually-interesting tape gags. It tends to hurt the most when it's being peeled off of the face, though.
Microfoam tape: Although Microfoam is a specific brand of tape made by 3M, kinksters also use the name to refer to many kinds of modern medical tape that stretch a lot and contour tightly to skin. For tape gags, this results in what gag enthusiasts call the "lip impression," where the shape of the lips sticks out from the front of the tape. This is probably the best tape to use for most tape gags, but it's much more expensive than other kinds of tape. (The use of microfoam for tape gags was popularized in the nineties by the late John Gord, of House of Gord fame.)
Bondage tape: Unlike the other tapes in this list, bondage tape doesn't have any adhesive. It sticks to itself quite well, so it's very good for wraparound tape gags, but it can't really be used for other kinds of tape gags because it doesn't have anything to stick to.
To Stuff or Not to Stuff
Stuffing the mouth with a cloth before taping it shut can make a gag more effective by restricting the tongue's movement and absorbing saliva. It also reduces the volume of gagged speech by muffling sound waves as they travel up from the vocal cords. Whenever you put any kind of gag inside the mouth, though, you increase the risk of choking, so you always need to exercise tremendous caution when using stuffing with a tape gag.
One of the ways to reduce this risk is to apply a kind of tape gag called a nautilus gag, created by John Willie in the pages of Bizarre magazine in the sixties. To apply a nautilus gag, first take a long piece of tape and pinch it in the middle so it sticks to itself, then apply the tape so the pinched part goes between the wearer's lips but the ends stick to the cheeks. Stuffing can then be pushed into the mouth around the pinched part, keeping part of the stuffing over the pinched part of the tape. The mouth can then be taped shut normally, and the tape applied over the top of the stuffing should anchor it in place so it doesn't work its way deep into the mouth and down into the throat. It may still work loose, though, so please exercise caution even when using this method.
Structuring a Tape Gag
Although you can stick tape on a person's face in an infinite number of ways, most tape gags fall into a number of basic configurations.
Single-strip: A single strip of tape placed horizontally over the lips and cheeks. It's the least effective kind of tape gag, but remember that you can make gags effective in other ways. Because this kind of tape gag is seen so much in films and television shows, a lot of kinksters like to use it even if it isn't the strongest way to tape someone's mouth shut. Some gag snobs might not like its lack of effectiveness, but who cares what they think? As long as you like it, that's the only thing that counts.
The "X": Two strips layered horizontally at a slight angle, creating a wide X-shape over the wearer's face. This is slightly more effective than a single-strip tape gag, but the visual effect of "crossing out" a person's mouth with tape can be quite powerful psychologically.
Multiple horizontal strips: Although using several strips of horizontal tape up and down the lower part of a person's face is only marginally more effective than a single-strip tape gag or an "X," it creates more surface area to be defeated by the wearer. In addition, a large tape gag also has the psychological effect of making it look like the wearer needs that much tape to shut their big mouth, and larger tape gags also feel more like they're hugging the face than smaller gags, which can be a soothing feeling for some bottoms.
Tape muzzle: This greatly increases the effectiveness of a tape gag by immobilizing the jaw. The usual way a tape muzzle is applied is to first use several horizontal strips of tape over the cheeks, then a horizontal strip that goes directly onto the point of the chin and curves up over the cheeks at the ends, pinning the chin back to discourage horizontal movement of the jaw. Further strips go up under the chin and also curve up to attach to the cheeks, restricting the jaw's ability to move vertically. Further horizontal strips over the lower face help to anchor the other strips down and create a secure mass that holds the jaw tight, although even a gag like this can stil be defeated with saliva and the tongue, especially if the mouth isn't stuffed.
Horizontal wraparound: Wrapping tape around the head at mouth-level can create a very effective gag because the tensile strength of the tape will still restrict jaw movement even if the adhesive is defeated through saliva. Unless you use a microfoam tape, though, this will create a lot of pain as it comes off because of how hairs will be pulled as the tape is removed. Even if you go slowly and take the time to pull each individual strand of hair off of the tape, you're still going to cause some pain.
Multiple wraparounds: In addition to wrapping tape around the head horizontally, you can also wrap it vertically (under the chin and over the top of the head) and diagonally (over the tip of the chin and around the rear crown of the head). John Willie famously showed how to apply a gag like this in his Sweet Gwendoline comics. It's the most effective kind of tape gag you can make, but all that restriction around the head can be very difficult to take for long periods of time.
Decorating a Tape Gag
One of the benefits of tape being disposable is that it's easy to decorate. Every tape gag you make can be your canvas, if you're so inclined.
Markers are one of the easiest ways to create designs on a tape gag. In addition to drawings things (remember the lips drawn on Drew Barrymore's tape gag in Charlie's Angels?), writing words on a tape gag can have a very profound psychological effect, especially if the words are humiliating in nature. Be careful not to leave uncapped markers directly below the nose for too long, though, because this can literally destroy brain cells. You remember what your parents told you about huffing, right?
Another way to decorate a tape gag is to use tape of different colors. Although those thin rolls of electric tape might not be good for creating tape gags by themselves, you can use them to decorate a larger tape gag, either by creating trim around the edges of the gag or by creating an "X" over the top. One technique I like to use is to apply a muzzle with one color of duct tape, then apply a single horizontal strip over the top of the muzzle in a contrasting color. This creates a visually compelling "name plate" that I can then write my name on, or an embarrassing word or phrase designed to humiliate the wearer.
You can also use stickers, or anything else you can stick to the tape, to decorate your gag. Your only limit is your imagination.
A Final Note
Remember to always play safe, but also be sure to have fun. Tape gags can be one of the most enjoyable tools in your kinky arsenal, so experiment with them and see how they can make your sexy fun time even hotter.
MISTRESS HU is a semi-retired mistress and the author of the California Bondage Sorority novels.