Friday, May 18, 2001

Shiny Sharp Things: The erotic uses of knives

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #156, May 18, 2001)

Cristo Webb is a nationally-known knifemaker whose business, Cristo’s Blades of Indianapolis, IN (, sells his own custom-crafted knives as well as other knives, antique and modern straight razors, and all kinds of knife accessories. He is an expert in all aspects of knives and razors and has been featured in the pages of Blade Magazine and Knife Illustrated.

Cristo describes himself both as “a big lovable farmboy who refuses to leave the Midwest” and a “dyke tranny Sirboy switch who prefers male pronouns.” He is the Sir to his long-term bottom boy, Corky. His BDSM talents and interests include anything to do with knives, razors, blood, boots, mind-fucks, fisting, uniforms, interrogation, canes, single-tails and breath play.

Oh, and did I mention that he really, really likes knives?

Cristo has spent many weekends traveling to leather-community events around the country as an activist, presenter and vendor; he was brought to the Twin Cities recently by local kink group MSDB ( to present a knifeplay workshop that attracted a crowd of about 25. (This weekend he’s back in Minnesota, presenting seminars and workshops at the Knights of Leather’s Tournament 13 run.)

Knifeplay is generally regarded as an extreme form of BDSM play, even by many in the BDSM community. And it certainly can be intense (one breathtaking demonstration at this workshop involved using a knife to remove some temporary piercings by cutting them out—yes, really).

But knifeplay can also be stimulating without breaking the skin or drawing blood. Lightly dragging a sharp knifepoint across the skin can create intense sensations (and artistic welts). Different sensations come from dragging the edge of the blade across the skin at various angles, or thumping or scratching with the knife handle. For some people, something as simple as the feel of a cold, hard steel blade being rubbed flat against the skin can be a turn-on.

Just the sight of a knife can be intimidating. And then there are the sounds that go with knifeplay: the click-and-lock of a folding knife being snapped open, the whoosh of a fixed-blade knife being drawn from its sheath, the metallic scraping of blade against sharpening stone, or the splash of a knife going into (or coming out of) a jar of disinfectant solution.

A lot of the excitement of knifeplay comes from the head-trip generated by these sights, sounds and sensations. According to Cristo, “For scene purposes, a dull knife can be just as effective as a sharp one.” All sorts of tricks can be played once the appropriate mood has been created and a scene is underway, especially if the bottom is blindfolded; a letter opener, butter knife or even the edge of a credit card (Cristo asks, “Why do you think they call it MasterCard?”) can feel like the sharpest blade ever.

Cristo’s knifeplay workshop covered a wide range of knife-related topics, including different types of knives; how to buy a knife; knife care, storage and sharpening techniques; and knife safety, cleanliness and sterilization. Here are a few interesting things I learned:

• Where should you not do knifeplay? Avoid the area around the eyes (heed the voice of your mother: “It’s always fun until somebody loses an eye”) and ears, as well as areas of skin that have rashes. Be extra careful around key artery areas. And don’t start right off by working on erogenous areas; Cristo suggests you “explore your partner’s body—knives are wonderful objects for foreplay and teasing.”

• Buy knives that feel comfortable in your hand—that comfortable feeling translates into better control when you’re using them, whether you’re doing knifeplay or deboning a chicken breast.

• Don’t store a carbon-steel-blade knife in a leather sheath; the leather holds moisture, which will cause the blade to rust.

• Cleanliness and sterile procedure are absolutely essential for safe, sane, consensual knifeplay. Barbicide and other disinfectants are good stuff, but nothing kills hepatitis on a knife blade short of autoclaving—and many knives can’t be autoclaved without being ruined. So for safety’s sake, unless a knife can be properly sterilized it shouldn’t be shared. Cristo’s rule: “You get blood on it, you own it.”

• Serrated knifes are great for cutting off clothing during a scene, or as an emergency dungeon tool for cutting rope. But they are not recommended for knifeplay scenes. According to Cristo, a serrated blade is “a saw, basically, and it will maim a body.”

• Knife laws are confusing, chaotic and quirky. They vary from state to state, and state law is often overridden locally by cities or counties. Here are some highlights of the four-page knife law summary that was handed out at the workshop: In California, pens may be illegal because they are potential stabbing weapons; in Mississippi, threatening actions with a knife in the presence of fewer than three people may be acceptable; the one state people associate with Bowie knives (Texas) expressly forbids them; and Virginia state law 3.1-370 states that your knife must be cleaned daily.

• Before you ever touch a knife to someone else’s skin (or your own, for that matter), be absolutely sure you know what you’re doing—and polish your technique by practicing on inanimate objects. At the seminar, Cristo has us experiment on plum tomatoes, but you can also use skin-on chicken breasts. Or practice cutting the surface of a pan of clear gelatin, where you’ll easily be able to see how far the blade has penetrated.

The workshop ended with a hands-on exercise—a birthday surprise for bottom-boy Corky, who was not told about this beforehand and didn’t know what to expect. In a creative combination of hot wax play and knifeplay, Cristo and members of the audience first dripped hot wax on Corky’s back until the wax was about 1/8” thick. Then, guided by a stencil, they used their knives to carve “HAPPY BIRTHDAY” into the wax. A little aerosol whipped cream, a few birthday candles, and presto—a human birthday cake.

(Cristo also presented a similar workshop dealing with razors and the erotic aspects of shaving. I’ll write about that workshop next issue.)

Upcoming Leather Events (for Calendar section)

The Atons will be having their traditional IML Widows gathering on Sunday, May 27, for those who don’t go to Chicago for the International Mr. Leather contest.

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