Friday, November 30, 2001

The Fascination of Fireplay

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #170, November 30, 2001)

“How about a little fire, Scarecrow?” Anyone who has seen The Wizard of Oz remembers that scene—it’s almost like the Wicked Witch is coming at you with that fiery broom. Fire induces panic and fear, yet it can be fascinating at the same time. Fire seems to take on a life of its own as the flames jump and dance capriciously. And then there’s the romance of sitting in front of a roaring fire, safely contained in a fireplace.

Panic, fear, fascination and romance—no wonder fireplay is attractive to folks into BDSM. Local pansexual BDSM group MSDB recently presented “Baby, Light My Fire,” a fireplay workshop attended by an audience of about 35. In addtion to learning about the passion and spectacle of fireplay, audience members also heard useful information about fire safety, first aid for burns, and the scientific aspects of fire. The workshop was conducted by a top wearing jeans and a t-shirt with nine fire-breathing dragons on it, and a bottom who spent most of the workshop naked—a sensible way to avoid setting clothes on fire.

The workshop started with some safety precautions—here are just a few of the caveats discussed at the seminar:

• Fireplay SHOULD NOT be done on the face, around hairy areas (head, armpits, genital area, hairy chests or backs), on cut or infected skin, or around moles.

• Avoid fireplay on inappropriate surfaces, such as carpets or mattresses. Beware of clothing and long hair.

• Mood-altering substances and fireplay DO NOT mix. In the words of the demonstrating top, “You need a clear head and undiminished reaction time.”

• In a fire situation, do your best to remain calm. Panic only makes the situation worse.

• Have a wool blanket handy to snuff out fires. Wool does not support combustion at normal levels of oxygen and temperature. Wet towels are an alternative, but they can be messy.

Disclaimer: The descriptions of fireplay that follow are for illustrative purposes only; they are not complete instructions on how to do fireplay safely. Fireplay is edgeplay, and injury or death is possible. Do not play with fire unless you have had proper training and supervision from a fireplay expert.

Now that the disclaimers have been presented, here’s what the audience saw during the demonstration portion of the workshop:

After a warm-up session in which the top caressed his bottom’s skin with a burning, fragrant stick of incense (to her obvious delight), we moved on to flash cotton, which is simply cotton that has been treated to make it highly flammable. The top placed multiple bits of flash cotton of varied sizes all over the bottom’s back. Then, at irregular intervals, he used a small butane torch to ignite the pieces one by one, each time causing a bright, quick burst of flame. The cotton was so light that the bottom couldn’t feel it lying on her skin; she never knew where, when, or how big the next flash would be.

What did it feel like for the bottom? She explained that when the flash cotton was ignited the heat was brief, intense, and localized. Often the sudden intense heat was immediately followed by a chill. She also said that the element of surprise made the sudden combustion of the cotton feel almost like an impact.

To demonstrate alcohol play at the seminar, the bottom leaned against a stepladder so that she was bent slightly forward. With his hand, the top applied isopropyl alcohol (other kinds of alcohol don’t work for this) to the bottom’s back. Then he literally set his hand on fire (drawing gasps from the audience), and used his human-torch hand to ignite the alcohol stripe on the bottom’s back. There were more gasps as we watched blue streaks of flame run from the bottom’s waist to her shoulders. For the bottom, the sensation was the cool feeling of the alcohol on her skin, followed by the intense heat from the fire, followed again by a comparatively cool sensation when the flame burned out.

As with other forms of edgeplay, fireplay is not for everyone. Even though fireplay done correctly does not cause burns or other injury, a person who cannot overcome their fear of being burned is not a good candidate for fireplay because they won’t enjoy it. For those who think they might enjoy it, however, let me stress again that the best first step is finding a mentor who will show you how to properly and safely play with fire.

First Aid for Burns

Here’s some information from MSDB’s fireplay seminar about first aid for burns. This is good to know even if you never intend to do fireplay.

• First, remove the person from the burning situation, either by putting out the fire or getting the person away from the fire.

• Second, cool the burn with cool water until it feels better. Don’t use ice or ice water, which can contribute to shock.

• Third, bandage the burn loosely with sterile dressings.

• “Critical burns” are burns which must receive attention as soon as possible from medical personnel. These include second- and third-degree burns (marked by blistering or charring), burns to the face, hands or feet, burns over more than 10% of the body, or burns sustained by infants, children or elderly people. Do not apply ointments, salves, or anything other than cool water and sterile dressings to a critical burn, and do not try to remove burned or charred skin from the wound.

Upcoming Leather Events (for Calendar section)

Atons Holiday Fundraiser and Silent Auction
December 9, 2001, 6-10 P.M., The Saloon
What would the holidays be without friends and traditions? The Atons present their traditional holiday fundraiser, food drive and silent auction, which this year benefits the Aliveness Project. Come bid on the fascinating and useful items that have been donated to the Silent Auction. (Call or e-mail if you have something to donate.) Admission is $5 plus 3 lbs. of food (or $10 without food donation).

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