It’s unfortunate that BDSM is far too often seen only as dark, brooding and intense. Now, there’s nothing wrong with dark, brooding and intense - in fact, it can be wildly fun in its own way - but BDSM is more than that.

In other words, there are ways for people to experience a unique physical sensation that is more sensual than being tied up or whipped. In this case, I'm talking about cupping. Here we'll take a look at this unique kinky practice.

An Introduction to Erotic Cupping

It’s a matter of some debate as to which country, or even region, was the first to develop cupping. Some like to give China the credit, while others feel strongly that it started in the Middle East. Most, however, can agree that it is very old, and there's evidence of it appearing in works such as the teachings of Muhammad and even on ancient Egyptian papyrus. A conservative estimate puts its origins as far back as (drum roll, please) 3,000 years ago.

There are basically three methods of cupping:

  • Dry Cupping: Creating a partial vacuum in a cup though some kind of mechanical means.
  • Fire Cupping: Doing the same with fire.
  • Wet Cupping: Combining either of the first two methods but adding small lacerations where the suction occurs to pull small amounts of blood from the subject.

As this is about cupping as an beginning step into BDSM, I’m going to pass on a lot of detail about wet cupping and fire cupping. If you are interested - as with anything about kink - always do research, take classes, and get as informed as possible before doing anything like wet cupping.

Dry Cupping Basics

Meanwhile, dry cupping is spectacularly easy and quite safe. While there are all kinds of ancient means to create suction, it’s best to step away from traditional and somewhat unreliable methods and instead go for modern and far more dependable options.

As for how to get a dry cupping set … welcome to the 21st century! A quick Internet search for “dry cupping set” will net you dozens of options, most of which are quite inexpensive. While there are many that use silicone cups, a personal favorite of mine is the plastic bell type. They usually come with a wide variety of shapes and sizes of cups - plus a nifty little vacuum pump.

The reason for my preference is that the silicone type has a kind of “on or off” degree of suction, while the pump kind usually has three or so levels of intensity, although the pump has a limiter that keeps it from getting too severe.

The big advantage to dry cupping is the reliability of suction. With one of the mechanical sets, you can easily apply cups to just about any part of the body (more on that in a bit) with enough force that they won’t spontaneously pop off.

Fire Cupping Basics

The aforementioned fire cupping, though, can often be more sensual and relaxing - or stimulating if used at the start of a BDSM scene.

Because they use glass cups and an open flame, they are not as predictable as dry cupping in regards to suction. However, they also conduct a good amount of heat, which can deliver a delicious, sensual warmth when applied.

As for where to get glass cups…back to the internet. Just keep in mind that they can be a bit pricey. This is not because of the glass cups. Those are relatively cheap (around $3 a cup). It's because of the cost of shipping heavy, glass objects. If you are lucky to live in an area with a large Asian community, you can often find them in shops that carry herbs and supplies for things like acupuncture.

Misinformation Leads to Injuries

Now there has been a lot of misinformation floating around about fire cupping, and some of it has led to some truly frightening accidents. As with anything in the BDSM world, read, read, read; watch videos over and over and over again; and take class after class after class before you try anything - especially anything that involves open flame.

Part of this misinformation occurs because many people do not understand the principles of fire cupping. Without getting all Mr. Wizard on you (boy, that dates me), the idea is that you want to raise the temperature inside the glass and not heat the glass itself. When the air inside the cup cools, after being placed on a person’s skin, it will create a partial vacuum.

If you heat the glass too much, such as by allowing the flame to linger on the inside of the cup, the heat will spread throughout the glass. This will not only keep the glass hot, and thus create no suction, but it can also lead to nasty burns.

There is only one safe and effective way to heat the inside of a glass cup. If you see any other way, for heaven’s sake, don’t do it. I have personally witnessed people pour alcohol into a glass cup, ignite it and then place it on some poor, unfortunate person’s back. The result was second and third degree burns.

How to Properly Heat a Glass Cup

So, here’s how you should heat a glass cup. Some people use a cotton ball, dipped in a MINISCULE AMOUNT of alcohol and then gripped in a pair of forceps. Once lit, this is then waved inside the cup for no more than half a second.

This is a fine/dandy method, BUT is also leaves room for the possibility of a horrible accident. Think of it this way: open flame, liquid alcohol, and a bumped arm (yes, you may shudder).

I prefer to use a stick (camping) lighter. Just click it on, wave it inside the cup - again avoid hitting the glass - and then immediately put the cup on your person. No open flame, except when needed, and a great amount of control. Ideal!

It’s a good idea to test your cups by heating the inside and then resting them on your own thigh. It you can see it’s too hot then you are either leaving flame in there too long or are hitting the glass. Also, keep in mind that the more you use the cups the warmer they will get. When the cups themselves are warm, they will not create suction.

Remember, the vacuum is created by a temperature difference: no difference, no suction. To keep them cool you can use a small amount of lukewarm, but not cold, water on the cups. The reason you don’t want them chilled is that when the heat hits them there’s a chance that they could crack or even shatter.

Lubricant and Cupping

As with a lot of fun things, lubrication is also crucial. Dry cups will stick without anything but they will stick better with the application of a small amount of oil. For fire cupping, it’s practically essential. I always recommend coconut oil, baby oil, or anything similar. Anything with additives raises the list of an allergic reaction. In short: keep it simple and pure.

Where to Place the Cups

So, where do you place your cups? With dry cupping pretty much anywhere on the body is fair game. Or, rather, where you can get one to stick.

With fire cupping the back is really the only place. This is mainly because if you place one on someone who is standing, the weight of the glass will pop it right off, in which case you'll be left with glass shards on the floor. Even with someone on their back, breasts can shift and move quite a bit, making a good seal far too difficult.

Even though the back is ideal, always make sure that there’s a safe landing zone on the floor where you are working. Glass cups can pop off at any time; so don’t depend on your less-than-lightning reflexes to catch them.

How Long Should the Cups Remain on the Skin?

As for how long you can leave them on…well, a good measure is to a test them on your cupping subject to see how they like it. I’ve had cups on for as long as 45 minutes - although that might be a bit much for some people. A good place to start is around five or 10 minutes. After all, if your partner likes it, you can always place the cups back on for a longer period.

The great news about cupping is that it is wonderfully safe - if you do it right. Sure, your subject might look like they’ve been attacked by a rather amorous octopus for a week or so, but otherwise, they’ll be fine.

Sure, cupping may not be one of the wilder BDSM activities but it really can be a wonderful introduction to kinky play. And if you are advanced in your kink you can also use them as either a warm up/relaxation technique or as a way of decompressing after a vigorous workout.

In any case, if you do fire cupping, keep in mind that you are quite literally playing with fire. Playing it safe - and smart - will allow you and your playmates to have all kinds of cupping fun … without getting burned.