In cupping, cups are often applied to erogenous zones such as the nipples, breasts, buttocks, inner thighs and clitoris. This increases blood flow and can make them more sensitive to other kinds of touch. Typically, the intensity of the sensation is determined by the size of the cup used. Larger cups create more suction, which makes the resulting sensations more intense. The three key methods of cupping used in BDSM include dry cupping, where a vacuum is created in the cup by mechanical means, fire cupping, where a combustible is used to create suction, and wet cupping, which includes adding small lacerations to the skin to draw blood via suction.
Traditionally dry cupping was performed by applying heated glass cups directly to the skin. This may be called fire cupping, and suction is created by lighting something (usually an alcohol-soaked cotton ball,) quickly extinguishing it, then applying the cup to the skin. The fire removes air from the cups, creating a vacuum without the use of a pump. Fire cupping is relatively safe, although there are documented cases of burns even in therapeutic settings.
While some people prefer traditional methods, modern cupping sets make dry cupping much easier. To use these, the dominant usually prepares the skin with a layer of massage oil or lubricant. Silicone or plastic cups are then applied directly to the skin. Many modern cupping sets have hand pumps, which let dominants control each cup’s suction levels.
The cups stay in place for as long as the submissive person can tolerate. Just a few minutes is a good starting point for beginners, but over time they may handle longer dry cupping sessions of 15 or even 30 minutes.
In wet cupping, the skin is sanitized and small incisions are made, often using a device called a plum blossom. This results in blood collecting in the cups and dribbling out after they are removed.
Wet cupping is an effective way to create intense erotic sensations and leave the skin far more sensitive to stimulation after the cups are removed. While it should not be particularly painful, wet cupping does create dramatic BDSM scenes, particularly for those who are into blood.
The sensation of wet cupping has been described as "gentle pulling" and "the opposite of a massage."
Wet cupping is an advanced activity and should not be attempted by people without training. The dangers of incorrectly performed wet cupping include infections and breaking down of the skin. For BDSM practitioners looking to experiment with this form of sensation play, finding a practitioner with lots of experience and excellent cleanliness practices is advised.
Fleshy parts of the body create the greatest suction. Hairless areas are best, as hair can interfere with suction. The breasts, nipples, back and genitals are all common targets for dry cupping. You should not dry cup near the spine or other bones, or on areas where the skin has boils, moles or other dermal conditions. The back is the best place for cupping, as the skin there is strong and can endure the treatment. More caution - and smaller cups - should be used in more sensitive areas like the neck, nipples and genitals. Even then, skin tearing is possible.
You shouldn’t try cupping if you have conditions requiring the use of blood thinners or problems with clotting or bleeding. Cups should never be applied to open wounds, veins, arteries, lymph nodes or varicose veins. Dry cupping is the safest technique, so it’s a great starting point for beginners. Master this technique first before attempting fire or wet cupping, which involves more risk.