Heads up: Some of the descriptions in this article are graphic and may be disturbing to some readers. And while we fully encourage exploration and experimentation, we also endorse educating yourself about any techniques you’re looking to try to ensure safety.
Whether we're talking about broken hymens or navigating the ins and outs of period sex, blood and sex have an undeniable connection. And, for some people, this connection is specifically what gets them off. They enjoy what is known as blood play or a blood fetish.
"Blood play involves cutting the body to draw blood," says Michael Aaron, PhD, a kink-friendly, NYC-based therapist and author of Modern Sexuality: The Truth about Sex and Relationships.
Blood fetishes are a form of edgeplay, or extreme BDSM sexual behavior that's thought to be more dangerous than other kinds of fetishes, and they're considered particularly taboo. These fetishes can involve cutting one another open with sharp knives (knife play) or surgical instruments, and they can also entail smearing blood across a lover's body or on objects, drinking blood, or just enjoying the sensation and visual image of bloodletting, Dr. Aaron says. Blood play can also involve more symbolic gestures, such as wearing a vial of your partner's blood as a necklace, says Galen Fous, a kink-positive sex therapist and fetish sex educator. (If you remember, Angelina Jolie and Billy Bob Thornton famously wore one another's blood in vials around their necks back in 2001. Jolie also told 20/20's Barbara Walters that she experimented with knife and blood play as a teen.)
According to Fous, the appeal of blood play for some people is rooted in primal instincts and intimacy. "[Blood play] is associated with the heart, the color red, and the passion of it," he says. "There’s trust that’s involved in blood play; [it’s] life or death." Others with this fetish might just enjoy the masochistic element and the pain, says Mistress Bettie Bondage, a professional dominatrix and BDSM educator. Bondage uses blood play in both her professional practice as a dominatrix and in her personal life. "Blood play can be cathartic on many levels," she says, referring to the emotional release many blood fetishists experience when releasing blood with a partner.
There’s trust that’s involved in blood play; [it’s] life or death.
It's also important to note that, for some, enjoyment of blood play could be connected to unresolved emotional issues and self-harm, according to Fous. However, he says that these people are likely the minority. And, in fact, a 2017 study conducted by Dr. Aaron and a team of researchers found that, among the 200 people they surveyed, the majority of those who enjoyed extreme BDSM activities weren't driven by harmful urges. Of course, more research needs to be done before we can specifically say this is the case for blood fetishes.
One reason people might not be talking about or engaging in this fetish? The extreme dangers involved. Along with the obvious risk of accidentally hurting yourself or your partner, people who try blood play risk infection from cuts and transmission of STIs (such as HIV) if they exchange blood with a partner. David J. Ores, MD, a general practitioner, says that you should never exchange blood with a partner, because you can catch any blood viral illness your partner has. At the very least, he says that you and your partner should get tested for HIV if you're thinking about trying blood play.
As Minx, a woman with a blood fetish, told Refinery29 last year: "What I think people don’t realize about [blood fetishes] is how much responsibility and how much effort you have to put into doing something that’s a little off the beaten track. I had to go to classes on how to do this safely, correctly. I practiced and practiced — countless tomatoes have lost their skin to my terrible scalpel practice before I could use it on a real, live person. You don’t want to harm someone."
"I practiced and practiced — countless tomatoes have lost their skin to my terrible scalpel practice before I could use it on a real, live person."
The BDSM community has adopted its own set of guidelines for engaging in risky behavior like this, which is known as RACK (risk aware consensual kink). Implementing RACK standards for blood play involves sterilizing any cutting instruments, testing for infectious diseases, and only drawing blood from safer, meatier areas of the body that are not near any major veins or arteries, Dr. Aaron says. But again, it's important that you talk to your doctor and receive the proper training before you even think about giving this a try.
Also, as with all risky sexual behavior, it's important that you make sure to only do this with a partner with whom you've built trust and intimacy, Fous says. And don't forget to pick a safe word with your partner so that you have a clear way to communicate any discomfort or a need to stop whatever you're doing.
The good news? If blood turns you on, you don't have to engage in any particularly risky behavior to indulge your fetish. The safest way to try blood play is by acting it out via role-playing. Try drizzling a blood-like liquid (such as red wine, ketchup, prop blood, or a DIY concoction) over your partner's body, or invest in some prop knives. Then, utilize the power of dirty talk to make the fantasy come alive. "You don’t have to actually do the cutting and bloodletting if you want to get a sense [of blood play]," Fous says.
Sure, most people out there may think this fetish has nothing to do with them, and they might be right. But there's no reason to judge anyone for what turns them on, as long as they're not harming anyone. And if you love Edward Cullen or get excited by the primal messiness of period sex, it might not be as far from your desires as you thought.