Repring of post from bondage.com

Jeff wrote:

“I was told that a open ground on the outlet could be ok to use as long as your using a decent powerstrip with a trip/fuse on it and you keep all cable from crossing over each other. Both internal plays took place far away from metal. Once on the floor on a comforter with lots of pillows and the 2nd time on a wooded framed bed. However, the other night we played on a futon (with a metal frame). I took the precautions to keep all cables far away form the action and not crossing over anything. However, at one point the persons foot touched the frame and they of course got a mild jolt as with touching anything metal. We fixed the problem by repositioning ourselves and covering the exposed framed areas with blankets and pillows. The unit was plugged into a open ground outlet. So…what risks did i put us at? That is my ultimate questions. I keep getting conflicting answers on this.”

Hi Jeff!

There’s some confusion as to what ‘grounding out’ means versus an open grounded outlet, and this is probably why you’re getting conflicting answers.  An open grounded outlet is a dangerous condition in any instance, not only with wands.  Are you sure you didn’t simply mean you had an UNgrounded outlet?? (two prong outlet in older homes, and not as safe as grounded outlets.)

An open grounded or even an ungrounded outlet is different than ‘grounding out’, which is a bit different than what occurs when your bottom partner touched the metal frame of the bed.   Even though electricity is always trying to get to ground, it is this very ability for electrical current to travel that makes it so desireable to play with. Merely touching something else, another person, the bed frame, or something else metal in the vicinity, may cause the current to travel, but it isn’t ‘grounding out’ unless that object being touched is ‘grounded’.  In fact, when we want to make daisy chains of people, use Indirect or Reverse techniques, we want the current to do precisely that..travel.

I’ll leave the more technical explanations to our sweet friend Lady Robin, but I’ll try to explain it from a practical play standpoint.

The biggest issue is avoiding a true ‘grounding out’; meaning current runs to the earth/ground.  This COULD occur if circumstances were right; your partner touched the metal futon frame which….was resting on a concrete floor that was reinforced with rebar which would allow a path for current to run all the way to earth/ground as it traveled from the wand, through your partner, to the bed, and followed the rebar right into the earth.  Or your partner touched radiator pipes in your room which would allow a path all the way to earth/ground as it followed the plumbing pipes.  Or your metal futon frame was on wet floor boards and there was a path from the wet floorboards to other household wiring which current could follow to get to earth/ground.  If any of those circumstances were present, then a path to ground would be available.  This is why Lady Robin says she doesn’t have enough details to know how much risk you or your partner might actually have been in; on what surface was the futon frame resting?  If you were on a second story with a hard wood floor, and 10 feet of air space between you and the first floor…there’s little to worry about above the usual safety concerns.   If there was a highly conductive material right under that futon frame that goes into the earth, such as concrete with rebar going into the ground, or wet floorboards, or your partner was tied to that radiator where the plumbing goes straight into the ground, etc., etc., then you would have had a path to ground available.

The metal futon frame by itself, isn’t ‘grounded’, unless you can follow a conductive path from it to the earth.  In fact, if you had rubber feet on it to keep your carpet or floor from getting screwed up, it was effectively isolated. And that’s what you want to do; isolate who and what you’re playing with.

A simple way to find the possibility of a path to ground being available, is to draw an imaginary line in your head from your partner through any metal or other conductive objects he/she may be/come in contact with and follow that path mentally.  Ask yourself if you can draw an unbroken line from your partner through conductive material and into the actual ground/earth.  If your partner is connected to metal that continues unbroken and touches the earth, then you have a potential path to ground.  If you follow the path of metal (or other highly conductive material) and you know certainly that it stops before you complete that line mentally to earth, you’re ok.  If you don’t know for certain, stay on the safe side.  And thankfully, even gaps of air or other non-conductive material is sufficient to limit household current’s path to ground.  That’s why vw users can work with ball chain or other crude gap accessories, as they have current limiting properties.

But definitely yes, allowing a path to earth/ground to be present can potentially be mains/current.   This is where the most significant theoretical risk in wand play lies.  (The most significant actual statistical risk in wand play is unintentional burns.)  SSC (Safe, Sane Consensual) players will take steps to absolutely avoid that possibility of current going to ground. However…you should also be aware that having the set of circumstances occur for a path to ground to become available doesn’t mean an automatic death sentence.  Other circumstances -seem- to have to line up within the wand itself and/or within your accessories** for that to occur, and many RACK (Risk Aware Consensual Kink) players who say they fully understand the theoretical risks at hand, will still play with, or on, grounded objects, or without a safety spark gap in Direct metal accessories.   They usually choose to do so because of the actual low statistical risk of ‘grounding out’ with a wand.
Joe (Bound Emissary) and I fall on the RACK end of things, and it’s the actual low statistical risk that enters into those types of choices!  But to be the safest while playing, though, watch your paths to ground.

Here’s a practical example of the difference:

You’re in a dungeon which has a chain link spiderweb that is suspended from eyebolts attached to wood posts and beams, and the bolts don’t continue past the beams into the floor.  There’s even a wood floor underneath you. You could hook up a bottom partner to the chain web, because the wood beams and posts isolate the chain web.  You can electrify the chain web itself and let that spark to the bottom partner, or ‘zap’ your partner who can get extra, unanticipated and fun zapping whenever they come into contact with the chain link somewhere accidentally.   BUT..and here’s where the problems come in… let’s put that chain web somewhere else in another dungeon that has the chains disappearing into the floor, and you can’t tell if that metal spider web has a path to ground available or not.  Do you catch the difference?

I think this is where you can get a lot of conflicting opinions, because it requires applying knowledge and weighing possibilities.  People always say they can’t use a wand to play with a certain metal St. Andrews cross because the cross is ‘grounded’, but Person A doesn’t really know what makes it grounded.  Merely being metal doesn’t make it grounded, but he doesn’t know precisely what does.  While it would be easiest and safest to do so, I hate to tell everybody across the board not to use metal standing objects like bed frames.  Definitely that would keep ALL vw users the safest, but it would rob people who might prefer to use a little brain power, and keep them from  creative things like vw electrified (as opposed to wooden) ponies and other fun stuff.  And too many vw ‘experts’ keep on passing on old info as it is, because they got it from someone who got it from somewhere else.  (one reason we’ve begun certifying our vw demonstrators.)  Simplified advice:  Beginners…don’t play with -any- metal standing objects.  As you learn more, then you can start making some more complicated choices.

Definitely get yourself a GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter) as has been recommended for an additional safety measure and to allay concerns.   I think it was Conto who has an excellent section in the Violetray group on why GFCIs can be preferable to an isolation transformer when working with a wand.  And putting in a grounded electrical outlet is a good idea…you don’t want to be using a two-prong adaptor to plug a three-prong wand into a ungrounded outlet, because you might wind up plugging it in backwards..maybe Sir Sparks can fill you in on THAT risk, as I’ve worn out my keyboard.

Other questions:  Yes, 10 minutes sounds about right internally.  And you can use lots of NON-flammable lube to help keep things from drying out.

More on GFCIs:  oh yes, the expensive GFCIs have a tendency to nuisance trip!  They’re far too sensitive.  Even though we sell GFCIs as a convenience, the best ones you can get for this purpose are actually the basic no-nonsense portables at Walmart.  Repeated testing with those has found them very reliable.

Hugs,
Violetwanda

**In testing, we have successfully been able to repeatedly ‘force’ a draw on household current with a violet wand and where current ran to ground, under the following controlled circumstances.

I.
a)    plugging a wand in ‘backwards’ AND
b)    providing an unbroken path to ground direct from the wand’s metal
collet (without use of an accessory)

II.
a)    using an ungapped metal accessory direct in the wand AND
b)    providing an unbroken path to ground AND
c)    where there was some testable fault in the wand

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