A blindfold (from Middle English blindfellen) is a garment, usually of cloth, tied to one's head to cover the eyes to disable the wearer's sight. It can be worn when the eyes are in a closed state and thus prevents the wearer from opening them. Even with the eyes open (as permitted by many blindfolds, especially those made of cloth), the user cannot see.
Blindfolds can be used in various applications.
- As a Sleep mask: They block out light when sleeping, especially during air travel, or for those who sleep during the day. It is believed that shutting out light allows the user to achieve a deeper level of sleep. They can also provide relief from claustrophobia for Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) patients.
- In children's games, such as Pin the Tail on the Donkey and when hitting a piñata.
- During both martial arts and weight lifting to encourage reliance on other senses, such as touch or hearing.
- As a sensory deprivation tool in meditation (to focus attention on oneself rather than outside imagery).
- A kidnapping victim, hostage, prisoner, etc. may be blindfolded to avoid identification of location(s) or people. (A common alternative to this usage is the use of a hood instead.)
- Sometimes by guests who are not captured are still blindfolded or may consent to be blindfolded for the same reasons, as occurs in fiction when being led/driven to their respective hideouts.
- By the recipient of an execution by firing squad.
- Before sunglasses, they were worn as the primary facial cover for those who could not see. This usage, though uncommon, is still practised in modern times.
Sexual blindfold use is common in and outside of the bondage community, one of the initial things recommended for sexual variety. Blindfolds (along with feathers and handcuffs) are commonly sold in novelty "bondage kits" marketed toward non-BDSM practitioners. Many impromptu items already found in the bedroom lend themselves to such use without preparation or prior purchase of specialized equipment.
Blindfolds can be worn during BDSM situations by the submissive.
Use of a blindfold is said to enhance the remaining senses of the wearer, focusing attention on sound, smells and physical contact. This increased awareness is said to allow for greater excitement and anticipation by eliminating visual cues, as one cannot see what to expect. It also requires trust of the submissive, with all the emotional ramifications that entails.