Some people are sexually aroused by the sight of gags, or activities involving gags. One specific paraphilia relates to video depictions in which the captor gags the damsel in distress to stop her screaming for help. Some people are sexually aroused by such imagery, even if there is no nudity or sexual act present (very rarely, if ever, damsels in distress were raped while bound and gagged, and that usually took place off-screen), or even if the victim is only gagged but not restrained in any way, sometimes going as far as to search video stores and websites for certain scenes. The 1981 film Terror Among Us, which was only ever shown on American television, has become a cult film amongst gag fetishists for its lengthy portrayal of bound and gagged women.
Other people appear to find that being gagged exacerbates their sense of helplessness within a BDSM scene, and desire to be gagged for that reason. Gags also have connotations of punishment and control, and thus are often also used as a form of humiliation to the wearer. Some people like the fact that when a gag is used, the wearer has no say in what is about to happen. Some fetishists are sexually aroused by the sound gagged people make when they try to speak.
In practice, no gag is effective enough to silence someone completely without inhibiting breathing. Most gags that do stop the subject from making intelligible speech still allow loud inarticulate vocal noises to call for help. Thus, a pattern of noises, such as three grunts in rapid succession, is sometimes used as a safeword by BDSM players. It is also common to use an additional non-verbal safety mechanism, such as a solid object held in the hand, which can be released by the gagged person as a sign that they are in distress.
In use, the ball is strapped into the mouth behind the teeth, with the straps going around the head to secure it in place. If the ball is very large, it may be difficult to push it into place behind the teeth, or to remove it. It is advisable to test a ballgag before using it for a prolonged period. It might feel relatively comfortable for the first few minutes, but it can eventually make the jaw very sore. A ball gag's purpose is more of humiliation rather than silence; the wearer can still be heard, but it renders their speech completely unintelligible, distorts their facial features, and, should the wearer attempt to talk, excessive drooling will result.
Drooling can also be induced by pulling the gagged person's lip for a minute. Once drooling starts, it is almost impossible to stop. Some people use this as a way of emphasising that they are in control of the bound person. Also, some people find the sight of a gagged person drooling very erotic.
It consists of a bar that is held in place in the wearer's mouth by straps and other hardware. Unlike the metal bit of a horse's bridle, the bar of a bit gag is usually a soft rubber cylinder. It is not very effective in preventing speech, unless combined with mouth stuffing, although it will make it somewhat more difficult for the wearer to produce coherent speech. Occasionally reins are attached. Because of the possibility of injury to the lips, the bit gag is not suitable for rough play.
A more effective variant of the OTM gag is called the cleave gag. Instead of being tied over the person's mouth, the scarf or cloth is pulled between his or her teeth. While such a gag of thin material is not very effective, a thick scarf can be used to hold his or her mouth open, and the tighter that gag is tied the better it works, although no matter how tightly it is tied, the gagged person can usually spit it out. Occasionally a knot is tied in the centre of the gag so it works more like a ball gag.
This type of gag is often described in fiction as preventing the subject from speaking, using soft materials like scarves and bandannas. In practice it does not silence the subject very effectively. The long scarf or bandanna is pulled over the subject's mouth and tied at the back of his/her head. Images of OTM gags, usually applied on women, had been prevalent since the film serials of the early 1900s. For this reason, the OTM gag is associated with the typical damsel in distress. It is also sometimes called the "detective gag" because many of its first appearances were in crime serials.
Ironically, despite being a type of gag, hand gags are sometimes used by heroes when rescuing damsels in distress at the moment the latter least expect it (such as when the damsel in distress runs into a corner, only to be snatched by the unexpected hero hidden there) or when both of them are evading the captor(s). Hand gags are also common in war films and military dramas, particularly in the stereotypical portrayal of special forces such as the US Navy SEALs, whereupon they handgagged enemy sentries before either snapping their necks, or dispatching them with a silent weapon (either a knife or a silenced handgun).
An inflatable gag is usually a rubber balloon which is inflated by a hand valve. Most inflatable gags will not hold in the gagged person's mouth well, so the gag is usually paired with a ring gag to keep it in place.
This is a term for a series of gags over each other, for example an Over the Mouth (OTM) over a cleave gag. Another piece of cloth could be tied under the gagged person's chin in conjunction with an OTM gag.
A muzzle gag works in a similar way as an OTM gag, only that they are usually made of leather, are fastened around the head with buckles and straps, and cover the lower part of the face. They have different shapes and colors, depending on the manufacturer. It is so called because it resembles a muzzle used on animals, with a flexible pad which straps over the mouth, and sometimes also around the cheeks and chin. Muzzle gags have a strong psychological effect on some people, because of the association of being restrained in a way generally associated with animals. Restricting movement of the jaw and covering the cheeks can both increase the efficacy of a gag. It is difficult to draw the line between a muzzle gag and a head harness with attached gag.
Muzzle gags are probably one of the oldest gags and illustrations showing muzzle-like gag devices have been observed from early colonial times.
A muzzle gag may also have an attached posture collar and may also be fitted with an integrated pecker gag.
This gag is a combination of detective (OTM) gag and stuff gag. It prevents speech and cannot be removed by pushing with the tongue. There is a greater risk of asphyxiation and choking than with either type alone.
A pecker gag or penis gag is a muzzle gag that has a protuberance on the inside that sticks into the mouth. It may be wide and flat, intended to depress the tongue, or it may be a large knob with an effect similar to a ball gag. This is used due to the humiliation value of its resemblance to having a penis in the wearer's mouth.
A ring gag is a similar device to a ball gag, except that the ball is replaced by a hollow ring. This is both safer from the viewpoint of preventing the risk of choking, and also allows limited access to the mouth. Oral sex may be performed if the gag is big enough.
A ring gag will cause the subject to drool uncontrollably, this often being the purpose of the gag.
With enough stuffing, the mouth becomes so full that the cheeks bulge. Some people find this attractive.
The stuff gag was first seen on television, most notably Chinese period dramas, where it was lambasted by members of the BDSM community. While it works in preventing speech, a person who has been stuff gagged can easily spit it out by pushing it with his/her tongue. However, it is for this reason that the stuff gag is one of the safest gags to use during self bondage, as the person with his/her hands tied can still spit the gag out if he/she feels any kind of discomfort. However, the risks of asphyxiation and choking are still present for someone who is not careful.
Note that a tape gag can cause the skin on the lips to be ripped off. It can also irritate the lips and cause fever blisters in those who have dormant fever blisters or cold sores. Tape gags can also rip hair off when wrapped around the head. The longer you leave the tape on, the harder it will be to remove it from the skin.
Though many prefer ball gags and bit gags during bondage play, tape gags are often used when neither is available. The top may also use tape during a roleplay where a ball gag will be inappropriate; for example, a kidnapper and captive scene that does not immediately lead to sex.
While tape gags can be combined with stuff gags for extra effectiveness, it is easy for one to choke on the stuffing inside of the mouth.