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Spanking/Whipping is an often found technique in BDSM scenes - it is not necessarily part of a relationship, some enjoy it some don't. Talk about it with your partner (see Communication).
Instruments used for spanking are usually the flat hand or paddles. Riding crops and cat-o-nine-tails (mostly made of very soft leather) are often used for whipping. The "famous bullwhip" is more an accessory or sign than an instrument to be used for whipping. A whip is hard to control and definitely too unprecise and it can hurt a person very badly. If you seriously care for the health of your partner, don't use a bullwhip.
The flat hand is one of the best objects to use, very precise and it gives you an exact feedback how hard you hit the skin.
When more experienced you can move on to the usage of crops. Make sure it is made of soft leather and that it has no sharp edges (sharp hard leather edges can have the effect of a cutting knife). A good leather crop costs about $100.
The following graphic shows the human body and its sensible regions. NEVER
spank or whip the red marked regions, means: no hits on joints, nerves or regions where
bones are directly under the skin.