Nettles are notable for their stinging hairs, which may be more or less confined to the stems and underside of the leaf. The flowers are minute and usually green, held together in hanging tassels or bunches. The plants sting on contact and the hairs can penetrate light clothing. The hairs are like miniature hypodermic needles, approximately 2mm long in the Common Stinging Nettle. |
The walls of the hairs are composed of silica, i.e. natural glass, and contact breaks the fragile tip of the hair. The hair is sharp enough to push into the skin, while at the same time, the venom, stored under pressure in the expanded base, travels up the hair and is injected into the skin through the broken tip. Hairs tend to be grouped together so a stung person will develop a localised rash of small, raised bumps.
From prehistoric days mankind has needed, used and hated the stinging nettle. An enemy of the farmer and gardener, the bane of children's bare knees, and an instrument of torture with which medieval monks flagellated their bare backs, the plant has been reviled by one generation after another.
Yet through the centuries it has been used for cloth, food and medicine. The bones of a Bronze Age Dane were found wrapped in fabric made from nettle stems, and as late as the last century nettle tablecloths and bed-linen were being used in Scotland.
Young nettle leaves are steamed in some country districts and used as, a vegetable, while the dried leaves are made into nettle tea.
The Roman belief that nettle stings cured rheumatism persists in Britain, and during the Second World War nettles were harvested to supply chlorophyll for medicines.
By active play I refer to the top actively using nettles as an instrument of erotic torment. Nettles are best used in a gentle stroking or dabbing action, which will cause those stinging hairs that come into contact with the recipient's skin to work their effect, without damaging the remaining hairs. The number of hairs is, of course, finite, so a single stem will lose its effectiveness with use. Depending on the type and origin of the nettles (see earlier details), the top will want to ensure that the hairs on the stem as well as the leaves are used. Taller stems can also be used as a gentle whip. The stems are tough and fibrous and will last for a while in this mode. They are light enough to be used with little inhibition, though the rough stem surfaces can cause very minor surface cuts and abrasions. Floggings with nettles in this way has a history of use for 'inflaming the passions' - there is some basis for this (see below). It is actually quite, um, exhilarating. The stings may be less effective when nettles are used in this mode, through the tips of the shoots may sting while "wrapping round" causing areas of greater inflammation along the sides of the body (an effect that may be either desired or avoided). Doubled up, the stems have enough weight to start being effective on sensitive areas such as the testicles. Leaves or pieces of nettle may also be inserted into the recipient's clothing, though any effect will tend to be transient.
By passive play I refer to the useful fact that nettles can be effective by just being there. Once set up, no action is required from the top, it is up to the sub (recipient) to avoid the nettles. For example, nettles can be used to limit the sub's movement. Pots or vases of nettles can be so placed that the sub cannot move without being stung, perhaps as part of a conventional whipping scene, or simply to create a form of "bondage" without restraints. Nettles could, for example, be placed between a standing sub's parted legs and just in front of the genitals and just behind the buttocks. Crueller scenarios might involve the sub not moving to avoid being stung more. The tough stems of nettles can be strung together, so it is also possible to make a skirt or garland for the sub, one that would discourage unnecessary movement. Other games might involve a blindfolded sub being required to carry out tasks, with vases of nettles forming part of an obstacle course. It should be obvious that any pots or containers used for such games should be shatterproof, and that water will cause neither danger nor damage if a vase is knocked over.