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A gag formed from a knotted bandanna.

A gag is usually a device designed to prevent speech, often as a restraint device to stop the subject from calling for help. This is usually done by blocking the mouth, partially or completely, or attempting to prevent the tongue, lips, or jaw from moving in the normal patterns of speech. They are often less effective in reality than in crime fiction[citation needed]. They carry a strong risk of killing the victim by suffocation[citation needed]. The more "effective" a gag appears to be, the more hazardous it is: for example, duct tape is fairly effective but is hazardous if for some reason (e.g. the common cold) the subject cannot breathe freely through the nose.

The use of gags is commonly depicted in crime fiction, particularly in comics and novels.

Very rarely, courts have been known to gag unruly defendants; Bobby Seale was the most famous case.[1]

Occasionally a cloth over-the-mouth gag is used not to prevent speech but to keep dust and aerosols out of the lungs[2].


Types of gags

One familiar type of gag in fiction, particularly in crime comics and novels, is a suitably sized piece of cloth pulled over the subject's mouth (and sometimes also the nose) and tied at the back of his/her head. It is sometimes called the "detective gag" because many of its first appearances were in crime serials. It is sometimes called an "over the mouth" (OTM) gag.

Sometimes a gag is shown pushed back between the victim's front teeth into the mouth ('cleave gag'), or with a hard ball in its middle ('ball gag') or reinforced by pushing small cloth items or even underwear into the mouth ('stuff gag'). This is common in BDSM, but in practice these sorts of gag can usually be got rid of by working the jaws about and/or pushing with the tongue, and they often do not stop the victim from making a loud inarticulate noise to call for help.

Another most common type of gag in working practice is an over the mouth (OTM) gag of duct tape.[citation needed] A tape gag is, as the name suggests, a type of gag that involves the use of sticky tape. The most commonly used types are duct tape, gaffer tape and PVC tape from two to three inches wide. Tape gags are the simplest gags to apply to someone. If the captor doesn't want the gag to fall off, he/she must wrap a long strip of tape around the lower part of the victim's head, covering the victim's mouth while ensuring that the gag will not slip off. A strip from ear to ear under the jaw helps to restrict jaw movement, making the gag more effective. On some occasions, a captor may add a comical touch to the gag by applying two strips in the form of an "X".

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 the tape is left on, the harder it will be to remove it from the skin.

For the use of gags in a BDSM context, see gag (BDSM).

Other uses of the word

The word "gag" has come to have various extended meanings, for example:

  • Various sorts of laws and orders preventing or stopping discussion or revealing of information, e.g. a parliamentary procedure to end a debate. See gag order.
  • A gag rule can be a part of court proceedings and congressional proceedings.
  • Gag (medical device), to keep the mouth open
  • The word "gag" has been used for a cloth tied over the mouth and nose when the purpose was not to prevent talking or screaming but to keep harmful dust out of the lungs.
  • The term "hand gag" is sometimes used for temporarily silencing someone with a hand over the mouth.
  • A gag bit is a special bit type used with horses.

In symbolism

  • Sometimes in political cartoons, a character is shown gagged to represent that in the real world some law or rule or order is preventing him/her from speaking about some matter. (see gag order)

See also


  1. ^ Bobby Seale
  2. ^ Described, and called a "gag", in a recorded commentary in the Catalyst chemical industry museum in Runcorn (Cheshire, England), to keep alkali dust out of workers' lungs.

External links


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

See also gag



Gag m.

  1. gag (a joke or other mischievous prank)

This German entry was created from the translations listed at gag. It may be less reliable than other entries, and may be missing parts of speech or additional senses. Please also see Gag in the German Wiktionary. This notice will be removed when the entry is checked. (more information) November 2008

Simple English

A gag is any thing used to stop a person from speaking. This is done by blocking or muffling the person's mouth and making it difficult for them to move their jaw and tongue in a normal way.

Gags are very commonly seen in BDSM and bondage fantasy. Many different items can be used, ranging from a hand simply clamped over the victim's mouth, to a scarf tied between the jaws, to adhesive tape placed over the mouth and face to seal the lips. There are also many kinds of specially-made gags, which usually strap around or behind the head. Special gags of that kind are usually made from leather or rubber.

In real life it is quite difficult to gag a person in such a way that their speech cannot be understood at all, and it is almost impossible to prevent a gagged person from making some kind of sound. It is also a risk to the person's safety, as the more tightly and securely someone is gagged, the greater the risk that they will choke or suffocate.

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