Head Harnesses Hit the Mainstream

An examination of the general ineptitude of head harnesses in mainstream films.

Jennifer Tilly wears a head harness -- badly -- in her role as a pornstar in the film "Fast Sofa". We applaud the general notion of putting Jennifer Tilly in bondage.

copyright 2005 by Pat Powers

I've watched a lot of bad, stinky movies for the sake of their bondage content, as this website amply demonstrates, and darned if Fast Sofa isn't one of them. But it does have Jennifer Tilly chained at wrists and ankles, wearing a collar and a head harness with bitgag, and very little else, so I'm not entirely sorry I watched it.

Head harnesses are very rare sights in mainstream films, despite their inherent drama. Any film or TV show that features one is worth eyeballing. But as is surprisingly common in the few mainstream films that feature them, Tilly's head harness is either badly designed or badly worn. Instead of the usual head harness, like the ones sold (and extensively modelled -- follow the link for more -- wink wink nudge nudge) at the BDSM Toybox, to wit:


Note that in Tilly's case, the harness strap goes across her face and the bridge of her nose, rather than over the top of her head as in most head harness/ballgag sets. It's kind of a puzzler, because you have to figure they made it up themselves. I mean, if you'll go through all the pics of Autumn wearing ballgags head harnesses in that link above, you won't see a single one with that weird head piece that goes up to the hairline and then sorta ... ends there. All of them have some kind of strap going over the head to secure it there.

There's a reason for that. To quote Autumn, "The over the head strap and chin strap make sure this trainer stays put during...vigorous exercises, shall we say? *g*."

These are serious pieces of equipment, people, made for people who seriously intend to extract maximum pleasure from them. Clearly, Autumn (and other wearers) do not want the gag to be loosened when they're kneeling naked on a bed with their hands tied or cuffed behind their backs or to their ankles, being vigorously taken from behind. The last thing a bondagette wants to worry about when she's being taken while bound is struggling to keep her gag (or other gear) in place. After all, the whole point of most bondage gear is that she shouldn't be ABLE to get the gear off if she WANTED to. Having to work to keep it in place is just .... all wrong.

You'd think entertainment people would get this, but they just can't seem to understand it, hence the long and terrible history of Loosies in movies and on TV. This is especially true in the case of head harnesses, as I can demonstrate easily, because I happen to have almost every head harness ever worn in a mainstream film right here (granted, there haven't been all that many):


Fabiana Udenio wears a head harness in the short-lived syndicated series "Amazon" -- one of the relatively well made head harnesses. But note the lack of straps securing the gag itself in place. The straps that run around her forehead and under her chin would keep the whole harness in place but if Udenio wanted to, she could rolle the gag out over her lower jaw and be rid of it that way.

Fast Sofa

What's going on at the top of Jennifer Tilly's head here? I've looked and I've looked, and I can't see a top strap. Especially I have looked in the scene where Roberts lathers up Tilly's hair in preparation to cut it off. I don't think there is one. I think they either totally bitched up the harness rigging, or purposefully altered it for some "dramatic" effect.

Candyman 3

Donna D'Errico may be the most gorgeous woman ever to wear a ballgag-head harness set in mainstream TV (I think some pro bondage models like Tory Sinclair and Eve Ellis match D'Errico for beauty and of course more than match her for bondage scenes) but too bad it had to be one so sloppily done. The large ballgag is dramatically but not practically effective, as it's not really IN her mouth as it should be, and the lack of a chin strap or upper straps mean it's not secured well at all. The straps in the back look ready to slip off. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that they had to do a reshoot or two because the gag fell out a couple of times.

Nightime Lover

OK, this is about the worst of the bunch. This shot is taken from below the actress, looking up at her as she's molested by her partner is bondage. The head harness was not secured at all, and the top part of it has fallen off, and is dangling down toward the viewer. The actress is salvaging the scene by clutching the bit gag in place with her teeth. Sad, really.

Kiss The Girls Goodbye

This is about the most fearsome-looking gag in mainstream films, but it's just a paper tiger. When her friend rescues her, she orders the protagonist to "take that thing off" which she's able to do immediately just by grasping it at the bottom and pushing it upward and away from her face, as if it were a halloween mask. What a shame.

Check To The Queen

This is a weird older Italian flick about a countess who uses young women as ponies when she goes riding about. This head harness isn't bad, as there are straps running up the side to secure it to the top of the head, but the lack of a chin strap means one push with the tongue and the bit rolls up and out. Still, ya gotta love the pony's expression in this vidcap.

Flesh Hunters

This is the best of the bunch. If there's a chin strap under there, it's a perfectly acceptable commercial bondage video grade head harness. It's fitted nice and tight and has an over the head strap. Funny that some Z-grade horror flick that no one has ever heard of would be best of the bunch, but that's not all that uncommon -- the best designed gag in the movies may well be from "Tor The Mighty Hunter."

I know of one other scene that features a harness gag, in the movie "Sex and Zen, " which I have not seen. There may be more head harness scenes out there that I don't know about but probably not a hell of a lot more. I did a search on Brian's Page to find these. There are (relatively) a lot more (OK, just 20 or so in all of mainstream TV and movies) ballgag and bitgag scenes out there but they involve just a single strap without head harnesses.

To understand how a head harness SHOULD work, let's look at Autumn wearing a head harness again (OK, we just like to look at Autumn wearing head harnesses, but this time we have an educational excuse):


Note that Autumn cannot push the gag forward because of the strap running behind her neck. She cannot push it down because of the straps running up beside her nose. She cannot push it up because of the chin strap. That gag is staying where it is. The strap at the top of the head branches into two strap in back to make it hard to rub the harness off during sex. Autumn can't take it off without using her hands, and if those hands are restrained, she can't take it off at all -- her master must.

These design considerations are why head harnesses look the way they do -- and their sexiness is a result of their adherence to the tenets of good bondage practice.

I think I know why head harnesses are so rare in mainstream films, however. It's because the straps running along the nose obscure the actresses' face. I can see the actress and/or her agent and/or the director saying, "It will hinder her ability to emote! Isn't the gag ENOUGH?!"

Well, no it isn't, in a scene in which a head harness makes dramatic sense. Frankly, a LOT of ballgag scenes would be enhanced by a head harness. What's more, the two straps running up the face to the forehead that are almost never seen in mainstream films (note the only example we have is the one in Kiss The Girls Goodbye) ARE powerfully dramatic. They powerfully convey the helplessness of the wearer -- and they make the wearer look like a she-animal, which is also sexy, because part of being animalistic is being sexy. And eyes that are staring out from behind the straps of a head harness tend to look trapped. It's really powerful stuff.

In short a head harness on a beautiful woman says, "trapped, sexy she animal" and that's a pretty durned strong message.

I don't look for head harnesses to become all the rage in mainstream films anytime soon. There are a lot of dramatic scenes in which they would be inappropriate. And in the many scenes in which they WOULD be appropriate, I expect the cry of "Isn't the gag ENOUGH?" to win out frequently. Their close identification with BDSM practices is also an hindrance, though not a great one if the rise in the number of ballgag scenes and general acceptance of bondage is any indication.

I do suspect that the mainstream will slowly pick up on head harnesses, because like most gags, their drama is visual in nature, and the mainstream, however slowly, tends to pick up on visual things. Some really effective and powerful head harness scene may speed things along, or some moral conservative or feminist croaking may slow things up, but given that 1978's "Check To The Queen" is the only film I know of featuring a head harness that predates the 1990s, I think things are moving along. By the end of the decade, we will probably have a dozen head harness scenes in the mainstream, perhaps as many as two dozen.

It's a shame, because as Autumn demonstrates, they're really a cool piece of gear when worn properly.