Flagging, or the hanky code, has been around for some time, some say since the gold rush. It became popular in the 1970s when gay men used handkerchiefs in certain pockets to signify sexual acts they were interested in giving/receiving. Moreover, this kind of activity took place, often in public parks or bathrooms or around the town. In this act, a gay man wears a bandana in one’s back pocket for initiating the sexual acts. The color of the bandana was associated with a specific sexual practice or fetish, and the wearer’s sexual role was indicated by which back pocket the bandana resided in (tops wore bandanas in their left pocket; bottoms wore bandanas in their right pocket). The hanky code initially began with the use of red bandanas to discreetly identify practitioners of fisting. A decoder list formed as other color/fetish associations were added. (In many early hanky codes, red typically appears as the first color.) Queer businesses printed the hanky code decoder lists for distribution. Erotica shops, bookstores, and catalogs provided decoder lists with the purchase of bandanas.
Origin of the Hanky Code
Though complex in theory, the origin of the secret language is varied, too. While some people believe it originated in San Francisco due to a shortage of women at square dances where men would end up dancing with each other — a blue bandana around one’s neck meant they took the “female” part, while red symbolized the “male” role — others believe the system was modernized in New York City in the ’80s when a writer at the Village Voice joked that instead of wearing keys (another way to denote whether someone was a “top” or a “bottom”), they carried around hankies.
How to Flag?
Flagging isn’t a way to bypass consent. Put the handkerchief in the back right pocket if your interested in receiving/bottoming that sexual act, and left for giving/topping. Some folks will tie a handkerchief around their neck to signify switching/into either receiving or giving the sexual act.
Popular Colours and What They Meant
Fisting can be just as casual as any sexual act. You can be fist/ fist anally or vaginally. Fisting is a gender-neutral act. If you’re scared of anal fisting you don’t need to be.
This is bondage, usually meaning light bondage. This will include some rope, a blindfold, ankle cuffs, to hold down. Additionally, wearing the handkerchief on your right side means tie me down and in your left pocket means let me tie you down.
Black: Heavy S&M
There’s more pain, more intensity than when flagging grey. Moreover, anything from harder impact play, verbal teasing, spanking, bruising, or tie-down in a way that’s a level up from just bondage.
Light Pink: Dildo Play
A hanky on the left means you’re the one wearing the toy and a hanky on the right means you’re the one the toy is being used upon.
Dark Pink: Tit Torture
Dark pink is fun because it means tit torturer/tit torturee. This can be anything from pinching and slapping to nipple clamps, nipple suctions, nipple piercing, or knife play on the chest. This is a great hanky to emphasize that even with this code. However, you need to communicate intentions and expectations.
Yellow: Piss Play
Who doesn’t want to get pissed on or piss on a friend in a casual setting! This is ideally for a friend who loves watersports.
Orange: Down For Anything
Down. For. Anything. ANYTHING. Why limit yourself! In the left pocket, it symbolizes that you’re willing to lead the scene. Thus, on the right means, you’re down for whatever the other person(s) have in mind.
White Velvet: Voyeur
White velvet is the most luxurious color! This means you could be cruising in a sex club for a show, that you like to watch others engage in sex or pleasure themselves. Worn on the right means you want to put on a show. Additionally, this can be a fun thing to flag at any sort of orgy setting!
Navy Blue: Penetrator
Classic giver and receiver in terms of penetration. Need we say more?
Hanky Code Film for Queer Fetish Fans
Additionally, Hanky Code is also the name of a 2015 queer indie film made up of 25 shorts from different international queer directors that each explores a different color and fetish from the hanky code. It’s quite artistic, avant-garde, and even a little graphic. However, it’s a fine piece of film that re-interprets the decades-old hanky code for a new age.