the eloquence of rope

I make a pretty poor rope bondage top. I know enough basics to get me where I want to go, and to make the occasional pretty tie, but I’m by no means someone who holds an encyclopedic knowledge of knots and harness styles. I wouldn’t attempt more than a basic or partial suspension. I’ve had the same rope bag for at least two or three years and its contents haven’t really changed. And, full confession here, I’m even (gasp) allergic to hemp – in some people’s eyes this makes me akin to a heretic.

But I like rope work anyway. So this past weekend in Montreal, I attended Midori’s workshop entitled “Scene Dynamics and Psychology of Rope Bondage.”

It seems that what I most often take from her classes, these days, is one or two rich tidbits to chew on, often in the form of questions to myself. And that’s what happened again this time. Near the end of the class, she paired people up and told them to ask one another a series of questions – first of all, what is it about rope bondage that you like? What emotional state does it bring you into? And, can you name three other things that would bring you to a similar emotional state?

Interestingly, for all that it seems incredibly simple, it was the first question that gave me the most to think about. It’s not a simple one to answer, because for the longest time I didn’t really have a big thing for bondage at all. I kept hammering at it because I had this nagging feeling it held something for me to learn, and indeed it did, but it never started out as a major kink for me.

As a bottom, I’ve been tied up a few times, and I do get that there’s a pleasant sensation involved – constriction, the physical experience of having someone patiently wrap rope around you, and so forth. I also to some extent get the psychological end of it – certainly, it’s relaxing to be bound, in that you can’t possibly be expected to move so why not just space out and enjoy it. But I guess my desires as a bottom tend to be more along the lines of wanting to fly on intense sensation rather than wanting to relax into the absence of it, and since I’m not much of a control freak there’s no particular thrill in the loss of it, so I don’t feel a great draw to the experience.

So rather than making me think about the emotional state of rope bottoming, the question made me think about my (considerably greater) experience as a rope top. I’m by no means an expert rigger or anything, so it’s not so much that I have vast or formidable skill (I don’t) as it is that I’ve done a fair bit of bondage in the past few years in a variety of situations – tying up a friend and taking dirty pictures to send to her lover, decorating my own feet in ribbon bondage, taking three hours to carefully knot an intricate string body harness around someone and pierce a needle through her skin precisely inside each diamond, using rope for restraint during any number scenes, putting someone in a submissive headspace while they serve me, holding a butt plug into someone under their clothing while we’re out and about, and positioning someone exactly as I want them for fucking purposes, to name a few.

Each of these examples involved a different purpose, a different energy, and often different bondage materials. With all this in mind, would it make sense for me to try and name “the” thing I like about rope bondage? Not really. And while I suppose in each case the rope allows me to express something, and control something, I don’t find myself transported to a specific emotional state by those experiences – they’re highly functional, and enjoyable, but not thrilling in and of themselves. What’s thrilling, if anything, is the sense of having a tool available to me that allows me to properly achieve a specific result.

So I started to think about exactly that – the range of purposes and results that bondage can be used for. And that brought me back to something I’ve often said about BDSM technique in general. For me, it’s not the specific techniques that I find enjoyable. My aim, throughout my journey in kink, and in sexual exploration in general, has always been to acquire an array of skills so that I can use them to suit my particular purpose in a given situation. It’s all about developing a language, a vocabulary, that I can then use to send specific messages. The more vocabulary I have available to me, the more eloquent and articulate I can be with that message.

But what message do I want to give? What is it that I want to say?

Well, that’s where the fun really starts. Obviously it all depends on the people involved, the mood of the moment, the nature of the interpersonal dynamics, and so forth. The thing that makes rope in particular so useful is that unlike a flogger or a pair of handcuffs, rope is extremely versatile. It’s certainly possible to create versatility with other implements, I’m well aware, but I’ve never encountered a tool quite as malleable as rope, or one that works quite as nicely with other implements to frame or enrich an experience. Here lies the answer as to why I like rope bondage.

I can tie someone in such a way that they feel exposed and vulnerable and frightened as easily as I can tie someone to make them feel safe and contained. I can tie someone to make them feel beautiful or to make them feel humiliated. I can tie someone to create or heighten sensation, or to close off and minimize sensory perception. I can tie someone to make them into a treasured pet, or a useful object, or a helpless victim. I can leave them covered in rope but entirely free to move around, even well outside my presence, or I can entirely immobilize them in such a tightly controlled way that they can barely even twitch.

I can send a psychological message that’s extremely simple – You are desired. You are helpless. You are beautiful. You are trapped. You are mine. You are exposed. You are going to suffer. You are being used. You are an object. You are a beast. You are strong. You are humiliated.

Further beauty lies in the places where the psychological message is more complex. Not too long ago, for example, as I was packing to travel somewhere, Boi M was feeling overwhelmed and stressed out by all the things he wanted to do to help me get on my way. He really seemed to be upset with himself, so I tossed him on my bed and tied him up in such a fashion that he couldn’t get up. Then I started opening up my drawers, pulling out the things I needed to pack, and throwing them on him as though he were just another part of the bed. Every once in a while I’d clear a little space, give him a few kisses on the available surface, and get back to my packing process. At first I think it drove him a bit nuts to be immobilized and unable to help out; there was some crying. But after a bit of struggle he eventually relaxed into it. I kept him there for quite a while, until he finally said sheepishly, “Okay, I get it. You love me even if I’m not doing anything. I don’t have to be serving you to deserve to be loved by you.” Indeed. Without a single word, a couple of coils of rope allowed me to send a powerful message about my love for my boi that might have taken hours to pound through if I’d relied on normal conversation.

I suppose it’s no coincidence that, as a writer, I’d enjoy using tools for accurate and nuanced expression, the more precise the better. I know that many bondage enthusiasts are into their kink of choice for some pretty rope-specific reasons; as such, while I’m sure I could learn a lot, I’m probably never going to fit in at ShibariCon or at your average rope bondage discussion group. In truth it doesn’t really matter, though. I’ll keep right on having a good time with my cheap nylon ropes (that don’t give me a rash) and the people who are so kind as to listen to what I have to say with them.

5 Responses

  1. Very interesting! I love rope and can’t really explain why so this was something to think about.

    Cin ( from Vancouver :-) )

    PS: I added you to my blogroll.

  2. Thanks for this. I’ve been thinking a bit lately about different flavors a scene can have and about my own topping style. Your post gave me a new way of thinking about this: what message am I conveying to the person that I’m playing with? I’m relatively new to topping and only top casually, at play parties, so my scenes have mostly had a similar character. But perhaps it’s time to start expanding my vocabulary.

  3. What you can do with rope sounds way more interesting, beautiful, and meaningful than much of the fancy ropework I’ve seen done merely for the sake of using rope. And hot, to boot.

    Slightly off topic… but I heard recently that linen rope smells like books. ;)

  4. For one reason or another the question of rope bondage seems to be coming into my life right now. Form all directions, in an odd convergence. Rope bondage doesn’t really do it for me on its own, thought that may change, but somehow I’m being clearly told I need to try to be competent at it. Reading your post give me a very good sense of where I’d like to be after learning some skills with rope. So, thank you for your thoughts.

    Interestingly, I went to a class on rope bondage tonight, and the presenter was allergic to hemp. (Class run by br,org, if your interested in who it was.)

  5. Cin – Thanks! Nice to meet a Vancouverite here.

    Kat – Have fun with the vocabulary expansion. I haven’t gotten bored with that project yet and it’s been years… :)

    whynotkay – How lovely to see you here, hon! I just about creamed my pants when I read that linen thing… rope that smells like books? Jeebus. I must look into this. Thank you very much for the tip!

    Ruie – Gawd, I know the feeling. For me, rope was sort of a fun amusing thing to do for at least a couple of years, but I couldn’t for the life of me understand what the turn-on was supposed to be, even though I was somehow compelled to keep learning. I memorized all the ties in the books I had, and attended a dozen workshops, and it never quite caught.

    For me, the “aha!” moment came when I went to Midori’s Rope Dojo, a weekend-long intensive. I figured if 16 hours straight of rope training didn’t make me understand, nothing would and I’d just give up. Something clicked while I was there, and since then the knowledge I’d accumulated has been able to serve much more interesting purposes.

    If ever you’re interested in going to a dojo, the next ones are in Kansas City (Oct 08), San Francisco (Jan 09) and NYC (spring 09). Details at ropedojo.com.

    Oh, and it’s lovely to know I’m not the only rope top who reacts to hemp, thank you for that!

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