Rope Bondage

My husband and I are exploring rope bondage and found this article….

Rope Bondage

Rope bondage is, as the name suggests, the practice of tying people up with rope. Of all SM equipment, rope is probably the most widely available; it is also relatively cheap and versatile.

Bondage itself does not contain sadomasochism. Bondage may be used as an end into itself, as in the case of rope bondage and breast bondage. It may also be used as a part of sex or in conjunction with other BDSM activities. The letter “B” in the acronym “BDSM” comes from the word “bondage”. Sexuality and erotica are an important aspect in bondage, but are often not the end in itself. Aesthetics also plays an important role in bondage.

The most common reason for the active partner to tie up his/her partner is pleasure from the restrained partner’s submission and the feeling of the temporary transfer of control and power. For sadomasochistic people, bondage is often used as a means to an end, where the restrained partner is more accessible to other sadomasochistic behavior. However, bondage can also be used for its own sake. The active partner can derive visual pleasure from seeing his/her partner tied up, and the restrained partner can derive tactile pleasure from the feeling of helplessness and immobility.

There are several different styles of rope bondage.

Western (aka American) Style

Photographer Irving Klaw and artist John Willie can be thanked for much of the style we now refer to as Western or American bondage. In their works, bondage plays a secondary role compared to the image as a whole. There is a huge emphasis on the stylised look: extreme high heels, tight corsets and hobble skirts all place the female (males are not used in their works) in a form of bondage without any rope at all.

When drawings or photos did show rope bondage, it would usually be simple and assist in giving the bound woman an even more defined, streamlined look, forcing the body into a contortion in much the way the corset and heels did. For example, her wrists and elbows may be tied behind the back, which would thrust the breasts forward, pull the shoulders back and force her to stand completely straight.

America’s love affair with the perfect pin-up girl was clearly a big influence in creating this imagery. Western bondage has always been portrayed as symmetrical and rarely lends itself to sex. Limbs are usually tied together (wrists, elbows, ankles, knees) and there is very little use of elaborate rope harnesses.

Although Irving Klaw used rope in his banned (and often burned) photos of Bettie Page, John Willie does not restrict his artwork to just rope bondage. Pictures include black leather monogloves, cuffs and even chains that complement the corsets and heels to complete the entire package. The bondage may be simple, but it is “real” bondage, always strict and inescapable.

Japanese Bondage (aka Shibari)

The most artistic of all bondage styles, and arguably the most beautiful, involves using rope patterns that originated in Japan. The art of Japanese bondage is not necessarily in the knowledge of these patterns or how to tie the positions, but rather in creating a feeling of freedom and beauty within the ropes.

In Japanese bondage (Shibari), an emphasis is placed on how the rope should be sensually applied to the body of the bottom. The Master will continue to add layers of rope and even take care to place knots on certain erotic pressure points. The positions often include crossed limbs or beautiful harnesses that are wonderful for bondage sex. Crossed legs allow easy access to sex organs, and harnesses make the bottom feel supported by the bondage. It also gives the Top many “grab” points to gain leverage while engaging in intercourse.

Suspension Bondage

Suspension bondage is not so much a “style” as a position type, yet still worthy of mention. More experienced riggers usually venture into partial suspension and then full suspension bondage with their bottom. The bondage can be either Western or Japanese in style, but more often the latter.

When suspended, the bottom has a feeling of floating while being fully restrained in the most inescapable of ways. There is a complete helplessness in being suspended that can make the bottom quickly fall into a delightful subspace. For the Top, there is a great feeling of achievement in full suspension and endless possibilities for great sex!

In order to become skilled as a suspension rigger, you need to understand the physics of bondage. Knowing the weight-bearing knots and a few basic ties is not enough to suspend someone safely, and beginners should be cautioned about trying suspensions too soon. Learn the basics first and then progress.

Speed Bondage

This is quite literally what the name suggests and involves tying up your bottom very quickly. Chanta Rose understands it to be used mostly in role-play games that involve consenting adults playing out a non-consensual fantasy in which, if the situation were real, the bondage would be applied in a fast manner (like a kidnapping). As a result, the bondage is not always neat, but that is part of the style in itself.

As long as the bondage is tight and inescapable, a few messy knots or ends of rope hanging on the floor just add to the grunginess of the situation, and for many this is a huge turn-on.

This can be one of the most difficult styles of rigging, as not only must you be incredibly fast (while still being safe), but more often than not the bottom is struggling to maintain the role of victim being bound against his or her will. It is not easy to tie someone who is struggling and fighting back.

Sex Bondage

Again, the name says it all. Bondage for sex is literally the tying of the bottom in a position that is accessible for oral, anal and/or vaginal sex. It can be Western, Japanese, suspension, etc., as long as the sex organs are available to be penetrated when the tie is complete.

Sex bondage involves placing the bottom in bondage just tight enough to be inescapable and just stressful enough to be strict without making the position unbearable for longer periods of time. There needs to be just enough “give” for the position to be sustainable for the duration of sex and play.

Bondage Safety

Many people regard bondage as safer, when conducted between sober, trusted partners who are fully aware of the risks involved and the precautions necessary to ensure safety, such as informed consent. Partners who are in committed relationships may have a greater basis for trusting each other. Performing acts in a supervised location, such as a dungeon, or with a group of trusted friends may also increase safety.

There is also a subculture of people who seek out others interested in bondage and pursue such activities with people who they do not know well. This subculture has given rise to the safe, sane and consensual credo, which is being replaced with Safer, Sane & Consensual.

Safety precautions include:

  • The use of a “safeword”, or some clear way for the subject to indicate genuine distress and a wish to discontinue, temporarily stop or vary the activities of the play. In Germany, “Mayday” is a common safeword in BDSM parties.
  • Never leaving a bound person alone.
  • Avoiding positions or restraints which may induce postural asphyxia.
  • Making sure that the subject changes positions at least once an hour (to avoid circulation problems).
  • Making sure that the subject can be released quickly in an emergency.
  • Avoiding restraints which impair breathing. (Gags or hoods which block the mouth can become asphyxial hazards if the subject vomits or the nose becomes otherwise blocked.)
  • Remaining sober; alcohol and drugs should be avoided.

Accidents and lasting damage can generally be avoided by very simple security precautions and a rudimentary knowledge of the human anatomy. One very simple safety measure is to ask the subject every so often if he or she is all right. Another is to check body parts like hands and feet for numbness or coldness, which can happen if nerves have been pinched or blood circulation has been blocked. Another is to check for skin discoloration. Skin that does not get enough oxygen turns bluish. If blood can get in, but cannot get out because one of the veins has been blocked, that part of the body turns purple.

If the subject has been gagged or can otherwise not verbally communicate, a different form of the safeword is needed. For instance, they may hum a simple tune, or opening and closing one or both hands repeatedly, or releasing an object held in one hand (such as a rubber ball, or a scarf).

Some simple preparations may also be helpful:

  • Food. It is common for people (especially those on diets) to faint during a long session. Having a regular meal beforehand is recommended; being fed small snacks during play may also help prevent fainting.
  • Cutting tools. A pair of EMT scissors is recommended (useful for safely cutting rope and tape off skin).
  • Keyed-alike padlocks, if chains are being used.

It should be noted that scenes depicted in bondage photographs and videos are chosen for their visual appeal and fantasy value. Sometimes these positions are dangerous or cannot be maintained for more than a few minutes (i.e., “don’t try this at home”) such as inverted bondage or suspension from the wrists and ankles. In many cases they cannot be “acted out” with good results and are only for extremely physically fit and very experienced BDSM participants. Especially in highly artistic Japanese bondage, years of experience of bondage is required to avoid the risks.

Self-bondage carries a higher risk, particularly because it violates an important principle of bondage safety; to never leave a bound person alone. For the feeling of being tied up to be as authentic as possible, practitioners of self-bondage can use time-limit clocks, freeze their keys in blocks of ice, or use self-invented devices, in order to temporarily abandon power over their own restraint and freedom (called “tunnel play”).

Without someone to release them in the event of an emergency or medical crisis, self-bondage can lead to severe and permanent physical damage. Especially in combination with asphyxiation, self-bondage can be lethal to its practitioners.

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