Even if you only have fleeting contact with the world of BDSM, you must have come across rope bondage in one of its many guises. From the influence of the Japanese or the American gay scene, the interest in all things rope has grown; is still growing at an incredible rate. Conservative estimates suggest at more than double every year.
I’m an advocate, because in my 30 years tying ladies for erotic pleasure, we have experienced such untold wonders that as a tool, I can’t find anything better that provides so many possibilities to suit my lascivious desire. Maybe I was lucky in that I already had fair dexterity with it in the Boy Scouts and sailing, even before adulthood.
If she’s not so masochistic, preferring dominance, I can use it stealthily; tracing it over her flesh; drawing it like a snake to envelop her; slowly constricting with lubricity until she is mine. If it’s erotic she demands, I can use it to vibrate, from the mons to the anus, I can tie her breasts to resemble artillery shells, tickle her blood-pumped vulva with the knots, or affix toys in place to provide lengthy stimulation. If humiliation, I can immobilise and spread her open, exposed. If predicament, I can strap her in positions that bring dilemma. If it’s pain she craves, I can flay her with it, suspend her for a moment to make patches of her skin hypersensitive for further sadism, and add constriction. Even if she just wants to look sexy, I can build pretty patterns to accentuate her bodily features. No other tool in the BDSM armoury has so much potential.
But the best moments of all aren’t even in the tying. It’s the untying, when she's in her zone, and/or fully aroused, and/or fully sensitised. When she’s conditioned: emotionally, psychologically and physically. When she’s given herself and is mine. Rope bondage is like foreplay, giving time to develop and amplify, bringing her into contextual space, adding layers of excitement.
Some partisans will tell you there’s only one way of doing things, and in a way they’re correct. Within the protocols of respect, consent and safety there is only one way. It’s your own. Don‘t be fooled that rope bondage has any sovereignty, or even for that matter, detailed, extended history, maybe bar Miura san’s studies of archaic penal rope ties no more than two decades ago applied in a quasi-erotic context. As a side note, Asian authorities weren’t the only ones to catalogue punishment ties, and the cloning of form sucks everything sensual away. Nobody tells you the way you fuck is the right or wrong way. It’s individual, and this idiosyncrasy should always be personal.
The expediting rope scene naturally brings many who seek to profit; some new, and some around for many years. Leopold Mozart was a teacher, composer and assistant orchestra master of 37 years experience when his son surpassed his abilities, aged 6. Many have taken up musical instruments since. Only a tiny fraction has made a name for themselves. Most play at home for their own satisfaction, good or otherwise.
The problem is that so many entering the rope scene seem to feel hubris in showing off merely structure, or worse, only themselves. So much that in the past few years, it has blended to mediocrity. For some unfathomable reason, occasional competitive negativity and faux protectionism clouds the wider arena where there should be positive camaraderie. There has been such desire to turn to teaching before anything has really been learnt.
The scene also suffers ignorance. Many club and event promoters not really understanding, nor even bothering to watch and discover what it is, so it becomes just another routine, squeezed in amongst the go-go dancers, fire eaters, pole dancers, etc. The audiences fickle; some intrigued, others repulsed, most ambivalent, the locations loud, pulsating, inappropriate and unsafe. So many amateurs prepared for their fifteen minutes of fumbling fame, turning some poor wretch into a swing that the organisers are happy not to have to pay for, and it detracts from the possibilities.
This is where the Japanese have got a good march on the rest of us. Because of their after-hours lust for the bizarre, what started with perverts purchasing under the counter publications to lech at innocence restrained and abused moved on to live performances well ahead of the west; initially on the travelling porn show circuit where names now revered would do all manner of despicable acts. Imagine rudimentarily tying a young lady and throwing live snakes into her lap so the paying degenerates could watch her urinate in fear, or forcing faeces into her mouth until she retched. I’m not making this stuff up.
But then things changed somewhat for the better, and the noughties brought a rash of kinbaku themed bars where their growing scene could focus attention in a more suitable environment, helping to educate, enthuse and enrich beyond merely the shibari rope tying techniques. The average and ordinary became quickly surpassed by a generation of very good, inventive proponents, recognised for their worth. Optimistically, I see this will also happen outside of Japan too.
I’ve enjoyed demonstrating sado-erotic kan’nōnawa kinbaku for many, and been disillusioned by a few. But I’m beginning to wonder if it’s all really worth the effort, and with the context and atmosphere totally missing, if live kinbaku before a large crowd in a thumping, flashing auditorium has any hope of being understood.
I’m not making any claims to authority. I just do what I do, and the one’s that I’m doing it with having the only opinions I care about. Maybe I do enjoy playing the maverick and poking at what has needed to be prodded with a big stick for a long while. For this I feel no shame.
Like a whip, a crop, or a flogger, rope is just a tool. It is the two protagonists that make it possible. And ask yourself, what is the purpose?
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Sin is a professional kinbakushi working in a discrete underground niche market and author of Year of The Bakushi.