Rope bondage responsibilities

Rope bottoms rejoice: Clover has just published the fourth edition of her Rope Bottom Guide.

For more tips about playing safer, please see my other posts, and especially my most recent thoughts in A ring around my throat,

I am writing more and more about my experiences with rope bondage. It would be irresponsible to not provide some basic safety advice. Suspension is dangerous: neither the fitness of the bottom nor the high caliber of the equipment ensures safety. An experienced rigger can make suspension safer but never foolproof. One of the greatest risks to the bottom, in floorwork as much as suspension, is nerve damage. Correct placement of the ropes is key to preventing nerve damage. And correct placement differs slightly for every body, so you must be sensitive to the bottom’s body not just follow diagrams. A quick release tie for the bottom’s wrists is essential. First of all, it is psychologically reassuring for both partners to know that hands can be freed and arms can be stretched out gradually. Second, several parts of the arm are vulnerable for nerve compression, and sensations in the hands are often warning signs. (These can be confused with the signs of impaired blood circulation but it’s better to err on the side of caution.) Untying someone takes time so do not wait until signs of possible damage are acute. (Also bear in mind this time delay when it comes to calling yellow to dial down the intensity of the play or red to stop it.) A bottom has to be completely willing and ready to communicate immediately about warning signs; and a top has to be willing to cut her/his rope if s/he needs to release his/her bottom right away. (Rope is expensive and it wears out, so tops are loathe to cut it. Make sure that your top confronts this possibility and accepts responsibility before play begins. Agree to use less expensive rope if s/he is not up to cutting the precious stuff.) Never tie anyone up, or consent to be tied, without a pair of EMT safety shears (not scissors) on hand. I always carry my own in case my top forgets.

Until top and bottom know each other well, a gag is a risk because the bottom will not be able to ask to be untied or for ropes to be adjusted. You can, of course, use a hand gesture to convey that something is wrong. Kinky people dream of scenes in which the play plan is designed so expertly and the connection is so electric that communication is not necessary. For many people, rope is about communication. It can be wordless but it can also be verbal. The last time I played, I told my top that glamorous bottom Lani DV8 advised me to never anticipate and help the rigger. (The bottom is the top’s clay.) I informed my rigger that I was no longer going to politely lift my arm for the cinches or turn myself around during unwrapping. When I later told my top that one rope was hurting my thigh and reached to adjust it, he slapped my hand and said “Never help the rigger.” I giggled at his expanded interpretation of the maxim and luxuriated in the new rule.

There are dozens of websites that will provide you with in-depth discussions of safety issues (which extend beyond what I have mentioned here) as well as techniques for reducing risk of injury. Remedial Ropes is a good place to start.

In the dead-tree department, Midori’s book The Seductive Art of Japanese Bondage and Douglas Kent’s Complete Shibari Volume 1 Land will introduce you to the safety issues as well as basic knots and ties. Again, there are dozens of resources online for tried and tested ties. Once both partners understand the basic mechanics they can negotiate to do some improvising. That said, there’s a reason why things like the chest harness and the hog tie persist. They feel fucking amazing physically and psychologically.

One of the qualities I look for in a rope top is hunger for knowledge and skills. If your potential rope top isn’t geeking on bondage—or at least enthusiastic about learning—you should take things very slowly. And you should geek on what you need to know as a bottom.

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