Shibari. While Shibari is quite possibly the wrong term (technically) to use in most kinkster vocabulary, it’s the most common term used in the west to capture the idea of “Japanese Bondage.” I’ll spare you the dissertation on word origin and usage… Let’s just agree, simply speaking, that Shibari is the “Japanese art of rope play.” To be clear, this may be all about aesthetics and art, or it could be something painful and intense; it may include sex, it may not. My point: ropes are complicated. And for Westerners, Shibari is a good catch all term for those that admire any aspect of rope play – especially if there’s an artistic note to it.
For kinksters, ropes are complicated
Nomenclature aside, both Jeannie and I have expressed interest in rope play. We’ve had a modest number of bondage scenes using black, nylon rope – a good selection for beginners as it is easy to work with, comfortable, and unlikely to cause injury. However, we both also expressed that the aesthetic nature of Shibari, and the idea of restraint and suspension, also carried great appeal for us. Shibari is a true art that requires instruction, practice, and commitment. Where simple bondage play can be done by almost anyone, Shibari “riggers” (those doing the tying) have to make a commitment to hone their skills. And while generally safe, the use of natural rope, and the act of suspension, carry inherent dangers that need to be understood and mitigated.
About two months ago, we made plans to celebrate Jeannie’s birthday weekend in a luxury hotel in NYC; a staycation if you will. The idea was to enjoy a luxurious weekend where Jeannie could be the center of attention. Many different ideas were discussed, but ultimately, I asked Jeannie if she’d trust me to plan something special while keeping the details a secret. Not only did she support this, she was thrilled and excited by the idea of me making such a commitment her celebration.
I’d decided it was time to take learning Shibari seriously.
So, for the last two months, I attended some ropes workshops, partnered with Gigi, our mutual friend, to practice, and committed much of my “alone time” at home to practicing on my own limbs with instructional online videos. This was the hardest secret I’ve ever kept for a number of reasons:
- I’m not that great at keeping secrets.
- Gigi was a perfect partner in crime for this, but she was also Jeannie’s friend first and it would be way too easy to say something by mistake. And they were spending more time together lately.
- I wanted to share so many stories about what I was experiencing, but I had to refrain. I knew Jeannie would enjoy many of these experiences, even if only through my stories. But I had to hold back.
- I needed to acquire gear – most notably, rope – and keep it from Jeannie’s discovery.
- I often had to tell Jeannie that I was “doing something” at a given time/date, without telling her what I was doing. We trust each other implicitly, but typically don’t hide anything, so not revealing details is mildly suspicious.
- Did I mention that I’m not that great at keeping secrets?
I need to take a moment here to thank Jeannie for being the most incredible partner over the last two months. She knew more than she let on, and was very willing to “let it go” when I said I couldn’t reveal more. She knew that the secret was all for her in the end, but that definitely does not make it easy to avoid prying.
Where do I begin?!?
Gigi made several suggestions for my education, including a weekly “Rope Share” where like minded folks gathered to learn and practice the art of rope play. I went to the first one on my own, and it turned out to be one of the most attended nights in the organizer’s memory, so I was a bit overwhelmed. But I did find the community incredibly warm and inviting. Kinksters often talk about never passing judgment, always being open minded, and always making newbies feel welcome. Well, that’s not easy to do in real life – we all have hang ups, or judge what we see, even if we don’t want to do this. Yet, truly, these people were nothing but genuinely open and friendly.
After a round of introductions, the host took a small group off to one side for a 101 session that I (obviously) joined. We were taught basic safety – where to avoid applying pressure, how to release a rope bottom (the one being restrained) quickly, and how to detect when to intervene because a bottom needs to be released – even if they aren’t saying so. Important points, but a little intimidating. We were then told that the dangers are honestly few and far between, so don’t worry too much. (WHEW!) Then onto some basic ties, mostly just learning the three most used knots and how to join ropes.
Aside from the 101 that lasted about an hour, I spent most of the first night as a voyeur watching some bottoms get suspended and marvelling in the detail of the art. I met a few folks, learned more about the community, and spent a lot of time talking about different natural fiber rope choices. Perhaps I’ll do a post on that, but I’ll spare you the details here.
I left in a very strange headspace: I had been introduced to a safe and fun place to learn and practice, and I most definitely wanted to proceed, but I was also overwhelmed with how much I needed to learn – and how little time I had before my first “show.” I returned to this rope share 4-5 times, mostly with Gigi as a trusted partner, and ultimately learned just what I needed for that first main event.
Along the way, I experienced or witnessed a few amazing things…
One extremely hot moment was when Gigi and I were standing and practicing ties on each other while a lovely young woman was being tied and suspended right next to us. It was hard for me to pay attention to the matter at hand as I just wanted to watch her being tied. She was absolutely stunning, and her rigger was very skilled and artistic. The whole scene was fascinating to me.
I heard a primal scream of pain, followed by a guttural moan of, “MORE!”
While trying to focus on a tie I was learning, I suddenly heard a primal scream of pain from directly behind me. As I turned, I saw that the woman being tied was just pulled up into a suspension and had screamed as this happened. But then, before I had a chance to wonder if she was OK, she let out a guttural moan and a very breathy, “MORE!” Clearly she was OK – and very much enjoying herself. (The following week I met her and we talked a bit. I learned that she really enjoys brief moments of unexpected and intense pain. And she learned that I loved every minute of her enjoying said pain.)
On another occasion, as Gigi and I were dressing to depart, a woman walked toward us with a huge black and blue on her thigh. “That’s an impressive bruise,” Gigi said. The woman replied, showing her other leg, “check out its twin!” We wanted to learn more and she noted that she loves pain and bruising, but can’t have marks like that in the summer because they will be visible. So now that she’d be wearing pants and longer dresses, she asked her boyfriend to whip her.
“He whipped me, and beat me, and threatened me with knives. It was incredible!”
A statement like, “He whipped me, and beat me, and threatened me with knives. It was incredible,” is not something I thought I’d ever hear, much less enjoy, but it was absolutely clear that she meant it. At this moment, more than any other, I began to realize how much shame I had carried about kink, and how quickly I could get over it and enjoy myself. I also realized I was truly learning the ropes and couldn’t wait for more!