Rope bondage

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Shibari from Fakier Photo Art

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. 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)

Shibari art by nawashi Shadow

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 using ropes

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.

Movie Bondage

It is usually in some movie, television show or comic book that most people first saw "bondage" and it may have been from that moment that an interest began. Certainly, the fact that bondage in film/TV almost always shows bondage used as a negative, for an abduction, interrogation or hostage situation, is interesting, as many people like to play these role-play games within the realms of consent.

Ironically, once you know how to rig, you will also notice that rope work is usually badly done in any type of mainstream entertainment. Loose ties are not cinched, knots are placed where the "victim" could untie them, thick rope is used that would not effectively hold a knot and any type of gag is usually in front of the teeth, defeating its entire purpose.

In her book, [1] Chanta Rose suggests that this is for three reasons:

  • for legal reasons "real" bondage may not be permitted in mainstream entertainment (fear of censorship or harsher rating)
  • the bondage is supposed to be in continuity with some type of frantic activity (like a kidnapping), therefore the bondage should be messy and imperfect;
  • staff members working on the production are not into bondage and, therefore, simply don't think of things like knot placement.

As the mainstream becomes more aware, perhaps the quality of the rope work will improve.

Porn Bondage

This is Chanta Rose's speciality. She believes that once someone realises that bondage is erotic, they will either find someone to try it with or look to porn (for help or masturbatory purposes).

In recent years, the number of bondage pay sites on the World Wide Web has exploded (as with all porn), yet there are still only a handful worth looking at for quality bondage. Internet porn can be a fabulous place to get ideas for role-play games or to look at different ways to tie people up. Prior to the Internet, for the most part bondage images were limited to magazines and artwork. The problem with artwork is that most humans cannot bend the way the girl in the drawing can and although bondage porn uses real people, the same problem still exists.

There is something hugely arousing about seeing a hot model tied in a backbreaking arch, or with her elbows together almost all the way up to her shoulders, or perhaps suspended in the splits...The style of good porn bondage is to show bondage that you simply could not do on the average person and that you will not see anywhere else. If you are fortunate enough to be playing with a contortionist or yoga instructor, then by all means make use of that flexibility, but don't expect it from the average person.

However, not all bondage porn is about flexibility and impossible positions. Much of it portrays other fantasies (such as abduction) on a rougher and more pornographic level than mainstream movies can. There is also a huge genre of damsel in distress sites/videos that use only basic Western bondage and try to recapture the artwork of John Willie in moving pictures.

(Thanks to Chanta Rose of for permission to use these excerpts from her book Bondage for Sex

See also

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