Rope play is only 100% safe when you are completely aware of all the risks of whatever you choose to do, and you mitigate as fully as possible against those risks, factoring in all possible circumstamces and accidents that could happen. This is not easy. Nigh on impossible to achieve, in fact. Rope tops and bottoms will struggle with risk assessments and the effectiveness of their negotiations during the planning and execution phases. Planning can take weeks or months to get right. We have to educate ourselves and enter into long discussions with those more experienced and ourselves to try to avoid harm.
Anything can go wrong in rope at any time. Anything. You can’t predict everything. The more you do rope, the more you know this is true. A tie that has not been a problem before can suddenly cause physical or emotional discomfort, and therefore potential harm. A person’s mental health and physiology can change from one moment to the next. Quite literally. Pressure and abbrassions over the same area repeated over different sessions can accumulate and compound to a breaking point. A person may become unwell or disinterested. A person may be affected by hormonal or biochemical changes, ones that are exacerbated by intense rope. Triggering may happen. Fainting. Nerve damage. Cardiac and blood circulation issues. Fits and convulsions. Unexplained pain or fatigue. And so on.
Equally, the rigger may miss something or not be as focused as is required for intense scenes. Most riggers I know enjoy top space and the rushes that occur. But mistakes can happen. We’re only human. We have to be careful of just how much responsibility we want to take on. We have to accept the risks and consequences. We need to be certain that no pressure or manipulation was involved in the process – bottoms can be in very emotionally vulnerable positions during their physically vulnerable states. We also need to make sure we are safe, healthy and happy, too.
The more intense the scene, the more phyisical/emotional/environmental/social changes, and the more people involved, the more permutations of risks.
It is entirely up to you what risks you take in the rope you do. Living on the edge of play is where some of us thrive. What I will have a problem with is people saying that what they did was not risky or potentially unsafe, when it obviously is. Rope is edge play. Suspension is at the edge of that edge. Adding more factors can be one giant headache!
I believe that we need to be able to justify our risk assessments, if only to ourselves in our reflective practice. All the mitigation and negotiations in the world will not excuse a lack of a willingness to explain the whys of knowing, understanding, justifying decisions is necessary. We also need to listen to feedback from others, if someone says “hey, that doesn’t look safe!” You say “oh yeah” or “it is safe, because…….” That’s is how we as a community learn, how we develop our practice and show due respect to the risks of rope.
You may think I’m over reacting here. I’m really not. Rope can seriously injure and can kill. A former bunny of mine was injured severely by a very experienced rigger that had not understood the risks of his tie and the health information she gave. She lost some arm movement for 9 months in one arm. We should NEVER be complacent about the risks we take. We MUST always be humble in the rope scene process. We NEED to welcome feedback & criticism from others, even if we profoundly disagree with what other rope people say. Because no one is right 100% of the time. And you are only safe if you park your ego at the door and be fully prepared to own your mistakes.
Just because nothing bad happened in a risky scene, doesn’t mean it was safe, too. Just because everyone left smiling and can’t wait to play again doesn’t mean you should. Rope can be incredibly addictive and cause errors in judgement. I’ve been there and learnt that the hard way. Its easy to make promises, feel the pressure, but on the day think it’s just not right. At that point you will want to be opposite someone who will not be offended by that. You better hope the “getting to know you” and negotiation process weeded out incompatible partners.
At the end of the day, there are no easy answers to the complexities around the risks we take in rope. It’s great, it’s fun, it’s my favourite thing. But it can be very dangerous. All you can do is get informed, find compatible people and own your shit. As I routinely reflect my rope, I know I am personally comfortable with my practice…. Are you?