I have found there is a strong air of romanticism in some rope photography that I have seen. By romanticism, I do not mean the artistic period. I mean the feelings of romance and other worldliness of rope play, a step or two away from the reality of everyday life.
Very often we see partially undressed young women bound and vulnerable. A damsel in distress, perhaps. The backdrops pull our imagination into a remote place, a private area, or to a far off land (usually Japan). Sometimes we see the rigger with the bottom, the bottom held close with an intense gaze on their tying partners. The facial expressions show an intensity that feels erotic, sometimes. Photos are taken from angles to accentuate these feelings.
They are often very beautiful photos. We find ourselves aspiring to those sorts of moments, wanting to create those images to show off our skills or display our exhibitionist side. These photos are so popular on social media, we want the same fame and to at least appear that our rope is the best content out there. Rope photos are often competitive, if only subconsciously.
But most rope play is not happening in those stereotypical romantic situations. What about queer rope? What about platonic rope? What about self tying? What about the racist undertones surronding shibari? What about gender differences? What about different rope roles? What about our own cultures and social norms that influence the rope we do? We can do better than that.
If we plan a tie with our partners expecting a deeply connecting and romantic moment like in those stereotypical photos, then I feel we are denying ourselves the reality of what rope is or at least can be. We end up disappointing ourselves because we’re not keeping up with the trends. Very few people have the time, energy, accessibility and financial resources to take those sorts of photos, so it feels unkind and unrealistic to expect that.
We need to resist the stereotypes. Because rope is real. No matter what headspace we find ourselves in, it’s still real and precious and uniquely beautiful. Stereotypical romantic gestures are arguably a manipulative tool to mate with another person: a man lures a helpless woman into sexual intimacy… and even marriage. To live happily ever after. Bah humbug! Perhaps I’m cynical? I don’t think so. Interweaving those arguably misogynistic stereotypes into our rope play, consciously or otherwise, robs us of the potential of self expression with rope play.
What really matters is you. And the people you tie with. For me, I’m much happier when I tie a person that has taken the time to get to know me. I don’t like the idea of being a performing monkey, dishing out rope just to look good on the internet (yes, I get the irony! This is a blog post and I’m very active on social media) I did do that for a long while, tying with different people to create art that we and our followers could enjoy. However, of all the people I have tied, the ones that care and connect with on a deeper level, in the real world with all of life’s ups and downs, they are the ones I am most grateful for.
How you make each other feel as two individuals with your own desires and aspirations is what matters most. Finding the overlap of desires, enjoying what works, free of pressure, or coercion. That is rope to me. It may be sexual or not. It may be decorative or not. It may involve pain and/or restriction or not. Perhaps it’s not traditionally romantic and not wrapped up in all the stereotypes we see in rope photography or in our everyday lives. But it is real. My joy is real. Their reactions are real. The symbiosis is real. Those moments of self expression, pleasure and/or escapism are real.
Let’s resist the stereotypes that often do not serve us. Let us fall in love with ourselves using rope. Let us find meaning with others, romantic, sexual, or otherwise. Let our minds drift to our own desires, not what society or photos tell us to desire. There, right there, is where I believe true rope magic happens!
These are my thoughts. What are yours on this topic?
photo: self suspension by Dea Nexa