Like, really hurts most of the time. Some rope can be more decorative, kinda like a kinky fashion statement. But even that sort of rope carries risks and need careful negotiations to avoid harm. However, in the main, most people do rope to feel constrained, helpless and/or pain.
Being held in rope, shifts the physche into a forced helpless state. It can lead to adrenaline rushes as the body wants to fight, but fighting or resisting the rope will cause pain, which releases endorphins. If the rigger then moves the body, transitioning into different positions, the tug and movement can increase the body’s natural fear of harm, releasing more hormones. Our bodies are hard wired to react to any physical trauma, no matter how much our brains rationalise that you are consenting and really want this experience. The trick is to play with those responses, to achieve pleasure.
In my experience, tying more bodies than I can count over the years, no two rope experiences have been the same. Truly. People are different, circumstances change, the chemistry in the air fluctuates. Swimming in all this uncertainty can be hugely exciting and pleasurable. It is my chosen addiction, almost; most definitely the activity i love the most. There is much pleasure in pain and exploring taboos. For many people, rope is like that, and I see lots of people drawn in, wanting to explore what their body and mind are capable of. I certainly did.
Every so often people contact me asking how they can find a tying partner or wanting to tie with me, because they “really want to experience the serenity in photos.” Suspension photos look otherworldly. Models pose, contorted by their rigger, lighting just so, outfit and background sublime. For that brief second, the photographer knows there’s something that is postable or sellable. But, newbies have not seen what has gone into the photo. All the hard work, years of physical and mental training, the drawn-out negotiations, and the nature of the relationship between the rigger and model. Without that context, without knowing how painful rope is, we can see why such gross misconceptions exist.
Concurrently, less safe players will use those misconceptions to prey on others and use fantasy to lure people in. But that’s a discussion for another post.
Every once in a while, I have given someone their first suspension experience. Without fail, and no matter how gentle I am (I’m known for being very careful and my risk mitigations), everyone is taken aback at least a little, because it wasn’t what they expected. The main issue is the pain they experience. Nothing can quite prepare you for it. We need to warn each other of what we expect will happen and work slowly with what we know works, and make sure that we are confident that they’re are honest with us about their needs and personal risk profile. And we do not tie beyond our skill level or what we, as riggers and bottoms, are comfortable with.
Rope hurts. It digs into your skin and leaves marks. We try to avoid nerve damage and learn to distinguish between nerve and circulation reactions. But there will be some form of discomfort and pain in the vast majority of bondage ties.
Rope hurts your mind. It makes you think differently of yourself – in so many different ways – and make your question your ego and self-worth (positively or negatively). It completely changes how you view your relationship with the other person, creating a vulnerability that you might not be ready for, which can hurt.
Communication, respect and honesty are important to successful rope journeys.
Hurt is fine. Harm isn’t. If we go into a scene, aware of the risks, potential consequences of our actions (as a top or bottom), and how we can manage each other’s physical or emotional needs, then we won’t cause harm. However, if we rush the process, because we oh so desperately want the experience without all the hard work, we would be setting ourselves up for failure.
Trust me, I’ve been there. I’ve made mistakes, very minor ones, but nonetheless mistakes. The first year of tying suspension ties was the most anxiety inducing time of my life, tying myself and others. I’ve learnt the phyisical pain of rope, the psychological changes, as well as the emotional pain of when ties go right and when relationships fall apart. I’ve swum in the most intense of biochemical reactions, tying and self tying. It’s my happy place – because I know what pain I want and don’t want, and I manage the risks as best I possibly can.
So, dear readers, if you want to experience rope, go slow and easy on yourself. If you are a long hauler, give yourself all the breathes you need in between ties and relationships. Your safety and wellbeing will always trump the (misconceptions of) photos and play you see around you. Do not harm. Do not allow yourself to be harmed.
These are my personal reflections.
Feature image: ouch meow bound tied in a full suspension from a futomono.