So You Want to Tie Someone Up? Rope Bondage 101 | Kinky Hookup

So You Want to Tie Someone Up? Rope Bondage 101

How to tie someone
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Are you curious about tying someone up? Or perhaps you’ve always wanted to be tied up yourself? Rope bondage is incredibly popular in the BDSM world, both as a kink in itself and as something to incorporate into other scenes.

 

RELATED: Top BDSM and fetish communities

 

In this article, you’ll learn some bondage basics including how to choose rope, where to learn ties, some safety information, and just why people want to do this.

 

First, let’s define our terms.

Here are some of the expressions you might hear as you explore rope bondage:

  • Bondage: Tying someone up consensually for sexual or kinky purposes. “Bondage” often refers to rope but can also refer to other sorts of restraint (e.g. cuffs.)
  • Shibari: A Japanese word meaning “to tie.” You may hear Japanese-inspired rope bondage referred to as shibari.
  • Kinbaku: Another Japanese word for rope bondage. The exact difference between shibari and kinbaku is the subject of some debate. Some say kinbaku implies an emotional connection, while shibari refers purely to the physical act of tying. This piece by expert rigger WykD Dave is an interesting exploration of the two terms.
  • Rigger: The person doing the tying. Might also be referred to as the Top.
  • Bunny: An informal word for the person being tied. Some people like this word, others hate it. Other words you can use include model or bottom.

For ease of definition, in this article I’ll refer to the person doing the tying as the rigger and the person being tied as the bottom. I’ll use the term bondage to refer to playing with rope, rather than either of the Japanese terms, because while these are very popular styles, not all kink play with rope can be defined as shibari or kinbaku.

Why are people into rope bondage?

Just the same as any other kink: lots of different reasons!

A lot of bondage enthusiasts enjoy the aesthetics of rope on the body. It’s easy to see why. Have a look at some artistic shibari photography – a lot of it is truly artistic and beautiful. (Examples I love are here and here.)

Others enjoy rope for its sensual appeal. The feeling of rope, particularly natural fibre ropes, against your skin or running through your hands is incredibly erotic.

Some people enjoy the element of giving and taking control that is inherent in a rope bondage dynamic. Even if you haven’t negotiated any specific power exchange, letting someone tie you up is an exercise in vulnerability and trust.

Many people who bottom for rope bondage describe a sense of peacefulness, emotional calm, or “floating” when they are tied up. You might hear this referred to by some as rope-space (a kind of sub-space.)

For others, bondage is purely a sexual act. They want to tie their partner up and fuck them, or get tied up and have wicked things done to their helpless body.

I’m sure there are also many, many more reasons that I have not listed here. The point is, there’s no one answer to this question. Everyone who is into rope will have their own reasons and their own things that they like about it.

A more interesting question might be: why are you into rope?

What do I need to get started?

There are two things you need before you can start tying someone up: some rope (of course!) and a cutting tool (more on that in a minute.)

Choosing your rope

All bondage rope is not created equal, but there are many kinds to choose from. I personally always recommend natural fiber ropes. This typically means hemp or jute. Which you choose is a matter of personal preference, and I recommend handling some to see which you like the feel of the best. (Consider the smell, too – hemp rope has a very distinctive scent that some people love and others don’t care for.)

Buy your rope from specialist kink suppliers. While you could just buy a reel of cheap jute from a sailing supplier or hardware store, this won’t feel very nice to tie or be tied with unless you spend a lot of time treating it. There are lots of reputable suppliers of rope out there, but Esinem, Anatomie, and Twisted Monk are some suppliers I trust and recommend.

You might also find a good local supplier at your nearest fetish market. Rope sold specifically for bondage has been treated to make it kinder to skin and nicer to handle. Some suppliers will even dye it pretty colors for you if you wish!

The kind of cotton bondage rope you can buy from a sex shop is fine if you’re doing “tie them to the bed and fuck them” type play or basic body-harnesses, but is not recommended for anything more complex as it tends to slip and tighten and is not as strong as natural fibers.

Nylon rope is flexible and very strong, and easy to get in many different colors. It’s great for certain decorative ties, particularly if you’re more interested in contemporary Western bondage than traditional Japanese tying. However, its low friction means it can easily slip or tighten where you didn’t want it to, so exercise caution.

Finally, silk and bamboo rope are beautiful and luxurious to tie with, but you’ll pay a premium for them.

If you’re doing very simple, tied-to-the-bed bondage, get a couple of lengths of cotton or your preferred natural fiber rope. If you want to do more complex ties, Japanese style bondage or eventually progress to suspension, get hemp or jute.

What is a cutting tool and why do I need one?

A cutting tool is something that can quickly cut through rope without harming the rope bottom, in the event that something goes wrong. It is absolutely vital to have one to hand at all times when you’re doing bondage, no matter how experienced you are. Hopefully, you’ll never have to use it, but it should always be there.

The most common cutting tool is EMT shears. These cost a few dollars from kink suppliers, medical suppliers, or on Amazon. They’re the same things that paramedics use to cut clothing off patients in an emergency. Another option is called a rescue hook. Which you choose is a matter of preference.

Either way, remember that these tools are single-use. If you ever have to cut your rope in an emergency, throw your tool out and replace it.

Never, ever cut rope using a knife, regular scissors, or any other blade that isn’t specifically designed for safely cutting things off a human body. This is a great way to turn an emergency rope situation into an emergency rope situation where someone is also bleeding.

Again, I hope you never have to cut your partner out of rope or be cut out yourself. I’ve been bottoming for rope for well over a decade and never had it happen. But if it does, you’ll be glad you had the right tools to hand.

Is there anything else I need?

Nope! Some things you might want to consider, but that are optional, include:

  • Floor mats to put down when you’re tying.
  • A storage bag or furoshiki for your rope.
  • A treatment oil to keep your rope supple (you can make your own using equal parts pure beeswax and mineral oil melted together, or buy one from a bondage supplier.)

Okay, I’ve got my rope, my cutting tool, and a willing partner! Let’s get going!

The next and most important thing you need to do is get some tuition so you can learn how to tie safely. There are a number of ways you can do this.

I always recommend going to in-person classes if you can. Have a look on Fetlife to see what’s available in your area. Some bondage experts will also offer one-to-one tuition for a price. Many cities have Peer Rope events, where rope enthusiasts gather for informal workshops and peer learning opportunities.

Of course, in-person classes are difficult or impossible currently, in the era of COVID-19. Luckily, lots of educators are offering online courses and classes. These usually work by buying a ticket, getting a link to a special Zoom call, and then following along with the presenters and asking questions as you go. Online classes also mean you can access an expert’s tuition no matter where you are in the world.

Finally, you can use books. Which one you choose will depend on your desired style of tying. I personally like the Shibari You Can Use series by Lee Harrington, Evie Vane’s Better Bondage for Every Body, and Midori’s The Seductive Art of Japanese Bondage.

Learn some basics such as single and double column ties, hitches, frictions, and joining ropes together. From there, progress to common formal ties such as the Takata Kote (box tie, commonly called a TK.) Once you know some basics, learn to improvise ties and go with the flow of a scene.

Safety first!

Rope bondage, like any kind of BDSM activity, carries some inherent level of risk. One of the main reasons to learn from experts is because they’re often best placed to teach you how to do rope safely and mitigate risks.

Here is a non-exhaustive list of safety pointers to be aware of when you’re playing with bondage:

  • As we’ve discussed, always have a cutting tool within easy reach.
  • Never, ever leave a bound person alone.
  • Never put a rope around the neck.
  • Do not even attempt suspension until you’re competent and confident with tying on the ground. This applies to bottoms as well as Tops – don’t ask someone to suspend you if you’ve never been in rope before.
  • Always agree on a safe word before you start playing. A safeword is a word that clearly and unambiguously means “no.” It’s a good idea to have one that means “stop and check-in” and one that means “cut the rope, this is an emergency.”
  • If the bottom is gagged as well as tied up, have a safe signal. One good idea is to hold something loud (like a bell or a set of keys) and drop them to get the Top’s attention in lieu of a spoken safeword.
  • Nerve compression is a real risk and can cause serious, painful, and lasting damage. The most common early warning signs of nerve damage are tingling and numbness. But sharp pain, burning, or cold in a specific area can also be signaled. Pay attention to your body and your partner’s body, and stop immediately if something doesn’t feel right.
  • Loss of circulation is also a risk. Numbness and tingling can be signs of circulation issues as well as of nerve damage. Other signals include skin going purple or white or turning very cold.
  • Certain areas carry a higher risk of injury if you tie them. Be very careful if you’re tying hands, feet, genitals, or around the face. 
  • If you’re being tied up by a new person, either do it at a public play event or organize a “safe call” with a friend at a set time. A safe and competent rigger won’t mind at all.
  • If you’re trying something new, particularly a more dangerous tie or anything involving suspension, have an experienced spotter on hand who can keep an eye out for anything going wrong.

Who is rope for?

Can I do rope if I’m in a bigger body? Yes, absolutely! It’s a harmful myth that only skinny people can be rope bottoms. Different bodies have different considerations, but that’s true regardless of size. Anyone who says you can’t be tied if you’re in a bigger body is not the right rigger for you.

Can I do rope if I’m not flexible? Yes! Flexibility is important for some ties and some positions, but not at all important for many types of bondage! Pay attention to your body’s limits and adapt ties to work for you.

Can I do rope if I’m disabled? Definitely! You might need to do additional negotiation with your partner or adapt things to work for you, especially if you have chronic pain or mobility issues, but you can do rope safely and enjoyably. Speak to other disabled rope enthusiasts for tips and inspiration if you’re struggling.

The bottom line? Rope is for everyone! Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it if you want to.

What kind of scenes can you do with rope?

The wonderful thing about bondage as a kink is that it’s so versatile! Rope can be an element of a larger scene with several other activities, or it can be a full scene in and of itself. You are limited only by your imagination.

Here are just a few ideas to get you started:

  • Tie your partner to the bed and tease them until they beg you to make them come.
  • Put your partner in a hogtie and use different sensation toys all over their body.
  • Tie your partner’s hands above their head before a spanking or flogging.
  • Experiment with bringing different “moods” into your tying. How does it feel if you focus on giving your partner a sensual experience vs causing them pain? What happens if you tie with lots of close bodily contact vs very little? How can music and lighting change the mood?
  • Try lots of different rope body harnesses and decorative ties and take some pretty photos.

Use these as a jumping-off point and let your inspiration guide you. Have fun and be safe. And to paraphrase a friend of mine: “when in doubt, add a bit more rope!”

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