November 29, 2019

Shibari Fundamentals

What I learned from a shibari fundamentals class:

As with everything sex related, we seem to have a lot of preconceived notions as far as what to expect, and shibari rope bondage was no exception for me. I expected lots of easy tying of knots that get complicated with time. I expected to be pretty decent at tying someone up and being tied up, possibly with suspension. I expected everyone to be fully clothed. After that, I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but I knew I was in for an interesting adventure!

The two different knots we learned to tie (yes, that’s just two!)
The two different knots we learned to tie (yes, that’s just two!)

Before I dive into my experience, why do people like shibari? The simple answer, there are times that pain can be pleasurable. Being tied up can be painful, but in a pleasurable way (with the knots, constriction, etc.). Some people enjoy the feeling of losing control (though “bottoms” or the person being tied, typically have the power in the sense of providing consent), while others enjoy the process of seeing their partner revel in experience of being tied and being in control of their pleasure. This is normal. Just like some people enjoy being spanked or handcuffed in a sexual scenario, shibari can provide a similar experience. More than that, shibari can feel like an art, crafting knots and ties that are both beautiful and pleasurable. If it’s something you’re curious about, go explore!  

As far as my experience, I went to a fundamentals class to begin. There are classes that are more advanced, but of course, beginners start at the beginning! The first thing I learned in class is that you only tie on yourself in fundamentals (which was a surprise, to say the least). We received practice rope (regular rope can range anywhere from $20-$40) which was made of jute (which I found to be quite messy and itchy!). I’ve learned a bit more about the types of rope to use to tie since then and found this site to be informative: https://www.ropeconnections.com/kind-bondage-rope-best-bondage/.

We began by learning how to wrap the rope around our leg before moving into creating a knot (also just on the leg). It was way harder than I expected! We learned two different types of knots that are common to rope play, and it took quite a bit of practice just to start getting a handle on them. There’s a lot to memorize in terms of going over or under a certain strand, learning how to hook and pull rope behind other strands, how to extend your rope when you’ve run out, how to create a knot at the end, how to maintain tension throughout all of this, and MORE!

Besides just learning how to create these knots, we learned some of the etiquette that comes with rope play. For example, it’s important to check with the person with whom you’re tying if they’re feeling any numbness/tingles. There are certain ways to flex the hands to verify if any nerves are being pinched. This is important because nerve damage can occur and cause longer term problems. This really highlights the importance of communication. It’s essential to share and be open with your partner if you’re feeling any sort of discomfort and it’s important to check in with your partner and ask how they’re doing. It’s so much better not to assume that the tingling will go away or that your partner will just tell you. Check in every once in a while to make sure you’re each comfortable with what’s happening. Discuss your aftercare plan with your partner as well. Some people will want to cuddle afterwards, some will want personal space to be left alone to process, others will want something different. Aftercare is essential after a tying experience for both the one tying as well as the one who was tied. Both may have different reactions, and it’s good to make sure your partner is well-taken care of, and not just walk away once it’s over.

The opposite side of my leg with the rope to keep everything secure (it’s quite itchy!)
The opposite side of my leg with the rope to keep everything secure (it’s quite itchy!)

In the same vein of checking in, consent, as always, is key. Discuss in advance what parts you are/aren’t comfortable being tied on. After playing together for the first time, some people will get blanket consent (consent to do whatever the top is feeling, based off of what was originally discussed). We did learn that crotch and neck ties should always be asked about, since those are particularly sensitive/risky areas in which to tie. There are also spots that are good to avoid simply because of how sensitive they are. Anything close to a joint is good to avoid as it can create discomfort (i.e. ankles, elbows, etc.). As such, it’s good to tie about 2 inches above or below a joint.

After learning all of this new info, we were invited to check out the class across from us, which was an open-play/practice space. We could stay and practice the basics we learned or watch others play, if we wanted. It was a great way to get a sense of what rope play is like for people. There were people tied up in suspension, others that were sitting on the floor being tied just around the arms, others that were cuddling naked the couch. Most people were coupled and in various stages of undress (presumably for comfort). The sense I got from observing was that everyone was in a state of comfort. There was a lot of care and intention put into what was happening that went beyond just giving pleasure. It was caregiving and taking experience that everyone seemed to be enjoying. Of course, there were also private rooms available for people to practice tying who wanted personal space/privacy to practice as well.

It was great to learn a new skill in the presence of such a caring community. I appreciated getting to learn about the various aspects of rope play and the complexity to it. I highly recommend anyone that’s interested, check it out. Unfortunately, there aren’t a ton of places that offer these lessons outside of major metropolitan areas, so you may have to do some research to find the closest option for you. However, there are definitely communities throughout the U.S. that engage in this type of activity, so once you get your fundamentals, you’re likely to be able to participate in a local group.

Happy tying!


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Julie Labanz, MA, LPCC-S, CST

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