There is more to rope bottoming than just “hanging out and getting tied.” The styles of rigging vary from person to person as well as the broader stroke ideologies and “schools of thought” behind it. With all of this information out there, it can be difficult to disseminate what’s an absolute necessity and what is a preference. However in matters of safety, there are specific rules that should be absolutes across all planes. (though often they do get ignored). The language in this article will be fairly rudimentary to allow those who may be new to rope a better understanding. I hope those riggers out there will contribute their tid-bits in the comments section! First, let us start with some rope bottoming misconceptions.
1. You must always tie naked. If a rope Top tells you this then you should head for the hills and never look back. Yes there are advantages to tying in the nude, but they do not outweigh your comfort and hygienic safety. If you’re tying completely naked with someone, then you better hope they have washed their rope since the last partner if it is being placed, say between your legs. Personally, I usually tie with just a pair of panties on. It is true that underwire bras can get in the way and potentially hurt you if the rope sits a particular way. But wearing a non-underwire bra works as well. Avoid bras with padding. In general, avoid undergarments that have a lot of adornments such as beads or jewels as these can also cut or poke you.
2. Only flexible people make good rope bottoms. I used to think this myself. You see all of these fabulous photos of men and women twisted up like pretzels and think that that’s what rope is all about. This is one incredible element in a large array of options with rope. I would challenge that there is a safe tie out there for every person imaginable. But, I also urge anyone who seriously would like to rope bottom on a regular basis to stretch regularly, explore exercise such as pilates or yoga, and to only assume positions within rope that are comfortable and attainable to you and your current physical condition. That’s not to say you cannot push yourself but flexibility comes with time and practice.
3. Only males make good riggers (rope Tops) and females good rope bottoms. To this I say HOGWASH! There are many well established and talented female riggers, it just so happens that there are many more males that happen to have an interest in rope. Any gender can play and practice either role. You do not have to be incredibly strong to be a successful rigger, though general good health and strength do help.
4. Rope play is not dangerous. On the contrary, there are many more silent hazards in rope play than almost any other form of BDSM. This means injuries may not present themselves immediately. If compared to other forms of BDSM, if someone canes you in the wrong place, you can usually tell right away. If a flogger wraps and hits you in a tender spot, the pain (not the good kind) is immediate. Rope can be a silent “killer” if you will. I’ll cover some of that later in this article.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, I’d like to cover rope and safety. As with many other areas of kink, it can often be difficult to tell if a potential rope partner is proficient or not. That’s not to say you should avoid people who are new to practicing rope, rather you should discuss with your potential partner exactly what they have in mind for the ties. If you have just met someone for the first time and they want to suspend you; the act of tying you in such a fashion that you are literally suspended mid-air, as exciting as that may be, I’d highly advise you to try something more “stable.”
You will want to negotiate and use safe words with rope play and take it just as seriously as if you were going to be bull whipped. Make sure to clearly state where on your body you are comfortable with your partner touching with hands OR rope. There are many erotic ties that involve going between the legs and also across or around the breasts and nipples.
I highly recommend you request to not have rope tied completely around your neck. Opt for either in a “halter” style similar to a halter tank top or no rope near the neck for a first time partner. Ask your partner how long they have been tying, if they’ve attended any formal classes or had any training and with whom. Take into consideration that once you are tied, there may be little to no mobility or movement on your part. You must trust that your partner will not take liberties upon you in this circumstance.
The most common and safe form of rope play is “floor work.” This means you as the bottom will stay on the floor sitting, squatting, laying, half laying, etc. during the entire session while being tied. Do not be mistaken, this can be a very exciting and similarly dangerous form of play, however, the risks are significantly diminished due to the fact that your body is not flying mid-air. If you would like to be extra cautious with a new partner, ask them to do an introductory tie involving only the upper half of your body while you are seated. This is a great “warm up” while you get to know one another.
And back to the suspension we were really excited and turned on about doing: the threshold for injury increases about 1000% (lots of science is involved in this statistic 😉 once you take the rope from the floor to the air. I could write paragraph upon paragraph about the dangers of suspension but the most common injuries occurring from actual documented suspensions gone wrong include:
Permanent back damage/pain
Permanent numbness of various limbs and extremities
Head trauma (if the ties should fail and you fall)
Paralysis (temporary or permanent)
Asphyxiation (getting strangled to death)
If you would like me to provide the actual documentation for theses cases, feel free to ask in the comments or email us. This is not a complete list but rather some of the more severe highlights that can result form both experienced and inexperienced riggers attempting suspension. It’s safe to say that suspension should only be attempted under optimal circumstances including but not limited to:
-Proper suspension points that have been tested immediately prior to the suspension
-One or more additional persons besides the rigger
-Rope in good condition. Each rigger is very specific about rope, but suffice it to say the rope should not be old and frayed. It needs to be strong enough to hold a human being
-A “crash pad” or soft surface or mat to place under the suspension area in the event the rigging should fail
-And on a personal note, suspensions should not be attempted if either party is heavily under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
If you are that adventure seeker that cannot resist but go out and find the first rigger willing to suspend you, (don’t actually do that but I can see why you might want to do that) fear not! There is a happy medium between the two. There is such a thing as a partial suspension. Usually this consists of the subject having their upper body or a limb (or two) tied up while the rest of the body maintains contact with the ground or surface. I’ve included some images in this article to assist in your understanding. There is still an amount of caution to be taken with these types of ties, but it is a good training ground for both Top and bottom who are interested in eventually moving to a full on suspension.
At any rate, I highly recommend both Tops and bottoms to seek out classes or one on one instruction if available in your area. The wealth of information you garner from other riggers (and also the mistakes you will hear about if folks are willing to share) will assist in you better understanding the joys and potential pitfalls of rope. Until then, be safe, go slowly, and have an open trust and communication with a potential Top/Dominant. Never let someone intimidate you into doing something out of your comfort zone.
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