Shibari

Shibari, commonly referred to as Kinbaku (though there are some differences between the two disciplines), is an ancient Japanese artistic form of rope bondage that has many styles and uses.

In Shibari (the action of tying someone up) the rigger, (or as I will be referring to them: rope spider) creates almost geometric patterns and shapes that contrast wonderfully with the quote-unquote ‘victim’ (or ‘bunny’ as we like to call them) body’s natural curves and recesses.

I just want to take a second here and point out that in the English language, the only word for ‘willing victim’ is ‘sacrifice’.

So rope spiders and bunnies can be considered the rope top and bottom respectively.

The art of Japanese bondage has long traditions and has been practiced over many centuries. It serves not only as binding but can also be fashioned into items resembling or replacing clothing.

It is often claimed that Japanese bondage has ties (giggle) going all the way back to the Jōmon period of Japan, where we find examples of pottery which had rope pressed into it. The problem with this of course is that it arises from an over-romatification of ancient culture: we see it because we want to see it. It’s akin to saying that knife play originated in Spain because of the Atapuerca knife.

Because this is an introduction, I’ll keep it to four key concepts:

  • Restraint
  • Eroticism
  • Beauty and symbolism
  • S&M

And you can’t talk about one without at least touching on the others, because they all mix in with each other.

Rope is the central tool in Kinbaku, whichever variant you look at, much like it is in SM play and erotic bondage, though there is the concept that SM play in Europe and America focuses more on impact play…

(From Daisy's floggers, who get all my love)
And with toys like these, who can blame them?
…while in Asia, rope is the central tool used for SM play and pleasure, and this idea permeates everything else in it.
Early Asian SM players were all about tying and torment. There was even a phrase which roughly translates as ‘pleasurable mistreatment’ (sorry if I’m butchering the language) which was popular in the 60s and 70s, another term which was thrown around was ‘torment scenes’ (such as ‘snow torment’ for scenes in the snow). The idea was to find the beauty in the bunny’s struggle to withstand the torment.

With respect to the beauty and symbolism of these torment scenes, think about harsh rope biting into soft skin, particular facial expressions depicting torment and suffering mixed with the pleasure of being bound.

In other scenes, there is the shame of being exposed, a particular type of beauty which comes from taking a partner and dishevelling them; pulling away the clothes, messing them up through the ropes.

Additional to these qualities of beauty found in a bound and suffering partner, found in attributes such as the movement of the body, the facial expressions, there is a theme of ‘nostalgic beauty’, which can be read about in this Wikipedia page.

Sexuality

We are drawn to kinks and fetishes because they turns us on, and for many the same is true of rope bondage as part of both soft and hard SM.

(This is not the case for everyone; one of my best friends has rope bondage down as a hard limit due to past experiences.)

There are people who enjoy rope bondage for other qualities as well, they may enjoy the bite of the rope, the inner peace (which I shall start to describe as ‘rope space’), the beauty of the body or the lines pressed into the skin, while others will enjoy the rope patterns themselves.

There are some who will enjoy it as an art form in and of itself. Anyone who has spent any time researching this type of bondage will have come across a few people who are about the refinement of the tie, who only seem to be interested in the most amazing artists, while the rest are not worth mentioning.

Others will have fetishised Japanese culture and so the bondage they espouse is all about that (though more often, it is the *stereotypes* of Japanese culture).

This is fine; everyone is drawn to their kinks for their own reasons and we should never be shamed for what we find sexy, but what starts to happen is that that advanced level of inspiration, beauty, possibility and attainability starts to be seen as base level competence.

The reason for this is that most of the bondage we see around the world from pictures to videos and performances are S&M industry productions, while we don’t get to see a lot of the average enthusiast, people who seek out the more advanced riggers for lessons and who will use these lessons to demonstrate what they themselves know down to the people who have been practicing at home for the past year.

You can see why this starts to move bondage away from personal play and into more of a professional realm, at which level there is a lot to learn and a lot to teach others…

I couldn’t resist a schoolgirl joke…

…which is great, but when education focuses exclusively on the biggest names, the highest techniques, and ignores the rest of the world, ignores the sexuality or the SM side of it, the education actually starts to provide a distorted view of Japanese bondage.

This in turn limits bondage to the *educator’s* views and fetishes rather than broadening people’s views and possibilities.

If these things are swept under the rug, then how should we interpret what these bondage artists are doing in their photos or videos? What are the stories we should be taking away from these things?

I would like to try and immunise you from these over simplistic ideas and ideals, and steer you away from other people’s fetishisation of bondage in these positions, instead steering you towards the concept that heart is just as important as technique.

Ok, so the plan with this piece is to start highlighting techniques and riggers who may not be as famous, but who do some brilliant work all the same. I plan to cover more rope care, some experiments I have performed and with permission, maybe even some photos (provided I ever actually remember to take them!) for now though, stay sexy and tie each other up.

-LaRasa

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