Ties that Bind
When we think of bondage, we tend to think of it as a utilitarian sort of practice, its purpose being to restrict or prevent another person’s movement or escape. In that situation, it’s pretty clear who’s boss, which is very appropriate within the structure of a Dominant / submissive roleplay.
There are many types of bondage - some physical, others more symbolic - and those of us who practice BDSM may use a variety of materials and equipment to construct a bondage scene. Leather, latex, chains and cuffs, cages and bondage furniture; bondage can get incredibly elaborate where practitioners have the time, money, and space to make it so. But the type of bondage material I prefer most fits in a briefcase and is perfectly explainable to airport security: rope.
For me, rope is a really satisfactory and easily-calibrated and controlled form of bondage, but its use expands well beyond the mere concept of ‘restraint’. For many, myself included, rope is even more useful as a tool of connection and intimacy than it is for making sure you stay where I put you! The phrase ‘connective rope’ is taken up more and more by people seeking to describe the effect it can create between two (or more...) people. Rope play has layers upon layers of qualities and potentials for shared space.
For me, it’s also a great way of introducing the sensory potential of BDSM to those who are perhaps a bit intimidated by the concept of being in another’s control. At its most basic, rope is a tactile thing. The way it feels as it lies on or passes over the skin, the way it smells (particularly when it’s made of natural fibres like hemp or jute), the way it manipulates and shapes the body, making us more physically aware. Used in this way, rope play is just another form of sensation play, which is something anyone can try, regardless of their interest in power exchange.
I also use rope as a way to converse physically with a client, in ways that words often just can’t achieve. The rope is the line of connection between us, and really listening to what it’s saying or doing can be a way of ‘dropping in’ to a session and into a physical presence with one another. It concentrates our sensation and makes us very aware of the ways in which our bodies relate. While rope play can involve both physical closeness and distance in regards to the proximity of bodies to one another, the line between us stays intact, so long as there is tension on the rope.
People often describe a connective rope session with words like ‘relaxing’, ‘meditative’, or ‘nurturing’, which I suppose are words that we don’t often associate with things like bondage (until one actually experiences a good bondage session, that is). I’m always amazed at how much I am able to learn about my clients in such sessions, and often use connective rope play as a way to begin a kink session, as this will quite often direct the way in which I approach the rest of the play. I often encourage people to simply forget the concept of bondage altogether when proposing rope intimacy, and it really opens up the possibilities for what we can do with this seemingly simple tool.
This isn’t to say that it can’t also be used to simply tie someone up and have my way with them, but of course that’s another thing altogether...