Bottoming for Seme-nawa

Semenawa is in demand these days. Many people feel attracted to a darker, erotic, challenging, and most of all deeply emotional way of doing Kinbaku.

„Many people do naka-ties, but very few do naka style“

Riccardo Wildties

From my perspective of the one being tied, I feel that a lot of actual seme-nawa spirit is created by the person in ropes, not only by the intention and skills of the person tying. I feel that it is our mindset, our presence with ourselves and our partner, with our emotions, our generous invitation, our devotion, this is what makes a big difference, this is what will define whether it will be just the imitation of a popular style or a deep magical moment for two people and probably for those who watch. 

Also I feel it is about the power dynamic we allow to happen in that rope session… What I could observe during our short visit in Tokyo this year, seeing Japanese tying, there was a very different erotic power dynamic from we are used to see in Europe… Here, it’s very often the rigger who feels the pressure to perform, to fulfill the models’ expectations, to give them a good time. And here in Europe we struggle to surrender – even when we are longing for it.

Picture: Vanina

So here are my ideas about where we, rope bottoms, our mindset and our attitude, can make a difference, can co-create the magic.  

1. Know your Intention

Seme-nawa is uncomfortable. This is not a play you casually engage in. Seme-nawa brings you on the edge of your resilience, seme-nawa challenges what you think you know about yourself, seme-nawa makes you sweat and shake and feel. 

At some point you will ask yourself why you want to do that. It is rarely addressed in the workshops, models talk more often about pain processing and limits and staying safe, and this is all very important, but I think the most important question that you need to ask yourself is: why? – what drives you? what is it that you pursue in ropes?

Intention is different from expectations. Intention grows from inside, from my inner landscape, from my getting real with myself, facing the truth about my true desires and needs. Intention is about my focus and my responsibility. Expectations are often about others, what they should do and how they should behave… and (even those we have towards ourselves) often create a narrative about how the future will be like and that often leads to disappointment instead of discovery. 

Another point is, when we are not in touch with our intention, we start expecting “a reward” from the partner: aftercare, making it up to you for what you have been through, blaming them for negative emotions that came up… Address it by asking yourself: why you want to do seme-nawa? … what is that you bring on the tatami?

„Do not expect to look beautiful. Ask yourself why you like to receive ropes. Ask yourself what you have inside that you want the rope to bring out to the surface”

Miho Ikeda

2. Practice being in your body 

Body awareness is a state that needs to be practiced. The more we do that, the more effortless it becomes. You don’t have to attend meditation or yoga classes. Jogging, washing dishes, sitting in the bus on your way to the office will do as well. By being in the body I mean literally noticing yourself, noticing your body signals, noticing when you are sweating, blushing, hungry, restless, nervously shake your leg or scratch yourself, when you feel uncomfortable and tensing up, when you feel the warm sensation in your heart towards someone, just attending to that and registering: „so this is what I feel”. 

Simple somatic exercise called “Body Scan” that you can download on my website, can help you developing the skill of being in your body. It takes just a few minutes. Just do it for three weeks, it will do a miracle to your experience in ropes – I promise! 

Why do you need that? 

Well, this way you will feel your pleasure and all other emotions – they come from inside of yourself. It does not come from outside. This is also the way to feel your partner. Attending to your body does not mean that you go away from your partner, just the opposite: you start really feeling them, instead of thinking them. You will feel their presence, their intention – or lack of it, you will feel their insecurity, their desires and vulnerability… This is also the way to watch for your own safety… Actually, without feeling what it does with you, why would you do seme-nawa at all?

3. Find a ritual 

Find a ritual that helps you to transition from everyday life to the mindset of doing seme-nawa with your partner. It is especially important for couples. Being a couple has its own advantages and disadvantages when comes to doing rope bondage together. At times it can be really difficult to put aside all the things you are preoccupied with, unfinished arguments you have with your partner and just go straight to surrendering. 

Since I’m not so great on rituals myself, I found that practical things like coiling the ropes for my partner work for me. I do it before the session taking it from the wall where they hang at home, and after the session, every time. I do it after every exercise on the workshop. It is a practical thing that developed into a ritual, because I gave it a meaning. I also like to stretch just before the session as a way to switch my attention from outside world to inside of myself. And I choose not to speak in ropes. I keep it completely verbal-free space. That allows me to hear so much more, every movement of the rope setting vibrations in my body, every knot making a sound… 

4. Be responsive 

Many people say, they do rope for “connection”. I am not sure what that means. Our teachers Kinbaku LuXuria talk about communication in ropes. So we communicate: we ask and we tell, and we answer. We share, we trust, we open up and show, or we keep silent. Often it’s more pure and truthful communication that verbal, as body is involved. 

Just listen to it: 

Do you feel the tension – the intention of the rope? What does it want from you? Does it like to twist you? …or pin you down on the floor, to the ground? …does it pull you up to tippy toes? Does it bite? Does it caress your skin? Does it like to attack your chest or get into your panties? Does it grab your waist and holds it real tight? Does it flirt with you in a seducing way… or it attacks your ankles to make you losing your balance? 

Now, how that makes you feel? These rope-words do something with you. Do you feel seen and loved, do you feel ashamed and humiliated? Do you feel treated badly or worshipped? Do you feel disturbed? When you get the message, you can answer. Be responsive. It’s not about keeping it cool or toughing it out. It’s about learning to express yourself. Your partner was very vulnerable saying something to you, and it’s your turn to answer, with your voice, with your breath, with your movements… let your emotions flow, don’t hide them. We all used to hide too much. This is the luxurious space we have in S/M play, there is actually space for us to live out our emotions. 

5. Learn to breathe and relax into the rope 

Our natural reaction when we meet discomfort, pain, intense sensations, is that we tense up trying to protect ourselves from the possible danger. The way to receive rope impact in seme-nawa is breathing out, relaxing into the rope, accepting the impact that the rope gives us. These ties are meant to be intense, to challenge you, to get on your edge, to make you emotional. It is not meant for you to fight it, to tough it out, to keep straight face… 

Our mindset is greatly affecting the sensations we experience. If you believe that you are in danger, your fear will increase the sensations and trigger your sympathetic nervous system flight / fight/ freeze reactions taking over, in which case you might experience added pain or start dissociating completely. Understanding the difference between being “comfortable” and being “safe” is very important in seme-nawa. When you feel the confidence that you are safe, it’s in your power to embrace the discomfort, adjust your breathing in a slow mode and allow the rope to “melt” you to the point of having an emotional reaction. We help it by relaxing tense muscles, softening up and breathing out.

“I breathe slow and deep, when possible, slow and extended, when my breathing capacity is limited from the tie. Breathing has an immediate natural effect on the perception of pain, helps me relaxing, detaching, and getting rid of negative feelings…” 

Red Sabbath

6. Take a responsibility for your limits 

Taking care of my limits for me is about taking an active part, defining the space where we like to play in, it is an invitation for my partner to challenge me, to get intense, to get deep. 

The thing is, the play on the edge, such as seme-nawa, if you want to keep it intense and safe same time, is only possible to facilitate with an active participation of the person in ropes. I do not mean actively directing the scene! 🙂 I mean actively offering yourself to your partner. Which is very different from being passive. In my opinion, it is you knowing yourself and knowing that you want that (Intention) and you being able to feel yourself in the moment (Body awareness) that enables your partner to take you to your edge and bring you safely back. You make up your mind how far you like to go and you invite them there. And when you want to play “consensual non-consent”, that works exactly the same way. You need to facilitate this play by trusting and being trustworthy with you partner.

7. Trust your own feelings 

Much of my advices to rope bottoms comes down to “learn to feel yourself, find the answer in your body”. Probably this is frustrating not to have a clear formal guideline, but that would be very misleading in seme-nawa, like any other body discipline, depriving you from your own self-exploration. I think we need to re-learn to rely on how we feel about things. We need to re-learn to trust ourselves and people we play with and grow the strong core and “shit happens” attitude that is forgiving of mistakes, otherwise we never discover anything about ourselves. 

8. Realize your own power! 

My main message I want to bring across: as a rope bottom, you are powerful! I am glad the times are over when they referred to rope bottoms as “passive” at the workshops. There is much more awareness now about our role and responsibility. 

What is important is what how we use this power and what we create. I feel very privileged to see great rope models, at the workshops, in the shows. They all are different, very different, very unique, and in the same time, they all have something in common: awareness of their power, resilience, generous space they give to their partner. I rarely look at the rigger, to be honest. The level of kinbaku that this “rope couple” does is ultimately defined by what is happening with a model, by what is there to watch: emotions, movement, beauty, vulnerability, by how deep they let it in, as an observer you see it immediately: their face is changing, the real one comes out, which is always beautiful in suffering… 

Here is the message: come to realize your own power and use it to empower your rope dynamic. Look for your own way and your own expression. 

And if you like to find out more about powerful bottoming for seme-nawa, check out our Workshop for rope bottoms with Saara Rei on 23. November in Berlin!