Kinbaku is erotic. Kinbaku is suffering. Kinbaku is for perverts. Kinbaku is – in Japan – porn!
Kinbaku is about playing out darkest fantasies: bondage, enslavement, restriction of freedom… about sweet suffering and inflicting pain. It’s the same part of us that gets aroused by violence scene in horror movie. That’s not moral. It is a break of social taboos. We play, hopefully, informed, aware and consensual. In real life, we help people in need and support Amnesty International.
I know, the world of bondage is colorful. People enjoy different things when they “play” with ropes. And yet, sometimes I get suspicious. Can bondage really be everything? Can bondage be only(!) art? Can bondage be yoga? Can bondage heal? Is it possible to completely eradicate eroticism, dark eroticism above all, from bondage? I doubt that.
I trained Aikido for a long time. Aikido is very physical. You touch each other, there are techniques where bodies come close, closer than a hug. Aikido is not erotic. It’s more like yoga. It’s about helping each other to grow. Therefore, we do not discriminate in Aikido when choosing a partner. Of course I have my favorite training partners. Nevertheless: in the class I train with different people. With old men. With young women. With fat sweaty men. With fat women. With people who are still stiff and inexperienced, people who hurt me. With children sometimes, on the big workshops. In every encounter I can learn something, in every encounter I can hopefully give my partner something. If Shibari really was like yoga or aikido, you would have to meet in the park or the dojo, and tie with anyone who showed up, without discrimination. That is however not what I observe in the rope scene. Especially men, who emphasize the non-sexual aspect of Shibari, seem to practice this art primarily with young pretty women.
This negation of the sexual aspect seems to me more of a dating strategy. We play hide and seek. And honestly, hide and seek is a part of the game. It’s fun to say one thing with the voice, and the other thing with the eyes. “Want to come up for a “coffee“?” The game is good as long as everyone involved knows it’s a game. It seems to me, also in the light of recent sad events in important rope communities in Europe, that this is not a game anymore. Maybe some people have stressed too strongly that it is non-sexual, even though they had clear sexual intentions. Maybe some people wanted to take this message too literally, did not want to see the hidden intention. I don’t know.
I believe however that more honesty would do good all of us – and also bring tiresome debates about consent on a different level. Honesty starts with us. By “us” I mean US: Riggers, Rope-Tops, whatever we call ourselves. The Bunnies, People in ropes, have better learned to communicate their desires and limits. (Whether they’ve learned to recognize well-hidden motivations on the other side, is a different topic). But what about us? Why are we tying at all? With all due respect, very few of tying men I believe that there are no sexual intentions. Because otherwise – aikido or yoga, see above… Most of the men I talk to “privately” – from shy first-time participants in EURIX to bondage pros – admit it is some kind of erotic or sexual encounter. If they are integer, they communicate that openly, too. Eroticism is something very beautiful. How messed up we are in our society with sexuality and dating. We keep reproducing social patterns and upholding hypocritical moral standards. If we still believe we have to “cheat” and „trick” to have a sexual encounter, something is wrong here.
But here is the chance to do something better. Let us be honest. And then: Let us be brave. “I find you attractive, and I want to tie you up.” Of course, you might get refused. But it’s better not to cling to a woman who does not find me attractive enough instead of doing any negotiated „non-sexual“ session and hoping that my skills or secret KI tricks make her melt…
If the partners on both sides of the rope more clearly communicate their desires and needs, rather than just the people in ropes their limits, then, presumably, there will be less tying in general. We, riggers, should consider walking off from consent negotiations as well. A woman approches me at the jam, because I obviously have the reputation of being particularly “sadistic”. Her first words are: “Normally I do not tie with men” and later “I do not want you to touch me sexually”. She was pretty and flexible and looked very good in the Gyaku-Ebi. I tried to give her a good session. I did not touch her “sexually”. But actually, it would have been a much more honest communication to say: “Thank you for communicating your boundaries so clearly. I think we should not tie together. Because I want to touch erotic! For me, eroticism is the core of Kinbaku“. With people with whom I have a feeling that we genuinely like each other, the encounters are surprisingly easy… Then you can try, experiment, play – lead an interview. Actually, we do not set firm rules, it’s more that we create trust. Trust that NO can be said and will be heard.
And finally a word on Shibari and therapy. A strong emotional experience like bondage can certainly have a therapeutic, healing effect. Many people carry trauma. Bondage is an intense experience, sometimes already with the first wrap of a rope. Good therapists are rare find. Charlatans are plenty. And shamans are initiated as little children by the elders of the tribe into their role, going through complex initiation rites. They are not trained on the workshop. They do not have a shiny homepage but live in the cabin in the woods. They are humble, modest and inconspicuous. When sexuality and therapy are mixed, an explosive situation arises. Again and again, this situation leads to abuse. It takes a high maturity and inner resources in order to be therapeutically effective in this area. Few people can open, hold and close a therapeutic space. Good therapists, who are also good with rope, are – statistically speaking – extremely rare. And if they exist anywhere, then they heal … exactly: As in Aikido training without discrimination, old ugly men just like young pretty women. If it appears to be different: RUN …