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"Bondage, beyond restraint" copyright by Esinem 2008

The most important thing that I have discovered about bondage is that
it should not be like wrapping a parcel. In other words, it is not
simply a matter of being able to tie a particular knot, or replicate a
specific tie exactly, but also to do it with feeling and create an
energy flow with your submissive. I find that too many people become
distracted by learning elaborate knots, discussing rope and other
technicalities at the expense of this. Bondage is more about the way
that you do it than what you do or what materials are used. However,
this does not mean that safety, good technique and appropriate
equipment are not vital.
I would compare a bondage scene to a passionate dance like the tango,
where you're in very close contact with your partner, where one of you
leads and the other follows, and together you produce something
magical. If one were to merely follow the steps laid out in a dance
instruction manual, one could be millimetre perfect but, without
passion, it would be nothing more than a mechanical exercise and
emotionally dead. Bondage is no different but, sadly, many people miss
the point, fail to make the emotional connection, end up becoming
detached and merely `wrap parcels'. It should not be a destination to
be reached, but more a journey to be enjoyed and savoured.
Let me explore some of the ways in which I attempt to avoid `wrapping
parcels'. If I am tying somebody for the first time, I try to get an
idea of what will push their buttons. As with any BDSM, if you go down
the wrong avenue, you are on to a loser from the start. The situation
will usually determine how I come to my conclusions. If I already know
the person to some extent, I might have some insights into their
tastes from conversations, a web profile or watching them playing. On
many occasions, I might be asked to tie somebody in a club who I have
not met before that moment. In these instances, I might simply ask
where between `soft and sensual' to `hard and nasty' their preferences
lie but, other times, I might simply rely on cues, such as demeanour
and reactions. For example, it is a reasonable assumption that a
bratty sub is likely to want to fight back a little or try to escape
and will respond to a more forceful approach before finally
submitting. Usually, with this type of interaction, my bondage will
become opportunistic and struggling limbs will be pinned and roped in
whatever position they present themselves. On the other hand, the one
that drops their eyes, offers her wrists to be tied and acts
submissively is likely to be compliant, allowing me to decide on
positions for tying. The way the sub reacts to touch is also a good
clue. My most simple `Litmus test' is to grab a good handful of hair
and draw her head back. The reaction to this simple move should speak
volumes. In essence, it is very much like good sex in that one pays
attention to feedback and builds on that which is positive and vice
versa. During any scene, I always ensure I am aware of the sub's body
language, breathing and the look in their eyes, both of which give a
lot of clues as to how it is going. Obviously, you are at a big
advantage with your partner or somebody who you have played with
before, since you should already know the right buttons to press.
Whilst learning and observation can improve matters, much will be down
to simple intuition and partly luck. Unfortunately, it can never be an
exact science or even something that can be achieved only by learning.
In all instances, communication is the key, whether this be verbal or
non-verbal. It can be useful for both sides to spell out what is
working and what is not in a positive and constructive way. In this
way, each scene can be improved. Sometimes everything will click
intuitively, other times it will not, regardless of the skill of the
rigger. There is no magic formula that works every time. It is simply
a question of improving the odds and, ultimately, it will rest on the
chemistry between the two of you. It certainly helps to be tying a
true rope-slut, who goes into ecstasy as the mere thought of being
tied, and I find this almost invariably makes for a more rewarding
session. After all, lack of enthusiasm is the only thing more
infectious than enthusiasm.

Let us consider positions. In some circumstances, these might be
purely practical and obvious. For example, I might want to secure
somebody to a piece of dungeon furniture, a bed or in a suitable pose
for a particular activity, be it sex or play. Another example would be
using rope to enforce positions of servility, such as bowed or kneeling.
However, the way I tie can have very different effects
psychologically. For example, ties where the sub's genitals are
exposed and they are unable to hide or protect them can create shame
or embarrassment. This is a key element in the Japanese approach,
where the concept of shame is particularly intense culturally. At the
very least, a strong sense of vulnerability can be achieved with this
type of position, especially amongst men as it is defeats a very
deep-rooted reaction to guard the testicles.
If I want to increase feelings of vulnerability, asymmetrical ties can
enhance this, especially if these induce instability. One of the first
effects of tying the hands is to remove the natural protective
mechanisms. If you feel you might lose your balance the initial
reaction is to extend the arms to counteract this. The second reaction
is to bring the hands up to provide protection if it looks as if this
will fail. If you further destabilise your sub, by, say, lifting one
leg of the ground, it can be a constant battle with this instinct,
which can be quite disturbing. Obviously, you need to make sure that
they cannot actually fall, as the first thing to hit the ground is
likely to be their skull, since they cannot use their hands to save
themselves. To this end, I would normally maintain a firm hold on a
secure chest harness or similar arrangement or, more likely, tie it
off to a proper suspension point. The advantage of securing the
bondage to a suspension rope, but with maybe a little slack, is that I
can push my sub off balance and let the rope arrest the fall. Add a
blindfold to the equation and you have an extremely potent mix. This
is a real game of trust and mind-fuck.
As the originators of Japanese bondage were well aware, many positions
are extremely stressful and quite quickly become painful; with time,
unbearable. With judicious use, the effect of time can be used to
achieve that moment of final submission in even the most hardy and
incalcitrant submissive. A variation that I like to employ is
predicament bondage, where one stress may be relieved at the expense
of creating a new discomfort. An example of such a dilemma would be
rigging a leg in a stressful position; then, connecting the other end
of the rope to hair, in such a way that the leg could only be relieved
by causing the hair to be pulled.
The order of restraint is significant for me. In order to assert
dominance, I believe that one should take control immediately and
assertively. Even for the most sensuous scene, I like to begin by
grasping the wrists to move them into position and maintaining a grip
until the first wrap secures them. This gives the message straight
away that I am in control and clearly indicates that the session has
begun. It is an important psychological moment and one that has more
significance than meekly offered wrists or patiently waiting for them
to be tied while other bondage is completed. It is well worth
mastering the technique of achieving this step slickly and quickly. As
they say, most impressions are made in the first 30 seconds and I
believe this applies to bondage. It is the equivalent to a firm
handshake, compared to a limp, `wet-fish' one. Start by creating a
positive reaction, not a negative one. Even being able to smoothly
flick out a coil of rope without tangles makes a difference. If you
are fumbling this initial tie or spending ages trying to untangle a
rat's nest of rope, you can easily lose the moment and are unlikely to
give the impression of a competent dominant.
I like to think of the rope as an extension of my hands. This mindset
is probably the most important in avoiding `wrapping parcels'. Rope is
a wonderful medium because of its versatility. There are not many ways
to apply handcuffs but rope has endless possibilities. There are many
manners that I can apply rope, producing anything from the most
sensuous touch to the downright sadistic or controlling, depending on
the interplay between me and my sub. In addition to the actual
application, it can also be an SM tool, in that it can be used to
caress or punish. The frayed end of a piece of rope can serve as a
sensuous brush to tease erogenous zones, a length of rope can be
flicked like a single tail or a hank can be used as an improvised
flogger, whilst the bundle of ropes at the back of a chest harness
makes an excellent `handle' for the purpose of control. I love to take
advantage of the way rope can be made to snake across sensitive areas
when it is pulled through, with nipples, genitals and the back of the
neck being obvious targets. I like to be purposeful in my handling and
mindful of the routing of the rope. Too many people think a scene is
over once they have their sub fully restrained and forget that untying
can be just as erotic as tying. Furthermore, a good bondage scene is
not just about creating one particular tie and then sitting back and
admiring your handiwork. Although, there are many who are very happy
to be tied and allowed to enjoy their predicament, I find a more
dynamic and interactive scene, where there is some tying and re-tying,
more fulfilling.
In terms of application, I have discovered many nuances. The first is
the degree of firmness used to apply the rope. I like to keep some
tension on the rope at all times. Not only does this prevent the wraps
slipping, but more importantly, it focuses the sub's attention on the
deliberateness of the binding and how liberty is slowly being removed.
Depending on the sensation I wish to create, this might be a gentle or
strong tension.
A further factor is the degree of decisiveness. My movements can be
almost dream-like in a soft and sensual scene, yet they might be more
abrupt if dominance and control is the objective. In both instances,
tempo is also important. The former example would usually be slow
paced, whereas the latter might be more positive. Very often,
subconsciously I will fall into step with whatever music is playing
but the mood of the scene will also be a big influence, which is the
more significant tends to depend upon whether it is a performance or
private play.
Osada Steve, one of the world's top nawashi, uses an interesting
combination. He will move quickly and decisively to apply a body wrap,
yet he will `pull the punch' by deliberately relaxing to complete the
move. It looks savage, but is deceptively soft, whilst nicely
accentuating the action. Another technique he taught me was to tug
knots and turns, again adding punctuation to one's actions. I use both
of these tricks frequently now. As with any erotic process, most the
fun is getting there. With this is in mind, I attempt to build process
incrementally to a crescendo. This might be by upping the tempo and/or
gradually increasing the tension of the bindings or degree of
restriction. Indeed, I might employ varying tempos during the process;
for example, wrapping slowly, yet completing tie-offs rapidly.
A complimentary component is the degree of smoothness. I usually try
to create an uninterrupted flow. Part of the secret is practising
until your brain is hardly aware of what you are doing and your
muscles have learned the process of tying. Once this started
happening, I found I began to tie intuitively, carried along on the
flow of the scene not being distracted by the practical process. In
the same way that one sometimes gets distracted and starts to drive a
familiar route, such as to work, when one is intending to go somewhere
entirely different, I sometimes find that I end up with a completely
different result from one I might have originally considered.
Smoothness is far easier to achieve with the right length of rope. The
magic figure being equivalent to four times the span of one's
outstretched arms. This allows the rope to be pulled through in a
single movement, assuming it is used doubled in kinbaku style, rather
than a clumsy hand over hand like a sailor hauling up an anchor.
Whilst on the subject of rope handling, one should always be in
control of the rope. I am constantly aware of what the rope is doing.
If one is not on top of this, it is easy to lose the mood by causing
rope burn by pulling badly routed rope too fast, pinching the skin or
allowing the end to whip up into the face. A little attention, a
guarding hand and lifting bindings to create room to pull through can
avoid this.
To return to the dance analogy, you cannot tango at arms length.
Bondage can be one of the more contact intensive areas of SM. There
are many opportunities for physical contact. You are not distanced in
the same way that you might be by a whip or flogger. Body contact
makes the whole experience intimate. There is a massive difference
between standing two feet away to tie and sitting with your partner
between your thighs and reaching around, holding them close, whilst
you slowly wind rope around their body. For many people, the turn on
is the embrace of the rope. How much more powerful is this when
combined with a physical embrace? Again, as in dance, how you choose
to use physical contact will influence the mood. It can be soft or
aggressive, seductive or dominant, it can even be withdrawn. As an
integral part of this, one's whole demeanour should be appropriate. I
am not of the school of poker-faced Japanese rope-masters with their
ubiquitous dark glasses, which appear to hide the last vestiges of
emotion. From my perspective, it appears rope is usually a serious
business for them. I suspect the image of the inscrutable, apparently
emotionless dominant is a favourite game. However, I prefer to draw on
a wide range of emotions and share those with my partner. I recall one
Japanese rigger saying to me after watching a session with a
particularly feisty partner, "You really had fun, didn't you?". My
reply was "If we weren't enjoying ourselves, what's the point?". One
should never lose sight of the fact that it is for mutual enjoyment
and that can sometimes be fun and frivolous, not always deadly serious.
In summary, my interpretation of bondage is not simply ` a means of
restraint'. It should become a medium of exchange and communication.
The key to this is to understand your partner's needs and meet them
through a combination of physical contact, mindful rope handling and,
above all, passion. If you cannot transport your partner to Cloud-9
with a little rope, some simple ties and a lot of feeling, adding more
rope, learning exotic technical skills or suspension will never make
them fly. Learning to create that magical connection is the most
important skill and the one which will make your rope-work special.

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