Why We Love Rope
Riggers and rope models share what Shibari means to them
By Ena Dahl • 9 min read • ENGLISH
Riggers and rope models share what Shibari means to them
By Ena Dahl • 9 min read • ENGLISH
hen I started writing my article on how I experience being bound and suspended in rope, I was struck by an overwhelming curiosity about what it feels like to be on the other end. Since my experience is mainly as a model, I wanted to better understand what it’s like in their shoes; is it as good for you as it is for me?
Do rope tops feel the same kind of euphoric catharsis as bottoms, or do they have another type of experience entirely?
The answer my rigger sent back to my questions touched me so deeply it inspired me to seek answers from other rope lovers too; what attracts them to Shibari, and how do they experience tying or being tied?
The responses I received were all stunning and unique, yet had many traits in common. Both tops and bottoms speak unanimously about entering a type of rope-space; a mindset where few outside things seem to matter for the duration of the session. The riggers poetically describe feelings of intense focus and of tuning into their models to decipher their needs and wants. Models, on the other hand, overwhelmingly feel comforted and held while given the opportunity to let go.
I love to be immersed in my rope-space. The moment I step in there I can focus my mind and stop thinking about what’s happening around me. Everything disappears — all but the model — and a special bond forms; a symbiotic relationship based on mutual trust. The rope is my tool; a chisel with which I form figures that spring from my mind. Sculptural shapes emerge, composed not only from flesh and bone, but from sounds and gazes.
Hentie_Ropes (45) | Rope top/rigger for 2 years, Berlin DE
How do I define something which very definition is a thing of motion and fluidity? A better question is: Who am I in rope?
I’m a sensualist. A masochist. A Lover, object, goddess, and chattel. Whether I seek connection or introspection, both are possible. I’m testing my boundaries while being held in my safe zone. I’m sexual and asexual; either to varying degrees. I’m meditative or resistant, primal or enlightened. I may fight or yield to whatever comes my way, and I don’t have to decide until it happens. I’m silly or stern, wholly immersed or playfully dancing on the surface. Approaching rope space, I’m a blank canvas and simultaneously a finished piece — and the eye of a good rigger sees the value in both.
Every facet of me can exist in this space, without judgment: When I’m bound, I’m all of me. In my entirety, I’m as grateful for my body and mind as I could ever be. It’s a deepened appreciation for what I hold within myself, and the allowance to let it breathe and expand.
What rope is to me, I cannot say, as I can’t define something so contradictory. But, I know who I am, and that’s why I keep returning.
Tess Dagger (32) | 12 years rope experience, Bay Area US. Now in Berlin DE
The growing sensual tension, the grace and elegance of it, the aesthetics, the sense of total but fusional abandonment, the revelation of surprising and infinite sensual creativity in apparent contrast with the unsophisticated rope; all this is a rare if not unmatched territory where body and mind are invited to insatiably receive fine, very fine, pleasures.
Solmarius (45) | Rope top in training, Berlin DE
I’ve tried so many different approaches to silencing my monkey mind; to see my true self and canalize the emotional and mental pain I sometimes feel. I got tattooed, started yoga and meditation, I messed around the city, and partied hard. I chose the path of excess. They all work in their own ways. But nothing ever touched me as deeply as the tight, warm embrace of ropes around my body; I instantly felt held and safe like never before, or perhaps not since being unborn, back in my mother’s womb — no kidding! I literally cried my heart out. It was an overwhelming, and some sort of spiritual moment. And, it was healing, for sure!
Blue-Lines (42) | Rope bottom, Berlin DE
When trust and a connection has been established, you can communicate through rope, without the use of words. As a rigger, you’re on one hand opposite your partner, controlling them like a marionette, yet, you want to recognize their needs and lead them where they want to go. Doing this requires empathy and insight. This is why tying always looks different; it’s the coming together of the bottom’s desires with the perception and implementation of these by you, the top. It’s similar to tango!
I love ropes, for many reasons. Tying allows me to be fully present; to be firm, ensnare, and hold tight, to express my feelings, and also process darker emotions, like anger, in a healthy way. The rope runs like extensions of my arms, determining, but not demanding when the first line goes over the bamboo.
The intimate yet familiar touches remind me of an octopus; slowly locking its prey in its arms. To symbolize this, I have a heart tattooed on my chest, held in place by tentacles, and, of course, ropes.
Alex / Unkown Rigger (50) | Rigger for 9 years, Berlin DE
Apart from the construction and feel of the jute ropes themselves, I love the level of trust, communication, and closeness that emerge from tying. When I get into the headspace, I focus intensely on how the rope lays, forms, or confines the body, and then listen to cues from my model as to how to respond.
I find the resulting imagery stunning due to the coming together of these three elements; the rope, rigger, and bottom.
John (36) | Rigger and Dominant for 7+ years
Being bound and restricted feels like an escape from having to be in control of everything. It’s as a restricting, yet releasing, tight hug, that slows the mind and brings me into subspace; a place where there is no rush and no needs — just, simply being me.
Jeroen (29) | Rope bottom for 3 years, Mechelen BE
I only feel fully alive once each of my nerves orchestrates a requiem of pain. I love the feeling of getting caught in a safety net of breathlessness as my conscious thoughts gasp for air; The way the tugs and scratches from the ropes carve a path down which I’m allowed to escape my fears and shame; The way I’m lifted, twisted, and held in love and care, bound to my skin. It’s all too addictive to give up.
Alexahamartia (23) | Rope bottom for 5 years, Leeds UK
I grew up reading tales of knights in shining armor rescuing damsels in distress. The knights were always rewarded with eternal love and the couple lived happily ever after. For me, every rope suspension session is a fairytale re-enacted to a blissful end: A woman trusts me completely and reveals her deepest fantasies and vulnerabilities; she literally put her life in my hands. She knows that when the right moment comes, I’ll be there to rescue her. Can you blame me for also being the monster who locked her up in the tower in the first place?
Aviv / Dark Spring (39) | Ropes 15 years, suspensions for 1 year, Berlin DE
Tying makes me reach a flow-state, where I can forget the world for some seconds. I seek beauty in the connection and trust with others.
Ninola / Rope Unleashed | Rope top/tying for 1.5 years, Berlin DE
Rope is one of the main things making my life meaningful and fulfilled. To me, shibari is synonymous with letting go; releasing negative emotions, such as anger, fear, and doubt, to take a step back, center, and feel myself. I continuously witness this cathartic effect, both for riggers and models.
Connecting through its nonverbal language provides an exclusive possibility to open a door to a unique world in a way few other things can. I’ve always had a thing for languages, and when it comes to that of rope, there’s a clarity and honesty to it that empowers me — one I want to dive deep into for the rest of my life.
Kiwi Shibari (33) | Rope bottom for one year, Berlin DE
I love how rope brings out many different sides of me:
My artist loves the craft. My aesthete wants to see her shine. My playful side always tries new things. My innermost reveals itself.
My sadist goes for crotch and waist. My voyeur loves to watch her breathe. My sensualist craves to see her tears. And me, I want to get us there.
Doc Rope (46) | Rope top for 8 years, Berlin DE
When I tie with my partner, my world narrows to this little space we’re in; her breath, heartbeat, and littlest nods or twitches are all caught by my senses. Getting her to her place is my goal every time; that place subs go when they let the rope hold them tight, secure, and they know they’re in the safest place on earth where all they must do is be in the moment. My joy comes from knowing I’ve met those needs, kept her safe, and brought her back—and that she trusts me enough to let me guide her. For that short time, the world around us doesn’t exist. People may come and go, but I only hear and see her as she melts into my ropes.
Dane (56) | Rope top for 4 years
Maybe I’m of the sentimental kind, or perhaps I’m just extra emotional about rope these days, but, these lyrical descriptions have me a little teary-eyed.
How about you, have you tied or been tied? If so, what does it feel like for you?
If you haven’t tried, would you like to? Check the link to our upcoming workshops at SPNKD. If you’re not in the area, you may reach out and ask us to help you find resources near you, and we’ll do our best to help.