by Felix Ruckert, March 2018
Rope bondage is powerful play with your body and mind. It is much more than just decorative ties and spectacular suspensions. It is a practice that deals symbolically with themes such as torture, abuse, restriction, imprisonment, dependency and loss of control. It can be practiced on a purely physical level, focussing on technique, aesthetics and form. It can be an artistic collaboration, based on an equal partnership between the person who ties and the person who gets tied. It can have a focus on connection, trust and relationship. It can also be approached as an erotic practice, where sensual and/or sexual pleasure is the motivation. And it can be practiced as a game of power, a play with dominance and submission, where rope partners engage in a powerful psychodynamic encounter based on pre-established roles of dominant and submissive.
All these forms are welcome at EURIX and can be practiced without restriction, as long as the basic principles of “safe, sane and consensual” or “RACK – risk-aware consensual kink” are respected. We, the organizers, consider EURIX a sex positive space where BDSM play and sexual activities between consenting adults are permitted and embraced. In the long run, we wish to develop rope bondage as an art form and, in our view, this is only possible with the freedom to experiment with power relations, sexuality, extreme emotions and intense sensations.
As a newcomer to the event, it is therefore crucial to be aware of the power and potential dangers – both physical and emotional – such a space can create. If you are actively participating in EURIX as a rigger or model, it is essential to be crystal clear in your intentions and motivations before you enter into a rope scene, especially if you are playing with a person you do not know. The questions “Would you like to tie me?” or “Can I tie you?” can mean many different things.
Questions to ask yourself before a scene (rope bottom):
Are you looking for a technical, sensorial, emotional, sensual or sexual experience? What are your boundaries with this specific rope top? Are you looking for physical exertion or comfort? Are you interested in positively connoted emotions such as care, attention, reassurance and worship? Are you interested in experiencing pain, fear, sadness, shame or other negatively connoted emotions? Do you want a nice image where you look cool in ropes? Do you want to experience the expertise of someone with a professional reputation? Are you aware that every session is unique? That if you get tied it might look and feel very different from scenes you have observed from the outside? That a rigger you have seen tying in a specific way, might act very differently when tying you? That the course and length of your session strongly depends on your personal fitness, pain resistance, flexibility and rope bottom skills? That also very experienced riggers cannot do miracles all the time?
Questions to ask yourself before a scene (rope top):
Do you want to practice your technical knowledge or try out new ties? Do you want to create a spectacular situation or beautiful image? Do you want to challenge, stimulate or arouse your partner? Are you looking for an emotional or sensual experience? Are you interested in sexual activities with your partner? Are they aware of that? Have you asked yourself if your partner is interested in sexual activities with you? Do you want to play with power and submit your partner to your will? Do you want to play and act sadistically? Do you want to impress and demonstrate your skills? Do you want to seduce?
Are you technically able to end a scene immediately? Do you have the technical knowledge to take your partner down from a suspension in less then 10 seconds? Assisted Drop? Pulley System? (If you don’t, don’t suspend.)
Questions for both rope top and rope bottom before a scene:
Are you aware that – as long as negotiated boundaries are respected – you are both responsible for the positive outcome of a rope scene? Do you understand there is nothing to prove? Do you know the difference between a consent accident and a consent violation? Are you aware that you must inform your rope partner of physical weaknesses, injuries or other handicaps (drug or alcohol consumption before scene, specific fears and triggers), before you start the session? Do you know what your partner might need after the scene?
To establish meaningful and satisfying scenes we advocate a double strategy of BEFORE-SCENE NEGOTIATION and DURING-SCENE NEGOTIATION. If you know your intentions, motives and wishes and can clearly communicate and honestly negotiate them before and during the scene, you have a good chance of creating a beautiful experience for both of you.
The principle of BEFORE-SCENE NEGOTIATION:
If you are clear about your answers to the questions above, then please have the courage to express your wishes and intentions before engaging in a scene. Courage, clarity and honesty are noble qualities, and the more clearly you define your boundaries, the more easily they can be respected. You can negotiate as long as you wish, until you feel ready for the session.
Of course, it is often impossible to answer all these questions before a session. Maybe you want to find out what you like with this partner. Maybe you are too shy or inhibited to practice clarity and honesty. Maybe you want to be surprised. If you enter in a session without BEFORE-SCENE NEGOTIATION, your responsibility for the positive outcome increases and you have to be sure of being able to engage in DURING-SCENE NEGOTIATION.
If you are more experienced with rope bondage than your partner, and especially when tying with a newbie, it is your duty to bring up the question of consent, to point out the different forms of negotiation and to explain the function and use of safe words and other exit strategies.
3 MINUTE TRY OUT SESSIONS
If you are tying with someone for the very first time and do not wish to engage in a long negotiation before the scene, we recommend a very short try out rope session of about three minutes.
For such a short session, the rope top must agree to:
Absolutely NO touching of body openings (mouth, eyes, nose, ears, anus, genitals), NO gags or blindfolds, NO crotch ropes, and NO breath play or ropes around the neck. NO other toys or tools, except the rope and your hands. NO suspension.
If your partner is not familiar with this 3 MINUTE TRY OUT SESSION formula and the restrictions it implies, it’s your responsibility to inform them about it.
After such a three-minute session, you are usually much more clear about what you want and do not want from this partner. It gives you the chance to feel into it, decide if you really feel comfortable with that person or not, and if you want more. You can then enter more specific negotiations, expressing what elements you would like to add, and decide on a second session with a longer time frame.
The principle of DURING-SCENE NEGOTATION
VERY IMPORTANT: Having done BEFORE-SCENE NEGOTIATION does not free you from engaging in DURING-SCENE NEGOTIATION as well. We always recommend this as a double strategy. The reason is the particular dynamic every single rope session develops: Words are tricky and sometimes what you express in negotiation can be misunderstood, misinterpreted, or simply forgotten. What you expect to feel in a certain way, might feel totally different. What you enjoy with one person might not work at all with a different partner. Your boundaries may shift and your wishes might change during a session. You might suddenly like what you usually hate, and hate what you usually like. It is obvious, but still not always clear: The frame you establish in a BEFORE-SCENE NEGOTIATION is not a script or program that you have to follow, and does not represent any kind of obligation. You are entitled to change your mind and to alter, adapt or simply end your scene, at absolutely any time.
BEFORE-SCENE NEGOTIATION does not guarantee a good scene and can even be a trap. It takes away an – ultimately desirable – element of surprise and might undermine the feeling of “loss of control” that some rope bottoms look for. That is why in some situations, experienced riggers or models might opt for DURING-SCENE NEGOTIATION only. In this case, at least the issue of relevant injuries and physical restrictions should be discussed before the scene. And there should, absolutely, also be a short declaration such as:
Rope bottom: “I give you permission to tie me and play with my body, following your intuition. I trust that you will listen when I express my boundaries and that you will respect them at all times.”
Rope top: “I thank you for the permission and trust that you will clearly express your needs and boundaries at all times, and I assure you that I will respect them.”
Nevertheless, there is a fundamental difference between BEFORE-SCENE NEGOTIATION and DURING-SCENE NEGOTIATION:
With BEFORE-SCENE NEGOTIATION you have established consent and a frame for the session, and clearly specified restrictions and boundaries. Every action outside that frame and every step over a boundary would therefore be considered as consent violation. Unintentionally or accidentally stepping over boundaries would be considered a consent accident.
If you only use DURING-SCENE NEGOTIATION, the situation is different: The session is based on intuition, sensitivity and the principle of trial and error. This demands very good communication skills, as it means a boundary may be approached, or even sometimes crossed, in the process of locating it. Be aware that if there no clear boundary is negotiated, if consent has not been established before the scene, and if no safe word has been agreed on, there can be no consent violation, only accidents because of an absence of consent. Be aware that both partners carry responsibility for such accidents.
Of course, common law is still valid: Any restriction or torture of a person against their will is a criminal act.
This means that if you are the top in a rope scene you are already in a legally precarious situation. If your rope bottom expresses any discomfort or resistance against your actions and if you nevertheless insist and keep going with what you do, then you clearly violate their consent. Even if that consent was as minimal as “OK, you can tie me.”
Of course this does not apply if the rope bottom wishes to play with resistance and enjoys being overwhelmed and forced. In that case this wish must be expressed before the scene and establishing a safe word is crucial.
DURING-SCENE NEGOTIATION for the rope top:
In an open rather than precisely negotiated session, the rope top is invited to be creative, experiment and use different techniques, tools and attitudes, as long they are introduced slowly and progressively. (If, for example, you feel the impulse to spank your partner, first give a very, very light slap and observe their reaction, before proceeding to more intense impacts, etc.) Be aware that when you shift the field of action, special attention to your partner’s approval is a must. From the necessary body contact involved in tying, to touching without technical necessity, is a big shift. From practical manipulation to physical stimulation of any kind is a big shift. Shifting from sensual to sexual intention is a huge shift. When you shift into a new form of interaction you must listen carefully to the rope bottom’s physical and verbal responses, and try to understand if they indicate approval or rejection. If in doubt, you must ask for verbal feedback or use a nonverbal communication technique.
If you suspend, always check your hanging point for stability first.
Also check in after a scene, to see if your bottom still needs anything. Check a day later that your partner is still happy about the experience.
DURING-SCENE NEGOTIATION for the rope bottom:
Remember that you are always responsible for keeping the experience healthy and valuable. Always be aware of how you feel physically, emotionally and mentally in any given moment and feel free to express yourself about your condition, emotions and sensations. Keep in mind: If it feels good, keep going, if it doesn’t feel good, stop immediately. If you don’t know if it feels good or bad, if you are confused or unsure, stop as well. You can always give it another try later. Better to end ten sessions too early than one too late.
During a scene, you can also always introduce a safe word, or use the colour code (saying “green” means “keep going”; “orange” means “slow down, you are approaching a limit”; “red” means “stop immediately”). You can ask your rigger to press your hands at regular intervals to check in; you will respond immediately: pressing back twice means “all fine”; pressing back once means “talk to me, there is a problem”, not pressing back means “end the scene immediately and bring me back to communication”.
When in suspension, regularly check your fingers still function to prevent nerve damage. Also be aware that in order to bring you to a more comfortable position, an even more painful transition is sometimes needed.
Check the hanging point yourself.
If a session goes wrong it is usually because of erroneous assumptions, false expectations and poor communication before, during and after the session. Keep in mind that 99% of all rope sessions go well and are rewarding for both rigger and model. We are empathic beings who all look for a mutually pleasant experience. Enjoy!
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