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Book: Somatics for rope bottoms (2021)

You can listen to this musing here, or read it below.

My friend Natasha Nawataneko sent me her book called Somatics for Rope Bottoms, so I read it, and now I’ll dedicate this weekly musing to my thoughts on it. My first impression is that this book is not for me, as I mainly tie nowadays. The book is a fellow companion for rope bottoms exploring what makes their experience meaningful, and the answer is often found in the body. I habitually tend to arrange things hierarchically—things like concepts, such as surrendering the physical body is less “deep” than offering one’s devotion. And I also put things in relation to one other, like the polarity between surrendering and submitting. It helps beginners to approach my area of expertise. However, I often believe that the question is more valuable; for example, what is the relationship between surrendering the physical body and devoting oneself? And this is what the book left me with, questions, to ask myself, to structure my view of rope bondage.

I’ve known Natasha for a few years, and I think we have similar ideas on why to do rope bondage. Her questions centre around twelve areas; intention, consent, attention, communication, breathing, center, limits, surrender, safety, pain, emotions and risk profile. Reading the book, I become curious to pass it on to the people I regularly tie with and learn how they answer the questions. But to write about this book from a rigger’s perspective, I kind of end up in what I enjoy about the people I love to tie. Because I think that is a result of them thinking about similar questions as Natasha is proposing.

Most importantly, they invite me onto their journey and trust me to share what is happening. One person often jokes that she needs to develop a poker face, and I hope she doesn’t. I ravel in the intensity of their feelings. There is an attention to detail, to the delicate nuances of emotions. The scream is enjoyable, but the slow winding road leading up to it is even more delicious. Together we share the intention to build that bubble, shutting the world outside off, and devoting ourself to this practice. Natasha calls it Kinbaku, Japanese Rope Bondage, and sure it is that. But in a way, it’s more remarkable than that for me, because its the most delicate fabric of human interaction. This complete attention to what is. There is an effort to go here, and I can’t do it alone, and I can’t force someone along. It’s a journey that we do together.

I’m curious about how we agree to go there; to make the effort. I tie weekly with two-three different people, and we share a commitment that this is what we want. But there are also the strangers. The ones I meet randomly at festivals, parties and travels. And somehow I know that they are willing to create this space together. Its usually never put into words during flirting, consent or after-talk. Because I believe that this longing existed long before, and it is why we gravitate towards each other. I’ve been to so many rope parties where most people are running around trying to make time to tie with as many people as possible, while I have been sitting, often alone, waiting for the stranger to walk next to me. And it almost always works. I don’t know why. That is also a part of the mystery that I love.

There is the shared responsibility, as my partner co-create the experience with me. Most of the physical experience happens in their body, so they have much more access to it than me. I can read their breathing, muscle tension, etc., but they have the whole nervous system, directly interfacing the brain, that evaluates the situation. I can’t compete with that. Therefore, the people I love to tie must be interested in sharing the experience, instead of checking out with their self-produced body drugs. Read the text Pain and Kinbaku if you are curious about it.

They take the responsibility of sharing their emotions with me and communicating the information that I can’t access. So what is my responsibility in this co-creation then? To not make fucked up ties? Sure, that is important, but it comes pretty low on the list. My primary responsibility is to provide the overall narrative, focused on my pleasure, in the broadest sense of the word. It can be anything from my perverted desires to my asshole innocent sadistic tendencies or the aesthetical dedication to a ritual. They have to be curious about me, which is essential because it gives them a reason to suffer physically and emotionally. If you now wonder why anyone would like to suffer in ropes, you can read my text Suffering in bondage. Of course, rope bondage doesn’t have to be about suffering, but it is the biggest motivation that keeps me going in my private practice. Another way of putting words on this is the idea of submission versus surrender that I wrote about here.

The number one skill that I appreciate right now in my partners is how they communicate, emotions and practical information, without overtaking the narrative. There is this old idea that a relationship works best when there are seven positives for every negative. So if the only feedback I get as the rigger is bad, bad bad, then I’ll quickly become demotivated. So they communicate more like – This is how I’m suffering right now, for you, and thank you for doing it to me. That is hard; it requires a lof vulnerability and clarity about what we are doing together. And it goes the other way around; I need to communicate the seven positives; that I’m grateful for the journey together, you are beautiful. And preferably we do this non-verbally.

I remember a conversation I had with Natasha about suffering and love. In Sweden, we fear suffering, and we love our individualistic selves, as the most independent country in the world. In Russia, Natasha told me, love is suffering. Definitely for your partner in ropes, but also your country. How much is one willing to sacrifice for something outside oneself? I believe that the people I love to tie are not very Swedish in this sense. Finally, I recommend the book, from a rope bottoms perspective it made me interested in being tied again; reconnecting to the story, my body is always telling if I stop and listen.