The desire to be inclusive and have balanced discussion on bondage related topics is a commendable one. If you are able to include people that you de-facto do not agree with in conversation this can lead to interesting debate. Including a variety of opinions even those that do not agree with your own is seen as even handed and reasonable.
It is a noble and worthwhile aim.
Sometimes people get this exactly right, they include intelligent and reasonable people of all views in debate. It results in some of the more interesting forum discussions.
Sometimes though people let their desire to be seen as even handed and reasonable allow that desire to override good sense and they invite people not on the grounds that they are sensible, reasonable and intelligent contributors of all views, but simply because they disagree.
Sometimes people disagree because they are fundamentally wrong but cannot see this, sometimes because they lack the mental wherewithal to understand the argument, sometimes because they hold some ridiculous dogma and therefore lack the capacity to debate and sometimes they're just plain old fashioned mentalists.
Inclusiveness does not mean "I must include my everyone because they're opposed". Neither does it mean including a representative of every conceivable view, no matter how loony-tunes it may be. What it really means is including those that have a contribution to make from all viewpoints... providing that they are legitimate view points. Deciding what is a 'legitimate' view-point can be tricky to an extent but really just involves your ability to see if the position can be argued rationally or not regardless of your agreeing with it or not.
Including people just because 'they disagree' is not even handed, rational or likely to promote debate. And doing it doesn't make you look 'statesmanlike' it makes you look like a prat!
Though we are different, and though what we bring to the relationship is different. One's contribution is not less than the other.
Though one needs to dominate and one needs to submit. One is nothing without the other and their worth is balanced.
As people we are enhanced and lifted each by the other and not by virtue only of our part within our relationship.
The way we choose to live does not make one less than the other.
However you live, however you run your life, whatever your dynamic, any good relationship must consider the needs of each person not only the fulfilment of one and not the other no matter which way you find your fulfilment, through control or through losing it.
This is an equal relationship. It exists because of the needs, desires and love of those within it.
The reason for the title of this post is that one of the most dehumanising things I see is people being defined as things.
I say this because... things can be defined, described, they have fixed attributes, you know what they are and can talk about them with confidence knowing what they are and what to expect.
Things are defined, people are not things.
People aren't like that. They are not things easily defined, they are many things at all times. Labelling them defines them in some ways. Labels, except in the broadest possible sense are misleading. I think I tend to think of people as an ongoing process, one that changes through time, changes with experience, because of experience, develops and changes constantly to a greater or lesser extent.
Things are static, people are not things.
The words we use to describe people are useful to communicate descriptions, likes, dislikes, tastes, preferences, thoughts, about people so long as we don't think of people as being wholly defined by those words. This is particularly important where some words are 'loaded' with particular associations. This can lead people to associate value with people dependent on these words separate from that individuals worth.
Things don't think, people are not things.
We all have facets, we cannot be defined by one of them alone, it's important to remember that people are complex and full of contradictions. Logical, emotional, irrational, evolved and primal. We are in some respects prey to instincts, desires and lusts that we have no control over and are the consequence of millennia old evolutionary processes. Yet we can channel these, control them, use them for pleasure, tap the lizard brain leftovers and be our primal selves channelled by our higher brain functions.
Things don't feel, people are not things.
We are what we are, but also what we make ourselves. We are the product of our evolutionary heritage, primal instincts, education, environment, experiences and memories. We are complex brilliant and foolish. We are animals and philosophers.
People are not things.
OK so not just bondage related here. This is unfortunately the kind of thing that just applies to anyone new to kink.
When you're new predators will try to prey upon you. They honestly will!
When you are new is when you most need to be careful. Plenty of people will promise you anything, say anything, they will lie... to get into your pants.
These same people will talk about honesty, they will talk about honour, they will 'talk' with great conviction.
No not everyone you meet will be a predator, not everyone will be conniving and manipulative. Not everyone will lie to you. Not everyone, but some will. They will pick on you specifically because you don't have experience, the particular vital experience that would allow you to know that you're dealing with a predator, that's why they go for you, because they know you aren't equipped with a fully functional bullshit detector yet.
People who have met these scene predators often look back at the bullshit they were once fed and wonder how they could have eaten it, how could it not have made them throw up at the time? How could they not smell it?
It is because of those people that you must be careful. The temptation to dive headlong into a new world is massive, the temptation to believe it when someone tells you exactly what you want to hear.
You must, without destroying your faith in humanity be wary, you must defend yourself. And you defend yourself with sense, with caution and with learning and with finding out about people before taking the breaks off and diving into the deep end.
If that sounds a bit of a buzz kill it really doesn't have to be. Learning the proper safety and training for skydiving does not I promise diminish the thrill of the actual jump. And avoiding the bad outcomes of an avoidable mistake is worth a little effort.
I am NOT saying don't trust anyone, I am saying take care of yourself and exercise reasonable caution while entering a new world that you're unfamiliar with. Predators function by exploiting the newcomers ignorance.
I've said this before about rope work but get plenty of references before you play with people, and if you go to the trouble of getting references pay attention to what they say. Talk to people, people that know them, people that played with them. Observe how they play and conduct themselves.
It sounds like a lot of effort but chained up in some cellar without the option to walk away isn't the moment to think "Hang on I don't know a thing about this guy" or "Hey I said not to do that!".
Sadly there are also complete fucktards who see the scene as an endless supply of dumb newbies that will swallow any crap and then be too ashamed or frightened to speak out against them. In the worst cases blackmailers and cynical manipulators that threaten to 'out' people report them to social services, publish the pictures or whatever.
This kind of behaviour leads to people leaving the scene; and who can blame them with this kind of early experience. This also plays into the hands of the less than ethical as it removes people who could warn those that follow from the scene.
You do have to sort the wheat from the chaff. The good people in the scene do understand that, others are less prone to be sympathetic to the idea that you need time to find your feet before you let someone sweep you off them.
There are great people in the scene though, wonderful, generous, warm hearted sadistic, masochistic, kinky, perverted and depraved... absolutely lovely people and you shouldn't let the few bad ones blind you to that.
It often seems to me that people read what they want to read. Certainly this doesn't apply to everyone but for some it seems that no matter how carefully you try to phrase things, they have a view of the world; and sometimes of you, that seems to act as some kind of distorting lens that bends a picture that they don't understand or don't agree with into a shape that fits their preconceptions.
How can I get people to read what I actually wrote and not their own prejudice? How can I get them to respond with thought? How while we're at it can I get them to understand that stating my thoughts isn't necessarily implying that yours are invalid?
Often this seems to turn what they see into a high contrast black and white picture that they can view very simplistically. How can I get them to understand that sometimes there are shades of grey, what I think for one particular instance is not necessarily something to be applied indiscriminately across the whole of life and every circumstance regardless of other factors.
How can I get some people to understand that what applies to one circumstance I may discuss doesn't necessarily apply to another circumstance without this being a contradiction?
I'd like some people to try to remember that I'm not you! I don't have to agree with you, or pander to your personal beliefs.
Keeping this all in mind I'd like people to get past the automatic prejudices, triggers, conclusion jumping etc. that leads them to most irrational and illogical responses. If you're going to read something with prejudice, with preconception, with your mind made up before you begin reading, then what's the point?
How do I get people to read without prejudice? I don't know. As I said at the beginning this isn't everyone, it's certainly the minority that contact me. It's just a puzzle.
There have been some posts recently on the subject of qualified or competent teachers, codes of conduct etc. Will there ever be an accepted code of conduct for bondage teachers? A qualification? I really don't know.
There are some recognised methods taught, notably Osada Ryu which is taught in Japan, Australia and Europe. This is a method from a single teacher, will it spread, become widely accepted? I don't know. It has things to be said for it, it has accredited teachers, you can I think be assured of quality, but then it isn't for everyone. Will bondage ever head down the route of having specified, defined systems? Again I don't know.
Are defined methods even desirable? I think both yes and no. Useful for giving people the tools to do good bondage, essential safety knowledge etc. but beyond a certain point of competence perhaps not really conducive to creativity. Then again some people love bondage but are not creative and would benefit greatly from defined, well constructed bondage education.
What I do know is that the practical reality of things is that outside of the very small minority people learn from people who are not in any way qualified as bondage teachers. Outside of the confines of single source systems (with one root teacher which are self governing) there are to the best of my knowledge no qualifications as such for teaching bondage. No boards of ratification or governing bodies.
Should there be codes of conduct and governing bodies? That is a question that has answers and arguments from both sides. It is also not a question that I intend to consider here!
So what is this article about?
Once again it's about something that so many things in kink come down to... personal responsibility.
Given the above the point is that seeking someone to learn from, choosing what sources to draw from is also a matter of personal responsibility. You can't say, oh I didn't know he wasn't a very good teacher, he said he was great! And expect that to excuse your mistakes. You are responsible to take care in the choosing of a teacher.
Having said that I should probably give some advice on how to choose a teacher. I'm not going to endorse specific teachers or warn you away from others. I am I hope going to give you a reasonable starting point to help you choose a teacher for yourself. These aren't fool proof and you will have to.... wait for it.... take personal responsibility for the choices that you make. Also most of this applies to people who are actually looking to teach.
So check out their stuff, pictures, videos, if possible you should see them tie in person. It is entirely possible to have very lovely pictures whilst being less than wonderful at bondage, sweet in front but a rats nest at the back, or it looked good but something that should take a few minutes took half an hour etc. Seeing someone tie or failing that video give you a much better idea of how they tie than stills. Remember you're looking to learn bondage not how to do nice pics.
Really, really check them out. I've seen people advertising bondage lessons who were using good rigger's images as advertising material (yes mine included). People who I call vanity teachers that want to make a name for themselves by being a teacher who are driven by ego and are more concerned with how they look to others than the content of their lessons.
Get references. Sometimes people feel awkward with this but really, you're learning skills that could adversely effect someone you care about, feeling a little awkward is a small price to pay. And please get more than one reference, you might catch someone that really loves the person or someone that really hates them, and anyway if they teach there should be plenty of satisfied students more than happy to testify as to their skill. You might want to consider what it means if this turns out not to be the case.
Do they have a reasonable amount of experience? By this I mean at least a few years of actual practical experience rigging an awful lot, certainly enough to have met with and dealt with adversity, bad situations, things not gone quite as they should. Experience is something that comes with time, that is a reasonable few years of time. Saying 'a few' years is unfortunately a generalisation. Some rig for years but show no signs of benefiting from the experience some absorb their lessons quickly. I'd be very wary of someone who was offering to teach without having pretty substantial experience and a body of good work and good reputation backing them up. I personally always sigh and worry for those being taught when I see people who are only just learning themselves offering to teach.
Remember also that there are different strokes for different folks. Someone could have the greatest references in the world but still not be the teacher for you because their style isn't what you want to learn. There are lots of styles of rope bondage, take some time to work out what you want to learn and then find someone that can teach you at least a solid beginning of what you want to learn.
Beware that 'vanity teachers' and the very inexperienced are often one and the same. Often, though sadly not always experience teaches a little humility.
Don't settle for whoever's available locally if they're not the person you would really have chosen. Be prepared to invest in acquiring your skills, even if that investment is just time and travelling or if it costs you money it is your responsibility to learn the best you can, it's your responsibility to the person you're tying. Just before anyone makes a face about that I'll point out that I'm considered pretty good with rope but I am still prepared to travel (internationally if necessary) to keep on learning.
My final thought on this is... please don't half ass it. If you want to learn determine to really do it well and do your rope well. I believe a few hours with someone really good is worth more than many hours with books. You would be amazed how much and how quickly you can learn from the right teacher. So find the right teacher for you. Make sure they know their stuff, can teach you what you need to keep your partner as safe as possible.
I am not Mr Nice.
When it comes to teaching I am not.
I do do my best to be Mr Patient, Mr Understanding & Mr Informative. But let's be honest, you, I hope, didn't hire me to be your friend, you hired me to improve your bondage.
Bondage is serious and can be seriously dangerous so I take teaching bondage seriously.
I also take very seriously the responsibility of teaching. If you have a good time in a lesson that's just great, I hope you do. But that is not my goal. My goal is that you go away doing better bondage than you were before the lesson.
If you're making mistakes I'll do my best to be Mr Tactful about it. However I will not be Mr Flattery, I will not deceive you into thinking that you're doing better than you are. Nor will I fill you with a false sense of confidence or accomplishment because I'm not Mr Disingenuous.
I will not teach you beyond your ability, because I am not Mr Irresponsible.
If you are not serious about wanting to learn, do not come to me. There are plenty of teachers who will make you feel good about yourself regardless of your ability. Go to them by all means if that is what you're after. Personally in lessons I'm not trying to be Mr Likeable.
I will not praise that which is not praiseworthy.
I will do my best to improve your rope as much as I am able. I am I hope Mr Conciencious.
I am and can be many people.
I am not Mr Nice.
(As one or two people have read the first couple of paragraphs of this post and gone bonkers without reading the whole thing in context I'd like to just add this note to recommend that you read the whole thing first.
I wrote this article because people keep insisting on telling myself, my partner, friends that rope bondage is boring and slow. If they find it so then that's up to them. It's their going out of their way to tell someone that does like it that it absolutely just is that I find rude and ignorant. Also their narrow-mindedness and lack of imagination in being unable to accept that it may be a different experience for others.)
Is it? Can't say I've ever noticed that myself.
I honestly find that rope is as slow or quick as I want it to be. I think that often the reason that some people characterize rope as slow and boring is that they are themselves slow and boring.
Let's face it, without skill or imagination you can make anything boring.
There might be a secondary reason some think that rope is slow and boring. That being that someone has only watched someone slow and boring doing rope, formed their impression and being a person of limited imagination are sticking to that as an absolute. I've no idea why some people are like that but it's clear that some are.
The thing that always beggars belief is the need some people who don't do bondage have to tell other people that they don't like bondage "because it's slow" as if that were some kind of absolute truth. I don't like some kinds of play and feel absolutely zero compunction to tell people what I don't like in casual conversation. Why on earth do they need to do that? To not only be ignorant but to demonstrate their ignorance? Do they really think that people will not notice that reality doesn't match up with what they say? Do they think that you'll say 'oh wow, you're right, this thing that I really like, really is slow and boring just like you're telling me'?
One of the side thoughts that comes to me from this is the apparently automatic assumption that slow = boring. Why?
Most of the time I want sessions to last want to draw out the feeling of tying. It's not just something to be gotten out of the way. Is all your kink something to be gotten out of the way? The faster something can be done the better the kink? Well if that's what you're like with your play and sensual life that's up to you. If not, if you think that some things are worth taking your time over... well what's your point?
I think that again this can be the result of failing to see the possibilities. Some seem to see bondage only as an means to an end something to be done before kink rather than being a kink and therefore cannot see beyond their preconception. There's nothing wrong with using bondage as a means to an end but that's not the same as being unable to see that it can be more than a means to an end.
Rope bondage can indeed be quick and utilitarian. It can take seconds... or it can take hours if you choose. One of its great strengths is that it is so flexible. Rope is infinitely flexible but you need to acquire skills to make use of that flexibility.
Once you have the skills you can make rope anything from sensual to extremely torturous. Extremely quick to indefinitely drawn out. The choice becomes yours.
Slow and boring?
If you know what you're doing you can make it slow and interesting............ and hot and sensual and nasty and loving and painful and...
Sometimes things are a bit too precious to brag about.
I've received some wonderful compliments from some awesome people and yet I can't really bring myself to share them.
I think that this is one of the reasons I am so bad at self publicity. I just can't, I can't really explain it. Recently I blogged about the incredible experience we had with Grand Master Yukimura Haruki and posted a picture of us receiving the wonderful surprise of a hand calligraphied board after a day learning with him and I feel kind of a show off for posting that. But I can't help it. An amazing time and such a wonderful happy memory. I was so happy to be there. And so many thanks to clover without whom we wouldn't have been there. And to Max at the Copenhagen shibari dojo without who's tireless efforts that week would not have happened at all.
I don't know why it is but I feel like... these things are for having, for holding within and that using them to say "hey look at me!" would tarnish them and reduce their value to me.
Somewhere buried deep inside is the seemingly unmovable thought that if I'm good enough my work will stand on its own merits. There is also something that wants to keep these wonderful moments within. To know that they're there. To be warmed by that and to feel that I have not disrespected the kindness of someone I respect.
I do what I do because I love it. I've certainly never made a profit from any venture in rope. No actually that's wrong. I've profited a lot. I've made great friends, I've visited places I never would have gone, done things I never would have had the chance to do.
I've gone places I've come to love, with someone I love and done stuff that I loved, and made new friends we love.
Truly great masters of this art have said things that nearly made my head explode, and I don't even know what to say about that.
I feel that some of those things should live within.
One phrase that tends to set my nerves a little on edge is when people say I've done X therefore I'm good at Y.
- I've done sailing; therefore I'm good at rope bondage
(because they both involve rope)
- I've done climbing; therefore I'm good at rope bondage
(because they both involve rope)
- I've done engineering; therefore I'm good at rope bondage
(because bondage is just engineering)
- I've done knife fighting; therefore I'm good at cookery
(because they both involve knives)
1, What this assumes is that... because bondage involves knots being good at knots is the same as being good at bondage. While you do need to be able to tie the odd knot for bondage the majority of the skills that make you good at bondage are not tying knots.
2, This is often quoted when it comes to suspension. What I'll say here is that climbers can have a lot of good knowledge where it comes to equipment and creating secure points to work from. The knowledge is good for that reason and purpose but does not translate into bondage. Climbing has very little to do with binding the human body.
3, While having the kind of mind that can understand engineering aspects it doesn't teach much about binding the human body. Purely technical knowledge has it's place very much so above the suspension point for instance. An engineers knowledge of structure and material properties can be very useful in informing you if a point is likely to be robust enough to hang your suspension point.
4, This one was kind of a joke to make a point about about not assuming that "It involves rope therefore I'm good at bondage" isn't always a valid statement.
Personally I can say that I've climbed, sailed competitively in my youth, have an engineering degree (no I've not been a knife fighter). I have years of practical engineering experience and design experience. However I don't for a second believe that they in any way make me automatically good at rope bondage. Only learning and perusing bondage itself has done that. None of this is saying that these things are not useful or beneficial to know. I always use climbing rated biners and slings for my hanging hard points from beams needs; because I know damn well that they're more than man enough for the job I'm asking them to do. I benefit from my engineering knowledge and experience in judging the strength of beams or in designing suspension frames.
So don't think I'm devaluing this knowledge it is valuable, just remember that it's not bondage knowledge, you're working with a human not just an engineering project. Medical knowledge is also very useful, it's not bondage knowledge in and of itself but it is invaluable in informing your bondage in many ways.
After all you wouldn't apply it the other way, "I'm good at bondage therefore I'm good at mountaineering" or "I'm good at bondage therefore I'm a good sailor" You might well be able to tie off a line but sailing requires you to know other sailing specific things.
The connections between many skills is only peripheral.
I know some people say things like "But they give you general dexterity and rope handling skills, surely that's a help". Yes I agree, rope handling skills and dexterity are very useful. They are however not specifically sailing, climbing, engineering or even cooking specific skills. They are useful to all of the mentioned pursuits but are not skills unique to that pursuit if you follow the meaning. They could have been learned in any of the mentioned pursuits or any one of many more, they could have been learned in isolation, they can be learned in bondage itself. They are if you like baseline human skills that are useful in many fields but not specific to any.
The only real point I want to make is that I actually see people saying in so many words, I'm good at X and therefore will be good at bondage. This is a misconception. They may have some knowledge that's peripherally useful but that doesn't make them automatically good at bondage any more than knife fighters are automatically good chefs.