These days, I like to think that I’m pretty reasonable with rope bondage and using rope to create hot times.
But believe me, it’s been a journey. There have been some real bloopers along the way, and embarrassing though they are, I’ve decided to share them with you so that you don’t go through what I did.
Every single mistake listed taught me very real, meaningful, and important lessons that have helped me be more successful in creating positive, intense, and erotic experiences for me and my play partners.
Mistake 1: Thinking It Has To Look Pretty.
When you go online, and you look for how to do rope bondage and how to tie people up… a lot of the pictures that you’re going to come across are going to look AMAZING. You’re going to see intricately crafted ties that display the human body to perfection, and you’re going to think “Wow. I hope one day that I’m that good.”
When I started doing rope bondage, most of my learning was done online, using the internet. Strangely enough, the public libraries don’t have a lot of books on bondage; and neither did local book stores. I discovered Fetlife, and also discovered Kinky and Popular, where every other rope photo was this gorgeously tied construction that apparently had the rope bottom arching in ecstasy.
And this heavily influenced my conception of what rope bondage was supposed to be. In a big way. After all this online learning, I found myself really concerned about how the rope looked. I would look at a tie I had just done, and if it didn’t look “right” then I felt anxious that I wasn’t doing it correctly. I was never going to measure up to that asshole who had previously tied my partner and gotten her into rope bondage. I felt like I was inferior.
And my partner picked up on that… and wasn’t impressed. She wanted to play, and be tied up, but she also picked up on the fact that I was obsessing over how it looked, and was insecure about it, and to be honest, she really didn’t like that. She was looking for similar experiences to what she used to have; and this wasn’t it.
So I kept practicing, and kept learning, and kept studying.
It wasn’t until I acted as a rope model for a friend who was learning rope bondage the same way that I realized just how badly I was going wrong. She tied me to my computer chair, and was working on a leg tie, when she had a melt down over the fact that it didn’t look “right”.
I honestly didn’t care; I thought it looked fine, and I was safely restrained, and I was kind of curious about what she’d decide to do next… but she was too upset and stressed over not doing it “right” to be able to continue.
That was an important moment for me. Because I realized that during play, as long as it’s safe, then the person being tied up really doesn’t care how it looks; it’s much more important how the rope feels. Restrained? Check. No bad pain? Check. Ooh, I’m all helpless. Anything could happen. What’s going to happen next? Can’t wait to find out…
The final nail in the coffin of that particular piece of faulty thinking was a year or so later, when I realized that nearly every piece of really pretty rope bondage I had seen… had been part of a photoshoot. That rope bondage had been designed with the primary purpose of looking good, not having hot sexy times. A lot of the rope artists and riggers who had created those pictures had also been dabbling in photography… so not only was the rope bondage designed to look pretty, there had been lighting and equipment and all kinds of stuff to improve how it looked.
And I wanted to smack my younger self for being a doofus.
The lesson? Pictures of rope bondage are just that – pictures. They may look pretty, but they say absolutely nothing about the feelings or the hotness of the situation. Your rope bondage needs to be functional and safe; pretty comes with photoshoots and a change in focus away from your partner.
Mistake 2: Expecting People To React In A Particular Way.
Another part of my rope learning was watching videos and performances online. This was huge. I learned so much from doing this, and I strongly recommend it for anybody learning rope bondage… but with a warning attached.
I saw people doing lots of things, amazing things. I saw suspensions. I saw people in acrobatic transitions and “suffering beautifully”. I saw the most gorgeous, emotional moments between rigger and bottom. And always, I saw rope bottoms looking utterly entranced by the rope.
And I wanted to make that happen.
However, no matter what I did, it didn’t work that way for my partner. She wanted to be restrained, sure… but she wasn’t into the rope itself. She was more into the struggling, the capture, the theme of consensual non-consent. She didn’t want the sensuality of rope… she wanted the restriction of restraint. However, she wasn’t great at communicating that. And I was thinking, again, that I was doing something wrong.
However, when I tied someone new… she relaxed immediately into my arms as if she had been sedated. Just went boneless, limp.
- The next person after that ended up falling asleep in my rope, hypnotized by the sounds and the movements of tie after tie after tie.
- The next person after that got incredibly turned on as soon as she was tied and I began moving her about. Just these insanely breathy, gasping reactions.
- The next after that got so turned on as soon as the rope went on that she nearly vibrated.
- The next after that again enjoyed a good struggle, and started to as soon as I began to tie her.
So I learned that it’s a very, very bad idea to have prior expectations of how I can make a person react… because everyone is wired differently, and reacts differently.
Furthermore, I went back to those videos, and in a lot of them, I realized that a lot of the people I was watching get tied up were trained, experienced rope bottoms. These were people who had had a lot of practice in rope, learning how to process the sensations of being suspended, conditioning themselves to sink into it and enjoy the pain. You simply can’t expect inexperienced people to react like that… because they’re not used to it, and haven’t learned to process it and make the most of it. Additionally, those emotional moments? They were part of a long journey together, built on hundreds of interactions. There was more there about the relationship than about the rope.
The lesson, and the warning: Everyone reacts differently, and what you see online is usually the result of a long journey, filled with LOTS of practice and development.
Mistake 3: Adding in New Sensations Without Discussion
Let’s say rope bottom A really likes flogging, and rope bottom A also really likes rope bondage.
It naturally follows that putting them together is going to work out, right?
Those were my thoughts watching a hot porn video involving both rope bondage and flogging. “I should do that! It looks fun, and A really likes both rope bondage and flogging!”
This, in retrospect, was one of my stupider mistakes.
Because I did not prepare her for that.
We had done flogging scenes. We had done rope bondage scenes. We had never combined the two. And I thought it would be a fun surprise.
In practice, she damn near went into shock.
I spent about three hours looking after her immediately after that – when if I had actually discussed it with her first, she would have had some mental preparation and processed the experience a whole lot differently, and we both would have had an awesome time.
The lesson: Adding in new stimulus without discussion or preparation is fucking dangerous as hell. While sometimes bottoms may say they like surprises, some kinds of surprises are a very, very bad idea.
Mistake 4: Not Taking Enough Care Of Myself
I checked in with my partner before play. She had had enough sleep, had had a good day, had eaten and drank enough water, etc… so we were all good!
We tied, and we played, and as usual in rope time, hours flew by. And something was weird…
I began to realize that my emotional volatility was way higher than usual. I wasn’t my usual solid, in control self… I was experiencing very quick changes in mood and feeling, from sadistic to tender to playful to silly to serious. And my bottom was noticing as well, because I was giving us both mood whiplash. It was scary in a whole new way for her…
So I stopped the scene. Smart call = shit’s getting weird and out of control, so stop the scene.
But that volatility wasn’t going away. At this time, it was about 5pm… and I suddenly realized that I’d had breakfast, and a snack around eleven, but that I myself hadn’t eaten enough that day.
I had a very decent meal, and felt tons better.
The lesson; As Tops, we’re often taught by Fetish culture to prioritize the safety and the wellbeing of the bottom. And that is continually reinforced, all the time, by Fetlife and BDSM culture. But we need to stop and actually make sure we’re looking after ourselves enough too. We are not BDSM vending machines; we have needs and requirements and we need enough sleep, enough food, enough water, and enough emotional self care as well. This is HUGE, and it is not reinforced enough.
The consequences of not looking after ourselves happen to both us and the people we play with.
Mistake 5: Irregular Practice
As a rope Top, I’ve been reasonably proficient at ties and all the things I want to do. I practiced a lot when I was first starting out, until I felt confident in my ties and my movements, and that I had good control of my rope. That took awhile, due to other factors as well, but I got there.
So I eased up on that practice. After all, I knew what I was doing with rope bondage, right?
I also got into flogging, and other forms of impact and sensation, and focused on those for awhile.
So about three months after that, I went to do a rope scene. I had absolutely no nervousness about this, and no concerns about my ability….
Until I went to do a double column tie, and realized I’d forgotten a lot of those little rope handling tips that make it all easier. My movement were really stiff and clumsy, I wasn’t controlling my rope as well as I remembered.
I finished the tie, and went to do a nifty pentagram harness I’d done lots of times in the past… and realized I’d forgotten the pattern for it. I had to substitute something else instead. And still, I didn’t tie with nearly the control that I remembered.
It was a sobering experience.
I still pulled off the scene, and my bottom had a good time, but I was shaken at how easily I’d lost a lot of that skill.
The lesson: Rope bondage is NOT like riding a bike. It’s a lot more complex, and there’s a lot more that goes into doing it well than just remembering the patterns. So you need to do skill maintenance practice; I recommend about once a week. This might be tying particular patterns or cuffs – but the rope handing skills can also be practiced as a part of that.
Addendum: It’s also a good idea to practice the ties you’re going to use in a planned scene before said scene, so that they’re fresh in your muscle memory.
Mistake 6: Doing Rope Bondage With The Wrong Person.
My journey in rope bondage has been going for awhile… and I’ve tied a fair few people now, for different reasons. Photoshoots, play, rope lab, etc… and a lot of it has been fun. I’ve encountered some great people to tie… and I’ve encountered some really not so great people to tie. I made this mistake twice, which is unusual for me.
Who Not To Tie: People Who Don’t Support Your Learning
That’s a big one.
I got into rope bondage for a particular person; I wanted to give her a great experience with it. However, at the beginning, I was nervous and insecure about it. And she was looking to enjoy the same experience she’d had with a past lover.
That wasn’t a good mix.
We had some good experiences; but overall, she became discouraged and less inclined to do it. I wasn’t at the same level as her previous partner; it wasn’t the same experience; she didn’t see the point. I persevered regardless. I eventually got a lot better at it. But in her head, I was still fixed at the level of inexperienced and anxious, no matter how much time had passed or how much she’d seen me practice. First impressions? Maybe.
But she didn’t have any confidence in me, no matter how much I improved, and that seriously affected our play, and my confidence with rope.
The next person I tied was during that same relationship (yes, I am polyamorous, and it was an open relationship) and she had a fantastic time. She joined me on my journey, and we learned more about rope and rope bondage together, which was a hugely bonding experience. It made rope as a means of interaction between us feel more special.
But that first person never joined me. She didn’t invest the patience or the time to be supportive. And it really, really sucked, especially as I’d originally taken it up for her.
The lesson; Tie people who are looking to enjoy rope bondage with YOU, not looking for a particular experience. You are not a vending machine, to be discarded when you don’t dish out the experience wanted. Life is a journey, and so is building skills and experience. If they don’t want to join you and learn with you… they’re not worth your time.
The Other Person Not To Tie is: The Person Who Externalises Personal Responsibility.
Rope bondage is an interaction. The bottom relies on the top to tie them safely and well; the Top relies on the bottom to monitor their safety and warning signs and let the Top know if something isn’t right. Both need to own their responsibilities, and the consequences for their decisions to participate.
What you never ever need is someone to blame you for the outcome of their decision to join you in a stressful rope scene.
This happened to me, and it was a deeply wounding experience. We’d had a very good time, and I’d really enjoyed sharing only to have it shat on. It had been my first suspension; we’d gone over risks, and I’d tied as safely as I could. Nothing had gone wrong. We’d smiled and laughed and had an awesome time.
But the next day, the person I tied had sore muscles, and was angry at me about it. She divested all responsibility onto me for how she felt, despite her decision to participate in that suspension.
It basically ruined all the joy I’d felt regarding that first suspension and our day together, and to this day really discolours the experience in my memory.
There are other risks there too; if the person you tie is in the habit of making someone else responsible for everything, then again, if anything goes wrong in the scene, regardless of the communication involved, then there’s a very real risk of her blaming you for it, whether she told you or not. And again, that can be emotionally traumatic.
Same person, different scene. Didn’t tell me when there was “bad pain”. Blamed me for not knowing.
The lesson; Tie and play with people who agree to communicate about the risks and demonstrate the capacity and willingness to own their responsibility in all play that you do. It’s not worth the trauma and fallout if they do otherwise. It really, really isn’t.
So those have been my most epic mistakes as a rope top; And from each and every one, I learned valuable lessons, which have improved my skills and decision making. I hope none of you make those same mistakes!