There are a lot of times when it’s just not a good idea to do rope bondage.

In fact, the list of when I personally think it’s a terrible idea to do rope bondage is actually a lot longer than when I think it is a good idea.

And most of these things revolve around emotional safety. Sure, physical safety is very very important – as I went over in some detail in the Safety Series Part 2; but those are the obvious pitfalls.

Less obvious pitfalls are the emotional ones.

A Case Study

Jane had had a terrible day at work. She’d missed lunch due to working over time to catch up on a project that was due by the end of the day. Her boss, equally stressed over the same deadline, had been on her case, frequently asking questions about her progress, and generally stressing her out and adding to an already difficult day. She went at the project as hard as she could, doing her best to ignore distractions, and finally got it done, only 15 minutes before deadline.

She was on her way home to see her husband – it was their first quiet night in awhile. They’d had her mother staying with her for the last few weeks while earthquake repairs were being done in her house, and having an extra person in the house had been… difficult. Her mother… Jane loved her really, but her mother had always thought she could do better than her husband James, and he’d picked up on that. The last three weeks had been a bit tense at times – Jane’s mother wasn’t the most subtle of people, and James was anything but dense.

But they’d gotten through it. Her mother had left the day before, she’d gotten her project done, and James and Jane could finally indulge themselves a little.

They’d started getting into rope bondage a few months before Jane’s mother had moved in, and it had been intoxicating. Jane loved it; completely loved being tied up, helpless for whatever James had in mind. They’d found out some unexpected things, like that when she was tied up she could get tremendously turned on by spanking a bit of rough play, a bit of “punishment for being naughty” role play.
Planning this night had gotten them through the last few days of the week; waiting so impatiently for Jane’s mother to go back home, and finally, here it was.

A few hours after Jane got home, both she and her husband were in the bedroom. It was a warm night, and she was struggling to relax… but somehow the rope wasn’t quite having the same effect on her as usual. The feel of it sliding over her skin, binding her wrists, wasn’t quite causing the usual reaction of arousal and feeling her skin come alive… She didn’t care though… she knew that if she just tried hard enough it would be an amazing night, and would wipe away all the bad things from today and the last few weeks.

James turned her over in one quick move, and spanked her lightly.
And then, shocking both of them, Jane burst into tears.

James got the rope off her very quickly indeed. Neither of them knew what was wrong, but they both felt awful. James wondered what he’d done wrong. Jane wondered what was wrong with her. She felt horrible for having ruined things, when always before things had been so sexy with rope involved.

Both of them felt confused and depressed for the next several days.

They didn’t try rope bondage again for three months.

What Happened:

So rope bondage is a really intense thing. It makes a person quite vulnerable. It strips away a lot of the things that make life “normal”, that are every day experiences. That’s part of what makes it hot. It takes away the normality and lets out the sensual, sexual feelings that don’t find expression in an every day context.

But that vulnerability also exposes people more to whatever feelings they might be having or have been having recently. And sometimes, those feelings are quite negative.

Jane and James had had a difficult three weeks. They were both a bit on edge from living with Jane’s mother, with the awareness of her ongoing disapproval of James. Jane herself had had a difficult day, and her personal resources were very low.

I have a sort of metaphor for this…
We all carry around with us negative feelings as well as positive ones. We all have histories – we all have baggage. And those things are static factors; they happened, we can’t change them. But we also have dynamic factors, things that we can change, which create positive feelings and are protective factors against that history.

Dynamic factors are things like how much sleep you’ve had, whether you’ve had a positive day or week, how much food and water you’ve had that day, how much stress has been going on, whether your relationships or emotional state have been stable recently, these are all dynamic factors that very much affect your emotional safety in bondage.

The more things are going right, the better. Good sleep plus the right amount of food plus a good day make it more likely for it to be emotionally safe while doing bondage. Bad sleep, not enough food, relationship conflict, stress…
That’s when it’s not a good time to have your protective normality stripped away. That’s when it’s a good time to rest, recover, and rebuild your protective factors.

This doesn’t just go for the person being tied; when you’re a rigger or a rope top, you’re invested in creating a good experience for the both of you. That urge to control, to bind, to enjoy intimacy through rope is something that exposes a fairly tender part of you – the part that society doesn’t particularly accept and understand. You can get the same highs, the same emotional intensity, that a rope bottom does, through very different means.

And with those highs come a long way to fall.

The times when I’ve felt worst in recent memory have been when a scene went wrong. When I’ve done it when I wasn’t quite feeling like it, when I’ve done rope bondage when neither myself nor the person I was tying were 100 percent sure we were up for it, but we did it anyway because we felt like we should.

It was a mistake. What should have been an intense, enthralling, intimate and connected scene where I elicited amazing feelings, sensations, and reactions from my partner fell flat… and I spend the next three days recovering emotionally from that.

To put it very simply: When you’re feeling good, rope bondage can make good things better. But when you’re feeling bad… it can make bad things hell.

Emotional stability is really, really important for rope bondage scenes. Hell, for BDSM scenes full stop. Whether you’re tying an emotionally unstable person or being tied by an emotionally unstable person, either way, the outcome is likely to be pretty bad. Better to wait for when you’re both feeling emotionally stable and positive.

This is not a hard and fast rule; as with anything, there can be exceptions. Some people find it comforting to be wrapped up in rope and petted, other people get a natural buzz from practice, and that can help. But full on intense scenes are often freaking dangerous when you’re not at your emotional best, and the fall out can be traumatic.

So be careful!

In case you’re wondering, yes, this is also me reminding myself. That’s part of the reason I wrote this now; because I think it’s a good time to go over it in my head and really solidify my own understanding of emotional safety and rope bondage.