Welcome to the first part of the Bondage Hardware Special. You can find an overview of the different texts of this six part series here.
For many people rope is the first kinky toy they make contact with because it is widely available, inexpensive and with a little practice enables you to do quite secure and creative bondage scene. However with so many different varieties on the market I am starting out this special on bondage hardware with rope.
First a disclaimer: I am not good with ropes. I don’t have the patience (and frankly the hand-eye-coordination) to learn enough skills that I would find sufficient for a scene. Because of that I invested so much money into leather restraints. In order to get you the high quality of information you are used from my website I did extensive research and talked to experts. Also I want to clarify that I neither see any superiority in rope or leather restraints. A few decades ago people who used rope were looked down on because they could not afford leather restraints; today it sometimes feel a bit that people look down on other who “have to” use leather restraints because they cannot handle ropes. Both are valid methods of bondage which have a place in our diverse scene!
There number of different materials rope is made out of is nearly infinite. So this section raises no claim to completeness. I will cover the most common materials; if you have a question about a material I have not talked about just send me an e-mail.
Materials not usable for bondage
First I want to talk about materials that are not made for bondage. Especially after Fifty Shades of Grey a friend who works at the ER told me about a lot of injuries the resulted from using this materials. Most of them can be found in every house hold so when you are horny and nothing to fetter is around it is good to keep this list in mind to stay away from them:
- Any kind of yarn
- Fishing or kite Lines
Material usable for bondage
These materials can theoretically be used for bondage and can be sorted into two groups: Natural and synthetic materials. The most common used natural material is cotton. It is soft, inexpensive and easy to care for. However through the smooth surface knots can travel and if you take one without a solid core knots can tighten. This problem doesn’t occur with hemp rope. Its rougher surface keeps knots in place and them from tightening. Hemp rope is more expensive, a little bit stiffer, when wet nearly impossible to untie and a bit complicated to care for. Natural hemp rope is too hard and too rough for play. In order to make it ready for bondage you have to boil it. After doing so it needs to dry under tension otherwise it will shrink. Once dried you need to oil it. You can get pre-treated hemp rope from Twisted Monk which Mr S just started stoking. It is one the more expensive side yet definitely worth the money. Besides hemp and cotton more or less common materials for rope are sisal, silk, bamboo, coconut husks, burlap and linen. I have seen all of them used for human bondage though they all have their different weaknesses and strength and are hard to come by in a quality that would allow to fetter a person without danger. So if you want a natural material, stick to cotton and hemp.
Besides natural materials they are countless polymers spun into rope. It is impossible to cover all so here are two variants I could advice using: floating rope used in sailing and soft nylon rope. The advantage of synthetic material is that it mostly comes certified for a certain breaking load so you can easily asses if it fits your profile. To check if it should be used for bondage please take a look at all the properties listed in next paragraph. An advantage of synthetic rope is that when you shorten it you can easily weld the ends so it doesn’t fray. Natural rope has to either be sowed properly, whipped (thin yarn spun around the end of the rope) or put a polymer shell like shrinking tubing over the end and weld it.
The property of rope is defined by six major factors which determined whether a rope should be used for bondage or not. I strongly advise to either inspect the rope in store before you purchase it or order a sample to check if you like the rope. As always it is wasted money to buy rope you do not really like because good cared for rope will last you a lifetime!
There are two common ways to make rope. First there is plaited rope that comes in three varieties. One of them is squareline which produces a roughly rectangular rope. It is mostly used for haswers and thus through the thickness and weight not made for bondage. I have seen thinner versions which could theoretically be used for bounding someone. However its knot properties are bad so I would not recommend using it. The next one is hollow braiding. This kind of rope is made out of weight bearing threads and hollow inside. This makes it ideal for splicing which is opening up the rope. A disadvantage of it is that knots can travel or even tighten so I would not recommend it. The last variety is core-mantel-braiding. A strong, weight bearing core is surrounded by a woven mantel that protects it from abrasion and environmental influences. The cores come in soft and hard varieties. Only the soft one is made for bondage (see: 3. Flexibility). Depending on the mantel material knots can travel with core-mantel-braided rope.
The second common was is the one most hemp and cotton rope is made: It is twisted rope. It is made by spinning threats of alternating rotational direction under tension. I prefer this style of rope because knots neither travel not tighten with it. However it cannot be spliced.
A common problem of using “wrong” rope is so called “rope burn”. It is irritation of the skin when rough rope travels over it to quickly so through the friction it gets hot; hot enough to create real burns! In order to prevent rope burns the surface of rope should be smooth and soft. Sometimes especially with syntactical rope the surface might appear smooth but the gaps between the individual threats are large enough to create rope burn. So before purchasing grab a piece of rope and quickly pull it over the palm of your hand. If it gets uncomfortable or too warm, this rope is not made for bondage!
In order to wrap rope tightly around a body and place knots where you want or need them rope has to be flexible enough. It can easily be tested by tying a simple figure-of-eight knot. If you can’t tighten it without much force, the rope is too stiff for bondage. A good rule of thumb is that the thicker the rope or the tighter it is made the less flexible it gets.
Bondage rope comes in four major thicknesses, all for different purposes.
4mm: Best for tie off body areas, p.e. genital or breast bondage. Not really made for body bondage.
6mm & 8mm: Made for all bondage purposes. It is kind of a dogmatic question whether you think 6mm or 8mm is ideal for bondage.
10mm: Also made for all bondage purposes but a bit too thick for “practical” bondage in the playroom. It has more presence on the body so it is best used for pictures.
Any thickness below 6mm will dramatically increase the likelihood of tying off limbs so only use it for controlled scenarios like genital bondage. Anything below 4mm I consider too dangerous to be used on human beings. If you go above 10mm thickness most rope becomes too stiff. While it is not dangerous to use it is in my opinion a too much pain in the ass to be used for scenes.
- Breaking load
In a nutshell Breaking load measures the loads under which a certain material will break (I will talk more about breaking load part three of this series). If you stick to rope thicker than 6mm you will have no problem with breaking load regardless of the material as long as you are not using a single rope for suspension.
As every toy most kinds of rope need to be cared for in order to bring you long lasting joy. After having been exposed to body fluids I recommend washing your rope using a fine detergent, low temperature and storing the rope in a pillow case. While you can hang cotton and synthetic rope just onto a cloth line and let it dry, most other natural fibers need care (p.e. hemd rope need to dry under tension, pulled through a carabiner once dried in order to soften and finally being oiled) before they can be stored away.
Beyond these properties there are also ropes with added features out there which might make your bondage experience easier. Mister B offeres pre-spliced cotton rope for easier bondage. In sail stores you can find rope with metal reinforced eyelets or with shackles attached to the end.
This chapter is again a dogmatic one: Which rope length do you need to bondage? Depending on what kind of bondage you want to create different lengths are good for you. I would generally not recommend buying ropes longer than 10m because they are too difficult to handle. Better learn a simple knot to connect ropes and thus connect different tied body areas instead of trying to handle one long one. With this you can of cause incorporate different colors into your growing web. I did a little survey under my rope dedicated friends and the consensus is that this is a good set to start out with: 2x 10m, 2x 5m, 2x 3m. Because your rope collection will grow as you get more experienced and do more elaborate bondage I recommend purchasing rope from a source where you are certain that you will get the same rope even after a few years so you can maintain a set. This is the case with most sail stores, roperies and special bondage rope vendors like Twisted Monk.
Theoretically you can just throw dry ropes into a container for storage. However I would not recommend it. First it is disrespectful towards the toys and second – for most people probably the more important reason – it can tangle up there. While you can just coil rope for storage I recommend daisy chaining it (here is the Wikipedia article and a YouTube tutorial how to do it). Daisy chained rope does not only look stylish but it also takes up less space, can be transported in a bag without tangling and you can instantly find the middle of the rope which is handy for some bondage purposes. It takes some practice to learn daisy chaining but once you got it you can quickly and easily store make your rope storable.
Learning the Ropes
Rope bondage is not hard to learn. You don’t need to know many complicated knots; two or three easy ones are enough for most situations. There are a lot of videos on YouTube that will teach you all kinds of rope bondage from simple to elaborate. However the quality of the video content varies from outstanding good to outstanding dangerous. Also, I am not a big fan of videos because it continues running and is already two steps ahead while you still try the first knot. But if you want trusted video tutorials visit Midori’s Vimeo page.
I personally would recommend books to start out with. If you are German spoken I highly recommend “Bondage – Der Gefesselte Mann” from Tom Schmitt. It is the classic, a little dryly written but no non-sense. If you like it a bit more pornographic get “Tie Me Up!” from Stephan Niederwieser. Both are explicitly for gay men. Mr S and Twisted Monk carry a few books and even DVDs on bondage which seems to be targeted at men and women. And of cause there are Midori’s books on Japanese bondage.
Since rope bondage is the entry into the kink world, in most metropolitan centers you can find courses. In Germany I can recommend the rope bondage workshops of the MLC in Munich and Quälgeist in Berlin. If you are in the USA and really want to get into rope bondage visit one of Midori’s Rope Dojos which take place twice a year.
In the next part of this series “Rope Substitutes” I will talk about the means to tie somebody down without rope.