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The Art of Shibari: There’s More To Bondage Than What You Think

Read Time: 6 minutes

It’s a performance art that encourages sex, body and kink positivity

 

 

Shibari, which means “to tie,” is an ancient Japanese form of rope bondage. Yes, bondage, also the ‘B’ in BDSM (but not limited to such practice, especially since Shibari came 80 years prior to the coining of BDSM). But before your thoughts spiral out of control and straight into the Fifty Shades realm, let us stop you right there. Shibari may often be associated with fetish practitioners and latex body suits but what many don’t know is that it’s a learned skill. What’s more, the benefits transcend the sexual. In fact if done right and with respect for the Rope Bottom or the person being trussed up, it can be mentally stimulating and relaxing.

 

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The Origin

In 1400 to 1700 Japan, Samurai warriors used Hojo-jutsu, the martial art of restraining captives, as a form of torture and imprisonment. However being honorable warriors, they were required to treat their prisoners well. Different techniques were then used to bind and denote a prisoner’s status and honor. Meanwhile between the late 1800s and early 1900s, a new form erotic bondage evolved called Kinbaku (we’ll touch on that later).

 

Elements of Shibari

Shibari, as we’ve mentioned in the beginning, is an art form. To put it into context if it were a painting, the Rope Bottom (also affectionately called Rope Bunny by practitioners) is the canvas, the rope itself is the paint and brush, and the Rope Top or rope artist a.k.a the person doing the tying as, well, the artist. Put all these elements together and you get a visual that depicts strength and beauty, sensuality and vulnerability.

 

Rope Space

While we at Wonder have yet to experience shibari ourselves, research has led us to just some of the benefits a willing and open-minded individual can get from rope bondage. For one, knots positioned in the right places can stimulate pressure points on the body, thus stimulating energy flow and transfer. Rigging is also said to induce physiological conditions known as “sub space” and “top space” which are similar to runner’s high. In shibari, the feeling is called “rope space” or “spacing,” “a generally euphoric altered state of consciousness that manifests differently per person.”

  

All that research yet it feels like we’ve only scratched the surface. To understand it better and give it justice, we struck up a conversation with rope artist and Shibari.ph founder Dee.

 

Bondage & Butterflies, Photography by Les Filles de Pigalle via Shibari.ph

 

Hi Dee, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I’m one of the lucky few who are out of the closet regarding kink. My family, friends and web consulting clients know and have been amazingly supportive of my advocacies. I believe in helping our communities maximize delight and minimize (non-consensual!) pain by being respectful, empathic and inclusive. I do this by practicing, sharing and holding modest events (with an average of 6 to 14 participants) on the art of Japanese style rope bondage.

 

How did you learn about shibari? What about it caught your attention?

I leapt at the chance when a really good friend invited me to a workshop in 2013. I was 23 then and drawn by the sheer boldness of the taboo, erotic and creative appeal of (and being) someone bound with rope.

It was thrilling: the shaping of the body, the challenges of construction, the physical sensations and even the (surprising) tranquility from being restrained. 

Over time, my attraction to the art evolved as I was exposed to more of its cultural background, history and traditional practice. What kept me hooked was how Japanese rope bondage wasn’t limited to just patterns drawn on the skin. It turns out that Shibari’s raw intensity and delightful sincerity also lets us communicate feelings wordlessly to our partners, friends, or lovers—strengthening our bonds in the process.

 

RELATED: A Crash Course on How To Get into BDSM in Metro Manila

 

What made you decide to try it out? Can you share the process?

Trying it out was as straightforward as showing up on the day and getting down to business thanks to how welcoming people were and how contrary to the mean and grumpy stereotypes they turned out to be.

 

In retrospect, I was lucky to feel more excited rather than apprehensive. Being an average looking boy with training in Filipino martial arts helped reduce the pressure for me to worry about unwanted advances and threats to my physical safety. I can only imagine how much scarier the prospect of attending might have been if I were female (or female-identifying), attending alone and without any self-defense experience. That’s why I’m glad we have groups addressing those concerns now by speaking up about topics like negotiation and consent, strictly enforcing rules on privacy and kinky conduct at events, and reiterating our commitment to make these spaces safer for everyone interested in joining.

 

How do you feel when you tie someone up? Have you ever tried being tied yourself?

Tying makes me happy for different reasons. I like the intellectual challenge of deconstructing or designing new ties. I love sharing what I’ve learned with friends so that they can enjoy it with their partners, too. More than anything though, I feel the happiest when I’m able to genuinely connect with and make my partners feel good. Good’s subjective though so depending on the negotiation, that could mean being relaxed enough to fall asleep in my rope, being teased or aroused during sensory bondage, or just being so thoroughly bound that they can struggle all they want until they’re satisfied enough to melt into a calm surrender.

 

I’m a rope switch (can switch between the two roles) but I unfortunately do more rope topping than bottoming since I’m selective with who gets to tie me. My favorite rope artist (and fellow switch) would be Toni who runs the Manila Rope group, the PH’s oldest rope bondage-focused kink group and home of both Peer Rope and Hitchin’ Bitches Philippines.

Toni’s way of tying is inspiring and you’ll have a hard time finding anyone who has been in her ropes that doesn’t speak fondly of her technical skill in the Japanese style, commitment to safety and respect for consent, or her ability to delicately balance sensuality with sadism to create an experience that stays with you long after you’ve been untied.

 

I owe a great deal of my growth as a rope artist to Toni as it was through her bondage that I saw how my Shibari could become closer to Kinbaku.

 

We’ve read about Kinbaku, too. But how is it different from Shibari?

My studies revealed that the two terms are interchangeable but some people prefer to distinguish between the two by saying that Shibari is the practice that observes Japanese style techniques and aesthetics, while Kinbaku is when there’s also an emotional exchange or connection between the rope partners!

 

What made you decide to get into shibari knowing the stigma attached to it?

Thankfully, the stigma didn’t scare me. I already had a penchant for being off the straight path: I was bi, sex positive and an agnostic atheist (not to mention friends with a barkadaof wickedly stylish goth friends)—so exploring BDSM wasn’t a difficult decision. I figured I at least had the wardrobe for it.

 

We saw Shibari.ph and we think it’s amazing what you’re doing with and through the community. We, too, advocate for body, sex and kink-positivity. But as with any advocacy, there are challenges to be overcome. Can you talk us through them?

You’ll bump into different flavors of unsavory characters. You’ll be presented with opportunities to compromise your values in exchange for quick wins. You’ll even have bad days when your own mental health gets in the way.

In each of those cases, it helped me a lot when I reflected on my values and reminded myself that it was a waste to sacrifice the long term plans for short term wins. That, plus remembering that when I do need help, there was no shame in reaching out to friends.

 

While the growing [community] does mean that some bad apples will find their way in, there’s still more of us who are keeping an eye on things that are dedicated to keeping our communities safe.

 

Lastly, how has shibari changed your life?

I’m still a work in progress but I’m glad I’m more mindful of consent, careful during my interactions and patient with my shortcomings compared to before.

 

Curious yet? Dee’s inbox is always open in case you change your mind and decide to give bondage a try. Because the more you know, the less you’ll see it as just another promiscuous pursuit.

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Art Alexandra Lara 

Thumbnail images created by Ito Seiu (left) and shibari.ph (right)

About The Author

Calm & Domesticated AF. Work experience includes, TV and events but mostly media and publishing. Switched to marketing for a telco brand somewhere in between, but back to doing what I do best: content and magazines.

Comments

  • Isaac White
    September 25, 2020

    I myself am a great fan of shibari, and seeing how people find attractive really makes me want to go deeper into it. I liked this article

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