Hello!

After more than a year of reading your column, I finally have my own question for you. And it’s kink related! My partner and I live a long ways from any major metro area, and we live south of the Mason-Dixon line. We have agreed we’re interested in trying bondage (especially rope stuff) but neither of us have experience in actually being the dom in that situation. Because we’re kind of isolated out here, we haven’t been able to find any classes or mentors. So. My question is where the heck do we start so that we go about this safely?

Thanks much,
Learning The Ropes

Dear Ropes,

Despite your distance from easy-to-find resources, all is not lost! You can find an instant online community at fetlife.com. It’s a free networking site (very similar to Facebook in layout) for kinky people. There are numerous groups with experienced players who are willing to share their knowledge. Fetlife is a great place to get started.

With a little self-study and a lot of practice, you can still do some really interesting rope work. For some people, rope is much easier to learn by watching than by reading, and YouTube has great instructional videos to get you started. Check out Twisted Monk, BDSM Geek, or Rope Baby. Better still is to have an experienced person go through it with you in person, so keep looking for live classes within driving distance. There are also many beautiful books on the subject of rope bondage. Check out The Seductive Art Of Japanese Rope Bondage by Midori, Shibari You Can Use by Lee Harrington, or Showing You The Ropes by Two Knotty Boys.

Once you’ve read a little and watched a little, the best thing to do is to get some rope in your hands and try it yourself. If you’re just tying wrists or ankles to the bedposts, you probably only need about 10 feet of rope. If you’re wanting to tie body harnesses or other more intricate designs, starting with about 30 feet of rope is a good idea.

Once you have your rope and have done a little research, you’re ready to start rigging (the fancy name for rope tying). In the beginning, it’s a good idea to practice outside of sexy times/scenes. Riggers and rope bottoms talk about practice all the time—at the breakfast table, while watching TV, and just generally hanging out. There’s a lot less stress practicing your knots when you’re both fully clothed and just living your daily life. The important thing is to get comfortable with the rope before incorporating it into your play.

Before your first scene, you’ll want to do a few things.

Get some utility scissors (also called bandage scissors) so you can quickly get someone out of the rope if needed. They’re designed so that one blade can get under the edge of the rope with minimal risk of cutting the skin. Keep these within arm’s reach at all times during your scene. If someone needs to get out of their ropes quickly, don’t spend a lot of time fumbling with your knots. Just cut them out.

Both of you need to disclose any chronic health problems you deal with, and how to manage a sudden onset of symptoms. Make sure to have any meds or supplies nearby in case of emergency. For example, if either of you has asthma, keep the inhaler right there. Regardless of who is the top and who is the bottom in your scene, you both need to have a rough idea of how to manage the other person’s emergencies.

Make sure to negotiate the whole scene before you tie up your partner. Sometimes, we get so excited to Do The Thing, we forget that there can be a whole lot that comes after the bondage. You definitely want to talk about what you both want to have happen once the person is restrained. Otherwise there can be a rather *sad trombone* feeling about the whole thing. Maybe you just want the “tie ’em up and fuck ’em” experience. Totally fun, and many people enjoy that! But if either of you want something more/different, know that going in so no one is disappointed.

Most people have heard about safe words. That’s because they’re an important part of kink play. Both partners need a no-questions-asked way to immediately end a scene. Some folks would rather use a red-yellow-green system for regular check-ins throughout the scene. Find something that works for the two of you and don’t be afraid to end a scene if something comes up.

After any kind of kink scene, it’s essential that the dominant partner take care of the submissive partner. This even has a name. It’s called aftercare, and a lot of kinky folks consider it the best part of the scene. This is always important, but even more so if both of you are new to kink. You may not have a good sense of what will help create a soothing, gentle re-entry to the world outside of your scene. If this is the case, you two need to discuss what kinds of things are generally soothing for the submissive. Do they like to be held closely? Do they feel safe and relaxed when they take a bath? Is there a favorite comfort food that might help? Make a list before your scene and work through it afterward. It’s good to note that sometimes the dominant also needs some aftercare following a scene, so it’s good to think about that ahead of time too.

As you probably figured out, rope play (like all kink) requires a lot of communication. You have to talk and practice a bunch before your scene. Then you get to have your scene. And finally—you guessed it—you have to talk afterward to figure out what worked and didn’t work for you. Take the feedback from both of you and use it to make your next scene even better.

Curious about cunnilingus? Anxious about anal? Do you have questions about queefs or problems with your prostate? Lucky Tomaszek is the education coordinator at The Tool Shed: An Erotic Boutique, Milwaukee’s only mission-driven, education-focused sex toy store. Send her a question at mkesex@gmail.com and she’ll get back to you with an answer.