“Does it hurt?” is by far the most common question I get regarding my Shibari practice.
The answer is simple yet complex—it can hurt, but it doesn’t have to. There are binds that can make it feel like you’re floating on a cloud, and there are binds that can feel a little (or a lot) like torture. It depends on the type of experience you’re after. Me, I prefer the more sensual ties, but at times when I’m feeling detached—too detached—a stronger sensation is required to draw me back into my body.
The other night, I attended a different type of rope class. I noticed on the ticketing website that the event description was quite vague whereas last week’s event was boldly advertised as “Female Led Rope.” I’m glad things worked out this way because truth be told, if I’d seen the event described as “Torture Rope,” I’d have probably skipped it. Language can be intimidating sometimes depending on what images it conjures in your mind. So a word of caution, before you continue reading, o p e n y o u r m i n d.
It’s kind of like alcoholics anonymous where you go around in a circle introducing yourselves with fake names, “Hey I’m Lavender, she/her. I’ve been practicing rope for about a year, and um, I like to tie and be tied.”
“Hi Lavender,” the group replies.
The class is led by a sweet sadomasochist couple who are seated in the center of the room on yoga mats with a mountain of rope, safety cutting shears, and bondage books before them. They kick things off by talking about safety, consent, negotiations, and answering questions.
Someone asks, “How to distinguish good pain from bad pain when you’re in a torture scene?” and they answer by going over the nerves, beautiful nerves, and dangerous-to-tie zones like the neck, the joints, and close to the groin by the femoral artery.
“Generally, if any part of your body feels like it’s falling asleep that’s reason enough to end a scene.”
Next, we hear about the experience from the Rope Top’s perspective. He says very loudly, “Hi, I’m Shayne and I’m a Sadist.” His voice softens as he continues, “I say it loudly because I’m learning to be more comfortable with saying it out loud. For a while I was ashamed of it, I still feel conflicted sometimes. I love my partner and I love hurting her—”
“Everything we do is consensual,” Therese interjects. “The “hurt” is wanted and welcomed. We spend hundreds of hours, sometimes thousands of hours discussing all aspects of what could happen, coming up with risk profiles, boundaries, and more before ever playing out a scene.”
As an identified Masochist, she needs pain. It’s as vital to her as is meditation, yoga, and other wellness rituals. She speaks beautifully about how her partner supports her not just by inflicting pain, but by allowing her to have the experience without jumping in to rescue her from it.
Shayne says the hardest part of their scenes for him is simultaneously causing her discomfort, being aroused by said discomfort, and summoning the strength within himself to stay out of her way while she surrenders to it. “From our conversations, I’ve learned that interrupting her experience of pain would be a disservice to her.”
“If you block the discomfort and the pain, you block the body’s ability to adapt,” Therese says. “Your brain will only allow you to expand your capacity when you believe there’s no way out, no escape, no choice but to stay and feel and see what’s on the other side.
I’m trusting him not to save me.”
“And I’m trusting her knowledge of her mind and body by respecting the boundaries we agreed to.”
“A meditation in pain is how I describe it. And sometimes it’s less about the pain and more about what’s on the other side of it. I feel stronger in other aspects of my life when I can tolerate discomfort in this way.”
To be continued….