What You Should Know About Shibari Bondage

The past four months have felt like a million years, and many of us have exhausted our usual arsenal of at-home activities—sexual and otherwise. If you’re looking for something to spice up your lockdown, might we suggest starting in the bedroom? And while you’re there, have you thought about rope play?

While it may sound intimidating, rope play isn’t something to be afraid of—it has many sexual, emotional, and physical benefits. Shibari, a form of Japanese rope bondage, is steadily becoming more popular in Western culture (you may have even seen it on Netflix’s Too Hot To Handle).

If taking control and awakening your innermost desires sounds appealing, Shibari could be for you. So if you’re at the end of your rope (see what we did there?) with quarantine and lockdown, keep an open mind and read on to learn more about the practice.

WHAT IS SHIBARI?

Shibari, also known as Kinbaku, is an ancient form of Japanese rope bondage that uses rope made out of hemp. The word Shibari translates to ‘to tie’ or ‘to bind’ and refers to intricate and beautiful knots and patterns used to restrain and give sensation to the body.

WHAT IS THE HISTORY BEHIND SHIBARI ROPE BONDAGE?

Shibari dates back to how prisoners and criminals were restrained in Japan, during the medieval and edo periods (1200s to late 1800s). Over the years, it found its way into underground adult entertainment venues in Japan and then came over to the United States when World War II GIs saw it and brought it back. It has steadily developed into a 21st century form of decorative bondage and pleasure craft.

WHY DO PEOPLE PRACTICE IT?

People practice shibari for a number of reasons; one of the main ones being pleasure. Unlike many other forms of rope play, the knots of shibari are intentionally positioned at the body’s pressure points in order to give participants pleasure. Another reason is the time and attention to detail it takes to perfect the knots can be meditative and recreational for some. It is also a practice that fosters feelings of empowerment, control and submissiveness which can also be appealing for many people.

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE BIGGEST MISCONCEPTIONS?

There are many misconceptions and stigmas associated with Shibari and other forms of rope bondage that should be addressed. As with anything, educate yourself and use your best judgment, while remembering that what works for others certainly may not feel right to you. 

THAT IT’S ALL ABOUT SEX

Shibari is more than just an erotic fetish, it can be used for relaxation, mental stimulation, and as a form of art, etc. Just the act of trying something new with your partner can bring you closer together and break up the mundanity many couples are experiencing in quarantine.   

THAT IT’S PAINFUL OR VIOLENT

Shibari is not intended to be violent or overly painful; if there is pain it should be pleasurable and not intolerable. Communication is key and the comfort of both participants is critical. Consider choosing a ‘safe word’ that you or your partner can use at any time to stop what you’re doing if it begins to feel unsafe either physically or emotionally. 

THAT IT’S DEMEANING

Shibari and other forms of rope play should not in any way cause someone to feel disrespected or uncomfortable. Rope play should be playful, fun and enjoyable. If it doesn’t feel this way either during or after, simply stop or don’t do it again and don’t second guess or doubt your own feelings. What may feel exciting or pleasurable to one person may be an extremely unpleasant or uncomfortable experience for someone else and you don’t need to justify your personal experience to anyone. 

CAN SHIBARI BE DANGEROUS?

There are some potential risks to practicing Shibari and caution should always be taken when engaging in any form of rope bondage. Before you attempt Shibari, make sure you understand both the physical and emotional risks and that you feel prepared to manage them. Some of these risks may include nerve damage, cutting off circulation, existing injuries/past traumas, etc. Numbness, tingling, and loss of sensation are all signs that the rope isn’t placed correctly. Keep a pair of scissors nearby in case you’re uncomfortable and unable to quickly untie any of the knots. 

HOW DO I PRACTICE SHIBARI AT HOME?

Proper involvement in Shibari can take time and plenty of practice. Don’t rush into anything and keep the following in mind before practicing at home.

FAMILIARIZE YOURSELF WITH THE TERMS

  • Both you and your partner(s) should familiarize yourselves with certain common terms and phrases for Shibari practitioners, such as the following:
  • Rigger/Rope Top: The person doing the tying.
  • Rope Bottom/Bunny: The person being tied.
  • Floor Tie: Rope work that is done exclusively on the floor.
  • Suspension: An advanced form of Shibari that includes lifting the body off the floor using only ropes.
  • Self-tie: When a person ties themself.
  • Tension: Creating tautness in the rope to give a sensation of bondage and restraint. 
  • Reverse tension: Changing the direction of the rope while still restricting the person.
  • Single column tie: A decorative knot on one body part, (wrist, ankle, leg, waist, etc.) 
  • Double column tie: Tying two body parts together, (wrists to wrist, ankle to ankle, ankle to thigh, ankle to wrist, etc.

USE SHIBARI ROPE AND OTHER SUPPLIES

Traditional Shibari rope is made from non-stretchy natural fibres such as hemp or jute.This type of rope has more grip which is important for wrapping the ties. For beginners, you may want to opt for softer rope material. Other supplies that may be helpful may include a safe cutting tool that can cut through rope instantly if someone is hurt or wants to stop. 

COMMUNICATE WITH YOUR PARTNER

It’s important to have a conversation with your partner on comfort levels and consent before beginning. Your discussion should touch on things like: establishing the length of time you want to be tied up, listing positions you’re not ok with, forming a safe word or gesture, etc. Setting up some pre-Shibari guidelines can help everyone stay secure and safe during the practice.

PRACTICE SHIBARI BEFOREHAND

If you’re feeling at all unsure, consider educating and practicing Shibari on a doll or mannequin before attempting it on yourself or a partner. You may also want to read a book on Sibari, watch a Shibari tutorial, or take an intro to rope bondage workshop before trying it in real life.

IN WHAT WAYS CAN SHIBARI ENHANCE MY RELATIONSHIP?

Shibari can be used as a tool to learn about your partner’s body, to build trust between you and your partner, and to discover new and exciting forms of intimacy. Shibari is based on communication and will help partners better express what they want, how they’re feeling, and what their boundaries are.

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