02 July, 2009

Separated at Birth?

(Excerpted from a 2002 public lecture / demonstration)

Thank you all for coming, and thanks also to A. for the invitation to speak tonight, and for the request months ago to get her up off the ground.

A. and I have been playing on and off with rope for several years, and have only recently made the move into suspension. We hope to show you a little trick we’ve practiced later on - a single leg inverted suspension - among the more difficult suspended poses to both rig safely and to hold for even a small length of time. I’ll make a few points in so doing about safely managing the technical aspects of such a scene, but frankly, suspended bondage, like rock climbing, is a high risk activity under the best of circumstances, so I’m obliged to apply a disclaimer here and say that I don’t intend to teach you a thing about tying somebody and hanging them up. Not a thing. Suspension bondage is best learned slowly and steadily over time with a tough, understanding partner and competent instruction; not, in my opinion, by means of public demonstrations such as you are to see here tonight.

My intent is to show you what’s possible and perhaps what you can do with what’s possible, rather than impart specific information on how it’s possible. The technique and dynamic between A. and myself are, as you might imagine, unique to us, and in any case, we may not pull off what we intend tonight, so anything you see here is very likely completely useless to the success of your own rope scenes. That said, please don’t hesitate to ask questions afterward about what you will have seen me do (or not do) tonight. Also, I’d be happy to talk later about the little prĂ©cis I’d like to present now.

This presentation is about to take a philosophical turn, perhaps for the worse, and I’ll be interested to see how many are standing at the end of it. At the very least you’re about to learn that I’m kinky for more than just rope. Suspension, while not unique to eastern bondage and its aesthetic, is highly identified with it. The working properties of hemp and jute rope, which are common in eastern practice, facilitate picking partners up in order to enhance their helplessness. None of those considerations preclude enacting the delicate airborne forms common to Japanese-style bondage in the western style, but such crossover is seldom seen, a factor in leading observers to speak of wide differences between east and west. I’d like to take the first part of this presentation to put across a few ideas I have about that difference.

There is quite a lot of discussion of how or if east meets west on various online groups where rope geeks like myself hang out, and I’ll be drawing a bit here from other’s ruminations on the subject, but the upshot of what I’m about to say is pretty much my own and I’m by no means done thinking about it. If you disagree, and I hope you’ll be critical, I would appreciate hearing about it.

Foregoing even a cursory consideration of gender identity and its attendant politics, I make the following observations from the standpoint of the one identity about which I can speak with any authority, that being my own. All of the assertions that I’m about to make proceed from that basic prejudice, and I hope you’ll all forgive where I run afoul of any other prejudices in the room.

Having played with gender queer, classic queer and straight partners of both genders, my central orientation has consistently sought out an essential straight feminine trait; that which is hormonally responsive to me as a straight male and unconditioned by orientation or gender. Of course, on many occasions that hormonal energy has been absent, but such vacancies do not necessarily result in disappointing scenes, and often only further affirm my own proclivity. I like to recall that even among those people I’ve tied who were not necessarily kinky, who were perhaps just doing a modeling job, or in a transitional phase into which rope fit or helped, that expressions of that “eternal feminine” which captivates me could (and often did) come out.

I began my formal explorations in bondage well over twenty years ago with the person who is still my primary partner and my wife. I recall quite clearly the early compulsion to envelop and overwhelm her, and to have the result of that be the emphasizing of her sexual availability. Although I backed away from the impulse initially, it was not too long after those inchoate stirrings that rope entered our lives. Even in my first crude and ineffectual efforts to get her restrained, I saw her in a wholly new light, wherein her curves revealed themselves ever more fully and her yielding was ever more apparent. That I was at times somewhat oblivious to the yielding part may have helped me concentrate on pure technique with greater alacrity, but suffice it say that the actual application of rope was all about visually dramatizing the soft, giving, ovoid and fleshly charms that make her to me woman with a capital W.

Although I was aware of bondage porn by that time, I prissily steered a wide path around it for years despite its ready availability close to home. Thus, the only information I had to go on at that time (or, really, wished to go on), this being the early 1980s, were Irving Klaw’s extraordinary pictures of Bettie Page and her cohort often ineptly tied for his Movie Star News. My wife will remember the pilgrimage she and I took to the tatty storefront, meeting Irving’s sister Paula, who ran the shop at that time, and our coming away with a catalog of the tiny images which MSN would sell to customers as prints. Having turned my nose up at Bondage Life, Lyden, HOM and the other image peddlers, those vague, tiny Klaw images were my first tutorial in tying up comely lasses.

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