Review of a Rope Bottoming Class
Last week, I went to my first-ever kink-related class. It was “So you want to get tied” run by Anatomie Studio, in Peckham. The event information described it as a class for beginner and aspiring rope bottoms, to learn about safety and responsibilities when engaging in rope bondage.
Anatomie Studio is the UK’s first and only dedicated shibari studio, run by Anna-Bones and Fred Hatt. Inside is a welcoming space, with rugs and beanbags on the soft foam floor and an intriguing array of suspension points overhead and around the walls. On arriving (slightly shy and unsure of what to expect), I was greeted warmly and joined the other class participants sitting on the floor.
While we waited for the others to arrive, we looked through some cards which had rope- and kink-related words on, to see how many we were familiar with and learn about the ones which were new to us. I hadn’t heard of “lab time” before, but on reflection, it makes sense – any skill or art requires practice to get good at it, and with the risks inherent in rope bondage, developing the skills outside of scene-play would seem to be a very sensible approach.
We started the session by introducing ourselves and describing what we had come to the class to discover. Most of my classmates were there to learn about safety and risk management, which is pretty much what I was there for too. As a lifelong submissive masochist who has only recently started venturing out into the kink scene, I was also interested in the dynamics of the rigger/model relationship. I’d spent some time with a Dom who was an experienced rigger but our relationship has a unique dynamic (as I guess everyone’s does) so I was also intrigued by possibilities of rope play outside of a formal D/s sexual relationship.
The workshop was described as being for beginners (but open to others with greater levels of experience also) so in the interactive discussions that followed we heard from many different perspectives – I’d expected the attendees to be mostly bottoms and submissives but there were several switches present, as well as some tops/riggers who wanted to explore the other side of the dynamic to inform their rigging approach or for their own personal journeys.
Anna was a very engaging presenter, whose own experience as a rope bottom and lately a rigger, allowed her to bring the material to life with anecdotes and experiences she was generous about sharing.
Whose line is it anyway?
One of the most animated discussions was about the distribution of responsibility between rigger and model. We explored scenarios where the rigger carried most responsibility (for example, if the model had dropped into subspace/rope-space and become non-verbal) then what the responsibilities of the model might be, and when they were important.
Open, honest communication was a theme that ran all the way through the evening, because none of us are mind-readers and unless you communicate how you are thinking and feeling, then you cannot expect the other person/people to assume this correctly for you – and it’s not their fault if they don’t. As someone with a genetic condition which affects my joints, I need to be very careful about limb positioning as I sometimes dislocate, even going about my non-kinky everyday life! However, it wouldn’t be fair if I held back this information because I was afraid that a rigger wouldn’t be confident tying with me – consent is only consent if it’s informed.
We were signposted towards some useful resources, such as Clover’s Rope Bottoming Guide and “The Little Guide to Getting Tied Up” by Evie Vane (both of which I have acquired and am currently studying) but one of the key lessons for me was that having a network of friends and trusted people around you from the scene is the best way to stay safe. Checking references, finding people for mutual support when dropping, being able to make informed judgements about risky activities; these are all just as important as having the ‘right’ books and equipment (except perhaps the safety shears!).
Damage and risk
A lot of the content was about nerve damage, what it is, how to recognise it, how to avoid it and what to do if it happens. Body-awareness as a rope model is clearly very significant and I know I need to work on this for myself – as I pretty much always have pain and bad joints, recognising not-normal symptoms will require focus and practice on my part. I’m thinking about learning some self-ties to experiment with this. (Useful tip from the class – when tying alone or with someone who might keel over – whether from age or having skipped lunch! – always have a voice-activated phone handy!)
Another large part of the content was about emotional risk – avoiding misunderstandings that might lead to bad experiences (for either/both model or rigger), following up to check in with a play partner. There were few firm ‘do’ and ‘don’t’ lessons – rather than saying “never do this”, the focus was on educating ourselves to be able to make informed decisions about our own appetite for risk and respecting the boundaries of others.
At the end of the session were some ‘red flags’ – again, it wasn’t a “you must avoid this” instruction but guidance and opinions formed by experienced practitioners over time.
- Beware of riggers who proclaim to be the best and slag off everyone else. They may not have the humility required to be able to objectively appraise their own limits or communicate honestly with their model.
- Don’t assume that ‘number of years tying’ equals proficiency.
- Be very cautious about engaging in rope play when impaired or intoxicated – the risks for both rigger and model increase hugely
- Ask where the safety shears are before you start getting tied!
- Speak up if you feel uncomfortable, physically or emotionally.
- Be very suspicious if a rigger tells you “you’re fine” in response to you expressing discomfort or concern. Only you know what you are feeling and for someone else to not listen to that may indicate that you are not in safe, respectful hands.
- How to recognise bad rigging (unsupported stems, uneven tension, ‘pointless loops’)
The class lasted just a little longer than the advertised three hours but every minute was interesting, fun and thought-provoking. I’d definitely recommend it for other rope bottoms in the area!
I hope to go back to Anatomie Studio again soon, for one of the beginner rope jams or practice sessions.