Warwick Fetish Society

Bondage and rope safety

Bondage, particularly with rope, is a vast topic, and this page offers only a superficial treatment of the subject.


Risks and Safety

Before engaging in any kind of bondage, you must be aware of the risks. If using rope, you should have a pair of paramedic safety shears to cut the rope in an emergency. With other equipment, make sure you know how to release it quickly before using it on anyone.

Everyone is different, and many people have pre-existing conditions or anatomical differences which increase the risk of bondage, but the following risks are common to everyone:

Falling (Risk ★★ Severity ★★★★)

A fall while bound can cause serious injury including whiplash, concussion or even death. It is generally very risky to bind someone's hands or legs while they are standing.

Nerve damage (Risk ★★★ Severity ★★★★)

Some parts of the body are vulnerable to nerve compression, a serious, unpredictable and sometimes permanent form of nerve damage. Risk areas include the inside of the wrist, upper arms, joints (armpits, elbows, knees), and the inner thigh, where nerves are often exposed. There is much more information here.

Circulation issues (Risk ★★★★ Severity ★★)

Rope will often block blood flow to extremities, causing numbness, pins-and-needles and sometimes discolouration in severe cases. While loss of circulation is not usually severe, it is often indistinguishable from nerve problems, so we advise you stop immediately if unsure.

Suffocation and damage to the larynx (Risk ★★ Severity ★★★★★)

Never apply rope to the neck without expert supervision. The risk of hypoxic brain injury (injury caused by lack of oxygen to the brain) is very high, even over a period of seconds, and a crushed larynx (voice box) can be fatal.

Marks and bruising (Risk ★★★★★ Severity ★)

Applying rope tightly in any position is likely to leave lasting superficial marks, including distinctive rope impressions, bruises and burst blood vessels. While marks from rope and other bondage are often desirable, areas such as the face, arms, upper chest or lower legs may be off-limits for this reason.

Rope contamination (Risk ★ Severity ★★★★)

If rope has bodily fluids on it, there is a very small chance it could transfer disease to someone else. This risk diminishes over time, but some microbes can survive for up to 6 months after drying. Additionally, rope can pick up debris such as small bits of glass or splinters, which can cause small injury, and should be checked by gently running your hand over it.

Consent violation (Risk ★★ Severity ★★★★★)

When you are bound, you are at the mercy of the people you are playing with. It is vital that you negotiate a bondage scene carefully, and that you trust the people you are playing with. If you are playing for the first time, it is best to be in a supervised environment like a play party or rope class.

Warning signs

As nerve and circulation issues are so common, and nerve issues must be responded to immediately, it is vital to know the early warning signs:

If any of these symptoms occur during a scene it's an indicator that a blood vessel or nerve has been caught and the relevant piece of bondage needs to be released. This happens to everyone and is nothing to be ashamed of, but must be responded to immediately.


Negotiation

Pre-scene discussion

Negotiation for rope is much like any other scene, but has some additional considerations.

As with any scene, you should communicate:

We advise against restricted communication during the scene (e.g. gags) until you have played with your partner a number of times.

With rope, it is also important that your partner is aware of the risks and their warning signs as listed above. You should know them well enough to explain them to a new partner, in which case you should play very cautiously whether you are a top or bottom.

Additional areas of rope negotiation:

As a top you should make sure to ask these questions. As a bottom it is your responsibility to tell your partner everything they might need to know about you relevant to the scene you are about to do.

If you are using rope and cannot quickly untie it: cut the rope. Keeping your rope intact is not worth losing the use of your limbs.

Things to consider:


Mid-scene discussion

Consistent communication, especially between new play partners, is vital for averting risks. If you are unsure whether something is a problem - ask!

If you are a bottom, it is very helpful to say when a position is becoming stressful. For example, "I can only keep my arm like this for another five minutes", which allows your top to plan around the issue without interrupting the scene. Sometimes a position will become untenable very suddenly, in which case you should tell your top immediately.

The traffic-light system (red/yellow/green) is a common system for safewords:

It is important to keep in mind that consent for any part of a scene can be withdrawn by either party at any time. Respect what your partners are telling you!


Post-scene discussion

As with any scene you should follow up with aftercare. Either during aftercare, or within a couple of days, you should discuss what you enjoyed or didn't enjoy , as well as any problems which arose how they might be overcome in future.

Never be ashamed of not enjoying part of a scene. If your partner doesn't respect the things you didn't enjoy or what they got wrong during the scene, regardless of which side of the dynamic you're on, this should be considered a red flag.


Equipment

For rope, again, you should have a pair of paramedic safety shears.

There are many kinds of rope available - we strongly advise using rope made expressly for bondage, as it is more likely to be safe and specially treated for comfort.

There are three main decisions to be made: material, diametre, and length per rope. All are largely personal preference.

Cotton

Soft and elastic. Washable. Cheap. No maintenance.

Hemp

Heavy, rough, inelastic, traditional. Can't be washed. Relatively expensive. Requires occasional maintenance.

Jute

Like hemp but lighter, rougher, cheaper, and approximately half as strong. Requires most maintenance.

Linen hemp

Stronger than hemp, softer. Washable. Expensive.

Silk

Much like cotton, extremely soft. Washable. Expensive. Good for people hypersensitive to touch.

With jute, an important consideration is Jute Batching Oil, a manufacturing ingredient to which some people are allergic.

You can also find a number of synthetic materials for bondage rope, including nylon, MFP, POSH, Hempex, spun polyester, climbing rope; they are less common outside of suspension bondage and for brevity we do not describe them here.


Measurements

The diameter of your rope determines how comfortable (or sadistic!) your ties will be and how flexible or clumsy it is to tie with. A common choice in the UK is 6mm, with some people using as thin as 3mm or as thick as 8mm. Thinner rope tends to be more uncomfortable for larger bottoms.

There are many schools of thought for rope lengths. The two considerations are, how long should your main rope be, and how many different lengths should you have. In general, 8m is a safe choice.

Some people choose a main rope based on the models they tie - 8m is considered a good length for women and 10m for men. Another approach is to consider your own arm-length, in which case an average-height man would choose 8m and an average-height woman would choose 7m.

As for smaller ropes, the simplest method is to keep half-lengths of your main rope. Some people choose to keep smaller subdivisions (such as 8m, 6m, 4m, 2m) but it becomes hard to tell different lengths apart in the heat of a scene.


Special rope

Besides the kinds of rope above, there are a few more niche materials worth mentioning:

Coconut rope

Very harsh scratchy rope, used for sadistic ties. Can draw blood, so you may have to have one rope for every person you use it on.

Dyneema and paracord

Available in sub-millimetre diametre, these are useful for tying detail body-parts (fingers, toes, face, genitals) and for "micro-bondage".

Cable ties

NO. DO NOT USE CABLE TIES. BAD.


Rope sellers

Ann Summers

Low quality cotton rope: not recommended.

Bondara

OK cotton rope in a number of colours. Hemp rope with a non-traditional braided construction.

Esinem rope

Good selection of hemp, jute and linen hemp, including dyneema-reinforced jute for suspension. (link)

Anatomie Studio

High-quality hand-made jute (no JBO). Bulk orders available. Suspension supplies. (link)

Jade Rope

Reseller of hemp, jute and linen hemp. High-quality synthetics which are often out of stock. (link)

Bondatrix

Jute and high-quality linen hemp in a number of colours, including rainbow rope. (link)

MyNawashi

Low-quality untreated and pre-dyed jute at very low prices. (link)


Techniques and Resources

Rope techniques are far too multifarious to do any justice here. If you want to learn, we strongly encourage you to come to an in-person workshop. FetSoc will teach basic techniques in workshops throughout the year, and we regularly attend local rope workshops together in Coventry and Birmingham area.

There are several websites and books which can teach you basic techniques, but we stress that these should supplement in-person tuition, as some safety aspects cannot be taught remotely.


Online

Crash Restraint

High-quality video tutorials covering most aspects of rope (contains nudity).

Clover's Rope Bottom Guide

A very good read for tops and bottoms alike.

Innovative Fiber Arts Rope Blog

Detailed technical rope techniques with focus on fundamentals.

Shibari Study

Online lessons from some of the most respected riggers in the world (non-free).

Shibari Study

Online lessons from some of the most respected riggers in the world (non-free).

Hebari Shibari

Good quality videos (contains nudity, non-free).

Esinem

Video tutorials organised into modules by a highly experienced rigger (contains nudity, non-free).

Remedial Ropes

Devoted entirely to rope safety, this site is a goldmine of vital information (contains nudity).

Watts the Safeword

Not shibari-specific, but presents a number of simple ties with a male focus.


There is also The Duchy, which is a top google result, but its tutorials often contain misleading and incorrect advice so we do not recommend them ourselves.


Books

Douglas Kent’s Complete Shibari Volume 1: Land

Best treatment of the fundamental techniques I’ve found in a book, though the actual ties are quite basic. The steps are visually very clear, but there isn’t enough information for a brand new learner to recreate them safely. There’s some particularly bad advice to bottoms with respect to feedback.

Douglas Kent’s Complete Shibari Volume 2: Sky

Good discussion of suspension physics, interesting suspension ties, very bad safety advice.

Douglas Kent’s Rogue Hojojutsu

Relatively niche, not so applicable to bondage. Martial artists might enjoy.

The Seductive Art of Japanese Bondage by Midori

Bad single column. Some really simple and effective bedroom bondage.

Two Knotty Boys: Showing You the Ropes/Two Knotty Boys: Back on the Ropes

More focus on decorative knots than most resources. Their original videos are hard to find, but one of them now runs the non-kinky Tying It All Together channel.


Suspension

Rope suspension is an extremely high-risk form of rope bondage. As a society, we will not teach suspension techniques directly, but we will support members in finding resources if they are interested. There are online resources from Crash Restraint and selfsuspend.com, but even moreso than floor rope, it is vital that you learn with in-person supervision from an experienced rigger.