Shibari (literally meaning bondage) is a Japanese style of sexual bondage or BDSM. Shibari involves tying up the bottom (or uke) in intricate patterns, usually with several pieces of thin rope. Shibari differs from Western bondage in that, instead of just immobilizing or restraining the bottom, the bottom gains pleasure from being under pressure and strain of the ropes, squeezing the breasts or genitals. The aesthetics of the bound person’s position are also important: in particular, Japanese bondage is notorious for its use of asymmetric positions to heighten the psychological impact of bondage.
I came to the ropes at a transitional stage in my life: I was in the midst of what I felt was a crisis, but in actuality I was experiencing the acute tension of an evolution.
I had recently began to express and explore my bisexuality…I had begun going to swinger and BDSM events…I was on the cusp of my practicum training as a clinician…Basically, I felt lost…deconstructed…pressured…and very very messy…and then…
I met this man, at a “sex” party…he explained that he was a photographer and wanted to shoot me…I was vaguely interested, but drawn more to his erotic rope-art which he described as Shibari…what I saw was a woman, bound and suspended…immobilized and yet embodying the beauty of a sculpture…and that is what made me call…
That first shoot with Steven Speliotis was, not to be cliché, life changing. Yes, the experience fed into my exhibitionist needs, later expressed in multiple capacities, but more than that…The ROPES…the ropes…oh the ropes!
To be bound…to be tied…to have the smooth braided texture of the rope caress and then contain my being…I had never felt so…HELD…I had never felt so sensual…I had never felt so safe…so at peace.
This combination of sensuality and safety was unknown to me, as a child of abuse…and yet it was undeniably REAL. Bound and fixed…I felt more collected…more actualized…more complete than perhaps I ever had. It was as if the ropes achieved what no parent or loved one had…they held me tight…without desire or exploitation.
Shortly after that first shoot, I was interviewed by an English publication about the experience of Shibari, and here is an except from that interview(frm, vol.1, issue 7, 2005):
I was an only child brought up by fairly strict parents, and experienced my fair share of discipline and spanking. SM, as both a concept and in practice , has been an interest of mine probably since I could conceive of such a thing. But, more recently, I have come to see bondage as a metaphor for many of the more difficult obstacles I have encountered in life, somehow representing the tension between pain and enjoyment…(after being exposed to Shibari) I was fascinated by the beauty and intricacy of being bound in a fabulous web of knots. When someone is bound like that they look as if they are a human sculpture, a thing of beauty and pain–that is the dialectic that best describes this form of bondage to me…I love the intricacy, the web-like designs that encompass my whole body as if in a womb of some kind. It feels like protection, as a force holding me together…for me, this requires surrender of the self; only then comes the eroticism, as if an undercurrent or a necessary side-effect. (p. 48-50)
Shibari eventually evolved from simple photoshoots to performance art…and I have enjoyed it greatly as such throughout the past 5 years…performing at various erotic parties throughout the Northeast.
Trained at a classical ballerina as a child, Shibari seemed a natural “fit” for me…combining physical strength and athleticism with grace…sexuality…and control.
Historically, Shibari was a form of martial arts in Japan morphing later into artistic expression and finally a sexual/BDSM act…still it’s roots depict a history steeped in meaning and that I believe accurately portrays Shibari’s dialectical nature.
After simple rope ties…I wanted to experience suspension…but having an athletic background my real desire was to do something more dynamic than the rope-suspension I had observed wherein the participant is bound and suspended in paralysis…I wanted to fly…I wanted to work my ropes like a marionette…in essence I wanted to be my own marionette.
And I did…
I did a performance with a 50 foot drop. Suspended by rope…set on hangers, acting as pullies…I supported by own weight essentially. What a rush…what stength…what great accomplishment I felt…FLYING THROUGH THE AIR…flipping…twisting and turning…on my own accord…this was a marked change in the previous Shibari I had experienced…I had gone from passive participant, to actively instigator.
Interestingly, my life at this time also reflected this movement…I was graduating. I was a doctor, finally. I had just gotten married…I had successfully created some erotic projects…I felt unbound…I felt like FLYING…and so I did…literally.
No doubt it was time…to embrace my BONDS and make them WORK for me…with me…to HELP me…it was a wonderful moment and I think an accurate reflection of how sometimes art imitates life.
Today…I am bound less and bind more. Now, I tie those up that wish to experience Shibari…my form is more intuitive than trained (perhaps THAT is next!)…but I enjoy it, I enjoy seeing the pleasure and emotion in my “partner’s” eyes, similar to mine and yet individual and reflective of their own experience…
In the end I think bondage is such a fascinating metaphor for life: relationships, life-states, feelings…and strangely it seems that only through recognizing and understanding our (own particular) bonds that we find freedom, resolution and ultimately…PEACE.