Shibari: The Erotic Bliss of Dominance and Submission

You may have heard about it. You may have seen it performed on stage or in an art gallery. If you are the adventurous type, you may have even tinkered with the idea of trying it. But those who want to elevate their sex life in an emotional and physical way might want to actually learn shibari.

Shibari is the centuries-old practice of Japanese rope bondage. The practice began as an elaborate system for samurai to restrain and torture their captives. Experts later turned the methodology into an erotic stage art.

These days, more and more couples are discovering that shibari is also a great means to bring healthy communication, trust, and increased pleasure into their sex lives.

“Sometimes, it’s called kinbaku, but it’s most simply referred to as Japanese bondage,” says sexologist Midori, who has written extensively about the subject.

 Shibari is the centuries-old practice of Japanese rope bondage.
 Shibari is the centuries-old practice of Japanese rope bondage.

In the West, erotic bondage, in general, allows for the use any kind of restriction – handcuffs, tape, ties, scarves, and the like. Shibari refers exclusively to the practice of using rope, or rope-like material. The receiver, or “bunny,” is tied up by the “rigger,” or rope artist.

“Shibari is often not just about the sensation of restriction but also about the intimate connection between the rigger and receiver,” says sex educator Rev. Rucifer.

“Rope Drunk”

Central to the practice is the creation of patterns that contrast and complement the natural curves of the body. In early 1900s Japan, tradition accorded the role of the bunny to female models: pretty, small-framed, delicate-looking women, in particular.

The beauty lay in thoughtful comparison: soft, white, bare feminine skin against rough rope, strength against exposure, a sense of calm against the perils of vulnerability.    

In early 1900s Japan, tradition accorded the role of the submissive to female models: pretty, small-framed, delicate-looking women, in particular.
In early 1900s Japan, tradition accorded the role of the submissive to female models: pretty, small-framed, delicate-looking women, in particular.

Beyond the aesthetics is erotic bliss. In the hands of a master, shibari induces a trance-like sexual experience for the bunny and an adrenaline rush for the rigger. In fact, when a Shibari scene is performed in public with appropriate ambiance, sexual arousal often becomes visible in the receiver.

Those familiar with the artform affectionately use the term “rope drunk” to describe the euphoric condition of models after a Shibari performance.

“The sensation of being tied up is not the sensation of being ‘trapped’ but rather lends itself to the idea of completely letting go of the physical bounds and allowing for that deep, emotional catharsis to take place,” says sex expert Gabi Levi.

When done right, shibari induces a trance-like sexual experience for the bunny and an adrenaline rush for the rigger.
When done right, shibari induces a trance-like sexual experience for the bunny and an adrenaline rush for the rigger.

Power and Permission

Much of the pleasure of shibari derives from the geometric arrangement of ropes and knots on the bunny’s body. The patterns emphasize pressure points that stimulate the release of endorphins and other hormones, creating feelings of trust and profound sensuality.

Shibari artist Daniel Kok says the system is “about giving permission, about taking power.” The 37-year-old Singaporean rigger dabbles with bondage for pleasure, shackling friends, attending parties on a leash.

Kok says shibari is as much about the responsibilities of dominance as it is about pleasures of submission. When someone shows signs of resistance or discomfort, “our job is not necessarily to be kind or to give in, because of the contractual agreement of the game.” Instead, sometimes, the rigger pushes that individual further.

“The play between the power dynamics and the release of control from the bottom to the top creates an intimate dance of trust and connection between partners,” says Rucifer. “This often creates a deep emotional connection, sometimes experienced as crying, euphoria or simply a feeling of a deeper connection.”

Shibari emphasizes pressure points that stimulate the release of endorphins and other hormones, creating feelings of trust and profound sensuality.
Shibari emphasizes pressure points that stimulate feelings of trust and profound sensuality.

Should You Try Shibari?

If you’ve ever entertained fantasies of engaging in a bit of bondage, then you’re definitely not alone. Booksellers sold over 100 million copies of the Fifty Shades trilogy worldwide, allowing countless women to indulge in the same fantasies. But the transition between fantasy and actual bedroom bondage can be tricky.  

Many people are put off experimenting with shibari because they don’t know how to broach the subject with their partners. Sex expert Jessica Wilde recommends getting hold of some erotic fiction, or maybe a DVD to watch in the comfort of your own home.

“Plant the seed in your partner’s mind that it might be something you want to try,” says Wilde. “Getting them used to the idea might change their perspective a little bit.”

As it is when you engage in any new sexual experience, communicating your boundaries and hard limits prior to beginning is a must. Develop a safe word and be clear about what you want and don’t want. Discuss the rules of submission and dominance in detail:  how much to take, how much to give, when to stop.

When a Shibari scene is performed in public with appropriate ambiance, sexual arousal often becomes visible in the receiver.
When a Shibari scene is performed in public with appropriate ambiance, sexual arousal often becomes visible in the receiver.
(Photo: Davide MaestroBD La Greca/Wikimedia Commons)

Getting Started

“Because rope bondage involves restraint and power dynamics, the person being tied may not express boundaries clearly,” says Ryan. “For that reason, be sure to have a clear discussion beforehand about what you both want out of the experience, what is on and off the table, and how you’ll communicate if there is an issue.”

Once you have established boundaries, familiarize yourselves with basics of the practice. Learn how to tie a “single-column tie.” That’s the foundation of shibari, says rope expert Jonathan Ryan. Follow this link for a video tutorial.

Do some research. There are websites that offer general education about shibari from trained educators. Experts recommend that you start with a floor tie rather than going straight into suspension, says Rucifer. This ensures that you practice the proper methods before going all-out into in-air suspension bedroom acrobatics.

Have the tools and bindings ready. Make sure you have safety sheers on hand, too, and a safe and comfortable space to play. Shibari afficionados say the ideal material for binding is jute because it’s a strong natural fiber, but hemp and cotton will work, too.

Experts recommend that you start with a floor tie rather than going straight into suspension.
Experts recommend that you start with a floor tie rather than going straight into suspension.

Collaboration and Purpose

Remember, shibari is as much a philosophy as it is a sexual experience. For most practitioners, the use of rope bondage never includes an unwilling victim. Instead, there is a collaboration and agreed purpose between the rigger and the bunny.

Beyond pleasure, the objective is to create a combination of effects including visual beauty, power exchange, helplessness, relaxation, and both submissive and dominant physiological experiences.

For Kok, the heightened sense of power and submission that shibari offers teaches humility and a gentle consideration for others. “Since becoming an artist I’ve tried very hard not to feel the need to have the last word,” he says, “to not think that I’m most important – to gain a full understanding of what it means to be responsible for something.”

Now that’s definitely good Ki for your kinky.


    

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