Should we Use Safe Words in Shibari?

Part of kink 101 is learning about safe words. They’re such an important part of exploring safely. However, where shibari is concerned, does this translate?

Traditionally, safe words are used to slow down or pause play. This works pretty well for the most part. Popular safe words are words that aren’t often used in play. For example, “pineapple” (although no shame for incorporating pineapples into your play…) or graded systems, like traffic lights. 

I’m a huge fan of safe words. I think they can be used effectively in all sex — whether it’s kinky or not — and everyday life. Want to pause an argument? Safe word. Need to leave an event early? Safe word.

Most kink play is able to stop immediately: if you’re doing impact play, you say, “Pineapple!” and play can end. However rope — especially suspension — isn’t like that. It takes time, and often an increase in discomfort, before a rope bottom can be untied completely. 

So… what do we need to consider when keeping ourselves safe in rope, and how useful are safe words?


The first thing to note is that shibari is inherently dangerous and a pretty daft thing to do. It’s easy to get swept up in the excitement but practising risk aware rope is imperative. There are a number of safety acronyms that float about, but my favourite one for rope specifically is PRICK: Personal Responsibility Informed Consensual Kink.

According to House Cat and Anatomie teacher @mouseinrope, risks in rope can include: 

  • temporary or permanent nerve damage (e.g. wrist drop); 
  • vomiting; 
  • passing out (which can mean your bladder and/ or bowels empty involuntarily); 
  • temporary or permanent skin marking; 
  • bruising, abrasions and/ or rope burn; 
  • strangulation or breathing issues in tight rope; 
  • joint damage; 
  • risk of falling. 

In addition to the physical risks, there are also psychological responses that can include anxiety, fear, and trauma. These are common reasons for rope scenes to end; it’s not just about physical discomfort or pain. . 

Knowing the worst-case scenarios is important. Most of them happen rarely — partially due to practising risk-aware rope — but many can’t be easily predicted and happen too quickly to avoid. Instead, it becomes about managing the aftermath: something everyone who practises rope needs to commit to.

When do you use your safe word, and what does it mean?

If you decide you’d like to use a safe word in rope, be specific about what it means given the nature of shibari. In kink, “Red” can mean stop play immediately and play can stop immediately. However, as mentioned, stopping in rope is rarely immediate. I often find that localised pain or discomfort can increase before it decreases. Coming down from suspension means weight is often distributed in ways that add pressure to body parts that are already at their limit, and the actual act of blood rushing back after being stopped can be incredibly painful. As a rigger, you also need to make sure you have the energy to untie. 

@carponoctum_3’s safe word in rope is “Mercy”. It means: “Don’t stop, but I need a position/ intensity change asap.”

If your safe word means you need to start untying/ be untied now, then make sure you leave enough time and energy for this to happen. What that looks like will be an individual choice, and likely dependent on the day itself too.

Be precise

Many people find safe words to be too vague. @mili_ficent explains: “A single word or colour doesn’t provide enough information to convey the issue or figure out how to safely address it, whether that be a change or to end the scene. Instead, communicating that ‘this element is causing xyz’ means all people in the situation understand the issue and can take the most appropriate action.”

Using traffic lights in combination with body parts is @kassdelimon’s advice: “I get spacey when bottoming so am not able to articulate long sentences. So, for example, I’ll say ‘left hand yellow’ meaning I’m reaching my limit of pain/numbness.”

So, while safewords can be a good indicator that something isn’t right, in rope they need to be combined with more precise language relating to body parts, sensations and urgency. 

For example: 

  • Left finger, red / My left little finger feels numb and I need it to be released now
  • Waist, yellow / The rope around my waist is too tight but I’m ok to wait a minute or two
  • Pineapple/ I don’t feel like I can sustain the rope on my right arm because it’s pinching just above the elbow

“The time taken to untie and the range of potential issues a bunny could be experiencing means you need different, more expressive communication,” concludes @justanotherrigger.

Labbing vs playing

Often in kink words like “Stop!” and “No!” aren’t recommended safewords because they can be used contextually to mean the opposite. This might translate to rope scenes too. So choosing a safeword that isn’t a word you use out of context is important. This is why the traffic light system is so popular.

But again, it all depends on what you’ve agreed with your partner. @finding.glow prefers to keep it simple: “Stop (or anything remotely similar) simply means stop.

There can be a line between ‘labbing’ and ‘scenes’ though, which @a_sadisitc_rigger describes: “I think in “scenes” using a safe word is very important; when labbing it might be easier to say what the problem is immediately.” 

In scenes, a safeword can be a great way to break flow if necessary. It can open up space for the rigger and bottom to discern what needs to happen, which will inevitably need more communication. In rope, a safeword alone isn’t really enough.

Labbing is a great opportunity to get to know each other as rope partners and opens up a forum for more direct, ongoing communication.

Actively learn to communicate

However… communication can be hard! When we’re in rope, or tying, it can be challenging to admit when something isn’t sustainable or doable. Especially if we are usually able to do it, or we see other people looking effortless in or tying a similar tie. 

There are also potential challenges around using a safe word. Some perceive it as a sense of weakness. Others ‘collect’ safewords and feel they’ve only had a successful scene if someone’s had to nope out. Neither of these are true. Not every tie needs to end with empty tanks all round and there is no shame in having to end a tie before its perceived end point.

“Safe words aren’t safe because the person may unconsciously fawn, says @sucampesino. If you are a people-pleaser it’s important to practise communicating your “No”. In rope a safeword (or equivalent: “I need to come down now.”) may be used more often than in other kinks, where they really should be a last resort. But it can still be difficult to articulate this if you are not used to doing so. It took me months to feel confident to admit that I was unable to sustain something in the moment. But, when I did it, levelled up my rope practise. You need to get comfy saying no

@kaoru.neve, a House Cat at the studio, says that a rope bottom communicating how much time they have left in a given tie is: firstly a skill that the model develops over time. This can be months or years depending on practice. Secondly, she notes that it isn’t accurate to real time “as both rigger and model live in a separate time world.” However the number is still useful to communicate. “For example: “I’ve got 2 minutes left,” vs, “I’ve got 5 minutes left,” vs, “I’ve got 15 minutes left” signals different things to the rigger and elicits different responses depending on their confidence, rope skills, and complexity of the tie.”

Take joint responsibility

Committing to take joint responsibility is a great way to relieve some of the pressure. However, it’s important to note that models can go non-verbal in rope, or simply sink into a space in which communication means they lose their headspace. In this case the immediate responsibility will fall to the rigger to check in.

Especially when labbing, bottoms can agree to communicate feelings and sensations in good time, and make sure they are self-checking hand movement. Riggers can ask questions or encourage self-checks from their models.

Some verbal check ins: 

  • Is that a good pain noise or a bad pain noise?
  • How does x feel?
  • On a scale of 0-10 how painful is x?
  • I know you dislike x, I will move you out of it in the next 30 seconds

It’s also important to note that the less well you know someone, the more you should be communicating. 
For @annabones and @fredhatt it’s important to figure out the right time and right language to use when giving/asking for feedback, or your experience risks turning into an interrogation  scene.

The more you demand communication-wise from your partner inside the rope, the less likely they are able to sink into a pleasurable headspace and produce endorphins. Fred and Anna use “soft” check-ins during rope play. Fred asks, “Are you happy?” (instead of the more alarming, “Are you ok??”) or simply places his head close to hers regularly throughout. This method allows Anna to relax, knowing that Fred will regularly provide opportunities for her to give feedback if needed.

Alternatives to verbal communication

There are also many reasons to have a non-verbal alternative to a safe word: anxiety and “rope space” are just two. 

Su explains: “Anxiety stops the ability to use a safe word. Anxiety affects our breathing and hinders our ability to communicate. If your brain is distressed it has to choose between saying a word or getting more oxygen through the same throat. The later wins.”

@clover.brook and her partner @wykd_dave use a strategy they call “PAC” or Positive Action for Consent (they wrote a full piece on Feltlife a few years ago:

Clover says “Having a positive action for consent might be more beneficial for bottoms who feel they could have a freeze reaction to something happening mid scene.” This is also potentially a useful strategy for people playing with heavy D/s dynamics or those who go into a deep headspace when in rope. This strategy is essentially the reverse of relying on the person in rope for “active communication” so demands less of the bottom. 

In Clover’s words it works like this: “If my rigger places their hands in mine I would squeeze back in response to let them know I am okay, my circulation is fine and my nerves are good and I am comfortable to continue with the scene. If I do not squeeze back in response to the initial check, where my rigger has placed their hands in mine for a response, they will untie me. No response equals no more scene. No questions asked, I will be untied. The discussion comes later.”

“This takes the responsibility to initiate a safeword (which can be hard to do a lot of the time) or indicate what the issue is away from the bottom. With this method, all you have to do is not respond.”

In summary

Safewords are quite a divisive topic. If you choose to use them in rope, use them wisely!

  • Be risk aware: rope is inherently unsafe 
  • Agree what your safe words are and what they mean
  • Safe words can be useful to break flow, but often aren’t enough on their own
  • Ties take time to come out of and can get more painful before pain stops: account for this
  • Noping out of a tie is nothing to be ashamed of
  • Good communication is imperative, but can also take time to learn
  • Adjust communication to accommodate labbing vs scenes and choose when and how to communicate as appropriate

Have thoughts to add? Email us at

Into the Blues: when you drop like a hot potato

A little while after I started exploring kink, I realised I would have a sort of “come down” after sessions. I didn’t usually notice it straight away, because I was often hazy and peaceful and wrapped up in the afterglow, but a few days later it would hit. I’d start to feel sad and tearful. Sometimes I’d feel shameful about the things I’d enjoyed. I’d be tired, for no real reason, and struggle to concentrate on work. And I would often “act out” in my dynamic.

It took me a long time to realise that this was likely a form of “drop”, and that it was quite a normal thing that happened. Drop — most commonly associated with submissives/ bottoms, but (like kink frenzy) more indiscriminate in reality — actually happens to us in a lot of different situations. It’s basically the fall from a high, so think of anything that gives you a high and there is a possibility to “drop”. It’s a phenomena that’s been officially observed in actors, directors and Olympic athletes, but is definitely not theirs to claim.

So let’s delve into drop, so you can focus on your drop lifts.

Why do we drop?

We drop, in essence, because of that experience of a high and the subsequent return to reality. Who wouldn’t find that hard to manage? (Rhetorical question: I don’t want to think about work when I’m reliving sensations from the scene I had two nights ago.)

But there are actually two waves of drop: the feelings that come within minutes after a scene and those that come in the hours/ days/ weeks that follow. 

Drop One

The first wave is likely chemical and/ or hormonal. When we have an intense scene, it is thought that our bodies react accordingly by producing hormones and chemicals, like adrenaline and endorphins, which help us physically manage (and often even enjoy) the experience. However, once the scene ends, our parasympathtic nervous systems kick in, in order to counteract the cocktail of chemicals that have flooded our system This can result in deep exhaustion, incoherence, and extreme changes in body temperature to name but a few possible symptoms. [asibdsm, 2013]. 

This is likely to last minutes, though, not days. So what happens after this? 

Drop Two

Sprott and Randall have an hypothesis. They posit that the lingering effects of drop may be the psychological effects of loss. But what have we lost?

Well, sex in general is thought to be an example of a “peak experience”: an experience that takes us to new, previously inexperienced heights. The nature of BDSM and kink mean that they are likely to intensify our encounters, whether sexual or not, making them more likely to fit into the “peak experience” box in our memory banks. And this certainly resonates with me. It’s part of the reason so many budding kinksters experience frenzy: the desire to feel those same “peak” feelings that once felt are forever chased.

So, what we lose is the feeling that these peak experiences give us.

In the days after, we might grieve the high: the feelings; the escapism; the connection; the fact that we have to clear our email inbox when what we actually want is to be back in it. We might feel guilt and regret, we might immediately start planning our next scene, we might be extra irritable. And these are all very similar to the non-linear stages of grief we associate with loss.

The other thing we may grieve is the person we were before, or during, the scene. For many of us, BDSM is a formative experience: it changes our very sense of self. 

Ultimately we don’t really know what drop is, but I like to think of it in these terms, as a process of grieving the experience, or the reaction to a change in identity. And I like what Sprott and Randall say in their conclusion: “Perhaps the later drop is a sign of growth, but a growth process that involves negative emotional experiences as part of the change. Drop becomes the felt aspect of the challenge of incorporating the peak experience into one’s life. [It] may be a healthy process and not be a sign of something going wrong.”

How to spot drop

Drop looks different for everyone and these lists are absolutely not exhaustive.

In the minutes after a scene you may:

  • Shake
  • Be hungry or thirsty
  • Become hot or cold
  • Be incoherent
  • Feel deeply exhausted
  • Be tearful, or laugh uncontrollably

In the days after, you might experience any of the following:

  • Feelings of loss, disconnection and insecurity
  • Irritability
  • Guilt, shame, or embarrassment
  • Anxiety
  • Melancholy, or tearfulness
  • Emptiness
  • Lack of motivation
  • Preoccupation with thinking about the scene

How to manage drop

For me, having a rational explanation for drop helps me to manage it in and of itself. This isn’t the same for everyone, yet no one is exempt from the drop monster knocking at your door, even if you’re an experienced kinkster who’s never felt it before. 

From experience, drop can be more likely to happen:

  • After particularly intense scenes
  • After scenes that involve physical exertion
  • In committed, emotional relationships or if there was no emotional connection 
  • If something went wrong (even if it was managed well, but especially if it wasn’t)

So here are some tips. But remember that everyone is different, and only you know how drop is likely to affect you. 

Notice the feelings

If drop arrives, in whatever form it might take, try and key into the feelings. Give them space to breathe. Notice if they’re the same as, or different to, feelings you’ve had in the past. While the feelings may not be positive ones in the moment, noticing them is the first step to processing them, and can help us understand our aftercare needs better going forward. 

Acknowledge and accept the feelings

Once you’ve noticed them, acknowledge and try to accept them. Oftentimes, if we don’t do this, we spend unconscious energy rejecting them and end up making ourselves feel worse in the long run. Accepting our feelings actually removes the power they can hold over us and allow us to move through them more easily. 

Practise good aftercare

Aftercare is an important part of kink and BDSM and while practising it doesn’t mean drop won’t happen, it does give you support. Aftercare is for everyone too: while the sub/ bottom is often the one immediately in need of attention, Dom(me)s/ tops will also often experience drop. Communicate with each other in the hours and days after your scene. Those feelings you noticed and acknowledged? Share them with one another.

Talk to friends

If you have friends who are also kinksters, reach out to them too. The likelihood is they will all have experienced drop at some point and will be able to hold space for you in yours. And, if they haven’t, perhaps they will be more equipped to recognise and manage it for themselves if the time comes. Sometimes, just being heard and knowing we’re not alone in our feelings can help us to feel better. 

Self-care the shit out of you

Aftercare is important, but we also have to take care of ourselves. Only you know how best to take care of yourself: whether it’s planning activities to distract yourself; stocking up on your favourite snacks; working from bed; watching that movie, the one that never fails to makes you laugh (or cry); or getting on the treadmill. Do whatever you need to do to manage your feelings.

Prepare to drop (and rejoice if you don’t)

Pretending, or assuming, it isn’t going to happen, doesn’t really help. While it’s not helpful to fixate on drop it is a good idea to prepare for the droppiest drop of all time. That way you can celebrate if it doesn’t happen, or if it’s even a little bit less droppy than you prepped for. Brace yourself for those feels, get ready to share them with friends/ partners, and ride the wave.

Nine Unexpected Positives of Choosing Shibari As your Next Hobby

It’s January. The time of year where people often make resolutions, set intentions, and pick up new hobbies. 

Often when we start out with something new, we have some idea of what the benefits of it might be. However, there are almost always advantages that come as surprise bonuses. 

So here are a few reasons why we think shibari should be your 2023 hobby of choice. 

Boost your confidence

Amongst other things, learning a new skill can help develop confidence. When you take up shibari, you will learn a practical skill, one that you will see developing over time. When you see yourself improving at something there is a sense of achievement that will likely lead to an increase in confidence. Click here for our top tying tips

The perfect party trick

If you would like to go to sex- or kink-positive parties, shibari is a great way to settle into a space, especially if you’re socially anxious, or more introverted. It can give you a focus — tying a friend, or self-tying — and help you find your feet. It’s the perfect conversation starter too.

Develop communication skills

Communication comes up a lot in chats about shibari because it’s a great way to develop communication skills: stating needs and actively listening. It’s also useful where learning to read and respond to non-verbal cues is concerned: so much communication in rope happens without words. When you learn rope, you are learning a whole new language, too. It’s pretty wonderful.

Explore intimacy

Shibari is about sex, right? Well, yes, sometimes. But actually you’ll find that many people separate the two: it’s perfectly possible — and wonderful — to enjoy rope without sex. However, rope is generally physically intimate, whether  you’re tying with yourself or another human: be prepared to get up close and personal in the best ways.

Find community

One of the most surprising things about learning shibari is the friendships you’re likely to make. Attending events, like rope munches, jams, or classes, brings likeminded people together. If you’re new to it it’s super easy to bond with other people who are in the same situation and you’ll probably find that your rope friends will become friend friends in no time at all. Mouse, House Cat at Anatomie, says: “Rope brought me community and the best friends I’ve ever had.”

Body positivity

Traditional pictures or shibari are often of straight-sized, able bodied humans. Come along to real life rope events and you’ll soon realise that those pictures aren’t representative of the actual shibari community. Bodies of all shapes, sizes, ages, and abilities belong in rope and exploring your own and other people’s strengths and limitations is a fascinating part of learning shibari. 

Sense of self

If you are curious about rope, there’s probably a reason. Leaning into the things that speak to us can do wonders for our sense of self and identity. When you learn and experience something new, something that interests you, you create new memories and shape new behavioural tendencies, which develop your personality and support your self-conceptualisation.

Tap into playfulness

As you get more proficient at shibari (whether you are tying or being tied) you will find that the muscle memory takes over and this will free up room for playfulness. Rope should be fun, but it can be easy to get caught up in perfectionism. Some of the best rope isn’t the most beautiful to look at, instead it’s all about the experiences of the people involved. Shibari has allowed me to tap into my playfulness in a way I’m so grateful for. 


Life is so busy, and rope is an opportunity to slow down and be in the moment. If you are tying, it’s a chance to focus on something and quiet your brain; if you’re being tied you can sink into your body and get out of your head. Mindfulness was one of the things our community love most about shibari. Lee, another one of Anatomie’s House Cats, says: “I love the way rope brings you into the present moment. For me it removes worrying about the past or future, and grounds me in what is happening now.”

Structure for (some) people with ADHD

Finally, rope might be the perfect hobby for some neurodivergent people. Kaoru (yes, another House Cat!) has this to say: “The space that rope creates between two people is, by nature, more structured and with clear negotiations. Making things explicit and clear helps my ADHD. It effectively allows me to be close to someone and gives me a form of intimacy that doesn’t necessarily have to be something else. It’s just us, in the moment. When I’m bottoming I can let myself go and allow my brain to quiet, and when I’m tying I kick into hyperfocus and only we exist.”

However, this may not be the case for all neurodivergent people so if you would like to try shibari take it slowly and make sure you are in a safe environment, with people you trust. Self-tying is a great way to start.

In conclusion

There are so many reasons to try a new hobby, and if shibari intrigues you, then why not learn rope! If we’ve whet your appetite (and you live in London), check out our events listings, or come along to a beginners rope jam. If you’re further afield, have a look at our YouTube channel for some inspiration and take a look at Shibari Store to kit yourself out.

Related reading:

This article is an opinion piece based on the voluntary contributions of team members and community members. If you’d like to get in touch about any of the content, please email us at We are always excited about incorporating others thoughts and perspectives into our posts.

Introducing The Wheel of Consent: When “Hell yes!” and “No way,” just aren’t enough.

Consent has become something of a buzzword over the last few years, and rightly so, really. It’s super important in everyday life, let alone when you’re tying someone up. 

My thoughts and feelings about consent have developed a lot over the time I’ve been exploring kink. I’ve written about it many times, for various reasons, but my understanding is continuously evolving. 

And while I am generally wary of “shoulds”, I firmly believe that anyone who engages in kink or shibari needs to be willing to spend time educating themselves about consent. The popular tea analogy is a great start, but it falls far short of an understanding that includes the nuances and complexities kink inevitably throws up.

The purpose of this blog post is to share a resource that I think is fundamental for an in-depth understanding of consent. A resource that was shared with me in my training (as a clinical sexologist) but that I wish I’d had access to when I was starting out: The Wheel of Consent.

Let’s talk about the Wheel of Consent

The Wheel of Consent is a tool that was created by intimacy and touch expert, Betty Martin

There is a lot to say about The Wheel of Consent, so I’m going to give a super basic introduction to it. This is a great starting point, but it’s worth spending some time watching the videos too, as they go into a lot more depth than I will here. 

It’s useful for understanding interactions, as well as our own tendencies, when it comes to consent. 

What is the Wheel of Consent?

This is a simplified version of The Wheel of Consent:

It is split into halves: who is “doing” (you or the other person) and who the act is “for” (you or the other person).

It is then split into quadrants depending on who is doing/ who the act is being done for or to: giving, taking, accepting and allowing.


You are doing, and the act is for them. It’s an action to benefit someone else.

Example: You’re a rigger and you know your bottom likes a certain type of tie that you’re not so keen on. You offer it to them, as a gift, because you know they like it.


They are doing, and the act is for them. It’s an action to benefit yourself.

Example: You’re a bottom and you really like a certain kind of tie that your rigger doesn’t enjoy. You ask them to tie you like that and they agree to tie you for your pleasure.


They are doing and the act is for you. You are benefitting from the actions of someone else.

Example: You are a bottom, and your rigger offers to tie you in a way that they know you like, but they don’t enjoy. You accept their offer.


They are doing, and the act is for them. You are allowing someone else to act as they wish.

Example: You’re a bottom and your rigger likes a certain type of tie that you don’t particularly enjoy. You allow them to tie you this way for their pleasure.

While it’s easy to think that some of these are “better” than others, they are all perfectly valid reasons to do something.

How can The Wheel of Consent help?

Rather than placing value judgments on the different quadrants, The Wheel of Consent requires us to be radically honest with ourselves. However well we align with our partners, it’s unlikely that we align so completely that we are able to say an enthusiastic, “Hell yes!” to every single thing they enjoy, every single time they want to do it. 

Informed consent is much more complex than “Hell Yes, or No!” and the Wheel of Consent gives us a tool to help us navigate, and communicate, when we’re not feeling a “Hell yes!” but still want to play.

It’s also useful to notice where we sit on the wheel at different times. The different quadrants only really become an issue if we find that we’re sitting in one of them more than any of the others: Are we most often taking, or allowing our partner to act the way they wish? Or are we always the one giving, or constantly accepting our partners’ gifts without reciprocating?

The Wheel of Consent is a great tool to bring into relationships of all different kinds as it opens up conversations that otherwise might be had.

However, in order for the wheel to be useful, it’s super important to understand yourself first and foremost. 

Some other great consent-related resources

Kink Frenzy: When you say, “Yes!” to walking red flags (and what to do about it)

When I started exploring kink and BDSM, it was literally all I could think about. As clichéd as it sounds, it was on my mind from the moment I woke up to the moment I (eventually) fell asleep. 

Almost a decade later, I still experience this obsessiveness on occasion; usually when I discover something new, or explore something for the first few times. I also see this happening around me a lot. I notice the feelings I had in other people — that feeling of I want it ALL, and I want it NOW! — and I often wonder if it’s something they are aware of.

I was aware of it, but I didn’t really know what to do with it. I also didn’t know what it was, or why it was happening. Now, I have a name for it: frenzy. Knowing that it’s an actual thing really helped me, and made me wish I’d known about it at the time. Not because it would have changed it necessarily, but self-awareness and understanding your own risk profile are necessary tools when navigating kink.

What is frenzy?

In nature there are two kinds of frenzies that we most often hear about: feeding frenzy and mating frenzy. Kink frenzy is likely a human form of the latter: an intensely primal and animalistic response to temptation. While it’s most commonly associated with new submissives, it isn’t something that discriminates: if you’re human and you discover a new kink (hello, rope!) you are prone to jumping in head first. 

Frenzy is the feeling I’ve described above: of wanting to do all the things immediately. However, along with that comes a significant lowering of an individual’s risk profile. 

This is why it’s important to spot it. If your risk profile is reduced, you are more likely to put yourself in positions that you might, at best, regret but that, at worst, may put you in danger. 

How might I recognise frenzy?

While the feelings associated with frenzy might just feel like good old fashioned enthusiasm, the key part of frenzy is the lowering of inhibitions that leads to potentially unsafe situations.

In a nutshell, you’re likely in some form of kink frenzy if:

  • You’re feeling desperate for whatever-it-is, and struggling to go without
  • You’re doing things you would normally deem unsafe, and justifying them to yourself
  • You’re saying ‘Yes’ to relative strangers — even walking red flags — just to scratch an itch
  • You’re not being totally honest with close friends about what you are doing and with whom
  • A disproportionate amount of your time is spent thinking about and/ or doing the thing, and you are struggling to focus on other things that you would normally spend time and energy on
  • You find yourself in positions that don’t feel fully emotionally or physically safe
  • You feel shame or distress about some of your behaviours

What do I do if I notice signs of frenzy?

Kinks should be enjoyed — it’s basically the reason we have them — and recognising frenzy is a key part of this. Noticing it can help you make safer decisions while also getting your needs met.

If you notice signs of frenzy:

  • Seek out a community that “gets it”. By being open about your feelings and behaviours with trusted friends you’re a lot less likely to put yourself in danger. Share your plans and locations and sense-check your decisions.
  • Make an effort to make time for things that aren’t kinky, just to try and rebalance your time a little.
  • Spend some time putting all your energy into researching your kinks. This is a great way to engage with them without putting yourself in danger. And, often, this will dilute the frenzy a little.
  • A little self-awareness goes a long way! Figure out your boundaries and limits (and notice if, how, when and why they shift, because they will). Explore your kinks yourself: work out what you enjoy about them to help you know what to actually look for. Understand that “kinky” doesn’t mean “anything goes”.
  • If you have access to a community, reaching out to trusted “service” tops and bottoms is a great way to fulfil your needs. And, if you don’t, and you have the funds, paying a professional is the absolute safest way to do so.

Finally, knowing what safe, healthy behaviour looks like (for you) is fundamental. The kink community has a number of acronyms to guide us. They are all similar but have subtle conceptual differences, so pick the one that you like best and try to keep it in mind!

The Six Principles of Sexual Health — that sexual encounters should: be consensual; be non-exploitative; be honest; share values; include protection from HIV/ STI’s and unwanted pregnancies; and be pleasurable — is another great resources for helping to define what safe sex is.

In conclusion

While kink is about exploration, being sex- and kink-positive doesn’t mean ‘anything goes’. In order to practise kink safely, and to enjoy it fully, we have to respect ourselves and our boundaries. Part of this is understanding kink frenzy and being able to recognise it in ourselves (and people close to us). 

I wish someone had told me this when I was starting out.

Talking Shibari: a guide to rope-related vocabulary

Learning shibari can feel like learning a new language. Here’s our guide to the most common rope-related words you are likely to hear as you start out.

Roles in rope


The rigger is the person who does the tying. Some people prefer to use the word “Rope Top”, not to be confused with “Dominant”, which implies that a more formal power exchange dynamic is at play. 

Bottom/ bunny/ model

The term “rope bunny” refers to the person being tied. However, the term is controversial and has fallen into disuse over the years as the rope and kink scenes have diversified. Many do not relate to the “cutesy” nature of the word. In recent years “bottom” or “model” have become more commonly used in rope circles. The use of one over the other seems to be dependent on the individual community, with some preferring “bottom” — a more kink-related term — and some preferring “model”, which is devoid of kink connotations. Some feel the term “model” denotes more “passivity” in the equation, while others consider this to be the better and more professional term as it is used in other circles without the implication of passivity.  


A rope switch is someone who enjoys tying (rigging) and being tied (bottoming). 


A spotter is someone who will watch a rope scene, to check for warning signs of something going wrong, or step in to support if something does go wrong. Many scenes don’t require a spotter, but if a rigger is attempting something new, or higher risk, they may ask a person (or three) to spot. Spotters are commonly used (and highly advisable) for self-suspension scenes and even performances.

Technical terms

At Anatomie, we tend to use 6mm jute rope in lengths of 7.5m, that are doubled over on themselves to tie. Jute creates great friction, is not stretchy like some other materials, and tends not to burn skin. This length is popular as it means you have a working end that is roughly two arm spans: enough to work with, but not so much that it gets in the way.


The bight is the middle point of the rope, where it folds in half. When tying you want to be as accurate as you can with where your bight is (i.e. as close to the middle as possible) to make joining ropes easier should you need to. 

Working end

The length of rope you are working with is called the working end. We focus on the section of the rope closest to the bunny when tying. This is what connects the rigger to their rope bottom when tying and creates intimacy. It is usually taut, in order to maintain this connection. The rest of the rope, the length you are not using, is usually slack.

Stopper knot

At each end of the rope is a knot: these are called stopper knots. We call them stopper knots because they can stop the ends from unravelling , and because they are used to join rope by stopping the joined rope from slipping off. There are a variety of stopper knots: overhand knots, thistle knots, matthew-walker-knot, and more.

Image via @theaccidentalrigger, used with permission


In rope we call body parts — or other things you want to tie, like bed posts — columns. Any of the following could be a column:

  • A single wrist, ankle, thigh etc.
  • Two wrists, ankles, thighs, or a thigh and a wrist, an ankle and a thigh, a wrist and a bedpost etc. 
  • The waist, or chest
  • The neck (not advised)

Single column tie

Each tie starts with an anchor point: usually a wrap and a knot that secures the rope in place to allow you to start your tie. A single column tie is normally two wraps around your chosen column and a simple knot (often a granny or reef knot) to secure it. The knot you choose will determine the direction of your working end (see below: Granny knot).

A single column tie, tied with a granny knot

Double column tie

A double column tie is similar to a single column tie, but tailored more to columns that are made up from two body parts (e.g. two wrists, two ankles, a wrist and an ankle, etc.) with the addition of a wrap (a cinch or “kannuki”) that runs between the two to prevent slippage. 

Double column tie


In shibari, knots are mainly used on anchor points (single- and double column ties). Here are some common knots that will be demonstrated using videos and images rather than words:

Reef/ square knot

A single column tie, tied with a reef knot

Granny knot

See above: Single Column Tie

Left: reef knot; Right: granny knot

Somerville bowline/ Myrtle hitch

Somerville bowline

Quick release 

Instead of the knots above, a quick release knot can be used to enable to a rigger to release their model from their tie more quickly.

Quick release knot


Simply put, wraps are when the rope wraps around the body/ columns. They can be used as part of a more complex tie, accompanied by frictions, or they can be used to create an experience just with a single- or double-column tie and the working end. 


The other components of most ties are frictions: these are the points of contact between your working end and your existing wraps. They rely on the friction of the rope (and the skin) to help maintain the tension of your wraps and can be used to change the direction of your tie. Frictions should always be tight so remember to pull each part as you are tying it so there is no slack. They are really all you need to know in order to freestyle.

Again, the best way to demonstrate frictions is with images.

Counter tension/ reverse tension

A counter, or reverse, tension allows you to change direction and to move back the way you came from..

Counter- or reverse-tension

Full stop

A full stop enables you to continue tying in the same direction, while keeping tension. 

Full stop

Half moon

We can use a half moon when our working end meets an existing wrap/ line at a 90 degree angle, creating a “+”. 

Half moon

Munter hitch

A munter hitch is a slightly more complex and secure way to continue in the same direction; it requires a “T” shaped intersection of rope.

Munter hitch


The x-friction is most commonly used when two lines cross as a “T” or an “+” shape. When doing an x-friction, it’s important to make sure the friction is tight at each step to ensure this happens. 



A hitch also requires a “T” shaped intersection, and allows you to change direction so you are moving perpendicular to the direction you were going. 


Lark’s head/ Lark’s foot/ Cow hitch

A lark’s head is most commonly used when joining ropes. 

Lark’s head

Locking off

When we create an upline (see next) we have to make sure that the rope is connected securely to the suspension point and the model. We call this locking off

Upline/ suspension line/ mainline

The upline is the line of rope that connects the person in the rope  to the suspension point.

Tying off

When we have a length of leftover rope after completing a tie, we can use it up in a variety of ways; this is called tying off the loose ends.


In traditional Japanese shibari, the untying is as much a part of the process as everything else: it signals the end of the connection, and the connection should be maintained until the last rope is removed. We can do this in two ways, neither of which sound that appealing but luckily they both feel great. “Peeling” does what it says on the tin: you “peel” the rope off the bunny slowly. “Flossing” involves using your whole arm span to gently pull the rope across the bunny’s skin as it loosens. 

Rigger finger (Crochet hook)

When tying, rope often has to cross itself and sometimes the tension makes it tricky to move a rope underneath another. Rather than pushing the working end through, we tend to use our index finger to hook the rope and pull it through. Pushing is much more clumsy, and doesn’t feel great for the bottom. 


Tension is one of the most important — but also most difficult — elements of rigging well. There is some level of personal preference in tension: some bottoms prefer rope to be tighter, some prefer it looser. However, tension is much more integral than this: it is necessary to maintain the integrity of any given tie, and is even more necessary when suspending to avoid slippage. 


Tying usually takes on one of two purposes. Labbing is when a tie is planned in order to practise technicalities.


The other option, playing, is tying for fun!


Often we tie with other people, but when we tie ourselves it’s known as self-tying. It can be a great way to practise, but it’s also an opportunity to connect with ourselves. 

Safety basics


Shibari can be intense. It’s worth considering some form of aftercare for both the rigger and the bunny. Check-ins post tying are also really important.


Drop is one of the reasons aftercare is important: after an intense scene, which involves a lot of adrenaline, our bodies can “drop”. This is when a participant in the scene — and it can be the Top or the bottom, or both — experiences a low mood, and sometimes feelings of guilt, in the aftermath. 


Tying can cut circulation to body parts off. However, while this can look quite dramatic (limbs can turn white or deep purple depending on whether blood is pooling or cut off) and feels like intense pins and needles, the length of time is important. While different tissues respond differently, your limbs and extremities become unsalvageable after six to eight hours without blood. Most ties last a fraction of this time. It’s important to note that if, and how long, a person is comfortable with circulation being impeded is a part of their own risk profile and should always be respected.


Shibari is a way of communication in and of itself. It also requires negotiation and extensive discussion. It takes a while to learn what you like and what you don’t in terms of ties: body parts you like to have tied, positions you feel safe and unsafe in. 


It goes without saying that shibari needs to be undertaken consensually. Like all kink and BDSM play, a surface-level understanding of consent really isn’t enough. Here are a some resources about consent that are worth exploring:


A feeling many of us are used to: frenzy is the desperation to do all the things, all at once, RIGHT NOW. Discovering shibari, or kink more generally, often sparks a period of frenzy, in which our decision-making skills are impaired, and our risk profile is lowered, in the desperation not to miss out. It’s a hard thing to be aware of while you’re in it, but the best way to manage it is to rely on a trusted group of friends/ peers that can help you “sense check” decisions in a nonjudgmental way. 


Often when tied, body parts can go numb. This is called ‘paresthesia’. It is due to compression of the nerves and isn’t usually dangerous. However, again, it’s down to a person’s personal risk profile and their knowledge of their own body. It’s important to note that shibari can cause long-term nerve damage if the correct checks aren’t done during a tie. Nerve damage, rather than compression, results in certain movements being inhibited, and the power of the grip lessening in the person being tied. If the arms are tied (especially in takate kote-style ties) where the radial nerve can be exposed. If compressed  it limits the movement of the thumb and fingers. Checking that the thumb can touch all fingers at a usual pressure (even if they feel numb) and checking the movement of the thumb towards and away from the hand is important. This should be done often by riggers and bottoms as a team. However in instances where the bottom is inexperienced, where the  power dynamics involved, and/ or where the person being tied is “spacing out” and has less awareness of themselves, the responsibility may — and should — fall more on the rigger to perform these checks.

Read more about nerves in rope here


Sometimes when people are tied they sink into a headspace that renders verbal communication almost impossible. It’s useful to have a nonverbal “safe sign” as a back-up to a safe word (see below) but also useful to discuss nonverbal tendencies before tying.

Power exchange

Shibari is ultimately a power exchange. It can take a lot of trust to allow someone to tie you up. The Wheel of Consent is a great way to explore power dynamics in any given relationship, and to ensure any power is exchanged with consent.


Ongoing communication is necessary in a rope relationship, but it’s important to have a safeword that cuts through and stops play immediately. Traffic lights are a well-used safeword: green for continue; orange for pause/ slow down; and red for stop. 


On a practical level, when tying it’s important to have a pair of safety shears on hand at all times to ensure that ropes can be cut if necessary. Typically, shears are useful in cases of fainting and/or when things such as fire alarms go off. 


Asking for “references” before tying with someone new might sound a little ridiculous, but it’s a great way to keep yourself safe (again, as a Top and a bottom). It’s a lot more common in the rope community than you might think!

Common ties

Shibari ties, in Japanese, are not named after specific sequences of knots, wraps and frictions. Instead, they are named after the part of the body or the shape they create. To this end, there are multiple possible ways to any given harness or shape. Shibari is a puzzle, and it lends itself to creativity.

That said, there are some more common ties. Here are two examples.

Takate kote

The takate kote, or box tie, is a version of a gote tie: gote means “back hand”, or “hands behind the back; and takatekote means “high hand, little hand” — or  “hands angled upwards, forearms (tied)” — and is associated with a specific lineage of shibari. It is often used as a harness for suspension.  


In Japanese, futomomo means “thigh” (“the fat part of the leg”) and a futomomo tie is one where the ankle is bound to the thigh. Again, they can be used for suspension, but are great for all kinds of play. Here’s one example of a futomomo

Written by Kink and Cuddles; photography, videos and edits by Anna Bones.

With thanks to @and_so_is_lola for video editing, and @theaccidentalrigger for use of stopper knots image.

What Skills and Qualities Should a Good Rope Teacher Have?

In my past life I was a primary school teacher. I quit a few years ago to pursue other interests, but I always said that teaching was in my soul. And what do you know? Here I am, embarking on a whole other teaching journey: teaching shibari to adults.

As a trained teacher, I am so aware of the skills a person needs to educate young minds, but transferring this knowledge to kink education is a different kettle of fish. While there are certain skills and qualities that make someone a good teacher, regardless of who or what they are teaching, there are also particular things to consider when teaching rope to grown ups. 

So, if you’re looking to learn shibari, what should you be looking for in your teacher(s)?

A good rope teacher…

Is patient & empathetic

When we asked our community what makes a good teacher, the most common answer was patience. 

People learn in different ways and at different rates: this needs to be understood by a teacher. Many teachers have been tying for years, they know what they’re doing intuitively. This is great, but can mean they forget just how challenging things they view to be simple are to those who are just starting out. 

Has enough relevant experience

Shibari is a pretty daft thing to do, really. Learning from a teacher who knows what they’re doing is unbelievably important. 

It’s best practice for newer teachers to start out by co-teaching with someone more experienced. If a teacher is teaching alone, or is teaching more advanced skills like suspension, transitions or rope that intersects more with kink, then their experience should reflect this.

Enjoying these things in your spare time – even for a significant period of time – is not the same as having the credentials for teaching. According to our community, a good rope teacher has spent a lot of time learning, but also credits who they have learned from. 

Teaches to their ability level

When learning a new skill — and here I am talking about teaching itself — there are four levels of competence:

  1. Unconscious incompetence: not knowing, and not knowing you don’t know
  2. Conscious incompetence: knowing you don’t know, and understanding the value of knowing it
  3. Conscious competence: having knowledge, but having to work hard to recall or teach it 
  4. Unconscious competence: when knowing and doing become second nature

Of course this also applies to learning shibari itself. But teachers are human and can be in the “unconscious incompetence” stage. This happens when people try to teach too much too soon and, as above, when teaching a skill like shibari, this can be dangerous.

It’s also super important that they are not teaching above their own skill level, and that they know what this is. A good teacher is self aware.

Is a lifelong learner

Good teachers never stop learning. They will continue to learn, because the more they learn the more they realise they don’t know. Experience and citing prior learning is one thing, showing they are still learning is quite another. Look for teachers who are still actively learning and improving their own personal practise in order to share up to date knowledge with their students.

Furthermore, teaching itself is one of the best ways to learn. Author, Robert Heinlein says: “When one teaches, two learn,” and honestly this is so accurate. I learn so much from my students every single time I teach.

Shares and models best practise (and the reasons for it)

With experience and continued learning comes ever-increasing knowledge. And so a good shibari teacher should be sharing — and modelling — best practise at all times. According to our community: a good rope teacher never demonstrates a bad or incorrect technique

There are often multiple ways to do the same thing in rope: ties are generally more about the position of the body rather than a specific set of knots, wraps and frictions. Therefore teaching shibari is most often a combination of teaching the relevant knots and frictions, safety elements of tying, and the relational skills that it takes to be a competent rigger.

You should leave a class or course knowing key skills and how to safely apply them in a variety of ways.

Teaches from both Top and bottom perspectives

Since shibari most often includes at least two people — unless you are self-tying — rope teachers have the unique job of teaching from two perspectives. Ideally you’re looking for information about bottoming as well as Topping.

Whether this comes directly from the model, or from the rigger (who ideally has experience as a bunny too), knowing things to look out for from the perspective of the person being tied is imperative.

Appreciates mistakes

Shibari is deceptively tricky, especially when you’re starting out. A good teacher will greet your mistakes and confusion with patience (see above!) and will likely anticipate some of your misconceptions before you even realise you have them.

Getting good at rope is basically about one thing: practising. It’s about developing the muscle memory that allows you to access the unconscious competence level of learning. Part of this is also about making mistakes — safely — and understanding how to resolve them yourself. Your teacher should support you through this, not get impatient. They may also share mistakes they’ve made, and how they resolved and avoid them.

Is well prepped for class, but adaptable

It almost goes without saying, but a good rope teacher should be well prepped for class, but not afraid to make changes to suit the needs of their students. And this is where experience comes in… without experience a teacher might have a plan and feel unable to deviate from it. An experienced teacher will be able to read the room to meet the students where they’re at, rather than where they want them to be, in order to show them the next steps.

Breaks complicated concepts down into digestible chunks

And, as I’ve mentioned, shibari can seem super difficult at the start… explaining what the different parts of a tie do, and breaking more complicated ties down into manageable chunks, is good teaching.

Starting out can also be like learning a whole new language: bights, stopper knots, frictions, futomomos… 

It’s important to know the correct words for things, but it’s also important not to overwhelm new students. Good rope teachers will introduce just enough jargon to support their learners’ journeys, and use the terms correctly and consistently in their demonstrations.

Hones their communication skills 

Teaching is basically communication. Breaking complicated concepts down is one thing, communicating them is quite another. Rope teachers will use words and demonstrations to share their knowledge — ideally in differing ways to accommodate different learning styles — they will allow time for students to practise, and they will use active listening skills to understand challenges their students have.

My favourite model of active listening is the traditional chinese character “ting”. Ting combines ears, eyes, heart, mind, and undivided attention to ensure we listen properly. 

Is able to engage their students without too much effort

A large part of teaching is making learning fun, and about your “stage presence”. This often comes from confidence: it is hard to learn, but can definitely come with practise. Some teachers might choose to share anecdotes about their own practise, others may employ humour (a popular trait with our community), but being open and approachable is what’s truly important.

With shibari, this goes further: the best teaching duos demonstrate good synergy between rigger and model and don’t try to “perform” for the class in any way that goes beyond what they are teaching.

Is passionate about both teaching and their subject matter

That’s not to say teaching is about acting… a lot of teachers of adult sex and kink education teach because they are passionate about their content. This passion is usually obvious in their personal practise, and is something to look out for: does what they’re teaching bring them joy?

Scott Hayden — a teacher of teachers — says: “Teachers have three loves: love of learning, love of learners, and the love of bringing the first two loves together.” I am inclined to agree. Teaching about sex and kink isn’t for everyone and a good teacher will be at ease when talking about more risque content and, by proxy, make their students feel at ease too. 

But there are different motivators for teaching. After teaching for years in different capacities, Anna Bones, owner of Anatomie Studio,  thinks the most common motivators for teaching are money, passion, and/or power. None of these reasons are inherently good or bad, but it’s something to consider when choosing a class or a teacher. 

Have we missed anything? Comment below 🙂

Not connecting with kink? You might be suffering from kink burnout

I’ve been wanting to prioritise writing this blog post for a while but what do you know? I realised, as I began to write it, that I’m currently in the midst of my own burnout. Writing it has been a bit of a slog. It’s taken much longer than it should have and my brain has struggled to retain and synthesise any of the information in order to get the words on the page.

Truth be told, feeling burned out is pretty horrendous. It’s a whole different level of exhaustion and overwhelm. Nothing feels exciting, motivating yourself to do anything — even things you usually care about and enjoy — is impossible. 

But… honestly… this has just made me more determined, in a roundabout way. Burnout is super common and important to understand. So let’s talk about what it means to be burned out, and what kink burnout specifically is.

What is burnout?

Modern life is jam packed full of stressors: working long hours, giving presentations, break-ups, illness or injury, managing finances and, um, pandemics. Even life events that are exciting — moving house, changing jobs, getting married, having a baby — are classed as stressors. The cumulative, ongoing load of all these factors can affect a lot of us negatively. 

While not everyone who feels stressed will fully burn out, it is a possible consequence of being continuously overloaded. Burnout is officially a work-related condition, but its symptoms are often related more casually to many other areas of life. These include: chronic health conditions, lack of adequate social care, and… kink! Really.

According to WebMD, burnout is: “A form of exhaustion caused by constantly feeling swamped. It’s a result of excessive and prolonged emotional, physical, and mental stress. [It] happens when you’re overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to keep up with life’s incessant demands.”

The symptoms of burnout are quite specific, and subtly different from stress or fatigue. They include:

  • Emotional exhaustion: fatigue from carrying too much for too long
  • Depersonalisation: depletion of empathy, caring and compassion
  • An unconquerable sense of futility: nothing you do makes any difference
  • A propensity to latch onto negatives and ignore positives

And all of these can absolutely relate back to, or impact on, our kink lives.

While I’d say the burnout I’m experiencing right now is broader than just kink, kink burnout is something I’ve experienced, and kink is definitely a piece of the puzzle. It’s also something many members of our community have dealt with. 58% of people who responded to our polls said they’d experienced kink burnout, and 12% thought it might be a possibility after hearing the description. Perhaps it’s more common than we think.

Kink is generally something I associate with release and fun. But it can also be a cause of stress, especially when balanced with the rest of life’s demands. This can absolutely lead to a unique type of burnout.

So, what is kink burnout? How does it feel? Does it feel any different to burnout for other reasons? And what can we do about it? So many questions!

How do you know if you’re suffering from kink burnout?

Kayla Lords talks about burnout in relation to kink and power dynamics in this episode of her podcast, Loving BDSM. It’s well worth a listen.

Kink burnout can be recognised when we start to feel the symptoms listed above, in relation to our kink lives or identity. We might start to avoid the things we usually love. We want to care about our dynamic. And we want to want to do all the kinky things we usually enjoy. But… we just don’t feel like doing them. In fact, we don’t really care about them at all right now. 

We might feel overwhelmed with the expectations of our partner or our power exchange. We might feel stressed before there’s even anything tangible to feel stressed about.

If kink is starting to feel like walking through mud, or if you feel like you’re an extra in a vaguely kinky version of Groundhog Day… these are all signs. As is existential dread. Fun times, eh?

Why might you burn out from kink?

It’s often a combination of factors that can lead to feeling burned out, but kink can be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Here are some reasons why that might be the case:

  • Often when we start out with kink, we jump in with both feet. We want to do and try everything yesterday. This is also known as “frenzy” and it isn’t really the key to sustaining healthy kink relationships over time. In order to maintain a positive relationship to kink we need to find balance within it. Whatever that looks like to us. 
  • Kink relationships, especially in the early days of a new dynamic, can involve a lot of learning and habit-changing. They can be intense.
  • Some dynamics are built on a foundation of high expectations. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s important to balance this with forgiveness and an appreciation of the complexities of the humans that are in the dynamic.
  • For those of us with perfectionist tendencies, kink can be a breeding ground for self-flagellation. Rules and routines can be a really positive thing, they can also become overwhelming if we don’t feel fully able to sustain them or complete them to a standard we’re happy with. 
  • With kink becoming more and more mainstream, dating can be a bit of a minefield. For unpartnered or nonmonogamous kinksters, who are looking for meaningful BDSM relationships, constant disappointment and repeating negative patterns with prospective partners can take its toll. 
  • For lifestylers, the 24/7 nature of a dynamic can slowly become too much. If you’re thinking about things that are usually second nature, and dreading them, it might be time to reassess. Even just short-term. 
  • Long-term kink relationships can lose their shine too, just like vanilla ones can. We can begin to take our partner for granted. It’s easy forget to appreciate the good things, often being more critical than we might once have been. A lack of gratitude from a loved one can also lead to feeling burned out. 

How does kink burnout actually feel?

Here’s what some members of our community had to say about their experiences of burnout.

The effort of getting to events started to outweigh the enjoyment.” A lot of people echoed this: losing motivation to do the things they usually enjoy, whether that was attending events or even just spending time with partners. Others also said their sexual needs shifted away from kink-based sex to much more vanilla experiences.

From the side of a submissive: “I get embarrassed, I don’t want to communicate what I need. Instead of turning me on,  dominance makes me exceptionally anxious.

Some comments from Doms/ Tops, who also feel the burn out:

The mental and emotional need to ensure safety was present in play made it feel like a chore.

There were times when I felt I had to put up a facade of being a strong, competent Dom, but in reality I had burned myself out and needed to find balance within my dynamics.

Porn performer and producer, @bathory_cvnt said: “I think ebbs and flows are completely natural in relationships so I try not to worry about it! I’ve been going through a really bad depression and sometimes I don’t want to dom my partner (doms need to feel secure too!) So maybe I’ll need to be extra open about how I’m feeling. I think we all have complicated relationships with sex and kink and it’s key to: a) listen to your body and mind’s needs, and b) not to feel guilty when you can’t perform. Especially as an AFAB person when we’re conditioned to perform sexually all the time.

For many people, sex drive is the first thing we lose when we are overworked, stressed, or juggling too many things. But sex (and kink!) can also be great tools for escaping the stresses of everyday life. So how do we maintain some balance?

How do we prevent burnout?

It’s important to acknowledge that feeling burned out from kink isn’t a failure. It’s not a permanent state of being either. It’s very easy to judge ourselves (or our partners) for negative feelings about something we love. But it’s super important to try and avoid doing that.

Burnout is really a sign that something is off: there’s too much of something, or not enough of something else. It’s a chance to reflect and restore balance. 

One thing we can do, which is scientifically backed, is focus on completing the cycle of stress. Emily and Amelia Ngoski talk about this in detail, in their book Burnout: the secret to solving the stress cycle (another one that’s worth a look!) Modern life is throwing stressors at us all the time. If we let them pile up, without telling our body we’re safe, we are much more likely to burn out. There are so many ways to do this:

  • Exercise, or clenching and releasing different muscle groups
  • Being outdoors
  • Laughter
  • Kissing (for at least 6 seconds)
  • Hugging while maintaining your own body weight (for at least 20 seconds)
  • Prioritising sleep and rest.

All of these things send a message to our body that it is safe. If we get into good habits of doing these very wholesome things on a daily basis, we can even help to prevent future burnouts.

Increased emotional intelligence is another protective factor. Skills like emotional self-awareness, self-management, empathy, and conflict management can prevent us burning out, too. And they are absolutely skills that you can learn and cultivate with a little bit of time and effort. 

The thing that is burning us out is often something that we place importance in. Where kink is concerned it’s worth weighing up whether it’s better to stop (for a period of time, or for good) or persist and find ways through. If you feel relief at the thought of pausing, then it’s likely that that’s the right path for you. Ultimately, you’re the one that gets to choose. 

What to do if think you have kink burnout

The majority of advice — from the internet, in relation to burnout in general, and from our community in relation to kink burnout specifically — is pretty similar, and straightforward: take some time out to relieve some pressure and reassess. Of course this isn’t always possible when talking about burnout relating to work, or family. But it’s often something we do have the power to choose with kink. For many of us, kink is a part of our identity, so giving it up can feel like a wrench. But pressing pause, or maybe just slowing things down a little, could be the reboot you need. 

Where kink is concerned it’s really helpful to strip things back and return to the basics of connection. But how?

It almost goes without saying, but the first step to managing burnout is recognising you’re in it. This can be tough and accompanied with all sorts of feelings of guilt and shame. But if you don’t acknowledge it, you’ll be stuck in it. 

Once you know you’re feeling kink burnout, the next steps are to communicate this to your nearest and dearest. Then try and identify the pressure points: the things that are tipping you over the edge. 

Understanding these means you can work out which parts of your kink life to scale back or remove. This will often have the effect of making everything else seem suddenly more manageable. While spotting the symptoms might be tricky in and of itself, the longer you’re dealing with a specific set of stressors (and feeling like it’s all too much) the bigger the impact, and the fallout, is likely to be. 

If a partner tells you they’re feeling burned out from kink, or you’re noticing a shift in their enthusiasm, try not to let your own feelings (or ego) get in the way. Listen to them, with curiosity and a genuine desire to understand. As cheesy as it might sound, remember that it’s you (plural) against the burnout, not you (singular) against each other. By creating a plan together, you’re much more likely to get  your shared kink life back on track. 

Some advice from our community:

I manage [kink burnout] by going back to the very basics of intimate touch. A cuddle, a massage etc.

[When i had kink burnout] I felt like I was letting Him, and more importantly U/us down. But there was no way out but through. He lightened obligations. He focused on our emotional, intellectual connection. Even now [after an injury] I’m not at my previous level of fitness but it gave us a deeper understanding of our dynamic and an explosion in our commitment and depth of trust.

Just taking a complete break until the kink switch is flicked again helps a lot. [Kink] should be something you actively want to do.

@bathory_cvnt says: “It doesn’t damage a kink relationship to take downtime! If anything, listening to each other’s needs will strengthen your relationship. Taking downtime from kink is a really good opportunity to connect with your partners in other ways.

“And I think being so conscious of my body and mind’s needs like this preserves my relationships well and prevents big burnout to be honest.

“When I was younger I used to have sex even when I wasn’t really feeling it. I think that behaviour, whilst something most young women suffer with and grow out of, isn’t helpful for your personal expression, sexual fulfilment and autonomy. So it’s really important to work on. I even take breaks while playing sometimes to make sure I’m fully engaged with what I’m doing, and I expect my partners to do the same.

“Sometimes it feels like a lot of PRESSURE and maybe make each other orgasm so it’s nice to just fuck around a bit then keep watching TV. Keep it light.

Ultimately, orgasms, and the connection and intimacy created by having partnered sex are really good for our brains. So taking a step (or ten) back from kink or protocol when we’re feeling burned out, and focusing on connecting and creating said intimacy, can be super helpful in managing burnout.

11 Tips to Help you Get Really Good at Tying

You’ve tried a taster class, but what next? Maybe you’ve been tying at home for a while, learning from YouTube videos and improvising, but don’t feel confident attempting suspension yet. When you watch other people suspending, they make it look effortless, and perhaps you’re thinking to yourself: “Wow… how do I get there?”

If you resonate with this, then read on. We have some tips to help you get really good at tying.

In this blog post we are predominantly focusing on the practical aspects of tying. However, it’s important to bear in mind that there are lots of things beyond the actual act of tying that make someone “good” at it. Things like: being able to read body language; adapting ties and shapes for different bodies and mobilities; and understanding load distribution, balance, body mechanics and aesthetics (to name just a few).

Image taken by Anna Bones

1. Access the right structured learning for you

Not everyone learns in the same way or has the same goals. First of all we would recommend figuring out what the best learning environment is for you. 

It’s also worth considering how you learn best: do you know your learning style? The three main learning styles are: visual, kinaesthetic and auditory. People tend to learn best either by watching, doing or listening, but again it may be that a combination works best for you. Knowing how you take in information will help to set you up for success.

Most people progress better with solid in-person or online tuition. Books can also be a great resource and support, but can lack the depth that movement provides. 

Whether you go with in-person or online tuition, do a bit of research into the teachers, the school and the platform. Not just in terms of reputation, but also value for money, shared ethics, and the style of rope that is being taught.

Learning online

Online is convenient, accessible and affordable in most cases. It’s an especially great resource if you don’t have a local community, have mobility issues, or simply prefer to learn alone. When watching videos you can pause and restart them in your own time to make sure you’re on the right track. However, the teachers can’t correct you or check your tensions, which is a major part of rope.

Learning in-person

In person you have access to a whole group of people who are probably in a similar boat to you. The teachers can correct and guide you in real time if you’re not quite sure of something, and give tips and tricks they don’t usually share on video platforms. You get the added benefit of learning from other people’s mistakes as well as your own. People will come up with adaptations or variations that you would otherwise not have come across; learning with others is a great source of inspiration and ideas. 

However, you are likely to share the learning space with people who are at different levels from you, so the class may move at a faster or slower pace than you. 

One-to-one tuition

Private tuition has the advantage that you get a teacher’s undivided attention and a completely tailored learning environment. You can set your pace, and ask for as much feedback and repetition as you need. In general, 2-3 hours is more than enough for one session but private tuition can be expensive, especially if you book multiple sessions. It can also be a bit tiring; be prepared to leave with a full brain and sore hands.

Group classes 

Unless you are unable to get to an in-person class, we would recommend starting with a group taster class. They’re usually short and cheap: the perfect way to get some basics under your belt. As you get more into it, move onto longer workshops and/or online platforms. Use private one-on-one sessions to explore specific topics or address issues you might be having. One-on-ones are particularly useful for advanced riggers, as they can improve your practice significantly. Use books and free online videos as supporting material throughout, but not necessarily as your only or main tool.

However you do it, it’s great practice to keep learning throughout your rope journey: there is always more to know. 

2. Practise within a few days-a week of learning

Practice while it’s fresh in your head and hands. Ideally you want to revisit some of the things you’ve learned within a week of learning them. If you can’t practice on a partner, consider self-tying or using furniture. Chairs are particularly useful.

Mannequins can also be helpful but they are usually made of hard material that is very different to a body. Although the shape might vaguely resemble a human torso, there is no “give” to them; human flesh is much softer (and therefore easier to tie). Most mannequins also don’t come with arms, which are pretty important for practice. You might as well tie furniture you already have rather than investing in a mannequin.

We also recommend you practice “in your head” if you don’t have time to practice “for real”. Research from other fields has shown that visualizing practice can be just as good as physical practice to consolidate knowledge. So just close your eyes and imagine yourself tying…

Image taken by Anna Bones

3. Practise even if you’ve forgotten

One of the biggest mistakes people make is to avoid practicing because they feel they can’t remember every single step. Start by practicing what you can remember, and see what happens. Odds are you’ll start to remember. Or that you’ll see the same harness/tie/friction again in another class or jam and remember the missing steps. In the meantime, do what you can and enjoy it.

Remember that rope is about having fun. And bear in mind that teachers don’t realistically tie exactly the same pattern in exactly the same way every time anyway. 

4. Don’t rush to learn too much too soon

If you’re feeling a bit unsure, it can be tempting to want to do all the classes as soon as you can. Some people do fare well doing this. However, we have noticed that most people experience more success (and more joy!) when they leave gaps in between courses to play and consolidate knowledge.

Rushing through the learning process means you are skipping the fun bits between workshops. You’re also missing out on opportunities for the information to sink in properly. You risk forgetting important things or mixing knowledge. Keep the fact that rope is supposed to be fun and joyful at the front of your mind: don’t turn it into an academic journey. 

If you really want to go to classes, try choosing topics that are less technical and more inspirational, that focus on play and connection, or aesthetics. You can always book into more advanced technical classes next time.

5. Distinguish between labbing and play-time

This is probably one of the most important pieces of advice if you want to foster the fun in your rope practice. It’s especially relevant if you live with the partner you tie with, or are mainly learning within a romantic partnership.

Practicing rope can be both frustrating and intellectual, rather than “fun”. It requires a lot of time, repetition, feedback and undoing/redoing of things. This can create a mood that is less than sexy. Differentiate between doing rope for pleasure and rope for learning: establish whether you are labbing or playing. 

Labbing is the time to figure out technical stuff. Ask questions, get lots of feedback and experiment with new ties. 

When you play, stick to things you are very comfortable with that don’t rely on heavy feedback from your partner. Playtime is for letting go and getting outside your heads.

6. Repetition, repetition, repetition

That’s it. There is no secret: it’s all about muscle memory. Some people need more repetition than others, so don’t compare yourself. And definitely don’t compare yourself to teachers or more advanced riggers. They may make it look easy, but you don’t know how many years of practice (and frustration!) has led them to where they are. Practice makes perfect.

Drills also help. If there are techniques, finger movements and frictions that you are finding particularly hard or seem awkward, then dedicate some time to doing them — and only them — over and over in isolation until they become embedded into your muscle memory.

Drilling single column ties, finger hooking, specific frictions, and locking off mainlines are common practices throughout individuals’ rope journeys.

Image taken by Anna Bones

7. Watch, learn, and ask questions

Don’t be shy to ask questions. If you don’t fancy asking in front of others, ask or write to teachers and peers privately. There are also a number of forums like FetLife and Discord where there are channels and groups for asking questions about rope.

Definitely don’t be afraid of asking “stupid questions” or asking multiple times. We’ve all been there.

Watching other people play at events or watching recorded sessions on video is another great way to learn. You’ll be surprised how important this is. Not only for learning but for inspiration too. It’s very common for people to hit creative walls or have existential crises along the way. Watching can get things moving again.

Watch people lab things out, notice how they make decisions (and if they go back on said decisions), how they move their hands, and any other subtle little tricks and aesthetic choices they make. Watch people playing too. Observe the different types of dynamics people create, how people move and touch each other and how they build their scenes. 

But do try not to be creepy: watch from a comfortable distance, and definitely don’t interrupt a scene.

8. Teach a little

This may sound a bit strange given the number of cautionary tales of people who started teaching too early, but this really depends on what you’re teaching. Always ensure you are teaching within your skill level, and deferring to others for things you are not sure about. In this case, teaching others can be a great tool to help you embed your own practice.

For example, you could help newcomers at your local jam or peer group with their single and double column ties. Show them some rope handling tricks, or maybe even a couple of basic ties you just learned. Don’t be afraid to say you don’t know things, and check with someone more experienced when in doubt.

Obviously don’t teach above your skill level, but don’t be afraid to help someone who knows less than you. You’ll be surprised how much you learn when you have to explain things to others.

9. Take breaks

Often when we learn a new skill we can get mildly obsessed with it. But it’s normal — and healthy — to take breaks from rope. Taking a little time out helps to avoid burnout, and means you’re less likely to hit creative walls, feel stagnant, or start questioning your motivations (Is it still fun? Are you connecting with your partners? What is the meaning of life?)

And then, go back to basics. Spend some time remembering why you loved rope to begin with. If you’ve moved onto suspension, go back to the floor and do some simple one-rope ties, maybe even without patterns or frictions. Wherever you are in your journey, take two, three, four steps backwards and reconnect with your rope. You’ll be surprised at how taking steps back can push you forward in the long run.

10. Don’t break rules too early

Patterns and techniques are super useful for accruing skill. Copy these first and stick to what your teacher is teaching you before starting to improvise.

Structure and rules are great ways to learn and absorb knowledge, even if you know that in the end you will be taught there is more nuance to these “rules”.

Breaking rules too early, though, means you might change things in a harness that are actually crucial for safety. Before you know exactly how and when you should improvise, stick to structure.

11. Get tied up yourself

Do you need to get tied to be good at rope? Some say yes some say no. We think it depends. It can be useful to have a first-hand understanding of how things feel. But equally things feel different to different people, so just because something feels a certain way to you there is no guarantee it will feel the same to someone else. There are some incredibly talented riggers who seldom or never get tied.

It’s far more important to learn to listen to your partner’s feedback, and cultivate awareness of your partner’s body, sounds, expressions, etc. The ability to read someone and preempt things is one of the best skills you can have as a rigger. This takes time, so it won’t happen overnight and it’s even more important to spend time doing this if you are tying with different people.

Being tied can absolutely help cutivate this awareness, but that’s not universal.

Tying different bodies is perhaps more useful, if that’s part of your dynamic of course. Try tying people with different preferences, mobility, sizes and even limits. You’ll be surprised with how much variation there is and how much you will learn by getting feedback from different partners.

Image taken by Anna Bones

In conclusion

All rope journeys are unique, but we hope you’ve taken some tips away. Make sure you check-in with yourself as you are learning. Notice how your motivations and desires evolve as time passes and understand that this is totally normal. 

There is actually no end goal to rope. It’s play, and play by definition is not a goal-oriented activity. So enjoy the ride, with all its glorious ups and downs, and all the beautiful humans you meet along the way.

This post was written by Anna Bones, with input from members of the community, and edited by Eleni.

Feel the fear and do it anyway: advice for people over 40 (from people over 40) in the kink scene

Navigating the kink scene is generally a great mix of exciting and daunting. If you’re discovering your kinky side when you’re no longer a 20- or 30-something, though, there is a unique set of challenges that you might face. These could include practical things – like juggling responsibilities you didn’t have in your twenties, or managing a changing libido – but there are also the complexities of societal attitudes towards age. Not to mention the realities of baring skin in a room full of strangers (potentially for the first time.)

While we’re not going to go into all the nuances of age on the kink scene in this article, there are some things you can do to maximise the excitement and minimise the nerves. 

Here is our advice for people over 40 (from people over 40) on how to navigate the kink scene. 

1. Join and follow online communities and groups

Most events have online spaces to connect with fellow kinksters. It might be a Whatsapp chat, a Discord server, an Instagram account, a Fetlife event, or a good old Facebook group. It’s worth familiarising yourself with these things if you’re looking to scope out whether a space is right for you. (They likely won’t all be.)

Fetlife’s events page is a great place to start looking for events that might be of interest to you. You can set your location, but you will need to join the platform in order to access the events. 

It’s important to note here that there is so much more to the kink scene than “just” sex. Of course, sex is – or can be – a part of your experience, but it really doesn’t have to be. There is so much more to explore: connection, intimacy and a like-minded community for a start. It’s worth knowing what you want to get out of it. 

2. Start small, with socials or classes

Once you’ve found some events you think you might enjoy, or communities you’d like to explore, start with a social (often called a “munch”) or a class rather than jumping into a full scale play party.

Catherine, who was in a monogamous vanilla marriage until she was 40, jumped into dating – and kink – as a 40-something. For her, spaces like Anatomie – which offers classes and smaller events, including life drawing and discussion groups – have been an amazing way to meet like-minded people. “It’s such an exciting time now, as a confident, openly poly, queer woman heading for the next stage in my life,” she says.

3. Know the rules (and be prepared to respect them)

When navigating the kink scene, it’s important to be familiar with the rules of events you want to go to. And to respect them. Many kinksters – regardless of age – can feel put out having to follow dress code rules, for example. But those rules are generally there for a reason – even if it’s just to show that you’ve read the rules. Attitudes to kink are changing, and the scene is evolving fast: if we want to be active on it, it’s our responsibility to keep up. 

Hamish, a photographer, notes: “It feels like the community has been invigorated by a younger generation who have been enabled by social media. And these new, exciting spaces feel out of reach, which is always true of youth, but I’m noticing it. Maybe the increased visibility [from social media] makes things feel more and less available at the same time.”

As the kink scene evolves, it might be that not every space is right for you. Find the events that align with you, and accept that you may not feel at home in others. Be careful not to let the life experience that comes with age morph into entitlement.

Leo (54) only really got into kink when he was 45. He adds: “It’s very important as an older man not to be the wanky guy on the edge of a scene, or initiate in that setting. Knowing your place is important in maintaining self respect in a situation where, in spite of what may be said about inclusiveness, it only extends so far…”

4. Embrace the experience that comes with age

That said, there are some real positives of exploring the kink scene with a few decades of life behind you. Even though modern, western society has a complex relationship with ageing – often fetishising youth – getting older brings with it experience. While that may not be experience of the kink scene specifically (I’ll get onto that in a moment) there are a lot of ways you can use your life experience to your advantage. 

Alice (42) says: “Age, and the experience that comes with it, has given me so much confidence in other areas too. I communicate better, can ask (and know!) what I want/ need/ desire etc…” This confidence has made it so much easier for her to navigate a variety of kink spaces.

For Leo, age has meant a shifting view of sex itself, as well as a more open-mind when exploring potential turn ons. “I’ve got more room for my partner and am more open to experiment in general, or just to watch others enjoy their play [without feeling a need to get involved]. There are things that in the past I would have thought a waste of time – say shibari or watersports – that I would now be interested in. There are things I would have felt guilty even thinking about, like sadism or CNC [consensual nonconsent], that as I’ve got older I’ve been willing to own more, and to experiment with.” 

5. Be aware of the potential power imbalance (and consider setting age-related boundaries) 

However, life experience can also bring about unwanted, unacknowledged or nonconsensual, power imbalances. It’s not a given that being older means you know more. Couple that with being new to the scene, and you might find yourself feeling that the power imbalance is weighted against you. The reality is, though, that with age can come power – real or perceived.

So, it’s important to be aware of the possibility of an age-related power imbalance. Don’t write it off just because you’re inexperienced at navigating the kink scene. But also don’t let it put you off exploring the scene. 

Alice – who is aware that she engages with a lot of people who are quite a bit younger than her at events – asks: “When does it get creepy? Is it ok to feast my eyes on someone half my age? Or play with them?”

There are no hard and fast rules here. Age play is a well-established kink in its own right (albeit one that doesn’t have to involve actual age gaps). But being aware of age as a factor is half the battle.

It helps to consider age when thinking about potential play partners, then. My personal boundaries around age are somewhat flexible. I will date and play with people who are around ten years either side of my age, but anything outside of this begins to feel slightly uncomfortable. In an Instagram poll on my personal page, around 60% of people who engage in kink said they have boundaries around the age/ age gap of people they will date or play with. It’s definitely something to consider!

6. Be confident… in yourself and in your “No”

One of the great things about getting older is that we are often more secure in our sense of self, and more aware of our boundaries. As Catherine says: “You don’t have to be sure of everything – but do be confident to say NO, or to say STOP.”

There’s a difference between saying, “No,” and shaming someone for something that doesn’t turn you on, or potentially shocks you, though. So long as kinks are consensual and legal, it’s important to keep an open mind: stick to your own boundaries, but also understand that personal limits can (and do!) change over time.

Alice feels much more comfortable in herself and her decisions now: “I was much more insecure when I did have the youthful body and face. [Now, I] have no need to impress anyone and I’m giving fewer fucks about what people who aren’t my friends might think of me.“ 

Sara (42) was glad she waited to jump into the scene. “I had kink relationships when I was younger,” she says, “but wasn’t part of the scene till I  was older – for personal reasons. I feel like I’ve worked on my sexuality a lot and can be a part of it now.”

7. Don’t be afraid to be new; you don’t have to know everything

The most overwhelming message of advice, though, was to feel the fear and do it anyway! Ask questions, be humble, but don’t be put off from getting out there.

Alice’s thoughts? “My advice for anyone older who has doubts about being or getting involved is to do it anyway, even if it feels a little uncomfortable. Life’s too short and precious to not live it to the fullest. There are more veterans and late bloomers out there than you probably think. There’s so much to explore!”

Erica says: “Get out there and be visible, so that other folks over 40 know there are like-minded people out there.” And many people echo the idea that if you’re coming into the scene when you’re over forty, you’ve definitely waited long enough! The likelihood is that once you do find your feet, you’ll wish you did it sooner.