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.

Giving

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.

Taking

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.

Accepting

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.

Allowing

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

Rigger

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.  

Switch

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

Spotter

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.

Bight

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

Column

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

Knots

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

Wrap

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. 

Frictions

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

X-friction

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. 

X-friction

Hitch

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. 

Hitch

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.

Untying

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

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. 

Labbing

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

Playing

The other option, playing, is tying for fun!

Self-tie

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

Aftercare

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

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. 

Circulation

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.

Communication

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. 

Consent

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:

Frenzy

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. 

Nerves

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

Nonverbal

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.

Safeword

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. 

Shears

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. 

Vetting

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.  

Futomomo

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.

How to Approach your First Kink Event if you are Flying Solo

Going to your first kink event can be pretty  intimidating, but what if you’re planning on going alone? Potentially even more nail-biting. You may have been thinking about it for some time, and conjuring up all sorts of scenarios in your mind – best-case and worst – but it’s highly likely that your first time will surprise you whatever you’ve considered. Hopefully in the best way possible!

We’ve been there, so here are our top tips for making the most of your first time, especially if you’re flying solo.

Start with a social (or a class)

There are so many different kink events on offer now, from intimate parties to ones that house hundreds of scantily-clad bodies under one roof. The first step is deciding which kind of event you want to go to, but once you’ve done that try signing up for a social or a class run by the organisers you align with before attempting a full-on play party. 

Socials and classes are a great way to meet like-minded people, often people who are in the same boat as you, and you may even get to learn a new skill.

Adjust your expectations 

It’s absolutely normal to let your imagination run wild thinking about all the things that might happen at the event, especially your first play party. It’s even more normal to get lost in the daydreams of what you want to happen: meeting a sexy stranger (or three) and living out your wildest fantasies… 

While daydreaming is absolutely not something I would discourage, it is better to manage your expectations and go in with an open-mind. Set the bar low for your first event: if you go with the intention of scoping it out and aim to make at least one connection, rather than heaping a pile of expectations onto the night, you are much more likely to enjoy it and appreciate it for what it is. It’s also a much more realistic and sustainable way to approach kink events in general.

Plus… when your expectations start low, the only way is up. If anything exciting does happen, it will be a happy surprise.

Connect online first

Many events have community spaces set up for their guests. It might be a Discord server, or a Whatsapp group that is made just for the people attending a specific event. 

Large virtual groups can be a little overwhelming if they’re overly active, but it’s a good opportunity to ask for advice for newbies, or connect with other people who will be arriving alone. The odds are that you’ll realise you are not the only one feeling shy or going solo. For a lot of people that’s already a massive relief. 

It’s also perfectly fine to connect outside of the group if there are people you’d like to chat to one on one. Just ask before you slide into their DMs.

Get there early

If you’re able to, and you’re nervous, get to the event early. Arriving before the rush will give you a chance to get familiar with the space and identify staff members so you can ask any questions you have.

Most events will make sure their staff are easy to spot. Often – especially at socials, or early on at events – it is a part of their job to welcome guests. Have a chat with one of them if you can. It’s also worth asking about the layout of the party as some of the larger ones often take place at venues that are a little maze-like. Knowing where the different playrooms, the dance floor, or any chill-out areas are and familiarising yourself with them is a great way to get settled in the space. 

At smaller events, you might be able to grab yourself a drink and make yourself at home. Getting there ahead of the crowd means you are likely to be able to spot other people that come in alone, too, which could be a great way to make a new connection.

Embrace your independence

No matter how nervous you are, or convinced you’re the only person that will be there alone you won’t be. You’re definitely not alone in being alone.

When you walk in, you might see a room full of people who are already looking pretty comfortable but people are very good at faking it till they make it. Most kink communities are super welcoming to people who are on their own: people all remember how nerve-wracking their first event was and are generally keen to make others feel included. It’s almost guaranteed that a good proportion of the groups you see will include someone who arrived alone. Scan the room, choose a friendly face, and introduce yourself. 

And a good way to reframe arriving alone is that you can embrace your independence and take in control of your evening. You can arrive when you want to, leave when you want to, and make your own choices about who you feel like chatting to. 

Take initiative

And, once you’re there, however nervous you might feel, it’s time to fake it till you make it. Kink events are generally very welcoming places, and you don’t need permission to say hi. Most people are very used to meeting newcomers and will be more than happy to chat and welcome you in.

Stay sober-ish

While it might be tempting to have a few pre-drinks to loosen yourself up, it’s a better idea to stay sober(ish) if you can. Alcohol can impact heavily on people’s ability to give and receive consent and you’ll feel way better waking up in the morning and remembering everything that happened.

Leave when you’re ready to

And finally, while it might be tempting to stay on until the bitter end, sometimes calling it a night earlier rather than later can be a good thing at your first kink event. Don’t feel bad if you want to leave before last orders.

Hopefully you’ll get home with a much better understanding of the future potential and be excited for your next opportunity to explore. Plus, if you’ve made a new friend, or pushed yourself out of your comfort zone in some way, then that absolutely counts as a success. You’ll be much more ready to jump in with both feet if that’s something you decide you want. 

Photos by Aur_oora during our December 2021 End of Year Jam.

Seven Reasons we Love Rope

We don’t need an excuse to celebrate our love of rope, but it feels like as good a time as any, since it’s Valentine’s month and all.

So we asked our community what they love about rope. Perhaps unsurprisingly what we found out was that rope means so many things to so many people. 

For people who are just starting out with shibari (like me!), or those who look at pictures of people tied up and question why anyone would want to do that… here are seven reasons to take the plunge. 

1. Challenge yourself & grow

Learning a new skill can be quite daunting, but there’s nothing quite like watching your confidence grow and your proficiency develop. At the start it’s definitely more about practising in order to get the different wraps and knots and frictions right. Making sure you’re paying attention to the parts of the body you’re restricting, and how well your tension is holding up. There are a lot of mistakes and backtracks, but it’s all a part of the learning process.

It gets easier and easier. And with growing confidence comes the ability to make a rope session into “play” (where the focus is more on the sensations of the rope) rather than “labbing” (when it’s more about the technical aspects of a tie.) 

Mel, one of the House Cats at Anatomie, says: “The beauty of rope is that there’s always room to grow and shift. There’s so much to learn but you can do so much, and have so much impact with very little knowledge.”

2. Improve your communications skills

Alongside the rope skills themselves, learning a new hobby that is often so reliant on a partner or a friend means you have the chance to practise other things, like communication. 

Being a rope bottom means you have to be keyed into the sensations in your body. You have to learn what feels ok and what doesn’t and communicate this to your Top. As a rope Top, you have to be keyed into your bottom’s energy, and make sure you check in on them, too. 

Mel explains that rope has encouraged her to advocate for herself: “It pushed me in the direction of communicating my needs, both physically and emotionally.”

3. A chance for mindfulness and grounding in the present

One of the most common reasons given for enjoying rope was the way it frees the mind and lets you sink into your body – especially if you’re the one being tied. There is a sense of safety and the feeling of floating, which can be literal or metaphorical depending on whether you’re being suspended or not.

But rope can also bring about a sense of calm if you’re the one rigging, and can be especially helpful if your brain is busy. One of our followers celebrated rope for making their “otherwise noisy, ADHD brain quiet.”

Lee, another one of Anatomie’s House Cats, who has a vast experience of both rigging and bunnying, 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.”

4. Connection and community

You can learn shibari by perusing online tutorials from the comfort of your home, or you can attend classes in person. Attending classes, and rope jams, in person means you get the added benefit of building a like-minded group of friends.

Mel says: “The community is a huge factor of why I love rope. Most of the closest friends I have, I met after moving to London and being in the rope scene.”

Pedro (also a House Cat!) says that one of the things they love most about rope is the intimacy they feel with their rigger. Rope isn’t always sexual, but it is usually intimate.

However, rope can also really help you connect with your own body. Pedro especially loves the way being tied allows them to learn their body’s potential as well as its limits, and adores the feeling of the restriction the rope provides. Many people echoed a feeling of safety when being tied. 

Self-tying is another great way to practise your skills, while also spending time anchored in your body. 

5. Variety

Learning to tie a partner or yourself is rarely boring. At the start, it’s definitely about repetition, but the real fun begins once you’ve got the basics down. 

As mentioned earlier, rope sessions are often split along the lines of “labbing” and “play”, but there are so many reasons someone might choose to tie or be tied. It’s this variety of experience that is the main draw for Kaoru Neve, (House Cat).”From diving into the technical details of a tie, to taking a breath-taking aesthetic photoshoot, to entering an intimate connection, to sharing an intense erotic moment. Rope is so many things, and yet one thing.”

There is also the fact that rope is often entirely separate from sex. As Mel says: I love the diversity of experience you can have with it. It can be platonic, romantic, sexual, sensual, funny, educational etc.” It can also be pleasurable or painful. 

Your experience with rope can literally be whatever you want it to be.

6. Versatility 

And not only is that variety with rope, but there is also versatility. You might think that a rope has one purpose and one purpose only, but this isn’t true. 

If you’re kink-inclined, rope is your best friend. It’s the toy Fred (co-founder of Anatomie) would take to an event, if he was only allowed one. Surely not.

You can use rope to restrain someone, but it can also be used as a tool to caress, and an implement for impact play. Depending on your and your partner’s predilections, it can cause pleasure or pain in almost equal measure.

7. Free your inner child

A number of people mentioned the fun they have with rope: it offers an opportunity for creativity, playfulness and joy. In essence it’s a toy for adults. 

It’s a bit like a jigsaw: your challenge (if you choose to accept it) is to put the pieces – the knots, frictions, wraps – together in different ways and see what happens. In time you will learn what works and what doesn’t, what feels good and what doesn’t. Of course, all within the bounds of safety and consent.

In conclusion

A member of our community described being in rope as: “A million tiny hugs all whilst pushing boundaries,” and we couldn’t agree more.

And if all that doesn’t convince you to give shibari a go, then perhaps this will. For Mel, an added bonus of learning rope skills has been a new-found confidence with tying and moving heavy furniture. Her list of achievements so far includes: a piano and a sofa.

To find out more about rope jams and classes, click here. And if we’ve piqued your interest, why not visit Shibari Store to browse our selection of rope.

2020-21: what have we been up to?

As the year draws to a close, we are taking the chance to look back at some of our achievements since locking down in March 2020. We wish to thank our incredible team who have stuck it out with us during these tough times, despite both personal and collective challenges.

We are also very grateful and humbled by all the support we have received from our members. We are very proud of the work we all have achieved together.

In no particular order,

Studio initiatives in 2021: financial accessibility

Team training & changes

  • Before reopening, the team was offered a 2 day intensive Consent and Leadership training with Consent Academy
  • Following this training, the team has delineated a clear Consent Policy for the studio as well as a more transparent structure for dealing with consent incident reports
  • The team was also offered access to a series of online courses on the following topics: DEI, mediation, bias & adult teaching
  • Aside from our main team (House Cats), we have also created a volunteers team to help with jams, creating a more accessible entry point for folks to participate in the the life of the studio
  • We have also hired 2 extra people for the store team
  • The teams have not only grown in number but in diversity – our team is now composed of trans and non-binary folk, neurodivergent folk, people of colour and representing a wider range of ages

Keeping in touch

  • Over lockdown 2020 we have created a Discord channel to connect directly with members and provide opportunities for members to more easily connect with partners and make friends. The server now has close to 500 members
  • We have also started a Telegram channel to create ticket release broadcasts for those not on social media

Imagery & representation

  • Following conversations with members who collectively expressed the desire to see a more wide representation of bodies in our imagery, we started in 2020 a photo project called “About the People” to capture and feature members of the studio doing rope. These images now feature on our website and social media, and better reflect the existing and changing diversity in the studio
  • We have also committed to more diversity at events, such as Drawn to Rope and teachers for classes – this was started with our online classes in 2020, and we plan to carry it further in 2022

The store

  • Over lockdown we have made significant upgrades to our online store, with a new more professional website, a more integrated back-end, payment of EU VAT, a faster and better shipping system, and more reliable and direct customer service support
  • We have reduced our use of plastic in our packaging, moving from plastic bubble mailers to padded paper mailers. We have also reduced the number of printed flyers in the packaging

The physical space

  • Over lockdown we have built 2 walls complete with sound and heat insulation and a door. These allow the studio to feel warmer in the winter and also create more privacy across the year
  • We also built more shelving across the studio in order to declutter and allow more floor space for folks to tie and socialise. This also provides a safer and more organised work space for the store team
  • We have also upgraded all our lighting system which now comprises of par cans, fresnels and colour changing bulbs. This allows to create mood changes for events and bookings.

Our current team is comprised of: GoddessInRope, KaoruNeve, Amy, PetitePretzel, FemmelFatale and Anna Noctuelle. Joining us next year are Pedro and KinkNCuddles. read about them here!

X