The Beginner’s Guide to Shibari.
Sex education

The Beginner’s Guide to Shibari.

Published
Mar 25, 2021
Author
Davey Davis

The BDSM practice unpacked.

Even if you’ve never heard the word shibari before, you probably know what it is. If you’ve ever found yourself wondering about those photos of people suspended from rope in beautiful, strange, and sometimes painful-looking contortions that have gotten popular on social media, you might want to start exploring the world of shibari. 

Shibari is the common term for a specific kind of erotic bondage. If you’re seeking hands-on experience with this fascinating and often physically challenging practice—which falls under the BDSM umbrella—there are steps you can take to bring it into your life.

What is shibari?
Shibari means “to tie” in Japanese, and is the most popular term for the Japanese tradition of erotic rope bondage, although insiders use the word Kinbaku. In contemporary use, Kinbaku is the Japanese artistic form of rope bondage that’s become popular all around the world. Having evolved from the Hojojitsu, the martial art of restraining prisoners with rope, Kinbaku became a consensual erotic practice in late-19th-century Japan. While it’s often described as “ancient,” both Kinbaku and Hojojitsu are only a few hundred years old.

Emphasizing the contrast between the rope and the body’s natural curves, shibari has countless permutations, with different ties, positions (including suspensions), ropes, and aesthetics. While there is a strong visual element to shibari, players also enjoy the sensual experience, from how the rope feels on their skin, how it feels to suspend or to be suspended, how it feels to restrain or be restrained, as well as pain, discomfort, and other sensations. Whether or not their play is explicitly sexual, shibari enthusiasts enjoy the sensuality, vulnerability, challenge, and energy exchange of this particular kind of rope play. 

What role?
In any kind of rope bondage, the top is known as the rigger and the bottom is usually called the bottom (you’ll sometimes hear the term “rope bunny” for someone who enjoys being tied up). No one is required to occupy any role exclusively; indeed, many riggers learn their art by first tying themselves.

The physical experience of shibari can put riggers in “top space” and bottoms in “sub-space,” the subjective mental and emotional state of floating, calm, or euphoria brought on by the adrenaline and endorphins triggered by play. Shibari enthusiasts use the term “rope drunk” to describe the euphoric condition of being in either top or sub-space.

How do I learn more about shibari?
Like other aspects of BDSM, shibari can be dangerous, even when done with proper training and safety precautions. Even when done properly and with the right protocol, bondage activities can cause permanent physical damage or death, which is why it’s so important to learn how to do it safely, even if you’re practicing on yourself. 

Luckily, these days there are many online resources, books, and online and in-person workshops available. Rigger and amateur gay historian Daemonumx recommends  Shibari Study as a great place to start exploring the world of shibari safely.

The Beginner’s Guide to Shibari.

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