We spoke to Shibari instructors to learn about the art.

By Zackary Zane

On the Netflix reality dating show Too Hot to Handle, conventionally attractive contestants are challenged to form deeper emotional bonds with romantic partners without immediately hopping into bed together. In order to help them learn that lesson, the show puts contestants through various workshops—one of which is Shibari, or Japanese rope bondage. The goal of the Shibari exercise was to help contestants become more vulnerable and trusting with each other.

But what is Shibari, and how can it potentially help you bond with your partner? We spoke to two Shibari experts to find out: Midori, a sexologist, educator, and author of Seductive Art of Japanese Bondage; and Kitty Killin, a Shibari artist and instructor.

What exactly is Shibari?

Shibari is a contemporary form of rope bondage that originated in Japan, Midori explains. Sometimes it’s also called Kinbaku or Japanese bondage.

Shibari literally translates to “to tie” or “to bind,” Kitty adds: “It refers to intricate and beautiful knots and patterns used to restrain and give sensation to the body.”

What’s the history of Shibari?

The visual imagery dates back to how prisoners and criminals were restrained in Japan during the medieval and Edo periods (1200s CE to late 1800 CE), Midori says. “This fed the darker erotic imagination of kinky Japanese people, much in the same way that European medieval prison tools inspired Western BDSM—think crosses, manacles, and chastity devices.”

Binding would also appear in specialty porn, other imagery, and underground adult entertainment venues in Japan. In World War II, some American soldiers saw Shibari and surreptitiously brought it back to the United States, Midori says. Cut to the ’90s, and it was all over the Internet. “Today, it’s developed into a 21st-century form of pleasure craft,” she says.

Shibari terminology to know:

There are certain common terms and phrases for Shibari practitioners. Kitty provided a list of some words that are commonly used:

Rigger/Rope Top: The person doing the tying.

Rope Bottom/Bunny: The person being tied.

Floor Tie: Rope work that is done exclusively on the floor.

Suspension: An advanced form of Shibari that includes lifting the body off the floor using only ropes.

Self-tie: When a person ties themself.

Midori adds that it’s important to have mutual “safe words” or “safe signals.” “These are words or signals to indicate that either one of you wants to change what’s happening,” she says. Many people tend to use the traffic light—green for keep going; yellow for I’m reaching my limit; and red for stop at once—but Midori encourages you to come up with the safe words that work best for you.

What’s the appeal of Shibari?

There are various reasons why someone may enjoy Shibari. “It may have to do with the feeling of letting go of control—or the feeling of surrendering during sex,” says Midori.

Some folks like the tactile sensation of the soft (or rough) rope against their skin. It can feel like a comforting, tight hug, Midori explains. It can also be a great addition to dominance and submission fantasy play. For some, “It can heighten sexual sensations and orgasms because of body position changes and muscle contractions,” Midori adds.

Something that particularly draws Kitty to Shibari is the intimacy it creates between her and the other person. “As a rigger, I can create a whole range of experiences for my bottom depending on what they desire,” she says. “Often the feeling desired is simply to be restrained, but sometimes it’s to feel beautiful, to feel shame, to feel sexy, to feel pain, and so on.” A rigger can create those feelings for someone with just their ropes.


How can it strengthen your relationship with your partner?

Just doing Shibari alone won’t automatically strengthen your relationship with your partner, says Midori. “But the communication required to plan it before, enjoy it during, and savor it after can strengthen a relationship,” she says, noting that this is also true for any BDSM play.

Kitty adds, “Shibari is a tool to learn about your partner’s body, to build trust between you and your partner, and to discover new and exciting intimacy.”

What’s something that the average person may get wrong about Shibari?

“Shibari is not inherently sexual,” explains Kitty. It’s not exclusively for dominatrixes, dungeons, and sexy bedroom bondage. “Many practice it as a form of meditation, as a tool to create connection and intimacy with a partner, or simply enjoy it because it’s beautiful,” she says. Nevertheless, Shibari can be used to spice things up in the bedroom or to add to your kinky repertoire, but the two don’t have to exist together.

Midori notes that some people think that all men top and all women bottom. “The reality is that people of all genders enjoy being tied up and tying up their lovers,” she says.

Where can I learn more about Shibari?

TwistedMonk is an exceptional rope vendor; it has free videos on their site that will get you started, says Midori. Kitty recommends Shibari Study, which is an online, subscription-based, anthology of classes and tutorials for all levels, taught by internationally renowned Shibari experts. You can also read, Midori’s book, Seductive Art of Japanese Bondage. There are even conferences, such as Rope Craft, where people come together to learn about Shibari and socialize.

Zachary Zane is a Brooklyn-based writer, speaker, and activist whose work focuses on lifestyle, sexuality, culture, and entertainment.

Original Article: https://www.menshealth.com/sex-women/a32145034/what-is-shibari/