Getting Started with Rope

Basics for Any Play

Before getting into how to actually tie or be tied, you should spend some time learning about how to establish your boundaries, identify safe play partners and environments, negotiate for the play that you want, and so forth. The Topping Book and Bottoming Book by Dossie Easton and Janet Hardy are good introductory resources on BDSM play and relationships.

Advice for negotiating rope play in particular can be found at Negotiation and Consent.

I've summarized some advice regarding the most common pitfalls while navigating the rope community in this one-page handout, which may also be freely printed and distributed at events.

Maintain a Healthy Skepticism

There are no standards for rope education, and there is a tremendous amount of misinformation and confusion that gets passed around. Depending how lucky you are with the instructors you choose, about 10-50% of what you're taught will be total nonsense. While attending classes at reputable community venues means you're less likely to be assaulted by an instructor in class, it doesn't necessarily mean the information you're getting is correct. Many instructors who are entertaining and/or have hot partners get hired to teach at top-tier venues (or websites) even if their content is substantially misleading or omits crucial safety information.

The good news is that the total amount of instruction available -- both on and offline -- has exploded in the 2020s. My advice is to absorb everything you can, but with a grain of salt. Always ask yourself if what you're being told actually makes sense, and whether it squares with what you've learned from other sources. In person, ask lots of "why" questions; if your instructor can't answer you, they're probably regurgitating something from another teacher without having understood it.

You Are Not the Problem

The first style of rope you encounter might not work for you -- maybe the positions are uncomfortable for your body, or the vibe doesn't fit your relationship dynamic. In some regions, everyone ties in a very uniform style, and it may feel like that's all that rope is. The actual possibilities are endless, though; any body can be tied, and rope can be part of a scene with any mood. Don't let other people tell you how you should experience rope. If you are persistent in your exploration, you will find (or invent!) what works for you.

Additional Resources for Bottoms

While I encourage bottoms to also learn some about tying, and in particular to view all the various safety information on this site, I don't currently have a lot of content posted specifically about rope bottoming skills. Because I don't regularly bottom for rope, it's not an area where I can speak directly from my own experience. I suggest you check out the following excellent rope bottoming educators:

Screening Partners

I highly recommend using the Rope Bottoms’ Share Group to check up on people before letting them tie you up. There are real predators out there. Some move from city to city as they get banned in various local communities. Others have installed themselves as leaders in the community, insulating them from the consequences of their actions. While it's no silver bullet, checking up on potential partners both in the group, and by asking other local bottoms, can greatly reduce the risks.


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