Reveries about Kinbaku as a Sprachraum – Or the usefulness of Foucault’s heterotopology for rope bondage

One scientist seems to curiously accompany every archaeological endeavour.* Whenever some past lies in the dirt and dust and is eager to be read, a geographer makes sure to map the exact location of it. This work is important for many reasons, like finding it in the first place or building streets somewhere else but first and foremost it is important for reading the finding. Sometimes the geographer and the archaeologist are one and the same person, sometimes they are a team member.
Anyhow, the past is located; it has a place; it is in a space.
And so is the human as one being intrinsically linked to their past.
This does of course not change at all when we are tying with each other.
Consciously or not, one is located in a space and one is further constantly negotiating that space or shall we rather say, those spaces, because there is not one space when we tie. When we tie, there is the space that enfolds the distance between the tying and tied person. We have the location in the space we are tying in but we are also in the headspace for a certain tie or not. A while back, @FelixRuckert said to participants of EURIX to mind their space when tying and that includes a volume space that does not stop at the geographical borders of a rope space.

What are these spaces in rope bondage and is rope bondage itself a space?
In 1966 Michel Foucault asked for the foundation of a science that he called heterotopology – the science of totally other or different spaces.** These other spaces are those, each and every culture and time creates as counter spaces to those we live in every day. They are for example cemeteries, gardens, facilities for mental ill, brothels, etc. What is interesting here is that all of these spaces have their own very specific spatiality and temporality. An example that is brought forward by Foucault is the parent’s bed for a child when they are not at home. That bed becomes the sea for one can swim in it. It becomes the forest for one can hide in it and it becomes lust because the parents will come home and punish the child for jumping in their bed. That bed becomes as far as the world and it becomes as long as the age of the earth.
How does rope bondage fit into this or, the other way around, how does a heterotopological study benefit rope bondage?

In recent workshops, when people asked me how they can read their partner in ropes, I have two answers for them. One is that they shall not confuse reading with understanding, shall not search for evidence but for interpretation. The other answer I have is that they could start seeing the body as a landscape of social meaning. What are the parts of our body saying when they speak? Where(!) does it come from when they speak? And where are they in relation to each other and others?
To make it clear, I am not only talking about the rope scene in a vacuum. The above answer about the speaking body parts expands to the body itself as well as to the location of the body in a landscape or a topos of social meaning. Where are the bodies located, what are they facing? What is the space they are tying in facing? Is it a dungeon or an artist loft? Is it trying to be diverse or does it believe it can be apolitical?

We have this overwhelming amount of spaces that are interacting with each other. The headspace with the sound-space of the facility; the space between the tying partners with the space to the pair next to them; the toes with the eyes; the pattern with the annoying comment of the super domly guy checker, a conservative upbringing with human rights and the belief in good with restricting someone; the financial space of the partner with their fantasies; the naturalist’s study about endorphins with the sensationalist***; etc. etc. All these spaces and creatures of different spaces are constantly negotiating with each other.
This negotiation of spaces happens if we want or not but there is one thing about kink and ropes especially that I think makes it a perfect field to study heterotopology. Kink and especially ropes**** is a space that we create consciously as that totally different space. We treat it almost in the same way as the child above treats their parent’s bed when they are not at home. We seek to avoid our normal, daily space with all our available force when we dress up for a kink event and when we enter a rope venue. The space where we practice kink and especially ropes is the totally other space. It must be, it has to be different from our daily space. And like a garden with its fences and gates, it must be defended against those who seek to enter it without the credentials or the respect which we deem so necessary.

Rope bondage is the totally other space. But it also contains those totally other spaces that can be discovered and explored and mapped. Not by scientists with triangulation and evidence but by everyone every time one is in that other space by interpretation. In what physical space am I at this moment? In what political space? In what cultural, head- or language space? How are distances between me and my partner behave in this space at this moment? How does time behave? How many dimensions does my rope have available?*****
The tying person as well as the tied person, both can become cartographers of their archaeology project. We can become heterotopologists in order to create unforgettable scenes.

Footnotes:

  • The use of archaeology refers to my book and the metaphor of ropes as a medium to explore each other’s personalities.

G. Barkas. Archaeology of personalities. A linguiostic approach to erotic rope bondage. 2016
**M. Foucault. Les Hétérotopies. Le corps utopique. 1966
***I want to point here in the direction of a highly valuable writing of @Apikoros with the title “Against Nature”.
****Why especially ropes? Because of its specific spatiality and because I treat other kinks as pleasurable fantasies or hobbies with no specific expertise and unlike others I want to remain a bit quieter in fields I know little about.
*****One heterotopologist, if I may say so, must be named here since it was partly she who made that idea possible: @Pilar_ who, in my interpretation, constantly questions the one-dimensionality of ropes.

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The city of Kinbaku

An artwork for practicing and teaching Kinbaku in a new light

We walk through a city, around all the buildings, the people, through streets and parks. We see the large shops and the small ones. We go to restaurants or grab something at a truck. We see the different people, the diversity and lack thereof fused together in their districts which often are indistinguishable for a first time visitor but very apparent for inhabitants. We see the animals, those that are on leashes and those who settled in the city to find themselves in a land of abundance. And we can get an idea of the topography of the land where the city has grown.
We can look at that city as an unconnected ensemble of buildings. We go to a museum to watch art or to little galleries. C. Landry writes about the creative potential of cities, or the city and its creative potential. But the city itself? F.A. Walker writes the following:

“It is [the] solid:void relationship, that pattern of buildings and streets laid down on the natural landscape, the perception of which reveals, as a work of art, the values of the community.”
(“The city is a piece of art – Artists and Architects in dialogue and collaboration” Glasgow)

I want us to imagine the city as a project of all the people who lived there and not only by a few architects in collaboration with authorities and corporations. This project of the community with its buildings, its streets, its restaurants, street art, parks, shops, and so on and so forth could for a moment be seen as one gigantic piece of art far beyond Walker’s solid:void relationship. Everyone adds something and it will change forever forth until it either gets abandoned slowly or destroyed and abandoned. And then nature adds, admittedly rather unconsciously.
So, let’s imagine we stand on the top of a hill outside the city and see it as a whole and later, when we walk through it, we still have that view from afar in the back of the mind. Of course, some cities will move us more and some less. I might enjoy this city more because of its labyrinth-like center or because of its modern architecture and the juxtaposition of old and new. Someone else is touched by the cuisine of another city and thus prefers that. It is exactly like going to a museum and liking this picture more than another but still appreciating the skill and thought that went into the other one.

The city that touches my heart is the one that ultimately talks to me and, by talking to me, answering my questions. Maybe questions that I haven’t even thought I have asked and this is, like all being, always reciprocal. We touch the city, we talk to it and give report to it. We fill its places, districts, shops, and restaurants and, by that, we answer to its questions: Why am I inhabited? What makes me interesting? The city I visit and I, we negotiate each other. This means that the city and I, we have a certain responsibility for each other. We are part of each other.
Now let us switch the perspectives and look from the perspective of a city at one person. We look at them and see their hair style, we see their clothes, their eyes, their way of moving through the city. We might ask them who they are and get an answer which tries to describe them according to the social situation. They might talk about their job, their relationships, their place of birth, where they grew up, etc. They could tell us about their favourite food or about their favourite place to travel but they might also show us darker sides of their personality by talking about traumas they have experienced or accidents they have had. Many things add to their personality and the more they have lived, either in terms of time or intensity or both, the more complex that human being becomes, the more little streets, little shops, buildings to live or love, parks to relax, museums to admire, concert halls, and so on are there to find in someone.

A human being, I claim, is in the same way a work of art, put together and grown by all their experiences, as a city can be seen as a work of art that has been put together by all the human beings who inhabited it. This isotopy between the city and the individual is necessary for their communication. Just like an individual, the city suffers from its traumas, is proud of its achievements, feels sad, happy, in love, and so on and so forth.
With this view on a human being and on a city, I would like to introduce a connection between them and Kinbaku. My aim with this is to create a two scale metaphor that offers tools for teaching and tools for tying at the same time.
How often does one go to (rope-)workshops, where one pattern or technique is presented after the other, usually beginning with a simpler technique going harder and more complicated and the great finale in the end? Workshops about ropes (and other subjects) often appear presented with the same lack of narrative creativity as pornography: the simplest teleological procedure intelligible.

How often has one tied where one started with a single column tie and became more complicated and then the great finale and an always somewhat awkward untying and that’s that? I know, no one likes to admit that and I am so used to people saying: “I know, I also dislike this and thus I already practice for a long time what you now say.” But then you see them tying… I was for a long time overwhelmed by this type of teleology in rope bondage and I still, from time to time, fall victim to it and that is ok because it teaches me.
Let us, instead of thinking about the end, go on a journey together. I want to invite you to a trip to Kinbaku city. My Kinbaku city, i.e. the one I built for myself and that is inhabited by not only everyone I have tied with but also by all my other experiences and backgrounds. I promise, I will keep it short.

First we arrive either at the train station or at the airport and because I am lazy, let’s take a cab to our place to stay. Once there, I try to get accustomed to the place, check how the bathroom is, take a shower to somehow separate the city from the long travel. Then, it is only in the morning, I want to figure out how the public transportation works in this city. How can we move? In the city of Kinbaku we have three different modes of public transportations, I read on a map*. We have an elephant. The elephant moves us with brute force. Not malicious but inevitable. It takes us over wide distances very quick, which is great if we want to be somewhere else in no time. But we easily miss a lot on the way. Another way to move in the city, the map says, is via Archimedes. He once said, give me a stick and a point and I will move the world. This mode of public transportation is the smartest but it requires us to think before we take it because it’s fairly easy to take a completely wrong exit. Archimedes needs a lot of practice and experiment. We look and see there is another, a last way of getting to places in the city of Kinbaku. It’s Peter Pan who takes us to places purely by believing in his existence. Taking this public transport is tricky because the schedule is unreliable and we don’t always know where it drops us off which is, you know, great for days we don’t have any plans and just want to get carried away in the city. I have to admit that the longer I stay in the city, the more I take Peter Pan. It takes me to places I cannot possibly anticipate.
The next thing which is always good to know when being in a foreign city with weird dialects and foreign languages is to check out facilities that can help us in case of emergency. Where is our embassy, where is a hospital and where are the places that are crowded and we find help immediately, such things? We don’t need to go there but it is calming to know where they are; like it is good to know where a person close to you needs to be in case of a bad situation, it is good to know where you can go in a city, if you need help. That’s usually a thing you check before going on your travels because when really something happens it’s too late.
Ok, we have figured that out and now we want to go explore the city. What are we going to explore first, the things we know or those we don’t know? Of course, we have seen pictures and read about the city, so let’s go first to the stuff we believe to know to make sure they are somehow related to our expectations. The landmarks of the city are close by and help us understand the city a bit better. We have the rather baroque houses with its ornaments and for which the city is also famous. They have been built a long time ago and seem somehow preserved but out of time. Almost like the childhood dreams of what you wanted to be when growing up and who you wanted to be. The city grew around them and even if there are still people living in them the houses seem to have come down to mere photo objects for us tourists. Don’t get me wrong, every so often, I am in the city, I really like going there but now that I have guests, I want to show you so much more than what you have already seen from my city. One thing I like amongst the most is the great concert hall that inhabits most of the musical life. The rhythms, the melodies, the different instruments, the weird modern compositions, all of that takes us on a journey in and of itself. I like to go there to dance the same way I love to go there to listen carefully to the sounds of something utterly new. We can go there several times within one trip.
After the concert, let’s go to a bar. I know one that serves cocktails so fantastically mixed, you taste layers after layers for minutes after the first sip. Getting carried home by Peter Pan, we sleep and get ready for a new day in Kinbaku city. There is so much we can visit; a science museum, the great park with its pond and the many benches that invite us to sit and meditate or to watch people. We find curiosity cabinets, brothels, these days even a circus is in town. There is a theatre that plays the classics and one that has scheduled the experimental, modern plays. In other words, we can spend more time here than we have and when we come back, some things have changed whereas others have remained the same. To visit the city of Kinbaku is to talk to it, to discuss with it and to answer its questions in a similar way it answers us when we ask it: Who are you and what is it in you that touches me?
Now, before the reader declares me mad, I feel the need to explain the metaphor.
First, when we tie we are confronted with each other as human beings who, in my approach, not only could be understood as a whole but should be understood as such. This includes all kinds of facets of the personality of the person we tie with. We cannot just pick one side of each other, we have to take the whole or else it becomes utterly flat and dull. So, when we tie with someone, instead of just imposing one image, we could see our partner as that piece of art with all its layers and explore all of them – at once in one large meandering walk or piece by piece, coming back to each other. There is no problem to go to the amusement park where everything goes so fast but then you want to sit together on a bench in the nature and just relax. Or to go the curiosity cabinet and laugh together. There is nothing wrong with going to the ornamental architectures of the part which we can admire and which, admittedly have added a lot to the understanding of modern architecture. What I am trying to say is that in tying there is nothing wrong with tying very technical or ornamental, there is no problem to burst out laughing or to cry together. As long as this is what the people involved found together and want to spend time with, it is good since no person is just one layer and ropes are able to express exactly this multilayer structure of personalities. When you tie with each other, go on a journey that touches you both and that doesn’t only rely on the first three pictures of a google image search. Show each other that you take responsibility for each other, that your intentions are not to mess up the other one. In a city, when a tourist throws out some garbage on the street, no wonder the city gets angry. On the other side, when many of the city’s people are rude and excluding to a tourist, it is just understandable that this individual doesn’t want to come back.
On a teaching side, I encourage teachers and those who try to share to not only present one rope pattern after the next but to take their participants and students on a journey where they can actually get something out of. I encourage you to write your teaching programs, but, if you see something interesting in a side street and your audience wants to go there, then do that. Negotiate each other, you and your participants! This includes that one should not teach at the limit of one’s own abilities like it is so often the case. Whether you literally go to a city built in your mind or something else, that doesn’t matter.
I started to implement the concept of Kinbaku city into my teaching (and tying) around 2018 in Paris and I am working on it since then. The above is a sketch, an idea I want to share for the sake of progress in a positive direction.

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About the interconnectivity of Kinbaku

A few years ago, I participated in a music video for a contemporary com-poser of classical music, Hèctor Parra, and the Berlin based Zafraan en-semble. The piece is called “Palimpsesto”.
A few weeks ago, when I tied with my wonderful partner Addie, I untied some parts and retied and when I put ropes on already existing rope marks, the idea of a palimpsest stroke my mind. Here are some elaborations of this idea.

So far, my thoughts around tying, expressed in the interview metaphor and more recently in the poetics and reciprocity of Kinbaku, were circling around a single scene. We went deep into possible meanings of what happens throughout that one scene, but the more I practice rope bondage the more it comes to light for me that there is a gap in these thoughts. Nothing (yet) to overthrow them, nothing to worry about but rather an extension, or a connection to the established, so to say, that is needed to further deepen the understanding.

I want to understand the historiality of rope scenes and with it that of the persons involved in a rope scene not only, as I stated in ‘archaeology of personalities’, by means of their past in general, but rather how one rope scene influences another rope scene. This question has more than just a purely academic motivation, it is also rooted in two actual topics.
First, a regular question I get asked is regarding the advantages/disadvantages of tying with someone unknown and with someone very familiar. Often it is stated (not very tactful) by just asking what is ‘better’, as if this was a polar question in terms of better and worse. There is a difference but surely not a judgement.
Second, I think this question can add positive inputs to the discourse about the fluidity of the perception of rope scenes, i.e. what happens, if a scene had been perceived in a certain way but this view changed by adding information or the; a development that is reported in large numbers.

As always, I need to state at this point that I only speak from my frame of experiences and I am not able to make a claim of truth here. Also, I learned from previous publications, that it seems unclear for some that I am originating my thoughts in an utopian world, where technical problems don’t occur.
In ‘archaeology of personalities’, I was asking when a scene ends and the only answer I was and still am able to give is that a scene doesn’t end but transforms and (possibly) fades. Some scenes fade quicker than others and some don’t fade at all.
Let us restate the question from above: How do rope scenes interact with each other? Suffice to say that they do. It is as if they had their own agency and want to be remembered, forgotten, repeated, emended, … . (For a deeper elaboration of this thought, I refer the reader to Bruno Latour’s actor-network theory and the possibility therein for non-human entities to have their own agency.) What the rope scene seems to want is to provide something memorable for all participants, and therefore inscribes itself into both, the tying person(s) as well as the tied person(s). Furthermore, this yet to be determined interaction of two rope scenes, which are distinct in time, goes in both directions regarding the chronicity of events, as it is clear that with every experience one makes, the look on previous experiences becomes somewhat fragile and subject to possible changes. In other words, not only do the rope scenes from the past influence those to come, but also those happening in the presence and even those to come, are influencing the ones which happened in the past. The idea that the past is also a function of the present time is known as the historiality of events.*
Consider a scene happens; it takes place. This scene is an experience in the very meaning of the word and it leaves its marks in the persons’ (all of the involved!) minds. As such it inscribes a representation of its events into the memories. But this memory is by no means a tabula rasa, a clean slate; no, many other scenes from before have managed to inscribe pictures of their events into the minds. Even the scenes to come have, vaguely, also inscribed themselves through the pen of expectations. But right now, the only one inscribing, is the scene that happens at the moment and as such it is doing something with the inscriptions that are already there. It overwrites them without deleting them. It can’t erase what has been written before. It rather writes between the lines, between the letters, within the letters, until only those inscriptions are still readable that have been carved into the memory deeper and larger than others. Some inscriptions get scraped to use that specific space again or more likely to never read that inscription again (“Verdrängung”/suppression). Not only bad memories get scraped – also those who just refer to bad ones and sometimes also good ones. But just like the inscriptions on a palimpsest, those inscriptions are not gone and can come to the surface again. They keep being influential. They keep being visible through various methods. There is a palimpsest known in archaeology – what a beautiful parallel this is? – that is called a cumulative palimpsest.
“A cumulative palimpsest is one in which the successive episodes of deposi-tion, or layers of activity, remain superimposed one upon the other without loss of evidence, but are so re-worked and mixed together that it is difficult or impossible to separate them out into their original constitu-ents.”**

If every rope scene, or parts of it, leaves its marks in the minds of all the participants, and I believe they do, all these marks are not just separate, distinct layers. Every new mark is placed within the artwork that is one’s personality. It adds to it not only by itself but by the new light it sheds on the marks that are already there and by the marks it replaces or those it is made of. I would like to bring an example but I feel that every example I could bring is insufficient for the reader because everything I can think of is embedded into my own personality and doesn’t mean anything without pre-senting all context. Try to find yours. What rope scene, or part of it, interact-ed with another one you have experienced or dreamed of and how did they influence each other?

I want to add a little postscriptum: This writing, as well as the others I pub-lished recently, is a work in progress. It is my inner urge to throw them out into the world once I have the idea and that this enables me to think about them in a more connected way. So, please take my apologies if they seem somewhat unfished or filled with gaps. Those gaps are also interesting for me.
*Rheinberger. Towards a history of epistemic things. 1997. 197ff (based on Derrida. Grammatology)
** Bailey, Geoff. “Time Perspectives, Palimpsests and the Archaeology of Time.”

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About the reciprocity of Kinbaku

In ‘Archaeology of personalities’* we established a theory of how the communication between the tying and the tied person can be described. The person tying is interviewing the person tied and the reactions of the latter are constituting a picture of who they are. That picture, i.e. the personality of one’s vis-á-vis is in my worldview the main interest in interacting with people in general and tying in particular.

The problem of the interview 1.0, if one wants to call it, lays in its formulation which seems to favor a certain directionality from the tied to the tying person. It can be read classically in terms of physics, i.e. the outcome of an experiment is independent of how the observer looks at it.
It was absolutely justified to build up the theory of the interview based on this directivity but now it has found some rest to sit, I must break up this directionality of the interview and give one main agency back to the tied person.

Taking a closer look of any interview it becomes immediately clear that the questions are subjective and are born in the context of some ideology. In historical sciences, this circumstance is well known and it became “good scientific practice” to reflect one’s own background and under no circumstances neglect this. Since it has been shown beautifully that objectivity itself has its own historicity**, a great many of researchers deviated from the desire to be objective and instead reflect what to do with their ideological. I am well aware that in common language the term ideology has its negative connotations. I use it here as a substitute for one’s normative worldview – an association which has no judgmental value on that level whatsoever.
The same is true in the interview metaphor when we see the tying person as an archaeologist. The questions asked by the tying person are not objective. They are not coming from nowhere and, this is crucial, they are answers themselves. What does that mean? It simply means that the interviewer creates not only an interview of the tied person but in the same way also an interview of the tying person. The questions they give uncover answers coming directly from the ideology of the interviewer.

I want to call this bi-directivity the “reciprocity” of the interview metaphor. Not only the tied person reveals something of their cultural storage or archive. Of course not. The interviewer themselves, by asking the questions shows a great deal of their archive as well and makes it open and accessible for the tied person.

In that sense, it became interesting in recent tying as well as teaching situations to make myself or students aware of possible interpretations of answers given by stating this or that question.

I want to bring an example:
The distance between the tying people. In the interview 1.0 the choice of a closer distance provokes an answer that either shows there is a desire of more closeness or the other way around, it shows that a larger distance is what the tied person wants. But what does it mean to ask the question of the distance? Do I as a tying person have the desire to de- or increase the distance? How do I react to the answer (whatever that answer might be)?

A reflection of this reciprocity and of the why of any question not only consciously invites the tied person into the archive and hence excavates the personality of the tying person, it gives the tying person the opportunity to develop a deeper understanding of the function of ropes as a medium of communication.
This is in other words the modern, or quantum mechanical formulation*** of the interview metaphor. The reciprocity of the interview explains that it is not only a process of taking from the tied person. In my interpretation, Kinbaku from the perspective of the tying person is giving everything in order to get to know the tied person. If one is not willing to answer everything about oneself there is not only no right to dig in the archive of another person’s personality, it will also never go as deep.

*’Archaeology of personalities’. G. Barkas.
**e.g. ‘Objectivity’. L Daston & P. Galison.
***See quantum mechanical measurement problem and the role of the observer in the Copenhagen interpretation.

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An attempt to develop a poetics of Kinbaku – and I am still not Aristotelian…

 

In recent months, I saw myself confronted with two interesting problems, or rather gaps in my approach and I believe I can fill them and by doing that not only shed (more) light on a deeper understanding of what we are doing when we tie with each other but also answer an unsolved question.  Here is one of those problems*.

Considering every human being a cultural product unintelligible anywhere outside the space of language, we are led to the assumption that any interaction with each other is also always and foremost an archaeology of the individual’s personality**. Instead of imagining an archaeological site with all its shovels and the mud, I want to point at another place that is the working station of an archaeologist – the archive. The most interesting hints and artefacts can be found there, forgotten of their existence and lost in the processes of change, development, and renewal of the archive. The work to be done by the archaeologist nevertheless remains the same – Digging, acknowledging, interpreting, and then digging again. Nothing changes except, maybe, the weather conditions.

When we were speaking of tying with someone can be seen as an archaeology of their personality, it does not matter, if we locate the archaeologist in some ruins on Crete or the basement of Austrian National library. But switching over to the latter one, it allows us to develop our metaphor even further and, by doing that, getting answers we might not even have thought about and this awareness shall be nothing but beneficial for an even deeper rope scene.

One could say the human being is an archive themselves filled with all the notes, the artefacts, the evidences and stories of their past. Of course, all those things are nonetheless constitutional for the personality and it is interesting to go through them, read and watch them piece by piece, sometimes in order but mostly not. This is, if we want, the interview metaphor 1.0 but is that it?

Is the rigger just there to read the archive of the person in ropes? Is the tying person condemned to be a Laplacian demon***? The French art historian and philosopher George Didi-Huberman writes about the archive:

The essence of any archive is its gaps, its perforated being. […] The archaeological undertaking must inevitably risk to juxtaposition shreds of faded objects which always remain heterogeneous and anachronistic because they come from different times and spaces and those are separated by gaps. This risk carries the name montage or faculty of imagination.  

(G. Didi-Huberman. The archive burns)

 What is in my eyes so interesting about this approach is that for Huberman it is not the content of any archive what makes it worth studying, but rather what is not in that archive, what made it vanish from the archive and how are those gaps constituted, i.e. how to read what is not there. These questions become, in the context of rope bondage, even more interesting by projecting them onto a human being.

Any person is an archive; the archaeological work is needed to get to know them, that is one of the major points in developing the interview metaphor. Many more experiences with ropes and reflections about the archaeology of personalities as well as about the nature of the archive led me to the interview metaphor 2.0, if you like. I rather like to call it a literary criticism of the personal narrative for the moment. At this point, there must be a disclaimer that can’t be overrated. Criticism in this case means interpretation. It does not mean criticizing! This must be clear.

If we try to project Didi-Huberman’s claim onto a person, the following can be said:

Any person is and archive and because of that there are, consciously or not, gaps in them. Those gaps are the ones of their personal history, of who they are****. Following Didi-Huberman, those gaps are the essence of the person and as such they are the most interesting entities of a person. That is why I am so interested in those gaps these days when I tie with someone. My desire, from which I draw my pleasure as well, is to get to know a person and to find out what moves them, what touches them. Whether I find that by the simplest rope technique or the most elaborate, it doesn’t matter. Who are you?

And here lies the difficulty that I believe to be able to overcome with the idea of a literary criticism. Who someone is, is not just the sum of their reactions to a set of questions. The who is in my experience with ropes rather hidden in between those reactions. What is it that the person does not answer to several questions. What has been thrown out of the archive of a personal (hi-)story, actively or passively? Since it is not present (in the double meaning of the word, which I understand to be a present as for now and a present as for here) one cannot just look closer and closer or even force something. But what one can do is undergo the risk which name is imagination.

As someone tying with the aim of getting to know someone and seeing the scene as an interview, one has to fill those gaps with their imagination – a beautiful parallel again to Kintsugi, isn’t it? – in other words, to interpret the story that is told by the tied person. This story is filled with gaps, a cultural construction of the self. Everyone does that and I claim this to be constitutional for every being within the realm of language. The interpretation of this story, the dialogue with the book written by the person in ropes, cannot be random or it risks breaking the connection between the people tying with each other. The fillings must make sense to both, they must be consistent in order to work. It is, and that is the reason why I called it a literary criticism, like interpreting a work of literary, a work of art, or, as we said the story of an archive when you ask yourself why certain things are not there and what is its meaning – “who are you?”. Why? Because, and I believe that to be true for everyone, every individual wants to be listened to by its environment. By being listened to, I mean a profound and deep engagement with that individuals personality and not a meaningless “how are you – fine”.

Taking a closer look at the rope scene itself, the above means that there is more, much more than just the reactions one sees but rather what are the reactions that don’t occur? What is the meaning for this or that reaction of the tied person and how does it fit into the greater picture? “The archaeological undertaking must risk of juxtaposition faded objects…” and this risk is called “imagination”.

The interpretation comes from nothing but the imagination and here lies the source of a poetics of the artful language that is called Kinbaku. A language that is to tell the story of the person in ropes and read by the person tying*****.

 

 

*Problem as understood more in the mathematical sense. A challenge, an interesting, somewhat mystical situation: an epistemic thing.

**Archaeology of personalities – A linguistic approach to erotic rope bondage. 2017.

***What is a Laplacian demon? It is the originally the intellectual creation, the Gedankenexperiment of P.S. Laplace and this creature is gifted or condemned to know the position and momentum of each and every single particle in the universe at a given time. Equipped with that knowledge, it can according to classical mechanics calculate a “complete” history of the universe.

**** Before this idea gets opposed, I can calm the critics by comparing those gaps with the Japanese concept of Kintsugi where cracks in pottery are considered beautiful and are “repaired” with noble materials, so not to hide them.

***** This implicit direction will be subject of my next partial study. Stay tuned.

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From Paris with Love

Illustration by WASP
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About the proper moments in Kinbaku

  1. Within the Osada Ryu, there are some key terms that are of highest importance for a deeper understanding of Kinbaku. Two of them are Ma-ai and Kankyuu. Ma-ai is understood as the proper distance at the proper moment, and Kankyuu as the proper pace and the proper intensity at the proper moment. Thinking about those two terms shall help to understand that tying with somebody always at the same distance and at the same intensity and speed can (in many cases) lead to predictability and hence to boredom. (There are situations where methodical, paced movements are very effective – for example a tie that tightens slowly as it is applied.) Conversely, a constant variation of distance or a variation of the intensity can add an immense scope for people who are engaged in rope bondage – the surprise factor keeps the mind from wandering. These are dependent, though, on the term ‘proper’ – proper distance, intensity, and pace, at the proper moment. While the proper intensity is a little easier to unpack, the proper moment is more elusive, and is the focus of this writing.

What is the proper moment? When are the best situations to do something within a Kinbaku scene?

It turns out that the answer to this questions was already basically uncovered in the interview metaphor. A brief and overly simplified review of the interview metaphor (The original idea is published at https://fetlife.com/users/1762060/posts/2762869):

When people tie with each other, the combination of the power relationship and the communication can be seen as an interview within which the tying person is the interviewer and the tied person is the interviewee. The power is on the side of the interviewer, and the information comes from the interviewee. An interview is failed if the interviewer talks all the time, and an interview is also failed as soon as the interviewee takes over and decides the path. Kinbaku scenes are unforeseeable as they are shaped by the moods and questions/answers of the participants.

I see tying as a conversation where I ask questions and, depending on the answers that come, choose the following questions. So how does the concept of ‘proper moments’ fit into this way of understanding rope bondage? Well, the same way as it plays a role in a verbal conversation – people take turns speaking, and giving each other space to speak. It is a game of the right moment to ask personal or distanced questions and answers. It is also a game of short and pointed or of extended questions and answers. (This “game” is subject to another writing that is currently in preparation). But again, what are the proper moments, for example, to end a sentence or to start a question?

One important tool we can borrow from linguistics is the concept of “transition relevance places – points where a sequence is grammatically complete, and at which it might be reasonable for a turn to end.” (Swann & Graddol, Gender Voices, 1989)

The translation of this concept to rope bondage is kind of straightforward and it contains an interesting second layer. A transition relevance place, from the perspective of the tying person, is when the tied person is finished with their reactions. (And, according to my personal experience, this is way longer than one might think.) Now there are two possible ways how to deal with that. I would call it the caring way on the one, and the overwhelming way on the other side. Both have merits. Let’s have first a look at the caring way of leading the rope interview.

The person in ropes in most cases has an immediate reaction to an action of the tying person. After that, the one in ropes usually settles in and adapts to the new situation, or, in other words, finds their place within the new situation. They may tense or inhale slightly, then exhale, relax, shift, relax into or pull against the rope, and eventually they calm into a state/position and stay there pending new input. In the caring way of tying, this process needs to fade out before a new action can be done without interrupting the tied person’s answer/reaction. It is a question of respect to let the tied person finish their answer completely. It is a way of getting to know the tied person by letting them express themself in the ropes that are provided by the tying person. One thing that needs to be mentioned here, which can destroy the flow of a rope interview, is when the people involved miss the transition relevance place. What happens then is a rather awkward pause where nobody knows exactly whose turn it is and what to say next. This leads to a power void and it can upset the scene. I want to quote again the authors from above:

“An important feature of conversation is that speakers coordinate their talk so that (normally) one person is speaking at a time and speaking turns succeed one another relatively smoothly. […] The gap between two speaking turns is often as little as the fraction of a second and to achieve such rapid transitions listeners need to predict when the current speaker is likely to finish speaking and a new turn can legitimately begin.”   (Swann & Graddol, Gender voices. 1989)

The other way is overwhelming and disrespectful, but not necessarily in a bad way. In this way of leading the rope interview, the tying person doesn’t wait for the person in ropes to complete their answer. They use interruption as a tool to increase the power relationship between the two.

But one has to be careful with both tools. If the tying person only listens to the tied person, the power relationship can (!) be somewhat damaged as this leads to a power void. If the tying person constantly interrupts the tied person, it can (!) be hostile, can (!) appear that they are not interested in the reactions of the tied person and can lead to resentment. Hence, in both cases, overuse can damage the power relationship.

Coming back to the initial question of what are the proper moments for a proper distance or a proper intensity, we are now able to answer it. It is a conscious decision whether one lets the tied person complete their answer or not. When is an answer complete? When the body language, i.e. the reactions to a certain action are fading out, and the person is on the verge of settling.

It is indeed a skill to organize a conversation and it is even more tricky to organize a Kinbaku scene, where there is no explicit content of any speech, except obvious ones (for example, overt pain). This skill can be learned and needs to be practiced consciously.

This approach may sound very academic, and yet thinking along these lines has great practical application within Kinbaku – it encourages the tying person to pay attention to the person in ropes, to seek their individuality, and to adapt to the situation. This helps create deeper and more fulfilling scenes.

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Fairy tales

… are the myths of the every day life in the past. educational and magic

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About the direction of touches

A Japanese Rope Bondage Scene doesn’t consist only of ropes and patterns. It mainly consists of people. Especially in recent years, the focus of many enthusiasts seems to have shifted from a pattern centered approach to one where the tied person stays in the center of attention. A direct consequence of this shift, in my understanding, is an increase of direct touches. More and more people try to build up and stay in a certain connection which is often accomplished by touching the tied person in one or another way during the scene.

But what is the meaning of a touch in Japanese Rope Bondage? Clearly, there are thousands of different answers to that question and once, this question is asked in a more or less knowledgeable public, spontaneous reactions will appear. Those reactions will most probably consist of various cues such as connection, communication, energy etc.. So far so good, but those terms require a deeper explanation, simply because they describe everything and hence nothing specifically.

I already described in previous writings how I imagine the term communication in Japanese rope bondage (and my understanding also implicitly the term energy. The term connection is subject of further studies). Roughly spoken, communication is a conversation within a certain nonverbal (or in rare cases verbal) language in the context of fluctuating power relationships. I also tried to establish an idea of a vocabulary, which consists of the easiest yes/no-questions and their answers as part of an interview.

In none of those previous attempts I was able to specify and give a better idea about the medium of that communication. Clearly, as Yukimura Sensei would say, to transport love and emotion through the medium of rope. To use the ropes is obvious (although not strictly adhered by everyone and every time) but he himself uses also the medium of his fingers, his hands, and other parts of his body to transport what he tries to say.

When I tie with my partner, I do not only use the medium of ropes.* I touch her or him* with my fingertip in the region of the lower back, when I want them to straighten up in a sitting position. I touch their inner knee when I want them to spread the legs, I touch their neck, when I want them to show their face etc.

I consciously say touch and not pull or push. I just “tell” my partner to do and insist of them doing so – not by using my physical force to make them move in a certain way but by hinting at movements and supporting its performance. This is the crucial point. Namely to communicate in a directed way. And that’s only possible if the touch has a certain direction. The touch’s direction needs to be towards the tied person and must not be reflected at the border between me and my partner. I have to touch her or him* for her or his* understanding of my language and not (only!) for my pleasure. And this has to be done consciously.  Within a sexual context, the borders of humans are semi-permeable. A part is reflexive, a part is permeable.

I give an example: A shoulder. I touch it. I want to feel it – its surface, its tension etc. That might lead to reactions of the touched person but at first, I want to touch it. The touch is reflected at the surface of the touched person and let me feel what I touch. I want to call this category a retro-reflexive touch.

Or I could touch it, because I want to see a reaction in a face, an answer with eyes or I want the shape of the body to be changed, i.e. I want a certain movement of the body of the tied person. For this purpose, I have to touch the shoulder in such a way, that the touch isn’t reflected on the surface but – one could say – goes through that surface; it is directed towards the person I touch. I want to call this a directed touch.

The latter case is the one, according to my experience, which creates a completely new state of mind in the tied person. It gives her or him* the feeling of being in focus, of being important. It is also the latter one, that makes it possible to move a whole body with a fingertip, simply because the touched person “understands” much easier what I want from that her or him*, whereas the retro-reflexive touch remains selfish.

One might object that many people want to be touched retro-reflexively exactly because of its selfish character. The objectifying character is demanded in some cases. Of course, I agree with that and I personally like to touch and to be touched in that way as well. The distinction, I made between a directed and a retro-reflexive touch is not a grading.

Rather than valuing, I want to express the possibility of the directed touch and what advantages it can contain. When I tie, I focus mostly on the directed touch for mainly three simple reasons.

First, it requires much less effort to move a body in that way. (Selfish reason!)

Second, it helps stabilizing the power relationship in a subtle way. People tend to be more impressed by other people who can move them without any effort. As someone told me a couple weeks ago, it appeared to be magical, when she was touched and hence moved just with a fingertip and she felt utterly at my mercy.

Third, as mentioned above, the directed touch lacks of selfishness. Hence, it is able to increase the tied person’s feeling of being the center of attention and not just an object for macramé.

*Although it seems, that I distinct between a skin-skin touch and a rope-skin touch, I strongly want to emphasise at this point that the touch with a rope is 100% included in this article. One must include the ropes as a medium of touch in the distinction between retro-reflexive and directed touch.

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When I tie with my partner

So, I told you a lot about my theoretical views on Japanese rope art and how one perceives all the stuff that happens from several perspectives. That doesn’t mean at all that when I tie with my partner, I sit there and think about the etymology of a certain word that probably occur to me, when I pull a rope a bit tighter. This kind of reflection takes place before and after a scene.

When I tie with a person, I am interested in this person. I’m not necessarily interested in a relationship beyond the scene, but something should be there, that makes me feel like “yes, there is something in this person, I want to explore” and sometimes I just appreciate the time together with ropes and sometimes, well so far only one time, I get engaged with this person only ten months after the first scene. (@Addie <3)

And then we tie. The scene starts earlier than the first wrap around a wrist is applied. It starts, when it became clear that we will tie with each other. I look at the person. How he or she looks, how the head is held, the tension in the shoulders, the position of the legs and then I guess. I can never know and actually I am also insecure about if I will be able to read my partner properly or if everything will lead to a misunderstanding. So I put my hands on my partner. I want to feel, if my visual sense is right, if the tensions, I see, are actually there. But I also want to let my partner know about my tensions. And then, after a few moments, I start to use the ropes. Not long ago, pictures of how I would like to see my partner, or what kind of pattern it should be, occurred to my inner eye and I followed this picture. But this feeling vanished. I don’t know and I really don’t want to know, how it will look like. So, this teleology stopped. I don’t tie a chair, which shall look pretty.

When I tie, I see my partner and except from a few moments where I look at the suspension ring or the ropes, I try to always have my partner in view. Technicalities such as where the suspension point is, became somehow like sneezing while driving a car. Sometimes, I wake up within a scene and ask myself, what I intend to see, when I stare at my partner. And then, I see it. It is one of the toes curling or the hands that try to hide the thumb or it is my partner trying to seek eye contact. It is the increasing frequency of the breath or it is an expression of suffering when I squeeze the toes. It is the subtleties, that reply to what I do with my ropes. And immediately after I’ve seen, what I intend to see, my thoughts become blurry and hide behind a fog again and it feels good.

It is somehow like one meets somebody and one talks and all of a sudden it is 4am. I don’t rehearse such a conversation.

It is just beautiful. But sometimes, in the middle of that conversation, I say something and my partner interprets this in a way which hurts, or vice versa. So we stop the conversation and talk about why this could happen and it can also be beautiful, because we both have learned something. And next time, I tie and I come to a situation where I normally would have done something, I remember the last time and say to myself “Hah, I do something else or I’ll hurt my partner.”. But everything I do, while I tie is basically to get to know my partner and let him or her knowing who I am. So I listen to my partner. I watch my partner’s reactions and I try to get a feeling for his or her needs. And every time, my partner stays calm, I do something. I start talking and say who I am and what I feel. Sometimes, I tell my partner my love of very complicated patterns and sometimes I talk about the simple things that are very important for me. Sometimes I like to dance and sometimes I just want to sit and listen to music; metaphorically. And I ask my partner, if he or she likes similar things. Because I am interested in the person I tie with and I cannot imagine, that someone wants to tie with me, who isn’t interested in my personality. Because tying is such a big part of my personality. And although I said in the beginning that the reflections on a deeper meaning of my tying start after the scene, Addie told me at one point that my way of asking with the help of ropes feels somehow scientific but not in an objectifying way. She said, and that was one of the greatest compliments I ever got for my tying, that it feels like if someone is more interested in her as a person than anybody else.

When I studied mathematical physics, I never thought that I will ever be interested in people. I have to admit that there are people out there who are far more interesting and whose personality is much more beautiful then the Onsager solution of the 2-dimensional Ising model.

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