To Box Tie Or Not Box Tie?
The Box Tie is perhaps the signature tie of modern shibari influenced ropework. It requires the bottom to place their arms behind their back, with the forearms parallel to each other. Needless to say, this calls for a high degree of flexibility to achieve and hold this position for the duration of a rope scene. How can riggers and rope bottoms efficiently evaluate whether a box tie can be comfortably used? Here’s our practical guide to evaluating bodies for the box tie and learning arm placement for the box tie.
A Note About The Box Tie
The term “box tie” is often used interchangeably with the term Takate Kote. The etymology of the terms is unclear, but both names are descriptions of a posture where the hands are bound behind the back. A box tie traditionally contains five or six parts:
- A single column tie around both parallel forearms
- Upper rope wraps that encircle the arms and torso
- Cinches on both sides of the front wraps
- Lower rope wraps the encircle the arms and torso at a midpoint between the upper wraps and elbow
- Cinches on both sides of the lower wraps
- An optional over the shoulder harness to secure the entire tie. (Or add to the aesthetic detail)
The first component, the single column around the forearms is the foundation of the box tie, because it’s the basis of the “stem”, which is a vertical length of rope which provides a place for all the requisite frictions (connections) that gives the box tie it’s stability. The box tie is structural in nature and not having an integral stem which originates from a single column tie fundamentally changes the nature of the tie. Simply, if there is no stem, your tie can’t be called a box tie.
Keep It Close
In rope bondage and suspensions, everything regarding rope and body placement has a purpose. The purpose of the parallel arm position in the box tie is to get the arms closer to the body, thereby providing the aforementioned structure for the rope placement. Think of it this way, the closer the arms are to the body, the more stable they are. The further away the arms are, the less stable.
Use The Body As A Template
At the Black Pomegranate, we teach that you should use your partner’s body as a template, which will ultimately decide the type of rope experience you present to your partner. Just as every template is different, every body is different. Therefore, the arms folded box tie position is going to vary according to the difference in body types. Here are a few examples:
With each body type, the arm position is the same yet the posture is different. For a rigger, this means that rope will be applied to each body in a unique way. For a bottom, this means that everyone will receive their bondage in a different way.
Many factors determine whether someone can assume the box tie position. Body mass, flexibility in the shoulder girdle and elbows, orthopedic condition, strength (it’s strenuous to hold a position) and limb length are just some of the factors that determine whether a bottom can fold their arms behind their back in the required manner. As the examples demonstrate, there is a wide range of body types for which the box tie position is applicable. That being said…
Sometimes, The Template Doesn’t Fit
Not every bondage posture is going to work for every body, for any number of reasons. Yes, the box tie is a signature tie, but it isn’t the end all, be all of rope bondage and suspension. Riggers and bottom’s alike should choose bondage that’s functional rather than adhere to dogma. If the box tie doesn’t work for you and your partner, find an alternative that does. The body shouldn’t be forced unnaturally or compromised to accommodate a box tie, or any other bondage when safer alternatives are available.
Thinking Inside The Box
There is a simple cue to help riggers and bottoms evaluate arm placement for the box tie. Think of an imaginary box. Now correspond each side of the box to a part of the body. The upper arms, parallel forearms, and upper back respectively make up the four sides of the box. If applied to the body, the box would look something like this:
Now, the box gives us a basis for evaluation. Can a bottom comfortably fit their arms within the frame of the “box”? If the answer is yes, then the box tie may be a viable option for bondage rigging. If the answer is no, then the box tie most likely won’t function well with a bottom’s body. Note, there are many factors that go into evaluating bondage, but cueing the box tie in this manner can give riggers and bottoms a place to start their evaluation, whether that leads to utilizing a box tie or an alternative type of rigging.
Every experience that involves the box tie is unique. Learn to evaluate how the box tie will be applied and use that knowledge while creating scenes, whether you find yourself giving or receiving rope.
Evaluate, think outside (and inside) the box and always keep it kinky.