If your only exposure to bondage riggers comes from watching rope bondage videos on Vimeo, it’s easy to assume that most bondage riggers fit a certain mold. If asking the casual observer, they would probably describe riggers as older men in gi’s who suspend waifish bottoms while Japanese folk music plays in the background. Yes this describes some, but not all riggers. Let’s dispel some myths and learn more about riggers and what they do.
1. Only straight, cis males are bondage riggers – This is one of the biggest assumptions about riggers, that it’s mostly men tying women. As I described in the intro, this myth is created by the prevailing images of erotic rope bondage scenes. Actually, this is a shame because it means that a lot of people are missing out on seeing some amazing riggers work.
Gay leathermen were among the first bondage riggers and informed what came to be known as the rope community. I’ve been fortunate to encounter a diverse range of people who tie. I’ve met soccer moms, trans women, queer bois and people with physical limitations who all were dedicated, talented riggers. Groups such as Hitchin Bitches are for riggers that identify as female. Yes, it’s true that the numbers are still disproportionate, most rope events are full of males performing as rope tops, but thankfully that’s changing. As we often say here at The Black Pomegranate, rope (and rigging) is for everyone.
2. The best bondage riggers only do suspensions – This is another myth that can be attributed to popular bondage images and and videos. If someone says shibari, people tend to picture a full rope suspension. But rope is about more than getting someone in the air. Many of the world’s top rope artists only do suspensions sparingly, stressing that the tie must have an intended purpose. Some riggers only perform suspensions as performances or reserve their most demanding suspensions for scenes with dedicated partners. Other riggers focus on floor work scenes which are deeply connective and breathtaking in a manner that rivals any suspension performance.
The notion that performing suspensions is the hallmark of a competent rigger is actually harmful. It creates the idea that once someone does suspensions they are an “expert”. There is no master rigger certification and performing flashy suspensions doesn’t mean that a rigger is competent or particularly safe. A hidden truth is that it’s fairly easy to learn the mechanics of a suspension and to lift someone. The best riggers delve into more than the mechanical aspects of a lift. Good riggers are diligent about safety, attentive while working with bottoms, can compensate for changes in a scene and practice informed consent. These intangibles, combined with skills make someone a good rigger, not blindly hoisting someone up to take a photo.
3. Every Bondage Rigging Scene is Sexual – Is tying someone always sexual? Well, it really depends on what someone considers rigging and sex. Traditional kinbaku has a deep sexual component, the process of tying and manipulating the bottom’s body is intended to create a sense of erotic shame and vulnerability. Watching or participating in such scenes can be extremely intimate and yes, arousing. Western bondage emphasizes the utility of bondage, simply restraining someone in order to do wicked, wonderful things to them. Bedroom bondage is practically a form of foreplay. Despite this, sex isn’t the sole purpose of bondage. In fact, attentive rigging can make sex downright impractical.
Not every bondage scene is meant to be a prequel to sex. Rigging can be an artistic or creative exercise, a connective moment between partners or a silly encounter. People seek a lot of differnt things out of tying, that have nothing to do with sex. Granted, rigging your partner spread eagle to a bed is an awesome warm up for consensual sex. But riggers can also have a moment of connection without expecting or wanting sexual contact. Tying someone requires attentiveness to what your partner is communicating. An intense rigging experience can be physically and emotionally draining, to the degree that penetrative sex just doesn’t happen during a scene. Sometimes rope is part of a sexual scene, other times rope itself is the scene.
4. All Riggers are Dominants – Some, but not all riggers are dominants. There is an actually a distinction between being a rope top and a dominant, although the roles sometimes overlap.
This theme is related to what I mentioned previously about intentions when tying. For some riggers, tying is about dominance, the restraint they apply is a part of the power exchange dynamic. Think of a dominant binding their submissive before a caning, the rope is a tool and perhaps the element of a larger scene. Another example is a rope leash lead submissive, that small bit of rigging becoming emblematic of the dynamic. In these instances, the dominant is receiving submission in exchange for the exertion of consensually dominant action.
However, in some rope scenes the dynamic is collaborative. Rigging is the practice of “giving” rope, the bottom is receiving. Notice the nuance of my words. I described riggers and giving rope, not imparting or forcing rope. That is because rope is reactionary, the process of giving rope is contingent upon how the bottom receives the bondage. Keeping this collaborative nature of rope scenes in mind, being purely dominant and not paying attention to how the bottom receives the rope can actually be a detriment to a good scene. Which brings us to our last myth….
5. Riggers do all the work in rope scenes – It’s easy to assume that riggers do all the work, because visually they inhabit the motion in a scene. An observer can see the rigger throwing rope, applying it to the bottom’s body. It takes a degree of skill to be a rigger, to tie someone in a safe manner, all while making the experience enjoyable or even erotic. The contrast is stark, watching a rigger move elegantly through a scene when compared to a rigger that fumbles their rope and utterly kills any rapport they have with the bottom. Yes, riggers do a lot, but they don’t do everything in a scene.
Remember my earlier assertion that rope is collaborative in nature. In receiving rope, bottoms mitigate the physical, mental and emotional aspects of a scene. A good bottom elevates a rope scene and makes their rigger better. This is most evident when a bottom doesn’t receive rope well. When a bottom isn’t collaborative with the top, the scene isn’t going to be good no matter how good the rigger may be. Bottoms are that important. (This topic is deserving of it’s own post, which we’ll address soon.)
Hopefully this has cleared up some misconceptions about riggers and what they do. Enjoy the diverse riggers you encounter and what they offer, unique rope play awaits.
Tie right and tight and keep it kinky!!