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Chiba Eizo and the Art of Face Torture: The Psychology of SM, Rope, and Humiliation

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During my recent visit to Japan, I had the privilege of meeting with one of the great bakushi in Japan who is less well known in the west.  Chiba Eizo has been involved in kinbaku and humiliation play for most of his adult life and his history goes back to the beginnings of contemporary kinbaku culture in Japan.  

Best known for his humiliation videos featuring nose and face play, he got his start as a bakushi very early on.  Chiba san is part of the second generation of kinbaku practitioners who were influenced by the early works and writings of the WWII generation in Japan.

His interest, like many of his generation, began early, roughly at the age of 10, when he first encountered bondage and SM magazines such as Kitan Club and Uramado.  The feelings for and love of SM goes beyond those early influences, he told me, “I think, maybe, before I was born, I was Marquis de Sade.”

vlcsnap-2015-12-25-09h56m44s718Chiba san is best known for his love of face bondage and nose play.  For the last 20 years, he has run a small study group called Tanbikai, which translates to Aesthetic Society, to explore this unique and specifically Japanese fetish.

Much to my surprise, Chiba san explained that he didn’t start out liking or even understanding nose play.  After seeing nose hooks used for the first time, he said “I could understand why they do that.  She’s beautiful.  Her face is beautiful.  Why did he destroy her face?  I couldn’t understand nose torture.”

After years of doing kinbaku, he began to look at things differently.  When he was 30 or 35, he recalls, he began to ask a different question: “Suddenly I felt that ‘Yes, they destroyed the beauty of her face, but now I am interested in inside her brain.  What was happening in her brain when they tortured her nose?’”

The shift marked a fundamental change in how Chiba san began thinking about kinbaku as well, that perhaps there was another level beyond just binding her body.  “Watch her eyes,” he said, “maybe she felt sad.  Maybe she felt ashamed.”  In her eyes, he saw not only resistance and refusal, but also a feeling, “like she was dreaming something.”  He began trying to understand what that refusal and resistance represented.  “Maybe,” he thought, “this is the final restraint of her mind.”

As Chiba san described the process, the psychological dynamic became the center of our discussion.  There is something particularly Japanese about nose torture because, as a culture, the concept of “face” is a central part of the cultural psyche.  As he explained it,  “the nose is the center of the face.  The nose is the center of human pride.”  When a man or a woman endures nose torture, you are dealing immediately with their sense of self and their sense of pride.

But it is also a form of play that cuts right to the heart of the SM dynamic.  While professionally Chiba san often works with models for videos and productions, his true pleasure comes from playing with masochists or “true M-jo” in the vernacular of Japanese SM.

For Chiba san, this is the heart of the SM dynamic and fundamentally altered how he thought about humiliation play.  While he initially thought of nose torture as deformation or destruction, as he came to better understand the psychology of this sort of play, viewing its function as a means of power exchange as well.  As he explained, “Now, I don’t say destroyed, but something different.  Maybe she thinks, ‘I have to obey him perfectly because the center of her pride is called by him.’”  It was that sense of connection or kankei that he wanted to explore in his SM play.

The essence of SM, as he describes it, is a blend of heart (kokoro), connection (kankei), and communication and it always begins with rope.

“Bondage, shibari, is very important when starting SM.  She likes me or she hates me, according to how I use rope.  So the rope starts the communication between myself and the M-jo.  If she refused my rope, she could not go further (to nose play).  And finally I do this, nose torture or face torture.”

What he would go on to describe is the manner in which he creates a psychological connection with his bottom.  The process always begins with refusal and the goal is to move to acceptance of, even desire for, the surrender of one’s pride and self to another.  This is what Chiba san describes as kankei, a word for connection or relationship with the overtone of sexuality.

vlcsnap-2015-12-25-09h57m11s907“When she accepts face torture, the distance between she and I is extremely close.  So I think face torture and nose torture is very important.  That is what I mean by the final restraint.”

What makes this fundamentally different than other forms of play (including other humiliation play such as enemas) is the relationship between mind and body.  I asked Chiba san how nose play differs from traditional forms of kinbaku.  The element of shame and pride, which is central to how he sees this form of torture, makes the connection different, “Yes she is called by rope,” he explained, “She isn’t free.  She can’t move her body.  But she still has her pride.”  

Perhaps the most interesting point of our discussion came when he explained the core dynamic of refusal.  Nose torture, in the most basic sense, is a form of seduction.  The challenge is not just to cause shame or humiliation, but to move past it, to a state of acceptance and even pleasure.  When that is achieved, Chiba san says “I can see her heart, I can see what is happening inside her heart.”

In one case, he described a woman who came to him from Europe, wanting to experience nose torture.  As he described the scene, she didn’t refuse and as a result he felt she also “didn’t accept with a full heart.”

Acceptance is more than just allowing the nose torture to take place or enjoying the sensation or humiliation.  It is the transformation of the bottom’s mind and psyche that is important.

vlcsnap-2015-12-25-09h56m40s456“But when her pride is called by me, the nose is some sexual tool.  First, they refuse.  Second they refuse.  Third they refuse.  But the fifth or the tenth, she accepts the nose torture and eventually she is even pleased by nose torture.”

The goal for Chiba san, as he describes it is to get the M-jo to “accept with a full heart” and in order for that to happen, the meeting must begin with a refusal, with resistance, because it is in the overcoming of pride that he finds true acceptance in her heart.   Seeing her this way, creates the transformation.  “This makes a second face for her.  Her other face.  But not only another face, another mind.”

The description of that “other face” and that “other mind” are linked for Chiba san.  The goal and purpose of this kind of play is to move past the refusal and the shame and humiliation to the point where, as he would say, “the center of her pride” is called by another and the distance between the two is removed.  At that moment, the moment of acceptance, nose torture becomes a uniquely sexual pleasure, where one’s complete surrender of pride becomes the ultimate act of submission and also an ultimate act of connection between two people exploring the essence of kankei.

While I must admit to a long standing fascination with nose play and face torture myself, spending the day with Chiba san and having the opportunity to delve into his decades of experience and his own personal reflections has done a lot to deepen my own understanding of this form of play and to remind me of the complexity and beauty of SM play.

On a personal note, it was a conversation that transformed my thinking about a lot of different aspects of SM, kinbaku, and fetish play.  It was a reminder that no matter how we express our desires, the essence of kinbaku for me always comes back to kokoro and kankei, heart and connection.  

My deepest gratitude to Chiba san for making it a very special day to remember and for giving me much to think about on my own journey in rope and SM play.

A special thank you to Damon Pierce and Digital Dark for helping arrange my meeting with Chiba san.

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Zetsu has been studying rope since 2008 and kinbaku photography since 2010. He is a member of Yukimura Haruki’s kinbaku school in Japan under the name Haru Yutaka. He has participated in workshops in Tokyo with Suguira Norio and has had his work exhibited in Tokyo at Gallery Shinjukuza, run by the legendary kinbaku photographer Kanno Kei. While in Japan, he has participated in several “satsueikai” photo shoots, photographing the rope work of Naka Akira and Yukimura Haruki. He is a member of The Monarchs in Los Angeles and runs the Los Angeles Rope Dojo, and sells kinbaku books and rope through his shop at Ai Nawa