In our current global crisis, we need stimulus to get us thinking; alternative thoughts to help us stay positive. Our world is changing with disturbing rapidity, and these days will shape us for generations. If not, we're already lost to a blank façade of unimportance, ignorance and self–promotion.
It sounds dramatic, because it is. We're forced to realign our focus to survive and care. To discard the meaningless, and grasp tightly all that is really important to us. This is the grounding topic in steadily increasing chats around the world, with loved ones, family, friends, contacts and confidantes from Brisbane, Tokyo, Osaka and Dhaka to Modena, Paris, Antwerp, London, Palm Beach and Los Angeles. We check we're okay, and the gravity of our collective plight brings us to items commonly overlooked, ignored or avoided.
My connections include respected and trusted allies who've been in the rope bondage community for decades. We chat for hours. Subjects and reflections of one conversation spill over, maybe after a little thought has chewed on them, into the next. Unsurprising are similarities in evaluation.
We are in Pause mode, hoping we'll all pull through. Gifted time for contemplation, a prominent theme is the slow growth of ourselves, and the rope bondage scene as a whole; significant maturity. If analysis holds true, it presents key drivers determining a diverse spectrum becoming clearer with greater numbers.
The first driver is those numbers. Within the conversations was a recognition of how societal changes, especially economics have always shifted the ground. A century ago, sexually deviant practices were predominantly limited to nobility and intelligentsia. Outside involvement would have been rare, and only enlisted the unwitting or impoverished into participation.
A series of social factors limited wider enjoyment. For those practicing, secrecy, fear of stigma and danger of falling from grace. From classes lower, lack of education, contraception, free time and facilities, civil and religious expectations. As now, there were individuals more narcissistic and more compassionate, but awareness of such practices, on the whole didn't exist.
Post–WWII saw increasing social mobility and wealth, and then the sexual revolution accelerated access to resources, including literature such as Bizarre, Histoire d'O, Kitan Club and Hana to Hebi. Desire became established by discovery. Braver, more driven souls could indulge their growing and diversifying fantasies. 20 years ago the market was still limited and underground, and the consequences of exposure still hazardous, often illegal.
The arrival of the Internet generated a meteoric explosion, where regulation of all things erotic, including sexual deviancy could no longer be easily contained. Then a throwaway novel ignited a fire now raging, drawing in the masses. 50 Shades of Grey may be poorly written, unlikely fiction, but it appeared at the ideal moment to provide principally submissive–inclined women with affirmation they were not unnatural freaks. It normalized their thoughts, feelings and desires, and became a catalyst for engagement in BDSM in substantial numbers.
The second driver is, unfortunately, still somewhat governed by caste and intellect. As with all avenues of life, the philosophies of the well–educated and cultured differ from the white–collar nouveau riche and the working class plebian. Our basic rationale, customs and courtesies may take generations to realign with extensive cultivated learning, but only at the will of power.
Contained within solid education is our exposure to values and conventions, detailed contextual information, and elements we believe are of importance; what we view as art, for example, or pleasure, including human, sexual.
Understanding who we are, how we can process, accept and progress is often determined by our backgrounds and integrity. Some may appreciate things priceless that remain worthless or unseen to others. Some may modify their lifestyles, or bodies to associate with things unrelated, seemingly confused. The uninformed may glorify unquestioningly.
We have wealth without refinement or taste. Some appreciate the delicacies of life while others may argue which hamburger chain serves the best French fries. We are diverse in the contexts of our considered opinions. Information Technology provides us with both very good and very poor resources. We have unrestricted access where we may not always have clear–cut inspection.
As the rope bondage world expands, the divisions between interests become apparent. We see more engagement in the bulk of the second driver: quantity over quality, and the herd mentality.
Using my own example, with which I'm intimately familiar, how was it possible to be so readily accepted in Japan? I'd put this down to the right place at the right time. But there's an overlooked dimension – the economic driver.
I'd invented technology being developed by a Japanese corporation. Flown in and out 6 to 8 times a year for over a decade, moved about, accommodated, fed and watered by my employers, and also paid, well.
Japan is expensive. Happening bars, SM clubs, pink theatres and 1–on–1 instruction are very, very expensive. I could accumulate contacts, absorb approaches and learn tricks. If I felt something may be of value in, say Osaka at the weekend, I could afford to hop on a bullet train, have a grand evening, maybe two, take in a love hotel if I struck lucky, and be the equivalent of several hundred Dollars richer, or poorer, depending on your point of view. Economics provided access.
The majority of visitors arriving in Japan with an interest in rope bondage has a limited budget, and might have very restricted access to far lesser prospects they may freely worship having possibly only a fleeting snapshot.
One must also consider the native point of view, and appreciate their economics too. Going into a foreign club isn't easy. One in the adult world, even more challenging. Entering without knowledge of their different society, their mannerisms and etiquette is a highly complex equation. You may walk in confidant you know a lot about how to use rope, and you might itch to show it. Both things that can be the fast–track to being rejected, or at least ignored.
The Japanese are on a level that you need education, the culture of your own, and time to see, even in my case, still relatively unclearly. They enjoy your interest in their civilization. They're curious about yours too, especially when you don't come up with nonsense to profit from them. Unless, of course, their pocket is involved. Some may ignore convention, possibly because they don't believe their compatriots will notice, and/or the rabid materialism of certain western mindsets has seduced them, and/or their time may be running out and they've little to lose, and/or they just need the money.
15–25 years ago, the west's association with rope bondage in Japan grew out of fledgling enthusiasm into dubious protectionist exploitation. An informed minority found this vulgar, unethical, devoid of empathy. Today its franchise and grading structures are a source of healthy ridicule in astute channels.
Primary exposure ranged from soft–core fun to a lucrative underground with sinister aspects, servicing extreme misogynistic psycho–pathologically sadistic perversions where the gullible are harmed, sometimes life–changing.
If someone explicitly desires such treatment, who are we to judge? Most informed strongly disassociate and disapprove. However, flocks of unwitting, fawning foreign devotees follow their icons naively, and without solid examination. People should be aware, especially potential casualties, and always dig deeper past the glamour and the marketing.
Economics influences in other ways. Even for well–known names, turning professional is not always as profitable as one might believe. Promotion to proliferate weakens merits and integrity, limiting principles. Individuals trying to get ahead sanction things for sometimes desperately needed financial gain.
One must understand that a few hours in a group workshop pay some bills, before really imparting anything beyond the basic stuff, like how to use rope. Of course, there are individuals matured over years of experience who may convey profound expertise beyond the technical, although students have to be capable of receiving and processing such knowledge.
Ryū, sensei, grandmaster, seme, etc. are thus Japanized terms of promotional value, and deshi even more so. None guarantee any substantive transmitted lineage, or quality. They're marketing motifs in a superficial world where the rank and file, as always, fall for the trick and easily part with their money.
Artisans selling their wares create supporters, some of whom will gain imparted education from the root in the short time available. Many more will pass on, as best they can, skill they thought they may have acquired. Most have little originality, creativity or a deeper understanding because they're doing precisely what they're capable of – repeating, imitating, plagiarizing. As succession continues, with ever weaker dilution.
Mass demand promotes opportunities for supply. The Internet generation fed on social media celebrities, influence marketing, lifestyle gurus and branded frippery sense their prospect of fame. Because, for anybody with dexterity, rope bondage technique is easy, it doesn't take long to become proficient and make the jump to teach. But at this base, it gets competitive; aggressive. Ignoring own culpability and incapacity, it campaigns what should be abiding, not topical issues, for example consent, continually finding new ideas to market for fame and fortune without years of introspection.
None of this is extraordinary. Look to popular music as a comparison. As the Phonograph succeeded notation, it was taken up by a wider audience, and became a commodity. Seeing profit potential, the publishers of Tin Pan Alley had no frame of reference. So, they turned to musicians to be their guides, and all the great, original creative music of the 1950s, 60s and 70s was discovered by individuals with solid understanding.
When selection bowed to commercializing via music industry lawyers, accountants and marketing executives, things began to go awry. Then came the Internet. Everybody got in on the act, clambering over the bones of their short–lived predecessors, before being swept away for the next. The quantity mushroomed. But not the quality.
As with music, perpetual self–promotion, ownership of facilities, rushing to produce and an abundance of social media likes and followers are deceptive indicators of true worth. We are only measured by the ones we touch.
Yet the common people like what's on offer and consume it willingly. Why? Socioeconomics. Because it's cheap and available. Because it's easily digestible. Because everybody else is consuming it, so it's assumed to be of value. Because it's a recognized brand constantly marketed to the target demographic. Because the greater possibilities have yet to be appreciated.
To feel alternative within a like–minded crowd is not striking out alone with self–determination. The masses take time to appreciate original thinking. Initially, they sense individuality as dangerous, and generally attack it.
This is how we humans are, and interest in rope bondage follows exactly the same principles. We're divided by our abilities to discern, to afford, and to empathize, or not. But because sexual deviancy and intimacy are principally involved, it opens parameters that cannot be overlooked. An irritating earworm is one thing. To be physically defiled something completely different.
Within the scene characters range from dangerous psychopaths to affective and cognitive empaths. Overlapping will be other factors based upon education and intelligence, on morality, integrity versus dogmatism, arrogance and narcissism, etc.
We must balance and match various capabilities, capacities and desires. For example, a model wishing to look fabulous with a coordinating photographer possessing dexterity with rope. Or a masochist enjoying the serving of pain from a sadist. There is no criticism when both parties enjoy equally and get what they want and expect. There's also nothing wrong with others wishing to teach how to do this for the right reasons.
Sometimes it's not easy for one party to find the exact complementary match for their needs, and here things can go wrong. One places, maybe too much faith, and disappointment can go from unfulfilled boredom to raging injustice.
The moral and emotional intelligence of the second driver is critical. The personality to extend courtesy, honour and respect. To judge that tying with the other person might not be productive. To sense and to fathom the hidden depths of someone your instinct recognises will be mutually rewarding. To understand that crowing from the treetops, blowing your own trumpet doesn't make you anything special. Usually, it indicates the very opposite.
Within this huge field we call rope bondage by our or foreign words, the vast majority does what they do, and one hopes they are satisfied and unharmed. A relatively silent middle ground searches for their own path in their own way, seeking guidance where it may be of value. A mysterious few avoid the froth of the crowd, hidden, content, yet courteous and approachable. Nourishing on the interpersonal, enjoying the fresh learning with every session, even with the same partner, they administer exactly what is sought, and receive the rewards.
So, has supply–side, trickle–down, unregulated free–market economics numbed us from our humanity, so we grasp the commodity before the person? Has the torrent of information, distorted and marketed for profit blinded us to the simple basics? Does enlightenment exist in others or ourselves, technique and terminology, facility and authority, or reason and result? Do we play to the crowd, or tune in to conference with our partner/s?
Hopefully, together we will pass through these dark days by being careful and responsible. Now we have the time and space to really contemplate what it is that we think we're doing with our passion for rope bondage, and consider our own paths, and where true value might be found.