Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Rope ambivalence

Last night was Nuit Blanche here in Toronto. It’s an all-night arts festival that happens all over the city and includes a lot of performance art. During Nuit Blanche there are also unofficial or “renegade" exhibits. This year, Morpheous held a rope bondage rigging-and-suspension fest, the "largest public bondage art event in the world." Fetlife was offering a direct video feed, so I watched for a while.

A few months ago Annabel interviewed Jeffrey W. Olin of Interwoven Images here about his beautiful Shibari work and photography. Those photos are gorgeous. But I have to admit, the rigging last night didn’t do much for me. There was one moment when a rigger leaned over his sub’s shoulders from behind, rope in his hands, whispering and stroking, and you could see the sensual intimacy, the relationship there. But the rest of the time what was going on seemed about as sensual as macramé to me – macramé on bodies instead of flower pots.

Given my objectification fetish, macramé on female flower pots really ought to work for me. Women rigged and hung up like ceramics; what could be more objectifying? If it was in a story, and the women were genuinely helpless (and turned on), I might have felt something. But here it was clear that all a sub would have to say would be “get me down” and it would be over. Without the power dynamic, or at least some kind of emotional connection, I don’t see the point. Of course there might have been some power dynamics going on beneath the surface, but apart from that one moment there was no hint of that. The event was totally about the decorative art of rigging. It seems that without a story, or even the hint of a back story on which to base my fantasies, watching rope rigging leaves me cold.

Leather harness on the other hand…. Okay, if they’d been using leather I would have watched MUCH longer. Leather is smoother; it buckles and gets tucked away. No big knots or messy rope ends. Fuzz and tail-ends mess up the sub’s pretty lines. And when leather is dark against pale skin, it looks not only gorgeously perverted but uncompromising. Like it really means it. To me, there’s a powerful statement there. Pale brown rope to me is….beige.

There’s also the fiddly factor. Yes, harness would have to be bought or made in advance (not that hard, actually). But it goes on quickly and smoothly, with a minimum of confusion. Nothing, but nothing ruins a submissive mood more effectively than standing there watching a dom fumble over the bondage.

Graydancer, a well-known rigger, once interviewed me about one of my books on his Graydancer’s Ropecast. We argued a bit over rope vs. leather, but really, it comes down to the fact that we like what we like. A recent blog of his about suspension touches on some of the coldness I perceived in those scenes last night. His comments, and the discussion that follows suggest that suspension can be used by showy tops instead of doing the work to create something that goes deeper. And I have to agree.

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