Tips For Getting Suspended (and rope bottoming in general!)

Photo is of a curvy-ish white person (Morgan) suspended off the ground with rope. They are sideways, wearing a brown hoodie, grey short shorts and knee-high grey and white socks, and their head is turned towards the ground, their face not in view. The background is a room with red walls and brown flooring, and a yoga mat type thing is visible directly beneath Morgan.

If you’ve read my ropespace post, you’ll know I love to be tied up. If you’ve spent more than two minutes on my Twitter feed, you’ll know that I love being suspended. But if you’ve ever been in the same room as me whilst I’m getting hoisted into the air, you’ll have quickly figured out that I’m a little bitch about it.

The pictures that go onto my Twitter feed (or onto my Daddy’s Instagram) make me look perfectly content up in the air, and I often am… after a fashion. During the process of being lifted, though, I have a tendency to squeak and squirm and repeatedly shriek the phrase “I’m scared!” with my eyes scrunched up shut. However, I do end up in the air, and I have some wisdom on how to make it from A to B as a bottom without completely freaking out that might also be applicable outside of suspension scenes.

1. Let your top know how you respond to fear and to pain, if that’s knowledge they don’t already have. If this is someone with whom you regularly do edge play and/or S&M stuff, they might be aware of your reactions to fear and pain already, but a refresher doesn’t hurt. For instance, I make a lot of squeaky noises when I’m frightened, but they don’t necessarily mean that I’m so frightened I want to stop the scene – in fact, fear and adrenaline are two of my main motivators for getting suspended. Conversely, some people fall into complete silence when they’re trying to process pain, and if you’re one of those, make sure your top knows that! Otherwise they may well worry that something isn’t going well, or even that you’ve lost consciousness.

2. Accept that suspension is going to be scary and that it may well hurt. The first few times you get suspended (at least), your fight-or-flight response might well kick in. Not only are you more or less immobilised by rope, but you’re no longer on the fucking ground, and no matter how much you trust your top you’re going to be terrified of falling. The only way I’ve found of soothing this fear is a. Acknowledging that this is an inherently fuckin’ terrifying thing to do, b. Reminding yourself of all the ways that the risks involved are being mitigated (your top has received training on suspension; there are crash mats beneath you; the rope you’re suspended with is as strong or stronger than climbing-grade stuff) and c. Breathing as slowly and deliberately as you can manage. The only other thing that will help this primal terror subside is practice and time – that’s how demo bottoms & performers can be inverted and spun around like yo-yos with naught but a serene smile on their face.

As for the pain: you’re putting most of your body weight through ropes, which are not renowned for their generous surface areas. I usually revel in the pain where I can, and I remind myself that part of being a good bottom is communicating my needs when something hurts too much or in an alarming sort of way. You aren’t going to ruin the mood by saying, “Could you adjust that thigh cuff, Sir?”, or even, “I don’t think I can do this – can we try something else?” – any rope top worth their salt will be not only happy, but excited to experiment and improvise to find a tie or position that you’ll truly enjoy.

3. Move around in the rope! Remember how I just said that being hoisted into the air with just rope and carabiners is terrifying? Well, we’re gonna go ahead and make that more terrifying by wiggling. This sounds counter-intuitive, but moving around in the air might actually make you less afraid in the long run, since it’ll show you how much control you still have over your body (and might flood you with a little more adrenaline). In addition to that, moving around in a tie while you’re still on the ground will help you find all the kinks (haha) and less comfy areas so that your top can adjust or reassess that aspect of the tie, and moving around in the air can shift the pressure from one part of the tie to another, meaning that you can stay up there for longer. Oh, and wiggling your fingers and toes can keep your circulation going, and alert you if you’ve lost sensation or motor control – always important.

4. Remember that it’s supposed to be fun. Oh, God, I am shit at this one. As soon as my dodgy joints or my autistic overwhelm or the universal limitations of the average human body get in the way of my being able to stay in a tie or in a suspension, my chin wobbles. I become simultaneously apologetic and whiny. I am consumed by guilt, Impostor Syndrome and disappointment in myself. But suspension, and rope, and kink as a whole isn’t a competition or a test or a judgement of your worth as a bottom or a person. If you can’t do something, or you need a tie adapted, or you just plain aren’t enjoying yourself, it’s okay to stop! It’s okay to try play around and try something else, and it’s also okay to bundle yourself up in your Sonic the Hedgehog blankie and call it a day. In kink, we play with bodies in some intense ways, and with brain chemicals arguably even more so. Even if the stuff you’re doing doesn’t look as physically draining and fucking wild as some of the stuff you see in videos and performances, it can have a huge impact on you – so make sure it’s a positive impact, and respect the limits of your body and your brain.

Oh, and always bring a lint roller along if you want to wear your clothes anywhere other than the rope scene itself. Rope fibres get everywhere.

All Tied Up: How Does Ropespace Feel For Me?

Last Sunday, I was on the way home from a seven-hour shibari workshop with my Daddy (as in my nurturing, dominant romantic and sexual partner). I sat in the passenger seat of my Daddy’s car, my black ‘Masochist’ T-shirt covered in rope fibres, and attempted to compose a message to my mum (as in my actual biological parent) about how my day had been. I have a spectacularly open and chill relationship with my mum, so I finally gave up on forcing my brain to communicate with my thumbs and just told her I was in subspace and my brain was “pleasantly mushy”. The next day, when I was somewhat more coherent, she asked me what I actually meant by subspace.

The answer, of course, is that it depends.

This conversation with my mum, in combination with Kate Sloan’s latest piece on little space, prompted me to contemplate the differences between the different kink headspaces I experience, and how I might describe them. This post will hopefully be the first in a series of many exploring the different subcategories of subspace.

To begin with, I want to talk about “ropespace”. It’s a subspace like many others, but it specifically occurs when I’m being tied up in some capacity, and usually involves literal ropes, as opposed to other restraints (like handcuffs). The rope itself plays a part: I’ve grown to associate the appearance of rope, its texture and its warm earthy scent with being bound in some capacity, so just seeing, handling or sniffing the stuff can gently nudge me towards ropespace if I’m not there already.

The other sensory aspect of rope bondage that really contributes to the headspace it puts me in is the sensation of being wrapped up tight, squeezed or otherwise securely held by ropes, both whilst I’m being tied and for any period of time that I stay tied up. I often say that it “gives me good autism”, which is a very particular kind of sensory stimulation or comfort that satisfies me very, very deeply. (Other things that give me “good autism” include glitter, citrus-y scents, arranging things by colour or size, and those cookie decorating videos that are everywhere at the moment.) I am almost instantly blissed out by the feeling of being hugged by ropes, whether that hug is around my waist, chest, wrists or even feet, and the experience of being tied into those hugs by someone I’m into is so joyful it makes me giddy.

A big part of the reason that I’m so sensation-oriented when I’m in ropespace, and thus so focused on the scent and pressure of the rope, is that I feel a lot more mindful and embodied than I do usually. I have a bunch of trauma stuff I’m still in the midst of addressing, meaning that I dissociate on a pretty regular basis, and in my day-to-day life, I can still more or less function even when my brain has completely checked out. But, because of the risks involved in rope (like circulation loss, nerve damage and joint problems), dissociating just isn’t an option. My primary job as a rope bottom is to be attentive to my body’s responses so that I can communicate with my top and be tied safely (which also means that any hint of dissociation warrants a safeword and possibly the end of a scene). Rope scenes are some of the few times that I intentionally and continuously tune in to every single part of my body and the ways that they’re all feeling. This can be exhausting, of course, but it can also be calming and enjoyable and deeply, deeply healing.

Another major psychological component of ropespace is the sense of malleability it gives me – or, more specifically, the sense of malleability that being manhandled by my Daddy gives me. Combined with the security of being tied in the first place, the experience of being grabbed, moved around, turned and twisted as my top needs can sometimes put me into little space; other times, it simply puts me into a deeper subspace wherein I feel lovingly objectified – a useful and prized canvas upon which my top can create art with rope. The couple of times I’ve been suspended have amplified this enormously: being carefully dangled from the ceiling makes me feel small and willingly helpless, especially when coupled with the intense fear of falling and the pride my Daddy expressed when I overcame it.

There’s also an exhibitionist edge to some of the rope stuff I do, since my Daddy and I are currently obsessed with attending workshops to learn and practice new skills. This necessarily means getting tied in front of people, which adds again to the sense of loving objectification – my Daddy loves to tie me tightly, roughly or otherwise meanly, to get me to squeak and whimper, so all eyes are on me and I feel distinctly ‘shown off’. Not all of the rope that I do is in public, but I still feel like I’m ‘showing off’ when it’s just me and a top – like I’m showcasing how still I can be, or how obedient, or how resilient.

Ropespace is still somewhat new to me, but it feels different from masochist-space, service subspace, pup space and little space already. All of the aforementioned fall under the general umbrella of ‘subspace’, of course, but I hope I’ve managed to articulate exactly how ropespace feels for me, at this point in my kinky development, and I’m planning to explore other kink mindsets soon – so watch this space!