Monday, April 19, 2004

The Perils of Popularity

I was at a suspension-bondage class yesterday, but I was feeling lazy, though. So I went and sat at the back of the room and ate Tootsie Rolls out of the candy jar. And Monk of Twisted Monk came and sat down with me and we had a nice chat for a while.

 I've only seen him play once or twice, but he seems pretty good with his ropes. And he's also becoming more known in the community because makes his living by selling hemp rope for use in bondage.

It's funny, there are definite trends in BDSM play, at least among the community of kinky people that attend BDSM events. Seven years ago, I had never seen anyone doing Japanese-inspired rope bondage. Five years ago, I had seen it a few times, mostly being done by Max. (This was before we became involved.) Three years ago, I personally knew half a dozen "rope guys" – about three of whom lived in Seattle - and knew of another half dozen or so nationwide. Now, it's the hip way to play. Nothing against those who flog, pierce, whip, spank, whatever – but rope bondage is in vogue at the moment, and lots of people are doing it or want to do it. Rope bondage is in.

One could speculate on why this is so. It may just be that every fetish has its day, but I think there are other reasons as well. For example, rope bondage is a form of BDSM play that has a lot of flexibility. It can be mild, moderate or severe. Done well, it's esthetically pleasing. And suspension bondage – the flashiest, the most dangerous, and thus the sexiest form of rope bondage, can make both top and bottom feel a bit like glamorous circus performers.

This all being the case, I gave Monk a little unsolicited advice. "Since you are becoming known in the community as a rope top who does suspension," I said, "you will need to practice a certain skill, and that is - the art of the polite refusal."

Monk is, after all, the same guy who once said to me, "It's all about the rope. Chicks dig the rope." I believe him.

I continued. "I think women get more of a chance than men to practice tactfully declining…shall we say, intimate invitations? And I've seen tops get caught off guard, just because he's not so used to women he's just met making a real serious play for his attention. But it'll happen. You're going to get all kinds of women – and men, too – asking you to hang them up. And some of them – well, they just aren't going to be your type. So you should brush up on how to say 'no thank you' gracefully."

I was relating this story later to friends over dinner. One of them, who also a rope top, acknowledged the point, saying, "Yeah, and I'm not always so tactful about it." Now, I've never seen this guy be rude, but I pointed out the difference in the two situations. "You're not selling a product," I said. "Monk is. And the very people who are likely to want to buy his rope are also the people who are likely to want him to tie them up in it. He's a pleasant, friendly guy and that's going to help him in his business. But it also means that people are going to see him as accessible and so he's going to have to walk that line or risk offending some of his customers."

Can you tell that I relate to Monk's situation? While I'm not selling a tangible product like he is, I do want people to read my columns, and come to my workshops, and for those who are so inclined, I want them to be clients of mine. But I have to politely say 'no, thank you' to a lot of people who want more from me than that. Refusing someone's offer of something that's as personal and intimate as BDSM play takes delicacy, if one is not going offend. And offending people without considering the repercussions is a luxury you give up when you make your personal pleasure into your livelihood.