Recently, after downing an after-work beer, my strait-laced friend Raoul unexpectedly jumped off his barstool and blurted, “I'm gonna be late to my first Shibari class!” Hmmm, some kind of sushi? “No man, BDSM Japanese rope bondage. You should come!” Images of a hogtied, ball-gagged Ving Rhames from Pulp Fiction stormed my brain. “Uh, I have papers to grade.” (I teach junior high.)
My friend had just gotten into a feisty new relationship with a woman who liked a little spank-and-tie in the bedroom. Not wanting to appear anything less than a fifth-level dungeon master, he considered this outing a way to acquire “essential skills.”
Twenty minutes later, after a carpe diem pep talk, the two of us were semiconfidently strutting past bondage racks and vinyl chairs with stirrups, down the dark hallways of the Citadel, Mission Street's own “community dungeon.” While the place hosts classes called “Kinky Japan Revealed,” “Public Humiliation,” and the mysterious “Bootblacking Workshop,” this evening was demurely titled “Rope Bondage Peer Workshop.”
Inside was a fairly innocuous and geeky group — resembling, perhaps, a Radio Shack employee barbecue — crowded around a table, comparing rope. A grizzled old guy (someone's grandpa!) let me touch his: “Mine is marine quality — tough, but softens in water.” I was fondling samples of a red, hand-dyed silk variety when suddenly Raoul whipped out a 25-foot black nylon rope from his shoulder bag and whispered, “I got it from Stormy Leather on Howard. Let's do this!”
Staffers encouraged us to start tying each other up — and to ask “peers” for technical advice. Raoul, too timid to request proper instruction, looped the nylon rope over my shoulders and under my crotch, and, using badly constructed Boy Scout knots, cinched the end tightly around my neck. I had the distinct feeling that if I fell over, I could be strangled to death. It was a bizarre new chapter in our friendship. A sociable fellow, mildly alarmed at our potentially disastrous lack of skill, spent the next hour showing us a basic hand tie, while we enviously watched a middle-aged Asian lady (someone's mom!) get tied up and suspended from the ceiling.
We finished the evening feeling strangely enlightened and in possession of important skills. Raoul could bind his Stanford-grad girlfriend to his headboard with poise, and I could easily restrain a burglar till the authorities arrived.