And yes, it was all completely consensual!
In the spirit of being the networking group that prioritises joy and does things a little differently, October saw us hold our first shibari workshop. Five of us spent three hours learning about bights and traffic lights. Co-founder, Becky, gives her review…
Back when I was a fresh graduate and trying to have a serious career, networking seemed to mean shrinking into a venue’s wall as trays of canapes drifted past, and people stared blankly at my badge wondering whether I was responsible for signing off several thousand pounds worth of budget annually or not (it was the latter).
Never in a million years did I think that, one day, I would spend a Saturday afternoon in the company of four other women, all of us in lingerie (and behaving ourselves impeccably) whilst learning to tie each other up safely and happily.
And yet that happened earlier this month.
Shibari is the art (yes, art) of Japanese rope tying, which some will recognise as a form of intimate play. It was originally developed as a torture technique, which will still excite some people, of course. For us at Co-Women, the fact that Shibari is meant to be about the aesthetic and the mindful, connective aspect of playing with ropes was explained brilliantly by our teacher.
The beginning of the workshop also set out some useful health and safety rules and tips, as well as the important topic of consent both during our time together, and should we choose to practice at a later date.
After that, away we went. We all quickly learned what’s known as a lock off tie, one of the most basic types of knots, as well as having a conversation about how to begin playing. None of us had previously considered the idea of oiling or scenting the ropes with an essential oil or other favourite fragrance in order to harness our other senses and heighten sensations during play. It’s another great way of developing connection and building rapport with your play partner, plus I’m a firm believer in scent setting the tone – I’m sure your brain goes to a particular place if I mention things like eucalyptus or tea tree, for example, whereas something like lavender or rose creates a very different vibe.
Next, we moved on to learning how to do wrist or ankle cuffs, the latter a lot of people can practice on themselves. Practicing on your own body can be tricky, but for some of us it’s also more accessible, and it can be a safer way of getting familiar with handling ropes. As we worked through the variations, we were given some tips and tricks of how to ensure that we met the brief of the patterns being aesthetically pleasing.
The piece that we all seemed to enjoy working on the most was a pentagram chest harness – something that’s tricky to accomplish on your own, but fortunately we were all happy to pair up and give it a go on each other. It took quite a long time as beginners, and allowed us to practice the technique of an “add on” (extending the length of your rope whilst working on an existing piece by linking on a new piece of rope). The add on is harder than it sounds, as you have to ensure that you have a piece of rope close by, and that you can loop it one-handed, as you’re already holding another piece which is attached to a person!
There was time to try our hands at a hog tie as well, which is quite an intense experience as it involves creating a full-body bind with you ending up face down on the floor with your ankles bound too. This was where our consent and check in skills got a workout, as when moving up through the gears of any type of play, you have to be continually aware of how your partner is doing and that what you’re doing is still acceptable to them.
Overall, it was a fun and challenging experience – we learned a lot in a short space of time, and also spent much of the time laughing and truly enjoying ourselves. Having made some time since to practice by myself, and with another attendee, I’ve definitely appreciated the mindful side of it. This doesn’t surprise me, as one of my other favourite mindful activities is colouring, and I get the same effect from both in terms of slipping into a soothing rhythm of accomplishing a task.
My greatest takeaway was how brilliant it was to have access to an activity which can be sexual and intimate, but was presented in a platonic situation. All of us were there to learn and increase our confidence, as well as stretching our boundaries, but on this occasion it wasn’t about flirting with each other, or impressing one another, it was simply about supporting each other in learning and, really, isn’t that what networking and being part of a business group should be about?
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