Learning the Ropes: Students learn basic bondage techniques in workshop

 

I am a big fan of plain ol’ vanilla sex. Yes, I know there’s a renewed focus on the growing sexuality of the new college campus (the New York Times recently revisited the issue of college erotica magazines and student sexuality). Yes, my sexual development happened in tandem with such racy television programming as “Undressed” (MTV’s answer to soft-core porn), “Sex and the City” and “Red Shoe Diaries.” However, the mere suggestion of personally engaging in kink sends me into a fit of discomfort. All this said, I still found myself oddly compelled to attend the interactive bondage workshop, “BDSM 102: The Art of Rope Bondage,” which erotica mag Vita Excolatur offered the University of Chicago community this past Saturday evening in the Bartlett Rehearsal Space.

 

This workshop followed the success of a Bondage Domination Sado-Masochism (BDSM) 101 lecture last year. This year’s workshop was an attempt to “further the UofC kink education.” Twenty-odd students gathered around in a semi-circle eating the Thai food provided and listened attentively to the workshop leader, Leon G, a shibari expert. According to Wikipedia, shibari is a type of Japanese bondage, different from Western styles of bondage as it not only “[immobilizes] or [restrains] the bottom, [but] the bottom gains pleasure from being under the pressure and strain of the ropes, squeezing the breasts or genitals.” Leon bent over and examined the maroon ropes that were coiled and draped on a small card table in the room. “If you couldn’t tell by the rope on the table, I’m a big bondage guy.” The room giggled as he continued to introduce himself. He asked the room questions about their interests in kink and bondage before telling those interested in being a part of the interactive demonstration to come up and get rope.

 

I took notes while my hand was caught in the cat’s cradle cuff Leon had just demonstrated to the class. My boyfriend examined his work and smiled proudly. “It’s like Boy Scouts, except sexual,” he laughed. “[Like] a creepy scout master.” Leon and his girlfriend cum demonstration model (pun intended) Mary Ann walked around the room, helping students feed rope through the loops called “bits” and going over instructions. “I hope there won’t be a test,” one participant joked. “No, no tests,” Leon said. “This stuff can be found on my website. If you’re like me, you won’t remember this after three hours. So that’s why it’s important to have your computer with you when you’re playing in the bedroom.”

 

After a few more jokes, any apprehensions about participating were lifted. Participants without partners used their ankles to practice the cuffs being demonstrated on Mary Ann. After Leon taught us three basic cuffs to bind our willing partners, the class wanted to delve into more complicated techniques. “Give us something to work towards!” someone yelled from the back. Leon positioned Mary Ann in the front of the class and showed us how to do a chest harness. I felt uncomfortable as my boyfriend wrapped the maroon nylon rope around my chest, knotting and looping according to Leon’s directions. Did people really get off on this?

 

Apparently. The Bartlett Rehearsal Space became an erotic playground where the boys pushed tied up girls around the room, dragging them, doing a kinky version of the trust exercise where you fall back into someone’s arms. Students posed for digital cameras and camera phones. Spanking and light groping was to be had. Still tied in the chest harness, I grew anxious. I reached around my back and started unraveling the rope.

 

As we walked back home after the workshop’s end (and the announcement of a BDSM Recognized Student Organization next year called Rack), my boyfriend asked me what I thought. I bristled. “I just don’t get why people would like that.” He shrugged. “Different strokes for different folks, I guess.”

 

At Ex Libris, I saw one of the couples from the workshop meeting for lunch. They were sweet, reading the newspaper, lightly kissing and enjoying each other’s company, completely unaware of those around them. As I watched them, I realized the appeal and that the people who engage in it might not be as odd as I had originally interpreted. It’s all about sexually pleasing someone while showing your complete trust in them. While I’m not any closer to putting any of Leon’s techniques to use in my bedroom, who knows? There might be room for some chocolate chips in my vanilla.

 

Leon’s website is www.monkeyfetish.com. For students interested in learning more about Bondage Domination Sado-Masochism, Leon suggestst www.bdsm-chicago.com, www.ds-art.com, and www.leatherarchives.org.