Each type of rope has its own pros and cons. There is no one "right" rope to use for bondage in the context of a Dominatrix session. Each rope has it's own technical qualities. These are most relevant for if you were doing load-bearing and suspension bondage, or if you are wanting to display technical knots, in formal shibari / kinbaku (Japanese bondage).
Each rope has a different handle and sensual feeling on the skin.
Each has a different weight and handle.
Each has different qualities in respect of how good it holds knots and how easy it is to untie them.
Each has different care qualities in terms of washing and drying and preparing for use.
For our purposes, which is undertaking mildly restrictive / aesthetic basic bondage, (rather than load-bearing / suspension bondage), you have a lot of flexibility to chose any kind of rope that YOU like. It's a Dominatrix's prerogative right to choose what she likes.
There is a large variation of different types of rope and materiality of rope - from jute, to hemp, to cotton, to synthetic varieties.
So, why might you choose one type of rope over another?
A number of factors:
- Aesthetically pleasing to YOU
- You may prefer natural fibre and natural coloured rope (jute / hemp etc), or you may prefer coloured glossy rope (synthetic)
- How it feels through the hands knotting it, and against your sub's skin
- Whether you want to be able to wash it in the washing machine
- Can you can be arsed treating it with tender loving care, in terms of wax / oil, etc.
- Are you wanting to use it for doing body harnesses which better suit 6 mm / 8 mm diam, or cock and ball ties which suit 3 or 4 mm diam?
- Whether your sub has any preference or say in the matter, and I note for example subs may feel more "connected" to their Domme with a particular type or rope - like jute for example.
- Travelling with it, whether weight and smell may be an issue, for example hemp rope will mean your bag and packed clothing alongside it will smell of that grassy hemp smell. Hence synthetic might be a better option for travelling.
1) Nylon / polypropylene / synthetic ropes - Often shiny and attractive-looking in beautiful colours. You need to be careful pulling quickly across the skin as you can give your submissive rope burn. Depending on the composition, syntheticis are often easy-to-clean, durable and tend to hold their shape. Negatives are that it can cause rope burn if drawn too quickly across the skin, and I often hear from the sub that they don't feel as connected to their Dominatrix as when they are tied in traditional natural ropes (jute or hemp). Others really like the fact that visually they're tied up in bright red / purple / or glow-in-the-dark UV fluorescent etc rope which is colour-coordinated and chosen by their Mistress. Whereby you are emphasizing your command / desire / authority to determine their appearance to your pleasing. Thereby the colour and shininess may be something important to YOU, and this can be emphasized verbally, and by the mirror afterwards in which the subject sees themselves transformed to their Mistress's desire.
It's also cheap compared with jute or hemp rope, and easy to wash.
2) Jute rope - Jute rope is natural fibre, and bondage people tend to really dig jute rope. It has a natural lustre which photographs well. It's the same stuff that hessian is made out of, used for potato sacks and coffee sacks. You can optionally use wax on it, or use untreated.
The reason it gets used in shibari is that it was the traditional material of rope used, because that's what was available in Japan in the 17th and 18th Century, whereas the islands of Japan didn't have the metal, so it was used in prisoner restraint and for Samurai arts. It is also light and fast-flying for stage performance shibari, and as mentioned - it does photograph well.
3) Hemp rope - Hemp rope is typically heavier in weight than jute. (Which is good from a Dominatrix perspective in that it weighs down your submissive, making them feel more seriously captured than lighter jute rope in my perspective.)
When you first get it - it can be a little coarse in texture, but becomes very soft once worn in. It's much kinder on the skin than jute though, even brand new.
Dominatrices use hemp rope more in my experience than ropes bondage artists tend to. It smells fabulous. Dominatrices actually like the heavier weight, as our bondage isn't necessarily about being light and quick and fluid, but actually the psychological impact of kind of imprisoning our subject in bondage.
It is often sold as organic, chemical-free, vegan, and ethical rope.
Many Dominatrices will oil the rope, such as using hemp oil or some other oil. This provides something of a barrier to the fibres, and a bit more lustre.
Dominatrices like that hemp can be thrown into the wash (and even the dryer). Although warning it will weaken the fibre with each wash and even more so throwing it into the dryer, so eventually you'll need to throw it away. I recommend hanging it up to dry in order to prolong its life.
I don't recommend you use natural hemp for suspension. The irregular fibre texture will in fact weaken with washing repeatedly so I wouldn't want to be relying on it for suspension / load-bearing bondage.
Some hemp rope sold is actually synthetic (fake) hemp rope sold under names such as "geotwist hempex" which has the advantage of being reliable for load-bearing / suspension and looks like hemp rope. However this fake synethetic hemp rope doesn't have the other qualities that make hemp so appealing to a lot of Dommes and subs - which is the true hemp smell, the feel on the skin etc.
For real hemp rope...
4) Cotton rope - A great choice for breast bondage or cock-and-ball bondage. It's typically white (from bleaching), soft, natural, strong, but has a little bit of "give" in it. It's nice on the skin, unlikely to cause allergies. It's typically cheaper than jute / hemp and other specialty ropes.
Getting it black (rather than white) makes it better for avoiding the appearance of dirt or stains on it. It's versatile and pretty good for most applications - other than suspension bondage.
You can wash it, by throwing it in a pillow case and tying the end of the pillow case. Keep in mind that cotton does take a long time to dry though. If you were planning to use it for back-to-back play sessions, you'll need extra rope for while the washed rope is drying.
Anne - what rope do you personally use / like?
I have a variety, which I use in different applications and according to my mood.
- synthetic 8 mm diam in red
- white cotton 4 mm and 6 mm
- Tossa lite jute in 5-6 mm which is similar to Osaka jute but slightly different colouration and qualities.
- Japanese purple or red jute (I can't remember which and will need to check)
- Natural hemp rope bundles of 7 mm diam, in 4 m length and 10 m length.
I probably use more hemp than any other, for aesthetic bondage (NOT for suspension or load-bearing!) and I like its smell, I like the heavier weight when going onto a male submissive, I like its easy washability that I can throw it in the wash in a pillowcase after a session and hang it up to dry (it does take a while to dry) but I note it does after multiple uses eventually wear out and I have to throw it away after a certain amount of time and uses.
This is in contradiction to ropes bondage artists use. Hemp doesn't photograph as well which is one of their concerns as they like to photograph their shibari to show off their talents. It isn't as quick flying in the hand as jute, which isn't a relevant concern for me, as I like taking the time and having the weight bear down on a slave. I like him being wrapped in the smell of jute, which he forever associates with our session etc. Many Dominatrices also like me prefer hemp to the traditional shibari hemp for the same reasons - for washing it, for hygiene's sake, and for the weight of it on their submissive, and grassy smell.
When I travel, I take synthetic red, and white cotton as it means less smell than natural ropes, to avoid all my clothes smelling like hemp etc, and less abrasion on other things in my suitcase, and easier to clean when I get home.
EXTRA LEARNING OPTIONS FOR ADVANCED ROPE BONDAGE
If you are wanting to really develop bondage ropes expertise as a sub-specialization within the Dominatrix craft, there is a Dojo course and ropes bondage course in Brunswick. Mistress Alex Vicia I recommend in Melbourne as being excellent on Japanese bondage, and Mistress Tokyo in Sydney is very good also. Both of whom I personally know.
International instructors who visit Melbourne include Satomi Zpira from Japan / Canada / France, Midori from the USA, and by Esinem from the UK. (All of whom I have met.)
Anne O Nomis is the author of The History & Arts of the Dominatrix and is the Passionfruit in-house Dominatrix.