Co-Creating Scene Dynamics as Rope Bottoms- Bondage Expo Dallas 2018 Musings

It’s been just over a week since I got home from Dallas, and I’m just now starting to collect my thoughts and process my feelings. It was a long, exhausting weekend filled with ropey good times shared with some of my best friends. And as always, it was a weekend of good conversation about where rope education has been and where it’s going. One thought in particular has stayed on my brain since BED.  How did the belief that rope bottoms are less active partners when it comes to informing scene dynamics than their tying partners come to be?

It was at the Rope Bottom’s Panel on the last day of the con that someone asked what rope bottoming myth we would dispel once and for all if we could. I don’t remember who replied with this, but someone on the panel said they’d do away with the myth that rope bottoms are receptacles for the rope experience their tops seek to create.

I’d been thinking about this a lot right before the start of the con. I travel to different communities often, and something I see a lot of is bottoms participating in scenes that, from the outside, appear pretty unsatisfying for a number of reasons. Sometimes it takes the form of strange displays of masculinity in rigging (i.e. “let’s tie four bunnies together/make a rope bottom chandelier for a sick Fetlife photo”). Other times it looks like a bottom struggling to find gratification in a scene in which a top is tying beyond their skill level. For me, recently, I had the realization that I could have great friends in the rope scene for whom I had no desire to suffer in their rope. And I think all three of these dynamics are informed by this notion that bottoming often times just means being receptive to the scene that your tying partner(s) wants to produce for you.

How do we see this belief being perpetuated in our communities, and how does it affect us? How do we change it going forward? I don’t think I have anywhere near all of the answers, but I believe that it slips into our pedagogy in sneaky ways and informs community and interpersonal dynamics.  When someone attending the panel discussion asked where this myth comes, I pointed out how often in classes we offer riggers tools to “elicit reactions” and how top-focused most “connection” classes tend to be. I think there are other factors as well. A common theme in communities is to celebrate the bottoms that are “up for anything,” and while being that bottom is not at all a bad thing, we should be critical of community dynamics that reward bottoms for being undiscerning about who they tie with and the ways in which they like to be tied.

Sometimes going into a scene without expectations is exciting. The potential for scenes to transform in unexpected ways can be thrilling. But it can also go south real fast. And in the worst case scenarios this can feel like a violation,

I imagine that we could see these dynamics change without much intentional intervention in the next few years, simply as a result of greater access to rope bottoming education. However, a concerted effort to address this could be made in the form of bottom and partner-focused education around what it means to co-create scene dynamics. How do bottoms assess the tying styles of riggers to determine if they’re a good fit for play? How do you negotiate for particular dynamics/vibes in a scene? In what verbal and non-verbal ways do you steer the energy of your top and the scene that you’re in as you’re being tied? I’ve just started to have these conversations in my classes, and it seems to be of value. And I have to say that it feels strange to me to be advocating for this. For many years my teaching has revolved around the philosophy that bottoming education can be more than just soft skills (I really hate the gendered nature of that language, but anyways….), and I’ve worked hard to create curriculum that moves away from this sort of content. But the “soft skills” bottoming education that I’ve seen in the last few years doesn’t often get at this. And maybe there isn’t much use in thinking about teaching in this way as something that fits somewhere into a soft/hard skills dichotomy at all.

One of my goals as a presenter at BED this year was to get bottoms thinking about what sorts of scenes they wanted to have, and to make them feel empowered to be discerning about their partners and scenes in that way.  I didn’t expect that the opportunity to really delve into this topic as much and often as I was able. And I’m excited to keep the conversation going about this! Would love to hear others’ thoughts.  🙂

 

 

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