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What I’m Reading: “40 Knots And How to Tie Them”

Image Credit: Kinsey Clarke

I was 22 years old when I walked into a BDSM rope workshop one night in downtown Toronto, and I’ve been hooked ever since.

Rope, also known as Restraint or Shibari, is the erotic art of decoratively tying and/or rigging a body for sensuality, vulnerability, and strength. When I started four years ago, I practiced almost religiously: watching daily YouTube tutorials, purchasing my own ropes, and creating intricate harnesses on my friends and then-wife while letting them practice their ropes on me. Rope became my outlet to feel sexy and self-assured.

BDSM is rooted in pleasure, but rope gave me a sense of trust, structure, detail orientation, and creativity that I felt I lacked in my life. It became a way for me to practice hard boundaries and patience when life felt unpredictable.

But gradually, I stopped practicing. I moved back to my hometown of Detroit, a city where kink communities barely exist, and kink-related art is generally frowned upon and relegated to an event in an industrial part of the city off a highway once a year for Valentine’s Day. In dating, I’d mention my interest to potentials in conversation and was subsequently shot down and shamed.

That changed when I visited New York City for a first date this past Sweetest Day and was gifted Lucy Davidson’s step-by-step guide 40 Knots And How To Tie Them. It’s perfect for novice rope enthusiasts and offers instructional advice on the different types of rope available, terms and techniques, safety information, and illustrations to guide you through the process of -- pardon the pun -- learning the ropes.

“There’s something quite magical about taking a length of rope and transforming it into something that you can use or display around the home,” Davidson says in the book’s introduction. “Knots are an accessible craft,” she says, “Requiring no materials beyond rope.” She’s right: using her instructions, I created a set of recreational handcuffs in three simple steps. As I practiced the handcuffs, the excitement I experienced four years ago came back. The magic Davidson described was palpable as I knotted a single piece of black cotton rope into a playful restraint in under two minutes.

I’m reacquainting myself with rope, and kink, in a way I haven’t been able to explore in some time. My goal in reading Davidson’s book is to learn how to tie knots, but also to remind myself that I’m structured and sexy without it. It adds to who I am and offers important life lessons, but I make the rope, not the other way around.

I’d like to get back to where I was before I stopped, but I’m in no rush. Practice makes perfect. For now, I’m starting simple and going step by step.


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