Blog, Kink, Queerness

Don’t Just Look Better: On Representation in Rope

There is a lot of discussion about representation in rope. To be honest, there has always been a lot of discussion among those who aren’t often represented in rope about it, but now it’s hit the mainstream conversation.

And I think that’s great! I actually do. I want to see more men in rope. I want to see more queer folks in rope. More larger bodies. More POC. I want to see more queer and female riggers tying and teaching. I want to see more ties adapted to different bodies: boxy bodies, flat-chested bodies, trans bodies, disabled bodies, curvy bodies.

I want the rope community to be better. To know and understand the tool they use and how to adapt it to meet different needs. To be challenged. To talk about different tactics for approaching things, what works and what doesn’t, to lab out and try a whole bunch of different things.

Queer femmes, I see you. I know there are those of you in rope who might very well feel erased in these conversations. I do my absolute best to see you and honor and acknowledge that what things look like are not always what they are.

I also acknowledge that a lot of this is about appearance. It is about what is seen captured out of context in a quick picture. I don’t seek to erase identity; I just also recognize that much of this conversation is dependent on appearances, and that sometimes, the queerness of an identity is lost in the image of female model/male rigger.

I want to see more diversity in rope. Because I want the rope community to be better.

Here is what I don’t want: don’t tie with people to up your diversity profile. Don’t ask to tie with me- as a bottom OR a top- to prove that you tie queer people. To prove that you tie people you’re not sexually attracted to. I am not interested in being your token queer rope person so you can prove something.

I am not your queer badge. And I’d venture a guess that others who fall into underrepresented groups aren’t interested in being that for you either.

We all approach rope in different ways, for different reasons. “Why we do rope” is something many of us grapple with from time to time. And I actually want the rope community to be something that is accessible to a variety of people. I want the people who want to be in rope to be able to access that. I want people who want to learn how to tie to be able to access that. I want better ways of talking about consent, intention, desire, negotiation, etc. to come out of this. I want the community to actually be better, not suddenly have a bunch of people tying (or getting tied by) people they don’t actually connect with in order to make themselves look diverse in their rope profile because that happens to be in vogue this week.

There are queer people tying and getting tied. There are POC people tying and getting tied. There are larger bodies, disabled bodies, older bodies, all kinds of bodies tying and getting tied. If you don’t see it in your community, ask yourself why. Do the same people always snag the rigs and use them for extended periods of time? Do you only teach box ties at your ropeshare, meaning those who can’t sustain them are excluded? Do you have people teaching who tie bodies larger than their own, or people teaching who tend to tie men, or are all your classes and education opportunities male riggers tying female models significantly smaller than themselves? Do all your ties emphasize a certain type of body, meaning those with body dysphoria don’t feel comfortable being in rope? Do the photographers in your area only photograph a certain kind of model, or certain riggers?

And ask yourself why you tie. What is your intention and purpose with rope? What do you get out of rope and rope scenes? How does your rope knowledge support that? And where is your rope knowledge lacking?

These resources exist. Chances are, they exist in your community, or could easily come to your community. Don’t ask underrepresented people to tie just to show you can, or to prove something. Examine your community and look to see what’s missing. Make space for those people who are already doing these things to be more visible. Examine your own relationship to rope and the people you engage with in it.

I don’t want to rope community to look better; I want it to be better. To have genuine representation, and not tokenize the few visible people to spare ourselves the work of actually making a stronger, better rope community.

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