I was at an event recently where I had made plans with someone I care deeply about. After an extended period of (really wonderful) conversations, makeouts, and general shared space and company, we were going to do A Kink Thing together. In public.
And we did. We had a really wonderful rope scene together (them tying, me flopping around like an awkward fish… erm, rope bottoming. Yeah, that.) It was great; I think we both really enjoyed ourselves and I left the scene feeling really glad for that time to connect with them… and also really grateful it had taken us some time to get to this point.
As we were saying our goodbyes (since the event was ending soon and we were both exhausted), someone came up to us, attempting to compliment our scene. They looked at my play partner and said, “I just wanted to say…you are really skilled.” They then turned their attention to me. “And you…are really lucky.”
I was completely speechless. Thankfully, my play partner is incredible and responded, “thank you,” and indicated to me. “They are also very skilled.” The person brushed it off and walked away, and we just looked at each other.
Here’s the thing: she is incredibly skilled. She is an incredible rigger and an awesome person. And I am lucky- lucky that we both prioritized making space for this kind of connection, lucky to be able to share space with this human, lucky that we have gotten to know one another in the ways that we have.
But the reality is that we are both lucky, because it takes both of us to connect. And we are both skilled- everything else aside, it does take some skill to communicate in rope, to talk through what feels good and what is unsustainable, what I want, what I am feeling, knowing my own body.
The comment made me angry. I felt like the comment implied that I was lucky that this person deigned to put their rope on me. Not because I bring anything in particular to the table, not because of who I am as a person, not because of any connection we might have. Lucky me, that someone of her skill was willing to tie me.
I’ve heard several comments lately that brush off the abilities of rope bottoms, and while I know it’s gotten so much better, there is a long way to go. The thing is, I do feel lucky whenever I leave a scene with someone I’ve connected with- not because they are Big Name Whatever, but because the world kinda sucks and finding human connection that feels meaningful makes me feel lucky to be surrounded by incredible people. I feel grateful that someone was willing to be a person with me in those moments, regardless of who is topping and who is bottoming or what we are doing.
And I like the think that the people I play with also appreciate that I have some skill. That who I am as a whole person contributes to their desire to engage with me- what I bring as a person, as a rope switch, as a scene person, whatever.
The comment made me angry because, 6 months ago, I would have taken it personally. An iota less confidence in my ability to engage in rope, and it would have hit my self-esteem and confidence. It would have made me feel like I wasn’t good enough to tie with her, or that what we did shouldn’t have been hard because rope bottoming doesn’t take skill. Just luck.
I don’t mean to read into a comment that I’m sure was well-intentioned and intended to be complimentary to my play partner. She does deserve compliment, as she is incredibly skilled- as someone who is learning to tie, I appreciate this immensely with my own rudimentary skill set. But the comment is indicative of this pervasive idea that rope bottoms don’t also have their own skill sets. Maybe they aren’t obvious if you don’t do rope, much like the skill sets of any bottom (outside of rope) might not be obvious if that’s not something you engage in. But there is a lot of skill and effort, on both sides of the slash.
We are both skilled. We are both lucky, although not in ways that anyone else can really comment on. And if you see a scene that you really liked- that moved you or you thought was beautiful or whatever- it’s fine to let the people involved know (after an appropriate amount of time has passed, and they aren’t in the middle of aftercare or something). But make sure that your compliment to one person in the scene doesn’t inadvertently devalue what another person brings to the scene.
No one is lucky for who is “willing” to play with them; we are all lucky when another person is vulnerable and open with us. I’m not lucky that someone of her skill set was willing to play with me. I’m lucky that I have someone like her in my life, that we are able to meet one another in the ways that we do, and that we have built up to being in a place where we mutually prioritized play with one another.
She is skilled, and so am I. I am lucky, and so is she. And maybe none of it really matters, because maybe we are just two people who had a really nice scene, and enjoy connecting and engaging with one another in a myriad of ways. It’s not about what anyone else thinks- it’s about her, and I, and how we meet one another in that space. That’s the part of that scene that I want to carry with me, and not someone else’s commentary on an experience they don’t fully understand.