Seasoned kinksters and BDSM newbies alike are finding their way to shibari, a form of Japanese rope bondage. Anna Bones, who runs regular shibari sessions and life drawing classes at her business, Anatomie Studio, tells us why so many Londoners are learning the ropes.
Could you tell us a little bit about the history of shibari and what it involves?
‘I think a lot of people believe shibari has really ancient Japanese roots, but shibari as we know it now began around the start of the twentieth century. It is essentially a form of erotic bondage using rope. Aesthetics and beauty are a central part of the practice and therefore many people become attracted to the artistic elements of shibari. It has become quite a popular part of modern BDSM.’
What’s the difference between shibari and Western ideas of bondage?
‘In Western bondage, restriction is typically the goal; people will use hog ties and restraints so they can do things to that person. But in shibari it’s about the process: from the first touch to the untying and redelivering the person back to themselves, it’s about the journey and two people connecting through the act of binding. The rope is the play and the restriction is more psychological. The application and handling of the rope itself is central to the experience.’
Aside from the physical aspect, what’s the benefit of it emotionally?
‘We tend to play with psychological states and emotions that can be quite dark and taboo, and the activity (like all BDSM) is not without risks (physical and emotional), so it’s important to acknowledge this. We are playing with vulnerability, power dynamics and sometimes feelings such as shame, guilt and other emotions that are typically considered “negative”. Playing with vulnerability can be extremely empowering and cathartic when done with safe, sane, consenting partners, but it’s important to do the homework before deciding to go there with someone.’
What has the reception to Anatomie Studio been like in London?
‘When we opened the studio in 2015, people were like “You’re crazy, you’re never going to fill a studio two nights a week.” But our rope jams are always full – 30 to 80 people twice a week. A lot of the people coming are young professionals aged between 25 and 35, partnered or unpartnered, looking to explore kink and BDSM in an ethical, conscious, educated way. We seem to be a point of entry for a lot of newcomers to the kink scene because the space is welcoming and non-intimidating. I’ve noticed over the last four years more relaxed attitudes towards BDSM from the wider public. The scene has also become more consent-focused, more concerned with accessibility and gender diversity. I think this is very attractive to people.’
Anatomie Studio, Arch 113 / Unit 17, Station Passage. Queens Rd Peckham Overground.