The Art of Shibari
Do you want to try it? He asks holding the rope.
Sure. I say suppressing an inappropriate giggle.
The Art of Shibari
He, a past client from my professional days—back when I was a conservative, button-up-collar, uptight, serious-as-hell Goody Two Shoes—had emailed me these NSFW photos a few months back. Not aware of his photography hobby and not expecting them, I was startled when I’d opened my email.
Black and white photos of nude women in (what I’d assumed was) bondage. With shadows subtly caressing creases and curves and with a contrast between colourless form and feminine softness, the obscurity of their faces only added to the allure—and, I admit, to my curiosity.
Though I couldn’t make it through the free sneak peak of Fifty Shades of Gray without gagging on the roll-your-eyes goofiness of the story, this was different. Because this involved me!
I emailed back: I want to interview you. (This writer’s hat has its benefits!)
He acquiesced and a date and time was arranged.
On the selected day, though, I wasn’t nervous—which is a little surprising given my paranoia of serial killers (see Hiking with Strange Men blog)—I did decide to invite a girl friend who I think would appreciate a tour of “the gallery.” (Also, she’s gorgeous, and he might get distracted tying her up in the cellar first. Plus my legs are longer so I can probably trip her and outrun her. Of course, because I am not writing this from a dank basement, one can safely assume we are not lampshades. At least, I’m not.)
The gallery is set in an 18th century church cum schoolhouse (excuse the pun)—the photographer’s home.
When I arrive to the property, ahead of my friend, I stroll past the free-roaming, clucking chickens and embark up the steep, singular set of stairs leading to the House of Sin and Skin Lampshades.
The door is open, but I knock anyway: Helloo?
I poke my head in. Immediately inside is a small room that once was a formal foyer and that now functions as a less formal foyer slash compact kitchen with pass-over bar. He stands on the other side of the bar, and I can’t help but think, Maybe he doesn’t celebrate Passover.
His hands are vigorously busy below my sightline, and he must see my uncertainty. He holds up a plate of soft tacos and says, I’m starving, don’t mind me. Do you want a fish taco?
I want to say, No, do you? but think better of such a naughty quip. Instead I simply decline—not because he may have roofied the fish but because I am wary of Fukushima radiation.
I go around into the main hall, which is a one room antechamber with hardwood floors and hardware with hanging apparatuses dangling from 20 foot ceilings. Charming character may be a stretch, but intriguing titillation is certainly an understatement.
A massive bed is in the room’s center with a three-panel Asian screen separating the “bedroom/hanging room” from the parlour—that be fancy talk for living room. The walls are well endowed with creatively framed versions of photographs similar to the ones I’d received. Some had touches of rouge in soft hews or shoes accentuated in stark blood red.
The furnishings are as eclectic as their owner—antiques, knickknacks and collectibles amidst treasures, homemade tables and a driftwood-assembled chaise lounge properly adorned with a rich aubergine upholstered cushion—in velvet, no less.
He offers me a drink, moonshine to be exact. And though I don’t see any suspicious lampshades, my friend isn’t here yet and, anyway, I’m on a professional writing assignment, ya know. Plus, um, I don’t drink, hardly—except if you count that one time in Mexico, but since I blacked out it probably doesn’t really count—so moonshine may have me shackled, for sure. And I can only ride my good Christian god-points so far.
I have a list of questions that I’m anxious to get to, but instead I decide to chill out and let the convo flow organically. We sit in the parlour and chat about his work history, where he’s travelled and lived and how he became interested in photography. (He bought mopeds or scooters or some such thing in Australia and photographed and sold them on eBay.) He’s an interesting fellow: well travelled and well versed.
What the heck are you doing here? I ask, meaning: in this small, unadventurous town.
I know, I know, he says.
Finally, my friend arrives, and we tour the room again. I’m grateful that her distraction affords me a chance to peer closer at the photographs or, more precisely, the models’ private parts in the photographs, which is what I’m most nosy about. Hey, don’t even tell me you wouldn’t do the same!
Well, it turns out, we’re all different. Boobs and bottoms and backs and vah-jay-jays. Now I understand why the models might prefer to keep their countenances ill conveyed.
My girl friend comments on this: That makes sense. For privacy, I imagine.
His opinion is different: No, I prefer it, actually.
He appreciates the female form but more so the Art of the Knot. He explains the difference between S&M, bondage and Shibari.
That’s [S&M/bondage] about domination and submission. Shibari was originally used in the East, Japan, to hold prisoners.
I’m not sure I appreciate the difference, and he must see my confusion. He continues: The pleasure in Shabari is in intertwining the knots—the art of it. For instance, the Diamond Knot. You weave it around the body and then pull it in the back like this—he moves his hands apart—and the front pulls apart into the diamond shapes.
He points to a particular photograph exhibiting breasts, belly and vagina framed in vertical rhombi. We nod.
He finishes his instruction: The sensation feels erotic on the skin. It’s the type of rope used. Traditional material. Natural. Not the poly crap used in boating and such.
My girl friend is intrigued, listening intently and prompting more information with relevant questions, and I wonder if she’s cataloguing for future use at home with her man. Or maybe here with this man (and her man).
At this thought, I blink several times, clear my throat and finally jump in with some of my own questions: Do you get aroused while tying up the models? Do they? How often do you end up having sex? Are they nervous? Are any of them married?
My girl friend adds her queries. Is there a particular body part you prefer? Do you do men—as in tie them up, I mean? You know what I mean. (A-ha!)
He avoids some of the questions for an intolerably lengthy time but finally comes out with it. He tells us he makes it clear to the models that he is safe and he doesn’t intend to have, and won’t initiate, intimacy with them. Sometimes, they get aroused—
Who? You or them? I interrupt. Or both?
He chuckles, but his demeanour is serious. Sometimes it happens. Not always. But always they ask [for sex]. I mean, it doesn’t always happen, but when it does, they’re the one to initiate.
Now I’m equally curious. What about men?
I’m not even sure what I’m asking, but he replies anyway. I don’t dig touching men. No men. But sometimes they watch.
I cock my head trying not to glance at my girl friend: Their wives? Or girlfriends or whatever?
He nods and rolls a joint. Do you mind? I’d offer you some, but there’s tobacco in it… Yeah, they get really turned on watching me do their lady.
I know that he means performing the Shibari knotting procedure by the way he motions his hands and not that he “does their lady.” I also note that I can’t exactly tell him that I do mind pot and tobacco as it’s his home after all, and he is being ever so gracious in humouring me with this “interview.” I remain silent on that matter.
When he’s taken a drag, he continues, I’ve had my share of open and polyamorous relationships.
I ask, Don’t you eventually lose true intimacy?
He takes a long drag on the doobie, exhales and says, What you have is three people you can fuck but none you can go to dinner with. It’s not for me.
Oh, I love that! Let me write that one down, I say, digging for my iPhone notepad.
We all remain quiet for a moment, pondering the weight of his words while I jot them into my phone. Then we wander back toward the parlour. I can feel our time winding down. We sit again, and I glance around the room to make sure I haven’t missed anything. Meanwhile, my girl friend asks if he can demo some knots on her wrists—or maybe he asks her—I’m not sure as I’m distracted squinting at a pert nipple in a nearby photograph.
He deftly ropes her wrists with the straw-like scratchy rope while explaining that this style of knot will hold from a hanging position without causing harm or discomfort.
When he’s finished, I ask her, How does it feel?
She shrugs and nods, moving her co-joined wrists around: Surprisingly sturdy.
So, when are you signing up? I ask her.
She laughs, Oh! No, no, not me! No offence.
He smiles amicably: It’s not for everyone.
I smirk while he unties her then holding the rope he asks me, Do you want to try it?
Sure, I say, Why knot?
What have I (re)learned? I’m not interested in engaging in polyamorous relationships, but I may be willing to tie the knot with my Mr. One-And-Only, which is totally allowed for a bible-thumping Christian, I’m pretty sure.
Homework: Write new marketing plan for Church of Christianity!
Note: FYI: This blog is written more in the style of my memoir. If you like this style of writing—and hell, let’s be honest, even if you don’t—your life will be much enhanced by buying my memoir—here—or gifting it! Yes, yes, that’s an option, too. Whatever. Support a naught potty artist so she can continue to spend her days in matted hair and PJs writing trashy, comedic drivel just for you, my darling reader! Yes, that’s it! (I heart you. *kiss kiss tepee hug back pat*) Oh, and no, that’s not me in the photo.
P.S. I apologize for being MIA for so long! If it makes you feel any better I’ve only written one essay for ej, too: How To Kick “Stuck” In The Nuts.