A Rope Pride Flag?

Ropecast listener TopKai writes:

I based the flag on the Royal Navy Ensign,  paying homage to the nautical traditions that the rope community draws on.  I put the Leather Pride Flag in the corner, to represent the link the rope community has to the leather community, and the heritage the rope community owes to the leather community.    The brown cross is the color of rope and invokes a “tie,” and the white is representative of the openness of the community, and the room we still have to grow.

I suggested that the flag would also need some link and homage to the Japanese roots, and after some thoughts we merged the red of the heart with the red “sun” symbol of the Japanese sun. Personally, I think of it less of a sun as a lotus, the symbol for lovers, but that’s the great thing about symbols – you can see what you like in them.

So, below are some proposed “rope pride flags.” What do you think? Remember, be nice. I think TopKai is onto something here, and frankly, the more I look at them, the more the idea resonates.

Update: TopKai and I continued to work on the design throughout most of the day yesterday, incorporating people’s ideas, etc, resulting in the second-to-last image below. Jo Qatana, one of the biggest Rope Advocates I know, also mentioned a design she’d worked up a long time ago (and that image, unlike the others, is copyrighted, so NO touchy!).

Then my friend Vesper, aka Kiltman, posted his comment below along with a link to his idea…and frankly, I personally like his better than any of them. What do you think? Please limit your comments to being about the images, NOT the people who designed them.

Why Bother with a Rope Flag?

I really appreciate all the comments, both here, and via twitter, and even the ones I don’t really understand.

One thing I want to make clear: this is not a democracy OR a dictatorship. So we’re not going to actually sit here and say “ALL ROPE PEOPLE MUST USE THIS FLAG!” However, it would be just as disingenuous to sit there and say “NO ONE SHOULD USE THIS FLAG! ROPE PEOPLE MUST HAVE THE FLAG OF NO-FLAG!”

So what – rope is now tantamount to queer identity? REALLY?” asks @MargoEve. To which I say, yes. It is a part of my queer identity, that’s for sure. To quote Steve Lenius, author of Life, Leather, and the Pursuit of Happiness, “…be proud, and come out as a kinky person to the best of your ability.” (Lavender Magazine). If part of that coming out means you want your own flag, then more power to you. No one insists that you wear black, or leather, or that you take off your tree of life or labyrinth or green man or cross or Star Trek symbol at an event…so if some people who identify themselves as “rope people” want to have a flag, why shouldn’t they?

So far the only thing I’ve gotten close to a coherent reason why not is the fear that it will become proscriptive, that labeling yourself as a rope person will cause segregation, division, etc. Aside from the fact that this happens a lot already (We gave you rope people your own room, all quiet like, with that zen music y’all like) like any label, that only applies when the label is used as the end of a conversation as opposed to the start of one. And that is not a problem with labels, that is a problem with people.

Great, so what’s next, a “violet wand” flag?

I finally figured out this morning what the difficult thing is here. There’s a difference between “rope people” and “people who use rope.” If rope is simply one of many things you use, and has no special resonance beyond it’s universal efficacy, no, you don’t need a flag.

But for some (myself included) rope is more than just twisted fibers. It is my friends, my lovers, it is my art, it is my symbol, it is the place I go where the rest of the world and its troubles fades away. Quite literally, the rope community is my home, and like anyone, when I’m away from home or missing it, I enjoy having reminders of my home around. For some, like Jimi Tatu, just rope itself is enough. Some enjoy using the leather pride flag, or one of the many other pride flags, or the BDSM symbol as a reminder.

If the Violet Wand users had that kind of a feeling of community and sharing of knowledge, then they might come up with a symbol, or maybe even a Guild or something (oh, wait…they did). So did the littles, so did the uniform fetishists, hell, even Gay Men in Spandex have their own flag. Why don’t they use the Leather Pride Flag? Well, maybe because…they’re not into leather?

There’s the difference. If rope is just something you use, then no, you don’t need a flag. Even if rope is part of who you are, you may not need a flag. But if you want one – I personally think you should fly it with pride.

62 thoughts on “A Rope Pride Flag?

  • Having 3 panels of white makes it look unfinished to me. Perhaps only 1 should be white – the other 3 could have some other (not too busy) symbolism.

    • Duly noted. Part of it is the Royal Navy flag relation – look online, you’ll see it goes together. There’s also a lot of white in the japanese flag, and I happen to like the symbolism TopKai referenced. But if he hadn’t, I suspect I’d feel the same way – though we’re supposed to be all about the negative space as designers, dontcha know! Thanks for the input!

  • The cross on a white background reminds me a little too much of the christian flag. I like what he did with the leather pride flag though, and I like that the relationship to rope is more subtle than a picture of rope in it.


  • I have to agree that there is too much white in there. I think that it might be cool to see a design something like:
    – classic BDSM flag, replace the white with hemp beige.
    – move the heard to the center.
    – Use 8 raidiating ropes from the heart to the edges (think the union jack) these should be 3 strand twisted hemp in structure.
    – The rope should braid a circle around the heart.

    I’m not an artist so I’m no good at putting the image together.

  • Okay I’m working backwards through the other comments, and possibly arriving at my own…

    I agree that the design seems very rigid as compared to rope, but there are two reasons I can think of that this may not be a bad thing in execution. The first is a simple matter of practicality; the design of a standard or ensign (depending on your tradition) should consist of relatively primitive shapes because that makes them easier to produce and reproduce consistently, and easier to identify at a distance (which, at one point, was their primary function).

    The second reason is that it is a design for a flag, not for a poster. In real life, a flag will almost never be seen as a stationary rectangle at a ninety degree angle from the viewer. They move, they shift, and frankly they spend most of their time hanging in an awkward bundle flopping about the halyard. That last bit is why most that have a single distinct quadrant have that quadrant located in the top of the halyard side (called a canton) so that it remains visible in low wind.

    Regarding Hawk35’s suggested design, I can picture it in my head, and it’s not bad, but I think there’d be some color conflicts with the rope rondeau, the radiating lines, and the beige centerline that would make it feel kind of busy. There are definitely elements in there that I really like though.

    I tend to agree with the comment about the cross, though I appreciate the thought behind it. I think for a lot of people (not that we’re necessarily trying to please everyone here, but..) the Cross of St. George could be a little… triggery, if that’s really a word.

    In fact, as much as I love the idea of paying homage to both the naval and Japanese traditions, I feel like that’s a lot to put on a flag. To be honest, the way that my brain read TopKai’s design the first time was “Japanese Leathermen for Christ”, and I think this was the result of having tried to infuse too many symbols into one design.

    The only thing that we know we have in common is rope (and presumably, wanting to have some form of kinky fun with it), so that’s where we should be starting. It’s the irony of pride flags in general, I suppose, that they rarely feature depictions of that which is being celebrated.

    There’s a comparatively little-used basic shape in vexillography that I think would be appropriate to explore for a rope pride flag. It’s called the “wavy line”, and it looks pretty much exactly like you might expect. As an heraldic element (wavy line as charge, as distinct from a line wavy as field divisor), it’s usually used to imply something water related, but I think if it were golden it might serve as a “not so explicit it hits you over the head with it, but not terribly subtle either” central element. Paired with some pieces of the leather pride flag (because though we may not all come from the same traditions, we’re all at least a bit kinky, right? I’m at the right meeting, right?), it yielded a sketch that I posted here: http://mdin617.com/rope-pride-sketch.jpg .

    It’s an alternate starting point. Personally, I’m not sure whether or not the heart is even too much (though it makes it more obvious to other kinky people that it’s not some random country’s flag), and the colors could be reversed (though I think this way looks better) and/or tweaked (I didn’t bother to color match the LP flag’s blue or red for this sketch).

    Ok, I’ll stop the self-critique now. 😉

  • I really like all of the symbolism so far in the flag. I think ElevatelnWI has a point about the design seeming rigid though. In my mind the only way to suggest pliability would be to get rid of a few straight lines or to add more circles.

    If we are going to get rid of a couple of straight lines I would suggest making the brown cross a two line intersection where a line from the left & right redirect and go up & down forming the same type of plus/turn/tie symbol. If you are having problems picturing that keep in mind it is late 😛 And look at Complete Shibari: Land pg. 26, Example Plus Style A.

    Alternately we could add a large BDSM Triskele to the bottom right square. If the upper left shows our roots, then having the Triskele in the bottom left could be used to show our inclusion into the mainstream BDSM community. This would also get rid of a little bit of the negative space some of the other posters were complaining about (Though I’m kinda partial to the 3 white squares myself). And having a large circle filling up one of the squares might fool the brain into thinking of the flag in a less rigid sense. To further play up the dynamics between curves & lines the edges of the Triskele could touch two of the brown lines. It would pull the Triskele off center & play up idea that rope does not have to be symmetrical as well.

  • I think on anything other than a full size flag that the black and blue bars will be too small on comparison to the rest of the space and will get lost. I suggest changing it to be 2 blue and 2 black bars (vs 4) to give it more presence in the quadrant, and remove the white bar, since there’s plenty of white elsewhere on the flag.

    Another thought would be along these lines:

    Where the pride colors are in the triangular portion as above, the tan is the upper half and the lower half is white. Or rather than 2 colors, a series of brown and white stripes, to symbolize the rope.

  • The other consideration is how well it would make a small sticker or patch. I personally think that if you made this into a classic small patch like a shoulder patch, the lines in the BDSM flag part would be too small.

  • I think there should be some grey in the flag, since grey is the hanky code color for bondage/rope. I understand the idea behind the three white panels, but I don’t like how it looks, too much contrast between the blue/black stripes of the leather pride panel and the white. Maybe make them grey instead?

  • I rather like it and yes, it looks very much like the White Ensign. The red sun doesn’t look like a sun to me though – with the white stripe on its middle, it looks a lot like a ballgag but hey, that works too, right? 🙂

  • I really appreciate all the comments! The passionate suggestions alone are an indication that this is a topic people feel pretty strongly about. From a design and symbolism perspective, I’m also finding a lot of interesting things. Let’s all remember to show some appreciation and love to TopKai for starting this all out, though, ok?

    The one thing to remember is that there will never be a design that will please EVERYONE. Nor should there be. I am absolutely opposed to “design by committee,” and when we put the final design before the Ruling Rope God Council of Elder Knottiness we will have to be sure that…

    Oh, wait. There is no ruling council! Thank the Gods for that. Really, what I think is going to come of this is that there will be a design, people will choose to use it if they want, and choose not to if they don’t. No big deal either way.

    A few things: Flags are symbols. They are not meant to be literal, and the more literal you become the more specific people you shut out. That’s why I personally don’t like the idea of a knot or “three strand hemp”. Hell, to be honest, I wish the lines weren’t tan…but I can see that being a necessity.

    I had the same reaction to the Cross of St. George as many others (since I’m personally not of the Christian persuasion, but was raised in enough of it that it triggers in me too). An obvious solution in my mind that would keep to both Naval tradition and be appropriate would be a St. Andrew’s cross instead (I.E., an X on the flag?).

    I also tend to go for “simpler is better” – I know that Benny could appreciate that if people wanted to sew this, having large blocks of color becomes much easier than detail. I also am affected by the colors as well…Gray did seem to be missing, but I like the idea of white space representing the attitude among all the ropers I know that they are learning, growing, constantly. Of all the elements of design, that’s the one that sticks.

    Take a look at the other BDSM pride flags – several are displayed at http://mauikink.com/aboutus.htm , for example. None of them scream out “THIS IS QUEER!” or “THIS IS LEATHER!” – nor should they. Rather, when I see someone flying the red bars and black, I know they’re into power exchange, M/s. That’s not how I would have designed one – but it works.

    TopKai has graciously agreed to continue working on this, and I believe we’ll have a new version up soon. Remember, keep the criticism constructive!

  • very nice, very very good job Topkai !
    thanks for the effort putting this together.
    I like the simpicity.
    big hats off to ye !

    • Care to elaborate? I thought I knew what “obtuse” meant, but I looked it up, and I fail to see how any of the definitions apply here. Do you mean that it’s too unclear what it represents?

  • I like the flag design. Props to TopKai. I prefer the idea of the diagonal lines, representative of a St. Andrew’s cross. Then the BDSM pride flag and sun would be moved to the left quadrant, leaving the top, right and bottoms quadrants white. Basically rotating the design CCW. Maybe the BDSM flag would run top to bottom for representation’s sake.

  • One question. Why?

    No, really, why do rope lovers need a pride flag? Isn’t the ever ready hank at hand enough? I don’t ask to be snarky, I’m REALLY asking. Do we need this or is it something to separate us further?

    If a flag is adapted, it will be adopted readily by the community. I think this one misses the mark. It’s got too much going on. There’s nothing about it that goes “YES! That is for Rope pride!” where as, I don’t know, the Leather Pride Flag? I immediately got it even though I didn’t know the symbolism till much later.

    • I think I address your comment up above. However, while I will stipulate your “getting it” I, for one, still don’t “get” the leather pride one. But I accept it, even though I don’t wear it.

      By the way, I’m not saying that the rope community needs a flag. I am, however, absolutely 100% defending the right of those who want one to have one.

  • I like the the very last one. The circle in the middle helps break up the Jamaican flag feel. Props to TopKai for pursuing the idea. Thanks Gray for expanding on the original idea.

  • I really like the wavy line version. I like how it calls back to the leather pride flag, how the line has the flexibility of rope, and its simplicity.

  • Rope is my flag. Like Gray, while I certainly appreciate anyone wanting to create anything that inspires their kink and makes it fun for them; personally I prefer rope to simply serve as my flag.

  • I feel Topkai did a great job picking out the elements to incorporate: leather pride, Japanese influence, a nod to the navy, and obviously rope.
    The leather pride flag did look cramped in the corner, but I like using the colors.
    Adding a Japanese influence by using the japanese flag is a nice, simple, effective way of doing it, I combined that with eluding to a red shibari ring as well.
    A nod to the navy is nice, but which one? I know the original design was similar to the British navy’s flag, but is there a reason to give them priority? (I really don’t know.) There is no international naval design, I like the X shape better, and some navies do use an X shape. Additionally, people are often tied in an X shaped alignment either to a St. Andrew’s Cross in a dungeon or spread eagle on a bed.
    Christian Davids suggested some grey from the hanky code. I like that idea and actually put it into my design in a way reminiscent of the hankies in both the left and right pockets for tops and bottoms respectively.
    I tried invoking a sense of depth and knots by weaving the “rope” colored bands through the red shibari ring.
    I like the triskelion as much as the next person, but feel it’s awkward here and complicates matters unnecessarily.
    I uploaded my design here: http://i926.photobucket.com/albums/ad110/Vesperface/RopeFlag-Vesper.jpg

  • If you’re set on echoing the Royal Navy Ensign (which i think is rather clumsy and ugly), then i agree that Vesper’s version is a more elegant solution. But i still prefer the warmth of the wavy line flag.

  • I am totally for people having flags if they want to, wearing hankies, whatever.

    In posting this comment I am by no means saying any of this is wrong, just throwing in the thoughts of a rope person.

    You see, I am a rope person. I have been since 7 years of age when I tied my little sister up to play slave trading and wondered why it felt so good. I have been since I tried to persuade a stream of vanilla boyfriends to let me tie them up. Have been since I followed Tammad Rimilia’s online guide to a body harness in the 90s. Then I got all “proper” and went to classes, did Western, learned Kinbaku with Satomi at a time I was being told rope was “not SM”. (The irony that one of those commenters now teaches at Shibaricon still amused me.) Rope is the first part of my SM experience, it plays a part in jut about every scene I do. Its my zone, my happy place, the place where the world stops and creates that bubble in which anything can happen.

    Except, I’m not an active part of the rope community. I don’t feel the need to go to Shibaricon for instance. Why? Because I don’t feel part of the group. I do weird stuff with rope. A human rubber and rope installation woven into a frame, looking like an alien chrysalis waiting to be born. A masked, stripped “Hannibel Lecter” type beautifully woven into an old wheelchair being pushed around a party (you wouldn’t think it would disturb so many people LOL). I do stuff that other rope people tend to look at and say “that’s umm interesting Ariel”. At which point I feel like Tracey Emin and then decide that’s not a bad thing 🙂

    I don’t often do suspension even though I can because I know few people who can hang there for as long as I need (hmm maybe I should go borrow Kumi) even though it seems to be considered the “gold standard” for rope. I’m asked in dungeons a lot to show and tell suspension, that worries me.

    Anyhow, just expanding on a tweet re being an individualist I guess. Hopefully this post has not offended you in anyway Greydancer? I admire all the work you do and your podcasts and would not want to cause offense. I’m just throwing thoughts out there which might resonate with others asking “why” or “do I qualify”.

    • Ariel –

      Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts. I would love to see those bondage pieces you mentioned.

      I’m not sure what you mean by “do I qualify”…as far as I’m concerned, you are a rope person the minute you say “I am a rope person.” I’m sorry you don’t feel part of the community – but I would urge you to consider that perhaps the views of the people who made you “not belong” were not reflective of the larger community. Even Shibaricon, lovely though it is, is only a small, small fraction of the Rope Community.

      And don’t get me started on “suspension being the gold standard.” Grrr. That’s a misconception we REALLY need to work on in this country.

      But in short, whether you are part of the community, a rope individualist or whatever, I’m just saying that if you want to have a flag, you should be allowed to. Does that make sense?

      thanks again for sharing. any pics of the chrysalis, by chance?

  • Isn’t every tie we make and put before the world – even if the world is only our own eyes and the eyes of the person we’re binding – the only true flag any of us need?

  • I don’t know about you, Reiver, but I don’t feel qualified to decide what is the “only true flag any of us need(s)”. I can certainly choose what kind of flag (or not) I need for myself, and maybe suggest some ideas for others who want one… but I feel like I keep saying the same thing: if you don’t want a flag, don’t use one. Simple as that. People have the right to choose.

  • I’m not stating anything that binds (that’s a joke, son – get it? -ala Foghorn Leghorn) anyone but me. My philosophy is my own and I don’t expect others to adhere to it.

  • I’m not thrilled with the “rope brown”s available, but I think TopKai’s original color palate hits the nail pretty squarely on the head.

    I agree that a wavy line looks more like a piece of rope lying there, and that’s exactly my issue with it. This is a pride flag for people who love rope, who love tying rope. The rope community is active, and rope in use is pulled tight. Symbols are meant to hold communities together, like taught rope. I like the open white space for showing the openness and flexibility of the community and I think the ropes straight across that are a nice contrast; We’re open, accepting, have room to grow, yet are bound together by the passion we have for rope. I agree the straight line is less obviously rope, but my reasons stand.

    Using the original black and blue bars from the leather flag is difficult, but I think it’s worth it. With the full flag in miniature they got lost, and in reduced numbers they’re getting too cut off by the diagonal stripes. I don’t like the solution of using uneven bar width, it is unlike the Leather flag and unlike rope. As a bonus, the horizontal bars of the Leather flag look like a set of ropes, many wraps next to each other for support, just how we use rope, and just how we work as a community.

    Using a brighter blue than on the Leather flag does have better contrast but is no longer using the Leather flag colors which I feel defeats the purpose of including blue and black in the first place. Having both a horizontal white stripe and the open space above and below felt like too much white, and cut into the already troubled black and blue stripes too much, so I combined the open whitespace with the white horizontal stripe of the Leather flag in my second version.

    I liked the grey “hanky” triangles, but they don’t work as well in this version and I don’t think they’re necessary, so out they went.

    Without further ado, version two:

    (If you want to see my other attempts, they’re all there: http://s926.photobucket.com/albums/ad110/Vesperface/ )

  • I just wanted to comment that I love the discussion above. My one caution with using the Red shibari ring is the implied “suspension as gold standard”. Don’t get me wrong I’m all about the circle and inclusiveness that the ring can imply, I just wonder if having it at the center is . . . what we want to strive for as a community. though it does nicely pull in the Japanese sun symbol as well. Frankly, I really like the patch, the way the rope and the flag merge and support each other in forming the knot of the commuity is lovely, though I know it would be hard to sew that into a flag. Very respectful, consensus (if that’s what we’re going for) discussion 🙂

  • @Ariel – The reason there aren’t scenes at Shibaricon like the ones you describe is in part due to you not doing them there. You not doing them there was a direct result of some dirty looks and disparaging comments you got early on, and that’s something that should be changed, not your attendance. Who makes a community? Everyone in the community helps to shape it, little by little, moment by moment. If you remove yourself from the community, then your flavor is lost. I’m not saying you need to or should do anything you don’t want to do, just saying that it sounds like I’m missing out on some fantastic and original scenes with you gone and that disheartens me.

    @faering – Using a shibari ring does not mean one is going to suspend. Whenever balance is going to be compromised it’s nice to have something to anchor to, if you want a center point for a hog tie, a shibari ring can be a fun (and wickedly cold) addition.

    I love Jo Qatana’s patch design too and would love a patch! Anyone know where or if the patches are for sale?

  • I popped back over on a whim to see how things were progressing. And I’m very happy that I did. Some of those flags look awesome. Since I didn’t say it before big thanks to TopKai for starting this project. Thanks as well to MDin617 for throwing out some different ideas. The “knot” concept didn’t work as well as I pictured it in my head. I think the asymmetry it forces onto that flag worked towards a Japanese aesthetic that would have worked out better if the Japanese sun wasn’t already there to remind us of rope’s Japanese roots. Jo Qatana, that is an awesome patch! And I like Vesper’s flag idea a lot. And for faering keep in mind that a suspension ring does not need to be used off the ground. It might be the best use, but not the only use. Big thanks to Graydancer as well for hosting the discussion and his input on the process.

    With all of that said my absolute favorite is TopKai’s & Graydancer’s final proposal. The only element it is missing in my opinion is the gray hanky triangles, but there is simply no good place to put them. I love the lines intersecting the circles & vice versa. That adds a bit more subtly to the martial origins of rope. And nothing on the flag seems either overdone or under stated.

    I do have one last observation on the Triskele though. According to the emblem project’s website http://emblemproject.sagcs.net/is.htm a proper BDSM Triskele’s spokes & rim should be a color indicating metal. The spokes & rim on the “final proposal” flag is black. Overall it is a kick ass flag. I would be proud to wear it or attach it any of my online profiles.

  • Enjoying this discussion and the process!

    I like Vesper’s “ring” design slightly better than the Final Proposal by TopKai & Graydancer, but it’s close. The weaving gives it more of a ‘ropey’ feel, I think.

  • @Graydancer – I have “happy snaps” of the chrysalis somewhere in boxes recently arrived from Australia. I’ll go digging and scan some. We shot the series for the Aus mag Kink-E magazine but it was so hard to capture the creepy factor the editor decided not to run it and in fact, deleted her files 🙁
    Thanks for your comments too re “community”.

    @Vesper – yes I should just “man up” one of these years and go to Shibaricon. I have to get past being put off by the obvious egos who I suspect only make up a small part of the attendees!

  • Since as of yesterday I am making knitting charts like a fiend, anyone mind if I turn some of these into charts for future knitting projects? A hand-knit rope flag tank top, vest, shawl, blanket, or bag would be the envy of the dungeon, I think. 😛

    For example, if I can figure out how to do it (it may not be possible), I think it would be really awesome to cable-knit the tan rope parts to give it some texture.

    • Since it looks like diagonal knit cables ARE possible, I could incorporate code to the effect that if the forward slash cable is on top at the center cross the wearer is looking to top, and if the backslash cable is on top at the center cross the wearer is looking to bottom; I’m open to suggestion for those looking to do both.

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