Suspension Bondage is for Lazy Tops

They say that the key to a good blog post is saying something controversial, hence the title. It’s not a joke, though; fair warning, what you read here may anger you. Either at me, at yourself, or at your top, depending.

The lovely Symetrie rigged by the author

At Shibaricon I was a bit busy. Which is kind of like saying Ms. Bachmann’s grasp on reality is “a bit” tenuous. I followed Mollena’s Admonition and was DAMN sure I was available for those playdates that I did schedule, and also did my best to be a good Poly Rope Top and made time for both my partner DoNotGoGently and my long-distance lover Naiia.

But it wasn’t easy. In fact, it was exhausting. I was also running classes, doing the cabaret, helping out as part of the staff…so by the time DNGG and I finally got to the designated time and space for our planned suspension scene, the dungeon was packed. I was tired. We wandered around, saw a lot of hot rope people doing hot rope things, but not one empty hard point. Ditto for the other playspaces – nary a hard point free.

Rope etiquette would dictate that we simply stage our bags near a scene that was going on, wait for it to finish, and take over the point. However, remember the “busy” part above? Remember the “exhausted”? Neither of us had the reserves to wait for a scene. More than that, the stresses of Shibaricon had taken their toll, emotionally, on the two of us. We needed a good scene with each other, and we needed it sooner than later.

Well, I’m one of those who’s always talking up floorwork, right? Talking about how suspension is fine, but overrated? So we dragged our gear back to the main dungeon, claimed some floor space with a sheet, and started some rope work.

Almost immediately when the ropes went on her, DNGG closed her eyes. She wasn’t going into “rope space” as it’s commonly understood, but it was obvious to me as I bound her tighter and tighter that this was going to be an internalized experience for her, a journey in which I would be a guide and guardian but not so much a participant.

That’s not a bad thing at all; it’s one of the many rich ways that rope can provide a great experience. So I continued to tie, to expose parts of her body, stimulate them with pinches and strokes and slaps and caresses. DNGG’s reactions are subtle but beautiful, and I was watching her closely, monitoring her state of mind and sensation as best I could in a busy, loud dungeon.

After a time, I began to take her out. I don’t know how long it was – maybe forty five minutes? There hadn’t been any obvious “WE ARE DONE NOW” signs, like mind-blowing orgasms or tears or even really any communication beyond body language. In fact, I wasn’t really sure that we should have been done at that time – it was simply my best guess at when both her energy and mine were at a level where we could come out of the scene gracefully. I wasn’t sure that I’d really given her a good path through the rope, or an adequate experience. I just had to trust that she would either forgive me if I hadn’t (that’s part of being in a relationship, after all) or let me know what she needed that was more.

As I took the ropes off of her, slowly, bit by bit, a strange thought occurred to me: Damn, I really wish we could have done that suspension instead.

It seemed like a strange thought. Why would I have rather done suspension? I’m not attached to the art, not even especially good at it (though I’m adequate enough when called upon). But there was no denying it: I wished, in that moment, that I could have done suspension instead of floorwork.

Why?

I thought about it a lot, and eventually realized: suspension is dynamically easy. It has a very clear path:

  1. Negotiation
  2. Physical evaluation of bottom
  3. Physical creation/evaluation of hard point
  4. Tying of harness to bottom
  5. Suspension
  6. Monitoring/transitional positions (sometimes several if you’re awesome like Lqqkout or Wykd Dave or Claire Adams)
  7. Safe lowering to floor.
  8. Removal of ropes/Aftercare

How do you know you did a good suspension? Easy: the bottom walks away with a smile. Hell, sometimes it’s just “the bottom walks away.” If they didn’t fall, it’s a success. Anything else – beauty, orgasms, appreciation from the audience – that’s all gravy. And frankly, even “rope space” is easy, because the stresses of the body being supported in a strange way within the ropes will trigger endorphins much more quickly than many other activities, and the feeling of having the ropes taken off/aftercare neurochemically transitions into oxytocin release giving that happy feeling of belonging, being cared for (in both top AND bottom).

In short: it’s an easy way to fix your jonesing for a rope scene.

Contrast that with a floorwork rope scene:

  1. Negotiation/evaluation of bottom (setting boundaries, basically, and maybe setting a tone: “pain”, “pleasure”, “beauty”)
  2. Tie some rope
  3. Do some stuff
  4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 for a while
  5. Untie the ropes
  6. Aftercare.

It’s not as clear a picture. And while yes, I can agree that “the bottom walking away with a smile” is still a good indication of a good scene, I would argue that the other “success” marker – the bottom walking away – is not there.

It’s harder to do a good scene on the floor, because you don’t have the obvious markers showing the way.

As I realized this, I thought about the way suspension is such a big thing in the rope scene. I thought about the way new rope tops focus on gaining suspension skills (new rope bottoms, too). And I frankly have come to the conclusion that at least some of the motivation is laziness. Why go to the trouble of delving into an unclear realm such as floorwork when you can put yourself in a situation where very clear steps and very clear paths are laid out to allow you to say “I did good”?

Before the flames start, please note that I am not saying that it is impossible to have a deep and meaningful suspension scene. The artistry of people like Osada Steve, Ageha, Arisue Go, Wykd Dave, Lqqkout, Kogure, Midori, and others who do suspension regularly is undeniable and I would be the first to say so.

But I’m suggesting that when doing suspension, we riggers and bottoms might want to ask “Why?” Are we taking the easy way out? Are we substituting physics for connection, simply because it’s easier?

Or is it just me?


13 thoughts on “Suspension Bondage is for Lazy Tops

  • I have THOUGHTS on this. They are a jumble right now, but basically I will sum them up as this:
    No, it is NOT just you.

  • Hi again Gray, we had cigars together outside the Seattle Erotic Art Festival! My partner and I did a suspension at the Saturday night afterparty there.

    Are we substituting physics for connection, simply because it’s easier?

    Dynamic play and intimacy certainly can go hand in hand, but I know that when I suspend audience members at Burning Man the intimate connection is often not there, and we play with the newness of it instead. Both are valid scene structures. It is usually easier to captivate an audience with suspension than floor bondage. And it’s certainly harder for me to create a bubble for a floor scene when I’m surrounded by suspensions.

    Your journal entry strikes a personal chord- Where once I could appreciate an ebi or a hogtie, I realize now that having so much suspension focus has me jaded towards all but the most resistant, take-down floor play (which is NOT light or easy, but which I’ve been viewing as such). Thank you for giving me food for thought. I’m going to chew on this for awhile.

  • I think you make a reasonable point. Leaving aside arguments about what can and can’t be achieved in the way of emotional connection in suspension, suspensions can be done just as a fun exercise. Good floor work to me requires an emotional investment while suspensions are better with an emotional investment.

    Often in clubs people will ask to be suspended, (not to play you note, just to be suspended). They want to, as I like to call it “have a go on the bondage ride” rather than do something deeper.

    Mostly if you feel inclined to do them a favour you can give them a ride and everyone goes away smiling. I think that’s the difference that you’re talking about here. If you don’t get an emotional charge from a floor scene it feels like it didn’t go well (or at least didn’t achieve what you wanted, because this is what I want from it). With a suspension especially for people who are new and maybe haven’t yet found where the deep water is… Well they went up, they hung around, they came down again and at least the bunny had a good time.

    Is it lazy? I think it’s perhaps emotionally lazy sometimes. Also for practicality you’ve got much longer on the floor to get the emotional connection going. Floor scenes generally take plenty of time. So suspensions are generally quicker too and are less of a time investment. Also many new riggers want to do something that ‘looks’ impressive rather than invest a lot emotionally with someone in a less visual way.

    You can understand how this happens with people who haven’t had the close emotional experience, maybe they’re new to rope or haven’t found their way to make that connection yet.

    In the end I don’t know if it’s lazy or not except emotionally. It’s certainly possible to be less emotionally invested and, for whatever reason there are times when people don’t want to get fully into an emotional scene. Like maybe you’re tired or just don’t have the mood or it’s just not quite there with that person.

    Really good rope scenes are… exhausting. They can really suck you dry and if you’re run down already I can certainly understand someone taking a less draining option.

  • I do tend to agree, I do think it take’s more mental/emotional energy to connect with floor work, at least for me it does.

    I find floor work to be harder on me physically, I have numerous broken bone’s and suspension is difficult at time’s not nearly as much as floor stuff is.

    Phoenix

  • I find this interesting from your tops view point.

    I can only give you my personal experience as a bottom.

    My most mind blowing experience has been from floor work and not suspension. I expect this is because I can’t be in suspension for long periods of time as I can with floor work. Also we found we can do more with naughty toys on the floor then in full suspension.

    With floor work my Master can keep changing the ties just enough to keep me some what comfortable. I admit I am a greedy feline and like to be in rope for up to a couple hours.

    Thank you for sharing:) Red

  • Yes and no. I agree with the main thrust of your blog and, if anything, am probably even more jaded toward what many scene people are passing for “suspension bondage scenes” these days, at least in public. My issue is that suspension has become a way for mediocre rope Tops to show off without actually accomplishing much. There is little that angers me more in the public play scene than a dude (yes, usually a dude) standing for fucking FORTY FIVE MINUTES under a rig tying a million one-columns on a 90lb girl (a million one-columns that he COULD have tied elsewhere instead of STANDING UNDER THE RIG THE WHOLE TIME) and then finally getting her into the air and then standing there like he’s done something really impressive. Uggghhhhh.

    Last month I went to a party and walked in on one of the best suspensions I’ve ever seen in my life. The guy was really in harmony with the rope, controlling it instead of letting it control him, spinning the girl every once in a while, backing up as he pulled free ends through, getting closer again, moving in and out. And once he was “done” with the suspension, he climbed atop the frame, playfully kicked the girl, put his feet on her while supporting his weight on the frame with his upper body, continued darting in and out, having a blast. That’s the main difference, I think – that after the suspension was “done,” he DID STUFF. He didn’t stand there puffing his chest and saying “BEHOLD MY MARVELOUS WORK.” He didn’t think that the mere fact that he was capable of getting a girl up in the air was enough to merit a good suspension scene.

    So, IMO, a shitty Top is a shitty Top whether in the air or on the floor. Suspension gives shitty Tops an excuse to think they’re good Tops just because they can do a suspension, and so you see a lot more douchebaggery around the suspension frames than you do on the floor, because chances are the guy doing floorwork doesn’t feel he has to do impressive public rope to compensate for his inadequately sized genitalia or whatever other ego issue he happens to have. It’s not the easy/obvious framework of suspension scenes that bothers me – it’s the disconnect that happens when a Top starts treating his sub like he/she’s just there for the purpose of showing the rest of the party what a great rope Top he is. (Like, really? Blow me. And get out from under the damn frame while you’re at it; if I can get MYSELF up in under 10min, you can get a 90lb girl up in as much time!!)

    But I think people like you and I can recognize lazy Toppery in whatever form it takes. There are just more lazy Tops doing suspensions because they think it makes them look cool, when really they need to get back to the floor and learn how to actually top. 😛

  • I think Arden hit the nail on the head here. One great draw of suspension is that it looks impressive to the uninformed observer. While that fact is sometimes used as a crutch by crappy tops, it also has a legit benefit in some situations — if you’re playing in public at least partly out of exhibitionism, doing something that’s exciting for the audience can lend a very special energy to a scene. In that vein, even if your audience is all discerning rope nuts who would be equally interested in hot floor work, suspension is much easier to see in a crowded environment than what’s happening on the floor.

    If you ignore the factor of having an audience, and focus on just the internals of a rope scene — I feel like there’s pretty much complete overlap between the qualities available for floor and suspension scenes. Both can be quick or slow, comfortable or difficult, friendly or intimate, struggling or compliant. I’ve given “bondage ride” style scenes tying someone to a chair, and had suspension scenes at home more intimate than I’d be comfortable doing in public.

    So, if there’s a “lazy” aspect to suspension, I think it must be using the crowd’s energy, instead of bringing your own. When I am feeling lazy with a regular partner at home, I’m not likely to work up an elaborate suspension; more often I’d just tie their wrists to the headboard and slap them around a bit.

  • Nice observations! The steps involved in suspension are often more clearcut than those for floorwork. At least, on the surface. My personal experience has been that the rope will often continue after the suspension, so I do have many enjoyable memories involving partial suspensions and floorwork. On the flip side, I’ve also had my share of disappointing/lacking suspensions, where I didn’t feel any connection or didn’t think I was pushed as hard as I could have been.

    But yeah, in some ways suspension is definitely taking the lazier route. They also get more media attention, more excitement from newbies – both top and bottom – and they’re audience-pleasers.

  • I’m so glad you brought this up. I have been feeling something like this for a while now, and it influenced my plan to navigate away from suspensions this past Shibaricon but I hadn’t really thought it out until now.

    With some disparity on some of the finer points I’m sort of with you. I don’t normally play with strangers, but, as a bottom, as long as I am reasonably certain the person isn’t a maniac, has some basic skills, and will listen to me, I’ll do suspension with a person new to me. In some ways, it’s a good ‘get to know you’ scene because there is exactly that proscribed path and some of the other pressures don’t wear someone out with anxiety. There is some degree of proscribed communication that can be a little less intimate even if it’s still quite personal.

    On an emotional level, it has a buffer of safety that you can’t find in other types of play-you both know you’ve done your job by virtue of 2 things: Top-by getting them suspended/Bottom-by being suspended. Of course it can always be more MORE MORE, but you know you’ve done what was expected by managing these two (albeit often times difficult) things.

    As I said ,this last Shibaricon I didn’t plan to do any suspensions for the kinds of reasons stated above. I actually wanted to try other things-especially other other ropey things- and play with new people. I was lucky and got to do both those things and I think by not making it about The Suspension, I got a chance to experiment a little more than I have in the past. I was also surprised how pleased many people were that I was open to doing something besides a suspension. As others have mentioned, it can have that carnival feeling of asking someone for a ride. You may both go away happy, but I’ve found it to be sometimes a little…lacking if I really want to get to know someone. Of course there have been exceptions: just try to ‘go for a ride’ if you play with Jimi Tatu, for example-you have to get all up in that, but I think managing that kind of connection is tough, and when you have sort of a crutch, it’s easier to circumvent.

    Not to sound as if I’m bashing suspension, I love doing it and I respect the challenge for the rigger and myself for doing it. A beautiful suspension is amazing and gratifying, but I have definitely found that I prefer suspension as *part* of a scene, rather than *the* scene if I really want to share a little more with the person/people I’m playing with.

  • I think @topologist is pretty close to my views. If you take away the audience (and honestly, when I’m playing with someone, the audience isn’t there, whether they’re actually there or not…), both suspension and floor work can offer many of the same qualities. In both cases, I can get a great deal of energy and a very strong connection with my subject.

    Where they differ for me is my own head space — in suspension, I’m much more focused on giving them the best experience possible over my own desires. I tend to be less dominant during this as a consequence, especially with a first timer. On the floor I’m able to give my own desires more consideration as well, and I can let my dominant side out to play more. As I play more with the same person, however, I can cross over more.

    I’ve burned out on suspension, too. I spent nearly a year only doing floor bondage because I was doing too many events where all I did was suspensions. Now I try to make sure I vary my play so I don’t get into a rut.

    @Arden Leigh: Having sometimes been guilty of standing under a suspension point for forty-five minutes before raising them up in the air, I can see your point. (My own pet peeve is someone using a suspension point, particularly an hoist or the like, for a non-suspension scene…)

    But not all of us do it to show off, and, in fact, I’m far more concerned with being close to the bottom and beginning a quiet connection than I am with entertaining onlookers. I don’t have to move in and out, spin the bottom, etc. A light touch, the rope sliding, and a finger brushing over their skin is enough to start making a great connection even when someone five feet away can’t see it. And in most cases, I try to keep that connection through and into the suspension, and carry it through all the way through bringing them down and untying them. Frankly, I’m always surprised when people watch one of my scenes and *don’t* consider it boring to watch, because the real energy, the real connection, is inside the two of us.

  • To me, it seems like you wanted the suspension because it allowed for the opportunity to have a scene physically and emotionally easier to achieve, a connection for the both of you which was needed at the time. Like when you’re hungry, microwaving leftovers instead of baking a meal.

    However, I don’t think performing a suspension in and of itself is a lazy act. To agree with many of the previous commenters, I think it is all about the energy and effort you bring to the scene.

    I’ve only been suspended once , but it was one half of a scene. We started with floor work and then transitioned to the lift. Both halves tapped into strong emotions. We fed off each other’s energy and brought ourselves to all of the scene. Neither section was played because it was easy.

    With you and DNGG, you both needed a connection that night. You were also both exhausted. Suspension would have been ideal because of the ease in what you could have done, but I don’t think that discredits the act itself.

    Another food metaphor: PB&J is an easy lunch, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worthwhile to eat it. What if you use seven grain bread, all natural peanut butter, add some bananas & apples, and pair it with chocolate milk?

    It is about the effort, not the medium.

    Is suspension an easy endorphin rush? Yes. Is suspension at its essence lazy? I don’t think so. But, like I said, I have a smaller frame of reference.

  • I often feel like somewhat of a strange bird in the rope scene because I have stayed away for so long from suspension-bondage. It is not until now, after more than two years of tying that I did my first full unsupervised suspension. The time was right and we had a lovely time together.
    During my two years roping, I’ve seen many new people getting interested in rope, and am also a part of a crew which facilitates peer to peer rope learning space in London. I would say that many of these people head in the suspension direction as soon as they can. We routinely get asked to do demos and classes on suspension at the event, but we say no and direct the people interested to people that can give one on one classes.
    On a personal level, I have not trusted myself enough to do suspensions, simply because I’ve not felt ready yet in regards to my abilities. Also, in some ways, I’ve wanted to avoid the situation which many people have described in the comments below.
    Now, after the first and second unsupervised suspension, I can really see how it can become a rush from a tops perspective, as it is so focussed and intense. As the bunny was enjoying the experience I could as well, but the physicality was somewhat different from floor work, so getting to that high I can experience with floorwork came so much faster, but it was also much more fleeting. I don’t want it to be fleeting, and I don’t want there to be a juncture between floor and suspension work and the intensity/connection. So many people describe suspension as having more of the technical element and that there is more of a focus on what is done than the person. I would do that as well, at this moment in time, due to where I am in terms of skill. But I don’t want that, I want the seemless, transitions which does not break the focus and connection but changes it and amps it up to then slow it down, and then amp it up again in another direction, where there are waves of intensity guided by the communication. That is towards I strive and what I seek. And why partials are awesome. Have started to appreciate hardpoints not as just suspensionpoints but attachment points.

    I can really see where you are coming from Graydancer, in that there is a formulae fitting the suspension and that it becomes like a lit highway. Can also just imagine the exhaustion you write about from Shibaricon. The Tuesday after the con it felt like one had run a marathon.

    Really, really enjoyed reading this post. Might have to ponder on a post on the topic of this myself.

  • I just read this blog post. I ended up laughing when something I have been struggling with was put into words. The light bulb went off finally.

    There have been numerous threads about the suspension, audience viewing, circus bondage, how much of the scene is suspension and on and on. It has caused me considerable confusion in my mind since I most of the time I am the only one doing rope work when I play and I don’t pay attention to the audience. When I am not paying attention to my rope bottom, I am messing up.

    I was getting stuck in how much I dislike “floor work” as I labeled the experience of it in play spaces. Raven and I were yet again talking about it last night on the way back from wonderful Cleveland play space OhioSmart.

    I realized that I have done a bunch of floor work and the words “floor” is good label. I dislike the “floor” and the type of play I was doing. I start on the floor and stay on the floor. It is unnatural, doesn’t fit my kinetic style and is a struggle. I learn from it but it doesn’t give me my top cookies.

    On the other hand, my apartment couch has been destroyed with two legs being replaced by books because of rope play. I have had several wonderful heady rope scenes in a hotel rooms recently without doing suspension. I don’t know what to call this “not on the floor” and “not in the air” rope fun.

    With this new found understanding, I will not be starting on the floor and I will seriously think about how to stay off the floor which strains my back and knees.

    You can keep the floor. I totally agree, it is work. I can have better fun elevated without suspension.

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