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In The Netherlands it’s often said that if you want to start with bondage, you first need to get some “real bondage rope”. In the BDSM scene this usually means 6mm cotton cordage. All other types of ropes are often referred to as “bad ropes”. That’s strange, because apart from a few good qualities (softness, cheapness), cotton has also some properties that make it less suitable for bondage (for instance a very low breaking strength and a lot of stretch). Also, many other types of ropes aren’t that “bad” at all, if you know how to handle them.
It’s not easy to answer the question what is good bondage rope unambigously. For instance, whoever ties a lot of different partners might prefer ropes that are easier in maintenance, while someone primarily shooting bondage pictures in general will find aesthetical properties more important than ease of use. Many factors come into play when choosing your ropes. One thing is for sure, when your bondages get more advanced, breaking strength becomes increasingly important. Always use ropes that are strong enough for what you are doing – and strong enough means using a safety factor of 5 to 10!. Keep in mind that dynamic forces while moving or wiggling can increase pretty quickly.
Below I try to sketch the advantages and disadvantages of some types of ropes as objectively as possible. But first a bit on lengths and diameters. Most ropes used in bondage ar 6mm or 8mm thick, except perhaps for some special applications such as hair bondage. Ropes thinner than 6mm are not only less strong, but – with an equal number of wraps – also tend to spreak the pressure over a smaller surface, increasing the chance of restricting blood flow or nerve compression. Ropes thicker than 8mm is less easy to bend and more difficult to tie. The lengths that are used depend pretty much on taste. In Japanes bondage, ropes of 7 – 8 meters are standard. Western women, however, tend to be a bit bigger than Japanese girls, so personally I prefer to tie with any number of 8m ropes and one or two 10m’s. Especially for the first rope in a takate-kote I prefer a slightly longer rope. Longer than 10m is usually not necessary. When you run out of rope, you can usually attach a new one and continue your bondage. For wrists I sometimes use some shorter pieces of 3-5 meter.
Natural fibre rope
Several natural fibre ropes are used for bondage. First off course cotton, that you can see in many – especially Western – bondage pictures, and is used very frequently in the Dutch BDSM scene. But hemp is on the rise, and sometimes jute is being used. All these natural fibre ropes can rot. Therefore, they should always be dried completely before storage in a place where they can still “breathe” a bit. Check them regularly and replace them in time. Even if they don’t rot, they wear out. In many of our pictures you can see hemp- and jute ropes.
Cotton’s best property is probably its softness. It soft to the skin, and will not easily cause burns when pulled over the skin., and it is this property for which it is often recommended to tie with cotton. Unfortunately, it has some less favourable characteristics as well. For a start: its breaking strength is exremely low. So low, that when doing more advanced bondage, there’s not really any safety margin at all. Also, it stretsche enormously. For the Top, that is not always fun to tie, but many subs too prefer more sturdy ropes after they’ve experienced them once or twice. There’s also cotton rope with a synthetic core sharing several advantages of synthetic ropes (stronger, less strechty, dries quicker than regular cotton and is less prone to rot) and natural fibre ropes (softer and more easily dyed). On the left you can see a picture of 6mm dyed black cotton.
Hemp rope (shown on the right, 6mm) is a lot stronger than cotton, and hardly stretches. Therefore, if correctly maintained and replaced in time, it is more suitable for more advanced bondages. In addition, it is beautiful; this is the kind of ropes you see in so many Japanese bondage pictures. The disadvantage is, however, that it is rather laborious in preparation and maintenance. Raw hemp is not really suitable for bondage, it has to be prepared first and that takes quite a bit of time and labour. Fortunately, you can also buy it prepared. But even then you will have to dry it under a little tension every time you wash it, and burn of the fuzzies regularly. Hemp is also a bit rougher to the skin than cotton, but that can be both an advantage as well as a disadvantage.
Jute rope are somewhat on the rise, and this type of rope too is regularly seen in Japanese bondage pictures. It is less strong than hemp, but still pretty sturdy. In my opinion, in often lookt better on pictures than hemp. Jute does not only share many of the advantages with hemp, but also the disadvantages: Jute too has to be prepared first (or bought prepared) and dry under a little tension.
More information on preparing hemp and jute ropes can be found at bondageproject.com. Finished hemp and jute can be ordered from Ouchy.nl.
An alternative for natural fibre rope is synthetic rope. Synthetic ropes are often stronger and easier to maintain. They usually dry a lot quicker and don’t have to dry under tension. You have to be more careful pulling them over the skin though, to prevent burns. If you’re not sure if you’re not pulling too fast, keep your own hand between the rope and the skin and you can feel for yourself.
Nylon (no picture) is often recommended on BDSM sites. It’s cheap, strong, and available from most hardware stores. Usually it stretches quite a bit, and of all synthetics, this is one that gives burns easily. It’s not my choice. Polypropylene (on the left, 8mm braided) is also strong. It stretches less than nylon. Of course you don’t want to use that hard orange twisted road workers polypropylene for bondage, but it can also be found in softer, braided forms that in my opinion work quite well.
But when it comes to synthetic ropes, my personal favourite is static climbing rope (shown on the right, 6mm). It’s somewhat more expensive, but is definately strong and doesn’t stretch. A disadvantage is that is pretty slippy at times, so you can’t rely on friction. Make sure your knots are really good!
My personal favorite sythetical rope, however, is hempex (synthetical hemp) , which looks almost real, is very light and easy to maintain. You can order hempex from Ouchy.nl.