Inside the Ropes of Shibari: Taboo or Norm?

BDSM, once a controversy of taboo among our society, but finding a safe place in the midst of their hidden communities.

Early in the morning, Yesenia Flores departs from her apartment in Bay Parkway, Brooklyn to put in her 9:00 to 5:00 as a data entry analyst. After work, behind closed doors, she transpires into a bondage queen.

Arriving at 47-50 Rockefeller Center subway station approximately an hour and a half later, Flores, in her early 30’s, carries a large black bag containing her lunch and accessories for her after-work frolic. Like other pedestrians, she’s dressed appropriately for work, as she does for anything she takes part in. Casually, she strolls into her office, greeting familiar faces, politely.

In 2010, Flores met her ex-boyfriend Taka Hiroshi. When their relationship reached its physical stage, he suggested that they tried something other than vanilla sex, meaning he wanted something that strayed from conventional sex. Hiroshi being a native of Japan, which is well-known for being the birthplace of Shibari, introduces a new understanding of pleasure to Flores.

Shibari, falls under BDSM because any sexual expression that shows contrast from the mainstream— missionary, doggy-style or the karma sutra is evidently considered deviant in the eyes of society. BDSM is generally known as a variety of erotic preferences, categorizing from spanking, bondage, fetishes, passive-aggressive role play, to dominants and submissives, and further on, that demands more than physical sensation.

“I use to think every form of BDSM as a taboo. It’s something the society shunned” said Flores. “Seemingly, it’s too rough, too extreme, but in reality, it’s our inability to let go of judgement and shame. Once you rid those inhibitions, your body will allow you to feel beyond your senses.”

Flores is well spoken, given that she majored in English. Apart from her data entry job, she volunteers in teaching ESL to adult learners. Traveling to Poland earlier this year, during a study abroad program while trying to obtain her TESOL (Teaching English to Students of Other Languages) certificate, she met her current beau, Aleksander Nowak, at a BDSM formal in Wrocław, off a BDSM community website.

Experiencing the adverse trajectory of conventional sex. Do you find this world of BDSM a taboo now?

“What’s taboo now, is the word taboo itself. What I question is, is my sexual preference affecting anyone? Everything in this world might as well be considered taboo. People judge what they don’t understand. But, secretly, these are the people who are afraid to express their desires, so they project negativity to substitute denial.”

On a cold Wednesday morning, while visiting Flores’s apartment. She resides in a three-room apartment, averaging $1900 per month. Room one, is a guest room. Room two, was her bedroom, pure as snow and organized like a page from a Martha Stewart catalog, with a bookshelf filled with volumes of Harry Potter and manga. Room three, a smaller cliché of a scene from 50 Shades of Grey.

“If you would like to know and see a little more of what I do here, I’ll be ready at 7:00 p.m., that’s if you like,” she said mysteriously, “I’ll be accompanied by a guest.”

When asked about the BDSM community, Flores submitted a website, www.fetlife.com. As stated, it’s a Facebook for over 5 million users, who are interested in the kink lifestyle. Filled with discussion boards, blogs, videos, and pictures, the variation of sexual likings were unfathomable.

“It may not be suitable for everyone, but think of it as sexual explorations, there’s no harm in trying something new, especially because you’re finding someone you feel comfortable executing these roles with,” said Flores, “the website, caters to your desires.”

In a survey by Durex, an international condom manufacturer, it is said that 36 percent of Americans are into BDSM than the rest of the world, which only covers merely 20 percent. This survey was taken in 2005, since then, the economy has changed, and the lifestyles of Americans have too.

BDSM is broken down into three genres. Bondage and discipline, domination and submission, and sadism, masochism. Fundamentally, the S&M element is what make the general public wary of BDSM, because of the satisfaction it brings to some from inflicting pain on others, as well as receiving pain.

“When you’re in a state of vulnerability between pain and pleasure, the inflictions to your body can provoke the release of adrenaline, endorphins, and enkephalins. To give you a better description, it feels like you’re on morphine,” said Flores, “but some of us refer to it as subspace.”

Subspace is defined as the “fight or flight” response that is activated when your body is in shock, an immediate increase in pain tolerance which subsequently results in the induction and intensification of euphoria, often compared to being high.

Initially, Shibari is an ancient art form, which must be practiced thoughtfully with trust between a rigger and a model. The rigger must always be attentive and mindful of the types of knots to use and the distribution of weight. Without the technical experience or skills, the model can reap injuries that last a lifetime.

“I’ve devoted my spare time into seminars, side projects, and private meet-ups with members from the community,” said Flores, “Shibari is my passion. It’s artistic, it relieves sexual tension, it gives me confidence and it’s substantial to my growth as a person.”

Earning an estimate of $70,000 annually from her data entry job, Flores participates in workshops and demonstrations as a hobby — and depending on the agreements that are consensually made among her private practices, they range from $300 to $1,000 an hour.

“I know, you’re reflecting on the statement, $1,000 an hour,” said Flores. “Think of the equilibrium of supply and demand, the higher the price, the higher the demands are.”

Particular sex interests, which aren’t commonly performed, will certainly come for a price to those who are willing. The spectrum of demands, according to Flores, may kickoff from simple role play, bondage, flogging, voyeurism, wax play, to the rougher practices — that require a safe word.

Admitting she’s done some “weird things”, she quickly added, “I would never forget the man that offered me $1,000. Eric. In a post, he inquired for a female, willing to tie him up and to help him explore his sexual stimuli. Ultimately, was for me to constrain his genitals and to urinate on his chest.”

With the aggressive schedule of a full-time data analyst and part-time user of Shibari, maintaining relationships was the most difficult of tasks, especially when seeking a monogamous partner.

“Many BDSM users have open relationships, or at least an open mind. I’ve always believed in the sacredness of being with one person, but it’s extremely difficult for me to find someone who understands the lifestyle and not feel jealousy at some point. Aleks and I, we instantly clicked because we share a mutual understanding of boundaries,” she explained.

They’ve met in the beginning of 2015, through the BDSM website, frequently Skyping and exchanging their experiences and concepts on Shibari. Finally, meeting face-to-face in Wrocław for the first time this year — they had their first official date at a Kinky Party located in Warsaw, the capital of Poland.

“What’s more romantic than a woman coming all the way from America to meet up with me?” said Aleks, “A woman that trusts me enough, to tie her up, upon meeting me.”

In Warsaw, there are well-coordinated monthly events for BDSM users, meet and greets, where hundreds of “Kinksters” gather from all over the country to attend. They drink and socialize, and evidently engage in “play-time” which involves Shibari, bondage, spanking, trampling and the introduction of dominants and slaves.

“We are our own worst enemies, only able to understand as far as we’ve experienced. Flores said with a relieving sigh, “I enjoy what I do. I’m maturing, both physically and spiritually. Fortunate enough to have found Aleks, we can practice our passion for Shibari together, carefree and judgment free.”

Photos by Barbara Lam

Author: Barbara Lam

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