Hi Yana

I’ve got some sex stuff on my mind, mostly about BDSM/kink. I’m a kinskter just getting my footing in the local (Western Mass) scene and was wondering what sorts of resources other than FetLife are available. I also wanted to ask about ropes, and what rope you think is good and safe and easy for beginners to practice with. Additionally, are there specific online sources that are accessible to beginner rope learners? The last thing I’m wondering about is the local scene and play parties. If there are any, how does someone go about getting in touch with these groups?

Thanks! — Kink Newbie

Dear Newbie,

I’m glad you’re asking such good questions, as any time we set out to learn a new skill, especially those involving kink, we’re taking some physical and emotional risks that are best considered in advance.

First, Crash-Restraint.com is a great, no-cost learning resource, featuring videos from rope pros that walk you through step-by-step demos of basic rope ties. BelleCorde.com is a woman-run site that has good resources for intermediate rope explorers, especially if you’re looking into rope suspension arts and/or tips to negotiating rope scenes, which is of course an essential component.

However, if you’re local to Western Mass, there are a lot of in-person resources for you to check out which, if possible, is always my personal preference for learning new things, especially those that incur a certain amount of risk (which all rope tying does to some extent; it should be noted than anyone can make a YouTube video, so knowing who you’re learning from is important).

With the spirit of informed-learning in mind, I asked Willow Howls, local queer rope artist and shibari instructor located in Western Mass, to help me answer these questions for you!

Y: What local events do you recommend and why?

W: A great way to meet people and learn about a variety of topics is at munches! Most of these events can be found on FetLife if you look for things near where you live. Munches are casual, low-pressure meet-ups for people to gather monthly and discuss a kinky topic. Think of them as nerdy dinner parties for people who are interested in learning about kink-related topics. Educational events happen monthly across Western Mass and their locations tend to change. Attend munches to learn about events other people love going to!

Y: What are your favorite beginner’s rope resources?

W: In-person classes are the best way to learn the ropes! That being said, Showing You the Ropes by the Two Knotty Boys and Shibari You Can Use by Lee Harrington are excellent beginner rope tutorial books that you can buy online. Ties and knots are difficult to learn alone, and I encourage you attend some classes if you’re new.

Y: Do you have any advice for someone attending their first rope event?

W: Listen to and follow the rules of any event you attend! Always ask people for consent before touching anyone or their rope or stuff — getting someone’s permission is super important! Ask if you need help during class! Most importantly, have fun! Events are a great way to make friends while practicing rope stuff.

Y: Any advice for kink newbies in general?

W: Knowledge is power. Learn as much as you can, from as many people, munches and events as you can. Start slow when trying anything new and check in often with your partner(s) to make sure everyone is feeling good about what you’re exploring together. The better that communication is between all people involved, the more fun you’ll have!

Y: Anything else important for Kink Newbie to know or consider?

W: Make sure the rope you buy is made specifically for shibari and bondage. Additionally, make sure you own a pair of safety cutting shears (AKA EMT shears). Have your shears next to you whenever you practice anything rope-related in case you ever need to quickly get out of rope and there’s no time to untie.

Willow Howls teaches Rogue Ropes — a body-positive, queer-friendly introduction to shibari rope arts that occurs monthly at The Rogue Project. You can best reach her via Instagram @the_kinky_wh0mping_will0w. Information about her upcoming rope classes can be found via Instagram via @TheRogueProject413.

Yana Tallon-Hicks is a relationship therapist, sex educator, and writer living in the Pioneer Valley. You can find her work and her professional contact information on  her website, yanatallonhicks.com.