Widgets Magazine


Tied up by responsibilities

Tresidder seemed far away, but it was nighttime and I could see the lights shining through the sprinkling of rain all around me—except everything was upside down.

My view spun slowly and I wiggled my fingers to check that I could still feel everything; then the spinning stopped. I blinked the rain out of my eyes and squinted at my rigger, who thoughtfully adjusted a knot before walking back to his camera and grinning at me.

“Smile,” he said, and took the picture.

It’s been almost two months since I was tied upside-down in White Plaza for that quick photoshoot, and since then, rope hasn’t gotten any less exciting. Not just rope, to be honest—the leather cuffs in my third desk drawer and even my corset (that counts as bondage too, you know) are some of my favorite accessories.

Statistics on BDSM are flaky, sensationalist and not always true—but when you read multiple stories talking about “40 percent of couples trying light bondage in the bedroom” or “more than 33 percent of women having experience with bondage,” the exact numbers don’t matter. Bondage is relevant! For some reason, when it’s agreed upon and wanted by both partners, binding your partner’s hands or pinning them to the bed is hot!

And bondage is more than just erotic—my friends and partners see bondage as sensation play, as a willful giving and taking of control, as art, as a thrill. When I look back at pictures of myself tied up in red spiderwebs of rope, I remember the snugness of the sensations on my body (it’s pretty comfortable when you do it right!), the feeling of being told to struggle and straining against the firmly tied knots. Most of all, though, I’m mesmerized by how beautiful it looks. One of the most vivid experiences I can remember is having rope tied around me in a full-body harness, unable to move anything but my fingers, and suddenly being weightless, lifted off the ground, suspended by nothing but the tightness of the rope that sprawled out on my body. It was magical.

Here at Stanford, it’s a bit harder to do things like rope suspension or full-body bondage without people asking you what you’re doing (Hint: Tell them it’s art and they’ll go away)—so there’s a tendency to stick to the lighter stuff, to just handcuffs and collars and pushing them up against your closet while you’re throwing your clothing off faster than nudists coming back from a business meeting. And that’s awesome, but there’s more to it!

But as with everything else that’s kinky, whether you use cuffs or full-body latex suits, it’s not bondage until it’s consensual. It’s not bondage until it’s safe.

When my wrists are bound for a scene, my play partner makes sure to check in every ten minutes or so, squeezing the tips of my fingers briefly to make sure I can still feel their touch. That’s their responsibility, and mine too to remind them if they forget. If a body part falls asleep or starts getting that pins-and-needles feeling, it’s my job to speak up; if it starts feeling more uncomfortable than I would like, it’s my job to let my play partner know. Every rigger has a pair of shears to cut rope in an emergency, and any bondage toy or device has some way for it to get taken off in an emergency.

Kink is most fun when it’s safe!

Bondage sits on the boundary between “kinky things that people are hesitant to even think about” and “totally normal for intimacy,” and for that reason, it’s so much more important that people do it safely. When two people decide to try handcuffs or rope or bondage, it’s usually without the thought of “oh, this is kink—better think about safety!” and those people are at a much higher risk of potential danger. There’s the often-repeated story, for instance, of the one guy that handcuffed himself alone in his room and lost the key and starved to death—that’s a morbid example of people not understanding kink for what it actually is.

Kink is like bungee-jumping, skydiving, baseball, running marathons, sex: It can be infinitely thrilling, amazing and satisfying—that is, if you know what you’re doing. You wouldn’t jump out of a plane without a parachute, play baseball without a helmet, run a marathon with no experience running. Kink is no different.

Take a class! Browse the Internet! Meet some people who have some experience, learn how to tie knots and what handcuffs are the most comfortable; learn how to clean your rope, try on different toys like you try on safewords and figure out what you want out of bondage.

And once you finish doing that—don’t forget to wink when you tell curious people that it’s just art.

Lily Zheng is the president of Kardinal Kink. Contact her at lilyz8@stanford.edu.

  • student

    I love this article. I think of kinky practice as “risk-aware” rather than “safe”; you take precautions, but the risks are still there. Just like the examples you mentioned. But sex is definitely another one where people don’t take the precautions they should or check in with each other.

  • while you’re throwing your clothing off faster than nudists coming back from a business meeting. And that’s awesome, but there’s more to it!

  • Guest

    Lily, what do your mom and dad and the rest of your family think of your need to publicize a private and personal topic? You remind me of the well known Duke prostitute.

  • The Oftended

    I have found Ms. Lily Zheng’s columns quite offensive. While she is entitled to her own opinions and her way of live, The Daily is just not the right platform for her to asset her opinions in such a grossly inappropriate manner, especially as a columnist. I hope that such contents would not be further indulged by The Daily.

  • guest

    I am surprised that Stanford does not recognize Zheng’s column as a violation of Title 9, especially since 55 schools of higher ed are currently under investigation by the Feds. It is also noted on another Stanford website that her club, as she sees it, did not receive permission to exist as an official Stanford club.

  • Recent Alum

    Yo, in no way do you remind me of a prostitute and I fail to see how this could in any way be relevant to Title 9 violations, except insofar as a culture of sex-positivity and open and frank discussion of consensual sexual practices can help FIGHT and push back against a culture that both leads to and condones sexual assault while simultaneously slut-shaming victims into silence and brushing these topics under the rug. In other words, although this is a very direct and in many ways shocking article, I have to applaud the author’s courage in putting herself out there as a focal point for this discussion. I hope an allegedly liberal and evolved campus will stand behind you.

  • Student

    Thanks for advocating for safety and sex positivity! Sorry about the comments that criticize you; I honestly don’t see why people would be upset about safe sex between consenting adults, even if it’s not to their personal taste. I hope public, open conversations like these will eventually reduce the unfair stigma around safe, consensual, “non-vanilla” sex.