Why do we do rope in community?
How many churches, temples, holy — and alleged holy places — have I visited? Surely, thousands. My life has involved many rituals, some deliberate and learned and others inherited. The religious historian Mircea Eliade posited that rituals were the vehicle for humanity to return to a mythical time when the sacred originated. Most of our lives in the modern era exist in a profane setting. We get up, brush our teeth, pay taxes, wash the dishes, run for the bus, or squish into the crowded subway. The opposite of the sacred is profane, which is our daily lives.
We have to go out of our way to make something special and make a deliberate and conscious effort. This is what I found in the rope jam — a sacred approach to the human encounter with rope as a medium and a tool for exploration.
I met a guy at one of the jams once who told me how he’d grown up on a farm in Eastern Germany, where they had a special room just for the farm tools and especially for all the rope that was needed. This room was holy. One did not just enter the room and play with the rope, but it had a set of guidelines and protocols for how, when, and who could touch the rope and use it. He got into rope bondage later in life, and this farm-rope room served as his personal kink origin myth.
Though I did meet people at the jams with a more casual approach to their rope, the general vibe was to treat the whole endeavor as something ritualistic, if not even sacred. A ritual has a preparation, a beginning, a middle, and an end. And clean up. There’s the decision of what to wear to the jam, the packing of the rope, carabiners, and other accessories. The thoughts running through your head, who will I meet there tonight? The body is already showing signs of sweat, breathing, and blood flow anticipation. Then the standing in line, the newbie intro, the rope partner negotiations, followed by the climax of the session, and then aftercare. Maybe a glass of wine or water and chocolate. Everyone has their preferred emphasis on each part of the ritual.
But the most important thing for me was that it didn’t stop there. The rope jam had an added playfulness that opened up the space for true human creativity. Within the ritual of the jam, anything could happen. Emotions of all kinds appeared, and interpersonal dramas…