The first and foremost thing to pay close attention to regarding general rope safety is to know who your partner is. Bottoms AND tops should both know the scene location especially if it’s not at your normal club or dungeon, and know the person and/or get references. Bottoms: know how and what the top ties (suspensions, groundwork, pain, predicament, etc.) and any reputations that top may have. Check pictures on social media and ask the people in the pictures about the top. Ask the community leaders or groups. And then never go alone.
🚩 The biggest red flag for rope (or any scene) is the bottom saying, “my friend is coming along, is that ok?” and the top responding with, “No, just you,” or they cancel when you ask about bringing someone.
• Bottoms: verify that the clothes you’re planning to wear are ok ahead of time. I personally won’t tie someone wearing an underwire bra because that wire may break and puncture, and yes it has happened. The bottom’s clothing also tells you what level of intimacy they may have in mind and the top must ask themselves “am I comfortable with that?” Personally, I don’t care what a bottom wears as long as they’re comfortable with me. Tops: a bottom doesn’t always start off naked, that’s a trust thing and totally their choice. Watch for metal of any kind on the clothes that may catch the rope and damage it or damage their clothing. Neither is desirable.
• Gear: you can never be too careful. Don’t go cheap on your gear thinking that will be okay. “Okay” doesn’t cut it. Verify your hard point, and not just the “two-guy test." Put your eyes on it if you didn’t build it and if you did build it yourself, let someone else help or talk with you about it. A hook in a joist is not a hard point in my book. If it’s chain, verify it’s not just on a metal superstructure because of electric play. Then check the age and if it’s across more than one ceiling joist; they’re usually designed to hold the roof up, not support a load down. Is the chain as big as a tow chain or did they get something smaller? What is the chain rated for and how can it come undone? Keep a shackle in your truck or rope box just in case.
• Carabiners; are they locking or clip and if locking are they locked? Are they CE rated and for how much? My recommendation is not to use less than 25kN. Same with spinners and pulleys, they go to 30kN and 35kN. A kN (kilonewton) is a measure of force. Even a static suspension has force not just weight to it.
• Rings are never rated and I don’t trust wood ones, but that’s me. Are they stainless or just steel? Stainless steel has less chance for issues and is stronger. What kind of stainless, yes there are lots of types. Check the welds. Importantly, know something about metal. It takes 15-30 minutes of research and reading to get enough information to make informed decisions for yourself.
• Rope: natural vs. synthetic. Natural fibers are not as strong as synthetic by diameter but use of either is personal choice. Either way the ropes need to be inspected with some regularity. Personally, I have nylon kits that are 5 years old and just as good as when I made them. I’ve replaced a couple kits only because of how my ties have changed in complexity over the years. My kits now consist of (14) 30ft, (6) 15ft, (6) 7.5ft and a 50ft. Sometimes I’ll add a 100ft hank because of a particular tie I do (the color is very popular… but I also have an “in” with the rope guy so I get a good price.😈)
Make sure your safety scissors can cut the rope you’re using and don’t hesitate to have more than one pair within reach. I use Leatherman Raptors, they are self-sharpening and are used only for my rope. I also put a utility knife and a Marlin spike in my pocket. The marlin spike can be used to break a knot that won’t undo and mine has a pair of pliers built in. Options, always have options!
• Remember, if you cut it when they are up, they come down fast.
In any tie, verify that your bottom has circulation and the nerves are not affected, have them squeeze your fingers and wiggle their toes every 4-6 minutes they are in your rope. Instant hot or cold is nerve-related and must be addressed very quickly. Circulation should be addressed within your skill set. If either the rigger or the bottom are relatively inexperienced, this should be addressed ASAP. Talk about it in negotiations so the top knows if the bottom has any circulation issues ahead of time.
• Don’t work at the edge or beyond your skill set alone. Don’t be afraid to ask for anyone to be there and keep an eye on your scene. They can watch the bottom so you can concentrate on your rope work, and it’s another set of hands if something goes wrong - it shows responsibility, not vulnerability. Verifying with the bottom that the extra person is okay is always recommended. Your support person doesn't need to know anything about rope but it helps. If you’re going to rope lab (plan, experiment), make sure the bottom knows ahead of time. It sets the tone and is good, basic communication.
• After The Tie. Negotiate aftercare before you start and find out what your bottom needs, wants, and expects. When they come down, have that pre-negotiated aftercare ready for them; you should already know what they may need and DO NOT leave them to get it. Water, juice, candy, fruit, blanket, pillow… know their favorites and try to have it ready ahead of time. Do they get cold or hot after a tie?
• Show you care about who you’re tying. Learning how to take rope off a spaced individual without pulling them out of their headspace goes a long way. It shows your skill too. Can you untie it as skillfully as you tied it? Do you know where the rope goes without seeing all of it and without causing rope burn when pulling it out from under them, especially if they are under a blanket? Less experienced bottoms should get a few minutes laying down under the rig to get their legs back. When they stand, remember they may just fall back over. Escort them to a safe space and make sure they have everything they need. When the rope comes off, check extremities for nerve or circulation issues. Check wherever rope was on their body for numbness, it has happened on the belly and upper legs, buttocks and chest too, not just arms and lower legs, so check it all. Make certain they are the same when you’re done as when you started. If they aren’t, check in with them at least daily. Some issues will go away on their own, some won’t or may never go away. Be ready to live with that. If you can’t, you probably shouldn’t be tying. Things happen, and you should know what those ‘things’ are. Rope is edge play. The time it takes you to restrain them with a double column to their wrists behind their back, is all it takes for their life to change forever.
The rope incident report group on FetLife. Read it some time. Spend an hour or two. Seriously.
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We've collected all our safety info and recommendations in one convenient PDF for reading at your leisure. Check it out and download it for reference - the checklist form (in 2 sizes) is really handy!
Hey folks, we here at DyeAddictRope are NOT DOCTORS or medical professionals!!! We DO have some serious recommendations for a pre-scene interview with your bunny/bottom though. Below is our standard BASIC dialogue/negotiations. An extensive version with reasoning as to why we ask these questions is available for free in our downloadable Rope Safety PDF.