Black lives matter. This is obvious. This is fact, but we live in a world where black lives are treated too often as if they do not matter, or are treated as unwelcome, irrelevant or even as a problem. These attitudes exist in the global rope scene, too. And here in 2020, as people everywhere are stepping forward to stop the cruelty and brutality inflicted on black lives, then we, as members of an alternative scene that celebrates being different from the norm, must do more than be silent or indifferent or resistant to this effort.
The goal of Kinbakunomicon is to raise awareness and understanding of a type of erotic sadomasochistic rope bondage first created and developed by a group of people within the SM subculture in Japan, but which is now practiced in almost every corner of the world by people of many languages, cultures and identities. This project works to break down language barriers and to help provide access to information to all people around the world who have difficulty finding such information. An important aspect of kinbaku as SM play is the eroticization of torture and punishment. Historical scenes of cruelty are reimagined as sexual fantasy. Turning horrors of the real world into consensual fantasy play isn’t unique to Japan. This is common around the world. Therefore, I believe those of us who practice kinbaku who use fantasies of cruelty to fuel our sexual pleasures must be sensitive to those around us suffering actual non-consensual brutality. And those of us who feel we have been unfairly marginalized by mainstream society for our erotic tastes must stand beside those around us who experience marginalization and disenfranchisement for simply being born who they are.
The point of the kinbakunomicon is to be a resource open to everyone, to empower everyone regardless of who they are. To do this, I focus almost exclusively on Japanese language materials. This means materials and information created by Japanese people and mostly intended for a Japanese audience. That is an incredibly narrow field to focus on, and Japanese voices on this subject are not entirely free of their own social problems themselves. Nevertheless, it has been extremely difficult to translate Japanese information into English and not have it focused exclusively on Japanese voices, especially since so much of what they have so say is not reaching so many around the world who want to hear it.
The upside of this situation (if we can call it an upside) is that there is unlimited opportunity for kinbaku fan to jump in and find something new. Anyone can contribute something valuable and interesting and fun.
The downside is that the language barrier and lack of Japanese information has allowed a small number of shibari educators to control general knowledge about Kinbaku. Over the years, it has allowed some to block the flow of practical and inclusive information and replace it with culture fetishism. It has encouraged the louder voices in the scene to create the illusion that authentic kinbaku is a kinbaku scrubbed free of Western elements or practiced only by experienced bondage entertainers. It has given us a scene where Japanese culture is substituted for rope bondage ideas, where students are taught to believe that a Western mind doesn’t comprehend some sexy Japanese idea or Western bodies can’t be tied exactly like Japanese bodies, so therefore Westerners can’t really experience proper kinbaku. These attitudes create cultural and ethnic divides which treat anything Japanese as preferable to anything Western, or more correct than anything Western. Or more authentic. Or more traditional. Or more real. The strangest part is that, in my experience, I hear these comments mostly from gate keepers who promote their connections to Japanese professionals and who build their reputations on knowing about Japanese practices. And these gate keepers are predominately not Japanese, not POC, and who usually don’t understand enough Japanese themselves to directly listen to the fantastic variety of opinions shared in Japanese yet who still feel they are informed enough to make sweeping generalizations about who understands kinbaku and who does not. It is one small group speaking for another small group to promote their own interests. This is a dynamic that narrows participation instead of broadening it.
My words here are not enough. There is so much more I need to do myself, and the Kinbakunomicon will continue to work toward building bridges to join us together. However, right now in this moment we are living in, there is one positive step we can all take. It’s an easy step. While we think about how we can make kinbaku more welcoming to friends, students and neighbors, we also need to take a hard and serious look at who is also missing from our rope groups, events, classes, socials and instructors. Black lives matter here, too.