Whether you’re new to kink, new to rope, or just looking for new playmates, it can be tricky to evaluate potential partners before playing. And that’s equally true whether you’re a top, bottom, or switch. Luckily, there are some green flags to look out for when meeting new people or trying new things. Sure, rope bondage requires its own set of skills and risk awareness, but the qualities that make someone a good rope partner should sound familiar.
All of the following green lights are helpful to look for no matter how you meet someone, but they’re organized by how easy they’ll be to spot in different situations.
From social media to dating apps, it’s easy to paint a pretty picture. But we all know those glimpses into someone’s life are carefully curated, and rarely tell the whole story. That’s why it’s so important to dig a little deeper before agreeing to meet up.
If someone expresses an interest in rope bondage, you’ll probably want to know more. What do they like about it? How much experience do they have? What books have they read? What classes have they taken? A pre-negotiation conversation can sometimes feel a little like a job interview, but this is all important information for deciding whether to play with someone or not. And a worthwhile rope partner will be happy to answer all of these questions, and more (rather than getting defensive or trying to shut the conversation down.)
Experienced players, (and informed beginners,) will be cautious about who they’re playing with. They’re not just looking for a pretty face or a flexible body that’ll look good in their FetLife photos — they want someone who will be a good fit for their play style, as well as being a safe partner. Trustworthy partners will ask about everything from likes & dislikes to physical limitations before beginning a play session.
Whether it’s for coffee, tea, or a walk in the park, it’s a good idea to meet someone in public before signing up for play, and trustworthy play partners will want a chance to check you out, too. So a willingness to set time aside to meet up (without play) is a good sign that someone is interested in safety and chemistry, not just tying with anyone willing to show up.
Pick up play can be both easier and harder to navigate than traditional dating scenarios. On the one hand, you don’t need everything about your lifestyles to be compatible in order for play to work. On the other hand, you often have less information to go on before making a decision.
If you’re going to parties, events, or rope jams, try to watch your potential play partner with other people. If they’re keeping a close eye on their partner, that’s a great sign. Responsible players monitor their partner’s reactions for everything from pleasure to pain in order to adapt their technique and achieve the desired results. They’re also keeping a close eye on rope placement to make sure nothing slips into a danger zone and keeping an eye out for any signs of circulation trouble or other problems.
Even the most experienced players make mistakes and have accidents. What’s essential is being willing to learn from those mistakes and take steps to ensure they won’t happen again. Trustworthy players will admit to their mistakes, and some will even share these stories during rope meetups or in online forums so that other people can learn from their mistakes, too.
Asking for references is standard practice in many kink communities, and anyone who’s been around for a while should have people willing to speak to their skills. In fact, it’s so easy to find one or two people who are willing to say something nice, it can be even more valuable to simply ask around about someone. If someone is happy to provide references, and other people in the community also have good things to say, that’s a great sign.
If you’d like to add rope play to the mix with an existing partner, consider how your regular sexual communication works — or doesn’t. People don’t magically change when picking up a new skill, so it’s important to make sure your existing patterns are compatible with the additional risk of rope bondage before diving in.
Rope is a collaborative process between the top and the bottom — and that means check-ins and feedback are essential. No matter how much planning may be done in advance, things will likely need to be modified or adjusted once play has begun. Ideal rope partners have demonstrated a willingness to hear and incorporate feedback during intimate moments (rather than getting defensive or making excuses.)
There are as many ways to play with rope as there are rope players — so it’s important to make sure interests and fantasies align long before play begins. Conversations about adding rope to the mix shouldn’t be one person simply telling the other what they want to do, they should be a back-and-forth exploration of both people’s desires, and a realistic discussion of what forms of play land in the overlap between the two.
Both tying and being tied are skills — and like any skill, they take time to develop. The fancy knots you’ve seen in books won’t be learned overnight, and your body won’t be used to getting into, or holding, difficult positions on the first try. So think about how much patience your partner has shown when picking up other hobbies. If you’ve seen them spend months learning, researching, and honing new skills that’s a good sign they’ll be willing to put the time into learning rope.
Stella Harris, Certified Intimacy Educator and Coach. Author of Tongue Tied: Untangling Communication in Sex, Kink, and Relationships and The Ultimate Guide to Threesomes. Learn more at: