How to navigate rope practices—and BDSM at large—when you're in a non-monogamous relationship

May 11, 2023

 


In a consensual non-monogamous relationship, many opportunities exist to explore kinky play with multiple partners. And like any relationship model—navigating BDSM and rope practices requires communication. 


steeltown_dyke (her FetLife profile name) offers the same advice for navigating rope/BDSM as an ENM/poly person as she'd give anyone else.  


Communication is key

"Communication is key both with a play partner and negotiating scenes, but also with a romantic partner who might feel some jealousy, etc.," she says. She adds that finding and respecting healthy boundaries requires communicating WHERE those boundaries are. 


Figure out your boundaries—and then follow them

When having intimate and/or sexual relationships with multiple people, it's essential to understand — without question — what works and doesn't work for all individuals involved. "Whether it's communicating when there's a new potential partner or using condoms for penetrative sex to hosting playdates, STI protocols, and practicing hierarchy, consensual non-monogamy offers limitless relationship dynamics and experiences to explore," says Jamie*.  Jamie is 30-something-years-old and polyamorous with different sexual interests and desires than their primary partner. Engaging in BDSM play with others allows Jamie the space (and support!) to explore and fulfill their kinky needs. The key, in their experience, is to revisit and adapt boundaries as relationships evolve and adventures unfold.


Speak up for yourself

Speaking up is hard to do. But steeltown_dyke says that having the courage to speak up for oneself (OR one's partner) is crucial to the maintenance of healthy boundaries. If done right, it can increase feelings of connectedness which can be helpful in intimate power dynamics, like rope bondage and other BDSM practices.


Consent is non-negotiable

By now, everyone should know that it's not OK to touch someone's body without consent. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines "consent" as "to give assent or approval." In simple terms, consent is clear, voluntary, and enthusiastic. It must be informed, meaning that someone who is being asked for their consent understands everything they're being asked to consent to. 


Even if you've played with a partner 100 times, it's vital to obtain consent for each and every rope or BDSM encounter. "Consenting to one activity, one time, doesn't give a partner permission to do the activity again in the future," says Jamie.


If you have questions about what is and isn't consent, check out this British public service video comparing sex to offering someone a cup of tea. 


Practice safer sex

This should go without saying, but if your rope bondage or BDSM dynamic involves sex, safer sex is a must. Know your partner(s) status. (Sex educator Reid Mihalko has an elevator speech that makes the STI conversation easy.) Wash your hands before you play. Vaginal tissue is delicate; you don't want bacteria, germs, or STIs transmitted via manual sex. Know which hand has gone where. Use whatever barrier method works best for you—gloves, condoms, dental dams, diaphragms, and cervical caps are all options. For oral sex, my go-to is Lorals, a stretchy, single-use pair of FDA-approved latex undies that protect against STIs. If you have a latex allergy, there are nitrile alternatives. Condoms are also helpful to use on toys that may be shared among participants. 


There will be awkward moments—go with it

I've had countless rope bondage and BDSM sessions that have ranged from meh to mind-blowing. I tend to enter such dynamics with minimal expectations–what seems straightforward in my head doesn't always translate so seamlessly IRL. Sometimes emotions surface, technical difficulties arise, or someone suffers from performance anxiety (it happens). It's OK. Check in with your partner, and always, always practice aftercare. 


Be kind

"Compassion is important to keep in mind as you try to negotiate in good faith with ANY partner (romantic, play, etc.)," says steeltown_dyke. "Their boundaries might not be the same as your boundaries, their desires may not be the same as yours, etc." However, she notes that you can still have a happy, fruitful relationship, even if you have differences. 


The bottom line is that before engaging in any kinky play, ensure everyone feels safe and comfortable. 

-Ryn Pfeuffer

Ryn Pfeuffer is a queer sex and relationships writer. Over the past two decades, her work has appeared in more than 100 media outlets including Marie Claire, Men's Health, Playboy, The Globe and Mail, The Washington Post, and WIRED. She lives in Seattle . You can find her on Twitter @rynpfeuffer or IG @ryn_says.

 

 

*a pseudonym




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