The Two Ends of the Rope – Who Does What? Roles – Desires – Appetites

September 22, 2022

 The constellation of participants in a rope scene may include one, two, three, or even more people. They will be the ones doing the tying and the ones being tied. For solo play, one person gets to have all the roles, fun, and responsibilities. For three or more participants, the roles can be mixed and matched to everyone’s delight. But for now, let’s consider a dyad of two people to understand hot and fun dynamics of play. 

Here are some terms and concepts for your consideration: 

Receiving vs. Casting
The person being tied       -      The person doing the tying

Receiving and Casting are action-focused, neutral terms for rope play, with no assumptions of gender, roles, experience, or power dynamics. 

With these two basic words as a foundation, you and your person can decide if the scene will feature Egalitarian play, Authority-Distributed play, Fluid play (no, not that kind of fluid play,  you perv!), or Switching play. 


Playing as equals in emotional or power dynamics. One person is tying and the other person is being tied, but neither is the bedroom or playroom boss of the other. 

Authority-Distributed, or Dominance and Submission

Deciding for this moment and scene that it would be fun for all involved if one person is in charge and the other follows. The decision-maker, the one in their dominance, finds excitement in orchestrating the scene and determining what happens to their partner. This person creates the experience, centering it on both participants’ shared wants and don’ts, while the one in their submission gets to enjoy this time of surrender. 

Top or Topping and Bottom or Bottoming: 

These are more general terms that can mean a whole lot of things, depending on where a person learned their kink information. People have a profusion of expectations around these words, so that it’s easy for them to lead to misunderstandings, confusions, mismatched expectations, and disappointing scenes (or worse). 

Let’s sort this out. 

Generally speaking, it means one person doing and one person being done. 

But doing what and being done what?  

Some people align Topping with Dominance, and Bottoming with Submission – this is Authority-Distributed framing.  Others see giving rope as separate from who’s in charge of the scene. 

Some people equate Topping with creating intense sensations (consensual sadism) and Bottoming with receiving those intense sensations (consensual masochism). But others may not want to play with intense sensations that they experience as unwanted pain.

What does all this mean? You and your partner may have very different ideas of what Top and Bottom with rope and kink mean. Have a conversation of discovery. This will help you to have better play going forward.

Switching or Switch: 

This is when the partners agree to trade off on casting/receiving, or dominance/submission, or topping/bottoming, or sensation creating/receiving.

Fluid play or playing Fluidly: 

The partners understand that they will intuitively shift across all that we discussed above. Many consider this as one type of Switching. 

Often people assume that the person casting rope must also be dominant in the scene and the receiving person must submit to them. While this is one possibility, it’s not the only one. It’s also not required, and not to be expected automatically. 

I might put rope on you because we decided that you are the boss of the scene – and I would be delighted to follow your directions as to how to tie you up into your “happy place.”

You might cast rope on me, and we play in Egalitarian style, where we’re both making suggestions on how I’m tied and how we play. 

These roles also aren’t permanent. These are desires and appetites for pleasure that shift and change depending on how you’re feeling, whom you’re playing with, the fantasies in your head and loins, and other variable contextual factors. 

How intensely or deeply we play in these roles changes too. You might be feeling super-submissive and wanting to let go deeply, or lightly submissive, desiring a bit of reprieve from decision-making. 

Explaining our desires is hard enough in everyday life and in non-kink sexuality. It can be even more challenging when it comes to kink appetites that aren’t commonly talked about or represented in all the usual online spaces. 

There are also big annoying assumptions and stereotypes about who gets to top or bottom based on gender, body shape, abilities, age, etc., etc. 

No form of BDSM is free from these limiting beliefs. Rope bondage and shibari are no exception. 

Have you noticed that I’m writing about roles and desires in verbs, not nouns? Dominating instead of the dominant. Bottoming instead of being a bottom. This is intentional. A common trope in kink and shibari is that dom/sub /top/bottom are immutable personality traits, and we will always enjoy being on the same “side of the slash.”  

Finding pleasure and joy in bottom/top/sub/dom is certainly part of the complexity of who you are, but these are not the whole of you. Don’t paint yourself into a corner of stereotyped expectations. Nouns have a nasty way of turning into labels and limitations.

Something special can happen deep in our brains, and deep in the way live and play, when we think and move in verbs, or more accurately, active terms – playing towards a more vibrant, agentic existence.  

Here’s something to try. In your next opportunity for play with BDSM and rope, try thinking and saying something like these phrases -- and yes, make up your own phrases if mine feel silly coming out of your mouth: 

“Tonight, I want to dominate you, wrap you tightly, and make you mine,” instead of “I am a dom.”

“To you I surrender today,” instead of “I am a sub.”

“I crave the intense sensation you dish out,” instead of “I am a masochist.”

“I want to feed on your sweet suffering,” instead of “I am a sadist.” 

Let me know how it goes! And tell me about all the ropey fun you’re having!



Midori's Bio

Trailblazing educator, sexologist, artist, and irritant to banality, Midori founded Rope Dojo and ForteFemme: Women's Dominance Intensive. She penned the first English instruction book on Shibari titled, "Seductive Art of Japanese Bondage" in 2001, paving the way to the popularity of rope. Dan Savage calls her the "Super Nova of Kink," while others affectionately call her Auntie Midori for her cool, tell-it-like-it-is, funny, reality-based teaching. 

She is also the author of "Wild Side Sex," "Master Han's Daughter," and "Silk Threads.”

During this pandemic, learn, laugh and enjoy her special online classes, events and art at



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