What Is Shibari, The Japanese Bondage Technique Used On Too Hot To Handle?

Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.
Netflix's new reality show Too Hot To Handle is ostensibly about not having sex. So naturally, to keep things interesting, the contestants are constantly put into sexy situations, often with the intention of building confidence or intimacy. See: the lesson in Shibari, a Japanese bondage technique.
"Shibari is a Japanese word to mean 'tie.' Today, Shibari is associated with Japanese-inspired rope bondage style for fun, kinky sex," says Midori, a sexologist, educator, and author of the first English instruction book on Shibari, Seductive Art of Japanese Bondage.
The practice rose to popularity in Japan during the 1960s and 1970s, explains Midori. "It had a lot to do with the rise of the middle class in Japan, because you had a lot more people with disposable income seeking titillating entertainment," she says. "You know, you'd have bondage-theme bars and strip joints with bondage shows."
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Shibari started becoming more popular internationally around the early 2000s thank to access to the World Wide Web. The methods of rope-tying are thought to mimic the ways prisoners were restrained in earlier centuries. Kind of like how handcuffs are a key tool in the kink community.
Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.
Of course, anyone who's dabbled in 50 Shades Of Grey is no stranger to tied-up sex. Shibari is slightly different. In the practice, there tends to be more rope on the torso (compared to the limbs), there's more emphasis on body constriction, and there's also a visual aesthetic to it that oftentimes can be "symmetry broken into asymmetry," Midori says.
To be clear, this form of rope play is not solely about sex — it's a way to build intimacy too. And that's why Too Hot To Handle introduced it in episode three.
"Shibari is based in power play, but in a really unexpected way because truly, when you're the person with the rope, you're the one who is surrendering and trusting your partner. How tight do you want things? How much pressure? Does this feel good for you? They're teaching them the principles of how to take that same language and apply it to to every other facet of their intimate connections," says intimacy and relationship expert Shan Boodram, on the show. "It really does teach people how to trust, which is the foundation for any long-lasting relationship."
The goal of the contestants’ Shibari workshop was to help them learn how to be more vulnerable with each other. It even kind of worked. Things between Francesca and Harry had been tense after Harry implied that the pair’s makeout session — which resulted in a $3,000 “fine” against the prize money — was Francesca’s fault. Boodram suggested they use these emotions to their advantage in this exercise. “Tying him up was great... I had a little bit of pent-up aggression I needed to get out,” Francesca explained. Harry agreed, saying it “worked wonders” for them.
If you're interested in trying it out yourself, a book (such as Midori's) or site like TwistedMonk can help you get started. But as with any kind of kink play, communication and safety are paramount. So talk it over with your partner first, make sure to have a safe word, and have a pair of scissors on hand too — just in case.

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