Close ties: An Interview with Shibari Rope Bondage Model Sophia Mindus

Sophia Mindus’s Instagram feed is a glorious eye-gasm in celebration of the female form.

The majority of the posts which you can admire here are of her tied up and sometimes suspended, because she practices the Japanese art of Shibari rope bondage.

The simplicity of the shapes her body creates when tied in rope are satisfying on an aesthetic level, but there’s much more to it than that.

‘Sexy’ images of women are everywhere you look on Instagram, but these pictures are way more dynamic and thought-provoking than the sombre selfies we expect from Kim and Kylie.

This is very much an expression of how a human body can stretch, swing, arch and writhe, projecting power and warmth through its very shape.

Photo by @miss_true_blue

Sophia has shared loads of lovely pencil sketches and dreamlike watercolours from life-drawing sessions she’s modelled at, which I think tells us Shibari can awaken creativity as well as desire.

But I don’t want to simplify this, there’s a dark and kinky element here we needn’t brush beneath our Afghan rug.

In fact, let’s leap onto the rug and gag each other… if you’re into that? My safe word is Tess Daly.

 

Drawn at The Crypt Gallery by @heidiwigmoreart

To me, the images Sophia shares present the female body as art. As a vibrant and powerful subject, without inspiring any tragic sense of inadequacy in the viewer either. Which is good because no one wants that.

Instead they make you want to rip off your Pineapple Dance hoodie, snatch the nearest ball of twine, high-kick your way through the doors of Anatomie Studio London and shout TIE ME THE HECK UP.

And they wouldn’t even laugh at you cause by the sound of things it’s a very accepting place. Though you might not need your twine.

Here is our interview:

What is Shibari?
I could go on so so long with that answer! Shibari means ‘tying’ in Japanese. It originates from Ho Jujitsu which is what the police used to use to capture criminals. Instead of having handcuffs, they used rope. In Japan they didn’t have a lot of metal, so they used rope instead for a lot of things like clothing and building as well. Different regions had different rope patterns, to show the severity of the crime, it was quite intricate. They might be tied in a way that if they tried to escape they’d choke themselves or something like that..

Shunga was popular in Japan at the time which had images of crazy sex going on.. enlarged genitals and things like that. It then evolved.. there was a big shift in art and culture as Japan’s ports increased the country’s contact with Westeners and other countries.

 

Shunga was a

popular (saucy) art

form in Japan between 1600 and 1900

Western bondage is very much about the whole damsel in distress thing, the hog ties and the gagged woman.. whereas the aesthetic of Japanese shibari evolved with the art movement. It’s about the intricacy of pattern, the beauty of the female form, voyeurism and ‘beautiful suffering’ which is a term they use all the time. In Japan there was always a real element of shame in bondage, criminals being tied and paraded around.. We don’t really have shame like that in the West. Our Shibari shares the same roots but there’s the sense of respect.

How long have you been involved and what influence has Shibari had on your life?

It has changed my life so much. I got into it four years ago. I was exploring my kinky side in London – going to ‘munches’ where likeminded people hang out, meet and talk about kink and sex and life – nice open minded people. I found out about rope through that. It had the aspects of BDSM I wanted: restriction and exploration of sensations. But rope also has so much more about connecting with your own body and with another person.

In order to enjoy rope you have to be so honest with yourself because otherwise you’re going to end up doing something you don’t like or potentially hurting yourself..

It really makes you get to know yourself in a strong, deep way, and likewise the person you’re tying with.

 

Photo by @tenayaamelia

You have to really trust them and feel good with them so you build these really strong relationships. I used to have a lot of shame about my body and sexuality and fear and desire and all these things.. and rope just opened my eyes to being comfortable in my own skin, feeling good about my body and challenging myself.

I’ve never met such a weird range and variety of people within a community.

There’s so much research that says BDSM is a really healthy way for adults to work out fear, desire and fantasy. We all have traumas or weird stuff that goes on. If we repress the desires we have, that’s when they end up manifesting into insecurity, self hatred, jealousy, confusion..

When you can think, ‘This is something I’m curious about, I want to explore it in a safe way with someone I trust’ that’s a really special and important experience.

 

Photo by @miss_true_blue

What does feminism mean to you and how does Shibari fit into that?

Actually the studio has really shown me why feminism is important, for men and for women.

When we create a space which is run by women for women, it actually creates a safer space for the men.

Like, I’ve seen men come into the space.. kind of macho, heterosexual, cis-gender guys who would rather tie the balcony than tie another man.

But then after a while they see they’re in a space where there is equality.

No matter who you are or what you present as doesn’t necessarily define what you’re looking for.

We always make a point of saying like, just cause someone comes in as a female bodied person, doesn’t mean they’re looking to be tied and just cause someone comes in as a man doesn’t meant they’re looking to tie.

It’s really important to break down perceptions of gender and what that means about what we want. For me it’s equality on both levels, like making spaces safer for women means also making spaces safer for men and it’s just.. a good cycle.

I’ve seen beautiful images of male bodies tied in rope.

 

Photo by @miss_true_blue

I’ve had comments from people saying ‘How is this empowering for women?’ ‘You look like a piece of meat’.

You’re always going to get people who don’t understand or are confused, but I try and be quite open about who I am.

Hopefully I make it come across in a way that people are curious and maybe surprised but want to learn more and actually gain understanding rather than like, ‘Oh my god there’s someone tied up.’

 

Photo by @missannabones

One of the things I will say is, for so many women I’ve seen in the scene.. for example, people who didn’t feel good about their bodies or never thought they’d be able to do rope or people with disabilities.. now they’re doing rope.

To be able to take control of your desires, feel fabulous in your body have amazing experiences, that is empowering.

When erotic imagery is presented in a public world like instagram, is anything lost? Is anything added?
Absolutely things are lost, in some sense. It’s tricky because in order to survive doing rope you have to promote yourself to get bookings and performance jobs and things like that. There are some people that are more elusive and don’t post a lot but they have to work hard to get work.

The bad thing is some people see the bondage but don’t want to do any research about like, what it is and what it means.

 

Photo by @missannabones

Is Shibari sex or art? 

For me rope started as more of a sexual thing. I was attracted to it in that sense, but then I discovered I was flexible and could do all this stuff with my body. I was like woah, I didn’t realise I’d be good at this! It kind of evolved into like..work and education more than art.

I still enjoy it as a sexual thing, I just tend not to show that side publicly. There’s so two sides of it for me. I appreciate it as an artistic thing – my work, my passion, what I do with my friends, but I also just love to get tied up!

 

Photo by @the_silence_photographer

What do you hope women who follow your instagram but don’t practice rope will take away from the images?

I hope they take away feelings that it’s OK to be a woman and have sexuality and desires and never be shamed for that or your freedom to be in your body, no matter what you look like or who you are.

Also just inspiring people to be creative and do different things and not feel afraid to be judged I guess.

There’s a lot of judgement, competitiveness and nastiness between women but we don’t have to be like that. We can actually support each other and back each other up and be there for each other and I hope that’s what people take away.

sophia
Sophia Mindus self-tied and photographed by Gareth Jorden
Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *