We fell in love with rope bondage at the beginning of our relationship, and it’s still a pivotal part of our play today. Not unlike wine connoisseurs, rope enthusiasts can be opinionated snobs, and we’re no different. The following guide is a breakdown of the pros and cons of the myriad types of rope on the market from the perspective of the rope bottom and the rigger and is a result of our experimentation over the years. We’ve discovered that there is no perfect rope for everything; there are always trade-offs. So whether you’re a masochist who loves suspension, or just want an upgrade from your faux fur restraints, we recommend you keep a few of the following ropes at the ready.
Notes on Suspension
We provide a recommendation below for a type of upline, but not for suspension harnesses. We simply could not find much information about the safety of rope harnesses based on the materials used. If in doubt, use rated rope.
Notes on Materials
- All the rope we tested—except for cotton and hempex—was strictly made for bondage (for example, MFP for horse bridles is much stiffer than the MFP we use).
- We’re not describing maintenance routines here. For example, jute and hempex require significant “breaking in” before being suitable for use, and other materials benefit from a little wear as well.
- Rope varies quite a bit from vendor to vendor. The jute (or whatever) you buy from one shop may feel or behave a little different from the jute you buy from somewhere else or make yourself.
Other Popular Materials Not in the Chart
- Rope sold as “bamboo” is usually “bamboo silk” rayon, which is very soft. “Bamboo” also refers to bamboo linen, which has similar properties as flax linen. We included both rayon and linen.
- We tested some mulberry silk (real silk) rope, but besides its shine, we found it to have similar properties to linen overall.
- We tried constructing and processing our own linen, alpaca, silk, and jute ropes. Though we learned a lot in the process, the rope we made turned out to be similar to other ropes described below.
Best For . . .
Bedroom: For sensual and decadent bedroom play, consider splurging for “bamboo silk” or other softly spun rayon.
Everyday and public play: We’ve found MFP to be an outstanding option for use anytime, anywhere. If you want to maximize playtime in a busy life then cleanliness and ease of maintenance are the top priorities. MFP is very soft, waterproof, incredibly strong, isn’t prone to jams, and takes very little time to wash.
Newbies: Cotton is ideal for getting started. It’s not an uncomfortable choice, and $20 can buy at least 100’ of rope. Although it won’t last forever, it’s great for experimenting with different lengths.
Sadomasochism: Jute is a great all-around choice for SM. Though there are crueler and more exotic materials such as coconut, jute is easy to come by and is uncomfortable on the skin (at least for us) even after hours of processing. We tried several popular brands of jute and even spun our own, but they were all scratchy AF.
Shibari/kinbaku: Professional rope models and riggers far and wide use jute, and it’s not hard to see why. It ties quickly and compactly and photographs beautifully.
Suspension uplines: Hempex is a plastic hemp lookalike with many of the properties of natural hemp, but a single 6mm line has a breaking strength of a half ton.
Best All-Around Rope
If we considered each of our categories equally, then hemp would be the best all-around choice. It has a smell and sensual feel that many bottoms love. It ties beautifully and works well for shibari. If you wanted to use a single type of rope for everything, it’s even possible to find reinforced hemp to use for safe suspension uplines.
Other Rope Resources
We may earn a small commission (at no additional cost to you) from Amazon if you make a purchase via some of the links below.
Better Bondage for Every Body: This book by Evie Vane is actually a collection of essays by bondage experts from around the world. Chapters focus on bondage for curvy bottoms, male bottoms, older bottoms, bottoms with special physical conditions, and more. There are also chapters devoted to stretching and anatomy.
Complete Shibari: This series by Douglas Kent uses a clever “paint-by-numbers” shorthand to break the most complex ties into simple recipes.
The Seductive Art of Japanese Bondage: The famed Shibari instructor Midori explains step by step how to tie a number of beautiful Japanese bondage poses. She also provides helpful background information about the history of Shibari, rope selection, and other related topics.
TUTORIALS (LISTED IN ORDER OF COMPLEXITY)
Two Knotty Boys: This oldie but goodie is a well-organized single page of must-know ties to get you started. The free video tutorials don’t include voice-over, but the TKB show the steps of each tie clearly.
Twisted Monk: Twisted Monk’s free videos use spoken instruction and focus on ties that can be learned quickly by a beginner. As an added bonus, they sometimes include the fabulous rope artist Midori.
Crash Restraint: This site is a free progressive rope learning class which goes into detail on the hows and whys of equipment and ties. The site is moderately well maintained, but some of the more advanced ties have missing videos. Topologist, the rigger who runs the site, has his own thorough rope chart, which was one of the inspirations for ours.
The Duchy: This extensive and colorful site provides both illustrated step-by-step instructions and well-made videos, some of which are free. A serious downside is that most of the videos don’t include a live model, and none include a bottom’s perspective.
Self-Suspension: Even if you’re a rigger who never bottoms, you can learn indispensable lessons from the excellent Shay Tiziano’s free videos.
Shibari Study: Gorgone uses her world-class shibari artistry to teach a series of beautiful and complex suspension ties that pay particular attention to the comfort of the rope bottom. Some of the videos are free, but the more advanced ones are available only with a subscription.
Shibari Classes: Nina Russ and Bruce Esinem’s site contains the most comprehensive set of Japanese-style rope tutorials available.
rope bottoming resources
Rope bottoming educators: Comprehensive list of rope bottoming instructors, mostly in the U.S. Must be a member of FetLife to view the link.
Rope bottoms’ share group: An online discussion group run by and for rope bottoms (or switches who wish to participate as bottoms). The main purpose of the group is to support one another as rope bottoms and vet tops. Must be a member of FetLife to view the link.
We’ll be updating this post periodically with new information, so be sure to check back!