Some thoughts on Seme-nawa from a bottoming perspective
My partner and I devote ourselves to a very particular kind of rope bondage – the one that is called “semenawa”. Literally it means “torture” or “tormenting rope”. I like to ponder about what it means in our context of erotic play, not torturing war captives…
By definition, “torture” asks for intense experience.
“… torture starts when you are passing the threshold of “what is enough”. It is in the moment in which an ordinary bondage scene would stop that torture starts. Semenawa is giving “more than enough…”
So semenawa implies INTENSITY.
Emotional as well as physical… It is not necessarily extreme back band. But it is about going out of your personal comfort zone, coming close to your limits, dancing on the edge… On your own edge, of course. It is always personal and unique, this space. We all have different limits… But just performing even an extreme tie is not yet enough. You can hang upside down on one ankle, you can be completely exposed naked, but never go into semenawa space. What is missing?
I believe it is also about INTENTION.
What do we like to create together? It is a dance for two people. There is no “active” and “passive” partner. You have different roles. As a person in ropes, you offer a gift to your partner. Giving a gift is a choice, this is per se empowering (as an opposite to also existing humiliating or degrading kind of rope bondage). Gift is something to be granted. Not something to be demanded. Not something to be forced or imposed. As for the tying person, they have a role as well. They must take this gift. They must go for their desires. This is not easy. This is a vulnerable place to be.
”You were hurt once,” I recognize, “but I want you to trust that it is your radiance that inspires me. There is a great beauty within you that I can help summon.”
“How can you know what I want?”
“I don’t know”, I confess, “but I do know that it is really me who is being commanded. It is the beauty within you that commands me. We are both, once and at the same time, leader and follower. The beauty in you commands me, my love of your beauty commands you.”
Richard Strozzi Heckler “Holding the Center: Sanctuary in a Time of Confusion”
This is a way of responding to the impact my partner is giving me. With a flexible elastic resistance or rather presence, I open up towards this impact, I let it into me, I let it get me, physically and emotionally, I allow it to transform me… and I show my reactions, I do not hide my emotions. This is what you share, this is what the gift is about.
It is always your choice how far you like to go. You allow your partner to dance in the space you define. This is your body, your emotions, your gift you give to them. This is very important. Read our article on consent about finding your limits when surrendering.
This dance starts with surrendering to the will of my partner, but it doesn’t end there. Ultimately it is our capacity to surrender to something greater than either of us. It is through mutual surrendering that we are taken beyond our limits*.
*Of course, if you want to go there. In my humble opinion this rope style is simply not for everybody. There is no offence in that. There are other rope styles that can be perfectly satisfying and fun!
And let me yet another quote here:
WHAT IT IS NOT
As the story unfolds, you surrender to what comes, to what is brought to you through the medium of rope. It might be love, and you fully give in to the feeling of being loved. It might be pain as well. In semenawa you embrace pain with the same dignity. Pain is not your intention. Pain is never a punishment. It naturally belongs to the experience of going out of your comfort zone**.
Therefore, both hunting the pain and trying to avoid pain altogether by finding a suitable “technique” are meaningless approaches in my opinion. Yes, pain is there, and no, it is not main intention. In fact, if you expect pain, tender lacing might bring you much faster to your borders.
**Clearly I do not mean bad pain, like from a twisted joint or a squeezed nerve. Knowing your own body and being able to communicate is a prerequisite to relax and fall into play, no matter what rope style we are talking about.
To surrender you need to have a strong center – resilient flexible core – that enables you to put down the outer fence and let the rope “get you”. This is breathing that helps you to anchor yourself in the present moment. Losing yourself in the experience, going unconscious (numb) is not a way to surrender.
Red Sabbath, a stunning semenawa model who I deeply admire, says:
“I breathe slow and deep, when possible, slow and extended, when my breathing capacity is limited from the tie. Breathing has an immediate natural effect on the perception of pain, helps me relaxing, detaching, and getting rid of negative feelings”.
AS A CONCLUSION…
…I also like to mention that for me personally, there is a difference between surrendering and submitting. At least coming from Russian – my mother language. I haven’t yet managed to catch it completely, but it goes in this direction:
I submit to military discipline. It’s hierarchical.
I surrender to the flow of the river. I surrender to your loving arms… It’s my choice.
But this is semantics after all. My point is, it is not “power over” but “power with” that brings you further than ever