It is important to know your partner a little before doing rope together, but there’s a huge difference between what you need to know and violating personal boundaries. A partner is not obliged to tell you their life story or disclose all of their medical history, but they should be able to give you the following information to allow you to assess whether it is safe to proceed or not.
Questions to the person being tied:
Sounds obvious, doesn’t it? Knowing the physical limitations of your partner is important, so find out as much as you can before you run into trouble.
Do you have any problems with your joints or flexibility?
Do you have any old injuries that might be a problem?
Are there any positions you find difficult?
If you plan to do a tie that requires flexibility the receiving partner should try hold the position without ropes first to assess how long they are likely to be able to hold it.
There is a range of normal when it comes to circulation in the limbs, so find out what is normal for yourself or your partner?
Do you have any problems with your hands or feet getting cold normally?
Have you had any problems with your circulation before?
It can be a good idea to feel the temperature of the hands and feet before starting so that a better assessment of circulation can be carried out later. Oddly enough someone with cold feet normally will still have cold feet when tied up!
Fits and Funny turns
This can be quite a sensitive topic, but if you don’t ask then you don’t know for sure. It can be fine to tie someone with a history of seizures if you get to know them and their warning signs. If in doubt it’s ok to say that you’re not sure if it is safe to continue.
Have you ever had a fit or funny turn when being tied? Can you tell me a bit about it?
Have you had one recently?
Are you able to predict when they happen?
What is helpful to do if it happens?
Can you still use your safe word/signal at these times?
Mental Health and Psychological Issues
Again, this is a bit of a difficult subject for some, but you really are better off asking some general questions just in case. It is perfectly ok to say that you don’t need to know lots of details and indeed that might be reassuring to some people that you don’t want to pry but want to be prepared.
Are there any issues with your emotional and psychological response to being tied that I should know about?
Are there particular situations, actions or words that should be avoided during tying?
Should I be worried if you cry?
Don’t pressure someone into giving you detail if they seem reluctant. People with mental health and trauma issues are more than capable of engaging in safe, sane and consensual situations and are usually the best person to make the judgement about whether it is safe to continue. People can also laugh or cry, become loud or silent or any other behavioural response and it can be quite normal for them. It can be disconcerting to have someone break into floods of tears if you haven’t asked about it beforehand.
Some people have sensory issues you need to know about. This can be lack of sensation or hypersensitivity to sensation. If someone may be unable to hear or see you during a tie it is important to know. Someone with sensorial issues will appreciate you thinking to ask about it?
Do you have any problems with your hearing or vision?
Do you have any problems with sensitivity to touch?
Do you have any areas of numbness or reduced sensitivity?
How do you feel about deliberate sensory manipulation? (ie blindfolds, strenuous positioning etc)
Questions to the person doing the tying:
A lot of focus is put on assessing the person being tied in relation to fitness, but it is extremely important that the person who is doing the tying is subject to the same kind of checks. Many of the above questions apply equally in this case, but here’s a few more things to consider asking.
Are there any physical or emotional issues affecting your tying just now?
Do you have any health problems that may affect your ability to respond quickly in an emergency?
Do you need to wear glasses or a hearing aid? If yes, do you have it with you?
If I fall or collapse will you be able to support my weight?
If you suddenly take unwell and are unable to untie me, how do I get free?
The last question is highlighted here as it is a situation that few people prepare for. At a workshop or event there are lots of people around who can step in, but if you are working alone together then this question should be seriously considered.