Some Richmonders find that the way to their lover's heart is through a tightly tied knot. 

The Ties that Bind

When tying up your lover it is crucial to choose the right type of rope.

That's one my scouting master never told me.

Apparently, any old rope won't do. Different types of rope suit different erotic situations and different people have their preferences. Some situations are better suited to cotton rope, others nylon.

The stuff my scoutmaster didn't tell me is laid out for me and about 40 other people on a recent Sunday evening at the Richmond Leather Club's Evening of Educational Kink at Fieldens. The room is filled with straight, gay, and bisexual aficionados of bondage and sexual role-playing.

I'm not one of them. I feel more like an anthropologist sent to study the habits and rituals of some drastically different civilization. One where the people tie each other up.

Fetish Diva Midori, whom I guess you would call a sexual role-playing educator, has made a special trip to Fieldens where she brings out her ropes, puts participants in their place during role-playing workshops and is available for one-on-one questioning.

A muscled and shapely woman clad in a green strapless dress that itself looks like a torture device, Midori sports severe bangs, studious-looking horn-rimmed glasses and a miniature silver high-heeled shoe dangling from her necklace. She distributes her collection of ropes and asks participants their feelings on the advantages of different types of rope, but first issues this warning: "If you don't give me my ropes back I will hunt you down and not be mean to you."

The first rope she passes out is cotton. "Can anyone tell me the advantage of cotton rope?" she asks.

A thirtyish-looking tall man in the back in a black leather vest replies matter-of-factly, "The knots don't slip."

Midori passes around several other types of rope - cotton, nylon and even bungee. She warns that some could irritate the skin. I wonder if that's a good thing or a bad thing to this crowd. "Climbing rope is great for full suspension and sculptured bondage," Midori instructs. "But it's not nice on the skin."

But in some cases bondage accessory selection can have unintended results. She warns her S/M students that the wrong selection of restraints could ruin an erotic situation.

"If you want someone firmly tied with a bungee …" she says, then makes a swinging motion with her hand. The audience laughs at the thought of this unexpected liberation.

At one point in the seminar, Midori asks the students if they want to join her onstage to act out some sexual scenarios.

One student - a compact middle-aged man in blue jeans — volunteers for on-stage role-playing. Midori brings this bad boy to his knees and puts his head in her lap, dominating him without the need for rope. The others watch studiously as Midori instructs them in how to heighten pleasure by making a man kneel.

While bondage is a physical act, the mind is at the center of all sexual play, according to Midori. She sees role-playing as more than just physical pleasure. It is an exploration of the self.

"Sex is not just about the genitals," Midori says. "I have to be introspective of the nature of my desire. I have to tap into my values and cultural history."

Now, my values and cultural history consist of Sunday school and "Schoolhouse Rock." I wonder what values and cultural history might have shaped a woman who uses a riding crop in the bedroom.

Role-playing is also another method of improving communication between people, Midori says.

"Sensual power exchange cannot happen without excellent communication skills and good manners," she says.

I immediately picture Dear Abby restrained with duct tape.

Bubbles, 27, an organizer of the event, is one of Midori's local students. She found her way into role-playing because the normal just didn't satisfy her.

"I'm a pervert," Bubbles says. "I happen to really love bondage. But I also love role-playing. I like interrogation scenes like the cop and the criminal where you try to get information out of a person."

Bubbles' boyfriend, Deuce, is there with her. Deuce has a tattooed neck, a carefully sculpted moustache and a ring that cuts into his chin. When Deuce met Bubbles more than four years ago this gentleman, who sports leather from head to toe, wears a Castro-looking flat-topped cap and chomps on a thick stogie, found someone with a similar take on private pleasures.

"I ran into her at a bar and talked just mad stuff to her," Deuce says. "I shocked and intrigued her."

Knowing that it takes only a few raunchy pages of Henry Miller to shock my own girlfriend, I wonder what it would take to shock Bubbles. Lightning, maybe?

Deuce says he also loves the role-playing. Three of his favorites are "abduction scenes, the Catholic schoolgirl and playing doctor."

Deuce works at a tattoo parlor, specializing in piercing. He sports several piercings himself, one in his nose. He says he's seen a big trend in nipple-piercing for both men and women.

"Some people want to do nipple-piercing so they can hang weights off of it," Deuce says.

But that, I presume, is another workshop

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