by Lauren Smart
He loops the mustard yellow rope into knots, strong fingers pulling it tight around her skin. One hand grips her shoulder, the other drapes the rope around her chest, pulling it into the first of several harnesses for a full-body "takate kote." It's taken him years to master box-tie suspension, and women like Cherise come here to learn, to spend an hour in someone else's control, hanging from ropes as their body drifts into a zen-like state of numbness.
"We never have sex," says DallasKink, a local rope maker and bondage instructor. "People come here in couples or single to explore things they're curious about or to learn how to tie each other up, and I'm happy to teach them."
Cherise is an average working mom with a day job in marketing and what she describes as a "vanilla life." She invited me along to watch her get tied up, to open my eyes to the sensual lifestyles that exist alongside the rest of Dallas. Her name, of course, is not Cherise, just as no one has ever named their child "DallasKink," but anonymity is vital for keeping their daily lives intact.
"America is still very conservative, and a lot of us could lose our jobs if we were publicly interested in these things," she says. "I'm balancing two different lives. Sometimes I think it's shame they have to be disconnected because the bondage community is certainly not as dark as people are led to believe."
Cherise says she also once assumed the community would be filled with Slipknot music, ass-less chaps and giant whips. Certainly Hollywood depicts the world of sexual dominance as savage and dangerous, but Cherise found the Dallas community to be respectful and welcoming of her exhibitionism and rope fantasies. And she found a teacher in DallasKink, who emphasizes safe practices and the importance of trust.
"My first rule is no neck," DallasKink says. "When you're playing with ropes, you never tie anyone up by the neck. That's when things get dangerous."
Such conversations about safety and proper technique became the inspiration for Bondage Expo Dallas, which was created by DallasKink last year. Now an annual event, this weekend-long convention take place April 25-27 at the downtown Crowne Plaza and runs the bondage gamut, teaching beginner techniques to the eager 50 Shades of Grey reader and heightening the practices of the hogtying exhibitionists. Bondage masters from across the globe visit the expo to discuss the distinction between torture and applied pain, or the psychology of predicament bondage, which embarrasses or humiliates its subject to fulfill unrealized desires.
For outsiders, understanding this need for mental fulfillment can be an entry point into an otherwise unfamiliar fetish. For many people in the BDSM (bondage, discipline, dominance, submission, sadism, masochism) community, there is an inextricable link between their childhoods and their desires. This may sound perverse, but research demonstrates that latent desires, thoughts or interests in childhood spur sexual adult behavior. Unsurprisingly, Sigmund Freud gave the first detailed psychological reports of these behaviors, pointing to a child witnessing adults having sex and projecting a scenario of one adult controlling another onto the scene.
"They inevitably regard the sexual act as a sort of ill-treatment or act of subjugation," Freud wrote, in an essay on theories of sexuality. "They view it, that is, in a sadistic sense."
In his studies on the topic, Dr. Charles Moser of the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality in San Francisco finds the motivations for kinky behavior to be incredibly diverse. But his findings echo the sentiments of DallasKink, in that while the scenarios lead to intensified sexual fulfillment, they create catharsis rather than orgasm....