MAJOR PROJECT: Research // Kinbaku, Feminism and Aoi Kotsuhiroi

Photos by Amaury Grisel, sourced from Bondage is not a Crime Paris

Kinbaku is also known as Shibari, however shibari (or shibori) is a Japanese word that actually means a tying technique. It is known as an artistic and sexual way of exploring bondage and tying techniques. Kinbaku is not a violent or an aggressive act. It is sensual and stylistic. It involves a woman clothed or more commonly - unclothed being tied in elaborate ways with metres and metres of natural rope, bound, wound and knotted into tortuous configurations and often suspended above the ground.


"It is an intriguing art that involves different levels: physical, mental and metaphysical. For the Kizõshà (giver, donor, dominant, active partner) it is a balancing act, juggling with various different impulses. To the Ukétorinìn (recipient, submissive, passive partner - in Japan sometimes also called M-jo - "maso woman" - which can be anything from a female professional bondage model to a woman who just loves to be tied) it is the ultimate journey to paradise." Hans Maijer (2006)


Perhaps I am lightly clutching at straws, but I feel that in the above quote "balancing act" could mean more than just the physical idea of a strung woman, balancing on her newly formed shape. What if it means the bonding of a male and a female through art and sensuality. Sure, the woman is the submissive subject, but she also is the brave and open one to explore an art form with her own body, trusting the male on an equal level to turn her body into a canvas based on acceptance, trust and cooperation. In unison they become equal artists and performers. They are both held in a high regard. 


"That is exactly what you want to achieve in Japanese bondage - the battle between contrasts: beauty andfear, love and endurance, desire and despair, mental growth and humiliation, pain and lust." - Hans Meijer (2006)


There is a sense of empowerment in bondage. It is an empowerment that is extracted from sexuality. Maybe it is the idea of restriction and confinement that a woman really frees herself from the constraints of society, or develops a sense of reverse psychology - to be restrained, is to let go, freeing the soul, fighting personal demons. Maybe it is the woman becoming stronger and more aware of herself. 



"… there is clearly a pornographic (and sadistic/violent) element to Japanese rope bondage, but there is also a beauty and formality to it as well. It is understandable that cultured people should be attracted to restrained (and restraining) practices which create a tension between nature and discipline. " -Toshidama (2012)

"It is a complicated history of half truth and fact. Some people, feminists especially, will find the practice and depiction deeply offensive, others will see a discipline and otherness that they find inspiring and some will see a powerful sexual stimulus…-Toshidama (2012)

This is the point where I seek to look at an explanation as to why feminists can and should accept/respect the art of Kinbaku. It is ESSENTIAL to understand a woman's sexuality, even if it involves consensual submission to men through fetishism and BDSM. This is explained through particular avenues of feminism called Sex positive Feminism (also known as pro-sex feminismsex-radical feminism, or sexually liberal feminism) which I admit, whilst I am not surprised this type of feminism exists, I have never really looked this hard into the branches of the feminist ideology before. This idea of feminism aligns with my concept of liberating and empowering women very well. The reason why this is relevant for me is because I intend on using leather coiled around rope and using it as an interlacing method for wearable pieces. It can be used as a sign of liberation, consensual based BDSM and sexual freedom.

Of course it is very important to note that sexuality is not the only aspect of gender liberation. Women have alot of messages to share through feminism by offering skills of intelligence, ability, spirituality, compassion, leadership, discussion, peace, strategy and many more. However I feel it is important to note this as unmarried (or un-owned as I like to put it) women in places like India are being denied the simple rights of walking home with a trusted (also unmarried) male friend at night without being sexually assaulted, raped and beaten to death by a group of beast-like men.


Images above are courtesy of StyleZeitgeist and Aoi Kotsuhiroi

That is why the ritualistic art practices by Aoi Kotsuhiroi is very influential on my design aesthetic. Her work is expressive and sexual, with links to Kinbaku and can very much transform a woman into a fierce, menacing warrior adorned in natural wearables such as animal and human hair, animal hides, woods, bones, crystals and more. Her work transforms women into macabre shamans, priestesses and goddesses.



Bibliography -

Toshidama
Wikipedia - Feminist Sexology
Wikipedia - Sex Positive Feminism
Wikipedia - Feminist views on Sexuality
Wikipedia - Feminist views on BSM
Hans Maijer

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