Finding Success when Shit Goes Wrong in a Scene

One of the most important things for me when it comes to rope is everyone coming away from the scene feeling like they were successful. This can be hard to achieve at times because shit goes wrong. Everyone has it happen, no matter how experienced you are. Bodies are unpredictable, something that was fine a year ago or a week ago or even yesterday might not be fine today. So these are the things that I personally do as a rigger to make sure that everyone has the best experience possible.

I start before the scene begins, with the way that I negotiate. I’ve written about how I negotiate before but I want to give a bit more time to this one technique that I use. I call it “positive negotiation”. You may have a different word for it but the concept remains the same. When bottoms are talking to me, a lot of them have the first instinct to tell me what they can’t do. While this is definitely useful information, it stems from a deficit model. Bottoms are talking about what they can’t do. I try to change the conversation to focus on what they can do and especially what they enjoy doing. This doesn’t mean that I service top (occasionally I do but it’s not the majority of time). Instead, I take the list of things that they tell me that they like and then I do what I want from that list. If a bottom tells me “I can’t do TKs”, I instead change the conversation with “What positions are sustainable for you?” or “What positions make you feel strong?” This immediately pushes the conversation into a place where bottoms are feeling more positive about themselves.

During the scene I do many different things to ensure success. Interestingly, I think one of the most useful things that I do, is actually go in without a plan. This is not something that I would advise for newer riggers but it definitely helps me. When I tie without a plan, it lets me keep as many options open as possible. That way, if my bottom starts having trouble, I don’t feel stuck in a pre-planned thing, instead I step back and look to see how to get them out of that problem. I am someone that if I have a plan, I lock myself into that plan and really struggle to deviate from it, so by tying without one, I feel more free and in control of the scene.

Another important thing that I do while I’m tying is to maintain a dialogue with my bottom. This doesn’t mean that we are chatting through the scene. That certainly happens sometimes but it’s not my preferred way to tie. Instead, it means that I am watching their body and their face and listening to the sounds that they make. I am watching and listening for changes. When I notice a change that is when I check in with them. A check-in doesn’t have to kill the mood of the scene. Instead of being abrupt and only when there appears to be a problem, I check-in with the mood of the scene. If the scene is quiet and calm, so is my check-in. If the scene is giggly and fun, that is the tone that I do it with. If it’s serious and painful, I change my wording to match that. If everything is fine, I keep going with what I was doing and check in again later using the same method.

If everything is not fine, I move on to my next method. If there is a problem, I immediately move to change the problem. If the bottom is able to articulate what and where the problem is, first I try changing the problem without major scene changes: re-dressing the wraps, raising or lowering a support line a little bit, or going through a position change to address the problem. For example, if a bottom is in a side suspension and their bottom arm starts going numb, I’ll usually transition them into an inversion to remove the pressure and then re-dress the wraps. Next I ask my bottom if that has fixed the problem. If it has, we keep the scene going and the problem is solved. If not, I move on to another technique.

If the problem isn’t solved, my next step is to bring my bottom to the ground and untie the problematic piece. While I’m doing this, I maintain the energy of the scene (as long as it’s not an emergency). This way, the untying process doesn’t feel like I’m disappointed in my bottom; instead, it’s just another part of the scene. After the problematic piece is untied, I check in with my bottom again. I ask “Are you done or would you like to keep going in a different direction?”. Whichever answer they choose is fine. If they say that they are done, I continue untying with the energy of the scene and the scene ends there. By maintaining that energy through the last rope, it helps the bottom feel like the scene ended naturally rather than because there is a problem.

If the bottom says they want to keep going, I keep going with them and just change up what I’m doing. For example, I was tying a friend and we did a transition. Her body moved in a way that I didn’t expect but I chose to go with it rather than forcing her to go where I wanted her. This led to the TK that she was in getting very pinchy. The first thing I did was to re-dress the wraps. It ended up not working, so I tried transitioning her to a position that unloaded the TK entirely and re-dressing the wraps again. It was still problematic, so I bought her to the ground and removed the TK, really maintaining that scene energy. After the TK was off, I asked her if she wanted to keep going. She did, so I tied an arms-front chest harness on her with the same energy the scene already had. This made it feel like it was a natural extension of the scene instead of two separate scenes. We kept tying for a while after that and then I naturally ended the scene. We ended up having a great time even though we had to make a big change in the middle.

There are a few other things that I do during my scene that seem to help keep things moving successfully. When my bottom tells me they are having a hard time, I ask a very important question. “Do you have enough time for me to make a position change to see if that helps, or do you need down now?” I always respect whichever answer they give me. If they need down now, I give them a reasonable time frame before I can unload the part that is causing them trouble. For me, it’s frequently less than 30 seconds but your time frame might be different depending on how fast you tie and how complex the system that you have up is. It is important to be honest with your bottom here because a lot of times, they will use that time that you give them to count down to help them process through. I also talk to my bottom through the changes. My voice, remaining calm (even if that isn’t how I am on the inside), helps them to remain calm as well. That can be the difference between panicking in the rope and getting them down in a way that allows them to continue playing.

These are the main things that I do in order to ensure success even through challenges during scenes. I think that it’s really important for everyone to make each scene as positive as possible. I have felt what it is like to feel like you’ve failed as a bottom and as a top in a scene and it is not fun. I hope that you can get something from this. Do you have any techniques that you use to maintain positivity and success? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!