Invaluable tips on consent, switchy rope relationships, exhibitionism and the queer rope community.
Lief Bound is a full-time rope artist and teacher in Los Angeles who makes rope inspired art and has a puppy named Bamboo.
Wicked Wren [00:00:25] Welcome to the Shibari Study podcast. I'm your host Wicked Wren. Today I'm talking to my friend Leif Bound. Leaf is a full-time rope artist and teacher in Los Angeles, makes wonderful rope-inspired art and has a lovely puppy named Bamboo. Welcome Lief.
Lief Bound [00:00:42] Hi. Thank you for having me.
Wicked Wren [00:00:45] You're so welcome. So you've said rope is like a good glass of wine. It's as intimate as you want it to be.
Lief Bound [00:00:52] That's true. Yeah. Yeah, that's something that I've honestly said for a long time in my rope journey, because it is something that I would have, I could share rope with, like a lover and I can share rope with a friend. And it doesn't have to be anything more than intimacy. And intimacy is a broad spectrum of things.
Wicked Wren [00:01:18] Definitely. And speaking of intimacy, your partner, Icky, and you have been together for a long time.
Lief Bound [00:01:24] Yeah. We're actually coming up on three years. August 8th is our anniversary. I know, I know. Very cute. 08/08. Wow.
Wicked Wren [00:01:32] Wow.
Lief Bound [00:01:33] It's almost like we picked a cool date around the time that we got together, so it sounded cooler than it really was.
Wicked Wren [00:01:42] I love it. I have a lot of questions about you and Icky's relationship, but before we get to that, I want to talk a little bit about the beginning with you. You said one of your first experiences of bondage was being tied up with a jump rope as a kid.
Lief Bound [00:01:55] Yeah, that is true.
Wicked Wren [00:01:58] And then you entered the scene when you're 18 and you felt like you didn't fit in and you saw that you weren't tall and you're not white, and no one really cared about you in the back of the room while you were, you know, struggling to keep up. How do you think that things have changed in the past ten years?
Lief Bound [00:02:12] Well, when I first came into the scene ten years ago, it was very stereotypical. Cis man top, cis woman bottom. And the bottom didn't have an opinion and the man didn't really care about the experience of the bottom. And I even came into some classrooms where the educator basically would say that females are submissive, like they don't have a dominant quality. Like, that's where we were at ten years ago, where we thought that femmes were only submissive. So it was very hard for me to be in a room because I was either one, one was better than the other. The first option was I was completely ignored and I didn't get any help. Or the second option, which was my least favorite, is I got over, over help. Like the educator, over the man but the man would come up and be like, Let me show you how it's done. And back then, this was before I transitioned, so I was like presenting as a woman. And so, like, that was just really gross and weird, too. And it's actually what really inspired me to become an educator is because I wanted other people like me, other people that were not a cis man to feel empowered and to feel like they could do the thing and to be respected in a classroom setting versus belittled or ignored.
Wicked Wren [00:03:43] And you said that in teaching, you will overexaggerate the consent talks with Icky.
Lief Bound [00:03:50] Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. We kind of like in classes, we've been together for three years, so we know each other pretty well. But for the sake of classes, we definitely will overemphasize, like, Can I touch you here? Even though this is my partner of three years, I definitely know I could touch them there. But it's good to model for people like what good consent looks like.
Wicked Wren [00:04:11] Why is it important to model for people what good consent looks like?
Lief Bound [00:04:15] Icky and I in private worked really hard to have the consent that we have or in the practice in the way that we trust each other. And I think that if you don't see that hard work, it looks like it magically happened, which good consent and a good trust building does not happen overnight or magically. It is carefully talked about over a long period of time.
Wicked Wren [00:04:38] Can you give maybe one or two tips to move in that direction?
Lief Bound [00:04:45] Oh, my gosh. Yes. One of my biggest things and this goes for like literally kissing someone for the first time all the way to negotiating for a hardcore scene is ask. Can I do this? Even if you're like looking into that person's eyes and you know that they want to kiss you and you know you want to kiss them, just saying, Can I kiss you before you engage in something intimate builds that trust immediately. So that's my first bit of advice. My second is to be okay and say thank you to a no, because when someone tells you their no, that is trust. They are trusting you with a no. And that is almost just as good as a yes.
Wicked Wren [00:05:28] No's are almost more important than yeses.
Lief Bound [00:05:31] Absolutely. When someone tells me a no, I actually trust them way more than someone's like, Yes, do whatever you want.
Wicked Wren [00:05:36] There are a million different kinds of yeses. There's yes, maybe.
Lief Bound [00:05:40] Mm-hmm.
Wicked Wren [00:05:40] Yeah. Yeah. So with Icky, since you two have been together so long and you have a rope relationship, how do you juggle real life and rope and keep that fresh, not bring real life into rope?
Lief Bound [00:05:56] Absolutely. I will say, like, it's hard. When you are in a long-term dynamic with someone, especially if that person is also your live-in partner, it is hard. When you've got bills to pay, you've got a kid/dog at home, you have other things to worry about. It's not that life is always this (…), magical dynamic. And Icky and I are also switches. So there are times where I'm topping and there are times where Icky is topping. Because it's chaos in our house and we love it that way. So for us, Icky has a rope collar that they wear when we do rope things where Icky is bottoming. That could be a scene at home. But when we are at a convention per se traveling, they are wearing that collar the whole weekend because they are my rope bottom that whole weekend. So sometimes they wait for an hour for a scene and sometimes they wear it when they are in dynamic. And that helps a lot to kind of put it on a container. It doesn't have to be a collar, but just like maybe some sort of intentional ritual to separate, 'Hey, babe, I need to get groceries' from 'I would like to tie my, you know, my rope bottom'.
Wicked Wren [00:07:04] Yeah. Can you elaborate on the chaos of the switchy dynamic?
Lief Bound [00:07:09] Oh my goodness, it is chaos. I consider myself a bottom -eaning switch, which means that most of the time, for most things and most people I would like to bottom. But there are a few things, (…) or people that I really want to top. So for me personally and the way it works, rope almost all of the time I would like to top. There are a few people and circumstances where I do want to bottom for rope and I love bottoming for rope, but it comes few and far between. But when it comes for like impact or needles or other (…), I would like to bottom. Yeah, yeah. And for Icky, Icky is actually the kind of almost complete opposite, which is really great when we met because it works because they are a rope bottom, but they are like an impact in needle top. So when we work together and got together, we fit into each other's lives really beautifully. It doesn't always work so perfectly. But for Vicki and I, we just kind of went, Oh, oh, that works.
Wicked Wren [00:08:11] Yeah. How did Covid affect that?
Lief Bound [00:08:16] Oh, so it affected it a lot. It affected a lot of things. Being in isolation, especially as two people that practice (…) so publicly was really hard. One of the things that we discovered the hard way is that Icky is a true exhibitionist. So that means that when they are in rope and people are watching, they are able to be more present and they are able to take more pain and they're able to enjoy it more because the knowledge that someone is watching them, it excites them. They're a performer. They have a dance background. Same with me. I'm a performer. I have a dance background. So we really like a crowd. And when we were in private, there was actually a lot of anxiety that we had to work through where things that used to be so easy for Icky in rope would suddenly like they were, it was too painful and they needed to come down.
Wicked Wren [00:09:15] I've experienced the exact same thing as a rope bottom.
Lief Bound [00:09:17] Really?
Wicked Wren [00:09:18] Yes, fully. And hearing that actually gives me a lot of, I don't know, comfort.
Lief Bound [00:09:23] Absolutely. Yeah, no, pictures on the internet are deceiving. Sometimes we snap a picture and they're literally up there for literally under a minute. It is tough. The up-line, snap, snap, takedown. So it can be deceiving the Icky is like a tank or Icky can take all the things. Actually, Icky is not a tank at all, and they have very specific needs and very specific settings where they can sometimes maybe do the really hard things. But most of our rope is really gentle.
Wicked Wren [00:09:49] Yeah. Wow. That's really awesome to hear. How has that journey impacted you now that you can go out and tie in front of people? How has that informed it?
Lief Bound [00:10:00] It gives us a perspective and it makes us really appreciate the times that we can be in community. Because I know there are people out there in the world that don't have a community that they can go to at all. And if you're struggling with rope in private, you might be similar to Icky and I where being in community and being in front of other (…) that are enjoying watching what you're doing does something for you. I think it's also helped us navigate. So basically our solution to the pandemic because it was really long, right, or it still is really long. What did we do to solve that problem is we had to create an audience in the private, essentially. Like we had to create like some makeshift audience for ourselves. So a camera became the audience. So we would set up a camera and we'd be recording. And it definitely doesn't slap the same. It's not as exciting as like, strangers watching you in a dark dungeon.
Wicked Wren [00:10:56] Yes.
Lief Bound [00:10:57] But having some sort of onlooker, even if it's a digital camera, helps create that audience.
Wicked Wren [00:11:04] Going back to hearing a yes, hearing a no, when you're in public and playing with someone, a yes could be very different than being in private.
Lief Bound [00:11:14] Absolutely. I'm at the opposite of Icky. In private, I will be bottom for more things than I will in public.
Wicked Wren [00:11:21] That's so funny.
Lief Bound [00:11:22] Yeah, yeah, yeah. So I like the intimacy of knowing that only one person is watching me that I love. I can be more vulnerable and do more salacious things. Whereas like in public, I feel like I'm Lief Bound, I have to be a certain way and I feel this pressure to perform a certain way and do a certain thing. So I don't feel like vulnerability is as accessible.
Wicked Wren [00:11:46] And you've said that rope is where you found your power?
Lief Bound [00:11:49] Absolutely. Before I picked up rope as a top, I was a bottom for everything. Yeah. I really thought like, I was like a little femme bottom. I was like, I just, like, that's all I want. I'm just a little bottom.
Wicked Wren [00:11:59] You're telling me you're a fem bottom?
Lief Bound [00:12:00] I was at the time.
Wicked Wren [00:12:01] I don't believe it.
Lief Bound [00:12:02] I was a woman once. It happens, it happens.
Wicked Wren [00:12:04] I'm going to cut this part out.
Lief Bound [00:12:07] (Hysterical laughing). That's totally fine.
Wicked Wren [00:12:08] That's a joke. I'm not gonna cut it out.
Lief Bound [00:12:11] Cut it out, edit it in post. So when I picked up rope and I started tying, I found because I am five feet tall, I am quite small and anytime I would try to overpower someone before I found rope, it was literally impossible because everyone's bigger than me. And when I found rope, I found a way for me to not only overpower someone but lift someone, manipulate someone in ways that I didn't think were possible. And it made me feel strong.
Wicked Wren [00:12:38] Do you think that had a lot of carryover?
Lief Bound [00:12:42] I think so. I really think so. Yeah. It finally felt like something clicked and it finally felt like I was really good at something. It might be vain to say, but like, I really feel like I am supposed to be doing rope. Like that is the thing that I was meant to do.
Wicked Wren [00:12:57] I love that. You just started A House of Bound.
Lief Bound [00:13:01] I did.
Wicked Wren [00:13:02] Tell me about it.
Lief Bound [00:13:03] In feeling, in my heart that rope is the thing I'm supposed to do and in capitalism, you need a brand. So I had thought a long time, I'd always had dreams of opening up a studio. I took a lot of inspiration from True Blue, who opened up VoxBody and other incredible, you know, rope places around the world. But I wanted a space where I could have my own studio and I could have my own place where rope education could happen in a bigger grand scheme rather than me just going to cons and teaching a class here or there. And House of Bound actually comes from queer culture and house and ballroom culture. Yeah, so if you've seen Paris Is Burning, which is an incredible documentary. If you're watching this podcast and you're queer and you haven't seen Paris Is Burning, it is literally a part of our history and a rite of passage to watch it. It teaches you about the ballroom scene in the 80s in New York City. And not only that, but all the other things that queer people face in the 80s in New York City. It's basically queer people creating family. That's what it is. House of Bound is my family. House of Bound is who I hope one day, I will have people that will maybe take on the Bound name, right? Like I'm Lief Bound. Maybe I'll have some children someday. Maybe I'll become a father, I'll have some rope children, and they'll go out into the world. That's like big, big dreams, though. You know, I would settle for just having a place where people feel safe to come learn rope.
Wicked Wren [00:14:38] Why is it so important for queer and trans people to have the community like House of Bound?
Lief Bound [00:14:45] Because we're not safe or respected in most rope spaces. I mean, even in Los Angeles, California, which is seen as a very progressive place, I have been in the middle of a rope scene at a local dungeon. Like two years ago, so eight years into rope and someone stopped my scene to ask me if I knew what a safe word was. So, like, because I am not a cis man, I am immediately, my skill level and my integrity is questioned in non-queer only spaces. Unfortunately, that's just the truth. People look at me and say, Oh, I can't know what I'm doing because of the way I look or the way I'm perceived by other people. So having a space where it's not queer only, but it's queer-centered.
Wicked Wren [00:15:29] Yeah.
Lief Bound [00:15:29] Or basically queer-made, right?
Lief Bound [00:15:32] Yeah.
Lief Bound [00:15:32] It just functions differently, like and that's what I want. I want someone to look at my rope and judge my rope. I don't want them to look at me and judge me.
Wicked Wren [00:15:40] Okay. Question. If you were put in charge of a fictional rope association, what would be the first rule you would put into place?
Lief Bound [00:15:50] I think that there is no wrong way to do rope if no one is getting injured. I think that there is a lot of this way is the best way or this way is the true way of doing something. And to be honest, if the bottom and the top both come out of a scene feeling good and no one is injured, it is good rope.
Wicked Wren [00:16:12] Yeah. You've spoken about photo rope versus real rope and saying how there's nothing wrong with photo rope. There's just not a real representation of a scene or something like that.
Lief Bound [00:16:23] It's almost like a photo of someone dancing where you see someone in that full split in the air and their foot is in their mouth. But you don't know all of the steps it took to get to that shape. And that is the magic of rope. It's all the steps before that photo was taken. So if you've only seen photos of rope, you're seeing the, almost the height of the rope. But that's not where the magic is. The magic is in the details.
Wicked Wren [00:16:51] Talk to me a little bit about you and Icky's dynamic over time and how it shifted.
Lief Bound [00:16:57] Yes, it's shifted so much. I think that all long-term relationships have to be flexible for them to last. That is, there's this gorgeous, incredible quote that I'll never remember the entirety of it, but the gist of it goes, loving someone for a long time is going to a thousand funerals of their former selves. And in that means that things that Icky and I shared at the beginning of our relationship are no longer present in our current relationship or have shifted drastically. And that is something that there's been some mourning, right? There's been some miss. I miss certain parts of what we had the beginning of our relationship. But there are new things that are forming right now and things that have been staples from the beginning that I cherish way more than the few things that have gone or changed. And being flexible is a big part of being in a long term and I'll just say rope relationship, in general. Bodies change as Icky, and I change. The things that we could do when we were 24 and got together are not the things that we can do when we are 30. And I think also the concept of aging in rope is not something we talk enough about. It's such a young person's game that we don't talk about our aging bodies and how it affects us. So Icky and I actually all the time. And that's the other thing is talk about it again. I talk all the time about our dynamic, how things are going. We check in and we don't just assume things are the same or have changed. If you feel something's off, talk about it. Like don't sit there and go like, Oh no, oh no, something's changing. Just confront things and talk about it and be flexible.
Wicked Wren [00:18:43] It sounds very intentional.
Lief Bound [00:18:45] It is, yeah. I think Icky and I got together and we're very intentional people.
Wicked Wren [00:18:50] Well, what is next for you?
Lief Bound [00:18:53] I will be in Detroit in August at a really cool convention called Smirk. I will be going to Salt Lake in December and I will be going to Austin. I am sure you will see me around Shibari Study every now and again. And I'm also in Los Angeles, available for private sessions and lessons whenever you want them.
Wicked Wren [00:19:20] Amazing. And you're on Instagram.
Lief Bound [00:19:23] Liefboundropes with no spaces for now. We'll see. I also have a backup.
Wicked Wren [00:19:27] Check-in next week.
Lief Bound [00:19:28] Right? Exactly. Lief dot bound. We have a whole podcast on censorship. The best way to reach me is through House of Bound dot com. I have an email form on there and you can also check out my Etsy where if you search House of Bound with no spaces in the search bar, I will pop up and you can get tutorials as well as some really cool art I've been making lately.
Wicked Wren [00:19:51] The art looks so amazing.
Lief Bound [00:19:53] Thank you.
Wicked Wren [00:19:54] You're welcome. Well, thank you so much for being here. You're the best. You always make me smile.
Lief Bound [00:19:59] You're the best, too. Thanks for having me. And having amazing conversations with me always.
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