When you combine art with bondage – you’re ‘bound’ to have a good time. Hailing from Japan, this centuries old practice intertwines sensuality, trust and creativity in mesmerising and extremely seductive ways. If you crave a parter that takes complete control, then Shibari could be for you. On the other hand, if you wish to be the one with the reins asserting full dominance, Shibari could equally be your new favourite practice.

Exploring the submissive and dominant roles with partnership in beautiful and intimate ways is just the tip of the Shibari iceberg. We met with Petite Pretzel, a professional Shibari superstar who knows more than a knot or two about the world of Japanese rope bondage . Originally from New York but residing in London since 2019, Petite Pretzel has presented her Shibari talents across the globe.

Who are you?

My name is Petite Pretzel. I teach and perform Shibari, aka Japanese rope bondage. I mainly teach in London at Anatomie Studio but rope has taken me all over the world: Denmark, Germany, Greece, Northern Ireland, Romania, Portugal, Sweden, Singapore, Spain, Thailand, the USA.

Mainly I perform with my romantic partner, Pen, and we teach together. Sometimes I work on music videos and films as a BDSM consultant. I’ve also worked on fashion photoshoots and art gallery installations.

Meet Shibari performer and teacher, Petite Pretzel.
Meet Shibari performer and teacher, Petite Pretzel.

How did you get into Shibari?

I discovered Shibari at Anatomie Studio after the breakup of a long-term relationship in 2016. I started going to munches (BDSM socials) and exploring the London kink scene. I became friends with an experienced domme, Lady Isla – and she asked me to come as her rope bottom for a workshop. I was instantly hooked. She’s still one of my best friends today.

Describe your first experience in Shibari.

I started in Shibari as a bottom and my first ever session was Lady Isla tying me for a suspension workshop at Anatomie. I remember being slightly nervous at first and then absolutely delighted. I don’t remember exactly who I tied first, sorry! I moved gradually into being a more top-leaning switch during the pandemic and now I almost exclusively top.

Why do you like Shibari?

Shibari is visually beautiful and technically complicated; there is always something new to learn. I’ve learned so much about anatomy and the human body, as well as about my own boundaries and desires. It taught me greater self-confidence, the ability to ask for (and get) what I wanted in my relationships, and a new artistic practice which I find deeply rewarding. Funny to think that bondage can be so freeing!

Kinkcurious? Read: 3 types of Shibari experiences in London.

How has your relationship with Shibari evolved over time?

I started out doing Shibari as a hobby and now that I’m a professional performer I have a much wider vocabulary of ties and transitions. I used to work in theatre, building props and sets, so I like to bring my theatre experience into my live performances. For the Fox and Badge’s December event Pen wore 7 ft wide wings and at the previous party in August our friend Ryan Crew built a UFO for us.

Petite Pretzel and partner, Penn performing shibari at a Fox and Badge event.
Petite Pretzel and partner, Pen performing Shibari at a Fox and Badge event.

How did you meet your partner and get into Shibari with him?

We met while working on a photoshoot: he was the model and I was the rigger. We basically fell in love immediately. I’ve always been sceptical of ‘love at first sight’ but now that we’ve been serious for a long time, I guess it really does happen. He’d had a little bit of rope experience but dating me has taken him straight down the rabbit hole.

Petite Pretzel's partner, Penn, mid-Shibari session.
Petite Pretzel’s partner, Pen, mid-Shibari session.

Is being a female rigger in Shibari challenging?

Absolutely. Not only am I a woman but I’m only 5 ft tall and I look like a teenager (probably because I’m half Filipino). When I used to teach primary school sometimes the other teachers would mistake me for a student. People usually expect my partner to be the top and they’re surprised that he’s the bottom. I have to project confidence immediately. I’m used to it now.

Do you have to be submissive to be tied and dominant to do the tying?

Not at all. For example, receiving a massage could be either dominant or submissive depending on how those two people choose to define their dynamic. I prefer to use the words “top” and “bottom” for that reason: they simply indicate who is giving and who is receiving the action.

What’s one thing about Shibari you think more people should know?

Rope suspension is extremely dangerous. You can have serious, crippling injuries and it can even be fatal. I’ve dislocated my thumb, had radial nerve palsy (which means you lose control of your hand) and I’ve cracked a rib.

I’ve written a longer form piece about this that was featured on FetLife: On performance and why Shibari is like falling in love. If you want to do rope suspension, you should educate yourself and be conscientious. If you go horseback riding, you should hire an instructor and wear a helmet. Shibari is the same.

What’s been your most favourite Shibari performances you’ve done?

My favourite performance ever was on New Year’s Eve 2022 with my partner, Pen, because it was when I realised that I was falling in love with him.

 

The moment Petite Pretzel fell in love, a Shibari performance in 2022.
The moment Petite Pretzel fell in love, a New Years Eve  Shibari performance in 2022.

What are your hopes for the future with Shibari?

I want to keep travelling and teaching, and I hope to be making more video tutorials. We are travelling to southeast Asia to visit my family in the spring and planning to teach in Singapore and the Philippines. I want more space for filming and teaching at home and London is extremely expensive, which means that I may have to move somewhere cheaper. Wish me luck!

 

Discover more about Petite Pretzel.

Find other BDSM experiences on Sensuali. 

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Drew

Drew

Author

Drew, aka Wise and Manly is a sexuality coach helping people to love themselves. As a bisexual man, he makes content about owning and embracing your sexuality as well as accepting your authentic self.


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