I entered first, slowly stepping into Lotus Blooms, a vibrantly-decorated adult shop in Old Town Alexandria, VA. Located next to a Thai restaurant, the store is so inconspicuous from the outside you would easily miss it if distracted.
“Are you here for the class?” the clerk asked chirpily from behind the front counter. “Yes,” I answered giving her our names, which she checked off a list. We followed her to the back of the store where she directed us to table with bottled water and an assortment of finger foods. Chairs lined in neat rows sat inches away.
As my partner and I turned to take our seats, we noticed a bright-haired woman sitting on the floor untangling colourful ropes spread around her. “Welcome,” she said beckoning us closer. “Take a seat anywhere. We will be starting soon.” Behind her stood a table with bondage books and mannequin torsos; the wall shelves were stocked with dildo mounts. I started growing anxious we might be only couple participating when others began to arrive. (Thinking of adding a sex toy to the bedroom?
A friendly exchange about Game of Thrones broke the ice for everyone before class officially began. During introductions, I realised I had been vague about our plans. I had signed us up for Tied Into Something Fabulous: Rope 2.0, but all my partner knew was that we were here for some type of couples sex class. As expected, he didn't flinch: He had always been open to my outlandish ideas. He was supportive when I took pole-dancing classes and any activity that might liberate me.
The class I'd enrolled us in was led by kink-aware sex educator Lauren Moore. Unlike the rope bondage depicted on television and in the movies—where a subject is gagged and tied to a bed, strapped to a chair, or cowered in a fetal position with their wrists and ankles bound—this class introduced seductive methods that require much more artistry.
Shibari is a Japanese rope-tying technique designed to appear beautiful and heighten the erotic experience. It is about creating compression in areas that increase arousal for the subject. The rigger, the person tying the rope, is allowed time to explore their partner's favourite erogenous zones. Every man in class was eager to learn a new technical skill. Who would not be excited by the idea of their willing partner tied, bound, and ready to receive sexual pleasure? We learned to make handcuffs, corsets, and harnesses used to intensify sensation.
At one point, my partner joined the other men kneeling on the ground to shape a rope into intricate loops that would be fashioned into a harness meant to hold a subject in place. Although my partner was in the more dominant position, I had to be an equal partner communicating what was comfortable or restricting.
Despite the public setting, everyone was intimately engaged with their partner—looping the rope under their arms, below their breasts, and between their thighs. The close proximity encouraged stolen kisses, and my partner placed several on my back, shoulder, and neck. I was pleasantly surprised that it was not awkward. We were too busy trying to follow instructions to worry about how silly we might look.
After class was dismissed, we circled the store and made note of a few toys we wanted to add to our private collection. We weren't sure that Shibari would become part of our routine, but we were intrigued enough to learn more. A helpful classmate pointed us toward an episode of Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown Tokyo, where Shibari was featured, which we watched days later.
I wish I could say the class revolutionized our sex life overnight, but that is not true. Shibari is a skill that takes practice, and rope bondage done incorrectly can lead to nerve damage and fatality. We're also the parents of small children, and something so complex might not be practical for us right now, but the class definitely served as a way for us to reconnect. It reminded us that sex can be a slow, deliberate, delicious act given the right amount of forethought. It reminded us that we can be parents and evolving sexual beings.
Since taking the class we haven't brought rope into the bedroom, but we are more mindful of being present and taking our time. And we still laugh about the experience, knowing it is one more in the lifetime of memories we are building. Though we may never be hardcore fetish converts, we would not hesitate to take another sex class that sparks our interests and desires.
This article originally appeared on Prevention US.