Longform

Tie Me Up, Nawashi

Page 2 of 5

Or are shibari practitioners just a bunch of kids exploring their identities?

Lochai's art earns him a small amount of revenue from book sales and photo exhibits. The women he worked with during the several weeks that New Times watched him bind models didn't seem to mind, let alone call him a sadistic creep. In fact, many proclaimed that they enjoyed it — especially those who live the S-M lifestyle.

"They have a master/servant relationship at all times," says one self-described "top," whose girlfriend, Paige, is one of Lochai's most pliable models, with a high tolerance for pain. Adds Mr. Top: "And it's not a playful thing. It's more a spiritual thing. It's really about fighting through the pain to find the pleasure."

Paige "knows where she's going with it," says her boyfriend. "We don't go suspending each other at home." With Lochai, whom they consider a "professor," there's little risk of injury.

Although it's not often that things go wrong, they sometimes do.

"In my personal experience," Lochai says, "the most serious injury has been some minor burns and passing out because of people not eating properly before being tied. On occasion, you do hear of someone getting hurt. There was a person here in Florida who was dropped out of a suspension because of faulty hardware used to support them, but they were good to go within a half-hour of the fall. I also witnessed a person in a self-suspension who dropped themselves on their head because they let go of the support rope without tying it off."

Lochai, of course, seeks to avoid anything similar.

Though the successful Palm Beach County real estate agent (who wouldn't allow his boring vanilla name to appear in print, insisting upon his Dungeons and Dragons-derived nom de guerre) is making stacks of cash at his day job, it's clear his hobby is where his heart is. He won't get rich tying up gorgeous women, yet he's more passionate about that than he is about the three closings he has coming up next week.


Rope-play is part of Lochai's routine love life. On a recent dark winter evening, he and his fiancée, Janice, are hanging out at the Lifestyle Alternative Centre, a 4,300-square-foot warehouse in a lonely industrial section of Lake Worth. Inside, the carpeted "green room" area is homey and comfortable. It's almost like a waiting room in an office, with a VCR/DVD and TV set, only with movies like Punished and Hotel Derriere.

Pretty 25-year-old Janice's ankles still bear red marks ("trophies," Lochai calls them with a chuckle) from a play session hours earlier. The reddish imprints look almost like a henna tattoo.

"We used some Japanese imported hemp rope this morning," Lochai says as Janice smiles coyly.

Both she and Lochai are accomplished "riggers" — those who prep models for bondage-themed photography — and Janice is also a makeup artist who helps with photo shoots. Today, she's "demo-ing" — being used as a shibari subject.

Lochai unzips a small black suitcase, and coils of rope tumble to the floor. He picks one up and snaps it taut between his hands. The first noticeable facet of the fancy, $3-a-foot rope is its powerful scent — a grassy, earthy, barnyard smell like a stable or a hayloft. Lochai looks pleased. "That's a fresh batch," he says.

He shoots Janice a look, and she pulls her black dress above her head. Demonstrating another version of the shinju, he soon has his beloved standing at attention with her arms lashed together behind her back and her breasts pointed like projectiles in front.

Janice isn't shy about admitting her love of being tightly bound. "Yay, bruises!" she says when a few are pointed out on her buttocks. "You could just tie me up and leave me in the corner all night!" When she's losing control, letting the bonds place her into a sexualized headspace, she describes it as "when Alice went down the rabbit hole."

Paige, who has also spent time tied up in ropes in front of Lochai's lens, says bondage and suspension are like any other physical exertion. "For me, I just happen to like the fact that my physical realm is taken away, and it allows me to find that place, the place that's closer to whatever faith or belief or spirituality or whatever you have. That inner peace."

Although some of the positions she finds herself in are painful, "you just have to breathe through it and deal with it," Paige explains. "Then it's nothing; it's like a self-accomplishment. I feel good I was able to move past physicalness. It calms me."

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Jeff Stratton
Contact: Jeff Stratton