Chicago Rope has created this set of Conduct Guidelines to help members of our community better understand the environment we want to maintain at our events. Identifying and explicitly discussing the expectations that exist within our space serves three primary purposes: it provides guidance on how to interact with others, empowers our attendees to advocate for themselves, and enables those interested in our events to make informed decisions about participating.
We have separate Staffing Policies that outline additional expectations for Chicago Rope Staff Members. We also have developed an Incident Response Policy for receiving and responding to reports about incidents where a member of our community feels harmed or threatened. All of our policies are designed with the goal of maintaining an inclusive educational environment that is supportive to marginalized groups.
Respecting autonomy means allowing people to have a say in how they want to approach their interactions. It involves giving others room to feel, think, and act for themselves. We consider autonomy to be not just the absence of undue coercive pressure but also the ability for people to engage in the ongoing, interactive co-creation of their communities and their selves. We want to cultivate an environment where everyone can learn, grow, and flourish.
Behavior and communication that could be appropriate in one context might not be acceptable in another. Think about the context in which you are acting and allow it to inform your actions. We want all members of our community to feel empowered to identify and explicitly discuss contexts and the social expectations associated with them.
Part of being aware of context involves considering relative positions of power. Power imbalances are part of every interaction. Power can be both explicit and implicit. Explicit power involves acknowledged structural elements such as formal hierarchies, titles, and assigned roles and responsibilities. Implicit forms of power can include privilege accorded to those who are members of certain groups based on factors like race, gender, sexual orientation, ability, socioeconomic status, educational background, and others.
We aim to be more conscious in our understanding of how power relations influence our choices and those of others. Our approach to rope education is designed with an awareness of the ways asymmetrical power relationships can constrain or restrict autonomy, result in unintended coercive pressure, or cause harm in ways that might not readily be apparent.
An important step in addressing power imbalances is to listen to others. We cannot fully know the experience of another person. Often, the best resource we have is someone else’s account of what they’re feeling. Create space for others to speak by not monopolizing conversation or punishing others for expressing themselves. Take what you hear in good faith.
It is just as important to listen to yourself. Get in touch with how you are feeling. If something is bothering you, it’s alright to take a moment to think things over. If you feel something needs to change, advocate for yourself or seek help from others.
Listening is an ongoing process. Feelings and understandings can change, and people’s wants and needs can shift over time. Pay attention and check in when appropriate.
Be aware of those around you. Notice how your actions affect them. If the impacts of your actions do not align with your intentions, take a step back and consider the reasons why that might be happening. Think about what you could do differently next time. Be receptive to feedback and open to learning.
If you have questions, ask for help. Chicago Rope Staff are available to discuss any issues, questions, or concerns.
The following are a few applications of these principles in situations that are commonly encountered in our space.
Respect the autonomy our attendees have to determine their own identities. Take others at their word and refer to them using the language they request. It is not necessary to fully understand or agree with someone in order to treat them with respect.
We offer name tags with preprinted pronouns and request you use the name and pronouns specified by each attendee’s nametag. We also ask that you avoid language or behavior that is ableist, racist, sexist, homophobic, or transphobic.
Physical contact is often part of social interaction and is a requirement for tying with a partner. Approaches to and experiences of touch can be influenced by personal, contextual, social, and cultural factors. We spend a great deal of time in our classes teaching how to think about touch and how to recognize and respond to the impact our touch has on others. Because rope play often involves intimate situations where feelings around touch may be heightened, we request that you follow specific guidelines and practices for physically interacting with others at our events.
First, take steps to confirm that the scope and quality of your touch is understood and anticipated. The scope of your touch means how much and where on the body you will touch. The quality refers to the effect of and intention behind your touch. Rough, gentle, distant, friendly, and intimate are all examples of qualities of touch. Some common forms of touch in society, such as a handshake, have a generally expected scope and quality that determines the bounds of what is socially appropriate. Other forms of touch do not carry this kind of expectation and may require more explicit discussion or clarification about scope and quality.
Second, keep in mind that someone else’s experience or interpretation of your touch may be different than you what you intend. If you wish to touch others at our events, consider how your touch might make them feel before you act. Do not touch people in ways that you believe will be unexpected or unwanted. If you are unsure, it is better to ask first. If you don’t know someone, we ask that you request explicit verbal permission prior to touching them.
Because we all share the same space at Chicago Rope events, how we inhabit our space impacts other people. Be mindful of those around you and make sure not to enter others’ tying space. Respect the rules of the venue and return any materials you used during class.
At Chicago Rope events, we ask that all individuals speak and act on their own behalf. Those who are in relationships where they may choose to do otherwise are asked to set aside any protocols that could interfere with direct communication with Chicago Rope Staff or with other attendees for the duration of our events.
Chicago Rope is always happy when our policies, statements, and other written materials serve as a model for other groups. We share our published written work under a Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike (CC BY-SA) license. We grant permission to use any of our written material, in whole or in part, or to paraphrase our work, on the condition that Chicago Rope is credited as the original source. We also request that a link to the relevant page(s) on our website is included when a substantial amount of our material is used. Please contact us if you have any questions about using our material for your group.