Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
Hello, fellow kinksters! I hope you had a great Thanksgiving break. I know I did! I spent last weekend a little tied up with an old friend, proving that sometimes we can’t mention at dinner all the things we’re grateful for.
Last time we spoke, Riley and I were about to hit up my side of the store – the BDSM section. Again, most of the toys were hung up on both sides of a large wall in the center of the store.
We started with impact toys. Traditionally, most impact toys are made of leather. However, vegan alternatives do exist! They’re often made of rubber or pleather.
“What are these?” Riley asked me. She was looking at a row of impact toys, all black leather, but each slightly different. I picked up a flogger and dragged its many ends across my palm. I told her that floggers are great for warm up because, when used with little pressure, they create a soft glowing type of pain; nothing too sharp. Cats (short for a Cat o’ Nine Tails, not the soft furry animal) are a type of flogger with nine ends instead of between twenty and fifty, and they bring on more of a sting. I hit my arm with one and showed her how, instead of leaving a slashmark, my skin simply started to glow red.
I picked up a whip next – a simple braided leather one, nothing special. “These leave stripes,” I told Riley. “They hurt a lot, even when you aren’t using them that hard, and if you throw enough muscle behind them, they can break skin.” I put it back and showed her a dragon tongue – a thicker type of whip that leaves less of a mark but has all the risks of a whip – before striking it against my forearm lightly to show her the strip of red. Then I showed her Quirts: shorter whips that begin as one piece but split off into three at the ends.
The third section on this side of the wall was a row of canes and crops. Canes come in a lot of different materials so that they can have different impacts: wood is hardest because it doesn’t bend, bamboo is flexible and has a little give. Crops have a bit of leather (or pleather, or rubber, or rope) on the end for a little bit more surface area. They sometimes are shaped into a hand or a heart, but are often just little tabs.
On the other side of the wall, we encountered a section of slappers. Slappers have a thick handle and a loop of material. Mine is bamboo, and it’s my favorite type of impact toy– I have three that differ in size. They leave a nice rounded welt and, because they’re loops, cut through the air more quietly, making them a great choice for a dorm room.
Paddles, which come in all sorts of sizes and embellishments, are a classic. They can be used to create anywhere between mild and intense pain, but, because of their surface area, won’t break skin. Paddles also sometimes have cutouts in them to leave shaped marks on the skin. I recently received one with PRINCESS cut out of it so that whenever it’s used, the word is temporarily branded onto my skin.
Riley and I wandered farther back into the store. Fetish-specific items had their own spot on the walls – pony play, medical play – but we didn’t look at those. Instead, I steered Riley over to the sensation play section of the store.
I briefly brought up sensation play in my first week. Sensation toys aren’t meant to cause pain, but are integral to BDSM play because they relate closely to psychological control.
Sensation toys can be anything and everything: the end of a braid, a feather, an ice cube, a candle, a water dropper, fingernails. The point of sensation toys when relating to pain is to create the same sensation over and over until it’s no longer bearable. Sensation toys can be used without the intention of causing any sort of painful mental state, but they’re a lot more fun that way. Sensation toys are also a great way to introduce toys into your sex life because you can use almost anything and because they’re relatively unintimidating.
Riley and I left the store with some new fun things to try out. Being there was almost as much fun as playing with the toys themselves! For all you Swatties, Passional in Philadelphia is amazing and has some really fantastic people who can help you out with any questions. And, of course, I’ll answer any questions you leave in the comments below!
Next week, we’re going to talk about The Talk – how to tell your partner that you want to bring something kinky into your sex life. Have a great week, everyone!
A quick note: Do NOT try an impact toy without going to a class. Classes exist. Whips, especially, are dangerous and can seriously injure someone. The internet is a great resource for finding classes and workshops, but if you’re looking for a recommendation, you can always leave a comment here and I’ll make sure to help you find what you’re looking for!