Leather and Chains and Whips, Oh my! …… by James Buchanan

Leather and Chains and Whips, Oh my! …… by James Buchanan

James’ Buchanan’s post “I’m sorry but the safe word is not ‘I forgot the safe word’ – A bit about BDSM in Books” is the most popular essay on the site with almost 24,000 hits to date, so I’ve been trying to get him to write another article on this topic and at last he gave in – I guess he was sick of my begging and pleading. 🙂 Here’s James’ newest adventure where he teaches you about the heart of Kink.


“Look, Brandon, guys have been into this far longer than the Stockroom’s been selling gear.” Nicky slapped the canvas belt against his palm. “So shut up and stand up.”
~All or Nothing

BDSM Dungeon Equipment by David Shankbone

When most folks think of BDSM, some of the first things that come to mind are: leather chaps, handcuffs and assorted wicked gear. That’s usually conjured up in the setting of some bondage club/dungeon mash-up complete with polished floors and red painted walls.

I have never, ever been to a place like that. Don’t get me wrong, there are probably play spaces that come close to the elegant image that swirls through most books…that’s just not how the majority of folks experience Kink. Most people experience BDSM and the greater world of Kink as an intimate connection, as part of a relationship and in their own homes. Yeah, there are social settings. However, Folsom clubs and smaller play parties are all about show – the dress up party, where we all put on our best clothes and trot out our most expensive accessories to make everyone else jealous. That’s not the essence of “the life.” The fetish of the toys and clothing and play spaces seems to overwhelm most BDSM/Kink stories I’ve encountered. They become technical recitations of the HOW with no thought to the WHY.

The props outweigh the heart of the Kink.

When that happens you may (or may not) get a very technically correct story, but there’s no soul…no meat on the bones. It reminds me of the panel I just did at Authors After Dark and Bridget Midway was explaining how she does her research as an observer at BDSM play parties.

She is very interested in why people want to do it, how they feel as a Dominant or Submissive and what they crave out of it. However, she is the first to admit that she herself is not ‘wired for kink’; she doesn’t intrinsically feel the thrill, the turn-on of the kink deep in her bones like these players do which is why she tries very hard to grasp what they are feeling.

Now, Bridget understands the BDSM mindset because she interviews and gets into the headspace of practitioners…but it’s not her thing in real life. She can joke about the disconnect of what her mind is thinking and her body is doing. At the panel she gave us a very funny demonstration of how a person with no heat, no depth of craving handles a scene:

Bridget begins to flick her wrist, as though she is half-heartedly wielding a crop, rolls her soulful brown eyes to the ceiling and sighs. “Take it,” ennui oozes through her rich voice. More flicks of the wrist. “You’re a bad,” Bridget checks her watch, sighs and keeps flicking, “bad boy.”

Even though she doesn’t have that innate desire to practice, when she writes a story she can take the mindset and the heart of those who are into BDSM and connect it to their inner drives so that her characters have realistic motivations – the why they do the what they’re doing.

Unfortunately, with a lot of BDSM stories the disconnect between the explanation of a scene and the lack of the author’s understanding of the motivation of Kink overwhelms the story. It’s like reading stereo instructions.

The characters are going through motions.

They are not going through the emotions.

This, by the way, happens in real life as well. Kink positive author, educator and columnist, Midori has a rather funny post on the subject The Real Risks of Kinky Sex discussing how there is a trend towards very artistic, elaborate and highly technical BDSM scenes that leave the viewer cold. It is, again, all about the toys.

I’m with Midori on this. I would much rather read (or watch) two guys who are intensely into each other, the Dom biting, pinning and slapping the sub with nothing but his own body. Both of the participants so completely overcome with the energy of each other that they drown in their own senses. That is so much more exciting than a cold recitation of bindings and body parts.

There is only one piece of equipment that is absolutely necessary to any type of kink…the brain. Everything else is decorative icing on that cake.

Think about it. You’re getting undressed after a rough day at the office. Your partner is bending over unlacing his boots. You pull your belt out of the loops. The thought grabs you. You snap that strap of leather across his upturned ass. He yelps and turns with that look in his eyes. All of a sudden, the charge hits.

Before you know it, you’ve got his hands bound behind his back with his fucking wage-slave tie, his socks are stuffed in his mouth, your booted foot pushes his head to the floor and you’re wailing on those upturned bare buns with your belt.

It’s intense.

It’s sexy.

It’s hotter than fucking hell.

That is the essence of BDSM. Riding the wave of needs, desires and emotions. A raw, powerful connection formed through the trust that Kink demands of the participants. When you get too technical, focus only on the tools of the trade, that’s what gets lost.

While a trip through JT’s Stockroom’s pages of straightjackets, vampire gloves and electro-sounds (or for the less experienced kinksters The Pleasure Chest), can be fun, you don’t need any of that to enjoy a little bondage or pain play. If you want to do some impact play but you don’t have any paddles about, I suggest a rummage through your kitchen drawers for a wooden spoon. The sudden impulse grabs you to tie your lover up, then pull a scarf or tie out of the dresser. I messed up my back and hip last year and my doctor gave me a TENS Unit…it is amazing how much fun you can have attaching those electrodes to just below the head of a cock and on the taint behind the balls – yeah, it’s fun. [A small word of warning, electroplay is something you really need to educate yourself about if you’re going to do it; like don’t place an electrode patch on the chest—Russian-roulette with your partner’s ticker, not so good an idea.] But fun, spontaneous Kink is about thinking outside the box and often repurposing items. Take it easy as you’re learning how to handle the “toys” and what they actually do to a human body. Education combined with imagination opens up a realm of possibilities for very intense experiences.

I do have a very nice toy chest: it’s cedar and I’m sure the little old lady I bought it off of had no idea what I’d be storing in it instead of quilts. Handcuffs, slings, floggers, and collars of various types make up my rather extensive collection. All those things are nice, but they’re not my favorites. I have some very nice paddles – because SG makes them for our use. And I love using them on him because they were crafted by him for me (well, for himself really, but that’s another topic). They represent this emotional bond we have with each other, his trust in me to “hurt” him without “damaging” him, and in our mutual enjoyment of S&M.

And that is the very essence of Kink.

However, some items do make practicing whatever flavor of Kink you enjoy much easier. These are things someone relatively experienced would likely have around. Remember, with big items there’s one overriding concept: CAMOUFLAGE. Most folks, myself included, do not have the wherewithal to devote an entire room of the house to a sex dungeon – and even if I could, explaining it to the spawn when they inevitably found it…yeah, no.

A private space: That private space can be your living room, your bedroom or an enclosed garage. It just needs to be someplace where you can do what you want to do uninterrupted. If you live in an apartment that may mean that gags are a requirement. In fiction and in real life you need to think through the consequences of whether people can see or hear you doing “your thing” because neighbors are nosey and having to explain why your partner is tied up with welts across their butt to the cops just ruins any scene.

The bed: While sex doesn’t always take place as a mattress dance, you’ll probably want some kind of bed in your play space. A four-poster or wrought iron bed is a good choice, although you can attach restraints to a “Hollywood” bed-frame. There are also tie-down systems you can buy that slip between the mattress and box-spring of any conventional bed. The right bed makes things so much simpler and the relatives just see it as décor. They don’t have to be expensive. I got mine for $200 at a thrift store. I saw it leaning against the wall, unassembled and recognized the possibilities. ~yes, that is my bed.

A toy chest: Which does not have to be a chest. I have a chest, a large cedar one, because I have a lot of toys. Prior to that I had a duffel bag and, once I outgrew that, I upgraded to a suitcase. At various times both lived either under my bed or in the closet. Again, since most of us practice in our homes, you don’t want your great aunt Martha stumbling onto the 20” monster dildo under the bathroom sink – and you know, there is someone who will snoop there. So, most Kink positive folks, real or fictional, have a drawer, a bag or the upper shelf of the closet where the “fun” stuff can disappear when it needs to.

Beyond that…what you need is whatever turns you on. BDSM and the greater realm of Kink is about what connects you to your partner. Whether that’s silk scarves and candles or sensory deprivation hoods, puppy chow and rubber sheets…that’s all up to you. There is no “one size fits all” in Kink. I don’t care whether it’s in real life or in stories the participants should do what feels normal, natural and sexually stimulating to them. Doing it (whatever form of “it” you’re doing) just for show is not satisfying to either the participants or those living vicariously through them.*

Keep it real. Keep it fun. And, dear God, don’t take yourself too seriously…

*– Well, unless that’s your “thing,” but voyeurism and exhibitionism are kinks all unto themselves and a whole ‘nother post.


  • I’m just now getting into this type book and the more I read, the more I am interested in it. Surprising myself, I find that I am tending to be more dominate in bed and I like it. I like popping him on his ass with my hand. Of course, no matter how hard I slap his butt, I end up only hurting my hand, his cheeks don’t even begin to get red, it’s the indian in him, doesn’t bruise hardly at all, not that I would want to leave a mark.

    • Paddles. So much of a saver on your hands.

      I mean the smack of a palm against flesh is great, but it does wear you out.

      I so like the one SG crafted for me which I call the “fly swatter,” (yeah not a sexy name) but a long handle that you can get a two fisted grip on and still have a few inches, with a hand-sized head drilled with holes. You can really get a nice swing on that baby…

  • Great article, James!!

    I like the spontaneity of bdsm scenes in a book and a sense of belonging, a sense of the who and why, though without it being spelled out. (am I still making sense?)

    as for DIY … inner tubes of bike tires are great to make your own whip 🙂

  • **crush sigh** have i mentioned how much i <3 you, james? thanks for a positive, informative and well written post!


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I live in Canada and I love big dogs, music, movies, reading and sports - especially baseball
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