Are Toybags Necessary?

And now, a word from an old friend:

With all due respect, Mistress, do you really need all this stuff just to get off? And if so, what does it say about the role of industrial production in sex? How dependent are we on merchandise for human connection? How mechanized does sex need to be? (Zappa made fun of this kind of thing his whole career with constructions like the “mutant Gypsy industrial vacuum cleaner.”) Your catalog strikes me as little more than the plastic-and-leather underbelly of the James Bond movies or Playboy magazine, which also equate sex with shiny toys. Is the world of kink just another brand?

Whew. Good, tough interesting question from my old friend Clark. Like Clark Kent, he’s a mild-mannered reporter who secretly has superpowers. There are reasons Lois Lane smiles a lot.

The short answer is: No, I don’t need it all just to get off. The irreducible minimum is just myself and my imagination. The practical basics for two-person sex aren’t expanded much from that: I need my partner, plus a choice of my voice, lips, tongue, hands, or teeth. That’s about it.

But there are two very different problems behind Clark’s somewhat acid query.

One is about the toys and my attitude toward them. The other is about BDSM itself.

I’ll freely admit I posted that list partly in self-mockery (because it is ridiculous to carry that much equipment around), partly in pride. I’ve never known a Top yet who didn’t want to show off the toybag a bit. Partly it’s because most of the Tops I know (including myself) are geeks, and “Hey, look at this gadget” is an invitation to a primary geek social interaction.

Plenty of people have the Playboy/007 attitude Clark refers to: the idea that the toys themselves are more important than the human connection. I’ve always loathed that sort of materialist status-chasing.

I admit to a certain wry affection for the sweet little Goth kids who flaunt the look but don’t have the faintest idea what any of it means. Part of that feeling is based on amusement, part on knowing that a certain percentage of them are really kinky and just don’t know the words yet for what they crave. Anyway, 19-year-olds are allowed to have props. It’s part of self-exploration.

My toys are not props, nor are they status symbols. A brand-new flogger may excite me with the potential it evokes, or it may please the sensualist and craftswoman in me with fine balance, rich color, a smoothly braided grip, the luxurious thickness of its falls. But until I’ve used it, no toy is more to me than a thing made well or badly of leather, suede, steel, or wood. Afterward it is blessed by the use. These things become close to sacred because they are the symbols for the connection between Domme and sub, outward and visible signs of the inward intensity of experience within a scene.
So what’s the point of all the toys?

1. They’re fun.
2. They signal a serious scene.
3. Serious scenes are part of building the intimacy of the relationship.

Packing the toybag serves the same purpose in the kinky relationship that a dozen roses or a candlelit dinner serves in more vanilla settings. It’s a promise of attention to be paid, intimate secrets exchanged, passion aroused and sated. And yes, there are people who are so fixated on roses or paddles that they forget the person they’re with.

The toys and the play they signal strengthen the bond between Domme and sub. So no, they are not (for me) a barrier to intimacy, nor a substitute for it.

And that, neatly enough, leads to the hidden question. “Are the toys necessary?” means “Is the kink necessary?” — a question Clark is entitled to ask, because when I was 19 (but not a Goth — they weren’t invented yet) he and I were lovers. That’s more than two decades ago, but we’re still good friends. And he has to wonder how a woman who spent an entire summer fucking him with such verve and enthusiasm and inventiveness could have turned into a pervert for whom all sexual expression must take place in the context of a BDSM relationship.

Honey, I don’t know. I know that the craving was there, even then, but I couldn’t name it or admit most of it, even to myself. I know that when I was younger, it was a lot easier to keep different parts of myself in separate boxes. These days I can’t do that. I can’t let someone into my sexuality without letting them into my life. I need to trust a lover. And one of the things that I need from a lover is genuine recognition. S/he has to know who I really am before I can open myself.

Who I really am is a sadist, a playful, affectionate, passionate sadist who laughs while she hurts men or women to the point of tears. I don’t cause unnecessary nonconsensual pain these days if I can help it, but what I do with consensual pain turns some people green. Don’t watch if you don’t like it. What I do makes me come. It makes my partners come, too, when they’re done screaming.

Who I really am is a Domme, a woman who needs her lover’s willing surrender, who discovers and explores and *loves* all her partner’s darkness, who loves and accepts his shame, fear, self-doubt, who will force a submissive to her knees in an airport. I love taking a submissive to a physical and emotional point where they can’t even decide what to order in a restaurant. Yes, I always bring them back, but I cherish the confusion and weakness, the blurred enormous eyes of someone who is so deeply dived they don’t remember their own name.

Of course, I am more than a sadist, more than a Domme. I’m a writer, a reader, a baker of bread, a good and loving sister, a warm friend, a devout if unorthodox goddess-centered Christian.

It took a lot for me to come to grips with my own nature. I’m not willing anymore to make love with someone who can’t deal with that part of me. It’s too important. That is one intimacy that is always present, in the foreground or background of any sexual expression.

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