Ten Things a Collar Can Mean (But Doesn’t Have To)

Mr CK and I recently had a discussion about collars – specifically, whether there was any context in which either of us using a collar in kink play with somebody else would ever be okay. (This is, and currently remains, one of my absolute bottom-line boundaries – seriously, that limit is so hard you could etch it on a diamond).

A black collar lying on a white bed, for a post about collars sponsored by Taboo Brighton

After a while of unproductive discussion, we realised we were talking past each other for a simple reason:

We both understood what we were talking about in completely different ways!

To him, a collar essentially means very little. He considers it a piece of equipment, no more inherently meaningful than a length of rope or a paddle – useful as a way to, say, move someone around or immobilise their hands by tying them to it, but that’s about as far as it goes.

To me, a collar means everything. I don’t do 24/7 D/s dynamics any more (for good reasons) but wearing a collar for someone is still a profound display of love, trust, vulnerability and – yes, even for a limited amount of time – giving myself to them completely. For me, my primary partner collaring someone else would be a betrayal akin to putting an engagement ring on someone else.

We were elightened by this realisation, but remain unable to completely reconcile our massively different views on this topic.

But it got me thinking about all the different things collars can mean, and not mean. A simple band of leather (or stainless steel, or faux leather, or whatever) can take on so many different significances. Here are some I thought of, though I am sure there are many more.

A lifetime commitment

This is perhaps the closest to the “a collar is an alternative to a wedding ring” school of thought, to which many kinksters ascribe. For people who feel this way, a collaring – whether with a formal ceremony or not – is as significant as a marriage. I very much felt this way when I was collared to my ex.

Permanent ownership

Not everyone who wears or gives a collar views it as a symbol of ownership or ascribes to an “owner/property” dynamic, but many people do. In this kind of permanent D/s relationship – which may also be romantic or not – the collar can serve as a symbol, marking the submissive out as property of the Dominant. Many people in these types of relationships will use collars that lock and cannot be removed without the key. (If you do this, please, please give your submissive a spare key in case of emergency!) Some even go as far as to get a body modification, such as a tattoo or piercing, in place of or as well as a more traditional collar.

Remember: ownership (of whatever kind) does not necessarily imply monogamy. Polyamory can absolutely be a part of a D/s dynamic.

Temporary ownership

This is perhaps closest to the way in which I think of collars these days. I do not wish to be permanently owned by anyone – but I find enormous comfort, meaning, and hotness in giving “ownership” over me to my partner for a limited amount of time (usually a scene, sometimes an afternoon or day, occasionally up to a weekend). In this type of non-24/7 D/s dynamic, the collar serves as a symbol of going into and then back out of that headspace. When it goes on, I am his property. When it comes off, I am me again.

Connection and closeness

I heard this one a lot from people in long-distance relationships when I threw this question out on Twitter. Wearing a collar can symbolise closeness and connection to your partner, and even a sense of being “with” them while apart.

Consideration or training

There’s a certain school of thought on collaring that has submissives wear a “training collar” or “collar of consideration” for a period of time before being formally taken on as a submissive (at which time they would receive a permanent collar). Many people who view collars in this way describe a collar of consideration as the D/s equivalent of an engagement ring, and the permanent collar as the wedding ring.

A way to get into a headspace

When Mr CK and I go to an event together where I’ll be in the submissive role, often one of the first things he’ll do on arrival is put my collar on me. Kneeling in front of him (or even standing with my head bowed and moving my hair out of the way) while he puts it on is an almost instant subspace trigger for me. This seems to be a pretty common experience – with the collar, you also “put on” a certain role or headspace. Similarly, a pet play enthusiast on Twitter told me that putting on their collar is how they quickly access their “pup” headspace.

Leave me alone, I’m taken!

When I was in a 24/7 D/s relationship, my partner rarely came to events with me. As such, I was usually attending with friends without a partner in tow. Often, I’d be the only person not visibly partnered in our group. So wearing my collar was an easy way to signal “not available!” It worked… sort of. I definitely got significantly less unwanted attention when wearing it (and yes, I did an experiment). Unfortunately, it also led to some comments implying that if he wasn’t physically with me, I was available for any random Dom who took a fancy to me.

Nothing, it’s a tool like any other!

This is the version Mr CK most closely ascribes to. In this schema, a collar is there for what it can do rather than what it means. For example, he’s had me wear an anal hook to an event and then fastened this with rope to the back of my collar. He’s also clipped my cuffed hands to the ring at the front of my collar to immobilise me. There are dozens of ways that a collar can simply be of practical use as part of a bigger scene.

Nothing, it’s just for decoration!

Collars look pretty! I have one that, though I adore it, doesn’t have any particular meaning as part of a relationship (it was given to me as a freebie to review). I sometimes wear it out and about, just because I think it looks pretty, complements my outfit, or subtly flags me as kinky. Which brings me on to…

Flagging kinky in public

“Flagging” originates from the “hanky code” of the 1970s US gay and bi male scene, where coloured handkerchiefs placed in certain positions indicated interest in various sexual practices. Thus, it refers to using outward symbols to subtly indicate your proclivities to other interested parties. There are any number of events where it’s safe to assume many of the participants will also be kinky, but not all of them will be. (Think gay and bisexual community events, goth clubs, geek/sci-fi events, Renaissance Fairs and so on). For me, wearing my collar signals that I am a kinkster and invites other kinksters to come and make friends.

Do you wear a collar, or does your partner? What does it mean to you? Comment below or tweet me – this topic is so fascinating to me in sheer variety alone.

The Taboo Brighton Logo

This post was sponsored by the good folks at Taboo Brighton. Taboo launched in 2003 and has established itself as a genre-defining Brighton retail experience, winner of the “Best Sex Shop in the UK” at the Erotic Trade Awards and once described in The Guardian as the “Dolce and Gabbana of Sex Shops”. It has also featured on many TV shows including C4’s Sugar Rush, The Sex Inspectors and the forthcoming documentary The Family Sex Shop Business. I love checking out Taboo whenever I make it down to Brighton, but you can browse and shop their whole extensive collection online. All views are, as always, my own. 

Sexting is a Real Sexual Relationship

A computer surrounded by mobile phones and with a red bra discarded over it. For a post on sexting.

When I was seventeen and we had not long moved in together, I caught my then-boyfriend sexting online with a random woman he’d met on the internet. We were, at the time, in a monogamous arrangement – and to say I was livid doesn’t cover it. I absolutely considered it to be cheating. (This is to say nothing of the fact that they’d been planning to meet and have sex, and only didn’t because I found out before that happened.) But the point is that I considered the online sexual relationship – in and of itself – to be a sexual relationship, and therefore a violation of the boundaries of a monogamous relationship. Of course, every relationship is different and if both parties agree a little digital flirtation is okay, more power to them. But there are certain things that are assumed to be off-limits in a monogamous commitment, unless very explicitly negotiated otherwise.

I stand by my assessment (of those activities as cheating) to this day, some decade and change later. This is because I completely believe that sexting, cyber-sexing and other forms of exchanging sexually explicit content online is a form of sexual relationship. It might not involve physically being in the same room or rubbing genitals together, but it is sex nonetheless.

My relationship with Mr CK began primarily online, as we lived 100 miles from each other. As we tried to work out what we felt for each other and what it meant, we texted day after day and sexted, cyber-sexed and exchanged filthy pictures and videos by night, until we reached the point that we simply had to see each other in person. But by the time we took it “real life,” not only were we already in love but we already had a pretty decent understanding of each others’ likes, dislikes, kinks and curiosities. Such is the power of digital sexuality.

“It’s only online!” I hear this all the time. I hear it from people in ostensibly monogamous relationships who have been caught having illicit cyber-sex behind their partner’s back. I’ve heard it from people who are trying to convince themselves they’re not really into that person they have been swapping naughty messages with every day for weeks. I even said it myself, when I was trying to deny the fact that I was fast falling in both love and lust with the man who blew up my phone with sexy texts multiple times a day.

We live in a digital world. There’s no getting away from it. Whether you’re keeping in touch with your long-distance sweetie via naughty Skype chats, booking private shows with your favourite cam models on Chaturbate, or using sites such as freesextingsites.com to find sexy chat partners, the vast majority of us have engaged with our sexuality online in some form or another. I would venture to suggest that the vast majority of adults around my age have nude pictures – their own or someone else’s – lurking on their phones.

Personally, I think sexting and cyber-sex are brilliant. Many of us have partners who live a good distance away from us – a different city or a different country – which makes regular in-person sex impossible. Online sexting is an amazing way to keep the spark alive in those relationships.

But it has benefits for those of us with more local partners too – even partners we live with. Have you ever received a steamy sext from your partner in the middle of the day, and then just wanted to go home and rip their clothes off their body for the rest of the day? Exactly. And if you’re very busy, or one of you has an illness or injury that is making a physical sexual relationship difficult or impossible, a virtual one can be just as satisfying.

Crucially, I think we need to move away from viewing sexting or cyber-sexing as less “real” sex. There are infinite ways to have sex, and as sex positive people we’re trying desperately to move away from the narrative that sex only “counts” if a penis goes into a vagina. I propose that we also move away from the idea that virtual expressions of sexuality are less valid, less real, or count less than in-person encounters. Let’s stop devaluing sexting and embrace it as one of the infinite possible ways to express delicious, hot, consensual human sexuality.

FYI: this post was sponsored. All views are, and will always be, my own.

Great Reasons to Try Chastity Play

What do we mean by chastity play? Broadly speaking, it’s a form of kink play where the submissive abstains from orgasm – and sometimes from any form of sexual contact – for a period of time as determined by their Dominant. If you’re not currently in a relationship, you can also play with it by yourself, of course. This might or might not include the use of a physical chastity device such as a cock cage or chastity belt. It’s also sometimes referred to as orgasm denial, orgasm control, no-touch, and other variations.

A chastity device for a penis. For a post on chastity play.

So what are some great reasons to give it a go?

It’s a great way to enhance your submission/Dominance

Giving someone control over your sexual release is, in some ways, the ultimate surrender. Whether this involves handing over the keys to your chastity device to a “keyholder”[1] or simply pledging not to touch yourself until given permission, needing someone’s say-so to experience pleasure and orgasm is likely to make you feel submissive to that person really quickly! And for the Dominants amongst you, having someone’s release at your mercy is awesome. Hearing them beg for it is a hell of a power rush.

The eventual pleasure is so much better

When I’ve been denied for a period of time, the eventual orgasm is just so much stronger and more satisfying. A bit like that first bite of your favourite meal when you’re starving hungry, an orgasm after a period of chastity is like no other orgasm you’ll ever experience.

It keeps your mind on your service even as you do other things

Going about your day to day life and feeling your chastity device under your clothes or just remembering you’re not allowed to touch is a great way to feel connected to your Dominant and to your feelings of submission, even when you’re not actually playing.

It’s really fun for long-distance relationships

If you’re long distance, you might wish to implement a rule such as that the submissive is always in chastity when not with the Dominant. A less extreme but still fun version is only allowing your submissive to masturbate and orgasm when on the phone with you. Or you could play edging games on the phone, only to lock your poor submissive up again without release at the end. The possibilities are endless, and playing with chastity is a great way to feel close when you’re apart.

Pleasure can act as a motivator

Are you trying to train your submissive and instill desirable behaviours (or break problematic ones)? Chastity can be a great motivator! Perhaps they only get to touch themselves if they drank their 8 glasses of water today. Maybe you’ll only let them orgasm after they’ve got all their writing done. Or perhaps they get an extra day in the belt for every day they forget to eat breakfast. I’m a big proponent of using kink as a tool for self-improvement. Release-as-reward is one fun way to play with this.

Do you play with chastity? What do you love about it? Tweet me or comment below!

[1] A word of safety caution: ALWAYS keep a spare key where the wearer can access it if they need to. You never know when a medical emergency or similar may crop up.

 

Sex Educators You Should Know: The “Ersties” Podcast Crew

You guys might remember a few months back I introduced you to the wonderful Ersties Podcast, a smart, sassy and funny show about sex, kink, porn, the adult industry and more. Well today I am thrilled to bring you an interview with Lina Bembe, one of the team of badass women behind the podcast. 
But first, I wanted to tell you about a couple of my favourite recent episodes since I last introduced you to these amazing ladies.

Episode #7 is called “Self-Love, Sex and Magic” which brings together two of my favourite things – sex and magic! Sex is, really, its own particular kind of magic when you think about it, isn’t it? The team discuss sexuality as a form of women’s power, which has terrified men for centuries – so much so that in time gone by, women who dared to be openly sexual opened themselves up to accusations of witchcraft.

Favourite quotes:

“Witches are in many ways the original feminists… the original sluts.”
“We need to get our vulvas together… we need some vulva action!”

The other thing I loved about this episode is the team’s discussion about coming out to their families as working in the porn industry. I won’t spoil the stories for you, but you should go and hear them for yourselves.

Their special guest is Vanessa Cuccia of Chakrubs, the world’s first crystal sex toy company (which, yes, is 100% a thing I want in my life.)

Listen here.

The ladies also JUST released Episode #9 which is on my favourite sexuality topic of all – consent! They discuss consent in BDSM, how to talk about what you want in bed, and what consent looks like on a porn set.

If there’s one, single message I want my readers to take away from my work, it’s that consent is everything. Consent is the beginning, the end and everything in between. The Ersties team delve deep into this complex and nuanced subject with honesty and insight.

Personally, I particularly appreciated the discussion of being in a sex work situation such as making porn, and not really feeling like having sex… but making the decision to consent anyway, in order to get paid at the end of the day. It’s such an important point that there are other good reasons to consent apart from “I’m extremely horny right this second,” and that this doesn’t have to be a traumatising experience. The key, they seem to be arguing, is checking in with yourself and making an informed decision to say yes or no in any given situation.

Favourite quotes:

“Ohhh, now she has to put her fucking fingers in my pussy and I have to pretend to have an orgasm…!”
“Everyone who knows me knows that [my favourite safeword] is brocolli!”

A must-listen for anyone grappling with the nuances of sexual consent. Which is ALL of us, because this shit is complex.

Listen here.

Right, let’s get on with my interview with Lina, shall we?

Amy: What made you want to start the Ersties podcast?

Lina: Paulita, Pandora, Olivia & I were already a sort of gang. We used to hang out a lot, crack jokes, go out and get crazy, and talk about sex and feminism basically all the time. So it was kind of a natural thing to pour all these conversations and the things we are curious about into a podcast format. These days anyone with a smartphone or computer and WiFi access can build a platform and talk about whatever topic they want. In our case, we felt we were a fun crew with good chemistry and important things to discuss and explore, so we just got a mic and started recording!

Amy: Which other podcasters inspire you, and why?

Lina: Tristan Taormino for her extensive experience and educational approach, Ron Johnson’s journalistic work for The Butterfly Effect, Sadia & Monty from BBC’s No Country for Young Women because of their natural style and emphasis on black & brown communities. My personal favorite is Tina Horn from Why Are People into That?!, always fun, unapologetic, politically relevant and raising the voices of fellow sex workers.

Amy: Oh, god, Tristan Taormino is my heroine! So which show do you always listen to the day it comes out?

Lina: Why Are People into That?!, The Cuntcast, Sex Out Loud, Sex with Strangers, Guys We Fucked, The Second Circle, Asa Akira’s podcast for Pornhub, and hopefully the next season of No Country for Young Women!

Amy: Some new names for me there, I’ll check those out for sure. What is the core message you want to get out with the podcast? The one thing you’d like listeners to take away?

A cartoon image of the Ersties Podcast crew speaking to a live audience.Lina: That sex and sexuality are incredibly important for our lives and that it’s crucial to have more unbiased, shame-free conversations about them. We have all been raised and encouraged to see anything related to sex as shameful, dirty, not worth discussing, but the consequences of doing so go a long way into affecting our emotional well being and relationships to others. Thus we need to find ways of reclaiming our bodies and sexualities, and we need to find people we can feel relate to in our journey. We don’t always have the spaces to have shame-free, honest conversations about sex in our daily lives, so we wanted to offer a channel for it with our podcast.

Amy: Preach! So what is ethical porn? What sets ethical porn apart from regular, run-of-the-mill “tube site” porn?

Lina: Ethical porn has two main dimensions. The first dimension happens on the production side, where performers and crew have to be treated with respect regardless of their origins or identities, with professionalism and with attention to their personal boundaries. Where everything discussed in terms of sexual health issues, types of sex acts, remuneration (or skills/content trade agreement), identity, privacy protection and distribution channels is transparent, respectful and agreed by the production company, director, fellow performers and everyone involved in the project. It’s basically playing by the rules,  respecting everyone involved in the process, and making sure, as a producer that you put together a team who are able to work under these ethical standards and understand their importance in both the project and the wider industry.
The second dimension of ethical porn falls on the responsibility of the consumer, when they pay for the content they watch or access the content in the way the producer or performer wants them to. Sadly enough, it’s quite normal for people to watch porn for free and to assume that’s the normal way to go about it – whereas they’re happy to pay for platforms like Netflix or Spotify. The stigma surrounding porn and the proliferation of tube sites (who offer plenty of stolen content) obscures the very elemental fact that porn is also a form of work and that there’s people trying to make a living out of it. Not paying for porn only contributes to the stigma, shrinks the diversity of contents and throws indie producers and performers even more into precariousness. I’d really, really love for people to understand that consuming porn in unethical ways affects everyone.
Amy’s note: I am in love with the Ersties porn site! You can support ethical porn, get access to tonnes of great content, AND send a little kickback my way when you buy an Ersties porn subscription from as little as $11/month through my affiliate links.

Amy: Who would be your dream interview guest on the podcast, and why?

Lina: As a short-term goal, I’d love to have Munroe Bergdorf as a guest. Every single word she says speaks in such a strong way against stigma, and pushes for diversity and real change on so many fronts –  as racism, transphobia, whorephobia, misogyny and so on. I’d love to hear her views on porn and what sort of narratives could make this industry more inclusive and less discriminative!
As a long-term goal: Rihanna! To me, she’s the best global scale example of what it means to be a powerful creature and being unapologetic about owning your sexuality. Plus she likes porn!

Amy: What’s your favourite sex toy?

Lina: Wands of all kinds, and buttplugs. Please don’t make me choose just one!

Amy: Oh, god, yes I’m a wand girl too. Wands are life. Anyway, what’s one thing you really wish people outside of it understood about the adult industry?

Lina: That this is a job like any other. The only thing that sets porn aside from other industries is the traditional shame we culturally attach to everything related to sex and sexuality. That’s incredibly harmful for how we all see ourselves as sexual beings and how stigma and discrimination can go a long way into marginalization and even the death of those who choose porn as a career. It’s time to press fast-forward to 2018 and leave this centuries-old, harmful, puritanical nonsense behind!
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Amy again! Thank you so much to Lina and the Ersties crew for taking the time to tell us all about their work and industry. I’m so glad they’re having these conversations – we all need to talk more openly about sex, porn, consent, sexual ethics and all these deep, complex, nuanced topics. Only by talking about these things can we bust the stigma and all enjoy safer, happier, more fulfilling sex lives.
Remember to check out the podcast! If you like friendly, informal dialogue about all things sexy, led by super smart women, you’ll love this show.
This interview was kindly sponsored by The Ersties Podcast. All views, as ever, are my own.