Category Archives: Dom/sub

Financial Domination: Inside the Erotic Fetish That Controls Men’s Wallets

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A financial dominatrix rarely takes off her clothes or engages in sex. But she might have to talk a lot of shit about a client’s FICO score or let him listen in while she splurges at Saks with his cash.

 

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The first time Ceara Lynch dipped a toe in the world of sex work, she was 17 and a long way from home. A high school student who had grown up in the Portland, Oregon, area, Lynch was doing a semester abroad as an exchange student in Japan. She didn’t know the language, or anyone who spoke English. She was bored and lonely. So she did what people do now when faced with social isolation: connected with friends, and strangers, online.

“This one guy started randomly talking to me after he saw my profile on some site,” Lynch remembers. Though it wasn’t an adult platform, she explains: “To be straightforward: He was a big pervert.”

This stranger on the Internet had a host of fetishes—golden showers, pantyhose, you name it—stuff that seemed shocking at the time, though Lynch wouldn’t blink twice about anymore. He wanted to meet up; she said absolutely not. “I was young, but I wasn’t stupid,” she points out with a laugh.

When the man finally accepted that there would be no IRL meet-up, he asked her if she’d do something else: let him buy a bottle of her urine. At first she thought no way. But the more that Lynch considered the offer, the more she felt like, “What did I have to lose?” She packed up her pee and sent it away to the address he provided. Two weeks later an envelope arrived in the mail—containing $250 cash. That’s when she recognized a potential business opportunity. “I thought: If guys like this found me by accident, what would happen if I went looking for them?”

Lynch started selling her used underwear, among other things, online through an auction site that is best described at eBay but for fetishes. Guys would bid for her garbage, her used tampons, excrement, “all this wild stuff,” she recalls. But when she started to get messages from men begging to be her “money slave” she had to do some research to figure out what they meant. Eventually she stumbled on the kink she was looking for: financial domination. That was 10 years ago. And it’s how she’s been making her living ever since.

At its most basic level, financial domination is pretty much what it sounds like: domination whereby, instead of a bondage or ball gag, money is the means of (consensual) abuse. When you scratch below the surface though, that’s where it gets a little tougher to understand—as Lynch explains it, all BDSM is an exchange of power, and financial domination isn’t any different, but it’s not a kink most people understand unless they’re into it.

A financial dominatrix might be paid by her submissive to talk shit about his FICO score or tell him she’s going to spend all his money, even if she never actually has access to his accounts. Or maybe she has his credit card numbers and he gets off on the fear that one day she’ll decide to max it out; in other cases, he might send her, via Venmo or another money-sharing app, a certain amount of cash and want to listen in while she’s shopping so he knows how she’s spending it. The whole point is that the submissive gets off on the idea of losing power over his money—it’s his form of waiting for the bullwhip to crack.

FinDom for short, the fetish falls under the BDSM umbrella, can take on a variety of forms, and is admittedly fairly niche; it also goes by other names, like financial slavery. A financial dominatrix rarely—if ever—takes off her clothes or has sex with a client. According to Lynch, the fact that she doesn’t is an integral part of her brand.

“I don’t get naked in my videos. That’s kind of important for my image actually. If I were to do that, I would certainly gain another audience,” she says. “But I would lose a lot of them too, because the whole idea is that my submissives aren’t worthy of seeing me naked. Also I just don’t want to.”

FinDoms—who are typically women, though not always—might be called money mistresses, while submissives are referred to as cash cows, money slaves, or pay pigs, among other epithets. Unlike a sugar baby, a woman who has an emotional or sexual relationship with her client in exchange for cash, she’s demanding and assertive, not supplicant or sweet. But though the specifics of a relationship dynamic might vary, in a culture that equates money with power, and sex with power, financial domination can sound, at least in theory, like the ultimate aphrodisiac to some.

While financial domination is better known than it used to be, it remains a highly niche fetish that sex researchers don’t know much about, much like BDSM itself. Justin Lehmiller, Ph.D., is an award-winning sex researcher and psychology professor whose book Tell Me What You Want: The Science of Sexual Desire and How It Can Help You Improve Your Sex Life hits shelves this summer, explains that the lack of qualitative and quantitative data on this sexual proclivity has much to do with the fact that we literally haven’t been asking people about it. Questions about FinDom have yet to appear on national sex surveys, which also means that we have little way of knowing if it’s more or less popular now than it used to be.

At least one thing is clear, though. “The Internet has allowed people with interest in BDSM to find a like-minded community.” That’s the medium through which most FinDoms work, whether via chat, video, pay-per-minute calls, and “ignore lines,” which are exactly what they sound like: a line that a sub calls into with the express purpose of paying for the pleasure of being ignored.

If you think it sounds easy, Lynch wants to correct the record: “You see a lot of girls try and get into it by just setting up a Twitter account. But if you’re going hunting for these guys, you’re just not going to find them.”

In a way, a successful financial dominatrix is just like any other online influencer. It’s all about building a brand, creating content, and connecting with followers in a way that brings them back for more. “Offering webcam, making videos, having an Instagram and Twitter presence”—in other words, diversifying revenue streams so that you’re widening your reach and depending less on one-on-one interactions. Maybe you also dabble in foot fetish or humiliation (Lynch also refers to herself as a humiliatrix). “If you keep doing that, and putting it out there, every once in a while, you’ll catch what I like to call a white whale,” she says, “one of those guys who surfaces, gives you a ton of money and then disappears.”

Speaking of money, by now you’re probably wondering what a financial dominatrix actually commands for her services. That answer depends on a range of variables. But Lynch breaks it down by the things she actually sells. “My webcam rate is $10 per minute, and my prerecorded videos, which usually run about 10 minutes, are around $10. If I guy wants a custom video, those start at $250 or so, and scale up depending on how elaborate their idea is. Then I have my phone lines: Talking to me is $5 per minute. With the ignore line, the guy just calls me and then I put the phone down, and I get paid for as long as he stays on the line.”

Other FinDoms Glamour spoke to for this story said they wouldn’t get on the phone for less than $50, and that their financial domination “side hustle” might yield $30,000 a year. Lynch is less inclined to share an exact figure, but it’s worth mentioning that, when we spoke, she was in the midst of a three-month trip through Asia, and that this duration of travel is a pretty normal part of her lifestyle. “I make six figures, I’ll say that,” she says. She’s used the money to buy a few investment properties, and has been an incorporated business for 10 years.

Another FinDom Glamour emailed with shared that, over the past 19 years, her financial domination business has afforded her the kind of lifestyle where she could be available and present for her four kids every day. When we connected, she was currently taking her youngest on a class trip to Disney World before heading back to work after the vacation.

Of course, on top of the rates and attention for pay, there’s also another financial element: spending sub’s money. Tatiana, a 30-year-old West Coast-based financial dominatrix, relayed an exchange with a client who transferred $450 into her Venmo account—under the condition that she go shopping and let him listen into how he spent her money.

The phone stayed in her purse, from which she could hear him loudly protesting the conversations about specific items she was having with the salespeople—the resistance, and the sub’s inability to do anything about it, is part of the kink. When she pouted about the fact that he hadn’t sent her enough to buy a pair Louboutin booties, he eventually wound up sending her an extra $200. “I viewed it as a tip,” she says.

Lynch recalled a time that a sub wanted to be “tag-teamed” by herself and another FinDom: He paid for an hour of their cam time each, set up his credit card information with Saks Fifth Avenue sites, and requested that they tell him what they were buying as they shopped the site. “I think we ended up spending something like $10,000 between us just in that hour,” she says.

But it’s not all shopping sprees and big spenders. “The thing about this fetish is that you don’t necessarily have to have a lot of money to have it,” she says. “You might just get off on the idea of it.”

“For instance, I had a guy one time call me on my talk line, just for a quick chat. He wanted me to tell him how rich I am, how I want all his money, how greedy I am. Then, at the end, he hung up and paid me maybe $10.”

Another thing about being a financial dominatrix versus a real-life dungeon master is that it removes the element—and some of the potential danger—of working in the BDSM world. Because doms and subs tend not to exchange real identifying information, it allows for more anonymity (for example, Ceara Lynch is not Ceara Lynch’s real name), and the fact that interactions largely happen online on or the phone adds a protective layer into the practice.

Over the last decade Lynch can recall being doxxed only once, and when she reported it to police, they basically told her there was no recourse. In the end, she decided the best way to deal with it was to ignore it, and eventually the guy just faded away. “Unfortunately, if someone really wanted to find a lot of personal information about me, they could. There’s only so much I can do about it. It’s just kind of a risk I’m willing to take.”

Subs are obviously going out on a limb too. Sydney Lee, a dominatrix whose YouTube channel AstroDomina is devoted to explaining kinks of all kinds to the layman viewer, describes how her pay pigs getting aroused by the idea that she could financially ruin them at any moment.

“It’s a deep mental fetish, and it definitely takes more than a random pretty girl saying, ‘Give me money,’” she says in a video devoted to FinDom. That comment echoed an observation Lynch made about supply and demand—and why it’s harder to be a successful financial dominatrix than it might seem. Which makes sense, given that capitulation to the dom is part of the kink.

“One thing about financial domination is that there’s this element of humiliation that goes along with it,” explains Lehmiller. “What we know now from a lot of research is that physical pain and psychological pain activate the same areas of the brain and have similar effects. One of those effects makes us focus more on the here and now, allowing us to experience other things more intensely—for example, if you experience pain and then have sexual stimulation afterward, it might feel more intense.” In the case of financial domination, it’s not hard to see how chasing intensity might put a submissive on the road to financial ruin. It’s the kind of costly thrill you don’t want to be addicted to unless you can afford it.

Lee, of AstroDomina, positioned it in her FinDom video like this: “Handing over money is the ultimate representation of surrender or submission for most money slaves.” And with all the ways to connect and spend money these days, it’s never been easier for subs to find their financial doms or make deposits into their accounts.

Lynch has watched the landscape change a lot over the years. “When I first started, there were about five girls doing this,” she says. “But now there’s this huge influx of girls trying to do it because it seems easy. Once, one of my slaves gave me his log-in to Twitter and I went through his DMs—there were all these women trying to hustle him, like, ‘Hey bitch, pay me.’ I’ve had the luxury of time to build my brand, and I don’t mean to talk shit; however girls make it work, they make it work. But I thought it was fascinating because I have never sent a message to a guy first. They come to me.”

She used to think she would be out of the business by now, and, in a way, she’s a little surprised at how in-demand she continues to be.

“In the adult industry youth and beauty are your main currency—I imagined that mine would be up by now. But I make more and more money every year. It’s really confusing and unexpected. I always told myself I would keep doing it until it makes sense not to. I have my bachelor’s, but it’s not a very useful bachelor’s, so I’ve thought about going back to school one day.”

But even though she know she has plenty of options on the table, Lynch says, at this point, it doesn’t make sense to set FinDom aside—she just doesn’t have a reason to. “I make a lot of money. I travel. I have a really cool life right now. My focus is to make as much money as I can for the future, put it into real estate and other investments. Once the reason to stop arrives, I just want to have a good nest egg to explore the rest of my life.”

Complete Article HERE!

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How to use handcuffs during sex in the best (and safest) way

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Please, please, please avoid cheap metal cuffs.

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Considering trying BDSM? If you’re looking for a beginner‘s way in, handcuffs are a really simple and super-fun way to start.

“Restraints are a fantastic way to explore the world of bondage and discover a new level of pleasure and play,” says Megan McCormack, sex expert for Ann Summers. “Using handcuffs may seem pretty self-explanatory, but there are a few key things to know to ensure you’re getting the most of being cuffed and doing it safely.”

Introducing restraints

When most people think of BDSM, a lovely, gentle chat is probably the last thing that springs to mind. But any form of BDSM play needs to be based on absolute trust and effective communication between partners.

“Establish consent, boundaries and safe words before you begin exploring,” Megan explains. “Talk to your partner about exactly what turns you on. Having this discussion through ‘dirty talk’ allows you to go into detail and build up a scenario to play out later, while building the suspense.

“Set the scene; seduce and relax with your partner,” she advises. Don’t have too many alcoholic drinks for ‘dutch courage’ though, safe BDSM play operates on the Safe, Sane, Consensual principle. This basically means you should be in a sensible frame of mind to take part. “Light candles, kiss and build the anticipation of what’s to come. A slow build makes your body more reactive to sensations,” Megan adds.
Pick your handcuffs style

There are so many different types of handcuffs and restraints, it’s really not necessary to walk away with bruised wrists (unless you’re into that, of course). A dominatrix once told me to never, ever use that cheap metal cuffs you see because they will cut your wrists up so badly. Avoid them at all costs.

“Always begin with soft cuffs, such as Silicone Quickie Cuffs. These stretchy handcuffs allow you to explore restraints without having to worry about getting stuck,” she says. You can play around with control, all in the comfort of knowing there are no pesky keys to lose.” Hypoallergenic silicone is a great and safe material for sex toys and accessories – and they’re soft, flexible and strong.

Chinese rope restraints and rope cuffs are also great introductory restraints for first-timers. “They’re made from soft yet sturdy material, and with sliding knots rather than clasp openings,” Megan explains. “Buckle cuffs are often the easiest type to use and their fabric or leather straps cause less irritation to the wrist during wear.” Plus, they’re often adjustable so you can have them as tight or loose as makes you comfortable.

Putting them on

Before anyone gets handcuffed to anything, you need to pick your position. “Whether you want your hands tied above your head, behind your back or to the bedposts, the options are endless,” Megan says. “If you’re the one being retained, you’ll have to rely on your partner to position you in your chosen cuffs. With your discussion beforehand, you should both be quite clear of what everyone wants and is comfortable with.

“Starting with either yourself or your partner laid on your back, and restrained with hands above your head, is a simple and pleasurable position to start in.” Whatever you want to do once you’re in position, is totally up to you. But it’ll leave you free to get into loads of awesome sex positions. “It also means that you can explore erogenous zones and both give and receive oral sex,” Megan says.

What next?

Communicate

“Reassure your partner by talking to them throughout, and telling them exactly what you’re going to do to them next,” Megan says. “This allows them to voice any concerns and can also settle any nerves they may have.”

Play with temperature and other accessories

Temperature play is so much fun, and introduces new sensations to your sex play. “Freezing lube in an ice cube tray is a super fun (and slippery) way to use it. With your lover’s hands already cuffed above their head, add a blindfold,” she says. “One sense becomes heightened when another is taken away. Watch how their body responds as you slide the ice cubes over them – the coldness will also increase skin sensitivity.”

Rubbing the frozen lube on their neck, nipples, inner thighs and genitals makes bloody rush to the area, too. “Kissing and licking their erect nipples, or gently blowing on their chilled, lubed neck will be the ultimate tease.”

Complete Article HERE!

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Finding power through play: How BDSM can fuel confidence

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By Emerald Bensadoun

Marianne LeBreton is suspended in mid-air, tied in an upside-down futumomo, legs bound together. The ropes cascade in intricate patterns, beginning at her ankles and working their way all the way around her wrists. The ropes arch her body backward. Her breathing steadies. Serenity washes through her. The slight discomfort of certain positions causes slow burns to spread across her body—but the pain is secondary to the relief. LeBreton becomes entrenched in a state of flow. Her mind is quiet. She’s enjoying the intensity, both emotionally and physically.

For LeBreton, bondage has become a meditative experience. When it comes to receiving pain, which she enjoys, it takes a certain focus and determination. LeBreton finds rope— especially Japanese rope bondage—to be particularly meditative. She equates BDSM to an empowering “sense of calm,” but it didn’t start out that way.

“What colour should it be?” thought LeBreton. She wanted her boyfriend to like it. As an 18-year-old student on a budget, it couldn’t be too expensive. For almost a week she scrolled through the internet until she finally came across what she was looking for. It was even in her price range. This was the one. Satisfied, she clicked “purchase.” LeBreton had just bought her first flogger—a whip with long tendrils coming out the end. “It felt like the beginning of something for me,” said LeBreton.

When asked about her first experience with BDSM, she grins from ear to ear, trying to visualize the details. “There wasn’t Fifty Shades of Grey but there was hentai,” she says. At the age of 13, LeBreton became fascinated with Bondage Fairies, an erotic manga about highly sexual, human-shaped female forest fairies with wings who work as hunters and police protecting the forest.

Now 30, LeBreton has an MA in sexology from Université du Québec à Montréal and owns KINK Toronto, an up-and-coming BDSM boutique in Toronto’s Annex. BDSM, she says, is about much more than pain—it’s about empowerment. LeBreton says we could use a little more playfulness in our lives. More sensuality. More discovery. “That’s usually what I hear from customers who are curious; they are excited and thrilled to be daring and to be doing this for themselves or their partners,” says LeBreton. “It’s definitely a journey of self-discovery and acceptance.” In her workshops, being naked and engaging in play publicly, she says, has helped with her confidence and body image.

In 2015, Christian Joyal, who has a PhD in psychology from the Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières, and his colleagues published a paper on fantasies; ranging from sex in a public places, to tying up a sexual partner, to watching same-gender sex and pornography. But there were also fantasies about being dominated sexually. These were present in 65 per cent of women and 53 per cent of men; dominating someone sexually, present in 47 per cent of women and 60 per cent of men; being tied up for sexual pleasure which appealed to 52 per cent of women and 46 per cent of men.

“From what we’ve seen, most people have a very strict image of what [BDSM] should look like, which is very restricting,” she says. BDSM, she notes, doesn’t have to involve leather. It doesn’t have to involve pain. Another mistake is attributing masculine or feminine traits to erotic behaviour. For many people, BDSM is a healthy way to express their sexuality and grain a sense of control in their lives and of their bodies.

In her workshops, being naked and engaging in play publicly, she says, has helped with her confidence and body image

When it comes to dominance and submission, negotiations, and boundaries, safety and consent are crucial. While the words “dominant” or “top” may conjure up images of complete control, those in the BDSM world know that the submissive, or “bottom” hold true power. “The bottom is the one who gets to decide what they would like, what they do not want, what their limits are,” says LeBreton, “It’s the top’s responsibility to follow that through. Of course some people have very specific kinks where it’s kind of like ‘I want you to take control.’ But that’s negotiated and within limits set by the bottom.”

Feeling in control can also be about letting go. Relinquishing that sense of control they exert in every other part of their lives can be therapeutic. For this reason, LeBreton says that men, especially those in positions of higher power, will often identify as submissives in the bedroom.

Alex Zalewski says he’s always been a little rough. But in a seven-year “vanilla” relationship, it was difficult to break routine. Months later, for the first time in Zalewski’s life, he felt horribly unsure of himself. He’d been flirting with a new girl for some time whose friends invited him to their apartment. But he was confused. “Spit in my mouth,” she demanded. “Slap me.” Zalewski was torn between arousal and inner turmoil. If there was one thing he’d ever been taught from a young age, it’s that good boys don’t hit women.

For Zalewski, empowerment is a quiet confidence, and feeling a level of control that builds pleasure from the knowledge that he is fulfilling his partners’ desires. Zalewski, who lives in Toronto’s downtown core, offers relationship and personal coaching for various clients in his spare time, but he doesn’t charge money for it. The women in his life kept asking him for advice on BDSM. He decided he would try his best. In 2016 he created Authentic Connections, to help people overcome their barriers in exchange for a relationship they’ve always wanted. His goal was to have someone open up to him enough about the types of barriers that were preventing his clients and their partners from having the sex life they wanted to have.

“What are your fantasies? What are your desires? What do you want out of your partner or partners?” He would ask them. Once he could get them to admit what they actually wanted, they would work out a plan. Develop themselves, develop their skills to be able to do the things that would help them achieve their goals. Zalewski says a lot of the time, this is the most difficult step for the people he’s met with. It’s hard for people to step outside their comfort zones sometimes, he says, because they’ve been conditioned into associating kink and BDSM with abuse and mental instability.

A person becomes curious in BDSM. They don’t tell their friends. Maybe they’re afraid of being ridiculed or judged. Maybe rejection. But maybe it’s none of those things. Maybe they just want to keep their personal life, personal.

In 2006, the Journal of Psychology and Human Sexuality published an article that compared BDSM practitioners to published norms on 10 psychological disorders. Compared to the normative samples, those who actively engage in BDSM had lower levels of depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, psychological sadism, psychological masochism, borderline pathology and paranoia.

But just because a person likes to be controlled in the bedroom doesn’t necessarily mean those needs translate into the real world and can have dangerous implications for parties involved.

Jen Chan was 16. Her boyfriend was 24. He was her dominant and she was his submissive. “That was generally the dynamic of how our relationship went,” she says. But chipping away at her self-esteem, her boyfriend would pressure her into doing things she wasn’t sure if she was comfortable with, and she would go along with them, afraid of appearing inexperienced and childish to her older boyfriend. While BDSM allows you to play out different scenarios from that of everyday life, she says her first experience with dominance and submission was just an extension of the life she already had.

It’s hard for people to step outside their comfort zones sometimes, he says, because they’ve been conditioned into associating kink and BDSM with abuse and mental instability.

After their relationship ended, Chan says it took her several years until she felt confident enough to engage in BDSM again. Coming out as queer, she says, has also made all the difference. Chan now identifies as a switch, which is someone who enjoys partaking in both dominant and submissive roles, or both topping and bottoming.

“There is something very staged, controlled and intentional about BDSM, at least that’s the way I interact with it,” says Chan, who adds that her empowerment with BDSM lies in feeling like she’s doing something adventurous in an environment of her choice. Feeling satisfied sexually, she says, has made her feel more confident in the real world.

Is what you’re doing safe? Is what you’re doing consensual? Zalewski says risk awareness, the amount of risk a person is comfortable taking in order to attain the pleasure plays a large role in BDSM. From flesh hook suspension to unprotected sex, it’s important to understand the personal level of risk you are comfortable with when it comes to the acts you want to perform.

Chan says that while engaging in BDSM gave her the opportunity to try new things and step into new roles, most importantly, it allowed her to reclaim control, sexually. As a person begins to immerse themselves in BDSM, Chan says, they start to learn more about what makes them comfortable, where their boundaries lie, all while pushing themselves to continually learn new things—and to her, that’s all empowerment really is.

Complete Article HERE!

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Everything you need for a beginner’s kink-friendly Valentine’s Day

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If vanilla sex doesn’t really do it for you, imagine the bounty that Valentine’s Day could be if you decided to celebrate it the BDSM-friendly way – with all the necessary kink toys.

Whether you’ve always looked at handcuffs with a glint in your eye or got interested in kink thanks to Fifty Shades of Grey, it’s a fun playground to express your sexual personality and have fun with your partner. If you’re a beginner, start slow and enjoy the exploration. We have a few recommendations to help you begin your journey too.

1. Burn your copy of Fifty Shades and grab one of these instead.

Fifty Shades of Grey may be a popular book, but it’s a poor guide when it comes to properly honoring the rules of BDSM. For that, you’ll need to turn back to some of the classics in the genre.We have a handy list right here we highly recommend. In addition to the classics, a book like The Ultimate Guide To Kink is a great way to learn about the rules and concepts that BDSM is defined by.

Price on Amazon: $19.18 (paperback), $9.99 (Kindle)

2. Try out restraints.

The only way to find out if one or both of you like restraints is to give it a try. While you could start with a regular old pair of handcuffs, we suggest something with a little padding to ease you into the experience. If you really enjoy it, upgrade to a nicer pair (Ardour Crafts makes a solid set).

Price on Amazon: $9.99

3. Experiment with a blindfold.

If you’d like to see what sensory deprivation is like, a blindfold is a good place to start. We suggest you forego the super cheap ones and try out a wider style that completely blocks out light that can seep in around the nose or at the top of the forehead. Try pairing it with the handcuffs to see how it feels. There’s lots to choose from in the kink world when it comes to masks, but this is a classic start.

Price on Amazon: $6.99

4. Explore your sadomasochistic side.

If you think you might like spanking (or know you do), trying out a crop is the next best option. It’s not quite as intense as a full whip and creates a more concentrated sting. If you’re super into it, try out a horse whip next – you won’t regret it.

Price on Amazon: $16.99

5. Strap on a collar.

Submissives love the feeling of a leather collar around their necks. This one attaches a leash that’s perfect for that extra bit of roleplay you may be looking for. Put all these goodies together, and your Valentine’s Day is going to leave chocolates and flowers in the dust.

Price on Amazon: $25.99

6. Rope Bondage.

Beginner? Just getting started and not sure what you need or what to do?  The Twisted Monk crew answers the top five questions they get from folks trying rope for the first time to help you find your way picking out your rope kit. (For more in-depth product and ordering information, check out their FAQ.)

Complete Article HERE!

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What a leather convention can teach everyone about sex and consent

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I don’t think I’d ever realized just how “vanilla” I was, and how little I understood about all of the ways you can engage in fun, healthy, consensual, adventurous sex.

“Hotel is closed for private event” read the signs affixed to the front of the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill last weekend. A steady stream of people, mostly men, many in leather harnesses, some in collars and on leashes, and some simply in jeans and sweaters, walked in and out in an almost continuous stream.

Mid-Atlantic Leather (MAL), now in its 48th year, is a three-day long celebration of the leather community, a subculture that celebrates various sexual kinks, many centered around leather and toys. Bears, daddies, pups and others identifying with various subsets roam the Hyatt Regency, participating in conference-like demonstrations about suspension (BDSM where you’re bound and hung) and electro (BDSM involving electric shocks), buying handcrafted leather goods and sex toys, and, of course, partying. (Actual sex was not part of the convention but no doubt took place in private.) It’s a predominantly LGBTQ centric space, although look closely enough and you’re sure to find people on every part of the gender and sexuality spectrum.

My first MAL was in the winter of 2016. I’d just gone through a breakup and my friend had suggested that perhaps it would be good for me to explore life beyond my comfort zone. “Just get ready,” he’d said, “it may be more than your little vanilla heart can handle.” And he wasn’t entirely wrong. It wasn’t that I couldn’t handle it, but I don’t think I’d ever realized just how “vanilla” I was, and how little I understood about all of the ways you can engage in fun, healthy, consensual, adventurous sex.

That first year I met Adam, a dentist in town from Texas just for MAL. “You look like you could use a drink,” he said back in a hotel room he was sharing with a friend of mine.

“Do I look that out of place?” I asked. I’d put on a leather jacket to try to blend in.

“Not out of place,” he said, “just kind of shocked.”

And shocked I was. Not necessarily at anything that was going on at the hotel that night, but more so at the fact that for the better part of my life I’d allowed myself to believe that this kind of sexual openness was only available to a certain kind of person.

“Where I grew up, there wasn’t really anything like this,” said Anthony, a 30-year-old living in Arlington, Va., who grew up in Portsmouth. (The sources for this story preferred that only first names be used, for privacy reasons). “There was no kink culture, and I really wanted to explore it. Everyone here was super welcoming, and that’s why I keep coming back.”

This was a common sentiment. “It’s a different part of the gay family,” said Garret, 28, who lives in Washington. “We all have different interests … and if nobody else respects that, come to MAL because they do here.”

Respect, as it turns out, is a dominating theme throughout the course of the weekend. You might expect that when many attendees are walking around in only a jockstrap and a harness, but it is pleasantly surprising to see how strictly they adhere to that principle. In the era of #MeToo, when more and more queer folks are being vocal about the role consent plays in queer spaces, perhaps the leather and kink communities have something to teach the general public about active and enthusiastic consent.

Ask for permission before petting. Hold out your hand and let the pup come to you first. If the pup doesn’t, or turns or growls, let them be as they may not want to or have permission. This is rule No. 5 as listed on the board outside the 10th anniversary mosh at the MAL Puppy Park, a yearly tradition in which individuals who participate in pup play — a BDSM role-play wherein one participant acts as the “pup” and one as the handler — have an opportunity to interact with other pups. Other rules include: Nudity is not permitted in public spaces, genitals cannot be exposed and DO NOT pull on a pup’s tail or collar. It can cause injury and is disrespectful. Change some of the verbiage and perhaps these would be appropriate guidelines to post at the Academy Awards.

“It’s where I met my current roommate,” said Allyn, a 31-year-old originally from Wisconsin who now lives in Washington, of his first MAL experience. “It was exhilarating. I’d never seen anything like it. It make me feel brave and nervous at the same time.” He didn’t speak to his would-be roommate the first night they met, however. “I mean, I had a ball gag in at the time,” he recounted.

Zack, 23, from Baltimore, also used the world “exhilarating” when describing his first MAL experience. “I got chills coming down the escalator into the lobby of the hotel,” he said. “It’s the closest thing to Folsom I’ve ever been too,” a reference to the San Francisco street fair that’s the world’s largest leather celebration.

Everyone I spoke to talked about descending that escalator on the evening of the opening party. It is truly a complete sensory experience. The sight, sound and smell of wall-to-wall leather and latex on every kind of body, not just seen but celebrated and appreciated.

While I was talking to Garret about the weekend, someone he appeared to know approached him, whispered something in his ear and, after he nodded yes, lifted Garret’s arm and began to sniff his armpit. Garret continued to answer my questions without pause. “There may be something over here that’s not your thing, but then you’ll look over there and see something going on that you’re totally into,” he explained “Don’t be shy, don’t judge other people for something you don’t understand. And above all, come and have a good time. No one is here to be spectacled. It can be a learning and cultural experience.” The sniffer had moved on to his other armpit by the time he finished talking.

Although I have yet to be brave enough to buy and wear a harness to MAL myself, each year I attend I move closer toward that goal. At the very least, the event has highlighted for me the fact that there is an exciting world beyond the “vanilla” one I’d relegated myself to — and has given me a better understanding of the queer community as a whole. At one point, in the leather market, a man who had recently undergone top surgery was trying on a new harness next to a group of folks signing to one another, while feet away a $1,400 bejeweled pup hood was on sale. Only at MAL.

Complete Article HERE!

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