A conversation with Majeste, but one I've had before and I'm still refining as I learn new things: about kit and what it does. I think it can be a challenge within BDSM and kinky circles to avoid engaging in masturbatory conversations over pieces of equipment - what type or brand of flogger you have, weight of the handle, bite of the delivery material. a lot of people worrying about whether they have the right piece of kit to do such-and-such. Certainly there are better and worse types of kit, levels of quality like there are better and worse chairs or teacups or bottles of wine. But most are serviceable and crucially, different people like different things. I tend to steer clear of collectors conversations, perhaps because I don't own or can't afford a lot of kit myself, or because I don't tend to use a lot of kit. However, I have had a lot of kit used on me, and whilst I couldn't do the coca-cola taste test on "which brand of flogger hit you" I do have a good idea of what different things feel like, what they do to me.
I've got four broad categories - sensory, impact, bondage and the rather dubiously titled "specialist". They do meld into each other, as you'll see, but talking about BDSM kit in terms of the experience it delivers has helped me immensely in understanding not only my likely reactions (and therefore be able to forewarn people in advance) but also to unpick exactly where I'm getting my enjoyment. And whilst it's almost never because the piece cost hundreds of pounds and was flown in from Tokyo, equally it won't be because the poorly made thing smells peculiar and leaves unintended marks on me from a bad dye job.
Sensory. This includes sensory deprivation as well as sensation-play. I use the latter term to distinguish from "just" pain play, sensation is broader than that, though things can (and should) still hurt. Sensory deprivation always strikes me as the foreplay of the kinky scene, which is why I've put it first. Kit can include blindfolds, hoods, masks, gags, earplugs, mitts and vac-beds to name a few. These cut off one or more of your senses which renders you vulnerable and reliant on the Top, which creates fear (that they might do something bad to you) and also a power-exchange (you need them to look after you). It can also excite your other senses, as well as focus you in one particular area. I find that my skin is more sensitive when I can't see, for example. I especially like hoods and masks, they make me a cipher and help me dissociate from the noise of the day, from my own concerns about my self and whatever I've been doing. They make me feel automatically doll-like and submissive. Like a canary with a sheet thrown over the cage. Losing vision is particularly powerful. You become a little lost in space and enclosed within yourself - all the more so when coupled with a physical sensation of having your eyes or head bound, think about the difference between being blindfolded, in which only you cannot see, and the lights not being on, in which no-one can see.
Sensation delivering items can be anything from fingers, feathers (chickens - old joke), nails, rope, scarves, ice. Penetrative toys, whether they vibrate or not can give either sudden jolts of excitement or a long drawn out sexual pleasure. I always enjoy the feeling of being "full" which helps centre and ground me during more difficult activities, perhaps just because it gives my muscles something to concentrate on and I feel less lonely. I've put needles, knives and sharps in this category, with their buzzy-high pain and also my dearly-loved electricity: insertibles, pads on skin and violet wands. There's a sense of event to the latter two types of sensation, perhaps because of the time and preparation needed before they must be done.
What I am touching as well as what I am touched with has an effect. Standing on cold floor or wrapped in soft blankets. Touch is not the only thing to consider though. Sound can be very important, soothing familiar music compared to white noise. Controlling sound is another way of controlling the environment, shutting out that which isn't wanted and setting the scene for that which is. I'm a big fan of scent and smell is pretty important to me, the scent of my lover's skin will develop, with time, an aphrodisiac quality.
Impact. The "traditional" toys of the kinkster: whips, crops, canes, clamps, floggers, paddles, hands. Things to beat people with. For me, the experience of being hit tends to be either a build or a punishment. In the former it's about pushing me forwards, either deeper into a sub-space or pleasure/sensation haze - this could be from a long flogging, from a spanking that moves from soft to powerful or from something a bit more short and sharp such as a slap to the face which is often a heady rush. This is where my masochism lives, in getting additional sensation and experience from pain, empathy is important here and more empathy is needed the harder the pain is. Otherwise it's just punishment. Punishment is very different. Here I'm getting pain out of pain and it will make me unhappy and distressed, especially if there is no obvious reason for the punishment. I will feel used and cruelly abused. In some instances, if there's a deep D/s connection, I'm getting catharsis from going through a punishment because of something I've done wrong. I will almost always want a build type of impact play rather than a punishment.
Bondage. A personal favourite. Whether rope, straps, straitjacket, vac bed (again) or even common or garden chains and cuffs. I love it because it is permission to remain still and not have to do anything or accept responsibility for anything, because of the feeling of it - which is where sometimes the act of being tied up can be as exciting as anything else - in many cases good, tight bondage is like being held all over. For me, I get the same sort of vulnerable/safe contradictory impulse that I do with sensory deprivation. I am vulnerable because I cannot move, I am often in a difficult or prone position. But I also feel safe, partly because I feel held tight and partly because I am unable to escape or to do anything other than what I am doing: I am curiously free. There is also the feeling of being "put away" safe, especially for bondage overnight or similar, that someone has taken the time and care to do such a thing to me is very reassuring.
Specialist. This could equally be "miscellaneous", it covers items for more specific forms of fetish and some - not me - might say kinkier activities: breathplay, watersports and so on. Now obviously you don't need kit to do these things, but it can certainly help. At the very least one might need a towel for cleaning up. Bigger pieces of kit such as a fucking machine, a cage and a lot of what is often described as BDSM furniture falls under this category. The experience I get from these pieces can be mixed, frankly, and tends more to rely on who I'm with and the context in which I'm using them (or being used by them). There's no industry standard for my responses for a cage, for example. I've been bored rigid in them and cosily compliant. In the same cage as well.