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Fifty Shades of Cheap: Bringing BDSM Home On a Budget

Fifty Shades of Cheap: Bringing BDSM Home On a Budget:

Fifty Shades of Grey opens tomorrow and, no doubt, public interest in BDSM will reach its zenith. For just about everyone other than cops, cowboys, and animal trainers, that’s going to mean scouring the internet and local proprietors behind neon signs for signature play paraphernalia including – but not exclusive to – handcuffs, rope, riding crops, and whips of all kinds. For those most green to the scene, a lewd awakening is also impending: That shit is expensive.

The fact that Christian Grey, the brooding dom of the Fifty Shades universe, is spectacularly wealthy is first and foremost a fantasy. The notion of his unspeakable coin undoubtedly appeals to any woman who feels strongly that if she’s going to let some guy shackle her to a bed and set about wailing on her, he should – at least – have the common decency to fly her around in his private jet first. But Mr. Grey’s affluence as written is more than just a turn on. Though greatly exaggerated, it speaks to the abundance of cash that can be required as one delves deeper into kink.

Sure, anyone can go on Amazon and order a $20 set of wrist and/or ankle cuffs — fur lined, even — with which to noncommittally limit a partner’s squirming. But the cheaper and less effective the restraints, the less authentic and exhilarating the experience. I haven’t read the Fifty Shades source material, but I know Mr. Grey’s idea of bondage involves some bullshit with a necktie. That’s perfectly suitable with a docile partner. But if the person you’re trying to pin down has any sort of fight in them — and, often, that’s a major component of the fun — pretty soon you’ll be wanting some comfy but sturdy cuffs or some quality rope. The first rope kit I ever bought — eight bundles of 26-foot linen hemp rope — cost well over a hundred dollars and was shipped over from the UK. I cherished it so much that I bought a special place to store it.

rope bench

Putting a submissive literally in his or her place is only the beginning. The myriad devices with which one might tease, tantalize, and torture a tightly-bound yet willing partner can also put a hurting on your finances. Whips, paddles, canes, etc. run the gamut as far as price range, but a genuine leather, custom-made flogger, for example, can sometimes cost three or four hundred dollars. Nipple clamps, spreader bars, gags — all of these have their discount versions, but you definitely get what you pay for. And, though it may sound counterintuitive when it comes to the game of inflicting pain, you probably want to use tools that are comfortable, durable, and well-crafted, if not beautiful. None of this includes the potentially exorbitant price of fetish wear, additional toys, bondage classes, and admission to kink-friendly parties — if that’s what you’re into.

Obviously, this business of BDSM isn’t for everyone. I’ll wager that at least 75 percent of the dabblers sent scrambling for kinky toys by the buzz-worthy Fifty Shades will have abandoned their blindfolds and tossed their single-tails before the movie disappears from theaters. Spend a fortune on a fleeting fascination and perusing one’s credit card bill a month later will sting like the dickens. Fortunately, if you find yourself craving more than the typical, brief dalliance with the dark arts of bondage, discipline, domination, and submission, there are options outside of purchasing pink and purple faux-leather novelty crap that costs a pittance but snaps and stretches at the mere hint of struggle.

My personal road to Damascus was a spirited fetish party in midtown Manhattan wherein an affable gentleman was peddling handcrafted floggers. His wares were stylish, well-made, and ingenious in a manner that I had never seen before: Through a clever construction of interlocking clips, the section with the lashes could be detached from the handle and, say, hooked to a belt loop and exchanged for an entirely different set of lashes. (The upshot for the uninitiated: different lashes or falls deliver different sensations. Some are longer, some are shorter. Some sting, some thud. The possibilities are endless.) The slick gear’s price point was appropriately steep — around $80. But when your plus-one’s eyes light up at the prospect, you know there’s an opportunity to be seized. A little short on cash that evening, I believe I said something prideful and offhand like, “I could probably make that myself.”

But you know what? I did. I’ll spare you the Karate Kid-like *learning-how-to-do-stuff *montage and just allow that the process involved countless trips to neighborhood hardware shops and craft stores and rooting through the remnant bins in garment district fabric houses for scraps of leather and suede. I discovered miraculous uses for twine, metal carabiners, wooden dowels, and parachute cord. At first, the conception was frustrating. Luckily, the internet is replete with tutorials, FAQs, and tips — from within the BDSM community and without — on how to make, not just whips, but all manner of delightful contraptions.

tools

Following my eventual success with the flogger — the trick is properly weighting the far end of the handle to balance the business end — I kept tinkering. Pretty soon, I had a makeshift workshop adjacent to my kitchen and a roughhewn but effective collection of sinister-looking prototypes. I thought my industriousness unique until I learned during a casual conversation with a professional dominatrix that — among scenesters — a common nickname for Home Depot is Dom Depot. In other words, plenty of people with raging proclivities to rival Christian Grey but far less disposable income have learned to cut corners in just the same way I had.

Also, I have to admit that, initially, building the gear by hand required so much time and trial and error that I can’t honestly say I saved that much money. But, regardless of whether the manufacturing comes quicker and cheaper next time around, there is something extremely valuable about knowing the intricate construction of a device you’re planning to use on another human being — even if it is just for, as they say in the community, play. On one level, it’s worthwhile to know how to fix something that’s just a little too sharp, or a little too heavy, or just too ouch. On another, just the patience it takes to make a thing gives you time to reflect on its purpose. BDSM, in all its various forms, is a delicate negotiation of sensuality, power, and intimacy. When practiced irresponsibly or recklessly, the results can be very hurtful — and not in that good, delicious way you’re hoping for. So, if you happen to be the one wielding the power at any point, it’s a good idea to understand the cost.

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