Kink in exile

Notes from a kinky nomad

Paying for it

This weekend, like thousands of other Americans, I paid for sex. I didn’t hire a sex worker – I’m not made of money you know – but I did use US dollars to create the opportunity to have the kind of sex I want. I paid for a play party ($25) and for the related dungeon membership ($10). I paid for a burlesque show ($10 + tips) and C probably spent an additional $20 on drinks which I consumed at that show. I paid for tea at Wicked Grounds in order to have access to a person I’d been hoping to meet for some time ($5.50) and coffee for the homeless man who frequents wicked grounds ($2.75) because science says giving makes you happy. This is within reason for my budget, but it is also something I’d not taken the time to calculate previously. I mentioned this to a friend whose response was along the lines of “oh yeah, I have a line item for kinky sex.” I asked her what she meant and she responded, “I track spending on books, I track spending on movies, I track spending on eating out, so I also track spending on kinky sex.” clearly, I hadn’t. My spending on kinky sex comes form different line items in my budget; “travel” for conferences and out of town play events, “entertainment and nightclubs” for play parties, “eating out” for munches and so forth.

Thinking about spending on kink leads to some interesting complications from access to meaning. On the access side, I think we can safely say that $50 for a couple to attend a four hour long play event will be prohibitive for many. For those for whom it is not a prohibitive cost, I still expect it to be a noticeable cost. How does that investment change the dynamics of your night? I have noticed over time that I have more pleasurable experiences when I have invested less rather than more into that experience. I believe this wasn’t always the case, but right now it works something like this: sex is often emotionally and logistically complex, my life is full on a lot of levels, and having an expectation of sex is decidedly not sexy, so if I come over to watch a movie and eat a burrito and neither of us have strong expectations of sex but we are interested in each other and are generally sexual with each other, this sets the stage for hot kinky sex that also feels natural and uncomplicated. If however you take me out for a fancy dinner and then we go to an expensive play party I feel like we have to play which makes me anxious which in turn makes me less into the play. And this is when money is not a source of stress for me. I remember dreading these events when my budget was tighter because there were so many more tradeoffs (and social expectations I couldn’t afford) involved.

I am also interested in the idea of sex toys as status symbols. At what point does status surpass utility? What is the utility of specially designed BDSM toys? I own many, some I own and use often, some I use with specific partners, and others were clearly impulse buys I haven’t used since the day I bought them. I also own clothes pins, art pins, bamboo sticks from the plant store, and metal pipes…whatever works. Are BDSM toys aspirational purchases? I have a single tail I use rarely, with a specific friend who lets me practice on her. I am not confidant enough with it to use it regularly; it was an aspirational buy rather than a practical one. By the same token, I just bought more rope, I could have gotten cheaper rope at home depot, but I really like hemp rope, and so I splurged. It’s something I’m confidant with, I have a partner who likes to be bound, my expected cost per use should be reasonable. But really, is there a difference between normal run of the mill road rope and organic hemp spun by virgins? When you’re bound, gagged, being punched on the ground, screaming…when I push your face into the ground hard enough to leave a bruise, will you criticize my rope?

Further, what does it mean that this taboo thing we’re doing is available for sale? What does it mean that we judge people by the money they spend on toys and parties? Who is behind the business side of BDSM? Who is profiting off you fetish? Do you know?

Written by kinkinexile

February 13, 2012 at 7:46 pm

6 Responses

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  1. I have frequently felt frustrated by the fact that I can’t “pay for it.” The kinds of costs you mention, in order to create the opportunities to have the kinds of sex I want, are very certainly prohibitive — and saving up towards an occasional play party does cause more anxiety, more pressure to make things “perfect,” which often ends up as more of a let-down when things don’t go completely right.

    Regarding sex toys as status symbols and the “taboo” for sale, this article on Salon about Margot Weiss’ new book “Techniques of Pleasure” seems apropos… “It’s less transgressive than you think.”

    Sophia, NOT Loren!

    February 13, 2012 at 8:10 pm

  2. At parties and conferences you aren’t paying for sex, exactly, you’re paying for 1) atmosphere and 2) screening of attendees. The atmosphere part, to me, is like a fancy restaurant: yes, the food is excellent, but so was that $8 sandwich I got from a food truck last night; people go to spendy restaurants for the sense of occasion, the decor, and the precisely choreographed service.

    As for #2, you can meet all kinds of people for kinky, downscale sex via Craigslist, Grindr, AFF, etc. for absolutely free! What you’re paying for is the chance to have sex with/in the company of people who are “part of the community,” which in turn is perceived as a decent-if-not-perfect guarantee that they will abide by certain safety and sensitivity rules and have thought through certain issues already without the need to stop and teach BDSM 101 in the middle of a scene. How accurate this perception is, I don’t know. I think part of the desire for prescreened attendees is classism/racism and part of it is genuinely toxic attitudes out there in the big bad “mainstream” world.

    I don’t see any problem at all with motivation #1: as long as awesome taquerias exist for the rest of us, it’s no skin off my back if people want to splash out at Gary Danko from time to time. The problem is #2: if Gary Danko is or is seen as the only restaurant in town without serious health and safety risks.


    February 16, 2012 at 10:06 am

  3. […] all about whips and paddles. Personally, I’ve never been particularly interested in all the techno-toys that keep BDSM the province of a financially-resourced middle-class. They strike me (no stupid pun intended), for the most part, as useful to people who are […]

  4. Reblogged this on PolyGrrl .


    November 1, 2012 at 8:35 pm

  5. How can I get the sex I want without breaking my budget? Date. Get creative. Be the Low Budget Casanova. Hmmm… (puts on her thinking cap)…


    June 16, 2014 at 3:31 pm

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