Are Collars Essential In BDSM?

A woman wearing a s[iked leather collar and cuffs and a black lace dress

They’re a popular look, but are collars really make or break in BDSM play?

From as long as I can remember, then by and large, I have always seen submissive and slave partners portrayed as wearing collars in BDSM play. Even in society, submissives and slaves quite often wear collars as a demonstration of their role within the community, or as a mark of their commitment to another. Still for others, like Secretary’s Lee Holloway or Fifty Shades Of Grey’s Anastasia Steele, a collar is not a part of their typical submissive look. So then, are collars really essential in BDSM? As an owned, non-collar-wearing submissive, I wanted to shed some light on this debate today.

Collars: The Argument For

A Look At History

From far back in early civilisation, slaves have largely been depicted as wearing a collar of some form and so many BDSM practitioners have continued with this style. During the Stonewall Riots, leather collars with an O ring became a common symbol of the “cubs”, the submissive gay bottoms that were committed to “Bears”, or Top, gay men. Be them metal, leather or another material entirely, the submissive symbolism of the collar still remains today.

A Wedding Ring With A Difference

For some, a collar is a symbolism unlike no other. Far from a mere fashion piece or a symbol of their role, it is a symbol of their commitment to their partner – not unlike a wedding or engagement ring. Dominant and submissive partners alike take pride in the submissive’s wearing of a collar, both as a sign of the one that they own and of the one that they serve.

Attachment Style

Collars don’t only serve as a decorative piece, but they are functional too. Most collars have a (or several) D-ring or O-ring, making it possible for the submissive partner to be attached to furniture, fixtures or even themselves. Without the collar in situ, such attachment wouldn’t always be possible.

A Healing Touch

Still further, some many submissives claim to feel a sense of safety and comfort while wearing their collar, as though they are being protected and nurtured by their Dominant partner, because of the collar they wear. The collar, then, doesn’t just provide a a symbol of a commitment, but perhaps rather a physical trigger to a more peaceful and secure state of mind.

Collars: The Argument Against

The Dark Times

In more recent history, activists, politicians and leading figures alike have sought to do away with all and any associations of slavery, the slave trade and inequality between the races. Given this, then a collar might be an unpalatable look for some people today, and an alternative gesture may be preferred.

A Key Feature

One of the most challenging problems that some people face when deciding on a collar is trying to find something that is (at least somewhat) discreet, or complements a particular aesthetic. Unfortunately, leather collars are typically at least 1-2cm in width, and some many metal collars can be made of thicker metal chains, or even solid rolled metal. Although there are some great many styles out there, some people still struggle to find a style that suits them.

A Matter Of The Heart

At it’s core, submission (and by proxy, slavery) is not in the things we wear, but rather, it comes from somewhere deep within. Given this, some may argue that a collar almost ceases to be necessary to the making of a submissive, or is even in excess. If the submissive (or slave) partner wants to submit, they will, and if they don’t, a collar isn’t going to change their mind.

A Required Taste

For my husband, for myself and perhaps for the producers of Secretary and Fifty Shades too, some people just don’t enjoy the aesthetic that a collar produces. Again, perhaps they find it excessive, bulky, or just “too heavy” in their relationship dynamic. Whatever the reason, it is vital that we emphasise that it is the intentions and willingness of the submissive that defines who they are, not whether or not they wear a collar.

Bonus: Home (Dis)comforts

Finally, t wouldn’t have been right for me to conclude this list without telling you why I, personally, choose not to wear a collar: I find something around my neck (unless it’s my husband’s hand!) plainly uncomfortable. I’ve tried collars, didn’t mind them for an hour or two, but then found that the sensation of something pressing against my larynx made me feel anxious and distracted. I’m a Highly Sensitive Person anyway, and odd sounds, smells and sensations are something that I’m certain to pick up on. In order for me to be calm and productive, it is important for me to be as comfortable as possible. A good Dominant partner would not force you to wear something that makes you feel physically or emotionally uncomfortable, if it were not consensual.

Symbolic Jewellery: The Non-Collar Collar

If you and your partner really do prefer a lighter touch, I highly advise you to look to symbolic jewellery (or even just symbolism) for something that suits you both. Symbolic jewellery can include a necklace, a bracelet, an anklet, a ring, a toe ring, a pair of earrings, a navel bar, a pair of cufflinks, a tie pin… the list goes on. Be sure to discuss styles, elements, and if the submissive partner has a known allergy, definitely consider your chosen metals. As someone with a nickel allergy, my bracelet is made entirely with 925 Sterling silver. That way, I make an accidental reaction to sentimental items a thing of my past.

For symbolism, you have even more variety and it could include: A perfume, a make-up look, a tie, a hair scrunchie, a style of underwear (I definitely only bought my husband stripy socks after he made a reference to my love of them 😉 ), even a particular hairstyle. Find something special and meaningful for you both, and go for it.

Just as an aside, Christian Grey also presents Anastasia Steele with a charm bracelet in Fifty Shades Freed. Although it is a symbol of the things in their relationship and not in place of their wedding rings (or a collar), it is indeed another example of symbolism and of jewellery making an appearance within the contexts of BDSM.

Conclusion

Ultimately, whether or not you include a collar in your relationship is a decision that only you and your partner can decide, but I hope that if nothing else, if you’re looking for ideas that are something other than a collar, then this post offers some assurance. I have been with my husband for more than 14 years, and I am still every bit the submissive to him now – with my shiny silver bracelet – as I was back during our early days. Only you and your partner get to decide what your dynamic looks like, what it involves, and whether or not you (or they) wear a collar. If you decide to invest, then great, and I hope that you both truly have a wonderful time. If collars aren’t for you, then I hope that whatever you and your partner decide, you will have a great time picking something meaningful to you both.

That’s it from me, Twisties! Do you have a collar? Do you have something else symbolic to your dynamic instead? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

Until next time.

Stay safe and have fun,

Helen xx

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13 thoughts on “Are Collars Essential In BDSM?

  1. a lovely lesson on the history of collars. Mistress Kate and SIr gave me a collar so that i could be reminded of them when i am not with them. I am not allowed to wear it when i go out with them or when someone comes to house when i am there. They also know that i can’t wear the collar around mt family. But i do wear it when i travel back and forth to their house taking it off before i leave the car.
    If when i get there and noone is coming over i kneel and Mistress puts in on me. Makes me feel secure, safe and puts me deeper in sub space. I will wear it when i sleep at their house. I wear the collar when i go out shopping and travel to and from soccer events.
    i totally understand the bracelet. it is interesting to know how others view collars or items to display their submission.

    1. Thank you slave sindee, I’m glad that this post resonated with you. Your arrangement sounds very interesting, if not also quite detailed. It must be quite challenging sometimes to remember when to put your collar on, and when to take it off?

      1. i haven’t had a problem with remembering. i have been seen my neighbors at the store with it on. they haven’t asked questions. i guess maybe with it being on and off even at Mistresses house has taught me when to remove or put it back on has helped in that manner. during winter i wear turtlenecks sometimes to hide collar.

      2. That’s interesting, thank you sharing that with me. I think you’re better than me there, my memory is shocking at times. I can remember narrowly getting on a bus in a collar after an event. Fortunately, I managed to remove it before the bus pulled up lol.

  2. I love this post! Like you, Helen, I struggle with wearing a collar. I’ve had plenty of styles over the years with the Captain but I don’t like the feeling of something around my neck. So eventually he gifted me a steel bracelet that matches his. I never take it off and it’s my official collar. Having a bracelet works for us, and like you said, everyone has to do what feels right in their relationship. Another great post! Well done, my friend! x

    1. Aww yay, we’re bracelet twinsies! Hehe. I know I went through a few styles of collar too (leather, velvet ribbon, metal etc) and similarly, it was just that feeling of something around my neck each time. Not only, but they always used to end up caught in my hair, which was a nightmare 🙁 Bracelets definitely work for some people, and I love jangling my charms at Matt as a reminder of where I belong hehe. Thank you Penny, I’m glad you enjoyed x

  3. I do love to think about collars. I’ve been wearing a collar since I was a young teen, only it doesn’t look like one, but it is a heavy chain around my neck, and I have not missed a day wearing it since I was 13. My most recent Mistress made sure that I understood it as a collar, as she led me around by it all the time. I have many others, some which I wear as jewellery.

    It is very symbolic for me, and I know its there, feeling naked without it.

    My other “collar” is a piercing, and that was something that I did on a whim, but was taken over by my wife, who gave me a wedding ring to put in it…and that is what is there now. The symbolism of permanent ownership is always welcome.

    1. That’s very interesting, and I’m glad that you have something that works for you. It’s also interesting that you started wearing them as a teen – do you feel like you knew (or wanted) the symbolism even back then? I’m certainly aware of chain collars, I even had one myself for a time. However, I didn’t feel that they were for me.

      I do understand feeling naked. When a jump ring was accidentally opened on my bracelet a few weeks ago, I too felt naked and incomplete.

      Your piercing sounds interesting too, and it’s fascinating how different individuals (or couples, for that) come up with creative ways to demonstrate their connections to one another. I hope your piercing symbolises an excellent relationship for many more years to come 🙂

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