I was lucky enough to find some old fashioned wooden clothespins that matched the colors on my boyfriend’s Easter basket. Those 50 clothespins are now attached to the basket, on display. Waiting for the right moment.
I love pinching. Big thuddy pinches that grab large portions of skin. Tiny biting pinches that grab small bits of flesh between two fingernails. The slow burn and fade of clothespins, just waiting to jolt back to sensation again, and explode with pain when I take them off. The long tugging gasp of clover clamps on nipples, all control over the intensity gripped in my hand. Fiery yanks of pain as I grab flesh in my fingers or in a clamp and twist it off slowly. The bursting agony of clips that get torn off in the long line of a zipper, all at once.
Pinching is not without its edges. (Not much is.) Because it is a common tool of bullies and abusers, it can be loaded for people, and I now am likely to check in about it the way I do when I pick up tools that are likely to carry trauma history for people, like belts, face slapping, knives and batons. It’s also a unique sensation, a skin surface burning sting kind of thing. It’s a sensation that can be hard for folks to tolerate, including folks who enjoy other kinds of sting. Even people who love pinching often squirm when it’s happening in the moment. Like knives or face slapping, a lot of folks can’t predict how they will feel about pinching, or how they will react, till they experience it. With clips, that can mean that sometimes you are in the middle of something that you have to take more of before you can get out of it. (It’s not an easy kind of play to safeword out of, for that reason.)
Clips were one of the first top skills I learned. I was walking through a public dungeon, a novice in every sense of the word. I was mostly hungry for submission, but knew I was a switch. It was maybe my third play party, and I was fairly high femme that night. This femme dyke I’d barely spoken to, but knew was a local kink educator and title holder, was topping a boi I’d never met. Their scene was just beginning. The top introduced me to the bottom, and asked me if I wanted to join their scene, to learn how to play with clips. I agreed fairly instantly, hungry for concrete hands-on knowledge.
She taught me how to put them on, and some different ways to take them off, telling me about the different levels of pain that each way would create. She told me how long I could keep them on, and what to look for if things went awry. It was brief careful instruction, and then a hell of a lot of practice. We put on and took off about 50 clips several times over the course of the scene. By the end of the experience, I felt confident that I had enough skill to top using clips. And yet, I had no idea how I would use them in a scene.
As I watched their play, and even though I participated in their dynamic, I didn’t understand it. I couldn’t get inside it. There were many jokes, of the sadistic sort I’ve seen so often, where the top is joking around about the mean things they are doing, and the joking was part of how the sadism worked, was a check in before ramping up, a sort of a dare before the ramping up happened. The bottom groaned, and joked back. They discussed politics. They barely used honorifics. The energy was…playful, joking, casual. It didn’t feel serious, or even that sexual. None of that really captures the dynamic, those things were just the ones I noticed that I didn’t understand. It felt so strange to be connected to a scene dynamic that didn’t make sense to me.
I had never imagined this kind of play, where the pain was the center, and didn’t come in a framework of D/s. D/s was always the core of my imagined, fantasized, and, so far, actualized kink. SM without D/s…I couldn’t wrap my mind around it. Back then, I didn’t even have words for what was different, what their dynamic was, and why it felt so different to me, why after this very practical skills practice I literally still could not imagine a scene that I would do with clips, as a top or a bottom.
I go back to this experience a lot. It helps me remember that kink has a huge range, and that I am not personally interested in power-neutral pain play. It also helps me think about kink education, and how practical skills cannot be the center of it, especially for people who are much more interested in power dynamic than they are in SM. Folks like me who use pain play as a tool to exercise power, a tool to invoke and intensify dynamic, instead of as an end unto itself. I am a sadist, but there is a reason that I generally refer to myself as a dominant sadist. Because you cannot understand my kink if you just see the sadist part, you have to get that my sadism is leashed by my dominance, that my desire to inflict pain and cruelty is in service of expressing control and power.
I love the precision of pinching, and of clips, the way it’s about minute control, about pain that is incredibly concentrated. I love the way using a large number of clips can work in a scene, the way they create so many specific moments for my gaze, the way I can stretch out that part of the experience, so that it feels roomy and luxurious, this place where I hold you under scrutiny, watching the way you are breathing and moving, seeing what the pain does to your skin, what it invokes inside you. I love the way clips and pinching sensitize the skin, wake it up, so that other kinds of pain in those same areas is more intense; I often talk about that if I use clips early on, build towards fear or helplessness or overwhelm, wake you up psychologically as well as physically. I love the way clips and pinching can be used on top of other marks, a delicious jolt of cruelty and sharp pain, a way of possessive claiming, of intensifying marks, of reminding you where I have marked you as I fuck you.
It’s partly because it was my first hands on skill, and partly because I learned so much about myself while exploring clips, that I love them so. I enjoy the delay of them, the way they hurt going on, and hurt every time I touch them, and then hurt the most when I take them off. I love the way it’s easy to use them remotely, to exercise control by making you put them on your own body, to be inflicting pain from a distance.
I love the kind of pain clips create, the skin surface nature of it, the compression of it, the way it is burning and nerve ending focused, the way the pain is localized and reverberates, the way I can literally put them basically anywhere, claim every inch of your skin with them. I love the way they can so beautifully intertwine with orgasm control, so that you are begging me to take them off so you can come from the pain of it. I love the way the pain can subside and then be activated again, the way that can create a sense of helplessness, or overwhelm, a jolt of surprise, a nudge toward surrender.
I love using clover clamps, tugging on them as I fuck you, knowing that I’m pulsing pain into your nipples as I ram deep inside you. Making you hold the chain in your teeth as you ride my cock, deeply aware that it’s short enough to create constant pain as you fuck yourself onto me.
I love pinching, too. The sensation of it, using my hands to do it, the way I can pulse pain and energy that way. I love pinching bruises I’ve created, especially during sex, adding pain to the experience so that my sadist is fully satisfied. My hands are strong; I can hurt someone so much more with them than I can with clips. And sometimes that’s exactly what I need, to hurt you with my own body, especially my hands.
Here’s another truth about clips specifically, a truth that makes me love them even more these days: they give my hands and wrists a rest. Most of the tools I love require a strong precise grip: canes, knives, batons, quirts, floggers, belts. Most of the other things I love require my hands: punching, slapping, pinching, fisting. The reality is that my wrists are not that strong; I’ve sprained them several times (most recently in a scene I did as a new top about a dozen years ago, where I did not watch out well enough for my own well-being and did not call a scene I should have called).
The reality is that at this point, my hands can only do so much, and for only so long. It took me a while to accept that concrete limitation on my play, because it often means that I choose between some of the play I love, and being able to fuck someone with my hands or while supporting my own body with my hands. In all honesty, I still get pissed off about my limited capacity in this particular area. And, it just is. The need for that choice is real. The reality of my physical capacity in terms of my wrists and hands often leads me take a break in the middle of play, to shift gears or slow down and then ramp up again. The arc of my play has changed as I’ve been more real with myself about my own capacities and been more invested in honoring my actual physical reality.
Another part of owning this reality is that being concrete about it, and discussing it with play partners, has sometimes led to play not happening. Some folks don’t want to play with tops who are upfront about impairments like that. Some folks see a pause or break in scene as something that ruins the mood. Which is good for me to know as early as possible in negotiations, for many reasons, including the other disabilities that are also part of my reality. Because if you are not up for play that honors my disabilities, that treats me as a whole human being with needs, then play is not going to happen.
Being real about my own disabilities and capacities in relation to kink has meant that I get more creative in thinking about what play can look like, the arc of it, the form that a scene can take. That I look for scenes that can include things like play activities that are less strenuous for my hands and wrists, just as I look for play where I have the possibility of resting my back (because I have been dealing with back problems for close to twenty years), and play where I can take a break for a snack (because I need that—I have diabetes).
So, one of the reasons I adore clips is that they let me extend play, while still resting my body in ways that it needs. I get a break without pausing the scene, or have a way of taking a short break and then extending my rest into a longer period of time as I slowly ramp up. They are not the only tool I can pull out to use while I rest my hands and wrists, but they are a lovely and versatile one.