For the fifth time today, my hand settles on my neck and finds nothing there. I feel ungrounded, unmoored, off – like when you forget your wristwatch and keep trying to tell time by the freckles and hairs on your bare wrist. My throat is naked and the rest of me might as well be, too: I’m exposed and unkempt if there’s no collar where a collar ought to be.

This feeling of collar dependence has snuck up on me in recent years, alongside my discovery of my submissive identity – but it doesn’t have to be a literal collar to feel right. I’ve experimented with heart-shaped pendants on silver chains, pleather chokers from teen-girl superstores, even silky jewel-tone neckties on days when I feel boyish. To me, it’s more about the feeling of the item, and what it symbolizes, than how “authentically kinky” it looks.

A collar, or some other close-fitting neck adornment, feels a bit like a partner’s hand tightening around my throat. It does a minor version of what choking during sex does: focuses me, brings my attention to the present moment, reminds me of where I am and what I’m supposed to be doing. My dominant boyfriend has told me he likes making submissives feel “held” – that is to say, both controlled and comforted at the same time, with the same action – and that’s how collars make me feel, too. Held, cradled, safe.

A collar feels a bit like a partner’s hand tightening around my throat. It does a minor version of what choking during sex does: focuses me, brings my attention to the present moment, reminds me of where I am and what I’m supposed to be doing.

(Worth noting here: collars have a dark history connected to, most notably, the slavery of Black folks. While they obviously have an altogether different meaning and feeling when used as part of a consensual power exchange relationship, it’s important to keep the history of our symbols and tools in mind when we use them.)

Moreso even than I wear collars during sex, I like to wear them when faced with a distressingly long to-do list or a daunting event to attend. They soothe my anxiety and remind me what I am capable of. At times, when I’ve been dating a dominant person, a collar can act as a stand-in for my beau’s stern but supportive words. But even when I’m single, collars bring me comfort. They’re like an encouragement from a hypothetical future partner, or from the bravest part of my inner self.

Why I Held Off on Buying My First BDSM Collar

London Day Collar, Oddo Leather


Even when I’m single, collars bring me comfort. They’re like an encouragement from a hypothetical future partner, or from the bravest part of my inner self.

Collars aren’t all discipline and diligence to me, though; they can be romantic, too. All my life, I have treasured tokens that prove that someone likes me. I clung onto written communiqué from high school girlfriends and boyfriends, even hastily-scribbled FYIs on post-it notes never intended to be kept. I hung bouquets of tulips upside-down from my ceiling to dry and preserve them so the romantic gestures they symbolized could theoretically never fade. I made excuses to borrow partners’ shirts or sweaters, wrapping myself up in comfortingly-perfumed vestiges of infatuation and trust.

As I grew and changed, so too did my taste in romantic symbols. I started requesting hickeys from vanilla partners, and bruises and bite marks from the kinkier ones: souvenirs of encounters I could take with me back into the real world. Sometimes these marks meant more to me even than the people who’d left them; sometimes they outlasted the relationships they illustrated on my skin.

It seems inevitable to me now, as I look back on this long-standing pattern and my descent into submissive perviness, that I would come to love collars. Depending on who you ask, they are anything from a kinky sex toy to an offbeat fashion accessory to the kink equivalent of a wedding ring. They are pretty objects that can stand in for highly romantic ideas. It’s no surprise that I, in all my materialist sentimentality, would be drawn to them.

But though I’d wanted one for years, I held off on buying my first one. I wanted my collar to be a gift from a perfect dominant partner, one who understood its significance and would happily take on that responsibility as my “Owner” or “Sir” or “Daddy.” I lusted after pink leather collars with cute little bows, or collars with heart-shaped padlocks, knowing I’d look and feel like the cutest little femme princess in one but also knowing buying my own would feel akin to buying a wedding dress while hopelessly single.

It was a shock, then, when my best friend Bex surprised me with my dream collar on my 24th birthday. They knew I struggled with externalizing my hope and happiness into a mythical future partner who had yet to arrive. I’d been trying to remember that I still had value even while single, and that a submissive without a dominant could still be happy and whole.

Why I Held Off on Buying My First BDSM Collar

Berlin Lockable Collar, Oddo Leather


Bex gave me the gift in the front seat of their car on a road trip we took together, and when I opened it, I burst into tears and chirped, “I can be my own Daddy!”

They smiled and said, “Exactly.”