My first collar with Master Sinclair Sexsmith was not a collar at all. It was just a little piece of ball chain and dog tags — there were two that came from a poetry dog tag kit. One of them said the word “sweet” and the other said the word “boy,” and they gave them to me on the bed on February 24th, 2012 after a rough sex scene and I thought it was so sweet I cried and at the same time I knew, oh this is trouble I’m gonna have to negotiate this with my daddy.
At the time my primary and daddy was somebody else. So Master and I talked about it, and agreed that it didn’t mean I was their sweet boy just that I was a sweet boy … it still made me think of them so I wore them with very much pleasure, but not every day. I always wanted a little bit more.
Fast forward a little bit and on September 17th, 2012, our “first fuckaversary,” as we called it, Mr. Sexsmith gave me some new dog tags when I came to visit them at their apartment in New York City after Fusion. The new tags said “sweet boy” and “dirty faggot.” They made me very happy and we were getting to the point where they had a little bit more of a possessive or ownership kind of a symbol, though not an all-out collar, either. Maybe now, looking back, I’d call it a “consideration” or “training” collar, but we didn’t use those words at the time.
So I started wearing those dog tags all the time and made room in my other relationships to have that be OK. I liked the jingle of it against my chest when I wore it under my shirt, and I liked how it looked on top of a plain white T-shirt, which was already becoming a kind of a uniform staple, even at that early time. They felt very me. I didn’t expect them and felt honored to be gifted them.
One day in early December 2012, Master came to visit me in San Francisco (they weren’t my Master at the time, we were Daddy/boy I think). I had done some little mistake — I think I forgot to wear a butt plug to pick them up at the airport. I was just in too much of a hurry. So I was feeling really quite guilty about it, and Daddy was like, “it’s okay,” but then they were still acting a little bit mad that I had forgotten. They took me back to the hotel and put me on the bed and blindfolded me and took away my tags and said I was in trouble and I was so scared — I thought I wasn’t going to get them back. I was devastated! We were doing a little bit of needle play, but I didn’t know that’s what it was, I was blindfolded, right? I just felt this sharp sensation and then a little tug and then a drip of warm something going down my chest, and Master (at the time, Daddy) said “perfect,” and leaned back and took the blindfold off of me. I was so surprised to look down and see that they had two brand new dog tags tied to my sternum with fishing line. One said “rife” and the other said “Property of Mr. Sexsmith,” and it was that last part that I loved the most. Property of. I had read the book Slavecraft on assignment around that same time, and in the margins where I was reading, I think it was chapter 4, the difference between a submissive and a slave and I highlighted that part and I wrote in the margins, “oh shit, I think I’m a slave.” So we were definitely exploring it. We started reading other books, and came slowly to more of an M/s identity.
At the time, we were not very comfortable with that language. We liked to use “Owner/property.” As white folks from a social justice background, we didn’t know how to play with language for fun that had been used non consensually so recently in our country. It wasn’t until we met some really smart black folks in the M/s community like Mollena Williams and “Mama” Vi Johnson who explained to us, like all edgy play, consent and intent are everything. So we started talking about this “property of” part more and more. At the time we were still long distance so we wrote back and forth and I read a bunch of M/s books for book reports to them and I guess they figured if I’m a slave that makes them the Master… so we started using this language in early 2013.
We had already had a D/s contract from when we were Daddy/boy (written in late September 2012) and it kept evolving. One thing I noticed is that at some point instead of listing all the areas where they were allowed to have control of my life, we started listing more just limits of the areas where they could not have control over me. Eventually we went back into the contract and updated it to be more of an M/s than a D/s agreement, explicitly. We spent hours playing with the wording in Google docs, going back-and-forth; commenting, revising, highlighting, crafting. It was really fun to get into the theory and to make the agreement just right. When Mr Sexsmith moved to Oakland so we could live together and not be long distance anymore, really shortly thereafter we decided we want to have a real chain collar and mark the occasion of signing our shiny new contract.
It was both a symbol of our commitment to each other as primaries and also to this power-play being a really serious and 24/7 seven no-holds-barred part of our relationship. The collar itself was a small metal chain, the smallest we could find that still had that distinctive chain look. I think we got it at Ace Hardware. I started wearing the collar at IMsL 2013.
I wore that chain and lock for a year and a half straight; showering, sleeping, working out, everything. I never never took it off. It’s weirdly no problem to go through airport security. We don’t even travel with the key anymore. Eventually the brass-colored coating wore away and you could see the the drab silver nickel/zinc underneath. Master said it kind of tasted funny when they bit my neck and it would leave kind of bluish-greenish stains sometimes. I wore that chain until it corroded and oxidized, eventually the entire thing changed colors from shiny brass to dull grey. I’d never seen metal age like that in such an intimate way … it was pretty interesting.
So for the September 17th anniversary in 2014 (three years from our first date), we decided it was time for an upgrade. We invited a bunch of our friends to a park near Lake Temescal and we said our commitments to each other publicly and we drank wine and ate pie into the night and had a formal collaring ceremony, my first one ever. Beforehand, I did some research and found the collar that all the gay boys in our MAsT chapter recommended (Bosun steel, it’s a naval supply company). They make stainless steel chain, guaranteed to not degrade or fall apart. Even their smallest link size, 5/8 inch, was still significantly bigger than the first collar, and the weight of it felt different to put it on. It was also really shiny. I remember sitting on the back porch of our house with my Dremel tool carefully grinding down all the bumps and softening the edges from the lock and each link of chain. Those little corners can be sharp!
At events, Master seemed so proud to have me on their arm, in front of all those people that used to have so much control over me. Before, I’d enter the room and the dominants would tease me and I would blush and sometimes still hide behind Master, but having the collar helped. Even when I was not on their arm, I felt safe, protected. People who knew what it meant, knew I was off-limits. There was a lot of comfort in that, in being recognized.
Wasn’t always easy or comfortable though. They were many times, especially at first, wearing a big chain around my neck felt very self-conscious , like our dynamic was suddenly on display for anyone to see. Sometimes fabulous Oakland women with way more style than me would say, “hey, I like your chain!” and I would smile and say, “thanks, I got it at Ace Hardware for $3.50!” but I’m not sure they knew what it meant to me. Sometimes people did though. One time a checker at a clothing store in the Castro said, “hey, nice collar,” with a conspiratorial wink that was somehow not-cheesy… and that’s the best thing about it: to be recognized by other slaves and submissives, to have that nod of acknowledgment passing down the street publicly. I’m lucky to live in San Francisco where it’s not terribly unusual or unsafe to be out as leather (heck, we have Folsom Street Fair flags hanging down Market Street as I type this!), but that doesn’t mean I don’t get looks sometimes or questions from my clients.
I usually would wear button ups all the way buttoned, especially to those initial client meetings. This was because the first time I met with my client A.M., he said, “Oh my God, what is that?!” with some shock. I didn’t really know how to answer questions like that. I also didn’t know what to say with little kids would ask about it. We had a sublet not long after we first moved in together that shared the laundry room with the front house. The child who lived there asked me one time, why do you wear that? and I didn’t know what to say. I think what I said at the time was, “it’s just a necklace,” but that felt so insincere and also untrue. I don’t want to lie to kids so I spent a lot of time thinking about what would be an age-appropriate answer and finally what I came up with was, “it’s for a game that I’m playing with my friend.” Kids understand games.
So all is well with the new chain stainless steel collar. I really like the weight of it, and we learned a lot from the first one. It was a little bit longer (the first one would sometimes hit me in the teeth when I would go down to do burpees or other quick up-down kind of exercises). Also one time a I went skydiving at my brother’s bachelor party and right after leaving the plane the lock hit me so hard in the lips I thought I busted it, so I held it in my mouth the entire way down… that just seemed like the safest way to do it. So the new heavier stainless steel collar was a 24/7 wear thing, and all was well.
The only other little addition was for puppy play, an impromptu stop at the pet store on the way to IMsL last year. I don’t wear it all the time, but it’s fun to have when I’m a pup!
Fast forward a year or two, and Master wanted me to go back to rugby. So I joined a team, but I couldn’t wear the big chain collar, not to practice or to games. They’re strict about that stuff for safety reasons. In fact, one of the only times I was ever “sin binned” in college was for not removing an earring. So I requested a rugby collar, something that would be safe and not penalty-worthy, and we came up with a silver chain anklet I could wear under my tall socks. It worked well, though it was a little sad to have to remove the “real” collar three times a week.
I’ve gotten spoiled by the off season, not needing to ever take off the chain collar again, but it’s not always so simple. I made a simple black leather sheath/cover for it to help on hot days, or when I’d go visit family, or work in a client’s office, to keep it slightly more discreet around muggles. I still got to feel the weight of it, though, and finger the lock when I needed a reminder, and pull it out from under my shirt when work concluded for the day. Like Mr. Rogers taking off his cardigan and putting on his sweater, it was part of the coming home ritual to unbutton my button-up and pull out the collar.
Last year we got gay married and Master wanted me in this green top that had a low cut. My family has seen the collar before, but always only poking out from under a tee shirt. They’d asked questions and I’d kind of shrugged it off. We are close, but I don’t talk about that stuff with them. For the wedding, we also wanted something symbolic that I was making this choice to get married more on my own (though it was an order …) so I made a more subtle leather thong collar that was a special occasion thing.
We both really liked the way it looked. The lock was still obvious (the lock has not yet changed since the first chain collar, it is the piece that has remained constant). After the wedding trip, I go back to the big new chain.
So fast forward a year to the present and I start my dog walking business (with their encouragement; they know how much being physical and being outside is nourishing to me, and how much my computer-based website-making other job can trap me inside for the daylight hours if I’m not careful). Master started teasing me for how I dress up for the dogs. Well, I actually dress up for their human parents; I will wear one thing to pick up the dogs and change into something totally different once we hit the trails (usually shorts and a sleeveless tee shirt in the Summer). I tell them it’s partly the collar, I don’t feel comfortable in tee shirts without a button up over them because the chain is so obvious and I don’t want it to be a topic of conversation (actually, I have a whole dress code of things I’ll wear and not wear to see clients, but that’s another story). So they notice this and we start experimenting with a lighter leather collar like I wore for the wedding except for everyday use. I took a single leather cord from my lox of leather supplied and “whipped” the ends with string (that’s the technical term). It’s very comfortable, and feels more “me,” probably in part because I made it. So I’ve been using that to sleep in, work in, work out in, wearing it constantly for the past month or so. It requires more maintenance than the chain ones do, but that activity is deeply satisfying. I know it too won’t last forever, but I’ve had to let go of the romantic notion that a collar is one holy object that never ever comes off and stays constant the entire length of a relationship.
A part of me wants to be a stickler for that, so we can say in twenty years it’s never come off and never changed like the men in this book. I think that’s really neat!! But I know that would not be for me, it would be for others. I know I’ve had some judgment about those who have “work collars” for day use and “high protocol collars” for events and such. I don’t like that I feel that way, but now I’m in the same boat so I’m learning better understanding! Maybe, more accurately, I have frustration with those who buy a chain for Folsom Street Fair to fit in and because it’s sexy but it doesn’t mean anything to them. of course, people can do what they like and I support that, but it’s an important dog whistle to find my community when we’re out in the vanilla world, and those practices make it harder to access that really valuable community thing.
So now, four years after the collaring ceremony, all my shirts are stretched in the front, and many are stained in the back from the metal. The collar has, like the contract, changed a lot through the years… I know even the lock, so far the constant element, will one day need to be replaced. They’re just not made to withstand years of shampoo and as such, one day I fully expect the key won’t turn in the lock and we’ll have to bust it off some other way. I’m trying to not be too precious about the specific object itself. Like wedding rings (and that is a whole other post), it is a symbol of this beautiful commitment, but it is not the commitment itself. And sure, we may not be able to say I’ve worn the same chain for twenty years like some can, but we can say it has, like the rest of our relationship, evolved over time.
I look forward to many more years.