Haberdashery on BDSM, Slave Collars, and Me

Ahh I’m really growing to love the Kink of the Week topics because it forces me to reexamine my own views and practices on BDSM, Kink and how I choose to play (and on occasion why).   So Jade has picked a potential lightning rod again with the choice of collars.  To me the topic seems as split and polarizing for many as religion and politics.  Time will tell if I’m right.
As usual I’m going to meander a bit mixing answer’s to Jade’s well thought out discussion starters with a bit of personal history and philosophy (which is neither more right or wrong than anyone else’s) so please bear with me.  Secondly I mean no offense to anyone else’s views or lifestyle choices this is merely my opinion and what works for me and the people in my life.  
And so I’ll begin.  
Woman wearing a BDSM Collar“In our house not even the dog wears a collar” is a line I’ve been using for about 6 years or so and was also true.  It came up when someone was looking to out me “as not a real player” once asked if I had collared the Blonde.  It was followed by “no I did something far more sadistic; I married her”.  The answer however cavalierly I originally stated it stuck.  It is a reflection both of my own (comfortable) outsider status with some in the more “traditional” BDSM community and by the fact that while a dominant I consider the Blonde my equal as a partner in life.  Yes I know that makes me a casual player or an outright fake to a lot of the “true” tops.   To which I say OK, you live your way and I’ll live mine. And I don’t really want to hang with your vibe anymore than you want to hang with my poser ass.   Now on to the Q&A for a bit
Have you ever seen a woman or a man in the grocery store with a beautiful, choker-style necklace, and wondered, “Is he/she kinky?”  Absolutely, but I also look beyond a collar or necklace quite often and find myself wondering if someone is kinky by how they are dressed, things that are said, or even how they carry themselves.   On occasion I have also judged (perhaps unfairly) people in public situations as playing with imagery such as a collar or other BDSM symbolism and not understanding the meaning it conveys to people like myself.  Then again maybe they do, since I rarely speak up and ask opting to mind my own business.      
What is it that makes this such a recognizable and enduring symbol of the BDSM lifestyle? 
Myth, mystery and ritual aside I think collars primarily serve as a marker and a symbol of a relationship within BDSM community or fetish world.  Looking throughout history people mark their territory in a variety of ways and there is nothing wrong with it.  A collar is really not much different than a wearing a boyfriends’ class ring, varsity jacket, fraternity pin or an engagement ring, wedding ring or in my case playfully swatting the Blonde on the ass whenever I feel like it.   Almost all of us mark our turf in one way or another.
Collars are what you and the other person involved make of them, nothing less nothing more.
Do you have or have you ever worn a collar as a symbol, or had a partner you had “collared” or to whom you were “collared”?
Simply not my style. I have bought countless necklaces for people (if jewelry buying were a fetish I’d qualify but am doing well in recovery) but they’ve never had a meaning beyond the obvious commonplace gesture or symbolism.   Several years back when I first got serious about my rope work I started weaving things that I simply thought were pretty into to bracelets or necklaces.  It seemed like an out cropping of knitting more than anything dark or kinky; an activity for idle hands when my mind was racing.  One day while sitting at my desk it dawned on me they might be construed as a collar.  The items were placed in a box and I went back to tying up my chair while on con calls. No mistaking my intention there.
What does the symbolism mean to you (if anything)?
My first experience with people wearing collars and chokers was not in terms of BDSM anything but in music (granted it is a very fine line looking back at some of the lyrics).   Growing up I wore leathers and spikes. Punk and Metal friends wore collars not because they were owned by or submissive to anyone but in part as a fashion statement and for shock value.
Looking at the others who write here the collars (play and everyday) that Alice wears are sacred to her and Lord Raven.   I treat it as such; in general I do my best to respect the intention of the person wearing it and their partner (if applicable) no matter who it is. For another partner of mine it’s simply a piece of fetish wear that makes her feel sexy and submissive.  She bought it for herself and occasionally wears it to play.  She is neither my property, nor my slave, or anything of the sort.  While I do adore her it’s just play clothes to me and nothing deeper in that case. I will not however help her fasten or unfasten it because of my perception of that meaning something more to many others.  (Ha and I thought I was a complete renegade until this point. OK not really)
Does being collared have the same level of commitment as being married?
This is a tough one. Yes and No.  There is no universal truth to what it means, everyone is different.  For Raven and Alice it’s a deeper commitment than simply being married. For others and perhaps too many being collared is viewed as nonchalantly as people marring and divorcing. For some people marriage means only one partner forever, for others there are many partners both casual and long term.  For many my marriage represents an abomination or perversion of the institution.  For us it works (most of the time)
I do have a rule that has only one exception – If you are wearing a collar I will not ever approach you to play, I will not flirt, or cavort with you.  I will talk, be polite, and charming on occasion but it will go no further.  If approached by you to scene I will ask about your collar and decide accordingly.
The exception is Alice – She wears Raven’s collar and I will cavort, flirt, and ask her to play.   I was a pre-negotiated part of her arrangement.  At first it was flattering but awkward but since LR and I have become good friends it actually seems perfectly normal.  (LR & AK please correct me if I’ve mis-represented this)  The truth is the two of us tend to scheme and team up on her if and when we get the chance so it works well and is a lot of fun for me.
To further complicate matters I love fucking with women in engagement rings and occasionally a wedding band if the vibe is right.   Ironically I’d never do that to a person in a collar so I suppose that says something about my flawed character and view of what is sacred if nothing else.
What about different “levels” of collars (training, play, consideration, ownership, etc.)?
If that’s your thing sure, have at it. I’m just happy when my shirt collars have brass stays in them and don’t curl up.
Or maybe you or your partner(s) only use them as part of a scene, as another toy in your kinky toy box?
Ok I admit it I put a collar on the dog when we went to the park and the vet. Beyond that there are no collars in my toy box or elsewhere, If someone I play with wants one that’s what Fetish boutiques, vendor fairs at kink events, and Amazon is for. 
Perhaps it isn’t about symbolism, but the feel of leather or steel under your hand or around your throat that excites you and sets a scene.
I like leather, and I like steel in fashion, art and kink so no objections but given the choice of a woman in a collar or a corset or great heels I’d pick options 3 & 2 far before the collar.
What about collars in public? Have you or do you wear a collar in public, or have a partner that does, as a symbol or as part of a scene?
If you want to self identify in public, go for it!  Whether it’s a seemingly demure necklace, a leather spiked dog collar, or something steel that is locked if it’s part of your look and you’re not flaunting it inappropriately (explaining it to everyone who walks by) there is no harm.
I’m going to go off topic here a bit. As a Top I do things, however subtle that symbolize to me and on occasion a few others what my interests are and my role. For submissive in many cases it’s a collar, or a style of dress, an outfit.  For me it begins with my boots.  They are an obvious outward sign of my kink.  The rest of the world sees a guy in jeans and black boots in a T shirt.  I see a sadist in everyday clothes who just got done or is planning to do something really mean to a willing partner who somewhere down the road but at the moment just happened to be out of strawberries, cake, or coffee.  Now I’m going to make some bold assumptions here that other tops self identify in public life too, just in different ways as their submissive such as head to toe black, etc.  No one may ever know, they may never even think of it in those terms but odds are a lot of folks do it. 

Final Thoughts

Damn I’m long winded on this one.   Looking back over the piece I made some rather sexist assumptions in my examples.  I considered editing them but looking at it as a male top who plays with female bottoms it is simply my view.  Couples of different orientations would have their views and examples (varsity jacket etc) that would be fitting to them.  I didn’t point out the occasional conflicts caused by those who view collars as only fit for relationships vs. people who like to simply wear them for play and the divisions or verbal jousting it can cause.