View From The Top: Canes Are Sticks!

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Before my boy and I were full-time 24/7 live-in master and slave in a negotiated consensual power dynamic, we were long-distance lovers. One February, I visited him in at his family’s ranch in Texas for a week and had a serious revelation in my dominant life: I could use almost anything to beat him.

It was completely thrilling. It was completely terrifying.

He had been out in the yard and wandering around the wild property and, on his knees, he presented me with a handful of canes he had found. Thin branches cut from brambles and trees, gathered from the underbrush. Switches.

Immediately, I had to hold myself back. I felt my inner sadist rushing out like a flash flood, and I struggled to remember the mantras of impact play classes. Only hit big fleshy areas. Breathe. Check in. Pay attention. Build slowly. But my sadism whispered louder: “You could beat him with anything. Literally anything. Like that… or that… or that.”



After he handed me these canes, and after I used them to beat him over the next few days, I marveled at the revelation: canes are sticks. Suddenly, I saw everything differently. The dowel that opens the venetian blinds. The scrub brush for the dishes. The paintbrushes. The thick lead rope for the horses. The stack of kindling for firewood. I could use anything as an impact toy.

I would look at him, then look around the room and get ten ideas for ways to bruise him right then. I felt dizzy with lust, with sadist thrill. I felt afraid of myself. What would I do? Would I completely lose control?

It’s not that canes are sticks was so far beyond me. I knew how canes are made; I’d heard the occasional thrilling story of a submissive told to go cut their own switch from the tree in the yard. I understood pervertables, household items that can become kinky. (Kitchen utensils are common favorites.) But it’s one thing to know something intellectually, and it’s another thing to understand it in my body, to feel it in my hands and heart and pants, and when that sweet boy handed me a bundle of canes-are-sticks and then, in the next breath, eagerly bent over the coffee table, it clicked.

I realized that I had never really let that knowledge, the mystical revelation that canes are sticks, sink in. I had taken dozens of BDSM safety classes by then; I considered myself a responsible and careful top and sadist. I knew I liked giving people intense sensation through impact play — preferably using floggers, canes, paddles and my fists, and sometimes through strap-on sex. I loved it when the bottom I was playing with cried, really broke down and released something deep inside; neither of us might see it coming but both of us would hold it preciously as we let it go. But as I was learning about how to top — how to hit and where, how to read body language, how to communicate actively, how to check in periodically without breaking the flow or energy — I got so tied up in safety and responsibility that I denied some of the impulses from my body, the cravings to grab for anything nearby and use it to make sensations in a lover’s body.

For years I was very pure about the objects I used. They were crafted for kinky impact play and nothing else. I rarely used pervertables. I kept my toys clean, neat, tidy and well maintained — and I used only those toys. I had rules about what was and what was not appropriate for me to play with — my way of putting boundaries on my sadism. And I think that was a deliberate, though unconscious, way to limit what I could use and what “safety” meant. I wanted desperately for this play to be “safe,” and to be a top who took safety and consent seriously.

My desire to hurt someone sometimes scares me. It feels endlessly hungry. I fear these impulses will override my own cognition and take on a life of their own. Putting limits on myself was a way to ensure I would not get carried away with my own sadism and actually hurt someone.

It was only after years of this that I let canes are sticks permeate and allowed myself to look around the world and see impact objects everywhere.

Now, I trust myself to have good communication skills, to not lose control and let my inner sadist take over, to not go too far. I’ve learned the foundations of topping and impact play, and I can trust myself to grab any ol’ object from my surroundings and torture him. And he has no qualms about being beaten with a branch he found in the woods, a stick he picked up from a creek bed, a blackberry bramble with thorns. His eagerness for whatever I want to do to him was new to me. I’m ever grateful for his trust, and continue to do my own part to earn and deserve it every day we’re together.

And now, that cutting board, that big heavy hardcover book, those rocks, that bamboo stirring spoon, that cat toy: all of them can be the foundation for our next scene.

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Sinclair Sexsmith

Sinclair Sexsmith (they/them) is “the best-known butch erotica writer whose kinky, groundbreaking stories have turned on countless queer women” (AfterEllen), who “is in all the books, wins all the awards, speaks at all the panels and readings, knows all the stuff, and writes for all the places” (Autostraddle). ​Their short story collection, Sweet & Rough: Queer Kink Erotica, was a 2016 finalist for the Lambda Literary Award. Sinclair identifies as a white non-binary butch dominant, a survivor and an introvert. Follow their writings at Sugarbutch Chronicles.

Sinclair has written 43 articles for us.


  1. This switch story reminded me of the time I hid every large spoon in the house under a coffee table when I was a kid. I think I could make a fun game out of that now

  2. A related anecdote. During my time in college, I was looking for a walking cane as part of a Halloween costume. I went with friends to a costume store, but all the walking sticks were breakable toys. My friend didn’t like anything there & suggested we go to a sex shop that has a great selection of clothes. I was able to find some canes there that looked sturdy enough. I ask will this cane work as a walk sticking. The said if it’s good enough to not break across someone’s back, it’s good enough as a walking stick. I still have it in my room somewhere.

  3. Wooden spoons, a light-weight leather belt, a cat-o-nine, sure, I guess…

    A cane? I can’t imagine wishing to cause such pain and potential injury to someone I care about, even with consent, even with their fervent request. Yes, one person’s pain is another’s orgasmic bliss, but is there a point when you’re taking advantage of a genuine psychological flaw in a partner? Would you agree to using a baseball bat on your partner? A tire iron? “No, baby, I want you to stick that needle in my eye!”

    I’m sure I’m being judgy here, but I’m trying to understand the dynamics of something that sounds like consensual domestic violence. Is the distinction that Party A wants it? Is there a point, Sinclair, where you (the Top) says no?

    I’m not trying to harsh the vibe of something I obviously don’t entirely get. I DO get bondage, discipline, some degree of humiliation. We all have different tastes and notions of what gives pleasure (even in pain), but when is a particular predilection no longer consensual sex and a sinister preying on a clinically-ill partner?

    • Consensual domestic violence doesn’t exist. Domestic violence is all about stripping people of their voice and autonomy.

      Just like any impact play toy, a cane can cause a spectrum of pain from the gentle hint of a sting to a nasty bite. It’s not the toy, it’s how it’s operated. We all interpret sensation differently; what seems like unbearable pain to you is a yummy foreplay to someone else.

      I’m trying to hold myself back here, but it’s a little tough, because kinky people (bottoms and tops) have been fighting off mentally ill diagnoses for centuries.

      All of our relationships exist within balance of our various histories, traumas, and mental health. This discussion of “when is it a sign of mental illness?” could be applied to communication styles, to care taking, to plain old missionary sex. When it is only applied to kinky sex, that is a sign of sex negativity and stigma.

      Could there be a point where the top says no? Sure, but that’s not what this article is about. It’s about opening up to the full possibility of creative play through the loving support of a partner, who seems fully cognizant by the way.

      • It’s not the with of the cane, it’s the mutually agreed upon level of force(I’m trying to make that motion of the ocean joke here, but don’t have time to rhyme)

        But also, Spicy food was originally a plants way of making sure mammals didn’t eat it instead of birds(birds don’t feel that shit) And us Human Beings learned to enjoy it and fucked that whole system up. It’s kinda our thing!

    • It’s abuse when the receiving partner revokes consent, the giving partner ignores that revocation, and continues what they’re doing. Frankly, it’s insulting to insinuate that all submissive types are mentally ill and all dominant types are predators (someone else mentioned above that kinksters have been fighting that stigma).

      Pain, to me, is simply a different kind of sensation. An intense one that can carry a lot of specific meaning, to be sure, but it’s just another way for someone to touch me, at the heart. If I didn’t want someone to do that to me, I would say so; if they continued to do it after I said no, that would be abuse.

    • You’re being judgey, check. You don’t get it, check.

      I’ve had visible welts from a leather belt & I’ve been caned without marks. It’s all in how the top uses her implements.

  4. Thank you for this post. As a submissive masochist I love the insight into what sadists are thinking. That is something I can’t understand viscerally, yet means so much for relationships.

  5. HA! Thank you very much for this, took inspiration yesterday (in a not terribly creative way) by plucking a bamboo rod from the balcony to compensate for the lack of a cane.

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