Looking at the wide array of kink implements out there, from nipple clamps to spreader bars to electrostimulation kits, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the possibilities. But one of the simplest BDSM tools, and certainly one of the first tools that many new kinksters pick up, is a spanking paddle.
With paddles, it might seem like what you see is what you get: You hit somebody with it, and it hurts. But there’s a lot more to it than that, so I spoke to some seasoned sadomasochists to get the lowdown on the best paddles for spanking, sensation and more.
Why Use a Paddle Instead of Your Hand?
First and foremost, paddles are more durable than your hand. “I like using an implement because then my hands don’t start hurting, and I can go for longer,” says Sweet Rosette, a pro domme and cohost of the Off the Cuffs kink podcast. This might not matter to you if you’re just spanking someone for a minute or two, but once you get into long-haul sessions, upgrading to an implement is worthwhile.
Paddles also allow for more variety of sensation. When it comes to impact play, your hands basically have two “modes” — slapping or punching — and while those feel great for many people, sometimes you want to change things up. Different paddle materials can bring different textures to the table, and since they’re usually firmer and flatter than a hand, they can produce higher pain levels that might thrill masochists more than a barehanded spanking.
Paddles are also the go-to spanking tool for beginners, in part because using them is more straightforward than using many other types of impact toys. “It’s pretty easy to gauge how hard you’re swinging [a paddle]. It’s not like a flogger or a crop, where you can’t quite tell,” says Dee Darkholme, a porn performer. “With paddles, if you’re swinging hard, it’s hitting hard.”
Meanwhile, Leigh Cowart, a science journalist and the author of the book Hurts So Good: The Science and Culture of Pain on Purpose, likes the sense of showmanship that a paddle can bring to a scene. “You have the iconography of the implement, which kind of primes you for [pain], seeing the paddle and knowing what is coming,” they tell me. “You can hear it swishing, and your partner can get your nervous system primed for it and anxious — in the fun way — by smacking next to you [on the bed], so you can hear the paddle and you can feel the thud of it hitting next to you, and know that you are next.”
What to Look for in a Paddle
1) Shape and Size. “You want something of a size that you can control easily,” says Miss Kelley May, a kink educator and creator of the YouTube channel Spanking University. “And you want something with a big enough handle that you have firm control over it.” In other words, don’t reach for a scarily huge frat-style paddle if you’ve never wielded a smaller one before — you need to build up those spanking muscles first, both physically and mentally.
2) Stingy vs. Thuddy. Broadly speaking, there are two types of pain that a smack can evoke: 1) “stingy” pain, which feels sharper and more surface-level, like a slap; and 2) “thuddy” pain, which feels deeper, like a punch. Thick and heavy implements tend to feel thuddier, while thin, light implements feel stingier. Some people strongly prefer one type of pain over the other, while for others, it just depends on their mood. “I do have very different physical reactions to the depth of the impact pain itself, and I think that’s very common,” Cowart says. “Just because you like heavy thuddy pain one day doesn’t mean you’ll like it every day.”
3) No Sharp Edges or Rough Surfaces. “The number-one thing you want to look out for, with any of these things, is: Do they have smooth edges? Is everything you touch about them smooth?” May says. “There should be no sharp edges on anything.” This is an especially relevant point if you’re looking to use what kinksters call “pervertibles” — i.e., household objects that have been repurposed into kinky implements. You shouldn’t spank someone with a wooden spoon unless it’s been varnished or sealed and/or had its edges sanded down, for example, because otherwise the abrasive surfaces could cause injury.
4) Made by Kinky People. This isn’t a must, but many impact-play aficionados recommend skipping paddles mass-produced by mainstream sex toy companies and instead buying from indie paddle-makers who have niche knowledge about spanking. Typically, they’ll have put more thought into the designs, making them safer and more pleasurable for the spanker and the spankee. “A lot of impact play is psychological, and it’s fun to get things that feel good and feel like yours, instead of just being generic,” Darkholme says.
Try looking around on Etsy, shopping at specialty kink shops or visiting a vendor fair at a kink conference — they’re often packed with beautiful, handmade paddles. “You will be able to get 80 billion times nicer things there than you would anywhere else,” May says.
5) Cleanability. If you’re only using your paddle with one partner, this is less of a concern. But if you plan on using it with multiple people, pick one made of a non-porous material, like silicone, acrylic or varnished wood. These types of paddles can be cleaned with soap and water or sanitized with rubbing alcohol — as opposed to materials like leather and unvarnished wood, which, while very pretty, will tend to hold onto any bacteria that gets into their pores from sweat and other bodily fluids.
How to Paddle Someone Safely
1) Pick a Safeword. As with all kinks, it’s a good idea to go into any spanking session with an agreed-upon safeword — a word or phrase that, when either participant says it, will call an immediate end to the action. Safewords should ideally be words that are unusual, memorable and easy to discern even when things get noisy, like “pineapple” or “Pikachu.” Some kinksters prefer to use a stoplight-based safeword system, where red means “stop immediately,” yellow means “slow down or check in” and green means “I’m fine, keep going.”
2) Use a Pain Scale. Especially for newbies, it can be helpful to use a 1-to-10 pain scale when communicating with your partner mid-spanking. You might think you know how much pain you’re causing someone, but it could be a totally different amount than you’re envisioning. Try “calibrating” the strength of your hits by asking something like, “What number was that, on a scale from 1 to 10?” If you thought you were doling out sevens but your partner was feeling each hit at a three — or vice-versa — you can adjust your technique to get the effect you’re going for.
3) Stay within the Play Zone. May has a great YouTube video about what spanking fetishists commonly call the “play zone,” i.e., the area of the butt that’s safe to hit. She recommends that you go no higher than a few inches below the top of the butt crack, and no lower than the crease between the butt and thigh. (Some people like getting their thighs slapped too, but many describe that pain as feeling significantly different from, and often less pleasant than, slaps on the butt.) You’ll also want to stay toward the middle of the butt, rather than moving too far toward the hips, which can hurt a lot when hit and are more easily damaged than the buttcheeks.
4) Warm Up. Foreplay is to sex as a warm-up is to spanking: Not everyone needs or wants it, but most people enjoy it and benefit from it to some degree. To warm up someone’s ass, start tapping or slapping it gently, with your hand or the paddle, moving it around gradually until the whole play zone starts to get rosy and/or warm to the touch. This primes the area for harder hits by releasing some endorphins in the body. “If I start a scene really heavy right off the bat, I get a lot of adrenaline, and that puts me in a fight-or-flight [mode] — which can be fun to play with sexually, but that’s not always what I want,” Cowart says. “A warm-up gets the endorphins going, so when I start to experience heavier strikes, I’m already feeling floaty from the feel-good chemicals, and the area being touched is used to the stimulation and can take more without causing me to snap out of it or recoil.”
5) Aftercare. Ever gotten sad after sex? That effect can be heightened even further when sadomasochism is involved, because of the physical and emotional intensity of that type of play. Leave enough time after a scene for you and your partner to ease back into reality together, whether you decide to do that by cuddling, talking about what just happened, having a snack, drinking some water, watching cartoons, high-fiving about how good at sex you are or whatever else helps you re-ground yourselves.
Okay, itching to spank somebody now? Here are some paddles and pervertibles that long-time kinksters recommend…
This is May’s top paddle recommendation for beginners, because it would be hard to cause any real damage with it. And with birch wood on one side and foam on the other, you get a variety of sensations to try out. “The wooden side is very stingy, and the foam feels nice and thuddy,” May says. “They’re also pretty affordable.”
This paddle is made to resemble an old-fashioned wooden hairbrush, a commonly fetishized implement among people who fantasize about domestic discipline. It’s shaped and sized just right for taking someone over your knee for a (consensual) punishment.
If you’re ready to invest in a durable, well-made paddle — or you want to get your kinky sweetheart a truly gorgeous gift for the next birthday or holiday that comes around — May recommends anything made by Miss Rose. “Her paddles are the crème de la crème of wooden paddles,” she says. “They’re the best ones.”
This one is small enough that you can keep a good grip on it, but heavy enough that it still lands a thuddy wallop. Every paddle by Miss Rose is sanded down and then finished with a culinary-grade oil, so it’s smooth, gleaming and ready to beat the hell out of someone’s butt.
This inventive silicone toy has a paddle on one end and an insertable dildo on the other end. The slight curve of the dildo helps it function well as a handle for the paddle, giving you a sturdier grip even while swinging hard.
Darkholme says they like having this paddle in their arsenal for days when they want a spanking that “hurts like a bitch.” The silicone material is on the thinner side, so the pain this paddle produces is way stingier than it is thuddy. It won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but if a sharp bite of pain is what you’re looking for, it could have you shouting profanities — in a good way, hopefully.
Rosette says Sportsheets is one of the only mainstream sex toy brands that makes decent impact gear. This cute heart-shaped paddle has faux fur on one side and faux suede on the other, offering two different sensations: the suede side is stingy and painful, while the fur side can feel deeply thuddy and also works well as a sensual tease when stroked across the skin. The faux leather handle is contoured to be easy to grip, even for beginners. This would make a sweet gift for a sadomasochist who makes your heart skip a beat.
Lots of kinksters like to use “pervertible” objects from hardware stores and kitchen supply stores in lieu of purpose-specific paddles, because they’re cheaper and often better-made than the paddles you’ll find in sex shops. May recommends wooden cheese boards, as long as you can find one that’s petite enough to control easily and has a grippable handle, like this one.
If your hand is small enough, you can even slip the attached strap onto your wrist for added stability. (Accidentally throwing your paddle across the room mid-scene isn’t exactly sexy, y’know?)
Wooden pervertibles generally shouldn’t be run through your dishwasher, because the exposure to water can make the wood warp and splinter — and while pain can be fun, getting a splinter in your ass cheek is not.
Darkholme recommends the Etsy shop Beatings on a Dime if you’re looking to infuse a touch of whimsy into your impact play. “I have several toys from them and they’re fun and interesting,” they say. This indie company repurposes all sorts of weird objects into spanking tools, from Beanie Babies to checkers pieces to tennis balls. This particular implement is made of a rubber hockey puck, and strikes a good balance between stingy and thuddy. It could be a great gift for a sports lover, or hey, maybe even a makeshift puck?
If you want a pervertible to be your first impact toy, May thinks you could do a lot worse than a ping pong paddle. “They typically are a nice shape and the handle is well-suited for impact play,” she says. “And because you’ve held ping pong paddles before, you can understand the wrist motion that’s associated with paddling.”
This one is made of wood and rubber. Typically, wood would be super stingy, but the addition of rubber can make it feel more thuddy when it lands on the skin. As an added benefit, it’s much easier to get through TSA with a spanking implement in your carry-on if that implement doesn’t look remotely like a kink toy.
Cowart suggests a silicone spatula if you’re looking for a pervertible — they’re easy to clean, easy to hold and hard to actually harm someone with. (There’s a reason you’ve never heard of “bringing a spatula to a knife fight”…) This one will feel pretty stingy because of how thin and light the silicone is, but if you “follow through” on your hits — i.e., press the spatula into the body after every hit, rather than letting it bounce off — you’ll temper that stinginess with a little bit of thud.