What a paddle is made of directly translates to how it feels being used. Wood is for the most part inflexible and is often one of the thuddiest kinds of materials. I say often, because very thin wood paddles will flex some and are stingier. Leather is very flexible, and it is often the least painful kind of paddle. It flexes the most on the body. It makes a huge sound, but isn’t super painful. Basically, the more surface area there is; the less painful the paddle is. Rubber and silicone paddles are basically similar to leather, but it depends on how thickly they are made. They do flex unlike most wood or metal paddles, but the thickness will control how much they do that.
Size and Weight
Which brings us to talking about size. Again, the more surface area there is; the less pain the bottom experiences thus making the opposite also true. Thicker paddled don’t flex any and are heavier. The paddle I hate the most that my dominant has is his 2” thick oak paddle. It’s small, being only 4” by 3” not including handle, but man is it heavy. It hurts so badly because all of that force is being placed in a very small area.
Bells and Whistles
Paddles can have so many bells and whistles, but they break down to two basic effects. Velvet, fur, or padding is all going to make a paddle less painful. Raised areas, cutouts, and studs are all going to make the paddle more painful.They all do the same thing when it comes to physics. They decrease the surface area of the impact. This makes them hurt more because the force is only being applied to a small area.
Cutouts can leave a mark in their shape, but only when they are applied with one good swing. Small swings aren’t going to get it to show on the skin.
Sound vs. Pain
This is an important psychological discussion. BDSM is inherently psychological. Being hurt by someone is just a tool to access their psychology. Some people prefer toys that make a big sound and look scary because they love the intimidation it causes while others seek toys that don’t look that bad, but in actuality they hurt very much. Both of these tap into fear and intimidation just is different ways. If you are dabbling in spanking, I would recommend a paddle with a lining or made from leather without cutouts or raised areas. If you are very interested in Sadism and are just starting out, get a few different paddles and experiment with them. There is no right answer to what type of toy is best. It is all about what works for the individual. My Dominant prefers toys that leave marks. He loves seeing his work on me for days afterwards. Some people prefer large sounds and intimidation in that moment.
Ok, I am going to harp on this with every BDSM shopping guide, but in all seriousness, style is important. So much of BDSM is psychological, and your toys should fit you. If your style is girly, then have a girly paddle. If your style is gothic, then have a gothic toy. Your toys need to be comfortable for you both in functionality and aesthetics. Don’t compromise style; it isn’t worth it.