What do you imagine when you think of kink, of BDSM, of S&M? Is it leather? Black harnesses and heavy, silver chains?

Virginia Joy, a Washington DC-based jewelry designer, is creating BDSM-inspired jewelry that stretches this standard perception of kink. Through pearls, ribbons, and ‘pretty girl kink’, she’s adding softness and femininity to the world of leather, rope, and gimp suits.

We reached out to Joy to ask her about femininity in kink gear, sex as a performance, and the now often sold-out pearl ball gag that started it all.

“I was hanging out with my best friend and I found a photo of a really really old Chanel ad and the girl had one of those [pearl and chain] necklaces in her mouth and she was just biting on the pearl with the rest hanging down,” Joy recalled the day the idea for the pearl gag was born.

“I was like, it would be so interesting if they would have just pulled that back and made it a gag,” She said. The hardest part was finding a pearl that was big enough to fit her mouth but after finding one that worked, Joy made the gag.

“I’m a very feminine person and I find that the hard leather or hard silver sometimes comes off very aggressive or harder than I’m trying to convey,” she said. A quick google search for kink gear shows leather, chains, and padlocks. “I always wanted a harness with a ribbon or a harness that [sparkles] - things that just don’t exist.” So, Joy set out to make them herself.

After posting a picture of the pearl gag online, she was surprised by the positive reaction and even more by the messages asking if the gag was for sale. Now, more than two years later, Joy has expanded her namesake brand to include harnesses and chokers - all fitting the ‘pretty girl kink’ aesthetic.

“I make sex jewelry,” she told me. But, Joy stressed and has noted on her website, not necessarily jewelry to be worn during sex. “I tend to use them more as fashion rather than things you could actually use [for kink].”

The pieces are meant as decoration, as ornaments, and (not so) subtle hints at interests and passions. “A lot of sex is the presentation,” Joy said, whose clients include burlesque dancers and cam performers. “It’s all about putting on a show, it’s all about portraying this fantasy and it’s fun to have pieces that can fit into that.”

For Joy, the jewelry isn't limited to cam or burlesque shows. She wears the chokers and harnesses over flowy skirts, pilgrim dresses, and t-shirts; the kink-inspired pieces bring kink and personal identity into daily life rather than hiding it behind heavy dungeon doors.

The pearls and silk ribbons are also reminders that kink doesn't have to look a certain way to be kinky. "[It] doesn’t have to be just hard leather and the typical Dom/sub behavior,” Joy said. “There are full spectrums to kink and sexual expression and sexuality in general.”

You can find Joy on Instagram and buy her pieces through her website!