redpepper i have been to a few bdsm parties and i understand the nervousness you express very well. however i'd like to share some stuff i have learnt over the years. firstly, some of the hottest scenes i have been part of have involved very little in the way of equipment. others have included home-made equipment, or stuff that wasn't sold as bdsm equipment but that we have "subverted" for our pleasure. think wooden spoons from the kitchen, sellotape, wax, etc. for ideas about making your own toys i would highly recommend this book : "21st century kinky crafts book" edited by Janet W Hardy. my favourite whip these days is one a friend made for me out of a broom handle and an old bicycle inner tube. on a similar note, one of my most "successful" outfits ever was made from duct tape and a black bin bag
i also have to say that the macho behaviour of a minority of bdsm folk who get off on being the "hardest" is a major turn-off for me and many others. having a gentle touch can be fabulous, as can gradually building up the pressure as you get to know your playmates limits and boundaries.
i am sure you know this but it seems worth a reminder - bdsm like any kind of sexual encounter is not a competition, its about pleasing yourself and your playmate(s), nothing more and nothing less.