Never again will I be able to look at a macramé plant hanger without blushing. I don’t often go places or do stuff, and trying new things scares me. Two years ago, I didn’t even know BDSM was a thing. Imagine my surprise when a friend talked me into venturing out to a nightclub fully equipped to strap naked people to every wall.
The doorman kind of looked like Santa Claus, but with a leather vest and a graying ponytail. Many of the older men inside looked like leathered Santa Clauses, too. (Wrinkles and bellies and beards, oh my.) They were an endearing sight for my terrified-yet-exhilarated young eyes as I entered this new territory.
Walking into the dungeon was like walking into a gym.
The environment radiated sex positivity and openness yet also bolstered a cozy feeling of intimacy. The club was an anything-goes kind of place that subtly encouraged virtually any headspace its patrons could imagine.
The people who talked to my friend and me that evening were a delight. Everyone who was not engaged in a scene (or in the process of negotiating one) was friendly and eager to chatter. Before I knew it, my friend and I had attracted a small gathering.
Only in a dungeon could a group of semi-clothed strangers share open, lively conversation with one another about their day jobs, their relationships, their families, and their kinks, all while paying no mind to which group members were seated naked and collared on the floor beside their leash-bearing dominants.
My first glance around the room struck a couple in their late 30s or early 40s. A naked, blindfolded man wore a collared leash, the end of which was loosely tied to a wooden post. He whimpered as a woman in a form-fitting cotton dress paced slowly around him, coquettishly teasing his ears with her whispers. Later in the night, after they had finished their scene, I witnessed him curled up in the fetal position on a gym mat on the floor. His head was cradled softly by her lap, and she was embracing his body with her arms. It was sweet.
My friend and I were unceremoniously adopted by one of the regulars who was kind enough to give us an informal yet enthusiastic tour of the area. We were shown the medical corner, the coffin, assorted benches and bars shaped like “T”s and “H”s, a swinging cage, wrestling mats, a sex swing, the toy room with enough vibrators to obliterate the French army, a room with mattresses, and — perhaps the most important stop on any dungeon tour — the massive stock of cleaning supplies. The tour was cut short when our leader was called to duty to flog a fellow patron…
…which is also how I witnessed my first flogging.
Naively, I was half expecting to see someone actually beating the life out of someone else. Rather, the flogging I witnessed was much more methodical and gentle. The flogger was swung sideways in a circular motion (kind of how carwash fluffers spin) so that its ends softly tickled the back of the woman being flogged. Our tour guide caressed the woman’s shoulders, then continued flogging her. This seemed to be the pattern, to thwap, then rub and repeat. Fellow nerds reading this, three words: Gate Control Theory. Practicalitygasm!
Then came the suspension.
Ohhh, the suspension! Previously during the evening, I had the pleasure of watching two gorgeous, twenty-something young men playing with each other in a corner of the main room. At some point while my back was turned, one of the Santa Clauses had walked over to a set of bars towards the center of the room and invited these young men to join him. Slender Santa had with him a bowling bag, which I soon learned was full of a series of intricately bundled ropes. One by one, he reached into his bag, pulled out a rope braid, gave his wrist a confident flick, and watched the braid hastily unravel like the tail of a freshly cracked whip.He started working on one of the men, then progressed to the other almost an hour later. Santa meticulously placed and wrapped these ropes around the men’s mid-sections, first constructing rudimentary crotch harnesses, then securing the creation so that each man could be comfortably supported as he dangled naked from the ceiling. They looked like the sexiest plant hangers I’d ever seen. While Santa wove the harnesses and raised each man off the ground, one at a time, the man who was not bound would kiss the face of his partner, stroking his hair and rubbing his shoulders to calm and comfort him while he patiently awaited genital titillation. In total, Santa spent at least 40 minutes arranging and securing the ropes for each man and about 10 minutes pleasuring the men once they were tied. As an outsider, I admired Santa’s zen vibe. He looked wholeheartedly “in the zone”, as if nothing would distract him until he was finished crafting. I would not be surprised if, in general, he takes greater pleasure in preparing for suspensions than he does sexually arousing the people he binds.
After he was free, something even more beautiful happened.
They shared a hug, but not just any hug. This was not the type of hug shared between casual friends after a coffee date. This was not a that-was-fun-let’s-do-it-again kind of hug. This was an OH-MY-GOD-YOU-JUST-SAVED-ME-FROM-DROWNING-I-OWE-YOU-MY-LIFE flavor of hug. Watching them, I felt myself tearing up.
It was the most passionate hug I have ever, in my life, witnessed.
Even I, a bystander, could feel the love they shared. There was trust, and there was comfort… a heck of a lot of both. They hugged for about a minute and a half, after which the partner joined in. I was touched to have been able to witness such a beautiful human experience of togetherness and understanding. I still tear up, thinking back to that moment.
Overall, I impressed myself that night. As a shy introvert who spends much too much time with my nose in books and away from actual people, visiting this club — even with just an anthropological, exploratory goal in mind — was far outside of my comfort zone. That being said, the experience was well worth the $30 cover charge for the warm, fuzzy feelings which cradle my heart each time I think back to the secondhand compassion, intimacy, and kindness I felt that night.
Although I realize different people on different nights will have different experiences, I still enthusiastically recommend this type of outing to anyone curious about public dungeon scenery.
I leave you with one lasting mental image from my experience.
Seductive, black-and-white, professional photographs of gorgeous fetish models and other PG-rated sexual imagery were tastefully placed around the walls of the dungeon.
But, in the center one particularly crowded wall, someone had nestled a framed portrait of George Costanza… in dingy, white underpants… sprawled out on a red, velvet couch.