Over the course of my career, I’ve visited more than a few sex clubs. Most have somewhat similar offerings, which usually includes a BDSM wing. Last week was the first time that I visited a club that was entirely devoted to BDSM. The place was run by a very friendly and tight-knit group of apparent non-conformists. I arrived just after opening, so I didn’t expect to see any intense action yet. Before revealing my background, I got a tour by a friendly and helpful patron.
Academically and professionally, I had previously been well acquainted with nearly all of the kink practices that I saw: hot wax, plastic wrap, roping, suspension, St. Andrew’s cross, flogging, etc. In addition, there were stuffed animals, saddles, coloring books, shoe polish, and beef jerky; any of which could be incorporated into a fetishized play-style. I was surprised that I could still feel surprised by any of this, but I was — surprised, and I enjoyed the feeling of experiencing something beyond my level of comfort. Just observing the possibilities was a form of “edge play” for me, even though there was no external play going on at the moment. I should say that rarely does BDSM turn me on personally. Now, it’s not that I’m opposed—not at all. It’s just not my usual go-to-thing, and not because I haven’t tried it, and not that I won’t try it again.
. . . there were stuffed animals, saddles, coloring books, shoe polish, and beef jerky
Another attractive aspect was the excitement in the eyes of those who were arriving, and the feeling of desire was palpative. Being whipped doesn’t turn me on. In fact, it would do the opposite. But whipping turns Bob and Betty on. Knowing that Bob and Betty are turned on is a turn on to me. It’s a turn on to watch people getting turned on. At the same time, I’m being turned off by what they are doing. It’s a fascinating contradiction in the mind of the observer. Though it’s likely an oversimplification, I think that the appeal of BDSM can be focused down to the word “desire”. That desire may be directly sexual, or it could be more vicarious: balloon popping, pony play, financial domination, or whatever. It’s about discovering and having your most potent desire satisfied no matter how esoteric or specific.
Traditional, vanilla, mainstream sex is like a puzzle composed of only square pieces. Each is interchangeable with another, and each fits just about anywhere. However, as one begins to define her desires, she discovers that her puzzle piece has juts, bends, kinks, and crannies, and that finding complementary pieces isn’t easy. An ad for “single, straight female looking for single, straight male” is likely to get more matches than “poly-interested, bi-curious, androgyne Dom, seeking sub-bear for consensual-nonconsent fire-play”. Now the internet and dungeons allow even the most usually puzzle pieces to be matched up, and when they do find each other, it gives me goosebumps.
On my way out of the club, I saw a photo on the wall of one of their members winning a boot-blacking competition. A man saw me looking at it and said that he had been approached by that member one night and was asked if he would let him polish his boots. (The club has an elevated shoe-shine station in it.) He agreed to let the other man polish his boots. He continued to relate the story, “I sat with my boots on the stirrups, and he proceeded to polish my boots in the most submissive and sensual way possible. He spat on them and licked them and devoted more energy to perfecting the shine on my boots than I had ever thought possible. Even though I’m straight, the transfer of energy was real, and I could feel it. It wasn’t so much ‘sexual’ as it was an expression of devotion to me to and to his erotic craft.” As this man related the story, I could feel the passion in the retelling. I was pulled into the moment and could feel the desire. I thanked him for telling me about it, and as I walked out to get into a cab, I began to wonder if my own puzzle piece has more kinks in it than I’d noticed.