I remember a time when meeting someone who was just as damaged was a bit of a relief. Everyone walking…
We slowly walked up the concrete steps of the industrial building in one of Chicago’s up and coming neighborhoods. It was cold and I was assured I didn’t have to dress any specific way and that my black band t-shirt and black jeans would be just fine. She walked in front of me and I held her arm as we climbed the stairs to the third floor because she didn’t trust herself in the six eight inch heels she was wearing that evening. We rang the bell of the nondescript apartment door and were greeted by a middle-aged balding man who bowed his head and said, “Welcome Mistress.” It made me uneasy. I mean, even as my girlfriend, I never got to see her in her “work” environment much less being referred to as her “professional” title by a stranger. Yeah, I knew she was a dominatrix but to see a grown man submit himself right in front of her and her boyfriend just made me wince in second-hand embarrassment. He took our coats and it was suggested we wipe our feet, as he motioned over to the doormat – which was a grown man on the floor. I could see that people had already wiped their dirty feet all over his bare torso. I just gave an awkward smile and said, “Yeah, no thank you.”
We entered the dimly lit large two bedroom apartment and I scoped out what free snacks I could find. Lots of exposed brick wall complimented with expensive overhead lighting. You could tell there was a lot of money put into this place. Couches and chairs had been arranged in a large but loose circle with a random sex apparatus separating the sofas. There was a decent spread and the amount of pastries provided more than made up for any potential awkwardness that I was about to encounter. We walked around the room and she introduced me to some of her co-workers. Someone asked us what color wristbands we would like. It was explained that each color represented what activities we would be willing to participate in. One for being an active Dominant or submissive – others for passive Dominants who did not want to participate in any play. Passive submissives weren’t invited. Other colors were assigned for people who wouldn’t mind having their picture taken, another color for no pictures. The last one shown was white for vanillas – those who did not have an understanding of kink/BDSM rules or culture. I took the white wristband and put it on and was told that it meant that since I was identifying as a “vanilla” I couldn’t play with anyone since I didn’t know the correct communication or protocol which was just fine with us because we were monogamous anyway.
My girlfriend had asked me if I wanted to go to the dungeon party where subs paid $250 just to serve the Doms. A fact that wasn’t lost on me as I watched people put our cigarette butts in the mouth of a 56 year old man in a full dog costume. She never played the Dom role when we were together simply because it was not a dynamic that I had been interested in. I had shown some moments of dominance and she liked playing a sub for me, but it was so subtle that our sexuality wouldn’t have been mistaken for kinky whatsoever. She said she wanted to take me so I could see her world but I guess that I had expected something different. She had told me some of the things she had done to clients over the years. Lots of play that I had to google but I never fully understood because our dating world usually revolved around her constantly wearing sweatpants and eating cereal in bed out of the box with her hands. She had warned me that there would be some pretty explicit play so I had expected people to be mean and cruel and abusive, but everyone was extremely warm and welcoming. And while there was definitely some heavy power exchange going on, you could visibly tell everyone was getting what they wanted. There were more smiles than I expected – even from the people who were strapped to the flogging horse and were being whipped. This was when I learned there was so much more to kink and BDSM that I thought. Even something as simple as I had no idea that they was an art to spanking someone. I just thought you would go in with a paddle and start hitting, but that couldn’t have been more different than what I saw. It began with light brushing, then moved to the Wartenberg pinwheel, then to light and gentle spanking with various fabrics – all to build the intensity and comfort level of the submissive. Aggressively spanking someone for their pleasure was not a scenario I had experienced before.
It felt like the first day of school. I was a grown man discovering this entirely new world and the openness of it all felt oddly refreshing. I remember thinking to myself, I love this. No one is being shamed or being mocked for their sexuality. The amount of communication going into all of the play bordered on overkill – but by the end of the night, I understood why. If you’re going to trust another person with such vulnerability, boundaries needed to be clearly discussed. Safe words and learning how to read body language was stressed as imperative because ultimately, the goal was that everyone was to walk away feeling good about the experience… even if they walked away bruised and with tears running down their face.
Yes, it was unconventional. But that was the point. If it wasn’t, it would be common and subdued. The most shocking thing I saw, outside of the 100 pound 20 year old hairless boy being fisted, was the fact that everyone was so concerned with the enjoyment of others. Not only that, but how concerned everyone was with discussing their expectations of sexuality. I had never seen anything like it before. Things most people wouldn’t discuss with their partners was now being announced in front of dozens of people and no one was embarrassed or ashamed for exposing their secret desires. I envied that kind of vulnerability and wondered what a relationship like that must feel like. I mean, I had spent my entire dating life just assuming the women liked what I was doing and never once had I outright asked if they were being sexually fulfilled. Kink was about caring and empowerment. Watching men and women ask for experiences that would be looked down by a sexually repressive society. It was a revelation and an excitement that warmed my head that night.
As we walked back to the car, she asked how I felt about the evening and I told her that I was just so emotionally overwhelmed. There were so many things I had seen that night that made me feel almost… giddy. Like, how cool was it that I played anal ring toss and threw the best out of three rings on to a pole sticking out of a woman’s ass. Not because I was sexually aroused, but because everyone was having fun with it and not at the expense of anyone involved. Even the guy who was strapped to the St. Andrews cross and I swapped tips for deviled eggs in the kitchen as I noticed tiny dots of blood forming on his ass cheeks. Overwhelmed was putting it lightly. I was thrilled and awakened by the introduction to a community so comfortable and confident in their sexuality. Far from the prevailing boy mentality of “did you get some?” – but one more focused upon providing clear negotiation in order to have a more satisfying and mutually beneficial relationship. Even if it was just for the evening.
When we got back to her apartment and changed into our nightly sweatpants, I couldn’t shake the excitement. I kept thinking how I found what I had been looking for. This was the punk rock scene of sexuality and I wanted to be a part of it. Luckily, our impending breakup was only weeks away and I was about to get my chance.