I have long had an interest in all things kinky so I finally mustered the time/energy/courage to go to a question and answer session on BDSM at The Stockroom store in LA. There was also the offer of free entrance and membership for anyone at the workshop to a BDSM club later that night. I have attended plenty of events alone before and since my marriage ended, but would I show up unaccompanied to an actual dungeon?
The panel at the workshop was led by a bunch of Doms. A “Dom” is the name in the BDSM community for a male “Dominant” someone who is the leader in a relationship, in the bedroom and/or out of it, not only employing tools of “Sadism” on the “Masochist” more traditionally associated with the lifestyle, but also with “Bondage” and “Discipline,” in all its forms. As someone who has more than enjoyed a good tying up/spanking/flogging in the not too distant past, I was more than intrigued.
I went to the lecture by myself because the friend I asked was busy. Just one of the TWO female friends I could have asked (the other is recovering from surgery) that I knew might be interested in this stuff, as opposed to regarding me with a mixture of horror, revulsion and laughter. I guess I should be used to that look by now, it’s the default way people have looked at me since I was six. (Except when I lived in New York.)
I walked in on Saturday expecting five people on the Stockroom showroom floor. Instead the lecture was being held at the brightly lit auditorium next door, with at least sixty people present, and a panel of six Doms onstage, of all ages, races and styles. Even though I am the least “vanilla” of any of my friends, I was suddenly busted back to complete novice. Some of the terminology being bandied around was new to me, and I took notes furiously. MSDS – Master-Slave, Dominant-Submissive. Topping/Bottoming. Not one to shut up and listen, it wasn’t long before I raised my hand.
“Hi,” I almost said my name, but didn’t, “I’m not really interested in indentured servitude, because I’ve already been married.”
This earned me laughter and applause from the crowd. I may have found my people…
“I’m only interested in this sexually, politically it’s kind of a problem. If a guy told me what to do in real life I would probably want to punch him in the face.”
More titters. The head of the panel, a longtime Dom “Sir” Nik Satanas initially fielded the question, explaining the distinction of Master/Slave vs. Dominant/Submissive, and for the next hour one by one the Doms weighed in on the dynamic of having a “slave” as a “24/7” way of life as opposed to a “non-24/7” sexual preference, which they referred to in a somewhat demeaning way as “weekend slap and tickle.” All of these thoughts were addressed directly to me, which was both gratifying and a little nerve wracking since I hadn’t worn any make up and was dressed pretty casually, while around me many of the women were in fishnets, heels and other fetish gear. And slave collars. Lots of slave collars.
Because it was a panel of male Doms with female Subs, the opinions were somewhat one-sided (not to mention heterosexually focused) the implication being that unless you were willing to take this lifestyle thing all the way, you weren’t really “living the dream.” Just then a Domme (female Dominant – some of them still prefer “Dom”) spoke up. At 62, Rev Mel has been involved in BDSM for decades, and is a maternal figure in the scene, “You, my dear,” she addressed me calmly, “are new meat.”
At forty years old, I’m grateful to be considered “new” anything.
“No one can tell anyone who they are or that what they practice is right or wrong or anything else. This community is all about acceptance and finding out what you’re into, and other people who are into what you’re into, and I wish you the best of luck with that.” She was greeted by applause, as more people rounded out this view with their own experiences.
As the workshop continued, even once people stopped addressing me specifically, I found myself completely overwhelmed, because of two specific facts:
1. When you spend your whole life fantasizing about certain things, and then you see a relatively large group of people who are also into some of those things, the things that you thought were “just you,” even if you’ve seen other people enact those things on the internet, to see them in real life blows your mind. It must be what sports fans feel like at games.
2. I noticed that some of the things I greeted with initial revulsion, when I stopped and became curious about my response, revealed information about myself I didn’t know. Revelations tumbled in, about my marriage, about my more recent sexual encounters, about the dynamics I have had in relationships, and I was stunned. The BDSM dynamic, domination, submission, daddy/daughter, mommy/son, obedience (among others) considered “taboo” or “deviant” are rampant in so called “vanilla” relationships! Just because they are not spoken of or acknowledged, it does not mean these underpinnings are not there. To realize all of this in a large group of strangers is a little jarring, even for an exhibitionist such as myself.
I barely sat through the event because of what was going on in my body. I stayed present, and made it through, and at the end I met other Dommes, Doms and got a bunch of business cards. I resolved to “see how I felt” about going to the club that night.
I had a date with stand-up comedy, but in the meantime, I decided to take myself to dinner at an Indian restaurant within walking distance, still in the hipster-ish suburb of Silverlake. Walking in, I immediately spied two people I recognized from the event, a stylish black lady with colored contacts and unique sparkly nails and a nerdy long-haired white guy. They invited me over to sit with them around a square fire-pit, and we started chatting. I was curious about their relationship (they had played, they were friends) and we also talked about our various kinks. Just like that. Over Indian food. “How do you feel about fisting, can you pass the Naan?” I was thrilled to have the opportunity to process my thoughts with lifers with their own particular kinks, who weren’t going to judge my level of emotion, experience or preference. It felt so good not to be the “weirdo,” after feeling like the Naan in a community of white Wonder bread.
Afterwards, the open mike went pretty well; it was my third gig in two days, so my comfort level is starting to come back after my brief ten-year hiatus. I also realized I have been back at comedy for just over a month, which blew me away, as I thought it had been far longer. I reminded myself to keep my expectations proportionate, and felt proportionately good! Driving home, still somewhat high on the adrenaline of making people laugh, I searched my instincts as to whether going to the BDSM club was going to be “too much,” potentially like frying up my synapses over a hipster Indian fire-pit. Do you think I went?