It was a typical Wednesday night. I attended the Outwrite staff meeting, discussed my article, and then the staff dispersed to walk back to their apartment, grab food at Bcaf, study at the library, or pump some iron at the Wooden center. My plans, on the other hand, were slightly less mundane: I was headed to my first BDSM Play Party.
After joining FetLife, essentially a Facebook for kinksters, as a way of meeting members of the BDSM community to interview for my upcoming article (shameless plug–pick up OutWrite at Daily Bruin kiosks Week 8 or 9!), I noticed an Events tab providing information about gatherings of BDSM enthusiasts in Los Angeles. I searched for a beginner-friendly party that was ideally all-female and happened to find an event that same night.
As soon as our meeting ended, I dragged my friend (and coincidentally, OutWrite’s editor) into the car and headed to the party. When I arrived, I was greeted by a gathering of women smoking cigarettes outside a small house reminiscent of picket-fence disguised meth labs. One of the women asked, “are either of you Stephanie?” and I was pulled into a bear hug by a FetLife member who had mentioned the event in her interview. “Just give your $10 to Susan* and then we’ll show you two around.”
We walked into the house and were confronted with a very bizarre scene. On first glance, it could have been a frat party–there were people milling around the darkened rooms holding red cups and chatting casually, however there were some subtle differences, like the fact that many women were topless, bottomless, or wearing strap-ons, and the fact that rather than sitting on kegs or beer slicked bunk beds, they were sitting on kneeling benches intended to position a person for a spanking. In addition to the spanking benches, there was a suspension station with ropes that could lift a bound person up by a carabiner, a pole on a mirrored stage, several human-sized crosses leaning against the walls, and even a medieval-style stock where a person’s wrists and head could be padlocked in place while someone “had fun with them from behind,” as Susan* described it.
As the party progressed, I had the opportunity to talk with many BDSM enthusiasts and learn about the extent of their immersion in the community. Many of them showed me handmade tools ranging from standard floggers and paddles to ‘pervertibles,’ or household items made into BDSM implements, like a cane made of PVC pipe, a paddle made of a hairbrush with bristles removed, and even a ziploc baggie full of diabetes lancets (small needles used to test blood sugar) that one participant hoped to use that night.
Although many women were simply standing around and talking at any given time of the night, the BDSM play taking place in the center of the room was quite diverse. I talked with one Dom about safe words as she performed a flogging on another participant and laughed at the submissive’s lofty request for the use of formidable spiked ‘vampire gloves.’ I also witnessed two participants having remarkably passionate, public sex using a strap-on on a couch several feet from mine, and I even had a chance to be momentarily restrained in the medieval stock by the owner of the party.
However, the moment that most caught me off guard was not any of these surprising or unexpected events–it was the moment when two participants performed a collaring ceremony. This ceremony involved one participant kneeling at the feet of her Dom and presenting her collar, which her partner then placed around the submissive’s neck before kissing her passionately. I had never seen a collaring before, but admittedly had negative preconceptions. I feel somewhat uncomfortable with the idea of one human owning another, but I had an open mind because I understand that the ownership is consensual and makes both partners happy. However, the collaring ceremony took me completely by surprise. The devotion and humility in the submissive’s expression as she presented her collar was one of the most loving connections I have seen. The play that followed was rough and extreme, yet once again, after all was finished, the two women kissed lovingly in a way that showed both felt validated and understood. The Dom in particular was extremely affectionate in holding the submissive and stroking her head in gratitude for the pain her partner had endured. I was moved nearly totears in this moment of connection and love that I would never have expected at a kink party.
The most memorable aspect of my experience at the BDSM party was not the sometimes terrifying devices being used or the sadistic smiles on the Dom’s faces, the screams in pain or the awkward moment when Katie and I were unsure if we were witnessing a fisting. The most memorable and surprising realization was the love and understanding communicated between play partners engaging in a scene. BDSM requires a high degree of trust and communication, and everyone at the party was respectful of one another’s needs to the utmost degree. The BDSM community is one that accepts players coming from any and all backgrounds–many participants were very curvy and enjoyed the environment of body positivity. Other participants were trans-identified or cross dressers and enjoyed being validated for their identity even when removing their clothes or fucking with gender during play. Other participants had abusive pasts and were attending the party to work toward greater comfort and empowerment in situations of physical pain.
Lastly, some participants could have been your kindergarten teacher and enjoyed being welcomed for a kinky respite from their vanilla lives. Although I may not return to a BDSM party again, I left the experience recognizing the ways the love and understanding present at the party had made me painfully aware of my previous biases and judgments (pun intended).