If you think BDSM is all about sex, try visiting a kink club with no hanky panky allowed.
My last night at this particular club had been probably a year prior, but I decided to head along to their annual Mardi Gras party, hoping a few more gay guys than usual might be in attendance.
I left the leather at home in favour of a casual black shirt and jeans ensemble.
The club is hidden away in an intimate little dungeon beneath a gay bar where my phone automatically connects to the wifi.
Despite its location, the kink club is usually a rather hetero affair.
That night, I saw a couple of glittery faces and rainbow socks.
The party had only drawn a few more queer folks than usual.
I spotted one or two gay couples, and a few trios I imagined were polyamorous.
None of my friends were there that night, but I got chatting to a couple at the bar who were clearly regulars.
Both were wearing dresses; the guy’s looked better.
I noticed signs reminding patrons that it’s not a sex on premises venue.
Indeed, on other occasions I’ve seen staff monitoring people’s behaviour and issuing warnings about wandering hands.
Towards midnight, the music lowered and one of the club hosts welcomed everyone, reminding us that the evening was to be ‘safe, sane, and consensual’, as the BDSM credo goes.
Then the fun stuff kicked off.
A crowd formed around the stage as a skinny man was cuffed to a big St Andrew’s cross by one of the house doms.
A sign bearing a legal disclaimer was posted prominently nearby.
The man on the cross was hit across the back with more implements than I could count.
Proving that BDSM is not always serious stuff, some of them made me chuckle, like the rubber whips attached to a power drill.
We all watched in fascination or amusement as he was beaten for what seemed like a long time.
Occasionally an extra-hard blow made him squirm, and the crowd reacted with a sympathetic groan, as though they were watching sports bloopers.
For some observers, this was their first peek into the weird world of kink.
For others, it was surely almost old hat.
In a moment of silence I heard someone asking a friend to add them on LinkedIn.
When the man had endured enough, the dom freed him from the cross and sent him back out into the club with a hug.
Other kinds of kink were going on in darker corners of the venue.
A guy wearing big metal claws was slowly scratching his topless girlfriend.
Another woman was tied up in a shibari rope harness.
On other nights I’ve seen people playing with candle wax or needles, but the floggings on stage are always the centre of attention.
I worked as a professional dom myself for years, but it had been a long time since I was on the receiving end of an all-in-good-fun beating.
A guy walked by the bar asking for ‘volunteers’, and I almost said yes before noticing he was carrying a baseball bat.
Maybe something a bit less full-on than whatever he was planning.
As the night entered the small hours, I decided to head up to the stage, and then it was me being cuffed shirtless to the cross.
The leather flogger was gentle across my shoulders at first, then built in intensity.
After worrying I wouldn’t like it, I realised I was grinning.
Just as it threatened to become too much, the blows stopped, replaced by sharpened fingernails dragging across my skin.
It was exquisite.
I was hit with several more whips and floggers. Each time, just as I was considering safe-wording, the strikes were replaced with scratches that raised the hairs on my neck.
His timing was perfect.
Eventually I’d had enough and signalled for him to stop.
I was released from the cross and put my shirt back on.
It was getting late, so I bid my new friends good night.
I was light on my feet all the way home.
There might be no sex allowed at the club, but a special dopamine rush can come from taking a bit of pain.
It’s not for everyone, but if you want to try something different, you could easily discover an unusual new hobby.