Part One: The part about dungeons…
The first dungeon party I went to was somewhat tame. The space was a clean, well lit, recently remodeled loft located just outside Chicago’s Chinatown district. The girl I was dating at the time brought me and the group throwing the event was comprised mostly of kinky folks in their early 30’s and younger. It was potluck, a couple deli trays and plates of cookies, soda, juice and bottled water. Everyone was completely sober. A couple of the girls (including the one I showed up with) walked around in lingerie paddling each other on their asses for most of the evening while Nine Inch Nails played in the background.
I was an outsider, that much was sure. It wasn’t completely unheard of for a new face to show up at one of these parties, but most people made their introduction to this specific scene via weekly munches and FetLife message boards (Go Canada!) before showing up at the play parties. I hadn’t really done either. My girlfriend was my ticket in. I showed up straight from work dressed in jeans and steel toed work boots and looked every bit the part of a tourist. But with charisma and social grace being two of my strong suits I eventually made nice with everyone and spent a good deal of the evening chatting with one dude a little older than myself dressed as a toddler.
The evening reached a crescendo when a woman was walked like a dog out of a back room to the center of the party and beat down with a telephone book by a male aggressor. I was over in the kitchenette making time with the deli tray when this all went down. The music was suddenly turned down and everyone became very quiet so the smacks and sobs could be heard. The scene was vicious and shocking. I wasn’t so much of a newbie that I jumped up and yelled “Unhand her!” Obviously this was there by her own volition and I’m sure (knowing these folk) every little fucking detail of this scene had been agonized over, planned out, dissected, diagrammed, and discussed via email for months in advance. But there was a very basic, very male part of me that grew up watching Westerns and thought violence towards women was always bad. Hitting a girl was something the bad guy did in the second act to let the audience know how much of a bad guy he really was. Except here, it wasn’t. She wanted it and he obliged and the whole thing was above judgement or reproach because it occurred between two consenting adults.
Still that was the moment where this party I was at stopped being just a party with a couple oddballs and really transformed into something else. No this wasn’t just a party, this was a dungeon party. It may look like a loft and these may look like your run of the mill college kids (granted in various states of undress) but this is something very different. Something I wasn’t a part of. Something I didn’t inherently understand. I wasn’t frightened by any of it, more curious and excited for having been let behind the curtain, but seeing that chick get walloped on with a telephone book is something I won’t soon forget.
The next party was much different. Much seedier, but also (big surprise) a helluva lot more fun…
Flash forward about year and a different girl is taking me to a different dungeon party, this one right in the heart of Chicago. Sandwiched between two massive high rise buildings a nondescript five story office building holds one of the wildest parties on the the third Saturday of every month. Entering from the street you’d never know it was there (save for the colorful characters loitering around outside), and it’s not until you’ve climbed up a couple flights of stairs that there’s any indication of what awaits inside.
The first thing to hit you is the heat. That heavy sour funk from a room full of people that have already sweated off their deodorant and are now covered in lube. Next is the bass. There’s an actual DJ at this thing and it’s all dirty Depeche Mode remixes and what I think is Lords of Acid or something. Heavy Industrial that totally fits the scene. People are everywhere and everyone is either naked or in leather or PVC or whatever that shit is. Once again I’m coming right from work but this time it doesn’t matter. With so many people doing their own thing in such a confined space no one is checking the dress code.
The space is dark but there’s red neon light sources everywhere. The place looks like a fucking dungeon and everywhere you turn there’s some kind of device with some poor soul strapped to it and some knock out of a girl in an outlandish outfit administering punishment. The reason these “open house” parties exist is to generate business for the dungeon and the girls that work there. Where as the previous party was a group of kids getting together to rent a space and have a fun little get together, this is a legal business.
Drugs are not officially permitted but the tolerance on that one appears lax. Everyone is over 21 and the party is BYOB. If the cops were to raid this place right now the only thing they could bust anyone on is smoking cigarettes indoors and I’m not even 100% sure how this space is zoned so that might even be ok.
This was brazen, this was shameless. This was wild and unchecked with reckless abandon and a healthy disregard for public decency and basic hygiene. This was one professionally run operation, and a dream come true. While the specific sexual acts being performed didn’t necessarily titillate me, I couldn’t help but appreciate the sense of freedom being enjoyed by the participants. People from all walks of life were gathered in one space to live out their fantasies, to open up their minds and subconsciousness and shake out whatever’s in there onto the floor. Dudes getting fisted, people being walked around like dogs, cross-dressing, bloodletting, heavy heavy drug use. Like I said my kind of party.
In a way it reminded me of an updated version of what all those old hippie parties would’ve have been like in the 60’s and 70’s, with better drugs and worse music (or vice versa depending on your personal preference). I bring this up not as an excuse to work blue or trade war stories, but because the way we love and the way we seek pleasure is still one of the most regulated aspect of our lives. This goes beyond the right to marry. This is about the right to live our lives and be the people we want to be. The people we envision ourselves as. God knows I harbor delusions of being a writer. Who am I to piss on someone elses BBQ?
Where this all gets tricky is figuring out how much in the open it should be. I don’t think anyone wants to be shamed for how they screw but does anyone want to be known specifically for what they do in the bedroom either? If you go to enough of these things and you’re a tourist, you get used to that moment when you enter the room and everyone looks at you with suspicion and apprehension. It’s like you just caught everyone doing something they weren’t supposed to be doing and now they’re waiting to see how you react. That comes from fear. Nothing sucks worse than not being able to be who you want to be because you’re afraid. Afraid that no one will understand or that even worse, people will want to hurt you (either physically or emotionally) because of it. Let’s do away with fear ok? It’s a bullshit emotion.
When 50 Shades of Grey came out a lot of people in the community blasted the book for being “Mommy Porn” or a watered down version of thier lifestyle being sold to the masses. Those people are entitled to their opinions, and being a punk rocker that suffered through high school for my taste in music only to have mainstream culture pick up on my shit a couple years later I understand what it’s like having your scene stolen from you. At the end of the day though I think if you LOVE your scene and your overall goal is to have your scene accepted and understood than you have to take things like 50 Shades as little victories in the overall war. The squares can only handle so much at once.
Man possess a sexual appetite as diverse and unique as his own fingerprint. Acceptance, tolerance, and as much understanding as we can muster should be exercised at all times.. I am 110% behind a free and accepting society…However we all need dungeons. Some shit is just way more fun that way.
Stay Tuned for Part Two: The part about drag shows…