Exploring freedom in the world of kinks and fetishes
BY MICHAEL HERRARA & JOANNA BAUTISTA
The chains that hang from the ceiling, which glitter in the dim light, serve as suspension points where visitors can be hung by rope or chains. Set on the open black floor are bondage tables where people can surrender control of their bodies and submit to whatever act they wish to experience, and at one corner is a leather Saint Andrew’s cross where wrists, ankles and waists can be restrained.
Some people may view these instruments as objects that can cause pain, but others see them as tools of expression used during acts of pleasure for Bondage and Discipline, Domination and Submission, Sadism and Masochism (BDSM) which can provide an escape from reality. These activities all fall under an umbrella of kinks and fetishes.
Meeting Count Boogie
The media chairperson and coordinator of the BDSM club Threshold, who is referred to as Count Boogie, 48, said people are more accepting of the activities that revolve around kink and fetishes, however, he still believes there is work that needs to be done.
“There’s more acceptance of kink and BDSM now that they understand the different levels. ‘50 Shades of Grey’ helped, but it was an awful version. [However] it got 20 million people talking about kink and BDSM,” Boogie said.
Boogie said people are now more curious about the topic and this allows Boogie and other members of the community to speak at panels to educate others about what kink and BDSM is.
Threshold has seven different themed rooms visitors can choose to play in. One of the rooms, called the spider room, has a giant metal spider web people can lean against to allow easier access to their backs and bottoms. Bondage tables and benches also serve the same purpose.
Boogie demonstrated what can be done on these instruments with a demonstration model, who is referred to as Mark Perverted, as he grabbed a dull knife and ran it along the skin of her back. Boogie also scratched Mark’s back to show another way to inflict pain.
“Most of what we do here is about the mind,” Boogie said. “It’s about creating that role play and illusion of fear. The tracing of the skin, the scratching of the blade. You can still have eortic scenes. A lot of the types of play that we do may seem intense and scary, but they’re actually not.”
Another activity people can choose to participate in is humiliation play, which subjects someone to being verbally degraded and objectified.
“They are obsessed with the high they get from being degraded and humiliated. [For example people might say] ‘make fun of my small penis, tell me I’m a loser, make me drink out of a dog bowl.’ There’s that time, but once again there’s a spectrum,” Boogie said.
At Threshold, the activities are performed in a safe, sane and consensual manner so everyone can enjoy themselves at their own levels of comfortability. Boogie describes Threshold as an education-based facility because one of the goals of the club is to open the minds of those who view kink and BDSM negatively.
“I just thought you spank someone, got horny and had sex with them, but to find out that there’s this entire world and every level is okay, legal and consensual is amazing,” Boogie said.
Boogie said he got involved in kink at the age of 40 after having a peculiar childhood as well as a realization.
“I went from a weird childhood, Christian minister, married and divorced. I had like this whole process and all through that time there was little bits of kink,” Boogie said. “I always liked spanking or hair pulling, biting, those types of things, and then it wasn’t until I was 40 that I finally was like ‘you know what I really wanna explore this.’”
Normal sexual exploration
Emily Prior, who teaches human sexual behavior at California State University, Northridge and whose research involves the study of kinks, said they are normal parts of human behavior and exploration.
“A whole range of activities and behaviors can fall into those categories, some of which can be seen as extreme and some not extreme at all. Many of them are things that people do all the time, but they don’t identify them as being kinky,” Prior said.
Likewise, Boogie said most people have kinky tendencies and do not realize it because they have negative perceptions when it comes to kink.
“Everyone thinks that it is a certain level of extremity when it is not,” Boogie said. “It can be neck nibbling, and little principal/bad student roleplay or it can go all the way to blood, hook, pull suspension,” Boogie said.
Prior also spoke on the fact that many people are already uncomfortable talking about sex, so talking about kinky sex adds another layer to the conversation. This is why Boogie likes to educate others about kinks and BDSM.
“It’s really about the fun you’re having because our stress is going to school, work and dealing with our families and shit like that, so when it’s time to play, we call it play for a reason,” Boogie said. “A lot of people think BDSM is all dark and vampire or whatever, but we spend the majority of our time laughing because the things we do are fun.”
Some of the activities done at Threshold depend on the various levels of expertise and comfort levels people have.
“People who are very experienced in rope that understand suspension bondage will actually hang somebody, not by the neck, and they will utilize different parts of the body to then maneuver them through a sequence of movements while they are suspended off the ground. It’s amazing to watch,” Boogie said.
According to Boogie, others who come into the club as beginners look for light activities such as role play in the themed rooms the club has, whereas the more advanced visitors want to engage in fire play and hook-pull suspension with blood involved.
Boogie compared having kinks to other sports and activities that require people to go through pain in order to achieve the feeling of success and pleasure.
“In the positive aspects of kink, there is a challenge, just like football, mixed martial arts, yoga, any type of cross training, all of those things come with a certain level of pain and suffering in order to achieve a bigger goal,” Boogie said.
Debunking the stereotypes
Prior also described and debunked some of the myths that many people associate with kink, fetish and BDSM.
“Some of the stereotypes are that this is related to mental illness, but there seems to have no scientific basis whatsoever,” Prior said. “[Also] that people who are into kinky things were abused as children. Again there is no scientific evidence to support that.”
There have been studies conducted which show the people who participate in these activities are more likely to show empathy and concern when it comes to consent,according to Prior.
“They’re being conscious and thoughtful and concerned for others as opposed to wanting to harm them,”
Prior said. “So then there’s the myth that this is linked to being sociopathic, but again it’s the complete opposite.”
Boogie also spoke about some of the misconceptions he has heard such as some people thinking it’s all about sex, that everyone is polyamorous, all kinky people have mom or dad issues and that people cannot be feminists and practice kink.
Boogie said people need to speak up in kink and communicate with their partners to see what everyone is comfortable and not comfortable doing.
“You have to be able to come in and still ask the questions, still negotiate, still self-advocate and if you don’t know what you want then say it ‘I don’t know,’” Boogie said. “Don’t let other people choose that for you, don’t let a dominant tell you you’re not a real submissive unless you do this intense crazy thing that you’re not ready for.”
One aspect of the activities Boogie likes, and what he feels is the root of the practice, is the connection people have with each other. To Boogie, kinks and fetishes are not about the pain, the suffering or the role play. It is something much deeper than that. The acts are what allow people within the kink community to be themselves. The dungeons like Threshold provide a space free of judgements, where people can be free.
“Once you come in and see what it’s about it’s really hard to not be enticed by that because the ability to be sexually free with yourself without judgement, without all those voices from the past that tell you you’re wrong, you’re bad, you shouldn’t be like that,” Boogie said. “When you’re in a place where those voices don’t get to take priority, it is an amazing feeling of freedom and that’s what we do here.”