I’ve been around here so long that I’m not only repeating myself, but repeating those repetitions. My wild and crazy second adolescence has been mined so deeply that you can bounce echoes off its walls, and there was never all that much of interest in the first place. Just the same, here we go, because the closest I’ve come to our theme of “swinging” isn’t the couples-trading-partners kind, but just the play party kind, which may have included the occasional partner-swapping by some of its participants, but the ones I knew about always ended badly. Let’s not talk about those, okay?
I was introduced to play parties a few years after I’d started to write and publish erotica, at an age when I was old enough to know better but also old enough not to give a damn. I’d met a couple of other writers who been living a virtuous rural life together for twenty years, but were beginning to reestablish contact with city friends who were involved in a women-only BDSM club. I went along for the ride. And the research. I discovered much later that the club’s founders had already bailed when there got to be too much wrangling over rules and by-laws and committee elections, but there were still useful demos at meetings on everything from do-it-yourself sex toys to fisting to obligatory safety training. (Admit it, you thought I was going to talk about another type of do-it-yourself, and, in fact, there was some of that, too.) And, increasingly, there were invitation-only parties.
Most of these parties weld held in a loft-apartment high up in an old factory building, with the owners’ living quarters curtained off except for the small kitchen we could use for pot-luck snacks to keep our strength up. Hey, even just playing the role of a voyeur can be strenuous work. There were two spacious rooms for play, one usually darkened and relatively quiet, with bondage tables and various odd contraptions like a huge wheel-shaped thing that was said to have been hospital equipment for turning burn victims over without putting pressure on their injuries. The other room was well-lit, with such accouterments as swivel inserts in the ceiling with ropes to dangle from, spanking benches, and whatever people might have brought along to use and share, like folding slings (which are pretty close to swings, right? Entirely appropriate to our theme.) Floggers and whips might be used in either room, depending on how crowded the spaces were. There were a few regulars who were real artistes with whips.
Then there were the parties in hotels, especially during the annual Fetish Fair Fleamarkets that had been put on for years at a venerable city hotel, until some reporter did an article with photos of costumed (or extremely noncostumed) party-goers in the elevators, resulting in public outrage and the necessity of moving the event from venue to venue, motel to motel, until finding what may now be a permanent yearly home in a big airport hotel near another city not too far away. The event was a party of sorts all by itself—I remember the pony room fondly, although all I did was watch—but there were also parties in hotel suites, and the club I’d joined always had a good one. I went to these Fetish Fairs as a vendor; I still owned an eclectic college-town store then, and some of my employees liked to go and help out, so we could sell enough in the way of belly-dancing gear, gypsy skirts, assorted humorous/libidinous magnets and buttons, jewelry, and suggestive tarot decks to pay for the trip with a little left over.
What? You think I’m avoiding the interesting parts, like what I actually did at these parties? Well, not all that much. I was mostly a voyeur. Too old to be a beginner, my only tenuous appeal was to role-play a mean old teacher, and I gave it a try a few times, but my heart wasn’t in it. I did try my hand (hah!) at spanking, once, with some success—I think I already told that story here, and got a story out of it that was published—but there were complex emotional things going on at the time, and I never got as good a chance again, or really wanted to.
When I went to the parties at the Fetish Fair I got my kicks out of taking along one of my employees who loved to be flogged and spanked and tightly bound and pretty much anything else, all for the endorphins. The more she was punished, the more she giggled and laughed. People gathered around for the fun of hearing and seeing her. I only flogged her once myself, at a poorly-attended party when there was no one else I’d trust to do it, but on the whole I drew the line at playing that way with an employee, especially since after her mother died I’d taken on a role like a kindly aunt who could be confided in, and with both the employer and semi-parental vibes it felt wrong to get into sexual power play with her.
Flogging was about as far as I got with anything. A good friend gave me one of her floggers, and some instruction, and I had several friends who were into getting flogged without complications, so I did get some vigorous exercise that way. But this is where the swing and a miss part comes in. The first time I felt confident enough to wield the flogger at a really big party, it went well, and my floggees were very impressed. But I'd hoped my friend would be impressed, too, and it didn’t work out that way. She’d recently met two much younger girls somewhere else who came to this party for the first time, and they put on a dancing-slave-girl show for my friend, who watched like a sultan from a pile of cushions, and pretty much everyone else was just as entranced.
It’s been a long time now since I’ve been to a kinky play party. Gasoline got so expensive about then that I stopped driving almost two hours into the city and then back late at night. I did go to the Fetish Flea parties for several years, until the employees who had helped out got involved in other things, including the one who loved to be tied up and beaten. She’s married now with a great little kid, and the other two who helped out are married now to each other and have two great little kids. I sold my store to that couple eventually, but they couldn’t make a go of it and closed it after five years. I was too busy with writing and elder care (my dad) and various things to go back into the retail business.
I did get something important from my not-really-immersion in the world of kink. I understand things I never would have understood otherwise. I’ve seen deeply into people’s needs and desires in ways nothing else would have shown me. I know people I’d never have met anywhere else And as a writer, I can merge my mind convincingly, I think, into characters who are deeply moved by power play and the various other aspects of BDSM. I know myself, who I am, who I might have been, and who I’m not. I did, at least, swing, and if I missed, for many complex reasons, it turns out to be just as well. I still have miles to go, and as a writer, I can, with the utmost respect, walk some of those miles in other people’s metaphorical shoes.