When Darla Stewart walked into her first fetish ball, the first thing she remembers seeing was a woman “getting flogged very, very hard.”
The whip didn’t break the woman’s skin, but it left severe welts, and caused her to let out “guttural, animal-like screams.”
Stewart knew right away that she had found her happy place. “The dungeon opens your mind to think, ‘Maybe all those scary things out there can actually be fun,'” she says.
At the time, Stewart was just getting out of her teens. She had many questions about kink, but didn’t know where to find the answers.
Now, there’s a place.
Every second Monday of the month, young people in Winnipeg who are interested in bondage can go to Gio’s, one of the city’s two gay bars. There, they can learn everything from rope tying to anal fisting.
“Young people want a safe environment where they know they won’t step on anyone’s toes before they know them,” says Stewart, now 26. By that, she means screwing up honorific titles like “sir” and “master,” which she said many youngsters find “outdated,” anyway.
Tortured Youth, which was co-founded by Stewart and a couple of friends, conducts lessons in role playing, sexual consent, wax play and how to store sex toys. But above all, Stewart says, the group stresses safety.
For instance, rope suspension, she says, “sounds like nothing but it’s really dangerous. People who do it well make it look easy but they’re really well-trained.”
Dungeon play can be pricey for young people who are going to school, earning low salaries or raising small kids. Tortured Youth tries to make kink accessible by teaching members how to make their own toys (like floggers and ball gags) and organizing inexpensive events.
“Young people think about kink in a totally different way,” says Stewart. “There’s no hard and fast rules.”
Recently, the group organized a “sense play” party where members brought ice dildos, hot wax and fun fur. Someone even created a licorice flogger and made up a game called “beat and eat.” Next, the group is organizing a food fight in Stewart’s apartment.
Tortured Youth meetings are open to people of all ages, but “play parties” are only open to members aged 18 to 30. According to Stewart, all sexual orientations are welcome. She identifies as pansexual, which means “it’s about the person more than the gender.”
As for sex at Tortured Youth events, Stewart says it varies. “It’s not like we’re greased up in baby oil all the time.”
“Not that there’s anything wrong with that,” she quickly adds.
Winnipeg’s most notorious fetish party, the one that started it all for Darla Stewart, is back this weekend. Another edition of The Ball is being held at Ozzie’s on Saturday, April 4, starting at 9pm.
Tickets cost $20 at the door and a fetish dress code is strictly enforced. The evening’s theme is “social surgery.” Ozzie’s is located at 160 Osborne St in Osborne Village.