Toronto
3 min

Fetish-finding mission

I ventured out to my very first fetish event a couple of weeks ago. It was a friend’s birthday. Andrea was very pregnant and in bed by 10pm. I figured at 28 it was about time I checked out the scene.

“It’ll be kind of like your bachelorette,” my friend Anand quipped. With the baby due this week it would likely be among my last late nights out for a while.

On my way down in a cab at 1am I was wondering if a fetish could be contagious — the way laughter is, video games are, anger can be. Would something I saw irreversibly spark my sexual being, resigning me to return again and again to this place I had so innocently wandered into?

No such luck.

The place was pretty grimy. I fit in reasonably well in a borrowed leather corset with matching collar and pulled-down cap. But then again so did Anand in shiny black biker shorts, white face paint, a suit jacket pulled through one arm and a dozen computer cables wrapped around his neck. I was expecting Underworld: Evolution and got The Royal Tenenbaums. This was evidently more of an “anything goes” kind of fetish party.

We spent most of the night in the backroom (whether it’s a shoe store or a fetish club, the backroom is obviously where it’s at) watching random action — spanking, whipping, whimpering, restraints. One woman ended up wrapped in a blanket, sobbing quietly in the arms of her dom, which left me feeling a little bit queasy and really very ignorant to the charms of simulated abuse.

I have struggled with “the rape fantasy” as an idea since I read about it in college. It is only very recently that I have been able to admit that there is something in it for me too. I am able to play it and enjoy it to a degree but only ever in the absence of real pain and only ever in the context of long-term, familiar love. Not enough to leave marks. Not enough to look anything like that sobbing woman in the backroom.

A man and a woman who looked like escaped pioneer village staff were getting it on heavy on the couch while a third, similarly dressed woman, sat knees-together on an opposite chair. I think she was crocheting, but my eyes do tend to play tricks on me in the dark.

I forgot to mention that it was “Mardi Gras” night at the club.

A big man in a giant top hat paraded around all night by himself, looking for who or what I have no idea. What goes with a giant top hat in the fetish world? Another giant top hat? A tiny bowler? A tiny bald head? What is the opposite of a hat? A shoe? Was he looking for some kind of giant shoe?

The onscreen porn was pretty darn graphic, mostly straight (as the crowd also seemed) and hardly watched. Must have been a rerun.

Do people always know they have a fetish somewhere inside them? Is it something that develops over time, from repulsion or indifference to like to love to turn-on like your first girlfriend’s braces? Does something have to happen to bring it out? Once it’s out does it ever go away?

The pained action in the backroom drew a link between fetish and fear, which led me to wonder almost obsessively about the man in the giant top hat. Was he smothered by a giant hat as a child (maybe backstage during an elementary school production of The Cat in the Hat)? Did his asshole father wear a top hat whenever he came home from visiting his secret other family?

I think we would all agree that fear and pleasure are linked. So since we all have fears does that mean we all have fetishes?

I ended up spanking Anand so we could make an impromptu video for YouTube. I have to admit; I felt nothing (except his ass). The sound of the slap was kind of satisfying but overall it was anticlimactic, and when some guy we didn’t know shucked his briefs and assumed the position beside us, we shuffled off, unfamiliar with the fetish club translation for, “Oh no, we were just kidding around for the camera.”

Did I mention I was ignorant to the whole fetish thing?

I probably made at least one enemy that night. My apologies to all, especially the guy in the briefs (and then out of the briefs). I have never been good at knowing or fulfilling the desires of men with their pants down.

Probably the best way to apologize is to stay far, far away from your club, right?

I suppose I was just a little bit jealous of you and your fetishes, the way I am jealous of churchgoing grannies who walk with conviction on arthritic limbs while I amble, earphones wailing, through a dozen fragmented communities, giant top hat on the inside, always on the inside.