Kinky straight people packed the Vogue's long-standing--and ongoing--goth/leather-themed Sunday night; the Seattle Eagle was still a gay leather bar, not a rock 'n' roll bar; and local leatherdyke Celeste Firetender ran a pansexual leather/ SM/fetish educational group called C-Space. Then an already vibrant fetish scene exploded in the summer of '93 when a fetish shop named Sin opened on Capitol Hill. Owned by two good-looking, extremely charming, and extraordinarily kinky straight boys--Tommy and Kevin--Sin sold bondage gear and fetish fashions out of a storefront on Pine, where they produced their own lines of high-quality corsets, restraints, and body-piercing jewelry. Sin also hosted huge fetish parties at the King Cat Theater, the late Weathered Wall, and the Catwalk.
Thanks to Sin, C-Space, the Eagle, and the Vogue, it was easy for a kinky person in Seattle to find well-dressed, well-informed, like-minded perverts. And when Sin made the fetish scene suddenly hip, fetish parties began attracting good-looking scenesters who wanted to be where the action was. A lot of these hipsters weren't into leather/SM/fetish sex before they started coming to Tommy and Kevin's parties, but mixing with people who were kinky inspired them to experiment with kink--sometimes pretty serious kink.
"It became this competitive thing for the straight boys," said Rich, a gay man into BDSM who survived Seattle's hipster/ kink moment. "It was like an extreme sport: 'Look how much I could take while that guy was beating me! Did you see how hard he was beating me?' They were all trying to show each other how much of a man they were."
Then things started to go... wrong.
C-Space--the C stood for consensual--closed up shop when Firetender burned out. Michael Decker started SKIN--Seattle Kink Information Network--to fill the gap, but Decker burned out a short time later. Sunday nights at the Vogue began filling up with people more interested in gawking at the freaks than playing with them. Tommy and Kevin had a falling out, Sin closed, and the fetish parties stopped. "It was time for them to stop," said Rich. "Some people who got involved developed a taste for BDSM, but for real BDSM people it's just a part of their soul." Rich prefers to play with the latter type, and so he quickly lost interest in the people he was meeting at the fetish parties. "For a while it seemed like the fetish community in Seattle was purely about fashion, and it felt really superficial."
With the fetish parties over, hipsters moving on to swing dancing and cocktail culture, and the Vogue's Sunday night filling up with frat boys, Seattle's fetish community found itself without a home. Then Allena, a longtime member of Seattle's fetish community, opened a cafe on Pike Street called Beyond the Edge. In between baking cookies and making sandwiches, Allena hosted kink workshops and classes, but running a cafe and playing mom to the kink community was too much for Allena, and she was forced to close Beyond the Edge.
So what's out there for people curious about kink? While a lot of the basic information once disseminated by C-Space and SKIN can now be found online, there are some things that you can't learn reading a FAQ page on a computer. "The Internet is a good way to meet people," said Mike, a kinky local who missed out on the fetish/hipster moment, "and there's a lot of really good information on the Internet. But there are some things you can't learn online. It's hard to learn how to do a flogging surfing the net. For some things you need hands-on training."
Rich agrees, telling the story of a friend who bottomed for an inexperienced top. "This guy made mistakes, and the bottom felt unsafe. There are born tops, but they're few and far between. Most need to be mentored, they need to learn the ropes from somebody so that people don't get hurt. If you don't have people you can ask about this stuff, the ones with kink in their souls will experiment on their own and wind up hanging themselves in the basement by accident. They don't know the right way to do it."
For the people out there who have kink in their souls, Beyond the Edge's Allena helped found a new organization along the lines of C-Space and Skin, the Wet Spot. Less than two years old, the Wet Spot is a members-only, "sex-positive community center," according to Allena, that attracts members strictly on a word-of-mouth basis. Unlike C-Space, SKIN, and Sin, the Wet Spot has done no advertising. "It was incredible watching so many new people come into the scene in the '90s," said Allena, when asked why Wet Spot doesn't advertise. "It was easy to get into the scene because there were ads for parties, shops, and cafes. But in some ways it was too easy to get in. Frat boys started showing up at events and screaming, 'Hit her harder!' The scene's openness was making what we do into a spectator sport. And we're not a spectator sport."
Allena acknowledges that a balance has to be struck between her group being private enough to be safe and public enough so that kinky people can find it. "Some of what we do can be physically demanding," said Allena, "and we run workshops to teach people how to play safely, so they don't get hurt or hurt anyone. What we do isn't as dangerous as football, but people need to be trained, and they need to know what they're doing."
And in the spirit of reaching out to kinky folks who haven't been reached by word of mouth, Allena will be participating in Wicked Workshops, an educational forum on kinky sex being presented by the Stranger Personals. I'll be participating, too, along with Mistress Matisse (Seattle's best-loved local dominatrix!), and others. There will be classes on SM 101, how to be a good dom, how to be a good sub, and bondage demonstrations. Wicked Workshops takes place November 29 at Consolidated Works, 410 Terry Avenue North (between Harrison and Republican in the South Lake Union neighborhood). Doors open at 7:30 p.m., first workshop starts at 8:00 p.m., and $4 with a filled-out Alternatives ad gets you in, or $8 without. (Tickets available at the door, or in advance by calling 720-7855.)
If you can't make it to Wicked Workshops, you can find out more about the Wet Spot's own workshops and social events by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org.