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In Madison, It's Easy to Be Kinky: The Community (Part Two of a Three part series)

Post by John Mendelssohn on 7/2/2008 11:15am

domboots.jpgThis is the second part of a three part series on the Madison Kink scene. Part One can be found here.

Women wanting to be owned by men occupy only one of innumerable niches in the world of kink, of course. For every woman who shares Frances's and Hannah's predilection, there's a man who wants no less avidly to surrender completely to a woman, or at least be "forced" to put on an item of her intimate apparel and then cruelly ridiculed for having done so, or one who wants to be spanked or flogged. There are men who ask only that their lovers wear seamed stockings and high heels in the bedroom for them, and others who require girdles, opera gloves, garish red lipstick, and false eyelashes too, and others who ask that their lovers also regulate their intake of oxygen. Just as there are women who, like Sir Keith's young self-described slave girl Phaedra, are thrilled to be treated almost like pets, there are other women who delight in slipping into gleaming latex catsuits and imperiously leading their naked spouses, forbidden to address them as anything other than Goddess, or at all, around on leashes.

What nearly all have in common is that, like gays and lesbians -- and the John Deere-capped brewski-swigger at the Echo Tap whose pulse quickens at the sight on TV of an apple-cheeked cheerleader with large breasts -- they all came by their predilections quite naturally. No one encouraged Phaedra, who describes her home life as unimpeachably wholesome and her parents' relationship as textbook healthy, to cast herself always in childhood play as the damsel in irreversible distress. No one encouraged her at 12 to seek out the Prodigy chatrooms in which the kinky corresponded. No one encouraged her to find it arousing to be ordered for at restaurants. It all came as naturally as had Sir Keith's attraction, years earlier, to magazines showing women in bondage.

How, if these people are telling the truth, does it make sense to condemn as sordid or even pathological their erotic interactions while respecting the homosexuality of their siblings or neighbors, as every enlightened person has come to the past 30 years?

Having earlier lived in Iowa and Mexico, among less picturesque locales, Mistress Jade -- Madison's go-to gal for submissive men whose wives or girlfriends won't or can't play ball -- came to Madison seven years ago because Chicago was too big and Madison was where her mother had grown up. A virgin until age 19, if a scoffer at erotic taboos from earliest pubescence, she is the co-proprietress, according to her Website, of The Madison Dungeon, though such a place exists only in imagination. Local fire and safety law preclude running an establishment in which clients are routinely tied up; there are zoning laws to consider.

In a typical month, she'll do eight outcall sessions in the homes or motel rooms of a clientele that, notwithstanding the classic conception of submissive men as captains of industry yearning to relinquish power, comprises a vast array of walks of life. "Put them all in the same small town," she muses, "and only a couple would ever run into each other." Along with movers and shakers, she also sees Joe Sixpacks who service furnaces, who recondition carburetors. All they have in common is having filled out a detailed questionnaire, the details of which Her Nibs entrusts to an attorney for safekeeping.

With explicitly sexual interaction off the menu, many professional dominatrices see themselves as providing a service very closely akin to psychotherapy -- with the important difference that their clients commonly go home feeling a lot happier than shrinks'. But Madison's pre-eminent dominant woman is having none of it. "I'm not going to take responsibility for where somebody's head is," Jade scoffs. "That wouldn't be safe for either them or me."

Safety -- and ethics -- being a matter of the utmost importance in Madison kink, as in kink the world over, according to Benny S--, secretary treasurer of the BDSM educational and social organization Satyricon, Madison's lone contribution to the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom. Comprising 40 active members of vastly different ages, interests, and experience levels, economic backgrounds, and professions -- from librarians to pharmacists to firefighters -- the group commonly features demonstrations or group considerations of, for instance, The Transcendental Aspects of BDSM.

A personable female-to-male transsexual switch -- that is, one who enjoys both dominance and submission -- Benny reminds us that to be a member of the BDSM community is by no means to be turned on by everything one encounters therein, but rather not to condemn anything both safe and consensual, children, animals, and the dead all being understood to be incapable of conferring consent. A garden variety fetishist might find the sort of play Karcus indulged in with Hannah, for instance, deeply disturbing, but as long as it makes Karcus and Hannah happy, Benny could only note that it…squicks him. "My distaste for what squicks me," Benny observes, "isn't the problem of someone enjoying whatever it may be. It's my responsibility to walk away."

Satyricon is also vitally concerned with passing down BDSM's sacred teachings, to enjoy a moment's flippancy, to TNG -- The Next Generation. It was with TNG in mind that Whippersnappers was formed last year, with membership limited to those 35 and under to spare anyone the embarrassment of having to talk about sex with persons their parents' age. The group was recently taken over by the charming, articulate (if this is beginning to sound familiar, it should) Michael Bishop, who, like Karcus, tells us that for him, sadism isn't about inflicting pain, but conferring intense pleasure.

Bishop grew up in a household in which his father's dominance gave his mother no pleasure whatever. "My childhood was about long family trips to the Southwest that everyone in the family but my dad dreaded, and piano lessons I didn't want to take. I didn't see my parents' relationship as healthy, and it scared me; I so didn't want to become my father. What attracted me to BDSM is that it's all negotiated."

At a typical Whippersnappers get-together, at the Wil-Mar Neighborhood Center on Jenifer Street, 15 to 20 young Madison pervs (as distinct, you see, from perverts) will chat for a while, and then witness a demonstration, often by an older person allowed into the meeting only because of his or her ability to educate them. "It's fun to see people not dressed up for a club," chuckles Bishop, whose own mufti include a bowler hat, a kilt, and a sort of fur stole, "people you'd never have imagined, from seeing them at Leather and Lace, in puffy down vests or Wisconsin sweatshirts. I'd never have imagined some of these people as granola hippies in their 'real' lives!"