50 Shades of Great?

Kip thinks you should strap on to get off.

In Marsden Street around the back of RPA there is a dungeon called Uber. It’s closing down in a few months and I’m sad about that because I have never been in an environment where people have so genuinely opened up about what turns them on but have simultaneously felt the most safe.

The first time I attended a party at Uber I rocked up in a suit. This was for two reasons. The first is that at this point I owned no fetish gear other than a pair of half gloves that I brought along and slipped on in the bathroom. The second reason is that I had no idea what to wear other than a suit and the website suggested that that would be best.

The front door is ordinary and blends in with the several other doors which line the complex that Uber is a part of. I hit the doorbell and a petite woman in a black tee with ‘UBER’ stenciled on it in white letters cracks it open a tad. “Hello!” she says exuberantly. “Hi, I uh,” I stumble over my words like a teenager having sex for the first time, “I’m here for the party.” She opens the door wide open and asks for my scene name and ID (I produce my battered, almost expired Ls), crosses the generic alias I have off the list with bright pink highlighter, and leads me through to the next room and the coat check. I drop my backpack off and give them my coat.

Picture this, I know nobody here. I’ve got a rough idea of what to expect and I’ve psyched myself up to go through with attending my first BDSM play party (with no intention of being the subject of anything, mind you, it’s my first time after all). But I’m not the only one who is sitting alone in the corner with a cup of Earl Grey. I take solace in the fact that evidently it’s okay to show up to kinky parties alone whether you’re a 23 year old student in a suit or a 60 something year old man in a fishnet crop-top and a far too small black leather g-string.

This space is divided into several areas. There is the bar/kitchen next to the coat check where kinksters are gathering around tea and small biscuits and generally has the vibe of a cheese and wine gathering featuring tame people in their 30s. Next to this is a black velvet curtain which partitions off a large space sort of like a theatre. There are some nice plush couches in another partitioned area and there are two more separate theme rooms: one a fairly convincing doctor’s procedure room and another with bookcases, a large bed, and armchairs (from what I could see the books are all psychology textbooks with the occasional HSC geography one thrown in for what it seems is the laughs).

I do the rounds. I slowly pace from room to room watching humans playing with others, being played with, or playing with themselves. When I say ‘playing’ I mean they are engaging in different BDSM practices, some of these are sexual, most aren’t and instead have something to do with sensory play. There is a particularly incredible work of what I assume is performance art in the main theatre. A Mistress has her subject stand almost naked in the middle of the floor under a large blunted hook. You can’t see breasts or genitals, that’s not the focus here. The focus initially is her skin and then how obedient she is. Mistress says something, subject does it. Cross your arms like this, leg up please, lean back and fall. Only she doesn’t fall, her Mistress has very quickly and skillfully weaved a complex arrangement of rope around her subject who is now hanging from the hook spinning and rocking. Her eyes are glazed over. One of the staff members I introduced myself to leans towards me slightly “she’s in la-la land now”.

Later I introduce myself to people. I learn the names they go by on the social network Fetlife and I become buddies with them online. We chat about what we’re into, they tease me since I’m the youngest person there by half a decade or more, and then we talk about politics or movies or books or…whatever it is that normal people talk about. Because that’s exactly what these people are: normal.

I didn’t know what I would expect when I bought my first ticket to Uber. I didn’t want to get my hopes up or have them dashed terribly if things weren’t as extreme as I thought they would be. I walked into Uber a blank slate and emerged with an impression of this community as a safe and entirely sane representation of ordinary people.

Some think that 50 Shades of Grey is a representation of this community and the truth is that the kink community itself is divided in its acceptance of the book. Some believe that it’s damaging to their reputation and others defend it tooth and nail. The most intelligent thing you can do is decide for yourself, and to do that you have to consider both sides. Do as I did. Take the leap. Go to Hellfire or Uber, suit up in leather or cotton, experience the ordinary.