Saturday saw the annual Torture Garden outing, and despite the fact that a number of The Tribe were unable to attend we still had enough perverts to make the night worthwhile, including a last minute addition of Blush. I'd been a bit sad within myself that I hadn't really been able to spend more time with her, either for play or just coffee, so it was nice to be able to take her out once more. Nicer still that we were at Rossetti's house to begin the night and together played a game of dress up making her into quite the Christmas princess, All white innocence and knee socks, all the better to fool you with.
TG is always a mixed bag. It's a big club night with a dungeon rather than a play night - recently a few of us were bemoaning the existence of good, hard play clubs outwith the gay fetish scene. The TG crowd is always better looking than average, so there were lots of well-defined male torso on display and a performance by a beautifully androgynous hula boy made me grin wolfishly. Any man who can strip whilst twirling a hoop around gets my vote.
Then there was the not-so-good.
The drunken, drugged up crowd falling over themselves (literally, one woman collapsed on the stage, bringing part of the decoration with her) and the grabby, gropey behaviour of vanillas let off the leash without knowing how to behave. The dungeon itself was bigger and better laid out with more kit than usual, and lent itself to more showy, exhibitionist scenes: racks, cages, st andrew's crosses, benches, exactly right for that kind of crowd. It was very, very dark. We like some darkness, we perverts, but we also like not to fall over whilst we are playing. I rather long for a club with a bright, white playroom.
However, it wasn't well monitored. I saw a couple of - predictably male dungeon monitors, predictably delivering flogging to newbie, nubile women in a very "look at my manly domming" sort of way. I'm never keen on DMs playing, I think that it's a bit like bouncers drinking and dancing. I appreciate that the line between showing someone a little about kink and actually having a scene can be hard to draw. However, in a club where there is likely to be more new people, and more new people who are drinking, then closer supervision is required. You can't watch play whilst playing.
They were not easily identifiable, especially as they were often busy playing or moving people out of the way so that they could play. One was masked, which I especially don't like as I think it makes it much harder for you to talk to them or ask them a question. It also makes us kinksters look like dickheads.
My feelings were compounded by the fact that when I really could have used a DM - a man was being extremely rude about stepping back from where I was about to play - there wasn't one to hand and I could hardly leave Blush by herself near Mr Angry And Entitled whilst I went to look for teacher. I'm able to take care of myself and he eventually left in a flood of curses but it hardly set the scene for a good scene - we recovered, naturally, and more on that later.
Now I know that these are problems faced by being a big club and by being a club that mixes a vanilla accessible party with play. TG does not call itself a play club, it isn't a play club, it is a fetish party with emphasis on the party. Throw in the "it's Christmas" vibe and everyone was probably getting more high and more hammered than they might usually. That meant the dungeon was full of people who, especially towards the end of the night, were really not in a fit state to stand up, let alone play, or, importantly consent to play. The rules for the dungeon were printed on a board outside the entrance to one of the play areas - though not all. They were hard to read in the light and obscured by people going to the nearby bar. If I wasn't actually looking for them I would have missed them.
Good dungeon monitoring is a real bugbear of mine, possibly because of my own background in behind-the-scenes event and theatre work plus front of house. DMs create the experience for people in the club and also set expectation levels of what kinky people look like.
I want people's experiences of BDSM to be positive. I don't think everyone in the world has to participate or should be kinky. I do want everyone to think that, even if it's not their cup of tea, they are able to see why some people might enjoy it. Their first physical contact with kink is often via the club scene and I think that clubs like TG, especially with its size and reputation, have a huge responsibility to the scene to deliver. Similarly, we perverts have a responsibility to behave properly and respect individual club rules. Even if we want to play harder or do more. Their house, their rules.
If you are going to allow play and if you are going to have rules then you need to actively manage this, and, sadly, I don't think TG is quite up to scratch.