"What do I even wear to a party called Bondage A Go Go?" I asked my random Craigslist roommate, Lindsay, while we ate dinner in our Inner Richmond living room. Lindsay was studying Library Science and watched a lot of episodes of The X-Files — she was no help.
All black is generally an acceptable choice for kinky events (I had heard) so I opted for black pleather leggings, a shirt with a fitted blazer, hot pink pumps, and no panties. I was particularly proud of the no-panties aspect. I thought it would make me feel sexy, but as I applied my makeup, I began to realize it mostly just made me feel sweaty. I was 24 and clueless about bondage, kink, fashion, and most other things.
This was in 2009, and I had just become a full-time San Francisco city dweller after a pretty dramatic breakup with a closeted lesbian rapper. I was riding the wave of OkCupid dates, and my most recent encounter had been with a kinky couple who had a dominant/submissive relationship. I had read about such things on the Internet and in naughty French novellas, but never had I met a real-live couple who called each other "master" and "slave," and I found it compelling and arousing. They offered to take me out that night, and I jumped at the invitation.
Legend has it that when gay World War II soldiers were discharged, they stayed in the cities they landed in. Port cities like San Francisco subsequently became epicenters for communities of gay veterans who valued the camaraderie, the discipline, and the snappy uniforms from their days in the Armed Forces. It is said that this was the beginning of what we now know as "Leather Culture" or BDSM (Bondage, Discipline, Sadism, and Masochism). These gay soldiers fought for our country, but also for our sexual freedoms. Without the gay leather bars of yesteryear, we may not be enjoying the pleasures of Folsom Street Fair today. Nor would the weekly Bondage A Go Go parties have been a port of entry for new kinksters in San Francisco for the past two decades.
I was bubbling over with excitement during the drive as I fantasized about what dark erotic adventures awaited me. Would it be a small gathering of the One Percent wearing feathered masks like in Eyes Wide Shut? Or would there be industrial music and people hanging from hooks? I had always liked rough sex, but since moving to San Francisco I had begun to realize that rough sex was just the beginning.
As we entered the club, heavy bass mingled with screams, the sounds of slapping, and an occasional moan. A makeshift dungeon was roped off on the far side of the bar, complete with whips and plenty of girls hung from the ceiling in elaborate rope bondage. I sat down with my dates at a table. We ordered drinks and — why not? — some calamari. I tried my very best not to stare too long at anyone. Then another guest joined us: a muscular black man who was introduced to me as Jack Hammer. I could smell the leather of his pants, and I liked the tattoos on his arms. He was a retired Marine, current porn star, and a bondage enthusiast.
"Do you like to get tied up?" he asked me.
"I don't know," I said. "Let's see."
My bravado convinced him, but I gulped as I followed him, puppy-like, into the dungeon.
"What color underwear are you wearing?" Jack Hammer whispered in my ear as he grabbed me by the hair and began to slide the heavy hemp rope across my skin. My knees weakened, and my face got hot.
"I'm not wearing any panties." I purred and rubbed my pleather-clad ass against him.
"What?" He pulled suddenly away. He was not pleased. "You can't wear pants when you get tied up, and if you don't have underwear on, you'll get kicked out!"
Despite the seemingly unbridled debauchery, Bondage A Go Go follows strict parameters in accordance with liquor laws. There are no nipples, no actual sex, and no genitalia permitted at or near the party.
I felt so stupid. I thought my choice to go commando was bold and sexy (and convenient, since I hadn't done laundry). But it was a rookie mistake. Now, my epic night of BDSM fantasy was just another awkward night of dating. My heart sank all the way down to my hot pink heels.
Jack smiled. His teeth were bright white and his dimples were deadly. He tied my hands above my head, reached into his bag and brought out a small single-tail whip.
"Well, I guess I'll just have to whip you then," he said. "Next time you'll know better."
The next time, I did.