If you are at all familiar with the 'Story of O' (Helene Reage), 'The House of Pain' (Monique von Cleef) or 'The 120 Days of Sodom' (The Marquis de Sade) then, like me, you probably believed that the people who are into B&D or S&M are larger than life. That they have abnormal appetites for punishment, beatings, whippings, slave and Master relationships and the like, on both the give and take sides. These famous books above explain the lure of B&D and S&M: total debasement of the other person, usually as a prelude to kinky sex. The bizarre characters, as graphically spelled out by the authors, must use cruel punishment as a way of getting off in bed- punishment to the point of sickness, as in the case of the Marquis de Sade. All the beatings and other goings-on are wrapped up in the sexual overtones and the personalities of these fictional disciples of B&D are very strange people, definitely possessed. S&M and B&D are coming off the pages of the novels and out of the closet for more and more people now. Couples now use it as a sexual turn-on, but without the shame or guilt attached to it a decade or so ago. Like any other "away- from-the-norm" sex activity (like homosexuality), it is an educational process in which people learn to be more honest and open about their sex kicks. A restrictive society such as ours fosters abnormal activity: in other words, what you can't have, you must have. These thoughts, then, were on my mind as I took the twenty minute drive across the Bay Bridge to visit BackDrop, a unique B&D club in Hayward. I imagined that the members of BackDrop would be dressed in shiny black leather suits with whips and chains dangling from them, and that they would beat each other (or worse yet,me!) during our interviews. I was frankly filled with trepidation. My mind was quickly turned around shortly after my arrival. Dressed as normally as anyone else, BackDrop members were also friendly and very open about their fetishes. There was no bullshit about why they were there. Another aspect was that for them, B&D did not necessarily mean winding up in bed. They enjoyed the Dominant/submissive roles for what they are. Nothing more. Because the people I interviewed were so open and honest, I quickly felt at ease in their presence. I hope after reading their stories, you will have a clearer understanding of the B&D and S&M scene in this country today.
FLING: We are at BackDrop, the bondage club in Hayward. We are talking to Joan, one of the members. How old are you?
F: How long have you been with the club?
J: Since my eighteenth birthday
F: How did you get involved with the club?
J: Well, I called Robin about an ad that he had run in a local underground paper.
F: Do you think it's just a phase you are going through, or something that you want to be involved with the rest of your life?
J: This is something I have been involved with, in some way or another, my entire life. I've had fantasies master/slave and mistress/slave fantasies for a long time. When I was five years old, I used to masturbate to the thought of my Doctor giving me shots. When I was seven, I used to masturbate to the thought of guys being kept in cages just so I could look at them and they would have to do whatever I wanted. I really don't think that it is just a phase.
F: Did someone in your immediate family turn you on to this, or was it strictly fantasy until you entered the club?
J: Well, it was a fantasy I had my first slave when I was a sophomore in high school. And I used to play games with my two younger sisters, like someone would get kidnapped and things like that. I never got involved with B&D on a real level until I got involved with the club. Up until then, it had always been a game, a fantasy.
F: What about your friends and family? Do they know about your interests in the club?
J: It depends. The ones I think can handle it know, and the ones I don't think can handle it don't know.
F: What specifically do you enjoy have done to you?
J: I think what I like most are the switch-hittings and spankings, all in fun. Switch-hitting means taking turns, going both ways. I'll spank him first for a while, and then he'll spank me, just a friendly, warm hand-spanking intermixed with stroking and caressing.
F: Is there any sex involved?
J: Well, here at the club, we do not get involved if there is any money involved. Usually sex is reserved for somebody's bedroom, in private.
F: What type of man turns you on?
J: I like men that are really intelligent and know what's going on, someone with a Dominant side, but dominant in a considerate way. They are not going to take advantage of me; they're just going to direct me and control me, make me feel secure. I like the thought of somebody taking me in hand in order to be gentle to me and be considerate.
F: Have you had any unhappy experiences with a man whom you thought you knew, but turned out to be a little bit of a brute?
J: No. I've been with people that I didn't know who turned out to be that way. But not anybody that I had know for a while. I used to hitchhike a lot here in California. Sometimes that situation would get very uncomfortable.
F: What would be your ideal man? Have you any fantasies in regard to living with someone, or getting married to someone who would give you what you desire, in the sense that you wouldn't be connected with the club, but you'd be involved with a personal relationship?
J: Well, Robin is pretty close to what I'm looking for. He's the closest I've ever seen.
F: Robin is a Master, and the Director of the club. You have lived with him for a while. Would you consider yourself his slave?
J: I consider myself his slave. Actually, I am a slave to one of his personalities. I'm in love with all of them, but he has a separate personality that is dominant. I am a slave to that specific personality.
F: What do you wish for yourself; as far as the immediate future, and the next couple of years? What about as far as the club goes?
J: I would like to see the club have the recognition of the straight world as well as the B&D community. If only people could understand that we're all sane, we're not crazy or anything. I would like to be a writer and have recognition of my works and myself. I would like for people to know where I am at, and what I'm doing without getting uptight, without being Puritanist or being Victorian.
F: What would you say to our readers about their feelings about B&D or S&M? People that, perhaps, would like to come out of the closet, but are afraid to commit themselves. What could you say to help them?
J: Talk to somebody who is already into it, or write me a letter. Accept yourself, first, before you start trying to open up to people who may not be into it. Either contact the club, or somebody else you know who might be interested. If you go to a psychiatrist, he'll tell you that you are crazy, but that's not necessarily true. They may not be into the scene, and therefore do not understand it either. You will not get anywhere that way. It's something that, once you get into it, and think about it, and you're interested, even if you've only had fantasies about it and never had any experience, your fantasies are going to continue.
F: Very good advice. If you want to contact the club, read further. We will tell you how to contact BackDrop later in this article.
FLING: We're talking to Ed and Colette, a young married couple who are members of the club. How long have you been married?
ED: Not quite a year
F: What got you into the club? Which of you came here first?
E: We came here the first time as a couple.
F: Ed, I was impressed by you because you are a very verbal kind of guy. You have very interesting imagery. How long have you been into B&D yourself?
E: I had my first bondage fantasies about five years ago
F: How long have you been into it, Colette? COLETT
E: The first bondage fantasy I ever had was when I was about eleven years old.
F: What triggered it?
C: I truly have no idea. It was my first fantasy, as I remember it.
F: How did you pursue it after that? Did you go out looking for material?
C: I didn't get into the factual part, the reality of B&D, until about three years ago when I met Ed.
F: You've been members of the club about a year now. Do you deal with people other than each other at times?
C: At times. I work on Staff.
F: What does that infer: working on Staff?
C: I do dominant sessions with submissive males- that includes bondage, discipline, some fantasy games, humiliation, and/or punishment.
F: Does that normally lead to sexual activities?
C: I do not get involved in any sessions that I do, if money is involved.
F: Ed, how do you feel about it? Do you get involved with ladies, aside from your wife?
E: Yes, fairly often
F: And there are no problems between you?
E: No. I'd been in the American Sexual Freedom League (ASFL) before, for a couple of years.
F: Was that the organization Jefferson Poland founded?
E: Yes. I knew Jeff when we both lived on Haight Street, many years ago.
F: So, because of the ASFL, you joined this club?
E: Not really. Although I had a lot of very, very good time when I was in the ASFL, there was very little if indeed any bondage activity in the ASFL
F: What is the lure in bondage for you?
E: Well, as I see it, there is something essentially elusive about the female. She is trying to evade or escape, or set conditions upon her acceptance of you, and I got tired of that game after a while.
F: Do you have to be in control? Do you have to be the Master of the situation?
E: 'Have to' is perhaps the wrong phrase.
F: Is 'prefer' a better word?
E: Yeah, that when it feels right to me.
F: Colette, do you have an interest, or a fantasy of, being in control of Ed from time to time?
C: Yes, but that's as far as it goes, because I would never want to be in control, because I am submissive to him.
F: Would the terms sadist and masochist apply to your relationship, or would those be archaic or inconsequential words?
E: Well there are some parallels in which the words paranoia or paranoid have been used so loosely, with a lack of precision by so many people, it makes it essentially meaningless. Also the word sadism is so fraught with emotional connotation, that using the word tends to obscure communication rather than facilitate it. Colette has been disciplined for disobedience.
F: How is that manifested? How would you punish Colette for disobedience?
E: It has run the gamut- it can be anything from a disapproving look to beating the living bejesus out of her. I wish to make clear that those are two ends to an entire spectrum of punishments.
F: Does bondage generally infer that there is going to be sex after one or the other is worked on? Is that a natural assumption?
E: Yeah, although I would say, most often, it is during rather than after a bondage session.
F: Is it actual sex, or one or the other gets off by themselves?
E: Actual coital sex.
F: Could you give us an example? What would you be normally be doing to Colette- or Colette doing to you- where you would have sex?
E: We have a kind of thing we do, when she has no punishment scheduled or anything like that, and we're more or less free to play. Over a certain period of time, i'll copulate with her orally, vaginally and anally, have an orgasm each of these three times. It shows her that slaves are not allowed inhibitions. It is very complete to take a slave all three ways.
F: Is your Colette always in a situation where she is your slave.
E: She is right now.
F: Well, will she be your slave tomorrow? Is there never a situation where she might revolt?
E: That's only a relatively recent development. For a long time, for over a year, we had a situation in which we reacted more or less as equals to each other; but I had a name I gave her, and if I were to use that name, no matter where we might be, she will react as a slave to me.
F: This was an agreement between the two of you?
E: Right. And then one day, on her own initiative, interestingly enough, she decided that her slavery should become a permanent thing.
F: It's worked out happily for both of you? Or, at least I assume that is so?
E: Look for yourself!
F:I look at a very pretty girl who seem to be very happy. Colette, what problem in the relationship would trigger you into maybe thinking your situation isn't so great? Would could you envision as a problem in this idyllic Master/slave relationship?
C:Probably being punished without a reason. Or, if it became to violent, breaking bones and all that.
F: Would Ed ever administer punishment if he was in a very, very bad mood that might go to far? Or is there a prearranged agreement that you're only going to go so far, and that's it?
C: I know he would not go to far for there is one thing in our relationship, the main ingredient, and that's a great deal of love.
F: Speaking of love, does there have to be bondage involved before sex, in all cases?
F: But, it is involved most of the time?
E: That really depends. Generally, if we have things that are worrying us financial or business worries our sex life tends to be rather conventional or nonexistent. On the other hand, if we're in a space where we're relatively anxiety-free and can play without worrying very much, then we tend to do more sessions with bondage involved.
F: For our readers, Ed seems to be a mild-mannered guy. The reader might suspect that you're a tough, very macho kind of cat, and you're not that way at all. You seem to be very intellectual and mild.
E: Thank you.
F: Colette, have you ever been worried about this predilection for being a slave to Ed? Have you ever been to a psychiatrist, for example?
F: Have you ever talked to anyone who is a professional and could explain to you some of the problems you might have in regard to your feelings?
C: No, I haven't.
F: You're just not concerned not uptight or unhappy about it?
C: I don't understand what you are saying. I don't feel that I am sick. I feel that what I am doing is very normal.
F: The Club, from a therapeutic standpoint, is very important to your individual and married life. If you weren't able to join this club, would you look for another? Do you need the atmosphere of the club?
C: The idea of getting together with people in the club was primarily to exchange information and "learn some new knots" and gather some new ideas.
F: What advice would you two give to someone who may be reading this and is in the closet, who has these feelings, who wants to come out?
E: Find other people, even if at first you have to go to a studio, or something like that. When I first got into this, I didn't know how to relate to the fantasies in my head. I didn't understand them at all, and even some professionals I consulted seem to be equally in the dark. I think that associating with other people of like-mindedness to lend concept and perception to those thoughts that might otherwise be lacking is your best choice. And within this context, I feel, a feeling of stability and acceptance, and even feeling good about yourself. Undoubtedly, the most important thing for a person who wants to find out about these feelings of Domination and submission is to find a person of like interests.
F: The problem is if they are living in Podunk, Iowa, or some other small city, they might not be able to find someone who feels the same way they do.
E: There are always correspondence clubs, and the telephone. At least they are starting points.
F: Is there anything you'd like to add, Colette? Any words of wisdom or happy sayings?
C: Did you see what My Master Ed wrote on my leg today? 'Slave, should be whipped.'
E: It's an instruction: 'Slave, comma, should be whipped'.
F: A very interesting instruction. We thank you for the interview