When I first got into kink, it was at home. A woman I was dating told me her favorite movie was Secretary, and I was all over it..
Still, I thought, there's a world of difference between what I do at home and those people, you know, the ones who go to BDSM clubs... dungeons, and I didn't know whether to be afraid or to laugh at the idea of a dungeon.
I imagined a loud, banging nightclub full of people while off on the sides men dressed in all black mercilessly flogged women, and women dressed in latex smoked with one hand, while whipping pasty white submissives with the other hand.
Little did I know that a few years later, I'd be thinking about dungeons as one of the safest places I could be.
This post is for anyone who hasn't been to one yet, but is curious.
I think the biggest difference between what I saw and what I was expecting is the noise and energy level. In my mind, I imagined a large dance club, full of people grinding up against one another in fetish outfits, grinding and humping to a beat, breaking off every so often to engage in some sadomasochistic activity.
The dungeons that I've been to (though I'll admit, I haven't been to many) are largely relaxed places. There is music, but it's generally at a volume that you can still speak to people near you without raising your voice.
I've never seen any dancing in a dungeon. The atmosphere is either chatty or occasionally socially awkward, in a charming way that lets everyone know that we're all a bit self-conscious, maybe even embarrassed that we're dorks in a BDSM club.
Some clubs have seating, either chairs or couches, and that gives folks an opportunity to talk, aside from the great talking that happens when you walk around and chat up your friends.
Most clubs in the US are no drinking, or at the very most, BYOB. As a result, most of the people at the dungeon are coherent and intelligible. Drinking in a dungeon is generally frowned upon. People who are inebriated or impaired can't give consent and shouldn't be doing things that could be potentially dangerous.
While not all, many BDSM clubs have rules and restrictions about sex at the club. This is to protect the club from liability, but it has the secondary effect of keeping people who might be there to get laid out of the event. That's not to say there isn't nudity, but many clubs don't involve people having sex.
Most BDSM events will have dungeon monitors, or DMs. These people are often volunteers who are there to ensure that everything goes smoothly. They have the job of making sure that scenes go safely, while trying their best not to interfere. They have a difficult job of being seen just enough to let people know they're around, but not so much that people feel watched or intimidated.
These people are often also acting as greeters, and if they're not, they can be great people to reach out and talk so, as they have a lot of experience and are generally pretty friendly.
Depending on the size and the layout of the dungeon, it may be either open layout, with equipment out in a large room set up in "stations", or hallways and corridors leading to various rooms with equipment set up. I personally prefer the later, as it allows for scening to feel more private.
The most challenging part of being in a BDSM club, and the part I still struggle with, is finding people to play with. It's optimal if you can go to the club with someone, or with a plan of people and things you'd like to try, but pick-up play can be an option, and it can be fun. The most important part to remember is that everyone there is like you, there to have fun and engage in play, and even if someone says no, that it doesn't reflect badly on you as a person or have larger consequences.
What makes the BDSM clubs that I've been to feel safe, though, is that everyone there is there showing their most private selves. To go to a dungeon at all is an admission that you like something that is outside the norm, and that you're willing to go to a place full of people who want that same thing. At the beginning, it can be intimidating, but you realize most people there feel the same way, and after a few visits, you see the same people you're used to seeing- maybe the same ones you've seen at munches or other events.
And between the lack of drinking, the lack of sex and the DMs, you realize that you're in the safest place you could be to explore that really private part of yourself with a lot of people who are just like you.