Whips, chains and leather basically, these were the types of restraints I expected to encounter when I attended Fielden's Black and Blue Fetish Ball. But what impressed me most about this annual event was the lack of restraint. There was nothing holding people back from expressing themselves and their fetishes.
In a town where everyone is concerned with appearances, there was something quite refreshing about attending a fetish ball. Infamous for being a gay club, Fielden's is the last place I thought my friends and I would not only be comfortable but also have outrageous fun.
As the midnight gala approached, I was having great difficulty recruiting fellow partygoers. I knew my male friends in their preppy plaid shirts and khakis would be a tough sell. At 2 in the morning, though, it's very easy for a female to lure men especially when alcohol is promised at the next destination. Still, as we piled into cabs and abandoned our Robinson Street havens, I became increasingly nervous about what we were going to encounter at our first fetish ball.
Before I even had my obligatory beer in hand, I'd made my first friend at Fielden's: Matt. Who could resist talking to a man with bleached blonde hair, wearing a contraption of leather and studs that mysteriously extended down his pants and out the back? Naturally I was intrigued. We became fast friends although his wandering eye focused on my friend's khaki shorts as we talked. Nonetheless, I felt extremely comfortable with him.
"Do you trust me?" was the response I got when I asked him where the bathrooms were. Apparently, I did, because he was soon leading me through the maze of fetishes, surrounded by men kissing men, women grinding with women and heterosexuals observing it all.
But not my heterosexual friends. In my absence, it turned out they had stopped observing and begun participating. It didn't take long for one of my girlfriends to be up on the stage dancing with a "cop." His billy club actually became more of her dance partner as the performance progressed. We soon moved upstairs for the actual staged performance of the evening, the drag show.
While being entertained by a lip-syncing, Toni-Braxton look-alike, I noticed how much fun we were all having. There was this perennial look of pure amusement on all of our faces. The drag queens must have noticed this too because they toyed with us as much as they did the rest of the crowd. I soon found myself digging in my purse for dollar bills to give them.
When the show ended, no one was ready to go home, so the party moved downstairs to the dance floor. As I witnessed some of friend's repressed dance moves for the first time, I was in awe of my surroundings. What had this place evoked in us that made us feel so free and uninhibited?
Is that our fetish? Do we simply not want to care about what others think? Because in our society, we are constantly faced with impressing people not just in our professional lives, but even our social lives. Is this social pressure what we desire to be free from? Regardless, I just knew we were having a ball.
By 4 a.m., our dancing shoes began to hurt, and it was time to leave my new leather-adorned friends and return to the real world or at least the sidewalk of West Broad Street to wait for a cab. Two of my girlfriends rested their exhausted bodies on the concrete as revelers slowly filtered out of Fielden's. As they lay there, passed out and holding hands, I obviously knew that the fetish ball had not suddenly converted them into lesbians but simply given them a new attitude: They just didn't care.
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