Friday, 2 November 2012

Beyond Bizarre

Kinky Sex in the Second City

This article originally appeared in Radar magazine, Issue 6, December 2010

A few feet in front of me, on the floor of the nightclub, stands a young guy, perhaps in his early twenties, wearing only white underpants, a studded belt, and a collar. His female companion, wearing stockings, black stilettos and a fur coat, is stroking the top of his head. He closes his eyes and tilts his head back slightly, with the quietly ecstatic expression of a dog being fussed over by its beloved owner.

Just behind them, a scantily clad woman is strapped to a rack, and is being whipped by a guy dressed in a sharp business suit, with a respectable haircut, looking for all the world like some sadistic manager dishing out his favourite punishment to a wayward employee.

I'm at the Beyond Bizarre fetish club. This is held on the third Sunday of each month at the top floor of Nightingales, on Kent Street. The club takes its name not from the activities which go on here but from the fact that it is the official afterparty for the Birmingham Bizarre Bazaar, a fetish market which takes place at the same venue earlier in the day.

The market itself is a bigger affair, occupying all three floors of the club, and attracting visitors and vendors from all over the country. Among the wide variety of stalls it is possible to buy clothing and equipment to facilitate just about any sexual fantasy or practice which consenting adults might wish to engage in.

The market is open until 5pm, and Beyond Bizarre starts immediately afterwards. This means that unlike most nightclubs it is actually busier early in the evening as stallholders and shoppers stay and play for a while before heading for home.

My girlfriend and I have been to the market a couple of times in the past but have never stayed for the afterparty. Today we've missed the market and have arrived at the club just after nine. There are perhaps fifty people here now, with more leaving than arriving, although the girl on the door tells me they've had one hundred and fifty in today.

There is a 'fetish' dress code, which seems rather vague, but I get the impression that as long as you look like you have made an effort, and have some idea of what the club is about, then you will be let in.

I'm dressed entirely in black, but most of the men here have been a bit bolder and more imaginative. One guy is wearing a surgeon's outfit, another head-to-foot pvc, still another only a pair of pink panties. The women are similarly adventurous with lots of fishnets, corsets and skimpy underwear to be seen.

A man walks past us dressed in an almost non existent garment consisting of only a leather pouch and a couple of studded straps which reach up and around his shoulders. My girlfriend watches him go by and then suggests this might be a good outfit for me to try next time. I don't reply.

There are about half a dozen pieces of equipment dotted around - racks, benches and a cage, which anyone is free to make use of, although you are expected to bring your own floggers, paddles or other implements of choice. There is a house rule of no genital nudity and no sex acts, not due to any prudishness on the part of the organisers, but owing to licencing requirements.

The age range of the people here is from early twenties up to sixties at least, and there are all kinds of body shapes and sizes. There is no drunken stupidity going on, and everyone seems relaxed and unselfconscious.

Given how fascinated we are as a society with sex and sexuality, and how enamoured we are of diversity, it seems surprising that there is only one such club in the city, operating just once a month on one floor of a nightclub.

Even though 'coming out' about having a non-vanilla side is likely to be a daunting prospect for almost anyone, it still hard not to think that it ought to be possible for events like this to nudge their way nearer to mainstream recognition.

So, if you think you have a kink or two inside you but have never been sure what to do about it then maybe a visit to the market, or even Beyond, could be the place to start.

Radar Issue 6, December 2010

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