to help aid my understanding of the B&D/S&M world, Jemma had sent me a "play list," a checklist of activities that a submissive was to fill out for his or her dominant. The 100 or so activities ran the sexual gamut, from "being serviced orally" to "beating -- soft" to "gangbang sex object" to "bestiality -- dog." A sub was to answer yes or no to a series of questions: Had he or she ever engaged in the activity before, did they want to now, how much did they want to. The idea was to establish some sort of parameters for the sexual play, which the list emphasized was always to be Safe, Sane and Consensual.
By this time I'd seen "Fetishes," the Nick Broomfield documentary about the high-class New York dominatrix arena called Pandora's Box. The clients, almost exclusively men, paid $1,000 minimum a session to be whipped, humiliated, stepped on, burned, gagged, suffocated and raped. None of it looked very appealing to me, although I kept thinking about Jemma's pyramid analysis and how many submissive men there were around, begging to be abused. The dominatrixes looked bored, and I began to rethink this field trip to the Power Exchange. For one thing, I didn't want to watch a lot of fat, wrinkled, balding white guys getting their rocks off. For another, I wanted to be clear about my reasons for going. If it was research, so be it. But if it was for something else -- sexual titillation, voyeuristic fantasies, you name it -- I wanted to know.
I'd had a similar thought after seeing a documentary on the Jewish Defense League. You start to wonder about these so-called marginal groups. Just how many members were part of this movement? How many people did it represent? Was there a great seething mass of potential doms and subs, just waiting for their time to come out? Certainly the mere fact that these clubs existed, that "Fetishes" was made, that reams and reams of paper were devoted each week across the country to "wild side" ads and personals, seemed to suggest some ground swell of popularity.
"Did you ever go to a sex club?" I asked my neighbor. We were walking to the beauty supply store on Polk Street, sweating in the noon sun.
"No," Tristan said. "Did you?"
"I'm thinking about it," I said. "I'm curious, but I don't know why I'm curious."
"Did you ever have sex in a car?" he said.
"Yes," I said. "Did you?"
"Of course," he said, sneering slightly. "Everyone's done that." Tristan had lived with his partner, John, for the last 10 years and was very open about everything. "This reminds me of this game we play at work when we get bored. It's called 'Didja Ever' -- yes, spare the cracks about the innovative title. Marilyn started out: 'Didja ever open a mutual fund? Didja ever play the violin?' After a few questions like that, no one wanted to play. So she started getting trashy. 'Didja ever have a threesome? Didja ever want to get a prostitute?' Stuff like that."
"I've had lots of threesomes. Only with men. No on the prostitute. But this other guy, Fred, said he'd always wanted to, really badly. I asked him why, and he said 'Because you could have sex any way you wanted it. You could say, "Show me your ass," and she'd do it. You could say, "Suck this," and she'd do it.'" Tristan looked at me curiously. "Didja ever want to be a prostitute?"
"Only in my fantasies." If he only knew, I thought.
"That answer is a yes, then. Didja ever find porno in your parents room?"
"Yes," I said, shuddering. "It was completely horrifying, and it made me physically sick. Didja ever get caught masturbating?"
"Yes. Didja ever bully someone into having sex?"
"Does tricking count? I've done that."
"Yes," I said. "I told him I wanted to see what type of material his boxers were made of -- 'were they Egyptian Cotton, or maybe just a blend?' It was a complete ruse and he was too stupid to get it. Once I got his pants down, I knew it would be a cinch from there on out." We went inside the store and began browsing through the shampoos, unscrewing the caps of various bottles and smelling them. "Didja ever use a piece of fruit as a sexual object?"
"Yes. A melon." He took a deep whiff of something minty, made a face, and returned the bottle to the shelf. "Didja ever have sex with a lot of people around, and you were outside, but the people weren't looking because they were turned the other way, watching the band?"
I was reading the ingredients on a bottle of conditioner. "No. Did you?"
Tristan thought for a moment. "No."
We wandered over to the manicure display case and mused upon what sort of miracles a pair of $26 tweezers could possibly perform. "Didja ever get tied up and blindfolded and made to have sex?" I asked him.
"Yes. Did you?"
I thought about the Play List. "No," I said. "But I have a feeling I'm going to be seeing a lot of that very soon."