In recent years due to the return of people to large cities, the acceptance and homogenization of GLBT culture into mainstream society,the movement of blue-shopping out of store-fronts and onto the internet, and online dating, there has been a shrinking footprint of places for people of the “Alt” community to congregate, socialize and express their kink.
It is so much easier and potentially less embarrassing to go online to websites that sell gear, to discretely look for those with like-minded kink on pre-sorted websites and on-phone applications, and to meet prospective partners at the local Starbucks while beige world music from subtle speakers washes over our beige tinted environment, as we sit in beige tinted chairs sipping beige-tinted lattes.
We are missing something.
There was bravery required to put on leather or latex or neoprene, or just really tight denim. There was a sense of adventure in entering a smoky bar, scanning the room and locking eyes with someone who might leave bruises of the kind you brush against under your clothes at work on Monday, wince and sharply draw breath through clenched teeth, and then attempt to suppress the smirk from the corners of your mouth at a meeting.
The thrill of excitement is missing from the casual perusal of online porn – of standing at a magazine rack in a sometimes dimly lit store, where directly behind you on pegs were walls of devices you’ve only seen tried out in movies as you leafed through, looking for a treat to take home in a brown paper bag. Something to be locked away in a file drawer, hidden beneath the socks or under the mattress. There was something in the sordid. something in the power of having to hide it, and the ritual of locking the door, the crinkle of the paper and the flush to the cheeks which comes from the secret perusal of smut.
Most of the places where you could experience this have either been closed, pushed out of business by new development, or moved to brightly lit box stores and sanitized to the point that buying porn is no more adventurous than a trip down to the local Walmart for a jumbo-pack of toilet tissue.
What I would say to the kinky amongst us is this…
Support your local kinky outlets They are still out there, hidden away in out of the way locations, behind unmarked doors, on the second story of so-called respectable businesses. If you live near a Leather or Fetish bar, find out where they are, and go. Take some friends with you. Put on some of that gear you bought late at night from online stores. Or better yet, see if you can find out some of the little out of the way places that are still there and buy something for yourself or your partner.
I went to one of those little places today and took a friend along. Its a new place called TrickBox off Rhode Island Avenue in North East Washington, DC. It was a tidy space run by a couple of guys who were friendly and helpful.They had a nice selection of gear in spandex and neoprene, rubber and leather, Things you could probably buy online, but there is something to be gained in going to a store, touching the gear, trying out pieces to check the fit, and talking to the keepers of the shop about what you might be interested in buying so they have an idea of what to buy and stock for your next visit. I like to do my best to support local kinky businesses.
Because you are not guaranteed the ability to keep your access to kink online. Changes in public policy, removal of advertising from Google AdWords, consolidation in the Porn industry and amongst producers of erotic clothing and gear leave online sales and access vulnerable.
Because getting out of your comfort zone and into the real world could actually result in your growth as a socially functioning human being and provide some excitement (sharp intake of breath) to an otherwise mundane existence.
Because those bars, bookstores, shops and strip-clubs are regularly under assault by those who wants to bulldoze them into the ground so they can put up a beige condo tower, a beige Starbucks, and a beige Whole Foods.
Some would like nothing better than to look out their windows and see bright lights and corporate retail from here to the horizon.
Those of us who like our lights dim, our stores seedy, and our lives just a little… dirty would prefer you keep your strip malls in the suburbs and leave just a little juice, a little dirt, a little smut for us pervs to enjoy.