Sometimes the hardest part of a journey is taking the first step.  This was the case for my first foray into the public BDSM scene.

In my previous post, you may recall that I discussed how I had known that I was kinky for practically my entire life, and that I had known about Washington DC-based Black Rose for several years, but had taken no action towards getting involved with that group.  Once my friend told me back in September 2011 that she was kinky, and was involved in her own local scene, it made me start to wonder why I wasn’t involved myself.  After all, if she can do it, why can’t I?  I looked at Black Rose’s site again a few times over the next few months, and in late December, determined that their next orientation, or as they call it, “Gateway”, was on January 5, 2012 in a conference room at the Phoenix Park Hotel near Union Station in DC.

I had been debating in my mind for about a week prior to the January Gateway about whether or not I should go.  Ultimately, I decided to just take the plunge and go.  Nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?  It might be a great thing, or it might turn out to be completely lame, but you don’t know for sure until you go and find out.

As with other vanilla special events that I’ve been to, my body knew that Black Rose’s Gateway was something special.  My stomach was doing flipturns at the office, as the anticipation was causing me some physical ailments.  I knew that this was something I really needed to do for myself, and I would regret it if I didn’t go (and would have to wait a month for another opportunity), but my stomach felt worse and worse as the day went on.  I did my best to ignore it, as I knew it was just nervousness from anticipation and that once I got there, I would be fine, but it was becoming difficult to ignore in the meantime.

After work, I took the Metro to Union Station, and from there headed over to the Phoenix Park.  My stomach was still doing flipturns, but I managed to make it up to the conference room without losing my lunch.  Once I arrived, the nervousness went away, as I knew it would.  I had arrived early and was the first one there, and so I got to chatting with the folks who would be running the presentation, to calm my nerves if nothing else.  They were very friendly, and completely understood my nervousness.  It was also very reassuring to see more attendees.  I quickly discovered that kinky people come in all shapes and all sizes, and that many kinky people do actually look like me, and that most kinky people don’t look like the models you see on BDSM sites on the Internet.  I felt so much better!  The only thing that I found slightly intimidating is that the vast majority of the folks in attendance were couples.  I felt a little bit like a fifth wheel because I came alone.

As for the content of the meeting itself, that was pretty straightforward.  They explained what Black Rose was and how they were first and foremost an educational organization, they explained what sorts of activities they did, they discussed membership, they explained the importance of discretion outside of scene events, and they discussed Dungeon 101, which is an outreach event that Black Rose holds at The Crucible, which is a BDSM and swingers’ club that had recently relocated to a building on M Street NE in NoMa.  They also gave all of us two cards.  One card was for Crucible admission, which gave two discounts.  One entitled the bearer to reduced admission ($10 vs. $20) at Dungeon 101, and the second entitled the bearer to $20 admission for Black Rose night at Crucible.  The second card gave the bearer free admission to a Tuesday night meeting held at the Phoenix Park.

The most important thing that I got from the meeting, however, was said almost in passing, near the end: FetLife.  Basically, FetLife is like the scene equivalent of Facebook.  You can become friends with people, you can post status messages on your “wall”, you can post on other people’s walls, you can join groups, you can comment on other people’s content, send messages, etc.

One thing that slightly rubbed me the wrong way about Black Rose, however, was about money.  Considering that Black Rose’s membership year starts on July 1 for everyone and is not pro-rated if you join in the middle of the year, I felt as though I wasn’t going to get my money’s worth if I joined in January, slightly more than halfway through their membership year.  Additionally, I felt like if I decided to join, I would be paying just for the privilege of paying more money to actually use my membership.  From what I could tell, just about every Black Rose event had its own cover charge, separate from the membership fee.  Neither the fees to attend meetings or the membership fee itself seemed token.  $30 was a lot of money for a membership, and I’m a bit of a cheapskate.

In leaving Gateway, however, I felt relieved.  I now knew that many kinky folks were regular people like me, and they weren’t all like the fetish models you saw online.  I had a plan of action, at least in the short term: I was capitalizing on the momentum from Gateway and going to Dungeon 101 at Crucible the next night.  Everything would be all right.

And when I got home that night, I signed up for FetLife, and “friended” my friend who had earlier told me that she was kinky.