After attending Gateway with Black Rose the night before and getting all of the various information that I needed from the Black Rose folks, my plan was to attend Dungeon 101 at The Crucible, a BDSM and swingers’ club in the NoMa neighborhood in Washington DC, on the night of January 6, 2012.

However, before I could go, I needed to make some preparations.  First, I needed to assemble some sort of toy bag.  For this, I made a very early morning run out to a Home Depot store near me, and bought fifty feet of rope.  Getting home, I cut it into three fifteen-foot lengths and one five-foot length, and then sealed the ends with a lighter.  My rationale for cutting it that way was to have just enough rope to make a decent hogtie, assuming the use of one fifteen-foot length each for wrists, ankles, and knees, and then using the five-foot piece to attach ankles to wrists.  This went into a backpack.  Then also I threw in a ballgag that I had bought some months earlier.  Since I was going to Dungeon 101 right from work, I added a change of clothes to the bag.  The folks at Black Rose had recommended wearing something comfortable, and so I threw in a pair of pajama pants, a comfortable and somewhat loose fitting shirt, and a pair of Crocs.

With my toy bag assembled, containing all the supplies that I thought I might need for a BDSM night, I took that and the bag I always take with me to work on the Metro, and went to work like I always do.  At work, I was again feeling that weird feeling in my stomach that I had felt before Gateway.  However, unlike before Gateway, where I only got that nervous feeling in the late afternoon, I had that feeling all day, and seemed noticeably preoccupied about something.  I thought going out to lunch with my coworkers would calm me down and distract me, but it didn’t help.  I was so nervous that I could hardly eat, and was seriously concerned that said lunch would not stay down on account of nervousness.

After work, I took the Metro over to New York Avenue station and found The Crucible.  The building was surprisingly nondescript.  I had been told that the word “Crucible” did not appear on the building, and to look for the address, but I was surprised about what I found.  This is the building that houses The Crucible, courtesy of Google Maps:

The Crucible, as seen on Google Street View
Photo: Google Maps

While this photo shows the building in its previous usage prior to becoming The Crucible, the exterior was unchanged from this photo.  The building still carries the sign indicating that it is used by the Treasury Department for US Customs.  The small window on the front door even still carried a sign that said, “Alarms protect postal property”.  There was no outward indication that this was a BDSM club.  Very discreet.

I had gotten there early, and they weren’t letting people into the main area just yet.  So I waited, along with a number of other folks, to get into the venue.  While I was waiting, I spoke with a couple that was also at the previous night’s Gateway, and, noticing my shirt (I was wearing a shirt with the name of my college on it), they realized where they knew me from, stating that they thought I had looked familiar at Gateway.  Turns out that we had gone to college together!  Small world.  Once I started talking, as at Gateway the night before, the unsettled feeling that I had been having in my stomach from nervousness and anticipation went away.

Once everyone got the nod to go in, I paid my admission, parked my coat and my work bag, and then took the toy bag to the restroom with me to change clothes.  Coming out of the restroom, I put the toy bag with the rest of my stuff, and sat down in one of the chairs that had been laid out in something of a semicircle for this event.  I was sitting near two folks, and quickly made friends.  I would end up spending most of the evening with one of them.

When the program began, one of the first things that they did was introduce the new Crucible.  This was the first Dungeon 101 night at this location, as The Crucible had previously been located in Southeast near Nationals Park until early 2011, when the facility closed to relocate to the new NoMa location.  Afterwards, they introduced the various presenters for the exploratorium, as well as “Uncle Frazier”, the self-described “Professional Dirty Old Man” who owns and operates The Crucible.  Then there was a brief discussion on scene etiquette and safewords (at Crucible, “red” means “stop now”, and “yellow” means “I am approaching my limit”), and then it was time for the exploratorium.

The exploratorium had a number of different stations: wax play, knife play, sensation play, violet wands, rope bondage, and three different types of impact play (flogging, spanking, and whips).  Everything was very laid back, with people invited to try the various stations (both to see how it feels and to try it), and no one had to do anything that they didn’t want to do.  Additionally, the full lights were on for the exploratorium.  I found it to be exactly as the organizers had planned it: a safe place to try out new kinky things that you may or may not have necessarily done.

My newfound friend and I first went to the whip station, where we got to feel how a whip feels.  Honestly, the whip scared me at first, but the person running the whip demo was very gentle, and gave very light strokes with the tip of the whip.  It was enough to feel it, but not enough to cause pain.  It was a good experience, though not one that I’m necessarily “into”.

The next station we tried was for wax play.  In the wax play station, my friend and I went in turn.  For that, I took my shirt off, laid face down on a table, and the presenter spread some baby oil on my back (to facilitate later removal of the wax).  Then they took a ladle and used it to put some wax on my back from a crock pot.  I had seen wax play on various BDSM sites before, and wasn’t quite sure what to think about it.  Much to my surprise, however, it felt really good!  It was a warm sensation on my back, and felt similar to something one might feel at a massage parlor.  After the ladled wax, the presenter then used a candle to apply wax that dripped from the candle.  That was warmer than the first round of wax, and felt amazing.  Following this, the presenter used a dull knife to scrape the wax off of my back, and got me all cleaned up.  I was pleasantly surprised by this!

Following the wax, my friend and I did the knife play station.  There, the presenter ran a knife up and down my arm for a few minutes, and that was basically that.  The knife was specifically intended for play, and was not sharp by any means.  I believe that I would have gotten more out of this station if I had been blindfolded or otherwise unable to see what was going on, because seeing the knife and where it was going seemed to take some of the fun out of it.  Lesson learned, I suppose.

Next, we went over to the rope bondage station.  There, my friend and I sort of split up for a short time.  There were two presenters for rope, and each of us went to different presenters.  I ended up getting tied a few different ways at the rope station.  The presenter was going to show a number of people how to tie rope, and I was the presenter’s “demo submissive”.  First they did a one-column tie, which is where one limb is bound, such as with the intention of attaching that limb to something else.  The next thing that they demonstrated was a two-column tie.  In giving the presenter my arms for tying, I, without thinking, presented them with my hands palm-up.  The presenter said to me, “You’re a submissive, aren’t you?”  My response: “Ummm…?”  As it turned out, the way a person presents their arms is somewhat representative of what type of player one is.  Palms down = dominant, palms up = submissive, and palms together = switch.  After tying my wrists in front of me, the presenter, in showing the group what you can do with a two column tie, used the rope to hold my wrists over my head and said, “And right there is a whole night of fun by itself!”  I was amused.

After the formal rope demonstration, the rope presenter put me up in some rope for a while.  First they tied my wrists behind me, and then built on that, with the rope basically holding my arms like a sling, and a harness around the rest of my upper body.  Then they let me walk around in it for a while.  What a strange feeling to have my arms bound behind me!  I had known that I was into rope since childhood, but never before had I had my arms bound like that.  It was a wonderful feeling.

While I was all tied up and walking around in my bonds, someone announced that it was now time for open play.  Now the lights went down to a level best described as “mood lighting”.

While still trussed up in the now-darkened room, I got to try the violet wand station.  There, the presenters had a number of different styles of wands, and I got to feel them.  My arms came loose from the rope during the presentation (thick, slick rope – it works itself loose naturally by design), which ended up working out, as now the violet wand presenter could demonstrate on my forearm.  The violet wand, like the whip, originally made me a bit nervous.  However, the violet wand was surprisingly good, even if one of the demo wands did burn some of the hair off of my arm (whatever – it’s just hair).  Most interesting was one wand that had something along the lines of a rake-like end on it.  I enjoyed feeling multiple sensations at once like that.  The violet wand is definitely something I want to try again one day.

After the violet wand, however, came the saddest part of the evening: I needed to be untied.  I would have gladly stayed tied up all night if I had my way about it, but they needed the rope for others, and besides, this was about exploring all the various sorts of things that they had available – not just getting tied up.  But I admit – I am a bit of a “rope slut”.

Finally, we headed over to the flogging station.  Flogging was something that I had never really thought about before, and had no preconceptions about.  Another friend of my friend administered the flogging for both of us.  First they did it on my friend, which allowed me to see how it was done.  First my friend stepped up to the Saint Andrew’s Cross, facing it, and they wrapped their arms around it.  Then the flogging began, as the person took their floggers and used them on my friend’s back.  After my friend was finished, it was my turn.  I took my shirt up, approached the cross in the same way, and placed my arms around the cross in the same way.  I was flogged in a similar way, with the flogger then lightly moved across my now-sensitized skin, and then, as I had discussed prior to starting, I also was spanked with a wooden paddle.  This is when we all discovered that I was a bit of a giggler when it came to these sorts of things.  I started laughing when I was struck with the paddle!  I think I was as surprised as anyone.  But after all, this is a play event.  No one is ever in any danger, and the goal, after all, is to have fun.  Plus if it becomes too intense, there’s always the safeword to stop the scene.  In the end, I think that flogging surprised me the most that evening.  I went into it with an open mind, and to my surprise, I really enjoyed it!

By this time, it was after midnight.  We had been at this for several hours, and so my friend and I prepared to go.  I never did get to try the sensation play station, but not to worry – there would be other play nights.  Both of us were headed towards the Metro, and so we gathered up our stuff, and walked back towards New York Avenue station together.  We exchanged FetLife names on the way to the station, and then got our Red Line trains to head to our respective homes.

All I have to say about it is, what an amazing night!  First, of all, I got to explore my own fetishes a bit, and discover a few new fetishes.  Who knew that I would be so into wax play and flogging?  When I got home, I soon updated my fetish list on FetLife to incorporate all of the things that I discovered that I was into.  Also, and just as importantly, I got to see kinky people of all shapes, sizes, colors, genders, and orientations having fun together.  It reinforced the fact that no, you don’t have to look like Cathryn Beaumont to be kinky.  There were people that looked like me at The Crucible that night!  You don’t know how much that night at Dungeon 101 improved my self confidence and the way I view my own body.  The way I saw it, I went into a new and completely unfamiliar situation, and then was whipped, waxed, tickled with knives, tied up, shocked, spanked, and flogged.  I had proven to myself that I could do it, and if I could do that, I could do anything.