When I first entered the BDSM scene in January, I did three kink events within the span of a week: Gateway with Black Rose, Dungeon 101 night at The Crucible, and a munch.  These things all cost money.

I mentioned previously in passing that I am a major cheapskate.  Basically, I don’t like to spend money if I don’t need to, and will plan my purchases carefully.  Black Rose had membership dues of $30, and attendance at their regular meetings required further payment beyond the membership dues.  Likewise, due to its location in the NoMa neighborhood, The Crucible operated as a private club, with a $25 membership fee, and then the cost of admission to a Crucible event cost an additional $20.  Then of course the munch had the cost of the meal and tip.  Plus I needed to build up a collection of stuff to play with, like rope, BDSM gear, and other “pervertables” (more on that last part later).  And as much as I wish it were otherwise, my funds are finite, and there are only so many hours in a day.  Thus I had to make choices about what to spend my money and time on.

The way I saw it, Black Rose and The Crucible were both a little pricey.  Black Rose membership cost $30 to join and would expire on June 30.  Then to actually use the membership and go to their various meetings and educational events would cost more money.  It felt as though they wanted money at every turn.  Thus it was a somewhat high barrier to entry, and for less than six months’ time as a member before having to pay another $30 for the next year’s membership.

Likewise, The Crucible, with its required $25 annual membership and $20 per event admission fee, also presented a high entry barrier.  Realize that the only thing that a Crucible membership buys is the privilege of paying more money to go to their events.  Thus it would cost me $45 to even set foot in the dungeon space at The Crucible, due to the need to buy the membership ahead of time and then pay the admission at the door.  In short: that’s a lot of money, and I didn’t have anyone to play with just yet, and sitting and watching other people play was not my idea of a good time.

The munch didn’t have an admission fee.  You were, as one would expect, responsible for your own meal, and as is always the case when eating out at restaurants, you should tip your server.  You’re an extremely rude individual if you stiff your server on a tip.

Then there is the matter of toys and other gear. I’ve been to Night Dreams in Rockville and other similar stores that sell adult toys.  Night Dreams, unlike a lot of adult stores, does more than just pay lip service to fetish.  They actually have a pretty good selection of quality BDSM items.  However, like many places, you should be prepared to pay for quality.  You can, for instance, buy a lightweight flogger for under $20 at the Spencer’s store in just about any mall, but it will feel as cheap as it costs.  A higher quality flogger has some weight to it, and I have discovered that a decent flogger will cost $50 or more.  I have tested the cheap floggers and the higher quality floggers on my arm, and the difference is very noticeable.  Night Dreams, however, also sells items that are made using real fur.  I refuse to buy or use toys made using real fur.  Of course, toys aren’t limited to what you can find at the local adult store by any means.  Tom Lehrer once said, “When correctly viewed, everything is lewd.”  And you can get all kinds of fun items to play with from even the most vanilla of establishments.  But nothing is free – it all costs money.

Early on, I think I made a significant rookie mistake.  When weighing my options, I assumed that Black Rose and Crucible were my only choices.  Thus I was forcing myself to choose between these two organizations, and I wasn’t entirely thrilled with either of them, as they both seemed like more money than they might be worth.  The idea was that if I was going to spend that much money on kink, I wanted to weigh my options carefully.  I wanted to make sure that I had access to a BDSM dungeon.  As I saw it, a membership with Black Rose gave me discounted access to their educational programs (but an additional fee nonetheless), and it gave me Crucible access for the usual $20 on Black Rose night as well as on Dungeon 101 night, but no other times.  Then Crucible membership seemed like a scam to me.  $25 per year for the privilege of paying $20 a time for a few hours of public kink did not seem like a bargain to me.  Seemed like a ripoff, since you can’t even get in the door with the first $25 at The Crucible.  My view is that if they were making their money on admissions, then the memberships should be a token amount (like $5.00) just to satisfy the legal requirements for being a private club, or perhaps the membership fee itself should include one admission.  With a $25 membership fee separate from admission to your first event, it’s really too pricey.  Eventually, I decided to think about it, and would make a decision about the false dichotomy that I had created for myself later on, like when Black Rose’s membership year reset on July 1.

Meanwhile, I quickly discovered that the munches were well worth the money.  Munches, after all, are about making friends and just hanging out and socializing with other kinksters over dinner.  It’s just kinky people having a good time together.  And the cost was no different than if I were to go to the same restaurant with my mother.

Ultimately, I joined neither Black Rose nor The Crucible, and have no intention of joining either at this point.  Through FetLife and through the various connections that I made at the munch, I have been able to find other, less expensive places to play, as well as a place to educate myself on BDSM.  I especially appreciate events where the cost of admission is a canned item to be donated to a local food pantry.  Then everyone wins – I get to attend an event or educational activity, and a needy family in the community gets nutritious food.

Then as far as toys and other “pervertables” went, that would come in time once I figured out what I was doing.

So I guess the moral of the story is that BDSM doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg, that no one organization or dungeon venue is everything, and that in an area like Washington, there are many, many options.  And don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying that Black Rose and The Crucible are bad organizations by any stretch of the imagination.  I’m sure that Black Rose and The Crucible are just great for some folks, but I just find them to be too expensive to make me inclined to join either one.  And munches are awesome.