Updated: Tuesday, 23rd October 2018 @ 5:08pm

Whips and chains… just don’t forget the safe word! Uncovering Manchester's bondage scene as fetish club arrives

Whips and chains… just don’t forget the safe word! Uncovering Manchester's bondage scene as fetish club arrives

By Ana Hine

As a leading fetish club prepares to whip, pinch and spank Manchester’s kinkiest folk on Friday, MM delve into the underground world of bondage and sadomasochism nights around the city.

Torture Garden’s forthcoming event at Alter Ego re-ignites questions about safety, inclusivity and stigma in the community with bondage, sadomasochism and other forms of ‘play’ existing fairly far from mainstream acceptance.

Mike ‘The Prof’ is the dungeon master at Club Lash, a monthly fetish night also held at Alter Ego and talks fondly of his activities there, yet doesn’t feel they have a fair balance between being a music event and being a fetish night.

He said: “Torture Garden’s always been the same. It went a very different route to us. They’re more a brand now. The fetish thing gave them an edge.”

Yet Mike, 56, has found that with the arrival of the internet more people are becoming aware of the fetish scene, which used to be a lot more ‘underground’.

“It used to be something that was considered very weird and not many people did it,” he said, though he added that Club Lash has always been a very broad church.

A spokeswoman for a private members club, who wanted to stay anonymous and runs fetish nights in Manchester, said: “The thing is that it’s still a delicate subject.

“There’s lots of people in the alternative community whose families don’t know. At the end of the day we’re all entitled to our private lives.

“Torture Garden’s a bit of dress up. It’s not even on the same level.”

The club was concerned that their members would be subject to hate crimes if the club was too widely known or the location of their nights revealed.

However, they recognised that Greater Manchester Police have recently been more aware of hate crimes against the alternative community.

Dave the Butcher, who runs fetish club Kage in Bury on the last Sunday of every month, echoed this sentiment and said that GMP are only concerned about club nights that are engaging in or facilitating crime.

He said: “As long as there are no underagers and no drugs GMP are more than happy to let you carry on about your business. I suppose they are quite tolerant of alternative lifestyles.”

At Dave’s private fetish parties full sex is allowed and while he’s not the owner he explains that the venue his night runs in is a licenced sex establishment.

Sitting in Club Lash, the 44-year-old elaborated: “Whereas here there’s no genital nudity and no penetration, nothing very extreme, in my gaff you can do whatever you like.”

As Club Lash’s dungeon master Mike is responsible for making sure people know how to use the equipment and stay safe, Dave said: “It’s about being sensible. The rules are what you agree with your partner. Nothing’s compulsory.”

He explains that the lack of actual sex is due to Alter Ego being a public access venue, where anyone can pay to come in as long as they meet the dress code.

As a consequence of this, Mike said that a venue like Alter Ego couldn’t practically have a sterile area for activity involving needles or other medical play.

Despite this Torture Garden are advertising a dungeon playroom including medical play equipment for their Manchester event.

In Club Lash people can only strip to the waist and there’s no play involving human bodily fluids allowed mainly for health and safety reasons.

Mike said: “You can get this thing in the scene where people talk themselves up as being really hardcore but they’re not really. It can be really off-putting for newbies.”

For Jane, a Club Lash organiser, accessibility and safety are key concerns. She describes their night as very ‘newbie friendly’ while still satisfying the needs of more long standing members of the
community.

One of the longest running continuous club nights of its kind in Manchester, Club Lash moved to Alter Ego on Princess Street 11 months ago.

Helen, another Club Lash organiser, explained that the sexuality side of Torture Garden is less pronounced than it is elsewhere in the scene, though she still has a lot of admiration for it.

She said: “Torture Garden does tend to be, from my point of view, much more about the costume. They don’t have a dungeon master or at least they haven’t had them when I’ve been.”

Yet, Jane is keen not to downplay the fashion aspects of their club night, which has a theme each month such as uniforms or zombies. She feels that while the clothes aren’t everything, they are important.

She said: “You can come in dressed to theme if you haven’t got a wardrobe of PVC. And not everyone has. Torture Garden’s another opportunity to dress up.

“For some people dressing up is the fetish.”

Image courtesy of Edmund X White via Flickr, with thanks.

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