As a 36-year-old single woman, I consider myself to be fairly worldly.
Yet it took until this Halloween for me to attend my first fetish night.
Exploring my own kinks, especially as I’ve gotten older, has come par for the course.
It’s well known that women hit their sexual peak in their thirties, and I can personally testify that my libido has led me down some pretty creative paths as I – and my genitals – race towards the big four zero.
So when a friend suggested that we attend London’s (and in fact, Europe’s) largest fetish club to celebrate Halloween, my curiosity of course got the better of me.
Once the initial ticket-purchase butterflies had passed however, my mind went into overdrive:
What would I wear? Would it be eye-wateringly obvious that I was a complete newbie?
And more importantly, what would I see or partake in, and how would my brain process that information on the night?
I mean, how wild was I prepared to be?
After being an awful bore and analysing the definition of fetish – ‘a form of sexual desire in which gratification is linked to an abnormal degree to a particular object, item of clothing, part of the body, etc’ – I came to the conclusion that in order to feel excited about the experience I had to stop overthinking the concept, and embrace my apprehension.
(Plus, ‘abnormal’ Oxford Dictionary people? What is ‘normal’ in this day and age? Does my obsession with Jon Snow’s arse count as a fetish? Answer: probably.)
So, one purchased latex dress later – thank you Amazon Prime – and I find myself queuing in the freezing cold outside a run down theatre in South London, alongside a chap wearing nought but duct tape, genuinely not knowing what to expect from the next six hours of living.
Here’s what I discovered.
1. Dress (or undress) to impress
Really, anything goes.
Once past the initial vetting – yep, don’t think you’re getting in wearing jeans and Reebok Classics – you are met with a carnival of textures, tricks and exposed skin.
Sure there’s latex, but there’s also lace, feathers, sequins and sparkle.
Girls wearing nothing but pasties and pearl thongs squeeze past middle-aged couples in matching trench coats, masks and spikes.
It’s like some decadent, sartorial dystopia, and an absolute feast for the senses.
Explore your own boundaries, and wear whatever makes you feel good.
Just remember you’ll want to be unveiling in the club rather than on the street, so pop something warm into the cloakroom for when 6am rolls around and you’re hitting up the Uber.
And don’t overdo it with the talc, unless you want a Ross Geller ‘paste’ scenario on your hands.
2. Don’t worry about your body
One of the most liberating things you’ll witness is every kind of body type on display, in various stages of arousal and undress.
As the night progressed, any feelings of self-consciousness I had started to slip away.
Twenty-something years of hating my (not so flat) tummy and suddenly I’m laced into a latex corset dress and absolutely loving life.
Then, expect to start telling everyone just how f***ing fabulous they look too: ‘Dang, I love what you’ve done with that ball gag.’
Believe me, it’s infectious.
And trust me when I say, no one cares.
After being privy to the communal lubing-up of nipples in the unisex bathrooms while the attendant nonchalantly checks her Facebook feed, you soon realise the last thing people are looking at is your cellulite
3. Respect everyone
Along with etiquette signs hung about the venue, security guards and staff are also strategically placed to oversee festivities.
Any contact has to be consensual, and at no point did I feel threatened or unsafe.
Just remember this night is like any other, regardless of all the boobs and balls bouncing around the gaff.
Be polite, be courteous and always ask permission.
Also, sense of humour is equally important.
Having a 3am dance floor conflab with some lad from Cardiff about how his leather hot pants were ‘chafing the tip’ off him was just one of the weird and wonderful exchanges I engaged in.
Unfortunately, I had no Vaseline handy.
4. Take everything in
As a novice, I’ll admit that the first hour was a little bit of an eye opener.
Watching people engage in varying degrees of sexual expression — we’re talking everything from toe sucking to full on ass thwacking — did initially seem well, quite weird. However, allowing myself time to adjust and settle into these feelings soon brought a euphoric rush of empowerment.
There’s absolutely no pressure to do anything you don’t want to do. Let yourself explore the sensations – then, see what happens.
Fetish nights provide the perfect opportunity to try something new in a safe and comfortable environment, so be prepared to check your inhibitions at the door.
I went with close girlfriends who are incredibly open and self-confident, but I’d be equally interested to go with a partner and measure up a different dynamic.
Everyone is so damn nice that it’s impossible not to feel somewhat giddy, especially if it’s your first time, so let yourself ride that wave.
Only you will know how far you want to go, and for many that starts and ends with observation only.
Plus, there’s nothing to stop you having a chat with your companions ahead of time to discuss what you’d like to get out of the evening.
That way everyone is on the same page once the madness starts.