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Ninth Annual Fetish Ball aims to please - Raises funds for The Ark youth drop-in centre

Blog posts reflect the views of their authors.
Kate and Jean  of Halfway Creations sell quality leather wares
Kate and Jean of Halfway Creations sell quality leather wares
Miz Tia and helpers flog a hapless volunteer
Miz Tia and helpers flog a hapless volunteer
Kale and Kabe demonstrate rope suspension
Kale and Kabe demonstrate rope suspension
Rubber Dave in a customised latex outfit
Rubber Dave in a customised latex outfit

By Jen Stotland

Spring was in the air, and the warmer temperatures lent themselves to a fantastical array of corsets, steampunk glory and skimpy leather things. The ninth annual Halifax Fetish Ball was in full swing Saturday May 4, and the atmosphere was jubilant.

Frank Magazine has exposed the underworld of Halifax kink, several times, and after their most recent expose Frank hired on local dominatrix Miss Jaded as a sex columnist. Halifax has at least two pro Dommes, the other one is Careotica Loviscious.

The Coast covered PALS (People in Alternative Lifestyles), the precursor to the Society of Bastet a number of years ago.

In spite of this coverage, I don't believe the Fetish Ball itself has ever been covered by the mainstream media, and the kinky float in the Halifax Pride parade, which last year featured a live scene of the flogging of a willing volunteer on a float, is edited out of Eastlink's live broadcast of the parade every year.

At the event, the Burnside Hotel didn't look promising from the outside, but the lounge cleaned up well with decorations, and was a buzz of activity. No nudity or sex takes place at the Fetish ball, and not a whole lot of 'play' either. Some joke that S&M here stands for 'Stand and Model'.

Emcee Eureka Love engaged the audience in a contest: have a volunteer be smacked on the bottom with a canoe paddle and guess whether they got the smooth side or the side with a boot sole. There were performances of bondage, flogging and rope suspensions, prizes for best outfit, a raffle, dj J Zhukow spun industrial tunes.

Old friends from all over the Maritimes caught up and new connections were made. Sponsors included Venus Envy, Halfway Creations, Sugar Shok, Indulgence, the Society of Bastet, the Everything to do with Sex Show, Big D Photography, and Bi-Metal Fabrications. All profits went to support the Ark and the Robert Street Social Centre.

I caught up with Don Murchy minutes before he taught me the meaning of fear. Murchy is a veteran of the leather scene: He has organised the Fetish Ball since it started in 2004. He's been a founder, treasurer, president and vice president and dungeon monitor of every kinky group in Halifax, and a card-carrying member of Hellfire Chicago and Delta International. He gave me a brief history of the scene in Halifax. This is edited for clarity as by the time I managed to interview him, Murchy was trailing off with fatigue:

The scene started in Nova Scotia with a group called Tightrope, which was originally a motorcycle gang, that became a gay male leather organization starting around 25 years ago in the 80s.

A leather organization for others, Xcorrigia was started by Mistress Iron Bitch, an American expatriate who, as a lesbian, couldn't join Tightrope. When she went back to the States, Excorrigia faded away.

In its wake, Club Halifax and later, the People in Alternative LifeStyles (PALS), were started by members of the swinger community who wanted to get away from casual sex and into heavier play. For a while fetish nights were hosted by the Blue Moon which was at 2215 Gottingen street. During the 90s and early 2000's the Maritimes were also served by the 'Top Floor', a members-only dungeon run by Bondage Jerry in Amherst that hosted monthly parties. Moncton and Fredericton have also had their own scenes and have had public spaces in the past but are now for the time being house parties only. Events like Evil Camping, in Economy, allow for connections to be made across the Maritimes.

PALS also supported a space in Dartmouth called Illusions, an apartment unit rented by Lady J to help support her budding Pro Domme (dominatrix) career. Door cover from Friday and Saturday night parties helped meet rent. That space was later engulfed in scandal when the landlord (not Lady J) started using the space to shoot pornography and allowed an underage youth to attend. Though charges were not laid, the news became public and Lady J moved to be with her partner in Toronto. PALS imploded in political conflict and the author of this article took a hiatus from play for two years.

Emerging from PALS' ashes is the current public face of the fetish community, the Society of Bastet, which also hosts an apartment/members only dungeon space, this one in the North End.

"The city has never shut these places down" elaborates Murchy, "Mostly they fold out of politics or volunteer burnout. We have had problems with the liquor board, who are kind of untouchable. In 2008 when the Fetish Ball was held at the North Street Church someone called to complain about a woman at the door who was stumbling. The liquor commission accused the Fetish Ball of selling liquor to intoxicated people and began walking through the crowd, checking IDs. Nothing like that has really happened since then. There are lots of volunteer groups that have a night with a bar, and they don't want to set that precedent (of shutting them all down). Mostly now we have to have a charity group have the liquor license. We usually ask the AIDS Coalition. And it helps that we have some sympathizers on the police force."

It is incredibly important for people in the fetish community to have a strong community. Members of the Scene are there to welcome new members and help them explore their interests safely. Activities like whipping or bondage take some training to do safely, and an open play space allows members to observe each other to make sure the punishment is being administered consensually and correctly. Play spaces have a Dungeon Monitor, who is trained and keeps an eye on the evening. Communication is also important to establish the reputation of a player as safe, skilled and to be trusted. If a player gives back to the community, it demonstrates a generosity and transparency that speaks well for them in their play relationships.

The scene has progressed more from being in people's houses to bars and public dungeons. I have seen the internet, and particularly the social utility fetlife.com to bring in many more young people. Ten years ago members below the age of forty were rare. New members are also sustained through the university population.

Glossary

BDSM: A more up to date and correct term for S&M; A portmanteau standing for Bondage and discipline; Dominance and submission; Sadism and masochism.

A Scene is a defined place and time where BDSM takes place. This defined boundary allows the participants to negotiate beforehand what will take place, before entering a space of agreed power-disparity, and for participants to return to normal social roles afterward

DSM is always Safe Sane and Consensual The foundational statement of kink, as after all BDSM without consent is not BDSM but assault. All participants must be able to consent, and that includes observers; Thus it is rare to see alcohol or drugs served at a party where there might be play. A Safeword is used is a word (or gesture) given to the bottom party/ies that can the scene immediately if necessary, and it is good practice for the top to check in with the bottom periodically during the scene.

Safe means all participants agree to play safely and prevent the spread of infections, that is to take all precautions and learn enough skill so that while participants may feel temporary hurt, there is never lasting harm. Sane is meant to evoke the state of mind of calm and sober negotiation, and that participants do their best to take responsibility for their own state of mind, and to not allow a state of heightened emotion to take the scene to an unsafe place.

The acronym RACK stands for Risk-Aware Consensual Kink and this guideline is often used by those who engage in edgier, more risky play. Though participants might do their best to vet for safety, accidents can always happen. Even if everyone's body looks fine afterwards there is always the chance that one participant went somewhere in the heart that was sad or scary. And some find the word 'sane' to be too subjective a term.

If you would like to know more about the kink world, you can inquire at Venus Envy for classes, visit societyofbastet.com or explore the social utility, fetlife.com. Feel free to comment on this article or ask anything about What It Is That We Do

Jen Stotland is a writer and environmental educator based out of Halifax, Nova Scotia who engages in occasional BDSM and figures she is heading off blackmail at the pass.


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