Fetish and Wider Society, in Conflict or Cohesion?
The time I got stopped by Undercover Police in the Train Station
It was 2016, and I had just experienced my first Folsom Europe. I was a young, eager, and curious kinkster, new on the scene. I was so nervous to go, I had never been to such a festival before, did not know what to expect to see, or how to act. In particular, I didn’t know *how* to be kinky in public, as I had never done so before.
So many thoughts raced through my head: “Do I wear my collar out? What if people stare? What about a harness? Is it even legal to be shirtless like that? Omg, what about ass-less? Chaps are kinky, but is it ok? I want to be myself at this festival, it’s our festival anyway, but how much is too much? Should I even worry about what is too much? I want to be my best self, but how can I best be myself?”
Yeah, I might be an over-thinker. But I really wasn’t sure what to expect. Thankfully, I had the support of a close friend who took me along, and I made so many new friends that weekend, friends I still hold dear to my heart today. I went in shorts and a harness even got my collar and leash out at one point on the street festival! It was so liberating. To this day, I still feel so refreshed and happy leaving Folsom, or any similar fetish festival, because I can be my whole self, in a safe space, with like-minded others, it’s therapeutic (see my Recon article on the importance of events!).
I left Folsom with such a hunger for more experiences, as much as I could try. In particular, I’ve always had a prison fetish (see my prison camp article), and I met a nice guy from Utrecht who shared the same fantasies. He invited me to visit him at his place in Utrecht for a session a few weeks after Folsom. I got harder and harder the more he told me what he wanted to do to me.
Still buzzing from Folsom, I eagerly went for the session, where I knew I would finally get to feel what it was like to be uniformed, handcuffed, muzzled, and tormented. What’s more, I especially felt confident and empowered to go, after experiencing the liberating and proud atmosphere in Folsom. His instructions were simple: Come on this train, wear baggy scally sweats and a big Alpha Industries hoodie, and meet me in the main hall. He had a plan for setting the scene. I got dressed accordingly, got on the right train, butterflies in my stomach at this point with excitement and anticipation building up, and arrived in Utrecht. When I came up the escalator to the main hall, I saw him standing there, waiting for me, with that sadistic sexy grin, you know, before the fun starts. I began to fall into the subspace.
This is where it gets interesting. I approached him in the main hall, said: “Hello, Sir”. He nodded, then subtly handed me something in his hand. “Take these handcuffs and cuff yourself underneath your hoodie boy,” he said. Of course, I submitted and fell deeper into the sub-space. I clutched the cuffs from his hands, and, as I pulled my hoodie over my head to get my arms inside, in a split second, like a flashbang, I was forcibly pulled away. At first, I couldn’t even see by who, as my head was in my hoodie! I got pulled so abruptly and quickly. I got my head back out of my hoodie but before I could even see or ask what was going on, two undercover police officers had me sitting down on a bench, surrounded. I was now probably 3 meters or so away from Sir, who himself was surrounded, basically held back from me, by two other undercover officers.
Utterly confused, I asked “What’s going on??” “Don’t worry young man, you’re safe now,” the officer said. “We’re undercover police officers, you showed signs of being human trafficked. Listen closely and answer us carefully – Is this man forcing you to do anything you don’t want to? Are you here against your will?” At this point, I was completely flustered. I was so abruptly knocked out of the subspace and still grasping the change in my surroundings and situation. I said “Trafficking? What do you mean? I am here to play with him, I mean, we’re going to have a session.” Looking perplexed now too, the officer replied “A Session? What kind of session?” Gathering my thoughts at this point, I realized I had to be as clear as day with this officer, so I said “I am here to have a sexual experience with this man, Officer. We planned this, I’m here because I want to be”. I thought that would be enough, but still, the officers looked suspicious, I could also hear Sir starting to get frustrated with his surrounding officers saying repeatedly “He’s here to play, do you understand?”. The officer by me then leaned in, with the sharpest look in my eyes, he said: “Listen, this really is your last chance, to be honest with us, you are safe now, so tell us. Is this man forcing you to say any of this? And are you here against your will?” What I said next, I am not sure whether I should regret or not, but either way, it remains what I said: “Officer, no he is not, no I am not, now please, would you please stop cock blocking me and let me have my session!”
This was followed by a pretty long stare down one another’s eyes, I was frustrated, he was confused, but eventually, the officers let us both go, noted how our behavior threw up red flags for them so they made a move, and then wished us well. I went back to Sir, still quite shocked by what happened, but we both just laughed a bit, amazed by the whole experience. Totally out of it the headspace, we both agreed to go to his place amicably and then get into our session there with a bit more privacy and seclusion. Don’t worry – it ended up being a fantastic session.
Now, I want to unpack this. But before I do, I want to commend the officers for their actions to keep us safe. Their undetectable presence and swift actions show that had someone been in the position I was suspected to be in, they would’ve saved a life. Now, that being said, it goes without saying that I was not in that situation, in fact, I was feeling very safe and excited, practicing consensual BDSM, but to these officers, it seemed like I was in danger. I can’t help but wonder, where exactly did this go wrong? Were we being too sexually explicit? Or were we actually just minding our own business, doing our own kink thing subtly but not shamefully, eventually leading to home for a proper session? After all, I had just seen far more overtly kinky expressions and acts in public and in broad daylight in Folsom a few weeks earlier. Taking some handcuffs and putting them on under a hoodie hardly seemed to compare. I still struggle to decide for myself if what we did was appropriate or not, if we were in the right, or if we were in the wrong.
This is the overarching question to which I am trying to find the answer, for myself, for our community, and for society as a whole: Can we live our fetish lifestyles, whatever they may be, in cohesion with society? Or are we destined for inevitable conflict? How do we balance our sexuality, something so deeply personal yet expressive, with the perceptions of those not as open-minded as us? I mean, we are a proud, sexually liberated community with no reason to hide. We are and should be proud of our fetishes, and the journey we take to reach this confidence and pride is no easy bridge to cross. I speak from experience here, it took years, and I mean years, for me to come to terms with my fetishes, accept them, love myself for them, explore them, and be confident with them. I do not intend to hide them for anyone’s convenience just because they might be less understanding. If anything, we should increase our visibility and build awareness and understanding. That’s what I learned at Folsom, where I felt I was and could both best be myself and be my best self. I feel this as well at, say, Milkshake Festival or Darklands, where, as a puppy (my happiest headspace), in full gear, I get taken around for walkies, wagging all over. People even ask to take photos with me. It’s like at Amsterdam Pride when you see everyone celebrating with you, embracing you fully. It.is.pure.bliss. I have BDSM artwork that I’ve made, hanging in my bedroom, and whether you are into that fetish or not, it is art nonetheless. Many a time I’ve seen it admired by other people, vanilla people, heterosexual people, who themselves say they’ve not seen anything like it before, but can simply appreciate it for its beauty.
However, in the train station, even something as subtle as the cuffs and hoodie, to society, to these officers, apparently emulated danger, and likened my situation to one which I can myself only imagine is unthinkable in suffering. What should I have done differently? Take another scenario: impact play. My good friend and Alpha slave, Spot, was whipped and flogged by his Sir and taken to his blissful, painful subspace, rushing with endorphins. Afterward, Spot is covered with marks, possibly even bruises. These show, possibly even scream “abuse” or “torture” to others in society. What should he say or do, if his friends, colleagues, even random bystanders see this and think the worst? Should he hide the marks of which he so sincerely is proud?
Now the answers to these crucial questions are of course subjective, but I’ll share my two cents with you. I believe addressing these issues comes down to two things. Firstly, the notion of “time and place” and safe spaces. In several situations, like telling sex anecdotes to your friends, there are always more and less appropriate times and places to do so. What I mean is it’s probably better to talk about your hook up with your best mate while having a drink together in a bar, as opposed to when meeting your grandparents or manager for lunch. Events like Folsom play an important role in providing our community with an appropriate – and safe! – time and place for us to be our true and best selves. This is what makes them therapeutic. We are a proud community, yet still, in wider society and even within the LGBT+ community itself, we are a minority with values and lifestyles that are not always immediately understood by those around us. So having these safe spaces give us opportunities to express ourselves fully amongst each other. We should embrace these spaces, support their existence, and never take them for granted. Still, and please don’t misunderstand me here: As I said before, I do not think we should have to hide for the convenience of others, especially when we’re already being appropriately subtle like I was in the train station.
But in the case that there comes conflict, taking into consideration that our lifestyles might not be immediately understood, brings me to my second notion: It is our responsibility to be understanding of misunderstanding and to do our part to calmly and respectfully, yet unapologetically, communicate and educate. Like we practice inside our own community, we should practice outside as well. Looking back, I wish I had been calmer and more respectful with the officers, and explained to them better what I was doing and why I was doing it, in order to show them quickly and clearly that I was ok. The same goes for Spot who bears his marks. Here, as well, I think it is very important to differentiate between practicing safe BDSM, and outright abuse. Safe BDSM is based on consent, trust, communication, and expectation management. Abuse is abuse. Still, whoever may question Spot’s marks may be doing so out of pure concern for his well-being, in fear of it potentially being the consequence of abuse. So, calmly communicating and educating them on his lifestyle should bring understanding and acceptance in and of such a situation. The same goes for when our bags full of toys get searched at airports. The same goes for many situations…surely we can all think of one.
We are who are, and we should not apologize or cower for that.. However, we should remain, as I said, understanding of misunderstanding, embrace our safe spaces, and manage inevitable conflict through communication and education. And who knows, we might change some minds, or better yet, even ignite something kinky in others! >:)
Keep Exploring and Stay Kinky.
*licks and wags* momo