In the long distant days of the 1960s and 1970s, there was barely a public side to the fetish scene. Club nights were organised by those who were eager to contribute to the BDSM scene or to promote their own particular predilection.
Organisations such as The Firm, for example, were one of the first to fulfil the desire for fetish nights in London. But the scene, while vibrant, was not as organised as it is today.
However, the 1980s and 1990s brought about the rise of the super fetish clubs. Nights such as Torture Garden, and events organised by Skin Two magazine attracted huge amounts of publicity and attention in the mainstream media.
Readers of mass market newspapers knew exactly what was going on in the fetish scene and may even have been tempted to attend a club night themselves. However, in many ways, the days of the mass fetish club seem to have gone away, perhaps never to return. There are various reasons for the demise of the fetish club, but some may consider that we do not necessarily have to mourn their passing.
The early days of the BDSM scene were known for their DIY ethos, the desire for inclusion (when the scene was mainly rejected by mainstream society), and an idiosyncratic nature that attracted all sorts of perversions.
Fetish clubs, particularly the big, super-clubs changed all of that. Tickets for fetish club nights became incredibly expensive, changing hands for at least a hundred pounds in some cases.
Added to this, the increasingly cliquey nature of mainstream fetish clubs meant that buying the correct clothing and toys became excessively expensive and beyond the means of most BDSM enthusiasts. Once high fashion got its claws into fetish, the cost of items that would have previously been available for low prices in sex shops became fashionable fetish-wear which cost a small fortune.
At the same time, the toys and equipment needed for BDSM play have become increasingly available in high street stores. This, along with the increase in knowledge on BDSM that spread through the internet, has brought fetish within easy reach of all. This means that more people are experiencing fetish at home instead of in a fetish club.
The demise of the fetish super-club is also associated with a general trend in clubbing. On the whole, people are not going out as much as they used to, and they're using technology to make staying in as comfortable as possible.
The same applies to fetish clubs. Although the expense and effort of buying tickets and dressing up may appeal to some, many fetishists are putting that hard work behind them and substituting it with their own fetish scene, behind closed doors.
This has many advantages. Firstly, the scene can be created to your own specifications without the interference of club bouncers or leering strangers (unless that appeals). Secondly, the domestic setting sometimes adds to the dynamic of BDSM. Getting your slave to clean the floor seems somewhat a waste of effort in a nightclub, but at home, it's practicable as well as deliciously deviant.
London, like many capital cities, was at one time where most fetish activities took place in the United Kingdom. Of course, there was a thriving local fetish scene in other UK towns and cities, but you would not necessarily know where to find it.
The rise of London as the UK fetish capital also precipitated the rise of the fetish club. One factor that has led to the rise of local, active, fetish scenes is the internet and social media. Indeed, thanks to Facebook, Twitter and specialist fetish dating sites such as Fetish.com, it's possible to find kinky people in every part of the country.
These web tools also mean that people can organise their fetish events with ease, and you can find fetish meetings, parties and fetish clubs in most locations all over the world.
We may not mourn the loss of the fetish super-club when we reflect upon what the scene has now become. Rather than being a centralised, exclusive and expensive BDSM sub-culture (which was becoming part of the mainstream) fetish and BDSM enthusiasts have, to some extent, gone underground, with a return to the delightful seediness of the early days.
Now that thigh high leather boots, corsets and masks are seen on an average night out in most town high streets, there's something refreshing about knocking on a door in the wrong part of town to find a hidden fetish club in a basement.
It's also now possible to find someone who shares your particular kink wherever you are in the country. The days of the sad, lonely, fetishist have gone. Things have, though, a tendency to move full circle in the BDSM scene. Fetishists may be focused on the objects of their affections, but they desire change as much as anyone else.
Who knows, then. We could one day see a return of the fetish super-club, perhaps on an international scale. That’s one party we would all like an invite to.
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This article was originally posted on 8 June
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