What It's Like To Attend A BDSM Ball

An R-18 Cinderella moment, anyone?
PHOTO: istockphoto

It came to me the way most things do nowadays: Instagram. The event name simply demanded one's attention. What would you feel if you saw a poster for something called a BDSM Ball? Organized by Shahani Gania and Paul Jatayna of Elephant XX XX with JOYEN of Kink PH, it's a public event wherein curious parties can witness and enter the scene. The rest of the time, kink circles have sessions called "munches," wherein "introductory meet-ups [are] done in neutral, public spaces, such as coffee shops," explains JOYEN.

How the night started

Just because it was on Instagram, it didn't mean the whole Internet was privy to the night's agenda. There was a cloak and dagger element to it that left me feeling a bit lost as I stood outside XX XX on the night of March 8. Amidst a sea of black, I could immediately tell they were here for one thing: the same thing I was there for. But even when they hung around Ministop or smoked by Chino Roces, it felt like they just somehow belonged. A flicker of doubt entered my mind: Could they tell I wasn't one of them? But I was there to see a different world, one that pushed me out of my comfort zone. So I walk passed the double doors that opened to reveal two pairs of glowing red Xs. It could've looked ominous or intimidating, but I knew where to find the bar.

It's an entirely different realization when the person beside you suddenly pulls his shorts down. It set in: This was the BDSM Ball.

Electronic beats, wordless yet familiar, played over the sound of everything else. With a drink, I found a spot to comfortably view what everyone else was looking at: A naked girl save for a pair of panties and some nipple tape. Maybe she was wearing heels, but would that've made a difference? She was writhing on a chair as a dominatrix flogged her.

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Some partygoers peeled off their layers to reveal leather. It sounds expected, but it's an entirely different realization when the person beside you suddenly pulls his shorts down. It set in: This was the BDSM Ball.

After I got through the initial shocka good 15 minutes maybeit was easy to settle into the scene. Maybe it helped that the submissive took it like such a champ. I even wondered if it hurt at all. Then the dominatrix, Queen Elle de Savigny, asked the audience who wanted to try dripping wax on the model, EndureMeAlways. The crowd held its breath for a brave soul. The first volunteer was a girl dressed in a long-sleeve gray turtleneck and black slacks. Not the picture of sadism, but from that very first volunteer, the Ball had fulfilled its purpose of bridging the gap between us and themthe newbies and the regulars.

Up next was a boy younger than me, Bakunawa. He was half naked and wore black jeans. He was tied and paraded by a petite lady. The shibari artist, Avaem T Rika, was dressed in a short flowy kimono and a surgical mask, and her black hair was left loose to hang around her shoulders. She then bound him to a chair and began working on a female model. Chitose was talltowering in her heels. Her pixie cut and black underwear showed off her lean figure.

Avaem moved to the music. Snappy yet fluid, it was almost like a dance. First tying the arms, then the legs. Then, unexpectedly, the model was completely suspended, but still upright. And then another configuration: She was horizontal and was spun like a piñata. With even more knots, her head dangled lower than her body, limbs still bound. This went on a number of times. Different rigs, different poses.

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Behind them was a  table filled with toys and props. There was flogging, but the effect was different this time. I could see the rope bunny jerk in pain. There was a glimpse of fun in it, and then I hit my threshold. Her pain just started to look like pain. Was this part of the performance? I was left to wonder for the rest of the evening.

With even more knots, her head dangled lower than her body, limbs still bound. 

Later, Chitose seemed to hit her limit as well. It looked like she asked to be released. The rigger obliged, but it wasnt done in an instant. The tedious process of knotting had to be undone in an equally laborious process. Little by little, more knots were untied until she was standing again, but still held up by the rope. She looked shaken. When she could stand on her own, Avaem unbound her completely and they had an intimate chat.

Then the last performers for the night came on: JOYEN as the dom and Charlie, her sub. Sometime around midnight, the crowd thinned. It was a weeknight after all, and there was work to be done the next day. And that work came to light as email interviews with some of the organizers and performers.

The Basics of the BDSM Ball

Right or wrong, everyone has some sort of idea about what BDSM is. But to dispel any misconceptions, JOYEN, in an email interview, provided a background on the subject matter: "The bondage discipline, domination/submission, sadism, and masochism (BDSM) theater is a broad spectrum of mindsets and lifestyles pertaining to everything alternative to the sexual norm, which is the heterosexual sex act in the missionary position. It is a pretty expansive definition, simply because BDSM can be anythinganything can be kinky.

"We have two main guidelines, however, that help us in differentiating what is kinky from what is not. Number one, is it has to be Safe, Sane, and Consensual (SSC). Safe means to minimize the risks and dangers present in a BDSM scenario. Sane means it is within the mental bounds of the people involved in such act. Consensual means all parties involved knowingly, intentionally, and freely subject themselves to the acts in the specific BDSM scenario.

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Anything can be kinky.

"The second main guideline is that it is Risk-Aware Consensual Kink (RACK). The main difference in the two guidelines is that the latter acknowledges that no kink activity can be entirely safe; thus, it applies to more extreme forms of BDSM, such as suspension bondage and edgeplay. While the SSC mindset tries to reduce the risks, the RACK mindset states that risks and dangers will always be present and the actors in a BDSM scene must do their best to manage them.

"Anything outside of the definition of BDSM and these two guidelines is abuse, simply put."

Avaem T Rika, a Hong Kong-based BDSM educator, puts in in these terms: "I will interact with my model and audience in the scene. But safety is always the most important point in all of the scenes. We prepare before the show; communicate during; and evaluate and provide aftercare. Maybe it looks scary for ordinary people, but all our moves and tricks are [made] under calculation and professional judgement.

"We emphasize very  heavily on techniques and skills in bondage; during the show, we still can act very natural, even if I did something I didn't expect."

This just drives home the point that BDSM ultimately is not some static thing. Each participant is free to define her own limits as long as they are within the bounds of SSC and RACKand perhaps that's what makes it so liberating. Despite all the layers and subgroups within it, the sheer respect shown to one's consent and safety is refreshing to hear about in today's world.

BDSM as Performance Art

To answer the burning question I left with that evening, Avaem T Rika wrote, "A performance is a performance no matter how many people are [watching]. Conversely, if it's not a performance, no matter how many people are present, then it's not a performance. And sometimes we will have private play and rope socials within our circles; its nature is different from a performancemore like a hangout in the community."

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JOYEN's take was, "My specialty is performance-style BDSM and exhibitionism, so everything that I do is a performance. I perform the moment I step out of my roomor even in my own bedroom. However, this is different for every practitioner. Each person tries to define a level of being active in the scene: Some are just curious and would like to quietly observe and may or may not want to try later, while some practice privately in the bedroom only. And there are some people like me who live the BDSM lifestyle 24/7."

As to what she wants her performances to achieve, Avaem T Rika shared, "I want [the model] to feel free, to be free from the restraints in daily life, and to listen to her voice in her heart. And I hope the audience can find the true beauty and possibility of shibari, and the connection between the rigger, the model and themselves in the scene."

She even mentioned the Japanese phrase "ichi-go ichi-e," which roughly translates to "once in a lifetime" in a reminder to cherish people and experiences as they can never be repeated ever again. "Every time we perform is not the same, even if we are in the same place with the same partnerlike sex."

The next BDSM Ball will be on October 18 at XX XX. Doors open at 10 p.m.

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