Exploring the other side of Philly's kinky side.
Impressed and somewhat intimidated, we lean back to our crafts. I’m finishing gluing the tassels onto my brand-new set of glittery black star-shaped pasties when the other table erupts into shrieks.
I look over. Everyone’s standing up, half-naked. I regret being stuck at the conservative table. A woman beams proudly, head thrown back, arms in the air, body rattling as vigorously as a martini shaker as her tassels spiral furiously round and round like crazy clock hands. “I’m 54!” she screams.
The fifth grade boy inside your brain is right for once. All boobs are good boobs, I think.
Back at my table, the Shirts still have their shirts on, and I long to join the Skins. Finally I shove a swatch of carpet glue inside the black stars, unzip my hoodie and get to work. I try to get them twirling without raising my arms at first, which seems over the top, but no dice. Finally I give in. Sometimes you just have to risk ridiculous to get to sexy. I raise my arms, bounce a bit and wouldn’t you know it, the tassels pinwheel like clockwork. ■
I’m sitting in the Sexploratorium’s third-story art gallery, surrounded by black and white photographs of hard penises, soft penises, muscular, leather-strapped men and muscular farm-boy types. I’m here for the class “Intimate Exchanges: An Introduction to Power and Fantasy,” a sort of introduction to S/M class that Kali Morgan, proprietrix of Passional and the Sexploratorium, has been teaching since 2001.
The course is designed to be vanilla-friendly, to help the fetish-curious—and those that love them—make the transition to kinky a smooth one (unless of course you prefer bumps and ridges and ticklers).
Morgan designed the class out of her own experience. Sixteen years ago, she met the woman who would become her wife; she says the relationship almost didn’t happen because her new girlfriend was a little freaked out by Morgan’s alternative lifestyle.
“She was like, why is this man cleaning your house in a French maid's dress? I said truth be told, he likes to get beat and I hate to clean, so we have a working arrangement,” laughs Morgan.
A candle is burning, world music is playing low out of a boom box, and I begin to review the worksheet packet Morgan has circulated to the eight students in class. The top page is titled “My Human Needs?” Uh oh.
The guy I dragged here, who deserves a gold star (or after this class, maybe a spanking?) for being a good sport, flashes a miserable look. “Jesus, it’s a quiz,” he complains, having no idea that within the hour he’ll be kneeling on the floor blindfolded in front of our classmates, including a really sweet, gentle guy who says he likes to be a demon vampire lord every once in a while.
Meanwhile, I’m thrilled. Raised on crappy girl magazines, I eagerly scribble answers.
All is well until I find myself kneeling on the floor with my forehead pressed to the ground. Everyone was clothed and there was nothing particularly sexy about it, but as part of the program we were all supposed to feel what it would be like to be in a typically submissive (and then dominant) position. It felt weird. Morgan asks the group to visualize our “dominant” and “submissive” selves.
Then we’re asked to shout out what we’ve come up with. One woman admits she would want to wear the I Dream of Jeannie genie outfit. Good one , I think. That breaks the dam and suggestions start flowing. Collars, schoolgirl skirts. Most of the suggestions are cute costumes, that creepily, are common little-girl Halloween costumes. Then we do the same for dominance. The would-be demon king vampire lord suggests using a leash. Others say they would like to envision themselves as “tall,” or the always alluring “immortal.”
The unexpected result that emerges is that so-called dominant and submissive desires overlap into a common principle all lovers can get behind (or on top of): pleasing your partner in the sack.
Morgan makes a good point when she says a lot of “regular” sexual relationships could benefit from the ground rules of fetish life.
“You should have a safe word in vanilla sex,” she says. “It'd be helpful if every kid in sex ed learned about safe words.”
The point that we get around to—without ever really talking about S/M directly—is an age-old chestnut (in the fetish community, at least). We're surrounded by pictures of penises in a store chock full of dildos, clear plastic speculums and "bound for adventure" trampolines, but if you ask a kinkster what turns them on the most, they'll all tap their temples and say, "The brain."
This is probably true, but not what I bought after class.
Say dominatrix, and most people envision a sexy evil goddess vamp, a tightly corseted gothic Wonder Woman who thinks nothing of tying a man-slave to a St. Andrew’s cross, zippering a leather hood over his face and thwacking his bare backside with whatever’s handy—a cane, a cat o’ nine tails whip, a riding crop—until his skin blooms with bruises like a Monet.
Oh yes, says Goddess Thain, showing me pictures of an apparently deliriously happy man with an ass striped like the American flag. But that’s just part of her job. Though Thain identifies as a lot of roles—artist, mother, dominatrix—most of all, she’s a whipping contradiction: a sadistic dominatrix that really wants to help you loosen up, man.
It’s a paradox to be a freedom fighter who is really into bondage; to want to love the one you whip.
What’s really surprising is that even though she’s a pay-to-play professional dominatrix with a client base of (mostly) men who go out of their way to keep their kinky proclivities—and relationship with her—a secret, she often winds up chatting with clients’ wives.
“There are a lot of clients who are married and feel like they can’t express this, so I tell them, ‘the next time you’re bringing your wife or you’re not seeing me again,’” she says. “About 90 percent of the time, the spouse is more pissed about the lying.”
A few years before my wife and I met, she made porn with her boyfriend. I was a bit upset when she told me, but the idea of seeing the hottest woman I’ve ever met—and am now married to—doing porn might be really enjoyable.
In honor of PW's "Sexy Issue," we went to one of the sexiest restaurants in town -- Varga Bar -- and got a lesson in how to make a scrumptious salad.
“It’s porn. It should be fun and humorous. You don’t have to be a complete dirty pornhound to enjoy it, and you don’t have to be a complete right-wing Christian to be against it. There’s a middle ground that a lot of people fall into.”
As she wraps her hands delicately around a teacup, Patricia explains how discomfort and insecurity snuck inside her world. “I was two different people,” she says, “I was a soccer mom with a secret life as a sex addict.”
Convicted baby slayers, lethal arsonists, cop killers and other evildoers—they all languish behind razor wire at State Correctional Institution Greene. Most people wouldn’t want to spend Valentine’s Day weekend there. But one person does.
Aside from munching edible undies, there’s nothing that brings out the goofier side of sex quite like painting on your partner’s sensitive spots. PW's got a few suggestions for that situation -- and a few others.
There are an abundance of theatrical roles that call for a young, good-looking man, and there is little doubt Evan Jonigkeit could float by on his looks alone. The characters he inhabits are typically handsome and know how to use it.
Tradition tells us to rut the day away like frantic animals on February 14. We’re prescribing edible aphrodisiacs because, believe us, we feel your pain. Goodbye emptiness, hello orgasm!
Sometimes that sex on the screen in mainstream movies isn't simulated. Here are six movies that showed us the real thing.
Whether you’re single or partnered, looking for a playmate or drowning in a pool of LGBT inertia, Valentine’s Day fun is yours for the taking this weekend. Stay home and be a Debbie Downer if you like, but don’t blame us.
PW's 2015 Philly Spring Guide