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Monday, September 29, 2008

The Friendly S&M Club

Before my recent trip to New York City, my city friends informed me that we would be going to an S&M club called Paddles to attend a monthly party called SWITCH. Billed as, "the all new monthly women/trans/genderqueer bdsm party, in a room of our own, behind closed doors at Paddles," I was anxious to check it out. Living in Vermont, it's difficult to find play parties, let alone an exclusive party for queers in a safe space.

Bootsflyer In anticipation of the party, I checked out the Paddles website (not work-friendly, unless your boss would like to see a woman in assless chaps tied to a St. Andrew's Cross). One thing stuck out above all else — the Paddles tag line: The Friendly S&M Club. This cracked me up, and my friends I spent the rest of the time before the trip talking about Paddles and the SWITCH party in a Midwestern accent (you know, because those Midwesterners are so darn friendly). But, what the heck — it's better than it being "The Beat You Up And Take Your Lunch Money S&M Club."

Entering Paddles was all this Vermont girl hoped it would be. Located off a seedy parking garage in a signless building, we walked down a harshly-lit hallway and descended the stairs to the clandestine club. The doorman was, indeed, friendly. Paddles boasts a small bar (serving snacks and soft drinks — no drink and kink) and a few rooms well appointed with apparatuses designed for pleasure. Compared to other city clubs I've been to, Paddles is decidedly small, but I'm guessing some kinksters enjoy a more intimate setting. Beyond a cordoned off area of the club, we found SWITCH.

To our delight, the organizers were quick to welcome us to the party which was already in full swing by 11:30pm. Scanning the room, I found the attendees to be of above-average attractiveness and friendliness. I've been to many parties where all you get is the hairy eyeball, but not at SWITCH — people smiled and nodded, making us feel at ease.

We arrived just in time to see the start of a hot rape scene between three attendees that lasted well over two hours and a piercing scene where a woman was outfitted with needles up and down her back to fashion a corset of ribbon. In case you're not familiar with S&M play, all the activities are 100% consensual and are usually choreographed and agreed upon ahead of time.

And don't worry about being pigeon-holed into a gender category at SWITCH. The organizers say, "gender policies make SWITCH cringe. SWITCH trusts that you can define your own gender (or not) and will not do that for you." My guests and I found this policy to be true upon entering the club with a male friend who identifies as genderqueer but looks like your average gay boy — the door person asked him if he belonged at SWITCH, he responded in the affirmative, and that was that.

You can check out SWITCH every third Friday of the month at Paddles, located at 250 W. 26th street. Bring your gear — and your smile.


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