By: Filip Sandström Beijer
Playful’s Co-Founder Filip Sandström Beijer is curious about BDSM and gets an invite to the Gay BDSM Club in Berlin. It turns out to be a mix of a formal, eye-opening and hurtful experience.
It is with expectant, if somewhat nervous steps I walk through Neukölln towards Bergmannkiez, at the same time as the Friday night begins to take shape in Berlin. I'm on my way to a basement club, Sin Berlin, where the Gay BDSM Club has its premiere night after the restrictions have eased.
My own experience of BDSM is small. Sure, I've been to KitKat, sitting and watching curiously as a spectator, but otherwise only friends have told me about their experiences, usually positive ones. My own pain threshold is, as with most men, quite low and I have no major intentions to try something too advanced and painful.
I’ve been asked to come as early as 8 o'clock in the evening because Dan, who runs the club, has invited me to participate in a workshop for beginners. One is always held before the play parties, and it sounds exciting. As a good introduction for a newbie.
When I arrive at the address, I’m five minutes late. When I open the black steel door I am welcomed by a well-trained puppy human with “woof” and a smiling bartender in leather harness. The club smells almost as fresh as a new furniture shop, and it’s clear that it hasn’t been crowded for a while.
A short distance into the club, a young man in seemingly casual clothes is playing, very focused, with a leather whip. He is one of four who participate in the workshop, and they are just about to start. I’m taking a seat on a leather bench.
Dan is half dressed in puppy clothes but without the mask as he goes through the basics of BDSM for us. All around us are wooden crosses, different built-up scaffolding and furniture that make the imagination shine away. We are all beginners and get a thorough review with a strong focus on psychology and safety. We get to know where to hit and not to hit with the floggers and he shows us where we should be extra careful, to avoid hitting any vital organs.
The younger guy sits and listens intensely and is quick to answer Dan's open questions. Another man in his 30s says that he has some experience from before and contributes with several technical tricks and thoughts about BDSM play.
We possess all different levels of beginner knowledge in the subject and after the introduction we are divided into pairs of two to do some exercises, followed by exchanging feedback with each other. Formal? Maybe. Needed? Yes.
In our pairs we discuss what we want to try, and it strikes me that, perhaps because of my experience, I feel more comfortable in the submissive role. The dominant one is a bit exciting too, but since the person I am going to train with already has some knowledge and describes himself as dominant, it is both easy and natural for me to fall into the role of submissive.
They ask if I would like to try to be hung on the wall and after being served a cocktail by the bartender, I am ready to enter the world of BDSM. We’re told to not be under too much of an influence of alcohol or drugs, but a little cocktail is good for the nerves.
So, I go up against the wall and start by getting my arm joints chained to the hooks in the ceiling. Then the feet are locked with steel shackles, which are locked by a key, tightly fitted. My preconceived notion was that I would feel trapped and claustrophobic, but the situation and the calmness in the room make the anxiety disappear. I quite easily fall into the feeling of letting go and I find myself saying "do what you yourself would like to explore, I don’t have any preferences" when my dom asks me what I want to try. A lack of fantasy or a typical submissive saying? I don’t know.
They ask if I’ve tried strangulation, as it’s something that he is pretty experienced in. I say no but at the same time say that I am open to it because I am "good at holding my breath". Pretty quickly I get a hand around my throat and the back of my head pressed against the wall. I close my eyes and concentrate on the feeling of being out of control. It doesn’t take many seconds before I float away and have to give a sign that it’s enough. Then my head suddenly starts with spasms. I get twitches in my upper body, and I notice that I was just about to faint. My normal reaction, if I had not been locked in arms and legs, would have been fear, but now I just feel a smooth calmness as I slowly return to reality.
“I think I blocked a vein, giving your brain blood, so I stopped when I saw you were getting dizzy” my Dom says while unlocking me.
Dan, who’s been in the other room while we had our strangling activities, comes in and asks how things are going. I tell about my experience. He is then clear to point out that you should never try breath play as a beginner and stuck or tied up, even if the experience was "positive" for me and everything went well.
Lesson learned and we sit down for a bit to chat and continue our drink. We’re getting on a large bed with two larger metal cages under the bed. The well-trained puppy enters the room and crawls into one of the cages. The bartender comes after, locks the cage, and tells the puppy to go to bed. There he then sleeps for about 45 minutes, while we continue our BDSM exercise.
After the strangling experience my Dom asks if I instead want to try to be whipped, which feels like a more classic BDSM practice. I’m getting my arms locked up at the ceiling again, with my feet loose on the ground this time. I get my T-shirt pulled over my head and my pants taken off so that I expose my bum completely.
The position is omitted and I, who in everyday life have a great need for control, get to experience a completely new situation. I can’t get loose I’m standing with my back to the room, which means that anyone can look without me knowing. There is something very liberating about it and mentally it almost feels like I'm dreaming. I had expected to feel much more uncomfortable. I choose to follow the flow and say I'm ready to test the whip.
Respectfully, my Dom begins with a leather flogger over my shoulders. It feels, but mostly tickles and I say that I can probably go on to the next level. The leather whip is taken out and after counting down I get blow after blow on different parts of the back and butt. It hurts a little - some blows more than others, but it’s distinct and passes quickly. It doesn’t feel very sexual, maybe because it is a training situation, but in another constellation, I can understand that that it could be.
After my two experiences as a sub, it’s my turn to enter the role of the Dom. The first thing that strikes me is that I’m afraid that I’ll lose the key to the lock, so I make sure to put the key in a safe place. In everyday life I tend to neglect keys and it may be even worse in this situation.
When they ask me to try the flogger and the whip, I try a few blows to the person's back. My first thought is that it is much more difficult than it looks and that it’s about constant communication, dot security and a balance between being careful and pushing the boundaries of pain.
We finish after about 10 minutes and although it was interesting, I realized that it takes time to learn to be dominant. It's an art.