Sunday, 3 January 2016

2016 / Go to a new event or bar / Learn something

So it is the start of 2016, and people have started their New Year Resolutions. My fave one I saw was to stop being so condescending (that's when you talk down to people). It is now a few days into January and I fully expect so many people have broken theirs already.

So I am not setting a resolution, instead I would like to set two challenges for 2016.

Go to a new bar or event
This past year I have started doing a lot more events - BLUF, UK Leather Pride, Birmingham Fetish Men, GearBlast:UK, Dare to Bare, Full on Fetish, Birmingham Pride, CLAW and various other events around the country. Though notably not in London - something that I'm sure a lot of people struggle to understand, there is indeed plenty of fetish events that go on outside London. Just that most people in London are too lazy to leave the big city and experience something new.

But this year I plan on doing some new bars and new events, and I challenge you dear reader to to do the same - try something new, visit a new city and try a very different event.

This past week one of the oldest leather bars in the UK reopened its doors - The Backstreet in London. Probably the last iconic strict dresscode bar in the country and I've never been. So that is something I will definitely be addressing this year. And if I can sort it, a visit to Mastery some time.

And for a very different type of event, and slightly closer to home, KINK up in Birkenhead in the North West of England. For the London gays this doesn't have a tube stop near it, but it does have a host of dungeons and playrooms. It has a Fetters Bondage Wheel, bondage frame, a bar, a jacuzzi, orgy room, underground prisoner cells and much more. This place appeals so much because it is somewhere that has lots of places to play!

Too many clubs now are just fuck clubs with a dress code, and for many events not very well enforced. I want to play somewhere with someone. This from what I have heard is a great place to do just that.

Learn something
When we start out on our leather journey of discovery we don't really know too much. And after a few years we know a little more, maybe we have found a particular interest - rope bondage, single tail whips, humiliation, ass play, objectification or animal role play.

But how do we learn? Most people just make things up and see how it goes, which for a lot of play is fine but for others very dangerous. For example not using the correct suspension harness can lead to unconsciousness or death in just a few minutes, using pressure around the neck from a rope, hand or something else for breath play can lead to heart failure and death in a matter of seconds with absolutely no warning. Using the wrong type of candles for wax play can lead to very serious burns.

When you start out do you know the importance of aftercare, of the come down for both the Dom and sub? How about knowing how clean some boots properly, look after your leathers or make your rubber super shiney?

Fortunately we usually find others to help us, play partners, Sirs, boys, pups or just friends. And then there is of course a wealth of knowledge in books and other publications that you can refer to and learn from. There are also some online learning resources like FetLife or Kink Academy we can use - though some find the presence of women on these too much to cope with.

In a future post I'll share some links to the books etc that I have found useful and interesting over the years.

But nothing beats hands on personal coaching, someone showing you how to do something and to help you get better.

So in 2016 why not find someone to help coach you in an aspect of your play you aren't that confident with. It could be flogging, rope bondage, asserting your dominance or finding your inner pup.

There are also lots of events that actually host workshops to help you with this - CLAW over in Cleveland, USA, being one of my favourite. But there are others - just take some time and find them.

Friday, 1 January 2016

Fetish Shopping - Lets Make It Better

As people shopping for fetish kit, clothing and toys we are a niche market.

This usually means two things - there aren’t many customers for companies to market to, and secondly for us customers there are even fewer suppliers for us to choose from.

And because the niche we are talking about relates to sexuality that also means big £££’s are involved. Too often a fetish / sex store will sell an item that you can get at another regular store for half the price, you have the sex mark up. We have all seen them!

This premium pricing, particularly for specific fetish products, to me should also come with premium customer service and experience. And that premium service should happen for each and every customer. When I walk into your store you don’t know if I am just gawping, browsing, buying cheap lube / poppers, or looking to spend £2,000 on custom leathers, or to kit out new dungeon as a pro-dom.

And whichever I am, when I walk in I expect to be treated exactly the same. You don’t have many competitors in this industry, and you want to make sure I spend the money with you and not one of them.

On a trip to the USA this year I had the pleasure of visiting three of the best known and largest fetish stores. That really highlighted for me how bad the experiences I’ve had from most UK fetish stores – though there are one or two exceptions. Speaking with friends it appears I am not the only one who feels like this.

How Not to Treat a Customer
A great example of this failure in service is when I made a trip specifically down to London to buy a pair leather chaps, and look at options for a full leather uniform.

After a two hour train journey I made my way to the store, and walked in. Offered a good morning and asked if I could leave my bag at the desk whilst I browsed the store. Greeted with a “yeah, I guess”. I’m not being made to feel very welcome at this point.

I wandered around, looked at various things, toys, restraints, gear etc. Finally finding the chaps I was after. I find the size I was looking for – 38” waist (the largest available on the rail, and only one in stock). I asked to try them on, was pointed in the direction of the changing room and left to it. After a few minutes trying them on I wandered out to the assistant and asked about different sizes as they whilst fit around waist they were too slim around the leg. “Oh. That’s the largest we do anything bigger needs custom fit”.

That was it – no advice, no other help, no offer to find out about pricing or measuring for custom fit. Just a brush off that I can’t fit into anything off the rail. I was made to feel like I wasn’t at all valued as a customer, and not worth their time.

And it does raise a big frustration … why do fetish stores only cater for small and thin people? Have they not seem all the amazingly hot bigger guys and bears out there? This isn’t about getting a hundred of each size made up, just a few larger sizes for guys to be able to try on!

This experience summed up how I am made to feel in most fetish stores I have visited. The staff usually give the impression they aren’t interested in helping someone who is nearly 40, has a few more kilo’s body fat then he would like, isn’t a twink or American jock porn star, nor a known fetish ‘celebrity’, friend of the staff or part of some scene clique. Basically they don’t fancy you or know you – so not that interested in putting in much effort or helping out.

I left not having spent any money, feeling quite despondent with the experience and not at all valued and not particularly keen to spend money with them again. On my next visit to London I did buy some chaps, and full leather uniform – but from a competitor.

Make It Right
There is a hotel chain that asks tells customers to let them know of any problems with their stay so that they can “make it right”. Instead of just bitching and moaning I want to offer some suggestions on what for me would make a great shopping experience for every customer.

Remember the phrase first impressions, and make yours count. Greet the customer, welcome them to your store. Introduce yourself if you like, offer them a drink for whilst they are looking around and ensure they know to ask you if they have any questions or are looking for anything particular.

Once they are in the store, don’t ignore them. If they are just wandering around make sure they aren’t looking for something specific they can’t find. Some people don’t like to trouble staff, they may even be embarrassed about asking for a douche or they could be looking for their first harness and aren’t really sure how you put them on. Staff are in the store to help customers and to help them make informed choices, and to answer questions on products, their use, safety etc.

There is a fine balance here too, don’t stalk them round the store – give them space to explore but know you are there to help. Some people are more than happy to be left alone.

If a customer is trying on some gear, do they have the right size – is a Levi’s 501 36” waist the same size as your 36” waist jeans? If they are trying something on, check if the size is ok – offer to fetch an alternative style or size that they may be interested in.

Also if you need to … offer to help them get into it! A full rubber suit isn’t always the easiest of things to squeeze into by yourself. Or if they are looking at a leather shirt in the summer for example and arrived in shorts and trainers, why not offer to fetch some jeans and boots to complete the look so they can see how it will work as part of the complete outfit.

As you are chatting to a customer think about inspiring them. If you have ever watched Great British Bake Off no matter how much of a disaster a contestant’s effort is Mary Berry always finds something positive to say. You need to do that with your customers.

If a customer is interested in electro kit, get it out and let them play with it and feel it, if they are looking at dungeon furniture let them try it for size – strap them in! And if you don’t know about some of the stuff you sell, get someone else in the store to show you it and to train you in it so you can help your customers.

And most importantly you need to do this for all customers, you need to make each and every customer feel welcome and important – even the ones you don’t fancy!

And just as important as first impressions can be last impressions, once they complete their transaction don’t just hand the bag over the counter, carry it around to the front and thank them. Hold the door open for them as they leave and wish them a good day and thanks for visiting. This small step makes them feel so important and appreciated. And if the store down the road doesn’t do it, they are more likely to come to you.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Playroom Portraits

Yesterday just before a play session in the Playroom my husband grabbed a few quick iPhone pics. A small amount of tweaking and the the results are below, can't wait to get the room decor finished and to sort out a proper shoot soon!

And as a quick bonus, on Sunday we visited the excellent Birmingham Bizarre Bazaar and this was a quick shot grabbed in the corner of one of the toilets. So pleased with how it came out.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Internet Killed The Leather Bar?

Internet Killed The Leather Gear

MTV first started to broadcast in 1981 and the first video they played was Video Killed The Radio Star, a great song that didn't quite live up to its name.

In the late 90's the World Wide Web started to gain popularity, and it very quickly became a part of most people's lives. Very shortly after we started to hear the discussions in bars, the comments on Bulletin Boards and then before long the blog posts blaming the Internet as it had become known for the demise of the Leather bar scene. Here I am using the term Leather to include all forms of fetish gear.

In the last year I have travelled to San Francisco, New York, Amsterdam and London. In each city I have done a very unscientific experiment using the Recon iPhone App I looked down the profile list at all members within 1 mile of my location, usually near the centre of the gay village area of the city.

I then counted how many fit into the following criteria:

1) Fetish gear photo (someone in leather, rubber, skinhead, uniform or clearly fetish gear such as S.W.A.T. gear)
2) Just in a harness / jock
3) Topless, so if not in category 1 would usually mean jeans, tracksuit trousers etc
4) Street wear
5) Headless / no photo

Bearing in mind this was done only using what is probably the largest gay mens fetish cruising site. And it was quite depressing, I would say over 60% were topless / street wear or no photo. Then only about 15% were actually fetish gear pics.

The Internet has had an effect on the bar scene, both positive and negative. But it has far from killed it off, it has evolved and changed as the guys who are going have evolved and changed and new blood comes in. And sometimes new blood are like children - they don't want to do what their parents did because that is so uncool.

Tastes and fetishes have changed, back in the Old 'when everything was better' Guard days you would have been lucky to see guys in rubber, and neoprene was unheard of! Now both of these have become much more popular, have more unique fabrics such as NastyPig Rubber - the manufacturers of many leathermen's first Chaps.

If you head out to what would be considered a Leather bar on most nights what can you expect to see? Most guys in jeans and t-shirts, plenty of trainers some boots and if your really lucky some leather jackets. It is only when places and events have enforced dress code events that people actually gear up.

Even then it's rather depressing ... If you go to most fetish events in London for example, Recon's Full Fetish often being the biggest, they aren't really fetish events. They are sex / cruise clubs with a dress code. And in the majority of cases that means a harness and designer underwear / jockstrap. And most of them would have no idea what a collar on a guy actually meant.

For me if I go to a fetish club event I want to play. I want to tie my boi to a St. Andrew's Cross and flog him, I want to get a guy strapped down to a fuck bench and tease him and put on a show. I don't just want to walk around seeing 100 blowjobs.

And for me this lazy attitude is what is killing the bar scene. Guys are leaving the gear at home. They are loosing the pride of standing tall in full leather or full rubber, for showing off who we are and what we like.

There is one area of the fetish scene that is slightly different, that the guys get geared up and play. The pups are coming!

In the past few weeks one of the oldest Leather bars in Amsterdam, Argos, closed its doors for the last time. The response was the same as to when Woolworths closed in the UK ... People complained, they said it was the loss of an institution, it was a place of so many memories, it was an amazing place etc. Ask any of these people when they last visited ... Oh years ago. Ask them if they went in any gear ... Oh no and then some rubbish excuse of why they couldn't.

So I am joining BLUF and others in trying to encourage people to get out to visit the bars and more importantly to do so with some gear on! Show others and newbies that fetish is alive and well, we are proud of our kinks and don't just want to hide away in the bedroom.

Gear up, get out and get off!

And if you don't support these businesses shut the fuck up moaning when they close! They are businesses with rates and rents to pay, with staff and bills to pay.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Coffee, Cake & Kisses

A good few years back there was an amazing place in London to go for amazing coffee, cake and a little bit of Kink if you wanted. It was the aptly named Coffee, Cake and Kink.

It was a great place, and one that was not afraid to bush boundaries. Back in 2006 for example it featured an exhibition by renowned Leather / Fetish photographer Uli Richter. The first public exhibition of gay SM Artwork in London for two decades!

Of course people got upset by it, CCK was visited by the both the police and local council to investigate. Both stayed for coffee and the exhibition ran its course without incident or causing the downfall of society. But unfortunately like many small independent business they have ups and downs. It is hard work selling coffee for a few quid in the centre of one of the worlds most expensive cities and with great sadness they closed.

But their passion, their drive and their ideas were far from dead!

The world moved on, the Internet got bigger, and new things started. And new sites started to help people get started – sites like Kickstarter.

And so an idea began for a new kind of coffee shop, a place that makes you go “mmm...”

Coffee, Cake & Kisses, a new fusion concept from the founders of Coffee, Cake & Kink.

With everything for sale except for its staff, Coffee, Cake & Kisses celebrates bonds between people, and quality relationships of all kinds. It keeps the diversity and inclusion ethos of Coffee, Cake & Kink, as well as much of the original store’s merchandise while also making difficult concepts more accessible to the general public.

With a firm focus on relationships, however traditional or alternative, Coffee, Cake & Kisses aims to provide a comfortable, non-judgmental space for the exploration of all things carnal and cerebral, inclusive and welcoming of all genders, sexualities, relationship models and lifestyles. Staff training will include brewing methods, home baking and kissing tips and tricks, all to be shared with customers.

This new concept for a store is about inclusion, in the same way Neil Patrick Harris declared Broadway “not just for gays anymore” CCK is for everyone however they identify. Be it Leather, straight, gay, lesbian, bi, trans or undecided. Books, art, cards, and gifts available for sale will range from coffee equipment to cookery books to gender politics, polyamory and sex education. An eclectic line-up of events includes anything from bake dates to erotic story-telling to sensuous body painting workshops. As an added twist, everything you will see in store – from coffee equipment to furnishings to lighting – will also be available for sale, with only staff excluded (but do feel free to ask).

The campaign is drawing to a close in its final hours now. But it is not too late to help this incredible business go from concept to reality by quite simply pre paying for some coffee’s and cakes! Indeed it is possible to get a signed A3 limited edition glicee print of your choice by Ulli Richter and the opportunity to meet him for coffee.

Find out more on their Kickstarter here.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Brighton Looses Village Campaigner- RIP Mike

Brighton, a small seaside town on the southern English coast, has long had a reputation around the world as a great destination for queer travellers. It's gay village has a vibrant community with many bars, shops, clubs, restaurants and hotels.

Like any community it has its characters and leaders, and this past week it lost one of its greatest most outspoken characters. Mike Dalley was known to pretty much anyone who spent any time in brightens gay village. If they didn't know him he probably made sure they soon did.

He was a successful local business man, owning and running two stores in the centre of Kemptown, the official name of the gay village area. The first was a tanning salon, and the second how I got to know Mike - the Cardome greetings card and gift store. My husband supplied him with many greetings cards and gifts.

If he wasn't found in the store he would have been in his office ... The Townhouse bar and restaurant over the road. He would hold court here for hours, and have meetings with suppliers, campaigners or just those who happened to be there.

I had the pleasure of Mike's company on just two occasions, and the impression he made was instant. A truly lovely gentleman who cared passionately about his beloved community. He had a great smile, a story for every occasion and cutting remark for those who he disagreed with.

The editor of Brightons gay scene listing, GScene, describes how when he last saw Mike in hospital his last words were to make sure that the police stopped cyclists cycling down St James Street the wrong way. Something that was a strong mission of his, until his last moments he was fighting for what he was passionate about.

In Mike's passing Brighton, and the British gay community has lost a great star.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

We will remember them

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old.
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Behind the Sash Calendar

I just stumbled across this little discover a few days ago. It is a new charity calendar in aid of the excellent Leather Archives & Museum in Chicago.

It features photos of 12 Leather and Bear titleholders from around the world, namely:
  • International Mr. Leather 2012/Mr. Michigan Leather 2012 Woody Woodruff  
  • Mr. 501 Eagle 2012 Ron Kautz
  • Mr. Missouri Leather 2012 Scott O'Brien
  • Mr. Washington State Leather 2011 James Dunagan
  • Mr. Bluegrass Leather 2011 Sam Clemons & Mr. Kentucky Bourbon Bear 2011 Aaron Huddleston
  • Mr. Code Florida 2012 Steve Hedrick
  • Mr. Chicago Leather 2012 Angel Velez & Raphael Ferreira
  • Mr. Minneapolis Eagle 2012 Derek Harley & Josh Cronan
  • Mr. Iowa Leather 2012 Jeremy Morris
  • Mr. North American Bear 2012 Jed Ryan
  • Mr. UK Leather 2012 Kilker Alcaraz
  • Mr. Sydney Leather 2012 Richard Savvy

I have a trip to New York coming up and so hope to pick up a copy to grace my new playroom wall! If you are from the UK let me know and I can pick one up for you too.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Amsterdam Kink Academy

Unfortunately I can't make this, I am away then which is a real shame as I wanted to go to the Flogging and Bondate workshops. Hopefully next year!

Full details: Amsterdam Kink Academy

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Intense CP - No Way Out

No Way Out Punishment is a British porn site, it specialises in hard, all-male Corporal Punishment (CP) and spanking. They spank, whip, cane, strap, paddle and flog our way through a lot of guys arses! Old young, slim, built - they have a lot to choose from.  If the thought of dominant males beating bare ass turns you on then you will love what we do.

This isn't any of that pretend BDSM porn crap! This is real men causing real pain with real screams ... definitely not for the faint of heart.

So I thought I'd introduce you to one of their latest clips, Steve isn't really my 'type' - too young for me, but I know there are a lot of guys who would love to see him getting his arse beaten.

Steve is only 18 years old and has been spending way too much money going out and drinking with his friends. London is an expensive city - he borrowed some money off his friends and now he can't afford to pay it back. There was nothing else for it - he decided he had to take it HARD for NO WAY OUT. I was only too pleased to help show Steve some hard discipline and I was delighted when I saw his ass - he has a great ass for punishment - young and smooth. I made him bend over and just grit his teeth as he presented it for us. I punished him hard with a variety of implements and loved watching his ass turn from a pale, blemish-free state to pink, to red and then to very red and very, very sore. This is a very harsh introduction to CP for this young lad. Belts and paddles hammered down on those ass cheeks until I felt he had learned his lesson. It was very humiliating for a straight guy too. I gave him something to bite down on while he took the punishment like a man - a paddle now has Steve's teeth marks set quite deeply into it.
As you can see from the scenes below Steve certainly takes a hard beating! I'm sure sitting down was a bit of an issue for the next few days!

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Cable Locked Collars

Yesterdays post about the SM Apartments in Berlin closed with a picture of me wearing a new steel cable collar. The collar is feels amazing and is a fantastic original design! The one I am wearing came from the Recon store where they credit an American manufacturer with making them.

A bloody good find by their purchasing team!

Another awesome find was by a friend who found the website for Cable Locked in Denver, USA.

Four of the designs from Cable Locked

Founded only this year Cable Locked Designs is a part time business that makes Industrial Jewelry out of cable - all of them are designed to be locked on and are hand made to order.

It is an outstanding piece of design work, and I really hope they make a success of it - they deserve the recognition for the design and work. I personally love the blue collared lugs, and suspect I will be ordering that one before too long to go with my existing red one. Clearly not to be worn a the same time!

On the website you can order both uncoated cable and one with a clear vinyl coating. Personally I would recommend anyone looking at these for long term wear go for the vinyl coated on. Not only will the cable snag and pull on neck / chest hairs the very abrasive nature of the cable won't be good for the skin.

So if you are looking for a new original design of collar for your property or just to wear something unique check out the website! Shipping to the UK is also available from them.

Monday, 3 September 2012

SM Apartment Berlin

For quite a while now I have wanted to try hiring a dungeon space, or even an apartment with dungeon. Unfortunately some of the old favourites like the Black Tulip in Amsterdam closed, as did the RoB apartments there. London has a few dungeons available for the evening or by the hour, but there is something about going to stay somewhere for a few nights with its own playroom that really appealed.

A long time ago I found the SMApartments Berlin and really fancied them, and this past weekend I finally got to stay at the SM Suite with my husband. Berlin is now Europe's leather capital, Amsterdam lost that crown a few years back – it is now trying to get it back which is great to see!

Berlin is also home to the two RoB and two Hoist Basement apartments - but these don't appeal as much as the SM Apartments.And there is a very simple reason - the apartment space looks really nicely designed and styled. The RoB and Hoist ones are almost over styled to be hard sex environments. Yeah a good dirty play space is awesome, but I really like comfort and style. And the SM Apartments offer both of these.

We booked the SM Suite, and because of how flights worked we later added an extra night to the stay. The only down side was the arrival time - out flight landed about 10:00pm. We had excellent directions to give the Taxi driver and were met at at the apartment to pay the balance, be shown around, and of course to get the keys. Even if a little late – we didn't get in until 11:00pm, but this wasn't a problem.

The Suite is the largest of the three apartments available. If you really don't like Tom of Finland art you may not love the apartment - it is decorated with 14 of his iconinc drawings throughout the lounge, hallway and bedroom.

You walk into the apartment into a large airy lounge area - the rooms are very very tall giving a great feeling of space! The kitchen area and breakfast bar / dinning table is off the lounge. It has all the essentials - fridge freezer, toaster, microwave, kettle and Nespresso machine. There is also an electric hotplate should you need it. The fridge and kettle were about all we used, along with the dish washer.

The bedroom has a large king sized bed with plenty of drawers for storage, a hifi and wall mounted TV. The apartment also comes with it's own iPad and WiFi. A word of warning with the WiFi ... the walls of the apartment are very thick and the signal sometimes gets lost if you stray too far from the edroom – no wifi in the loo at times on my old 1st gen iPad.

The bedroom is where I think I would say I only had one complaint - lack of pillows on the bed. There were just two very thin pillows that offered no support. But we made use of the blankets there too boost them up and all was good.

The bedroom is where we also came across our first item of dungeon furniture - a Fetters Mk 1 Whipping Bench. A great classic bit of dungeon furniture!

And then the playroom ... the real reason everyone stays here!

A huge cage, sling stand, suspension rig, wall restraints, bondage table, gyno chair, tv & dvd player, russian gas mask, restraints, chains, ropes, leather sleepsack, rubber sleepsack, condoms, lube, pegs and a few other bits and pieces you will enjoy. I think some pictures say much more about the space, I have to add thought that the lighting was awesome!

We had a great time at the apartment and really enjoyed exploring Berlin as a city. The apartment is very well location for the U-Bahn, just ten minutes walk away if that. One of my fave bars visited was Prinzknecht just around the corner. Walking in I felt like I'd been transported to San Francisco, it felt very American to me in its styling and service. None of which is a bad thing - very different, a great thing and a great bar.

Berlin is an amazing city and I will be making some more posts about the shops in the area. I can't wait to go back!