Reality Strikes Again– Fictional BDSM Clubs Versus the Real thing.

There are soooo many differences between real life BDSM clubs and fantasy clubs in books.

I’d like to start off by saying this topic has been on my list for a while and I’ve just recently been inspired to finish it after reading a new club book. Since we’re in the middle of a pandemic right now I’m sure no one is going out to play in clubs much anyway, but eventually things will get back to normal so I figured I might as well post it.

I’ve often thought that most readers have an idea of what a BDSM or kink club is like that is based solely on fiction. Having read, and enjoyed, quite a few BDSM club series now I can tell you that if your image of a club comes directly from those books you are probably going to be disappointed in the real thing.

Most of the club series I’ve read feature extremely fancy high-end places that are built and financed by millionaires as a place for them to play. The fact that they also open it to other members is beside the point. They are rich and this is the club they’ve dreamed of so they made it exist.

As a result, it’s clear they’ve poured tons of money into them, so you end up with three story clubs that have dance floors, bars, fancy scene rooms, expensive implements that are just hanging on the walls for people to use, themed rooms, and of course the mythical aftercare rooms with soft blankies, gentle music, and low lights.

I admit… the first time I read a BDSM club book I snorted and there was a complete what the fuck moment as I tried to picture any of that existing. This is another instance where the fantasy is drastically different from the reality and an example of why you should do your research outside of fiction if you want to really understand something. But honestly, I’ve come to enjoy club books quite a bit and I will even recommend a couple series that I’ve enjoyed at the end of this.

These places don’t exist outside of fiction, none of that is real, but the fantasy is so appealing. If I had millions of dollars, it’s the exact kind of club I’d build to be honest.

That being said … this blog is about education and some readers do get curious from reading the fantasy and they want to explore the real-life version. In the interests of cushioning the shock. Let’s start off by discussing the biggest differences between fantasy clubs and real venues.

  • Alcohol

Real BDSM clubs almost never serve alcohol. I’ve actually only been in one that did, and it was restricted to one glass of wine or beer which you had to drink in an isolated location that was separate from the playing. Additionally, most will stop you from entering if you seem to be intoxicated.

When you are doing semi-dangerous things to other people the last thing you should be doing is drinking. It increases your risk, and also the club’s risk so most people just won’t allow it. On top of that in many places there are laws restricting alcohol in any business where there is also nudity.

  • You have to be a member or guest of a member

This one varies a bit. There are some private clubs that require memberships, but the majority of them actually don’t. People walk in off the street all the time.

You might get in free if you are a member (though some do charge door fees anyway) or a discount on the entry fee if you’re the guest of a member, but that’s about it. Membership tends to be helpful in other ways. For one, you are helping to fund a location you enjoy. Two, you might get a say in future plans and decisions. And I know of at least one club where there is a members-only playroom.

  • Background checks and intense membership requirements

Um no. The reality is that no club has the time or money to run background checks on prospective new members. They especially will never require medical or mental health records to prove you’re safe. Many people who go to these clubs guard their privacy closely and you’d never even get them to agree to sharing that with a club anyway. They don’t even like giving out their real name.

To be a member of a real club you might need a member to vouch for you. You might need to go there a certain number of times before applying. Or you might just have to pay the fee and that’s it, you’re a member.

  • Combination dance club/ Bdsm club

When most people go to play, they are there to play, not dance. I have never seen a BDSM club that also had a real dance floor and if they did have one then someone would probably end up scening in the middle of it.

I’m not saying they don’t exist, especially now that BDSM has started to go more mainstream, but they aren’t the norm by any means. On top of that what you wear to go dancing is often not what you wear to play.

  • There will be sex all over the place

This is one of the biggest things that is going to shock people if they go in armed with only fictional knowledge of clubs. Here’s the thing… most BDSM clubs don’t allow sex at all. Many don’t even allow full nudity. Often you are required to at least keep a thong on at all times. But even when full nudity is allowed you rarely see actual sex.

People having sex in clubs creates a biohazard. Also, it can be illegal depending on the state. BDSM still makes people nervous legally and most clubs won’t risk breaking laws.

You might, in the course of a scene, see someone rubbing the crotch of some panties, or stroking a bulge in boxers. You might even see them sneak a finger inside, but you are unlikely to see subs blatantly giving oral, or outright fucking.

There is such a thing as a sex club, and there might be some BDSM that takes place there, but sex clubs and BDSM clubs are not the same thing at all.

  • Clubs subs/Club Doms

The idea that there are subs and Doms who work for the club and are trained and schooled to serve in a certain way is mostly a fantasy club book thing. No one is going to assign a new member a sub or Dom to play with to get them started either. However, there are a few very high-end clubs that do have them, sort of … it’s just very different from the books.

In reality ‘club’ subs are professionals who are paid by the hour. They get an hourly rate, and they get tips too. They aren’t volunteers doing it for the good of the club or working off membership fees—they make wayyyy too much for that to be worth it to work for just admission.

If the club hires them directly then their job is basically just to be there looking cute in fetish outfits. Flirt a little, maybe put on a display once a night, but most of the time they aren’t required to play with people. Sometimes they have a deal with the club where they hire themselves out for play and the club handles the transaction and takes a cut of it.

The latter is what you often find with ‘club Doms’ usually they are Dominatrixes who put on a display and wander around looking hot in fetish gear, and then you can hire them to beat you. Pay for play is never cheap. They usually aren’t trained by the club. There is no certification process. They are contractors.

  • You can walk in off the street and find everything you need to play with at the club

I’ve seen this in a number of books. The idea that there are walls of implements and supplies that you can use as part of your membership is not a real thing. Aside from the sanitary thing, people would steal them. And as I said before most clubs don’t have much money.

They provide the furniture and some of it might have built in restraints (maybe). They usually have a couple drop cloths around for wax play or anything messy. Rags and spray bottles of sanitizer are usually available so you can wipe down furniture when you’re done, but that’s about it.

If you want to play you need to bring your own supplies. That means if you might need a towel you bring it. If you want to whip someone you bring whips. If you want to paddle or cane or whatever you bring those things. If you want to tie someone up, you will need your own rope.

In most cases you will even need to bring your own cuffs because a lot of times the kinky furniture will have eyebolts to connect cuffs to, but not the actual cuffs.

The only exception to this is if you’re at a club that rents out scene rooms for private play. Sometimes those will have extras for you to use, but you’re paying for it and the rooms usually aren’t cheap. The things provided will be easily cleanable like plastic, wood, or hard leather.

  • Aftercare rooms

This probably exists in newer upscale clubs somewhere. Particularly ones with high fees but I’ve never seen one. A quick search pulled up a couple of expensive play spaces that listed them—but when you look, it’s just a room with a sofa set where you can sit. So basically, it’s what you would have in a club anyway, but they renamed the area ‘aftercare’. There’s nothing fancy or specifically suited to aftercare since most clubs have seating areas already.

The reality is that aftercare in a club will always be limited and you’ll need to work out what you can do. Most of the time that will probably just be going to sit on the couch to chat for a while. I think people picture something like a cozy little bedroom with blankets and pillows where you can cuddle, but realistically the upkeep on something like that would be impossible.

I went over this in my Aftercare posts, but in clubs it can be really difficult to do anything special for aftercare other than checking for damage, getting them a drink, and sitting and talking. Keep your expectations realistic for that kind of thing, in my advice.

  • There will be dozens of safety monitors making sure people know what they are doing and watching everyone at all times to keep things safe

Most clubs do have safety monitors of some sort. Sometimes it’s just the manager walking around keeping an eye on things. They are there to make sure no one is breaking the rules or being over the top dangerous, but there are never enough to see everything that goes on.

Most of the time they aren’t going to interrupt a heavy scene, to check on the bottom unless there is an obvious problem. They aren’t going to judge your style of play unless it breaks the rules. They aren’t going to test you to see if you are qualified to see what you are doing.

The emphasis in many places is going to be on making sure you are following all the rules, so they don’t get shut down. People who go into a club play space are expected to act like adults, know the rules, know what they are doing, and not cause trouble for anyone else.

That being said if you have any problems, they are the ones to speak to. They will enforce consent issues, and you will be banned if you break the rules. If you are going to do an intense scene which might be problematic, it’s best to give them a warning first and then they can reassure anyone who seems concerned.

  • The idea that people going into clubs are expected to be open and honest about who they are

In reality most kinksters are still very private people who worry about things getting out. They quite often stick to scene names or nicknames. Club membership might require your real name on the form, but other than that you might play in a place for years without anyone knowing your real name.

You may have to show your ID when you come in, and sign in on a sheet, but no one is going to say a word if your thumb is covering your name. All they need to know is that your age and face match.

Along this line, people who are new to the scene and scouting may not be honest about their D/s orientation. It’s common, and perfectly fine, for a sub to claim to be a Dom if they feel safer that way. New subs, unattended, can have too much attention pushed on them and it can feel safer to be in a role of authority.

And most clubs don’t even ask what your orientation is because they don’t care. They assume you’ll find people to play or not, but they don’t need to be a part of it. They don’t need to put it in your record. They aren’t going to assign you a mentor or someone to ease you in so there’s really no need for them to have that information.

BDSM relationships are built on honesty and openness. BDSM clubs … are not. I always recommend talking to someone before playing, or watching them scene with someone else to see if they know what they are doing.

  • Most clubs are filled with couples made up of Dominant men and submissive women and anything else is rare

Most of the time in real clubs you’ll find a much higher percentage of other pairings besides M/F than what you see in books. I have been in clubs where the female Doms outnumbered the men, on more than one occasion. You will find every possible combination in a club setting and that includes people that can’t be defined just by looking at them.

As a society we need to get used to not trying to sort people into two groups. Male or female; gay or straight — those are too limiting and too many people fall into the cracks between. In the BDSM community we also need to stop assuming that everyone is just one thing to all people. People can play many roles. Some of the best Doms I’ve ever met are slaves or subs to other people.

Additionally, there are a lot more single people than you’d expect from reading club books. They may come alone, or they may come in groups of friends, but many times they outnumber the couples. You will also see Doms of all genders coming in with multiple subs.

  • Everyone wears fancy fetish gear or sexy clothes

You’ll find people dressed in a wide variety of ways; from skintight rubber to jeans and a t-shirt everything goes. Very few clubs have a dress code and often the people who dress casually will outnumber the ones who go for full-on fetish wear because a lot of people don’t want to advertise where they are going.

  • Subs/bottoms/slaves will be submissive and respectful to all Tops/Doms/Masters

I’m waffling over this one a bit because I think BDSM club books imply it’s standard across the board and it’s not. It’s also often implied that it’s a rule of the club and that’s rarely the case in real life. Yes, there are some clubs that require this but they are usually smaller places with select membership and kept private. They also tend to be high on protocol because their small membership all share similar views and you are unlikely to stumble into one.

It’s rare that a place which is open to the public will make any rules regarding how someone should act because of how they identify. It would get too confusing because of the people who identify in more than one way, depending on the situation. Also, it makes it seem as though anyone who identifies as a Top is automatically worthy of respect and to some degree it infringes on the consent of the sub to decide who will top them.

So in general you will rarely find any kind of behavioral rules that are strictly for a bottom in a club space. It’s unlikely that a submissive refusing to obey would ever be challenged by a club authority, in fact it’s more likely to be the other way around. “Why are you trying to make this sub, who isn’t yours, do something to start with?”

However, that being said many bottoms do tend to have submissive personalities in general. When confronted with authority they will often default to respectful and obedient. It’s a character trait that sometimes goes with the role, or can be trained in. So it might seem like there is an automatic behavior in a club situation to treat Dominants with deference but that is the individual person’s choice.

And … you will definitely get some who will tell you off if you try bossing them around and they haven’t given you the authority. So it may be their default to act respectful, or it may not, but don’t expect it to mean you get to order them around.

  • Everyone in a BDSM club or party is looking to play

Definitely not. People come to watch, to explore, to learn, or sometimes just to spend time with friends. Some clubs try to discourage gawkers, but most don’t bother unless they are actively making people uncomfortable by leering so you often have plenty of people just looking. Some people are voyeurs and enjoy the show, while others are simple watching to see if it’s something they might like to try.

Depending on the location or size of the club you might get tourists (vanilla people who want to feel naughty) who stop in to giggle, but mostly the watchers are going to be kinky people like you.

It can also be fun to just go hang out with like-minded friends in a venue where you feel safe. Maybe you’ll play, or maybe you won’t and it all depends on how you feel.

I threw this in because sometimes people get pushy in clubs, or at parties. They assume that if you are there you must be there to play, and that might not be the case at all. Of course, maybe they are there to play and they just don’t want to play with you, and that should also be considered. Either way don’t assume someone is just waiting for you to roll up with a paddle in hand.

So what else? Do you have something you’ve seen in BDSM club books that just doesn’t match reality? Or do you have want to know if something is real or fiction? Feel free to drop it in the comments!

Hope you enjoyed this comparison of fantasy versus reality. And please don’t let it ruin your love of BDSM club books. Even if most clubs are nothing like this, I do like the idea that somewhere out there someone might be pouring massive amounts of money into a place to make something similar to what we see in the books. If not now, then maybe someday.

In the meantime, you can fill up on the yummy fiction available. These are some of my favorite series in the club genre.

1. Livia Grant’s Blacklight series. It’s huge and she’s opened it to other authors, so you’ll get a real variety of tones. https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07GVDX36X

2. Poppy Flynn’s Club Risqué series. There are currently seven books and I think she’s paused for now, but I think someday she might pick them up again. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07PGJ69LB

3. Golden Angel’s Stronghold Doms series. Nine books and one short story collection so far, but I don’t think she’s done. You’ll get some nice diversity with Golden’s books and one book in this series does focus on a female Dom and male sub too. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07FK79C4H

Enjoy!

6 Replies to “Reality Strikes Again– Fictional BDSM Clubs Versus the Real thing.”

  1. Another great post! Yes, there’s a huge gap between the reality of BDSM clubs and fiction. I’ve also noticed a difference between US and European clubs (not that I’ve been to all that many). European clubs seem to lean a little more towards a nightclub feel or have a dance space. I guess European kinksters just love to dance. 😀

    Like

    1. I’ve heard that there is more of a night club vibe over there. TBH I would be really interested in reading a BDSM club book set in Europe. There aren’t many. I read one that was in a castle in Scotland once but that’s about it.

      Liked by 1 person

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