We did go to the play party. I did wear a corset, a very short skirt, and thigh highs - not quite business casual, but hardly shocking attire. I was ok walkign down the street, but I was very glad not to have bumped into anyone i knew on our way out of the conference hotel.
I was nervous and shy and it took me a bit to warm up and talk to people. But everyone was really very friendly (moreso than the local PTO in fact) and went out of their way to make us feel welcome.
On the other hand, it was a fairly small space, and very quiet - even the music. The things other people were doing were very private, intense things and everyone seemed to be keeping it hushed on purpose. The groups were mostly two's, but there was a group of three (and one person clearly totally immersed in self-suspension exercises). The intimacy and connections and focus between the people playing were palpable.
We ended up not playing, sort of because we didn't want to disturb the groups playing so quietly, and because, well - we would have been loud. We don't know how to do the quiet stuff, and we would have been instantly the center of attention.
We did talk with a number of people, especially early in the evening. And we watched, were even able to ask some questions. And they asked questions of us. I think we both sort of soaked it all in and talked the next day about the things that had struck us.
So - no lurid stories, but i promise i didn't just sit analyzing the whole night, i was (more than i had expected)able to relax and just "be there". So, here are some of the things that struck us, many of which revealed our own biases and misconceptions more than anything else:
There's a lot of diversity in this world. Duh! But i think it was good for us to see that. Just the two of us is a pretty small sample. Even "people who blog" is a pretty self-selecting-therefore-skewed group.
It doesn't have to be so damn serious. Some of the people who were there had come just to have fun -imagine ?!?
People's roles don't have to be so defined. Or some do, some don't. Many of the women there were switching, and having a good time with that, were excited they had permission or opportunity to do that. Oddly - none of the men seemed to be switching.
Take your time. People took time to prepare, to get ready. Doms took a nice long time getting their subs to a really good mental place, moving forward, backing off, reassuring, again and again.
My husband is fascinated by fire. I have a feeling fireplay is somewhere in our future - hopefully really far in the future, like maybe our next lifetime, although i doubt that.
Safety is important. People really did put safety before the unspoken pressure to not butt in.
I am not really a visual person. I didn't find watching arousing or erotic. Although i did smile through and through watching how blissed out and adorably happy and floaty one sub was all through her session, and afterwards.
Sharp things do stir something in me. I kindof knew this - but - and this sounds odd to me now - but being near the really big guy playing with lots of really big knives - uh huh - that did something.
People like sex. This group of people was very open and free about their bodies, and about sex - theirs, other peoples', didn't matter. No surprise with this, just different from our everyday life.
It isn't necessarily about sex. The club had a "no real sex" rule - but even so - the play seemed very much to be the means and the end in itself. For us - being just us - the sensations, the pain, the control, the impact, the emotions and feelings - everything about us playing is about us connecting with each other, and sex is a huge part of it. It was clear that people there were in it for something else instead? in addition to?
There was a clear tradition and expectation of "playing with others." They were respectful of "no", but the default assumption seemed to be non-exclusion. Maybe this group was small enough and knew each other well enough to allow that ease. Maybe knowing someone isn't the point. Maybe it's tied to the fact that it was about the play - not necessarily the people involved. In any case, this probably contributed to the fact that we didn't play. It wasn't a peer pressure or unpleasant thing, just something we hadn't considered and isn't quite the way it works for us.
Other people do stuff. Yup - again - duh! But i am shy enough talking about specifics with my husband. There is no one i speak to face to face that i would ever discuss this kind of thing. People asked us specifics, what do we do, how long, when did we get involved, what do we like, do you think you would like this, or that? Like it was just normal everyday conversation. Which - it was. It was good to have the artificial veil of secrecy and mystique pushed aside. A reality check.
I have no idea if we would do this again. I'm really glad we went. We did learn a lot - and not in a boring, academic way. I was admittedly disappointed at the end of the evening that we didn't play - having a place, and privacy (from our kids or potential interruptions) and acceptance were very appealing.