When I was in high school, I went out to the midnight showings of the Rocky Horror Picture Show fairly frequently, in part because it gave me an excuse to joke about kinky stuff. I would dress up, hoping that I could somehow convey my pervy orientation through the standard teenage goth girl uniform of skirts slit practically to the waist and fishnet stockings.
When I was in college, I let my dance-loving friends drag me out to clubs from time to time, because it gave me an excuse to dress up. Again, I think my secret (or perhaps not-so-secret) hope was that wearing a corset and knee-high leather boots and all that would somehow help me find people who were interested in actual breath play, more useful leather implements. After all, that’s what a dominatrix wears, right? I hoped that I could meet perverts at the RenFaire because some of the clothing booths sell a few collars and cuffs along with the bodices.
I’ll give you one guess as to how well that went.
I didn’t find people who were into bdsm by dressing up. I simply found people who were into dressing up.
I gave up on the idea of joking around the concept and trying to guess who really meant it when they joked back, eventually. I met a guy who shared my taste in literature, somewhat, and who could be silly and goofy and fun to spend time with, and I ever so casually suggested buying a pair of handcuffs when we were talking about what sort of sexual experimentation we wanted to do together. (We were teenagers. Everything was an experiment for us.)
Oh so casual. What a careful light touch. Lots of laughter. Here, let’s take turns. You tie me up and go down on me; I’ll tie you up and go down on you. We’ve read about safewords on the internet, no big deal, let’s flip open a dictionary and pick something fun but easy to remember. He wanted me to top him first. I was still a virgin when I first handcuffed a man to a bed. There, those are my priorities, and that’s how I got my start at last.
It got easier, after that. My college roommate once returned to the room early and saw rope all over my bed. My joking around got specific enough to be obviously sincere. Everyone gossips about their sex lives during college, and I was open enough that it just wasn’t a big deal for me to talk honestly about what I was into, after a while.
That’s around when I stopped going out to dress-up events.
I realized that dressing up is not my kink. I don’t have any clothing fetishes. If anything, I lean slightly more towards preferring playing with people who show up casually dressed in regular street clothes, because it implies to me that they have more in common with me in the real world than the people who are covered in latex. I like people with calluses on their hands and flour in their hair, paint smears on their shoes and honest worn spots on their jeans, scuff marks on their boots and old ripped t-shirts that they’ll let me cut off of them.
(I appreciate it when someone dresses up specifically for me, mind, but that’s something entirely different. Wear something intentionally sexy under your practical long underwear and I will swoon for you even as I insist that it all come off.)
So, here’s my point. There’s a big, popular, regular event in NYC nowadays called Suspension. It has this dress code: “cost: $10 Fetish, sexy attire, suits, PVC, Leather, Latex. $30 All Black dress code: Fetish, sexy attire, suits, PVC, Leather, Latex, Min. All Black”
I’ve never attended, because it’s not my scene. I feel sexiest when I’m comfortable, and I hate the idea of trying to conform to someone else’s standard for sexy attire. I do generally aim to look and feel sexy, but for me that usually just means jeans and a more fitted top. (I’d flag, but no one ever seems to know what black and grey on the left even means anymore.) There are arguments on the value of dress codes that float around Fetlife from time to time, and I just read them and think about how much I hate “the scene” sometimes. Often. Sometimes. I don’t know, I’m just fed up.
I don’t mind there being parties that are not for me. I don’t even really mind that there don’t seem to be any good big dress-code-free parties for me to attend. Mostly, it just bothers me that this sort of thing is the loud and active face of my sexual orientation. I don’t want it to scare away all the people who think, “Gah, being forced to meet a certain fashion standard sounds awful. This sort of thing makes it hard to admit that I want more than just a bit of roughness with my sex, because I sure don’t fit in with that crowd.” I want to meet more of those people. I want to do more than meet them.