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The Bondage Diaries: This isn’t Fifty Shades of Grey. This is Buffalo’s BDSM scene.

(BDSM): Erotic practices involving Bondage/Discipline and Sadism/Masochism. This can include relationships containing Dominant/Submissive control dynamics; Sadists/Masochists who inflict pain for the other’s pleasure; and a whole grey area in between. 

They always knew blood and dungeons turned them on.

“It’s a feeling that we all need,” says Miss Love*. “I’m a Sadist because inflicting pain on someone who enjoys receiving pain gets me high.”

Miss Love is President and Chair of a local BDSM community.  According to her, Buffalo contains four such groups. Hers is very active and diversified, with meet-ups a few times a month, private parties, and educational workshops.

But let’s begin at the beginning. My acceptance into the BDSM lifestyle (well, as a writer) wasn’t easy. It’s a lot of work exposing the core of your flawed self, in order to gain someone else’s trust. That’s a major part of what BDSM is about.

At first, my article was going to be on adding a little #BDSM to your Valentine’s Day. Did you know Make Up For Ever is launching a 50 Shades of Grey collection? It’s true – available at Sephora. Companies are profiting from the BDSM lifestyle. Or at least, the idea of it.

But what does a real dominant/submissive relationship look like?  What’s it like to have fetishes for things many people fear?

Vanilla Girl in a Popsicle World

“BDSM” doesn’t put people in two neat categories, either Dominant or Submissive. It’s a catch-all phrase, including anyone with an erotic fetish falling outside the “status quo.”

Five minutes on the internet provides my gateway into the scene. I discover there’s  a meet-up going down tonight. Ironically enough, it’s at a tavern down the street.

When I get there, I spot a guy I went out with once. We chit-chat; I say what I’m up to, the bondage thing. A pale guy in a crochet scarf looms behind me. We exchange covert nods. The BDSM-ers are going incognito as a “computer group.” I follow Crochet Boy.

Collapsing in a chair, I say hello to the fifteen people at the table.   “I’m a writer,” I say, “I’d like to learn about BDSM.” An elderly man stares, cheese fry hanging from his mouth, trail of drool descending… No one says anything, until…

“Are you taping this conversation?”

“Who are you with?”

“You don’t have permission to print a word I’ve said!”

A skittish thirtysomething stomps out of the room to “have a smoke”.

Apparently I made a major faux pas, assuming I could just waltz into Buffalo’s scene.  It’s a secret society, no doubt. Slap me silly! Hopefully someone can educate me on BDSM etiquette.

Sadie McMasters* agrees to meet for an interview at another time. She’s on the Board of this group, and has her own Podcast. I might be able to redeem myself, and submit to the Buffalo Bondage Scene.

Fair-Leathered Friend

“Buffalo’s a tough city for young attractive people,” says Jesse Zuefle. His neck tattoo of a bat rises from beneath a sawed-off tee. He chews an omelette forcefully.

We’re discussing the Buffalo Bondage Scene. Zuefle owned Second Skin from 1999 to 2005, first on Hertel, then on Allen. His boutique carried corsets, bondage gear, and had a gallery in the back with erotic art.  By then, he had worked at The Continental,  Club Marcella, and Sanctuary, and had opened Club Diablo.

Zuefle branched out the nightlife horizons, hosting fetish nights and Goth parties. There was a certain “scene” going on at those establishments you don’t necessary see nowadays.

“Buffalo is very vanilla about it” he says. “At Sanctuary, we use to have a couple hot girls dress up in sexy outfits and we would pour candle wax on them, and it turned into such a fucking controversy.”

Since those places have shut their doors, bondage enthusiasts have skedaddled to the underground. The scene is definitely not in the open. Second Skin also closed.

“I was the ‘weird’ shop in Allentown. I didn’t get any of the Williamsville kids. Their moms would never take them there,” he says. “On the flip side of that is, stores like Hot Topic and artists like Marilyn Manson brought that alternative music, if not the lifestyle, into the mainstream.”

Ah, the Eternal Conflict of the Bondage Mind.

Zuefle puts me in touch with Miss Love, who runs her hot, underground BDSM clique. I am to meet both Miss Love and Sadie McMasters next week.

Love in the Time of Kink 

A sharp crescent moon hangs in the sky. All is quiet on Hertel.

“I was fortunate in coming to a dungeon for the first time and having a wonderful experience,” McMasters says. “Unicorns and rainbows all the way.”

When she found her father’s porn stash, heavy on the S&M, McMasters knew. She marks the experience as a turning point. Then in her twenties, totally out of nowhere, a friend called. He urged her to visit some mysterious “dungeon in Philly.”

“He called me and said, You. You’re a domme. You need to get involved in this scene,” she says, biting into carrot cake. “Finally I said, alright – if I go down to this club, will you just leave me the fuck alone? I’m all for consenting adults, but this is not for me. I went down there – and he had the last laugh.”

She ended up being employed by the dungeon.

Our waiter at Romeo & Juliet’s, Kevin, arrives. Miss Love orders a merlot. She follows Kevin with her eyes while describing her first taste of love.

“My first boyfriend was my chew toy slash scratching post.” she says.   “I knew right away I was very aggressively dominant.”

Love orchestrates her BDSM group while living the total lifestyle. She has a boyfriend, who she admits, brings her out of her comfort zone, due to the fact he’s her equal and “somewhat dominant himself.”  She’s in a Leather Family. This means a sincere kinship, usually non-sexual, between two or more people. Sometimes a Leather Family lives together, sometimes not. The man Love is in a Leather Family with relies on the structure and routine she brings to his life.

“A lot of this is tailored to what you want it to be, to what you need it to be,” she says. “Having family is wonderful – to know you can count on someone to understand all aspects of your life. Not a lot of people have that support from their biological families.”

This all sounds like a lot of fun, like I’d never be lonely or bored again. Perfect for my ADHD.

There’s a focus on ritual and control in BDSM relationships. It takes dedication to consistently fulfil duties for your partner. We all have little signals we present to our significant other.. If we never had to worry about those rituals going away – like if there was an actual contract involved, like McMasters tells me there is sometimes? It just might erase insecurity and arguments, especially when it comes to household chores. My mind is blown.

“Some of the stuff we do is risky and it takes a lot of trust,” says McMasters. “Part of trust is respect. The focus is on communication. In the lifestyle, if you’re not being honest, you can get hurt. “

Miss Love engages in what’s known as Risk Aware Consensual Kink (RACK). In BDSM, all activities must be deemed “safe, sane, and consensual” by the parties involved. RACK is the next step, for those who want to challenge what “safe” means. RACK is risky, but that’s the fun of it. There’s erotic asphyxiation; knives, guns, electrocution; cutting/blood; and needles, to name a few.

Love administers medical fetish play to close friends – mainly needle play and bloodletting. For her – a trained medical professional and certified to draw blood – it’s hardly “play.” She’s very focused.

“Primarily, my pincushions, after the fifth or sixth needle, are so flushed with endorphins they are in euphoria,” she explains. “There’s lots of preparation on my part to set up as sterile an environment as I can.”

Miss Love is considering making a website, to provide information and videos about BDSM.  She currently runs monthly workshops on how to experiment with your partner.

“Integrity is incredibly important to me,” she says. “It took years of repression before I could say yes, I enjoy hurting people but it’s ok, because they enjoy it and it’s not emotionally damaging.”

Interview with a Domme

I’ve arranged to meet a professional dominatrix tieing up the local market. Mistress Arie told me she’d be wearing “thigh high boots” for our coffee date. Is that her? I’m wondering, peering at a blonde person of indeterminate gender. They remove their jacket, showing scratches on their upper arm.  What about her? A middle-aged Michael Kors enthusiast enters with her husband. A few minutes later, an alternative-looking 30-year-old comes in. It’s her.

“In my Vanilla life, I work so hard for people to take me seriously,” says Arie, referring to her pre-med courses and career. “If this ever came out about me, I would have a very hard time.”

We head around the block to Mistress Aries’ home, on a tree lined street in Kenmore. Her eyes are cloudy and forest green, like a crocodile’s. They’re contacts from South Korea that she wears when first meeting someone. She has on the thigh-high boots; the rest of her outfit is earthy and hippie-chic.

We sit in her enclosed front porch. It’s decorated with her art, as well as pieces by her boyfriend. They met five years ago through the art scene. Despite a big age difference, Arie and her man enjoy a variety of bondage activities.

She keeps that separate from her professional work, conducted in an at-home dungeon.

“There are certain requests that I don’t honor,” she says. “I don’t do outcalls. My room up there is a controlled environment. I’m big on control. I have to control everything.”

When a potential customer contacts her, Arie meets with them publicly, written contract and boyfriend in tow.

“There is no type,” she says. “It’s all personalities and all styles.”

Before we go any further, to dispel any misinformation – professional dommes do not have sex with customers! If they do, they are prostitutes pretending to be dominatrixes. I repeat – no sex in the dungeon room!

Arie takes me inside. It’s warm with all wood everything. We go upstairs. Arie pushes open a bedroom door. A cat runs away.

The room is carpeted, cozy, and vanilla-scented. Dozens of whips and paddles hang from a giant wall holster. There’s a big wooden cross – constructed by her boyfriend – against one wall, with ropes and hooks attached. The other side of the room has a padded examination table and another rack stocked with accessories. There’s another wooden X-shaped contraption for getting strapped to and beaten.

I pluck a whip from the wall.

“Whoa…this would hurt. Is this electrical tubing?”

“That one’s homemade,” Arie says. “I call that one Discipline. It’s computer cord. I’ve got some guys who are so Masochistic that they aren’t happy until I’ve got them coming a foot off the floor with their toes curling.”

We go through her arsenal of metal clamps and vice-like tchotchkes, for various levels of pinching. Getting on lists at online retailers used to be a process. Not so much anymore.

“Because of the decreasing stigma, that hasn’t been as much of a problem,” she says. Aries’ dungeon contains a serious stock – we’re talking thousands of dollars’ worth – plus a closet with a Latex dress, fetish heels, and a Sarah Palin outfit.

“It’s a beautiful sound.”

Arie says this while I have my back turned. I hear her slapping the exam table –hard – with a  whip. My body tenses up and I experience a feeling I haven’t in a long time. Fear. For a second, I remember I’m in a dungeon with someone I only know as Mistress Arie and the door’s closed. I turn around.

The sincerity in Mistress Aries’ eyes shows through the crocodile contacts. She isn’t going to hurt me. Unless I ask her to.

Bondage-Buffalo-NY

^All photos by Tadd Calvert


References

Miss Love’s Reading List:

At Her Feet: Powering Your FemDom Relationship by TammyJo Eckhart

SM 101: A Realistic Introduction by Jay Wiseman

The New Topping Book and The New Bottoming Book by Dossie Easton

Find Mistress Arie at www.MistressArie.com

Written by Ann Marie Trietley

Ann Marie Trietley

Ann Marie has a curiosity for what's lurking behind the mainstream. She has been a Buffalo Rising contributor since 2012. Ann Marie's writing has taken her to rural Pennsylvania, where she soaked in a hot tub full of bearded men ("Behind Enemy Beards"), was locked inside a dominatrix's dungeon in "The Bondage Diaries", and interviewed Masta Ace. She has explored Buffalo's seediest strip clubs for a Hustler Magazine story and writes for blogs like xoJane and Thought Catalog. She is working on a novel at the moment and is Marketing Coordinator of Buffalo's new refugee-focused periodical, The Karibu News. (www.thekaribunews.com).

View All Articles by Ann Marie Trietley
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