I shall once again open with a disclaimer; that this is not an attack on people who enjoy fetishwear. This is not even an attack on fetish dress codes, as it is up to event organisers to organise as they see fit for their audience. If is, however, a request that if you can wear what you feel comfortable in, can there be places where I can, too?
An invitation to a fetish event dropped into my Fetlife inbox last night, and I took the time to take a look into what the event entailed. It looked like fun – a full house in the country, set up specifically for the use of the BDSM community: private rooms for all kinds of play, including blood play; well equipped; many well experiences dungeon masters and mistresses. It peaked my interest, even though I am not one for playing in public it seemed like it may be something to go to when I have the money to do so.
Then I read something that really riled me up. It’s a sore point with many of those who join me in running the Bristol Under 35s BDSM Munch too, so I know that I am not alone in my frustration. I read the words ‘Dress code: smart black minimum, fetish must be worn after first visit.’
Now, I love seeing people running around in latex, leather, puppy and pony gear, whatever makes them into happy humans! I fully appreciate the need for people to feel comfortable in an environment that encourages people to put effort into their attire, to make an event special. But I do resent the idea that one would not be welcome if one does not have a fetish for a particular type of clothing.
Dress codes began back in the early days of the BDSM scene as a way of keeping out those who would come along to events for the purpose of gawking or poking fun. This made some degree of sense back then, as people were unlikely to put in all the effort of getting quite expensive fetish gear to mock people. There are cheaper ways of mocking people. But in a world where people can wander into Anne Summers and pick up something that will get them into a fetish club without anyone batting an eyelid, it seems a little pointless.
I do not like wearing leather unless I’m on a motorcycle. I do not like wearing PVC, as much as I enjoy some of my subs wearing it. I do not feel any need to dress up in a uniform to feel like a Master. When I am doing a session I wear what I wear in day-to-day life; a shirt, waistcoat, trousers and boots. If I’m feeling like looking smart I may wear a tie or cravat. Sometimes I will wear high heels, but not very often. Apparently this is not ‘fetish’ enough for such events as the one I was invited to. And I have many friends who have even less desire to dress up as I do. This does not mean they have no fetishes, nor a lack of desire to partake in the BDSM scene. What it means is that they are excluded from attending such potentially extremely entertaining events as the one I was invited to simply because their fetishes are not ones that can be worn on the outside.
The argument is often made that a fetish dress code is enforced in order to make those who wish to wear fetish comfortable – so that they are not the only ones, or that they are in a minority of people dressed in a manner that they could not do so in the world outside the fetish community. This doesn’t really make much sense to me. They have come to a specifically fetish-oriented event, which should engender a spirit of acceptance and celebration of the variety of human sexuality. To enforce a dress code may make them feel at home by giving them the visible illusion of being amongst many, but this is such an unreasonable way of deciding upon rules. Imagine if the rule were reversed? Imagine if we were to hold a private fetish event and say that you could wear nothing that you could not get away with in day-to-day life, so that those who did not want to wear fetish gear did not feel uncomfortable?
All I ask for in a community that should encourage variety and diversity, is to be accepting of the real diversity in the scene. Not all kinks can be worn on the outside, and people who are made uncomfortable by the presence of those people who choose not to wear fetish have no right to dictate the manner in which an event is managed. Being offended by people’s clothing not fitting your idea of ‘kink’ is simply a direct inversion of what goes on outside BDSM events, and shouldn’t be the status quo.
I shall close with a simple analogy: Say a PVC fetishist was offended by a TV’s attire, they would not be allowed to demand they cover up with latex or leave. So why is it acceptable for clothing fetishists to demand that we who do not share their fetishes should conform to what they wish to see?