"The Park Plaza is a Starwood property," notes Kramer, "but it's got a Boston Brahmin history, and it's actually owned partially by Starwood and partly by an old-money real-estate developer in Boston. We held FFF at the Park Plaza I believe six times, and then the developer decided suddenly that he did not want us there. It was a tremendous blow."
Of course, not the consensually delivered good kind.
Since then, the FFF has lived a transient existence, bouncing around the Greater Boston area from hotel to hotel, having met with a constant stream of opposition from corporate management that didn't like the idea of fetishists frolicking in their lobbies. Or, as utterly scandalized Boston Globe columnist Brian McGrory marveled over in a January 2004 piece, taking the elevators (good heavens, McGrory!). Even in the off-season winter months, even with most of the attendees dressed not in leather and straps, but, as Kramer says, "like the crowd you would see at a baseball game."
Despite their attendees' discreet attire and collective spending power, the FFF has been unable to find a sympathetic partner for its winter event among the number of Boston-area hotels that have the capacity for such a large gathering. Last year, the winter FFF had to leave the state completely, sojourning south to the Dunkin Donuts Center (formerly known as the Providence Civic Center). But, after causing a stir due to its being booked simultaneously with a bridal expo (the punch lines set themselves up, don't they?), it had to move again, and was held this year at the Providence Westin. (This year's summer FFF will return to Boston — at the Boston Center for the Arts/Cyclorama on July 11.)
Paying it forward
Having kinky impulses isn't a semiannual anomaly, though — something that lies dormant until a seasonal expo rolls around. So what about the rest of the year? Meeting new "playmates" can be tricky. Luckily there are plenty of platforms for a kinky Bostonian to do so — you just have to know how and where to look.
How can you tell if someone's into the same things that you are, without having to ask all of those pesky, prying questions? The kinky community has adopted the "hanky code," a complicated system of colored handkerchiefs that was popularized in the 1970s as a way for gay men to discreetly signal their sexual preferences. A kinkster — especially someone into BDSM — will wear a hanky in the rear left pocket to signify a penchant for domination ("top"), the rear right pocket if he or she prefers submission ("bottom"). From there, the color, pattern, and material combinations are seemingly endless. The basics: yellow indicates a preference for water sports; black identifies SM enthusiasts; fuchsia for spanking; white velvet for voyeurism/exhibitionism. (Google "hanky code" and you'll find a cache of Web sites dedicated to demystifying this sexual cryptography.)
Besides sharing this method of silent correspondence and deal-sealing, the kink and gay communities have other common threads. Identifying oneself as kinky "can be aligned with homosexuals and their coming-out process," says Kramer, who estimates that about 10 percent of the national population identifies as such. "The parallel is exactly right. And I don't think, luckily, that the gay community minds that parallel. But there's a big misconception — people assume that if you're queer, you're kinky, and if you're kinky, you're queer."