Perched on a small stage in the back room of Boston's Ramrod nightclub, Roger [not his real name; some names and descriptive details in this piece have been changed at the individuals' request to protect their identities] examines his fleshy target. He wields his cane deftly, spanking his titillated assistant, Jen [not her real name either], in all the right places. Swathed in white, her long, straight hair framing her face like an electric halo, Jen coos at each well-placed thwack of Roger's disciplinary stick and calls him "Daddy." She's rewarded for this obedience — with another swat to her rear, which even through her long skirt quivers visibly with excitement.
In just a few hours, next door at Machine, the monthly Sin-O-matic party — a 21-plus fetish night — will whip up a full-scale carnal buffet, where hungry, horny hedonists can pick and choose from a little of latex-clad this, a little of glam/goth that. But in the early evening here at Ramrod, before a bevy of gay bears begin grinding cheek to furry cheek, the action is limited to the rear of the club, where a man dressed head to toe in Renaissance Faire attire (garnished with a swashbuckling plumed leather hat) is waving people through a barrier of 50-gallon drums into a back room. Inside, "Daddy" and Jen are holding court near a leather swing, mounted by chains from a free-standing wooden frame.
A small audience settles in to a few rows of plastic chairs to watch Jen get her spanking — but not as voyeurs. They're students.
And this is Sadomasochism 101.
The mechanics of spanking are much more complicated than your wooden-spoon-wielding grandmother ever let on. Roger, whose gently nerdy nature is accessorized by a button-down shirt, jeans, and, of course, chaps — is teaching these eager pupils how to wallop safely, pointing out the fleshy sweet spots on Jen's bod and the nerve centers and joints to avoid, for the sake of injury prevention. The leather-clad lecturer reminds his audience never to strike their "subs" (submissives) on the backs of the knees, the crooks of the elbows, the face, or the head — areas that would produce a hurt-so-bad vibe, rather than one that's hurt-so-good.
SM 101 is one of a slew of lectures sponsored by the New England Leather Alliance (NELA), a nonprofit organization that promotes safety and education in the realm of bondage, discipline, sadism, and masochism (BDSM). NELA is a community of self-proclaimed "kinksters" who get hot under the dog collar at the thought of being bound, gagged, flogged, or spanked.
The commonwealth of kink is broader than one might suspect. In fact, say a number of insiders, Boston boasts a thriving underground community of people who identify as "kinky." The challenge for local practitioners, however, is that the ethos of the kink lifestyle — especially for those who engage in BDSM — stands in direct contrast with the Bay State's puritanical, priggish laws and general attitudes. Massachusetts's notorious "blue laws" (designed by our Proctor Goody-two-shoes forefathers to force locals into religious zealotry) prohibit all the fun stuff — instruments of "self-abuse," adultery, buying booze before noon on Sundays. Seriously, there goes the weekend.