- 06 Sep 07
Nimhneach is a first for Dublin – a place where people who are into the fetish scene can play out their fantasies for real.
Heading up the stairs at the Voodoo Lounge in my corset, I wasn’t sure what to expect from Nimhneach, Dublin’s Fetish and BDSM party.
It’s been a long time since I’ve been to a fetish party – in fact this was my proper first one in Dublin. Dress-up parties are nothing new, and fetish fashion is on show every weekend at Dominion, Dublin’s Goth, Industrial and EBM club – but at Nimhneach (Gaelic for “sore” or “painful”) the organisers provide areas for those who wish to act out BDSM scenes in public. There is an inflatable bondage bed, an A-frame for bondage and S&M play, and a cage.
I had arranged to go with Nicholas, a long time fan of the scene, but like me, a first-timer at Nimhneach. At the door, an organiser greets us. Partygoers tend to be regulars and the scene is small enough for a lot of the crowd to know one another, so we were made to feel welcome and gently reminded of the rules.
Like London’s Torture Garden fetish parties, Nimhneach operates by strict rules. Guests are encouraged to explore their sexuality, but harassment of any kind is off-limits – no touching other people or their gear unless specifically invited to do so, no interrupting anyone involved in a scene and no photographs. In addition, organisers are strict to comply with the law of the land and venue policy – no sex, no full frontal nudity and no bodily fluids. “Nothing that breaks the law or could damage the carpets,” says Fig, another of the organisers.
Furthermore, to discourage gawkers, dressing the part is essential – rubber, PVC, leather, lingerie, corsetry, historical fetish, drag, gothic and burlesque are acceptable. Denim is not.
We head inside, get a drink and settle down to admire the outfits. Because of the necessity of etiquette, fetish crowds are polite. The crowd is a mix of young and old, couples and singles and everyone seems to be enjoying themselves. No one is getting drunk.
In the bathroom, I meet Alice. She admires my corset; I compliment her on her dress. She’s been to Nimhneach a few times. “What I like about it,” she tells me, “is that it’s a chance to meet up with people you don’t get to see very often. The crowd is cool and you can be yourself.” I ask if she’s ever had a bad experience? “No way. I feel more intimidated on the bus than I ever have here.”
In the play area, a man is being gently whipped with a cat-o-nine-tails and another sits in the cage, head down, seemingly lost in thought. Nick and I wonder what he’s feeling. He keeps his eyes down and it’s hard to read his expression in the dark.
A little later, a woman is tied to the A-frame. She smiles and laughs as the ropes are knotted. The cage empties and Fig locks in a young woman. I’m curious about the cage and he explains the idea to me. “Some people just like being in the cage, or being restrained. You could be blindfolded and gagged if you like. For some people it’s the feeling of abandonment – you’re in the cage, while the person with the key has gone downstairs. Or you could ask your Dom to invite people to touch you. It’s up to you.”
While play and experimentation are no problem, the organisers are careful to make sure no one is put in a position where they might feel out of their depth. Nick doesn’t want to get involved in any play with another person as he has a girlfriend, so he asks Fig if he can be blindfolded and gagged, Fig refuses as Nick hasn’t done this before. “Better to try something like that out at home first,” he advises. “You don’t know what your reaction will be.”
Instead we both decide to try out the cage. Fig ties my arms above my head, locks me in and gives the key to Nick. First he asks that the rope isn’t too tight and that I’m feeling comfortable before sitting down.
Experiencing the party from the cage gives me a whole new perspective. I may be restrained, but I don’t feel uncomfortable. Oddly enough, I feel completely safe. Nor do I feel like a sideshow attraction – more observer than observed. From this angle, I feel free to stare at strangers, not something I would normally do.
I watch a man being whipped. He twitches slightly every time the whip makes contact. In the corner of the play area a group of people chat, ignoring the scene behind them. Off to my left, a man in leather straps opens a kit bag left on the floor. He pulls out a pair of pants and puts them on. He removes the leather and puts on a shirt. It’s a remarkable metamorphosis. One moment he was in the crowd; the next, he looks like any middle class professional – completely normal.
Don’t go to Nimhneach if you are hoping for a freak-show. That’s not what it’s about. Sure some of the outfits are pretty outlandish and the people make no bones about their fetishes – makes a nice change to discovering the accountant you met in the pub gets off on public humiliation – but if you’re a fetish enthusiast, or merely curious about the scene, Nimhneach is a chance to explore and play in public. Bring your kinks, but leave your hang-ups at home.
(All names have been changed to respect the privacy of those involved.) The next Nimhneach party is on October 13 in the Voodoo Lounge.
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