Welcome to the Soup Dungeon
After the 50 Shades of Gray books and movies took over the world and BDSM became all the rage, more and more people became interested in exploring this side of sexuality, including me. I wasn’t completely inexperienced or naïve about BDSM, however, the problem was I didn’t have a partner with which to try out the things I had read about and seen in the books and movies. I had been tied up and blindfolded once before when I was nineteen with a guy I was dating. It didn’t really do much for me, nor did the fat-free yogurt he dripped on my body and then licked off whilst I was bound to his bedposts. As he was a health and fitness freak, sexier edibles like whipped cream or chocolate sauce were not kept in his kitchen, so his choices of sexy condiments were either yogurt or a protein shake. I didn’t really want anything dripped on my body, but I liked this guy, so I was willing to try it. As novel (and sticky) as that experience was, I was too young and too concerned about how my body looked while splayed on his bed to surrender to how the yogurt really felt on my skin.
After that experience with him, I never did it again, not that I wasn’t open to it, but it just didn’t excite me enough to experience with any other partners. I hadn’t even entertained the idea for years, Fifty Shades of Gray notwithstanding, until decades later, in my mid-forties, when I moved into a house with roommates who were very much a part of the BDSM lifestyle. One of them was so experienced that she regularly taught classes on rope play, fire play, and other types of play I had never heard of that could land you in the ER, or even worse, in the morgue if not done properly. She even had her own suitcase full of BDSM accoutrement that she showed us one night, displaying all her “tools” on the kitchen table - probably not the best place to do a show and tell of apparatuses that had had human particles on them, but the wooden dining table had a laminated tablecloth on it so we just wiped it off afterward.
She opened her suitcase full of tricks and began pulling out interesting things I had never seen nor imagined people using during a sexual experience. She showed me and my other roommate, Rachel, different colors and lengths of rope depending on how you want to tie someone up or be tied up, all kinds of restrains from furry handcuffs to rubber riot cuffs. She showed us ball gags, blindfolds, and the proper type of candle to use during hot wax play. Unbeknownst to me, you cannot just use any Pumpkin Spice Yankee Candle on your partner’s butt cheeks lest it may cause third-degree burns, and your ass is one of the last places you want weeping blisters. You must use candles made from wax that burns at a lower temperature, like soy or paraffin. Then she pulled out what resembled furry sparring gloves but with sharp claws on the ends, like what Wolverine would have had springing from his flanges as a baby.
“What do you use those for?” I asked.
“Well, you can use them to hit your partner, and then you can use the claws for knife play.” I had heard of rope play and wax play, but the extent of BDSM goes way beyond anything I had fathomed. She told us about fire play, breath play (when you intentionally keep your partner from breathing), and blood play. Blood play? Those two words should never go together. Usually, if someone is bleeding during sex, that person is a female virgin, or something has gone terribly wrong. The scope of these types of fetishes fascinated me. Sure I liked to have my ass slapped and my hair pulled every now and again, but having another person blood let me or burn me as an overture to sex wasn’t my jam, however, I had a morbid curiosity to learn more. But how?
My BDSM-versed roommate, named Paula, told me and Rachel about dungeons where people can watch others engage in BDSM, join in, or meet other people to explore kink and fetishes with. I knew these dungeons existed but thought only in places like New York City, San Francisco, or in the movies - not Denver Freaking Colorado. The more Paula spoke about dungeons the more intrigued I became. She recommended a certain dungeon in Denver for Rachel and me to visit to see what it was like. “And who knows, you may get asked to play,” she said. “Play?” I asked. As a musician, I immediately concluded that there may be some guitars lying around in case an impromptu dungeon-type hootenanny was to break out amongst all the wax and fire and blood and stuff. I was always up for a spontaneous jam session. “Should I bring my guitar?” I asked. She laughed at me and explained that if someone wants to play with you, it means that they want to do BDSM.
“So, random people will just want me to get naked and then tie me up and beat me?” I asked. She said yes but that there are definite rules and boundaries in dungeons and within the BDSM community. Consent is paramount. No consent, no play. And there are safe words too, which I had also heard of thanks to the 50 Shades uprising - green, yellow, and red - red being the most important as it signals your partner to immediately cease poking or prodding you with their device of choice. I did like that safety was of the utmost importance at these places, however, I was still miffed at the thought of stripping down and letting a stranger bind me, cuff me, or use me like a cat scratching post in a public setting no less.
Paula said that this dungeon had a newbie night where BDSM neophytes could test the waters, or wax as it were. I was intrigued, so Rachel and I made plans to go the next week on newcomer night.
My imagination expected a huge dark room with red velvet curtains, crystal chandeliers, and beautiful people in different stages of undress wearing black leather, spikes, masks, and thigh-high boots. My mind wandered to the orgy scene in Eyes Wide Shut, the last Kubrick film before he died. That scene was hot - beautiful women, and, well, I suppose it was just beautiful women that made up the majority of that scene. From what I had remembered the men in that orgy scene were only shown from behind and most of them seemed pretty old. Why is it that in most orgy scenes in porn or movies the women are always gorgeous and the men are always old, or creepy, or both? I have never once watched an orgy scene where the males look like Brad Pitt or Jake Gyllenhaal. Sidney Pollack played a guest at that orgy for crying out loud, not the type of guy I would want to see binding and whipping someone or getting whipped and bound at a dungeon or elsewhere. Fortunately in the movie, he kept his clothes on, but my idea of a sexy orgy or BDSM dungeon rarely included baby boomers.
The next week on newcomer night, Rachel and I drove to the dungeon, which was in a very sketchy, industrial part of Denver that I had never ventured to. Upon parking, my apprehension about entering the unmarked building grew stronger. Rachel and I had perused the website, read all the rules and regs, and had agreed to pay the thirty-five dollar entry fee, which only promised us free snacks and non-alcoholic beverages that were available in the waiting room proceeding the actual dungeon where no food or drink was allowed. No alcohol was served nor even permitted in the dungeon, in most dungeons I learned. How anyone could accept getting tied up and flogged without the help of alcohol seemed unrealistic to me. But the information from the website, and Paula’s knowledge, told us that alcohol plus bondage doesn’t make for a good combination, especially when fire and blood are involved. Sobriety is serious in BDSM. It made sense. I probably wouldn’t have done half of the stupid shit in my life had it not been for alcohol.
Upon entering the front door of the rundown, dark building, we were stopped at a small ticket window and briefed by an obese woman dressed in jeans and a sweatshirt, not a beautiful blond wearing latex and thigh-high stiletto boots brandishing a whip as I had envisioned. Her double chin wobbled as she handed us the required waiver to sign and collected our thirty-five-dollar entrance fee. “Thanks. Have fun,” she said unenthusiastically. She was not the type of person I expected to see at a place like this. She looked more like the woman who would slice your meat at the deli counter in the grocery store. Maybe that was her day job. Then a rotund man opened the second door for us that led into the waiting room.
The first thing I noticed was the aroma of what smelled like chicken noodle soup that had been sitting in a crockpot for too long. And lo-and-behold, that’s exactly what it was. Along the back wall of the small room was a folding table with an array of the snacks you would find at a PTA meeting - Oreo cookies, big plastic bowls of stale chips, a veggie plate with only a few sad pieces of broccoli and cauliflower remaining on it, and a crockpot about a quarter full of chicken noodle soup.
I expected a BDSM dungeon waiting room to smell of leather and maybe some spicy cologne and whiskey, not my grandma’s house on Shabbat - her matzo ball soup always a warm welcome for my Jewish family upon entering her home. Actually, that comparison would have been an insult to my bubbie’s soup. This stuff smelled nasty, more like a hospital cafeteria or the community dining room of an assisted living facility. I figured snacks at a dungeon might include strawberries, whipped cream, maybe some doughnuts.
Rachel and I did not partake in any of the snacks. It gave me pause to nosh on refreshments that existed adjacent to a room with naked, perhaps bleeding people and surely other human secretions. I didn’t care how sanitary the proprietor said the dungeon was; I was not about to stick my hand in a bowl of pretzels that may have been previously touched by someone who had previously had their hand up someone’s bum.
Not only did the waiting room smell like a nursing home, it also looked like one. The floors were covered in brown, worn carpet, and draped across the one picture window in the back were drab yellow floral curtains so ugly that if you squinted your eyes, the pattern resembled vomit. In the main part of the diminutive room were three mismatched couches - one was fake black leather, and the one adjacent was another nauseating floral print. Both looked like couches I once had in college that were acquired from either a Goodwill or on the curb with a “free” sign taped to them. Along the opposite wall was what looked like a maroon corduroy barcalounger, however, it was difficult to tell because seated on it was a man so obese, his girth took up the entire chair - his mushy haunches spilling over the armrests. He had a long ponytail, a full beard, and mustache, and was wearing jeans and a black T-shirt underneath a tight black leather vest that looked as if it were about to spring a button or two. In his hand, he held a leather paddle that he kept smacking against his other hand like a strict schoolmarm threatening her students with a yardstick.
Seated opposite him, on the floral couch, was another male so skinny three of him could have easily fit into the obese man’s trousers. The two were engaged in a dialogue about other dungeons they had been to. “So, I was using this paddle and smacking her ass super hard. I want to get another paddle that’s bigger though. I saw some in the catalog,” he said to the skinny man. I didn’t know catalogs existed for such products, however, I supposed the BDSM community had to get their gear from somewhere.
“Yeah, those are nice, kind of expensive but they make a better sound. I need to get a few more myself,” said the skinny man. They were talking as if engaged in a conversation about fishing poles and lurers, it was just so matter of fact. Sitting next to the skinny man was a couple, a man and woman, that looked about as uncomfortable as Rachel and I felt, both dressed in regular clothing - jeans and shirts - (I had yet to see anyone wearing spiked neck collars or assless chaps as I had expected). We were all waiting to be brought into the second anteroom for a briefing about rules and regulations once we entered the actual dungeon, which was the last room in the building.
The newcomers were finally escorted in and seated on cheap metal chairs facing a small theater-type setting similar to where you might see a puppet show. “Hopefully this is where we see a demo of flogging or something cool like that,” I said to Rachel. “Yeah. But, this place is super creepy," she said. I agreed.
After a few more stragglers came in and sat down, we were greeted by the owner of the dungeon - a morbidly obese woman in her fifties, I assumed, who introduced herself as Slave Kitten. She was also dressed in mom jeans and a billowing floral top that I’m sure was concealing her massive belly spilling over the front of her pants. It was dismaying the number of obese people in attendance at the dungeon.
Slave Kitten repeated almost verbatim everything that I had read on the website and watched on the accompanying videos; consent is the most important, safe words, no alcohol, etc. But then she said something that baffled me, that you must not interfere either verbally or physically while two people are involved in a “scene.” A scene? I was too embarrassed to raise my hand and ask exactly what she meant by that. In my mind, I saw two people whipping, flogging, and tying each other up only to have an old-timey director enter the space with a clapboard and one of those small megaphones and yell, “And… cut!” Thankfully, Slave Kitten explained that a scene is two people engaged in BDSM play. My burning question was, how do you know when the scene is over? When someone passes out? When someone has an orgasm? Or does one participant just say, “OK, I’m done,” and then walk away? I asked Paula after my visit to the dungeon, as I was never given an actual answer, and she said that it’s usually when the submissive person calls out a safe word to end the play, one or both parties orgasm, and/or the intensity of the scene has reached its climax and the dominant slowly brings the sub back down from the scene’s intensity. I liked the old-timey director calling out “cut” idea the best. At least it would add a bit of humor to the whole debacle. Thus far, BDSM sounded like it could use a few laughs amongst all the conciliatory pain and suffering.
Slave Kitten droned on and on for nearly an hour. My eyelids began drooping, and at one point I looked toward Rachel and she was nodding off. They probably should have done a puppet show. At least we would have been somewhat entertained during Slave Kitten’s banal diatribe of her history with BDSM and affection for getting fisted, a fact I could have gone my whole life without knowing. I was also getting hungry. A big bowl of chicken noodle soup sounded so good.
At long last, they allowed us to enter the dungeon. My adrenaline increased. I was so excited to enter my first BDSM dungeon! One of the many “dungeon masters” roaming about opened the door for us. Again, I was expecting someone holding the title of Dungeon Master to be decked out in vinyl and latex but these guys looked more like security at a rock concert, wearing jeans and yellow windbreakers with black initials DM on the back.
We walked in. And there in front of us was… a big concrete room reminiscent of any unfinished suburban basement with fluorescent lighting. No crystal chandeliers. No red velvet carpet, and definitely no beautiful people with hot bodies sporting leather bras and chain-mail tank tops. The buildup turned out to be quite a letdown, but at least we had a slight reprieve from the stench of old soup. Rachel and I headed to the right. Staggered throughout the room were different kinds of tables, from stainless steel to padded exam tables you would find in a doctor’s office. In one corner was a huge empty cage. In another corner was a massive St. Andrew’s cross. At the far end of the room was a stage with some chairs and another large St. Andrew’s cross beset by multi-colored lights.
Our first scene, unfortunately, can never be unseen. Before us, lying atop one of the exam tables, was an old man, and I mean really old, naked, face down, and shackled by his wrists and ankles to the corners of the table. Standing over him was an old woman, and I mean really old, dressed in street clothes, brandishing a leather cat-o'-nine-tails, flogging him from head to toe. As Rachel and I slowly walked around the scene, we had a most disadvantageous perspective of the bottom half of the old man’s body and his splayed-out bony legs. I glimpsed his old-man ass which, because of his splayed legs, showed way more than I ever wanted to have seen. Something didn’t look right. His anus had something protruding from it. I didn’t need a closer look. I knew what it was. I had learned about it in anatomy class in college. The guy was probably in his late seventies or even older. His rectum had prolapsed. Due to what, I don’t know and never would want to know. I hadn’t studied up on what makes someone’s rectum prolapse. Maybe it was from all the BDSM dungeons he had frequented during his life. Maybe he was into people putting things inside him which, after years of repetitive insertion, had caused his ass to start seeping out of itself. I tried to look away, but it was so grossly unique, I couldn’t. I had never seen one before. He was softly grunting as the woman continued to flog him.
Rachel and I quickly walked past that scene and around the concrete room. I was confounded at the disproportionate amount of obese and elderly people in attendance whipping and torturing each other. Sydney Pollack would have fit right in after all. Where were all the yung’uns? Where were all the hot men and women in leather and lace?
After somewhat recovering from the old man’s ass burning holes into my eyes, Rachel and I sauntered over to another scene on the opposite side of the dungeon. While it was not as horrid as a naked Jed Clampett look-a-like getting his hide tanned, it wasn’t much better. Shackled to one of the St. Andrew’s crosses, a frumpy, naked elderly woman was also getting her ass whipped, and by the bright scarlet hue of her butt cheeks, I assumed she had been there a while. Her love handles jiggled as her dominant, a younger man, continued beating her.
“Dude, what is the deal with this place?” I whispered to Rachel. “I’m kind of creeped out by all these old and fat people.”
“I know. Now I wish we would have brought some alcohol,” she said. I had also wished that. Even a slight buzz would have somewhat eased the shock of witnessing senior citizens willingly getting pummeled with medieval torture devices. We retreated into the puppet-show room to rest and regroup as there was no place to sit in the dungeon, and even if there were, I would have had apprehensions about sitting on anything that may have seen the likes of a prolapsed rectum or otherwise upon it.
“You may get asked to play,” I remembered Paula telling me. Just then a somewhat handsome and youngish man (comparatively) wearing normal street clothes and a fedora approached me.
“Hi,” he said.
“Hi,” I said. We introduced ourselves.
“You wanna play?” he asked. Wow. I was not expecting to get asked to play. I mean, I was pretty certain I looked like a total neophyte, not to mention I was there on neophyte night anyway. Why would anyone want to play with me?
“Um, I don’t know. I am totally new to this so I really wouldn’t know what to do,” I said.
“Well, can I show you my toys anyway?” he asked.
“Um, sure.” And with that, he rolled over a carry-on suitcase and unzipped it. Inside was brimming with shiny metal and leather things. First, he pulled out an array of handcuffs, both metal and furry. Then he showed me a riding crop, a cat-o'-nine-tails, and a bunch of rope, all different lengths and colors. “I’m a top,” he said - top meaning the dominant partner in BDSM. Yeah no shit. He then pulled out a furry glove with little spikes on the fingers, similar to the one Paula had shown me. I didn’t know what to say, so I just said, “Oh that’s cool. My roommate has one of those.”
“Yeah, these are super fun,” he said as he stroked the fur as if he were petting a kitten. He then pulled out a ball gag, a metal gag, and a leather mask with a zipper for the mouth - all things that I wouldn’t want on me, around me, or in me.
“I’ve been collecting stuff for a while. I think it may be time to upgrade some things,” he said. I supposed someone as versed in BDSM as he seemed to be would need to upgrade or replace his implements every once in a while. Saliva may eventually start to breakdown the rubber on a ball gag, or maybe a cat-o'-nine-tails could conceivably lose a tail or two after hundreds of uses, and “cat o’ a few tails” just doesn’t have as sexy of a ring to it, nor would inflict as much pain.
I wasn’t sure what he had in mind when he asked me to play. Did he expect me to get naked in that dank room and let him do stuff to me?
“Yes. That’s exactly what he wanted to do,” said Paula when we got home later and I told her about it.
He was super nice and actually kind of cute, maybe a guy I would consider having a drink with had I met him at a bar, but letting a strange guy buy me a drink, and letting him whip my ass with a riding crop while bound to a stainless steel table are two vastly different ways of getting to know someone. As much of an exhibitionist I had been in my past - I was a stripper for Christ’s sake - this was too much for me. Plus, I wouldn’t get paid for it, which may have made a slight difference in my decision.
“I don’t think I’m ready for that,” I said to him, “but thanks for showing me your toys. They look really fun.”
“No problem. Have a good night,” he said as he zipped up his suitcase and walked away. I wondered if getting turned down to play with someone at a dungeon was akin to getting turned down at a middle school dance. He didn’t seem too upset, but I still felt a twinge of guilt for declining his invitation. Had I visited this place ten years before I would have found myself reluctantly bound and gagged, perhaps while being scratched with a baby Wolverine glove, solely out of feeling guilty for saying no. Maturity does wonders to one’s decision-making, especially when it comes to public flogging.
Rachel and I went back into the dungeon one last time before heading out. Why, I do not know. Maybe we needed a few more things to give us nightmares. We saw a fat naked man in the cage being whipped by another man in a leather mask with a zipper for the mouth, a rotund woman being shocked with an electric wand, a rope-bound woman hoisted in the air with pulleys while yet another hefty man grazed her body with a shiny machete, and as we approached the exit, we again walked by the septuagenarian with the descending ass, still getting whipped, still softly moaning with each flagellation. How a fragile old man could endure that long of a beating amazed me. I prayed he wasn’t a victim of dementia which may have been causing him to forget what color the safe word was. “People with dementia or Alzheimer's are discouraged from visiting the dungeon,” was not one of the warnings on the website, although it most definitely should have been considering how many elderly humans were in attendance.
“Let’s get the fuck out of here. Now,” Rachel whispered to me. We exited the dungeon, walked through the puppet-show room, then opened the door to the first room. A pungent waft of that nasty soup and general nursing home stench hit me like an invisible wall of putrescence. Holding our breath, we quickly got our coats from the coatroom and walked out of a very disturbing evening.
We were silent for the first few minutes of the car ride home. “I don’t really know how to process what just happened,” Rachel said. “Can we stop at a liquor store? I need alcohol to help me erase what I just saw.”
“I was thinking the same thing,” I said. “What in God’s name was that place?” We stopped and got some booze before returning home where we were met with a barrage of inquiries from our roommates about the happenings of the evening. Between shots of tequila, Rachel and I recounted what we had seen at the soup dungeon. Paula was surprised by our reactions. “You didn’t like it? Wow. I love that place!”
It is possible we went on an off night, however, the motley array of unsightly and obese characters occupying the scenes sure looked like regulars to me. But who was I to judge a person because they are old or fat, prolapsed anus or not? Old and fat people have a right to get freaky too and God bless them for having the courage and prowess to express their sexuality and kink in a public setting. I would just prefer not to see it is all, as I would prefer not to see my grandparents, naked and flogging each other over and over in different positions, which is what the evening felt like.
I never went back to that dungeon, to any dungeon, but I do not regret going. It was entertaining if not a learning experience. I learned that what you see in the movies portraying kink isn’t necessarily conducive to what you see in real life. I learned that people of all ages, sizes, and run-of-the-mill outward appearances can be freaky as fuck. I learned that as experimental and open as I thought I was, there were definitely some lines I was just not willing to cross. And while I may dip my toe into kink again someday, my experience that night put me right off of most things BDSM for a while, and for months thereafter, chicken noodle soup.