I wasn’t sure what to wear to this kind of Hallowe’en celebration so I went as a nurse-ghoul and my person, very fetchingly, was a doctor-ghoul. The deep dark world of BDSM is an almost uncharted sea for us but having paddled – hehe – about in its shallows by ourselves, we thought Hallowe’en to be a suitable occasion to dive in out of our depths, to the octopus’s garden, or the shark’s chamber.
We traipsed palely without loitering through the 9th arrondissement, the Parisians who crossed our path pretending not to see us. Maybe we were invisible in our ghoulishness, or more likely just not sufficiently chic. We arrived at an ordinary door with a small brass plaque indicating the residence of the strange circle. Spooky already. We tapped in the code. Most Paris apartment blocks have doorcodes for the main door and often also for the separate staircases, but this time it felt even more like a fighting fantasy gamebook than usual. These were the print precursors to modern video games, where you chose what creepy alley to take or which door to open, beyond which there would be a freaky thing like a green spider in a jar or a scary goblin. Except this night it was Hallowe’en so Brando’s ghost in unholy tryst with recently disappeared (one of the French euphemisms) Romy Schneider would have been more fitting. And just perfect guests for this party !
Beyond the second door was a dark courtyard with a far stairway glimmering down into the earth. At the foot of the stairwell was a third door, with a discreet bell. We waited. I was jittery beneath my ghoul getup. Like Michael Stipe might sing if he were even more underworldy, every ghoul hurts, sometimes. As we were to find out. After a nervous minute, a great big man opened the door and wished us bon soir. We were in a candlelit, hall with a heavy black curtain at the end, beyond which we could hear soft murmurs, the purr that velvet would make if it could. The great big man took our coats and our names, which we’d decided on the way over would be Plaquette (platelet) and Globule (blood cell). He bade us pull the curtain and enter.
It was like walking into the shadowy satiny furry pink belly of a cat. Except there was a dalmation sitting in the cosy smoking area, with a bare-breasted witch and a man in black. The dalmation belonged to a plump and frilly lady of the midnight, who came bustling over with a red ribboned bag of sweeties. She made me think of a well-to-do fin de siècle London flower girl, if all her blooms were black; Eliza Doolittle grown-up and well-fed and reimagined by Lucifer on the other fallen angels’ afternoon off. The sweets were just plain boiled though; no worms in them or anything, so that was alright. Needing a drink, we went over to the snug little bar, where green lacy hands glowed above us and the great big man served us pink champagne. A skinny guy called Grenouille at the end of the bar said hello and told us that he wasn’t an habitué and that he’d really just come to have a drink with the company. Noticing my spanking new red leather collar, he very politely mentioned to my person that he’d like to play with me, with my person’s permission, of course. The permission was refused, courteously, and courteously accepted. Novice that I am, and feminist as I shall always be, I rolled my eyes, which was fine, as I was a ghoul. Then along came Death. He wore a monk’s habit and a hood and a skeleton mask. He didn’t seem disposed to talk. I guess Death is solitary by nature, but this was a party. However, we wouldn’t have been able to hear him anyway, from under his, er, death mask. He just sat on a bar stool, scythe in hand, looking surprisingly submissive. Rather than try to engage in doubtful chatter with the Great Leveller, who was behaving more like a great wallflower, we went for an explore.
The place was quite compact, with a main hanging-out – or simply hanging – area in the middle, surrounded by the bar, a little salon area for being sociable, and various small rooms. It was all deep colours and sumptuous textures; the floor was dark Turkish carpets, which altogether muffled sound, well, except for the crack of whips. One small room which could be glimpsed from the main area had a cross on which people could be pinned. Another, behind a black curtain, housed a leather swing with stirrups and, um, a sofa. And yet another was a dinky little hospital with a couple of corrupted dentist chairs and a swing-top bin. We later learned that the latter two rooms were reserved for private use: you couldn’t just barge in and have a swing with whoever was installed in it, for example. But all this was for later. Now dinner was served in the salon, with its unexpectedly firm black latex-y sofas set around a low table. The dalmation unpeeled his face and revealed the head of a middle-aged accountant-type person, or maybe an under-project manager. He had a very respectable haircut. Death, too, unmasked himself, revealing a geeky young man with glasses on. Pumpkin soup was served, little dollops of gloop in tiny bowls. The great big man told us to make sure and stir it properly as the cream was at the bottom. This is very French, to instruct even the freakiest of Hallowe’en party goers in how properly to consume their soup. Other ooky amuse-gueules (face-amusers, or nibbles) were served and then there was a buffet of cold meats and a slimy Russian salad. The bare-breasted witch tucked in the label that was sticking up from my nurse-ghoul dress, which was friendly. Nipples ok, labels no. Another cliché confirmed, but in such a sweet way.
After dinner, a nice man in leather, who looked a bit like the actor Dominic West, but who very certainly wasn’t the actor Dominic West, was put in a cage and tied up by his caped blonde mistress. He was very convivial from the confines of his cage, though, and smiled and watched and commented through the bars. The bell rang dimly and into the party came an elegant and grandly-imposing black-haired witch in gothic lace. She soon disappeared into the swing room with Grenouille, who hadn’t on first meeting seemed to us like a very erotic sort of person, but when they later emerged, she did look like a sated, if still supremely imperious witch. While they were doing things on the swing, the rest of the Halloween people had been getting into the spooky spirit. A small and nearly naked Japanese man was tied to a hook in the ceiling of the main room. He didn’t seem to have a mistress so everyone took turns in tweaking his nipples and running scary-looking implements across his skin, and other such tendresses.
It turned out that the fin de siècle flower lady was the dalmation’s mistress. She‘d tied him to the cross in the adjoining room, but his tail kept getting in the way while she was whipping him. Tricky things, tails. Soon the dalmation was freed, and returned to the salon area where he had a little marshmallow dessert. The poor Japanese guy hung there blindfolded and poked and smacked by all and sundry for about two hours, until the flower lady freed him and he passed out in the salon room, still blindfolded, with his mouth open.
Meanwhile, the bare-breasted lady was over the knees of her master getting a fessée, or spanking. His expression as he alternately wollopped and stroked her was one of the utmost tenderness, as if she was a little kitten he’d had entrusted to his care, and whom he would do all in his power to protect. Then he made her go get him his dessert on her hands and knees from the buffet, and got a pat, or a smack for her pains, not so much a like kitten, more like a spaniel in a 50s movie, but directed by a kinky Nosferatu. The man who wasn’t Dominic West observed all this with a naughty grin. Then his mistress pulled down his leather trousers through the bars and gave his bare bottom a whipping with a cane. Finally, they had a loving smooch and she uncaged him. Whereupon he bounded delightedly about and chatted to people, like a giddy social butterfly in bat‘s clothing, a bat in a leather thong, maybe. I asked him if he didn’t get bored, there in the cage by himself, while his mistress conversed with the other dominas, sharing whip tips. He said not at all, that it was ‘trop fort’ – that it was impossible to think of anything other than his cagedness, and the caning to come, with its stinging aftermath. And then he said something deliciously romantic : “I’d adore to stay in the cage all night,” (thereby informing me they had one at home) “but we just love sleeping together and waking up together too much to do that.” Indeed throughout the evening they were as lovey-dovey as ever a couple was, it was just that she happened to lock him up and whip him, and graciously allowed other dominas to tie him spreadeagled to a cross and thrash him, while she looked on.
Like the tall circus-y lady who arrived late to the proceedings with a black box that looked alarmingly like it might carry weapons, which in a manner of speaking it did. A lovely collection of implements, including two small but lethal whips which she used with the dexterity of a debauched majorette. When she was introduced to us, she told us she hoped we thought the clientèle was making an effort to welcome us. We said that everyone was very solicitous of our well-being, while also frequently asking if we were going to ‘play’, as in be tied up or whipped or spanked, by each other or anyone else. And it’s true that nearly everyone made an effort to talk to us, and ask us, ‘ça va?’ (are you ok?). We got a ça va at least every fifteen minutes from somebody. That’s an awful lot of people concerned for your welfare over the course of an evening, and they did seem genuinely hopeful that we were having a good time. And that everyone present had a good time. The amazonian whip twirler wasted no time in opening her scary black box and so finally Death’s silent patience was rewarded. Stripped of his habit he was the only guest to be entirely naked when manacled to his cross. He had an odd physique, very tall and thin, but with a pot belly that drooped down from his midsection as if accustomed to disappointment. But he wasn’t to be disappointed tonight. He had seemed so shy, and he still did seem shy, except that he was desperate to be whipped in the nude in the main room in front of everyone…and his wish came true. After a mistressful beating that left his bottom all tender and pink, he knelt down to kiss the amazon’s shiny boots of leather, before retiring to put his habit and skeleton face back on. The amazon, meanwhile, had sourced the other two submissive men at the party and without more ado had one of them – who had five minutes before been ça va-ing us and chatting about this and that – pinned to a cross while she pulled at his penis, from her position straddling Grenouille, who was visibly in seventh heaven, or hell at this new turn of events. So everybody got their own particular rocks off in some fashion. Other than from the great big man, who seemed a bit too keen for us to get involved, we felt no pressure from anyone. It was the friendliest and most relaxed evening of extremely freaky sadomasochistic Hallowe’eny goings-on that any true domina or soumise could hope for. My person and I left to a chorus of cheery bon soirs and à bientôts and smiles from people on all fours. Everyone had been so friendly and frank and forthcoming. There was just one thing we hadn’t quite managed to ask though, as we felt too silly. We’d inquired about the cages and the implements and if it were permitted for the two of us to boldly go alone into the little rooms, and do unmentionable – well, mentionable, in this company – things on the swing and the dentist’s chair. But : ‘Excuse me, what’s the French for a male domina? A domino?‘ Noooo! Couldn’t ask that. Too embarrassing!