It’s fair to say that things have been getting increasingly worse here on Normal Island. Pandemic aside, we’ve all been doing our best to exist in an environment that’s unfriendly, unsafe, uncomfortable, and, well, pretty unhappy. With no clear end in sight, people have been turning to external comforts to cope. For some, that might look like binge-watching a series, getting a takeaway, or buying themselves a little treat. But for many others, external comforts alone won’t cut it, they need something deeper. The marrying of the two – the external wants and the internal needs – has caused many people to gravitate towards kink.
Kink has been on the rise over the past few years, as education and information has become more readily available online, and phenomena such as #kinktok help to lessen the taboos surrounding kinks, fetishes, and anything society has historically considered deviant. Add this to the want – or rather, the need – to forget, unwind, and blow off steam in an increasingly hostile and unsettling world, and you have the perfect recipe for what we’re now seeing: a growth in demand for fetish parties.
Several new fetish parties have popped up around the UK, such as Howl and One Night Parties to name a couple, while existing parties like Torture Garden and Klub Verboten have seen a huge uptick in people signing up to attend and become members.
While it’s clear that there’s been an increase in appetite for kink and fetish, it’s unclear where exactly that hunger is coming from. Has it always been there, but dormant? Are people only just discovering kink? Is everyone just simply getting hornier?
To get a better feel, we went to Klub Verboten’s recent event in London to chat with new attendees. The night’s energy was palpable, you could feel the release of tension with every breath and felt immersed into a kind of ritualistic healing ceremony where everyone’s invited. You can read what attendees had to say below:
“It’s important for people to have a place to express their interests in an environment that’s not tainted by other people being dicks”
I started going to kink events in October, so just over a month ago. Since then I’ve been going to an event, like, once a week. Over lockdown I started getting interested in kink - I’ve always followed sex workers online and got introduced to Klub Verboten through that.
I’ve always been interested in kink and fetish, but I never really found the time to pursue that more actively. Once things started lifting after lockdown I just decided to go for it, so I came with some friends I’d met at a different kink party. What I wanna get out of this is just to have fun with my friends and meet different types of people.
One of the main things that I see about fetish clubs particularly is that a lot of people choose to come here, even if they’re not interested in kink, because it’s very safe. There’s a lot of vetting that goes into this, and staff are very available and responsive. It’s important for people to have a place to express all of their interests in a safe environment that’s not tainted by other people being dicks. – Miss Moira May, 24
“Since I’ve been coming here, I have felt an acceptance I’ve never felt before in my life”
I wanted to come [to Klub Verboten] right before lockdown, because I felt ready. Then lockdown happened. The first event I saw after lockdown, I came straight away. I’ve always been interested in kink, probably since I was a teenager. I used to be very active on Tumblr [laughs], and I’ve always had a lot of fantasies that grew as I got older.
Since I’ve been coming here, I have felt an acceptance I’ve never felt before in my life. I feel accepted for who I am, and I feel like I can tell anyone anything and they’re just, like, okay with it, or can relate. It’s really liberating, even as a submissive.
If someone is interested in going to a kink event, I think they should just go, even if they’re unsure. Everyone is so friendly here, I feel like they’d have a good time regardless. – Layla, 23
“Exploring sexuality is quite a big statement of our generation”
I’ve come to every KV event since lockdown. I originally explored kink through my own fetish, going to femdom parties. These spaces have made me realise how much I love expressing myself - this is my art, this is my passion. I love to dress up and I love to have fun.
I’m gender-fluid, and kink and fetish parties have helped me to explore my own identity. Here, I can express this through being passionate about things – and being horny, essentially. It’s uncomfortable at points, like I’m dressed up like this with complete strangers, but it’s that moment when someone is like ‘I love your outfit’ when I’m like, ‘this is where I’m meant to be’.
I reckon people are more interested in kink now due to the pandemic, maybe. I think it’s because people are bored of the norm. I feel like people come here because they are looking for something more, and I think exploring sexuality is quite a big statement of our generation. I see it all the time, whether it's self expression or sexuality, people are really delving into kink and it’s become more normal! It’s what we need. People are open to exploring without judgement, and need this to just forget. – Bambi, 24
“This is what society should aim to be like”
I’ve always been a kinky person, but I’ve been hesitant to express that side of myself sometimes. It’s hard to find someone else that’s willing to try that with you due to reservations of society, or being scared about it. My partner Layla and I just thought we should go for it, to have fun and meet like-minded people.
I’ve been hesitant with myself in the past. I’ve been unsure of myself. But the more I’ve learnt about myself, the easier it’s been to go ‘I’m into this, and that’s okay!’ The more I became confident in myself, the more I’ve became comfortable with expressing myself.
Sometimes you can feel like you’re not sexy, but then you come to a place where everyone is sexy and you meet all kinds of different people. It feels good to be at home and have people who are similar to you and weird, like you are.
This is what society should aim to be like. It’s a place where everyone can come and be free. This is almost a perfect microcosm of an ideal society. It’s diverse, everyone of all genders, sexualities, races, genders, sizes, ages - it’s not something you see in many other places. It should be more normalised. It’s such a good experience. We need more things like this in society, it’s so unique and something that should be celebrated. – Wolf, 25
“I can’t imagine going to Fabric or whatever dressed like this”
I enjoy the music, the art and the performance art culture of these spaces. Aesthetics mainly influenced me at first. I can’t imagine going to Fabric or whatever dressed like this. I wouldn’t feel comfortable.
So many people have told me they didn’t have a place to go where they could express themselves, dress up however they want, without people staring at them weird or touching them without consent. It’s also important to have these kind of spaces where you can just make out with anyone, without anyone judging.
Lots of interest in kink has grown thanks to the internet, I would say. People are getting more connected, not only on this level, but on a more accessible level. – Maya, 27
“People need to be able to express themselves with clothes, sex, whatever!”
I’ve been coming [to Klub Verboten] for three years. My friends have always been into kink and they influenced me to come, and the first time I came was like ‘Wow, this is so my type of scene!’ and I’ve been coming ever since.
These clubs are very important because people need to be able to express themselves with clothes, sex, whatever! People need to express what they really feel, then they can come here and have fun and not be judged. – Gabriella, 26
“Lockdown allowed me to go ‘you know what, fuck it! What do I have to lose?’”
I’ve always wanted to come to this sort of event but never felt like I was with the right, safe people. I came into kink recently – lockdown allowed me to go ‘you know what, fuck it! What do I have to lose?’ I think a lot of people don’t do it because they feel shame, but we all get horny and lonely. In lockdown, we were forced to be with ourselves and be aware of what we want and what we miss.
With kink, it’s really important to do your own research because there’s a lot of safety involved. I’m a people pleaser – I like control, and I struggle to let go. For me, being submissive and feeling pain really allows me to release any kind of self-consciousness I have left over. You have to kind of be really true and vulnerable.
Nights like these are essential. It’s kinky and non-judgmental. You have to be completely judgement free for yourself and for the people you meet. Also, this is queer, and I’ve already heard so many people say they’ve missed queer spaces. Even though everybody is naked, you just feel so safe and like no one is gonna bother you. Not everywhere has that. – Lucie, 30
“I feel more safe here than I have in quite a lot of straight clubs”
So this is my first time here! I live in warehouses and my friends were the ones that told me about it. They made it sound like it was super fun and queer, so I thought this would be an exciting space to play in.
Being able to wear these kinds of materials is really fun, and it’s fun to be around other people wearing this kind of stuff. This is just the beginning stage of me venturing into kink. For me, I really like being naughty and doing what’s not really allowed. So going somewhere where they don’t even tell you the location until the day is really hot for me.
These events make people who feel like they’re not normal, feel normal – and also safe. Everyone here is really respectful, kind and generous. Consent is such a massive thing here. I actually feel more safe here than I have in quite a lot of straight clubs.
I wish more people knew about these clubs, but maybe that would ruin it. It took me so many years to find this space, maybe if I found it like three years ago I’d be living my best life, but I guess that’s all part of the journey. – Hatts, 28
“When you put your gear on, it transforms you and brings elements of your personality to the forefront”
This is my first time at KV, but I’ve been coming to fetish clubs for six or seven years. I love kink so much, and so much of kink for me is fashion - I live and breathe fashion. So much of this is based upon aesthetics and looks for me.
This is a feeling, this is an emotion. When you put your gear on, it transforms you and brings elements of your personality to the forefront. It’s fashion expression, gender expression, personality expression, it’s just expression! – Carl St. Elliott, 30
“Lockdown has changed lots of things; people are tired of faking it”
I was in therapy in lockdown, and my therapist noticed that I was finally able to express myself. Lockdown has changed lots of things; people are tired of faking it. Most people probably like [kink], they just need to experience it, like how I discovered it.
It’s also much safer here than a techno party, for example. I like to dance half-naked, it’s diverse, and there’s everything for everyone here. – Juicy, 35
All photography by Amber Valence.