All photos via the author.
Whether you love it or hate it, there’s no denying the cultural impact Game of Thrones has had on TV-watchers worldwide. For the past three years, fans have become helplessly immersed in the medieval world of sex, power, little people, and dragons. During every season, doe-eyed masses unite on Sundays in hysterical excitement to watch their favourite medieval characters stab each other in the back in an elaborate and unpredictable dance. I understand the appeal, but I find the widespread obsession more interesting than the actual show.
That’s why I didn’t hesitate to plan my visit to a “Game of Thrones-themed kinky burlesque circus fetish party” in Montreal the second I heard about it. What happens when a widespread obsession of fantastic nerdery meets the underground world of fetish costume parties? Everyone knows how nerdy fetish people can be already, but when they’re mixed together with the world of epic swordplay and wizardry, I knew I was going to be in a bizarrely fun night—the fact that it wasn’t exclusively Game of Thrones, but open to all fantasy and sci-fi, would only add to the weirdness.
Exploring this new world by myself, however, seemed like an intimidating task; so I went on Tinder to see if I could get a date to share the experience.
Surprisingly, just a mention of Game of Thrones on Tinder was getting people pretty excited. It was going particularly well with Nadine, a recent McGill University graduate:
“Sounds fun,” she said, “or at least really weird.”
We met the next day at my house before walking to the costume shop together. She sat perched on my couch with a bag over her shoulder. Her smile curled up into dimples as we shook hands and took in the other person’s IRL self. With her freckles and big brown eyes, she seemed like the last person to get done up in fetish fantasywear and frolic around in the dark. She held herself a bit like she was at a job interview with her back straight and her hands sweaty, but something seemed familiar and endearing about her. She was beautiful.
We shuffled down the street to the shop and filled the air with our necessary introductions. She told me that she got on Tinder to meet girls, because it’s hard to tell in real life if other girls are into you. As we walked around the shop looking for medieval clothing, we found out neither of us were really into Game of Thrones and laughed.
“It’s OK,” she said. “Game of Thrones is only one of the themes for this thing. We could go for Alice in Wonderland instead.”
We ended up leaving with Mad Hatter and Alice costumes and hugged goodbye on the street corner.
Nadine and I in "full" costume.
The next night we sat drinking rum and coke in our costumes before the event, and I began to see the adventurous side of her that was eager to try this. She told me with a smile that her friend had gone to a party ran by the same organizers—Cirque de Boudoir—and that things were definitely going to get weird.
We walked through the Saturday night streets of downtown Montreal and were hit with a barrage of catcalls, chirps, and honking horns. I strode forward in my top hat and she walked beside in her striped Alice skirt. Nadine’s cheeks were flushed and she seemed determined to get there.
The event description read, “A fantasy event by and for sexy, open minded & creatively kinky people,” which ultimately left both of us completely lost. I wanted to be adventurous and explore this strange intersection of interests, but what if we were way in over our heads? Would I end up being thrown into a cage and beaten with a wizard staff, while my date was forced to shout ancient Greek poetry at me? Probably not, but I couldn’t rule it out.
We asked a few women outside of the club next door to take a photo of us before we went in. The bouncer looked at our costumes, gave us a knowing nod, and pulled up the rope for us to go inside.
We got our tickets at the kiosk and walked through the turnstiles toward the shooting laser beams and pounding music. Men with earpieces and matching collared shirts patrolled the floor of the big open foyer, and the woman at the coatcheck gave us a warm, professional smile. Was the normalcy of the staff just compensating for how fucked up the inside was going to be—or had we read this entire situation incorrectly?
We stepped cautiously into the main room and looked around. It was dark except for the stage, and it smelled like latex and fog machine residue. A few hundred figures pulsed to the heavy trance music, and the stage was decorated with a giant “FANTASYLAND” backdrop. We stepped closer and a half-naked man dressed as a goat darted in front of us, scaring the shit out of me.
As we merged with the crowd, we realized that everyone else was also wearing some kind of intense, elaborate half-naked costume and ours were starting to seem half-assed. I looked like a bad magician.
Some of the outfits we had to compete with.
There was a commotion in the corner so we went to go check it out. A woman with leather boots was being tied up and hung by suspended ropes. An unenthusiastic pirate guy spun her around and tied her limbs together in different combinations. I asked the guy beside me covered head to toe in latex with a zipper over his mouth if I could take a picture of him.
“No, thank you.” He said with a polite and timid voice, as his zipper shook back and forth.
We got beers and saw what else we could do. I got bodypainted and we watched a guy make a boob painting. The vibe in the room seemed oddly pleasant and proper. The costumes were impressive and shocking, but we felt strangely underwhelmed.
Getting my body painted.
“Someone told me about this room that’s not being used,” Nadine shouted in my ear, “Do you want to go?”
She led the way upstairs and we passed a sign that read: “No photos in the Fetish Play Area.” I felt that this room was exactly what I had been excited about, and afraid of.
We passed through the doorway holding hands and inched forward. The faint sound of smacking drifted towards us, and the flashing lights from the stage below licked up the side of the balcony to give us a faint image of the room. It was about the size of an RV, and smelled like sweat and rubber.
About six figures were crouched, head-down on these leather benches scattered around the room. Some were being punished by other dark figures, and others were just crouched there, presumably waiting for someone to do the same to them.
In the middle of the room was a cross with a guy tied to it. He was getting whipped. To the left, a line of women (and a few men) were bent over the balcony, receiving various forms of punishment from the people behind them.
Our attention was drawn to one particularly sexy girl with a dog collar on, who I had seen on a stripper pole earlier. She was being carefully attended to by a hairy, chubby man with wings and glasses. He held a kind of frayed rope in one hand, which he was lightly running over her perfect ass. He moved on to light flicks with his wrist, and pinched the middle of her cheek with his other hand. She glanced back with grimaced ecstasy and let her hair fall on her face. His glasses were fogging up—but he carried on with the focus of a neurosurgeon.
Nadine watched this unfold with yearning eyes and I wondered if we could somehow join.
“Excuse me,” I said, “Do you think we could borrow your rope when you’re done?”
He looked at me attentively as a bead of sweat trickled down his forehead.
“You know, I wish you had asked me earlier but I actually borrowed this one myself so I just wouldn’t feel right lending it to you without this person’s permission. Sorry.”
“No, no, that’s OK. Thanks.”
After the friendly dungeon master told us we couldn’t use his buddy’s rope, we did a slow circle past the crouched bench people, who all looked kind of bummed nobody was tickling them with ropes. We saw the guy getting whipped on the cross and found an open bench near the back. I spotted the full body latex suit guy watching silently from the corner with his arms crossed.
Nadine mounted the bench on all fours and looked back at me like Go ahead, it’s OK. I started half-heartedly spanking her with her striped skirt lifted up. Being a BDSM noob, I didn’t know what else to do other than keep spanking, How would the nice dungeon master spice things up? I thought. Then a girl in a white dress tapped me on the shoulder.
“Can I hit your girlfriend?”
I was about to say, “Yeah, of course!” But I realized how insensitive that would be, so we leaned on either side of Nadine towards her head and asked. Nadine nodded vigorously and I stepped away to let them do their thing.
The girl’s courtesy quickly hardened into a wicked aggression as she started smacking Nadine softly at first, then harder than I did. Her boyfriend and I watched in incredulous silence as our dates shared this animalistic energy. She stopped after a minute or so and thanked us both profusely. Nadine flipped the hair off her flushed, happy face and gave me a kiss.
Some fellow revellers.
Now that the ice in the BDSM dungeon had been broken, I wanted to test my own sense of adventure. I walked up to the dude beside the cross and asked him if he could whip me.
“Yeah, sure, no problem!” He said with a warm smile.
I turned around, took off my shirt and put my arms on the cross. I felt the whip lightly touch my back, then recoil and make contact again. He started hitting my back faster but still very lightly. It almost felt relaxing, like I was getting my back scratched. Given how the other interactions had gone in this room, I trusted this guy and wasn’t worried that he was going to go past my comfort zone.
I looked forward and saw the horned goat guy from earlier chatting casually with a guy wrapped in chains. The guy was lightly whipping my legs now, and I decided that this was all I wanted to take from this. I turned around and shook his hand to thank him.
“No, thank you,” he said.
It was really hot in the room, and Nadine and I had finished our beers, so we decided to go to the washroom to get some water. She came into the men’s washroom with me and pulled me into a stall. We started making out and she pulled my pants down. She put on condom on me with her mouth and flipped up her skirt.
We shook the bathroom stall as we really got going, and I realized that my top hat was still on and visible above the stall door. With my pants around my ankles visible from below the door, there wasn’t much left to the imagination. You could hear people washing their hands and shuffling around, just feet away from us.
We finished and walked out of the stall, adjusting our clothes to a scene of guys pretending to have not just witnessed sex in a washroom. We filled up our water cups again and avoided eye contact with everyone on our way out.
We walked out of the theatre around 3 AM into the loud streets. We saw some homeless people shooting heroin in an alleyway and had to dodge a sea of wasted bros trying to grab my hat. One of them told Nadine they wanted to tear her ass up, and another called me gay.
Compared to the strangely safe, judgement-free, and respectful environment of a BDSM dungeon, the outside seemed like war. Not a single person had crossed our boundaries at the sex party. We were not hit on, and there were no predators. It seemed their shared ‘dark’ passion actually fostered a deep sense of mutual respect and forced us to take back all our preconceptions. I fell asleep with my arm around Nadine, wondering what the guy who whipped me does for a living.