Travel

Photos of Bondage Bunnies and Kinky Jesuses at an Easter Fetish Ball

On Easter eve, I went down a rabbit hole of a party to watch spring-themed creatures whip one another on a cross.

by Allison Elkin; Photos By Luis Mora
Mar 30 2016, 6:45pm

If you were where I was in the initial hours of Easter morning, you might have thought you had slipped down a literal rabbit hole. Not a proverbial one—an actual one, punctuated by neon-colored flashing lights while a shirtless DJ played industrial to a room full of bouncing, scantily clad bondage bunnies. Sure, there were typical festive decorations you might see at your family's house during a holiday dinner: multicolored plastic eggs in baskets, hanging pastel streamers, rainbow lollipops. Here, however, there were also whips, a ridiculous amount of leather, and people being led around on leashes.

The main room at the Subspace Easter Fetish Ball, which was held at the Great Hall in Toronto, didn't seem that different at first from some of the raves I've attended in my life, except for the increased amount of skin attendees were showing and an increased amount of leather being donned. As I entered the dungeon portion of the party, which was in a large back room at the venue with hardwood floors and white walls, though, I started to become more aware of where the fuck I was spending my Easter weekend.

After reading the rules posted on the door outside—which notably stated no genital nudity and no penetration allowed, but did allow piercing and "limited knife play"—I'll admit I was a bit confused. On my way to the party, I was going back and forth in my head about whether or not there would be actual sex, whether or not Easter fetish was a legitimate sexual inclination, whether or not I would walk into a scene much like the infamous Sasha Grey lesbian bunny porno. But luckily the organizer of the event, Craig Galbraith, was able to clear up the misconception that me and so many others outside of the subculture hold.

"Fetish has less to do with sex—it has to do with sexuality," Galbraith told me. "It's about an agreement between two people to participate in an activity that is erotic, but it doesn't have to conclude in sex... it's almost like a naked massage."

As I took a seat on one of the barstools next to the sectioned-off area that contained five pieces of furniture—including a wooden X-shaped fixture called a St. Andrew's Cross—for people to position themselves on while being tied up, whipped, and/or spanked, I met a friendly catgirl named Sabrina wearing a short purple skirt and black ears with tiny ribbons on them.

"It's a great way to enjoy Easter, and I know for sure some people don't have a lot of family," Sabrina told me. "It's amazing for me especially—I've met many awesome people, and being part of the BDSM community is like being part of a family... you're not alone, and you're all sharing something." As Sabrina started to effectively become my fetish spirit guide, I looked over to the dungeon area and noticed my two friends who had accompanied me to the event had wandered off—one was bent over a bench while her boyfriend smacked her ass with a long metal shoe horn and was moaning and squeaking as he rhythmically hit her.

The Easter Fetish Ball is an annual event held by Subspace, a fetish community in Toronto that was founded in 2006. Subspace, which is named for the altered mental state a sub can go into during a scene with a dom, has had many themed events over the years: everything from military, to medical, to alien abduction. The ball on Saturday was one of the last large-format events Subspace will be holding. Galbraith, who is 45, has told me he's retiring from the big parties and will soon be focusing primarily on more intimate events at his studio. Tonight, though, the crowd was heavily populated by rabbits, pigs, and various other spring-themed creatures.

When I asked Sabrina if there's such a thing as an Easter fetish, she told me basically anything is possible: "They could be into bunnies, and there's definitely religious fetishes—someone could be really into feeling like they're Jesus and being on a cross."

Armed with this information and with the fact that Sabrina mentioned she thought she saw someone with stigmata earlier at the party, I decided to try to find Jesus at the fetish ball.

And I found not one, but an entire trinity of Jesuses at the party, including one with a crown of thorns and red-glittered stigmata. One I spoke to was a professional makeup artist who was dressed as a deranged, black-and-red bunny and went by the name Helly, showed me real scars she had from piercings on her wrists as she explained to me what Easter meant to her.

"At one point I had a huge family, and we had turkey, stuffing, all that bullshit, then for a little while I was homeless and bouncing from house to house," Helly told me. "Up until recently, it's just been another day... but I had a lovely date last night who wanted to celebrate Good Friday by crucifying me—that didn't end up happening, but I want to do it so badly!"

Galbraith, the owner of Subspace, told me that in addition to the big-production monthly fetish balls, he (and a couple of dedicated volunteers) have also hosted small, intimate Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners with the fetish community at Subspace's studio in Liberty Village—which serves both as his home, a dungeon, and as a venue for fetish-related classes like Japanese rope bondage. And though there is an undeniable sexually charged atmosphere at Subspace events, it is not a place where you could find men aggressively prowling on uninterested women. The community has strict guidelines when it comes to respect and consent.

"I really like partying with hot, naked women, and as I started to throw these events, I realized there weren't a lot of places available for girls to express sexuality in a protected environment where they wouldn't be creeped on by random men," Galbraith explained. He then started to build a setting with Subspace events (listed on Fetlife) where his guests could feel like they were in a safe space to express their fantasies, including the implementation of dungeon monitors to ensure attendees were abiding by rules.

"It's about the right people coming together understanding respect and etiquette so that people can be themselves without feeling embarrassed or judged," he said.

Galbraith's sentiments were echoed by literally every single person I spoke to at the event, including a couple I met named Stuart and Rachel, who have been going to Subspace events for as long as they've been together—seven years. When I asked Stuart, a 51-year-old insurance lawyer who was wearing fitted black leather pants, why they come to Subspace events, he told me, "No matter what we're interested in at the moment, we can indulge... Our sex is not all that vanilla, so if we want to find extra partners, this is usually a good place." Rachel, his partner, said, "People are much more open [at Subspace events]. At a sex club environment, it's very closed, and it tends to be very hetero."

Like Stuart and Rachel, many of the people at Subspace events are veterans of the scene. On the sidelines of the dance floor toward the end of the night, I met Mstress Leah (who was scarily insistent about ensuring I leave out the "i" in Mstress), a woman with black mesh covering her massive breasts who was wearing leather from shoulder to toe and has been part of the fetish community for 23 years. "I love the aesthetic of it, the visuals—but it's functional as well... when I'm dominating someone, I feel a buzz after for days," Mstress Leah, who mentioned she was going to a potluck the next day for Easter, told me as she motioned to the woman tied up in a rope bondage device in the corner of the main room. "If I could get someone on the St. Andrew's cross and flog the living shit out of them, that would make me really happy about holy days... the symbolism is just too much not to have fun with."

By the end of the night, my bunny ears were starting to feel tight on my head as I neared sensory overload, but I finally worked up the nerve to participate in the dungeon at least once. As my friend bent me over a piece of equipment, I covered my face, feeling slightly embarrassed as it reddened, and allowed her to hit me several times with a long metal shoe horn. The metal felt cold on my skin, though I was surprised how little it actually hurt.

I asked her to hit me harder.

"I have a feeling you're going to be back here," Sabrina told me.

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