We proceeded with caution as we moved through the 80s, realizing the potentially dire consequences of the “if it feels good do it” school of thought, regarding impromptu hookups and unprotected sexual encounters. But propelled by our lust and unflagging desire, and armed with rubbers, dental dams spermicides and the like, we proceeded, none the less.
When thinking back on the 80s, I remember big hair and over-sized shoulders — influenced by TV shows such as Dallas and Dynasty — strong-hued lip color, sharply accented cheekbones, enormous earrings, fingerless gloves, and darkly outlined eyes. We were hard-edged in that decade, in our Doc Martens, high platform boots and needle-toed pumps, and in our formfitting skirts and slashed jeans. Leather was in, bigtime, along with a rise in popularity of tattoos and body piercings — in a blatantly sexualized look that glamorized both Punk fashion and the trappings of BDSM Culture. Heavy chains worn as belts and ripped fish-net stockings; safety pins, studded leather collars and wrist cuffs became mainstream fashion accessories — worn by teeny boppers who were drawn to the look because it was in — with little or no inkling of the counterculture lifestyles they emulated.
Art at that time was hard-edged as well and designed to be decorative. Think Patrick Nagle and his stark female illustrations , and the deliciously strong-hued, lushly erotic individuals painted by Polish artist, Johanna Zjawinska. For me, strong memories of music videos recalls Robert Plant and his pale-faced, red-lipped, hypersexualized women with darkly made-up eyes, in the mid-80s video Addicted to Love — and, of course, Material Girl, Madonna, whose lyrics and images typified the aspirations of the decade — as did fictional character, Gordon Gekko’s memorable statement, “Greed is good”, in the 1987 film, WallStreet. Prominent books on my reading list at that time included, Anne Rice’s now immortal BDSM trilogy, The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty, published in the mid-80s, and 9 1/2 Weeks, the cautionary tale of a Dominant/submissive romance that escalates beyond limits, that was made into a film a few years later.
On a personal level, my entrance into a committed relationship in 1983, brought about a major shift in focus from the swing parties and indiscriminate couplings I’d experienced in the prior decade — as well as a shift from primarily vanilla sex.
My husband and I, as a BDSM couple, were fortunate in that our erotic fantasies were compatible, both in nature and intensity — and that we were both strongly attracted to the excitement of the party scene and public play. This led us to an ongoing erotic adventure involving an agreed upon power exchange and intense forms of foreplay, such as sensation play, bondage, and the use of sex toys. Such play occurred with or alongside other players, and was enormously arousing in itself, even to orgasm — without involving risky behaviors such as penetrative sex, thus radically minimizing our STD risk. For me, my new, non-promiscious lifestyle provided an opportunity to play and explore with multiple partners, within the confines of commitment — offering me, from my point of view, the erotic best of both decades.
At the time we entered the scene, the main venues for play among straight kinky couples was the now defunct, Gemini club, which catered to Male Dominant and female submissive pairings — as did its counterpart, the Scorpio club, in LA, where we once attended a never to be forgotten Story of O party. The still active, pansexual, Society of Janus, was dedicated to the promotion of safe, sane, and consensual BDSM play, with bi-monthly programs designed to educate, as well as provide the kinky community with a non-sexual, highly arousing sexual outlet.
My husband and I also attended parties at the Catacombs, which was originally a private men’s fist fucking club. When the club closed its doors in 1984 due to concerns over the AIDs epidemic and consequent restraints on freedom of play, the space reopened as Shotwell Meeting House, in SF’s steamy South of Market — emerging as the primary play space for straight and bi couples in the kinky community, as well as the site of Janus’ educational programs.
My husband and I continued to be active in the scene throughout the decade. By the time the 80s drew to a close, we were old-time members of the Bay Area BDSM community — and as we neared our fifth decade, the hyper-intensity of virgin experience was behind us, and the effects of late night parties began requiring abit longer recovery time. But still, we partied on.
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