Jenny Block is a Dallas-based author of three books about sex. She released her latest, The Ultimate Guide to Solo Sex, this year. Find it at thejennyeblock.com.
Evaluating the state of sex in the city of Dallas is a tough job. Last summer the city became synonymous with "sexually repressed" when the mayor and City Council took a hard line against a sex-industry expo that wanted to rent space at the convention center. The city won a fight in court to keep Exxxotica from coming back.
I was at Exxxotica. It was packed for three days. And it wasn't some freaks-come-out-at-night parade of weirdos. It was your neighbor who seriously makes the best ribs and that mom from one street over who owns that new restaurant on Greenville Avenue and that couple who is so cute that you wish you could hate them. In other words, regular folks. The only weirdos were the ones outside the door calling us harlots.
Dallas is not as prudish at it appears. It's not like there's not plenty of sexy play going on all across the city. Leather Masters has been around since 1989. Dallas hosts a Suspension Convention (SUSCON), Freaks and Fetish and the Fetish Ball. There are private swingers groups throughout the metroplex.
Dallas is even home to an impressive club called Colette that describes itself as "a private on-premise social swingers nightclub for couples, single men and women who are active in or curious about the swinging lifestyle ... a great place for people of like-mind to meet in a safe, friendly and upscale atmosphere."
If you're wondering if anyone actually goes there, the owners John and Jackie Melfi tell me that business just keeps growing. They describe the crowd as "diverse in all demographics; 25 to 55; college educated; affluent; and open minded." Not who you pictured, I'm guessing.
Here's another example: At one of my book launches, I heard a guy who looks just like the one who works out next to you at Equinox asking for recommendations for first-time peggers (women using strap-ons.) Go figure.
It's hard for Vivienne Vermuth, co-producer of Tuesday Tease and Broads and Panties Burlesque, to feel like an outsider because Dallas is loosening up. "I'm immersed in a small pond where everyone digs it, but on a large scale I feel it's still fringe." And yet, she says, "Every show still has about 25 to 30 percent new attendees." She says her audiences are largely female who tell her that they appreciate how "approachable" her performances are. This is not exactly a fringe experience.
So where is the line these days? What's the new fringe? Or is there even one? With TV shows like You Me Her and movies like (ugh) Fifty Shades of Grey, sex could not be any more mainstream. But the thing is, it's still Hollywood sex. All show. No substance. We're seeing it. But it's still not what real sex looks like and it's still not part of our personal lives.
So while on the one hand, no one may raise an eyebrow if you mention the topic of swinging over cocktails, I don't hear many people actually admitting to participating or even wanting to participate. If you ask someone next to you at the sports bar if they're into sploshing — a messy fetish using food as a venue and as sexual aides — you'll likely get a puzzled look or be in the presence of a suddenly vacant bar stool.
We are becoming more sex positive as a whole and yet are still grossly under-educated about all things sex. In this, Dallas is no different than most cities across the country.
The truth is, we're all kinky deep down in some way. For some, it may be as simple as talking dirty in bed. For others, it may be a far more elaborate scenario characterized by costumes and props. Regardless, everyone is curious, and the most curious, it seems, are those who claim to be the most disgusted by it all. Which may mean that the Dallas City Council and our mayor are into some pretty freaky stuff, after all.
5 Ways Dallas Kinks Out
Think Halloween is the freakiest night in October? That honor goes to whichever October night is chosen for the annual Disturbathon party, which takes place in a secret location that changes every year. Sybian machines, mud pits and flogging are regular features, but a given year's offerings are limited only by the perverted imaginations of the mostly naked attendees. Wearing your birthday suit will get you in free, otherwise you better have a good costume. A Facebook event for the 2013 edition of this legendary Dallas party just listed the location as, "If you're worthy, you will be told," so you'll have to cross your fingers and ask your kinkiest friend if you want in.
Visit Leather Masters
(3000 Main St., leathermasters.com)
There once was a bondage store from California that marketed "high quality leather products at affordable prices." That store, Leather Masters, in 2005 bought a boot store and its product line in Dallas and opened an outlet in Deep Ellum. Now, when someone wants harnesses, penis whips, chain mail or prostate stimulators, they know where to go.
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Hang Out at SUSCON
SUSCON is the annual body suspension convention that happens in Dallas. Why here? Allen Falkner, the world-renowned father of suspension, is from Dallas. Body suspension is the practice of hanging from hooks placed strategically through a person's skin and muscle. In private, it's a meditative or sexual experience. In public, it's part performance art and part freak show. Don't believe us? Attend SUSCON's Freaks and Fetish opening event and its convention-closing Fetish Ball.
Go to Tuesday Tease Burlesque at Sue Ellen's
(3014 Throckmorton St., tuesdayteasedallas.com)
On Tuesdays, this lesbian nightclub and lounge hosts a "queer variety show." One part burlesque, one part comedy show and one part anything else you can imagine, add alcohol and stir. Every week has a new theme and, often, new performers. The website makes a point to say the shows are open to all genders and orientations.
Swing at Colette
(10821 Composite Drive, No. 300, 972-323-1100, coletteclubs.com/dallas)
A good swinger is hard to find, so it helps to have 8,000 square feet to search for one. Colette prides itself on being an upscale swingers lounge, with private rooms, dance poles and a movie theater. There's also a discount rate for a nearby hotel. Those who want to play must pay a membership fee and single men aren't welcome on Saturday nights.
(Be sure to read the rest of our counterculture guide to Dallas.)