The tribune 26th August 2007
|For those who aren’t tied up elsewhere, Ireland’s only fetish club whips up support|
THERE are four main rules to remember when attending Nimhneach, Ireland’s only organised fetish night. No sex on the premises. No touching unless it has been checked that it is acceptable. Everything must be consensual. And anyone wearing anything denim won’t be allowed in.
“The dress code is strictly enforced, ” says ‘Fig’, one of the organisers of the event which takes place in Dublin next Saturday night. “The range of outfits allowed are fetish, leather, cyber, gothic, fetish drag, corsetry, burlesque, high formal (top hat and tails) historical fetish, roleplay and lingerie. Getting past the door can be one of the biggest hurdles for new people.”
Since it began two years ago, Nimhneach (meaning ‘painful’ or ‘sore’ in Irish) has offered ever-increasing numbers of people a chance to act on fantasies which would normally be confined to the bedroom. They are free to take part in ‘scenes’ in Dublin’s Voodoo Lounge, where people engage in BDSM (Bondage, Discipline, Sadism and Masochism) activities such as whipping or flogging.
“People bring their own whips and floggers but rope is provided, ” said Fig. “We have some dungeon equipment, including a spanking bench, hanging handcuffs and a double A-frame [a wooden structure to which people can be tied].”
However, some are content just to watch rather than take part.
“Some people will just enjoy being dressed a particular way so the whole thing is engaging in their fetish for them, ” says David (31) from Dublin, who regularly attends Nimhneach.
“The biggest parts of most scenes for most people goes on in the mind, and sometimes you don’t need to get physical, so two or more people having a conversation could be getting into something pretty intense.”
David, who has attended about six Nimhneach events, found there was little awkwardness among those who go along.
“I wasn’t particularly nervous the first time I went, but my girlfriend was. However once you overcome any nerves you might have, I’d say it’s slightly easier to interact with other people than in most other social situations.
“There’s a degree of barrierbreaking just being in fetish gear that’s partly because a lot of people are getting to express a side of themselves that they keep locked up.”
The average age of those in attendance is about 30, and there is a mixture of couples, groups of friends and individuals.
“As we get quite a number of new people at each event, we have a meeter and greeter whose job it is to say hello to anyone new, ” says Fig.
Safety is a concern for organisers. “We don’t allow sex on the premises. Nimhneach-ers are all adults and are able to take their own precautions, ” says Fig. “We also have dungeon monitors who look in on any scenes that are happening to ensure that they are safe and consensual.”
“It can be good fun just to go for a cigarette with my girlfriend tagging along on a chain, ” says David. “You do get an interesting reaction walking through the venue with a slave.”
Ann Sexton 6th September 2007
Nimhneach is a first for Dublin – a place where people who are into the fetish scene can play out their fantasies for real.
Heading up the stairs at the Voodoo Lounge in my corset, I wasn’t sure what to expect from Nimhneach, Dublin’s Fetish and BDSM party.
It’s been a long time since I’ve been to a fetish party – in fact this was my proper first one in Dublin. Dress-up parties are nothing new, and fetish fashion is on show every weekend at Dominion, Dublin’s Goth, Industrial and EBM club – but at Nimhneach (Gaelic for “sore” or “painful”) the organisers provide areas for those who wish to act out BDSM scenes in public. There is an inflatable bondage bed, an A-frame for bondage and S&M play, and a cage.
I had arranged to go with Nicholas, a long time fan of the scene, but like me, a first-timer at Nimhneach. At the door, an organiser greets us. Partygoers tend to be regulars and the scene is small enough for a lot of the crowd to know one another, so we were made to feel welcome and gently reminded of the rules.
Like London’s Torture Garden fetish parties, Nimhneach operates by strict rules. Guests are encouraged to explore their sexuality, but harassment of any kind is off-limits – no touching other people or their gear unless specifically invited to do so, no interrupting anyone involved in a scene and no photographs. In addition, organisers are strict to comply with the law of the land and venue policy – no sex, no full frontal nudity and no bodily fluids. “Nothing that breaks the law or could damage the carpets,” says Fig, another of the organisers.
Furthermore, to discourage gawkers, dressing the part is essential – rubber, PVC, leather, lingerie, corsetry, historical fetish, drag, gothic and burlesque are acceptable. Denim is not.
We head inside, get a drink and settle down to admire the outfits. Because of the necessity of etiquette, fetish crowds are polite. The crowd is a mix of young and old, couples and singles and everyone seems to be enjoying themselves. No one is getting drunk.
In the bathroom, I meet Alice. She admires my corset; I compliment her on her dress. She’s been to Nimhneach a few times. “What I like about it,” she tells me, “is that it’s a chance to meet up with people you don’t get to see very often. The crowd is cool and you can be yourself.” I ask if she’s ever had a bad experience? “No way. I feel more intimidated on the bus than I ever have here.”
In the play area, a man is being gently whipped with a cat-o-nine-tails and another sits in the cage, head down, seemingly lost in thought. Nick and I wonder what he’s feeling. He keeps his eyes down and it’s hard to read his expression in the dark.
A little later, a woman is tied to the A-frame. She smiles and laughs as the ropes are knotted. The cage empties and Fig locks in a young woman. I’m curious about the cage and he explains the idea to me. “Some people just like being in the cage, or being restrained. You could be blindfolded and gagged if you like. For some people it’s the feeling of abandonment – you’re in the cage, while the person with the key has gone downstairs. Or you could ask your Dom to invite people to touch you. It’s up to you.”
While play and experimentation are no problem, the organisers are careful to make sure no one is put in a position where they might feel out of their depth. Nick doesn’t want to get involved in any play with another person as he has a girlfriend, so he asks Fig if he can be blindfolded and gagged, Fig refuses as Nick hasn’t done this before. “Better to try something like that out at home first,” he advises. “You don’t know what your reaction will be.”
Instead we both decide to try out the cage. Fig ties my arms above my head, locks me in and gives the key to Nick. First he asks that the rope isn’t too tight and that I’m feeling comfortable before sitting down.
Experiencing the party from the cage gives me a whole new perspective. I may be restrained, but I don’t feel uncomfortable. Oddly enough, I feel completely safe. Nor do I feel like a sideshow attraction – more observer than observed. From this angle, I feel free to stare at strangers, not something I would normally do.
I watch a man being whipped. He twitches slightly every time the whip makes contact. In the corner of the play area a group of people chat, ignoring the scene behind them. Off to my left, a man in leather straps opens a kit bag left on the floor. He pulls out a pair of pants and puts them on. He removes the leather and puts on a shirt. It’s a remarkable metamorphosis. One moment he was in the crowd; the next, he looks like any middle class professional – completely normal.
Don’t go to Nimhneach if you are hoping for a freak-show. That’s not what it’s about. Sure some of the outfits are pretty outlandish and the people make no bones about their fetishes – makes a nice change to discovering the accountant you met in the pub gets off on public humiliation – but if you’re a fetish enthusiast, or merely curious about the scene, Nimhneach is a chance to explore and play in public. Bring your kinks, but leave your hang-ups at home.