This article is for the kinky women and men who are frustrated with the fetish clubs and services already available in their neighborhood, or who have no fetish club or services in their neighborhood. In other words, if you want a group of B&D enthusiasts with whom you can socialize and play with a minimum amount of travel and aggravation, I'm going to tell you how to create that for yourself.
How to turn your interest in leather clothes and accessories into big business or a career in politics I can't tell you. In fact, if you follow my advice, you'll never make any money off this deal, you'll just have more responsibility, but your chances of making friends and finding lovers will be very much improved. You'll also get an education in bondage and discipline techniques from all the fascinating people you will meet, and you'll have a sympathetic few before whom you may show off and strut your stuff if the spirit moves you. Another benefit is the wealth of useful information that will first trickle, then pour into your life, along with tons of junk mail, and everybody loves more of that, so let's proceed!
First thing you must do is take a look at the resources that you have to work with. If you are reading this web page (and you are) then you already hold one valuable resource in your red-hot hands. Any publishing medium can be used to advertise your budding group, and help put you in touch with friendly businesses and individuals, so hang on to it. Other valuable resources include: kinky magazines, local papers that permit frank personal ads, adult-oriented businesses that will allow you to post a little note about your group in their store, and similar fetish groups with a newsletter that will publish your contact information.
You will need: a post office box, stamps and envelopes, a pen, a place to meet people, and most crucial, the Group Founder's Personality Complex. Other things which make the job easier include: a telephone; a typewriter, word processor, or computer with printer (best); ready access to a copy machine; telephone answering machine; a return address stamp, and ink pad; disposable income to squander; a loving and very supportive, hardworking helpmate (really nice); and while we are dreaming, an at-home dungeon where you can work out your tensions.
A few words about Group Founders Personality Complex, or GFPC. It's no good to even try unless you've got it, so ask yourself if you have these qualities:
Other qualities that are helpful include: The gift of gab, assertiveness, sex appeal, charm or tact, emotional maturity, and intelligence. You don't have to be a "Top" to be a successful leader. I personally know a sub male, a sub female, a switchable male, a switchable female, a top male, and a top female EACH of whom successfully started up a thriving group in their neighborhoods. You can too.
If you are broad-minded and warmly welcoming to a large variety of people, you'll find it easier to make your club grow. Groups that are exclusive and narrowly focused can be very successful too, and if you are living in a large metro area where other groups exist, it might be better to try to serve a specific segment of the population. For example, in San Francisco, California there are already dozens of clubs, including a big general interest group, the Janus Society. Why reinvent the wheel? Be sure you are familiar with what is going on in your neighborhood. If you belong to a sub-group, say, latex fetishists, that you feel is not being adequately served, try offering meetings for that particular sub-group. If you are living in a sparsely populated area, it is probably unrealistic to try for anything but a general interest group. There are unlikely to be enough latex fetishists in Old Lyme, Connecticut to make it worth your while, but a call for all B&D (and related fetish) enthusiasts on the east CT shore will get you at least a dozen like-minded souls to dress up with, and for.
OK, how to use your post office box, paper and pen, a box of envelopes and a roll of stamps to bring dozens of fascinating new pervy types to your door, or wherever it is you intend to gather them? First, post notice wherever you can that you are starting a group. Suggested wording:
"Non-profit BDSM support group now forming. *safe* *fun* *discreet* Make friends and learn techniques. Contact (your name or nom de plume here) via (POB etc.) Include a self-addressed stamped envelope for a prompt reply." (I trust you understand that this obligates you to answer your mail. You'd be surprised at how few would-be leaders realize that this is part of the deal.)
It's up to you to decide how much you want to spend to get the thing rolling. If you pay for an ad in a couple of adult periodicals, you can jump-start the thing very nicely. Sooner or later you will get mail, and I pray that you will answer each one promptly. There's a lonely and sometimes very nervous person behind each letter (well, OK, sometimes they are just horny) and they are very anxious to hear from you.
What you say to them is also up to you, and you are under no obligation to be anything other than yourself. Since you are starting, and (for a while at least) running the thing, they have a right to get a clear idea about who you think you are and what you are attempting to accomplish. Your personality will certainly set the tone in the beginning. Don't try to seem to be all things for all people. Here, for example, is the letter I send to those who inquire about my humble little club:
visit ULC Page
This strikes people differently than if I were to say "The Grand High Exalted Poobah, Goddess Laura Goodwin, High Priestess, Supreme Mistress and Dictator of ULC, requires your attendance and obedience only if you convince her of your worth...", blah, blah, blah. I could also have been lighter and more humorous in tone, or sexier, and the group might have attracted a whole different group of people. Your ad is what your potential members first see, and your letter is their first taste of what you offer. Ask yourself who you are trying to attract, and address yourself to them.
Now what? You are going to want to talk to people eventually. If you don't have your own phone, borrow the use of one, or use a pay phone. No excuses! Talk to the people who invite you to call them, or who have called you, and charm the pants off 'em. Try to convince them to show up at your time and place for a face to face meeting. Promise only conversation, and no matter how tempted you might later be, keep that promise! If you don't want to invite a bunch of strangers to your home, agree to meet in a public place. I know of several groups that meet in bars or restaurants. There have even been schools, churches, and community centers that were pressed into service. Hotel rooms have been rented, although I think that should be avoided to avoid the probable misunderstandings and temptations that might arise in such a setting. Hotels do rent conference rooms, which might be better. Have everyone chip in to defray the cost. For the record, both groups that I founded always first met in my home, and I know if you do a proper screening of your potential guests that you'll feel comfortable inviting them to your home. I'll put it this way: if you wouldn't invite them to your house, you're probably right.
Everyone must understand that discretion is vitally important, so swear your members to secrecy. If you live in a hostile area this is bottomlessly important. Your phone number is not to be passed about except by you, and individual members must ask the other individual members for their phone numbers themselves...never give out info about your members. NEVER. Let each person have control over how much info about them gets out. I recently visited a S/M support group in a U.S. state that was so hostile to kinky sex that even heterosexual married spouses can't legally go down on each other in their own home, yet the s/m support group was thriving. Actually, there is possibly a greater need for such a group in hostile territories, so get ready to march in with the rest of the saints. Meanwhile, charge a door or membership fee and sock away a good part of it for a legal defense fund (unless your GFPC is founded on a naive trust in your own good luck, like mine was). It's good to know the laws in your area, and obey them, of course, as much as you are able. Just because we don't agree with one law or statute or local custom doesn't mean we are savages. Just stay alert, and know what you are doing.
*Special note*: Lawyers do join such groups, and it should go without saying that if you are a lawyer that the best donation you can give the group is your advice on ways to avoid trouble.
If your group is open to both sexes you will surely get more male than female applicants. This seems to be a universal phenomenon. There are twin dangers you should beware of. One, the tendency to undervalue your male members, only because there is a healthy number of them. Two, the tendency to pander overmuch to female members, or worse, to let them get ignored in favor of the "majority". For heterosexual or pansexual clubs, it's important to create a climate where the women feel safe and encouraged. Happy women are hot women, and hot women make a hot club. But one unbearable woman can put everyone on edge, so don't tolerate primadonnaism. Keep the good of the club uppermost. You can afford to have zero tolerance for nasty guys, or rather, you can't afford to tolerate them. Tighten your girdle and boldly un invite troublemakers. If they don't like it, they can start their own group! (Betcha they can't, though).
Let's assume that you have a handful of participants. You've agreed upon a regular schedule and meet faithfully. What to do at these meetings of yours? You don't want to just be staring at each other or milling around aimlessly. Most support groups of this kind have some sort of "get acquainted" ritual, and the method I use I recommend: Everyone sit in a circle facing each other, and go around the circle, giving everyone a chance to say a few things about themselves. "Passing" or refusing to participate, should be discouraged. After all, the object of this exercise is to get to know people, and be known a bit by them. Take 30 seconds to a minute for each person to explain their interest in the group. I for example, would say, "Hi, I'm Laura, I'm 51, dominant, happily married, and primarily interested in all forms of discipline, but I enjoy bondage, fetish dressing, domestic and erotic servitude, and I'm bisexual. This is my slave, Bruce." Then Bruce would also speak for himself, because in the meetings everyone has a voice and a vote. Again, it's your choice, but I have found that keeping the meetings a place where all are respected whether or not they are top or bottom is very good for promoting a friendly feeling. It's nice sometimes to drop the roles, or to try different roles on, and it's good to keep the meetings a safe place to do that, as well as a safe place to celebrate our roles and sexuality.
After a break, it's traditional at such support group meetings to give demonstrations for educational purposes, and this is a chance for the show-offs to shine. If you have an area of expertise, go ahead and show what you can do. If none of you are very sure about your abilities, try watching videos together and commenting on what you see. Consult one or more of the many fine books available, such as Jay Wiseman's SM 101 for tips (available from Greenery Press: link on my Links page). Jay also has founded and runs a group of this type, so *he knows*.
Whether you round up your group the low-tech way I described, or use such modern conveniences as a modem-equipped computer to reach out and reel 'em in, eventually you will find at least one person, maybe more, who will want to play with you. Your sex life is your business, but if the fever's rising all around you, you might want to put together a play party, where a bunch of your new friends and you dress in your hottest fetish gear and tie and whip each other, and munch snacks (gotta keep your strength up). This can be a very low cost affair, if you meet in a member's home, and everyone brings a food or drink item. Can everybody say, "Safe Sex Only"? Good! Now play nice, and for heaven's sake, help the host clean up afterward.
Finally, you have a going concern and you want to tell the world. Produce a simple newsletter, a one page flyer is enough at first, and sent it to all the S/M support groups you know of , or at least a few big ones, like The Eulenspiegal Society in NYC, and Janus Society in SF (contact info available through my Links page). Often, these groups will give you a free listing in their newsletter, or will even trade their newsletter for yours. ULC doesn't produce a paper newsletter anymore: we now rely entirely on our web site and email discussion list. If you choose to have a paper newsletter, that is probably a good idea, especially if you want to attract people who are not internet-connected. It's worthwhile to subscribe to certain S/M periodicals, if only because they will give you fresh ideas for meetings topics.
Now, go ahead and start your own group! Once you get rolling, link to my web page, email me about it at email@example.com, and I will link your club's site to mine. Other group leaders will probably give you more advice as you proceed, and some of it will be actually useful. Remember always the immortal words of Virgil, "Fortune sides with he who dares." Or, if you'd rather, remember the words of James Joyce: "...and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes."
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This essay and all site contents Copyright L. Goodwin 1990 -2005
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