Imagine a chessboard. Imagine a chessboard the size of a hotel-ballroom floor. Imagine a chessboard the size of a hotel-ballroom floor in a D.C. suburb. Imagine that each invisibly demarcated 10-foot square showcases a highly specialized fetish, a wonderland on paisley carpeting where even just observing classifies as its own kink. Hundreds of players meet each year on such a board, sustained physically by the hotel's sneeze-guarded buffet and nourished emotionally by moving onto a secret space -- free of workaday identities -- where their true selves reside: be they ponies or riders, puppies or trainers, coma patients, sissy maids, exhibitionists or voyeurs, the ravagers or the ravished, the old guard or the neophytes. If you willingly tumble down this rabbit hole, you'll awaken in a nondescript complex somewhere near a strip mall, embarking on a three-day adventure that shares its name with the group that organizes it: Black Rose.
For those [I assume most of you reading now] unfamiliar with BR, I quote from its Web site:
"Black Rose is a not-for-profit organization which provides a forum for the many different expressions of power in love and play. This can include dominance & submission, bondage & discipline, fetishism, cross-dressing, to name a few.
"Black Rose is a support, education, and social group for adults who share these interests in the context of caring relationships. Black Rose is a pan sexual group, open to those of any sexual orientation. It is our goal to provide a comfortable, safe, and discreet environment where one can meet others of like mind. We are not a swingers group or a sex club. We do not make referrals. We are not a chapter-based organization. We welcome the interested, the inquisitive, and the discerning to join us as we explain, explore, and enjoy."
Not knowing what to expect, I went to Black Rose once with a dominant male lover. Startlingly and beautifully, I suddenly was among hundreds of "my people" -- not necessarily due to any particular fetish represented there, but because I was transported at once to a dreamscape where pawns were equal to kings, to an alien world populated by those similarly deemed deviant, dangerous, or deranged. Donning a red-and-black embroidered corset and long lacy skirt, I imagined I had stepped out of a colorized erotic postcard viewed furtively by Victorian gentlemen. I was not judged. I did not hide or pretend. I learned so much about how others give and receive pleasure. And I advanced onto my own square on the board.