By Eric Burkett
Entering a man's dungeon for the first time can stir a wealth of emotions: excitement, anticipation, even fear. In the nanosecond it takes to cross the threshold from ordinary life into the realm of our fantasies, nearly anything is possible. Anything.
San Francisco's dungeons run the gamut, from actual basements – dark with promises and mystery – to garages and otherwise unused bedrooms (tidied appropriately when Aunt Estelle comes to visit but, increasingly, who has an unused bedroom in San Francisco?). Often enough, an ordinary room is suddenly transformed with the aid of a portable sling, the right music, and a hit of poppers. Sometime the next morning, it's returned to its original, more mundane purpose with a few sprays of Windex and an open window to air the room out. Men, perhaps not too surprising, can be enormously creative when it comes to pursuing their kinks and fetishes.
But dungeons are more than just places to have sex, no matter how elaborate the scenes played out there might be. A lot happens in these spaces: connections are created and solidified. Limits are pushed and expanded or, perhaps, confirmed. Dungeons allow us to release that part of ourselves that we keep tucked away when we're dealing with the everyday world. Dungeons, despite their shadowy, often subterranean features, are places for exchange, of freedom, of openness.
Much of my own life as a kinky man has been played out in one particular dungeon over the past 11 years or so. My dads have maintained a dungeon in the basement of their house for more than two decades and hundreds of men have found their way there (You've seen it; it's the background in countless photos in online profiles for hook-up sites).
Hoods, ropes, and chains hang from hooks alongside tit clamps, collars, and other gadgets. Single tail whips and floggers are lined up behind the low, broad leather chair (which doubles nicely as a fuck bench); a cage and a St. Andrews cross share the room with an enormous, sturdy wooden fourposter bed and a wall mounted urinal. Original art adorns those parts of the red walls that aren't covered in gear. It is, in probably every sense, the sort of dungeon many guys fantasize about.
Except we only rarely refer to it as a dungeon. It's “the playroom,” a name far more fitting to the role it fulfills in our lives. Play, scientists say, is an educational experience for children and I, daresay, for adults, too. I have learned a great deal about myself in that room. Certainly, I've explored and pushed my limits sexually and, through those journeys, I have been taken places I might never have entered without the guidance I found there.
Arguably, the playroom is just for sex and it's a bad idea to conduct other business there. But, in truth, other business does get settled there. We have argued in the playroom, talked things out in the playroom, made plans, discussed our fears, and anxieties in that room. We have healed wounds and shared dreams. Sex is an exchange of more than just fluids and power; sex, no matter how impersonal or intimate it might be is an opening. The sheltering dark of the playroom, of the dungeon, fosters that, providing a place for vulnerability and the freedom that offers.
When a man takes you to his dungeon, he is conceivably offering you more than a role-playing scene or a quick fuck. He's offering himself, he's offering what's inside him, what he's kept out-out-of sight and only feels free to express in a room hidden from outside eyes. Even more, he's offering you the same opportunity.
Entering a man's dungeon for the first time can stir a wealth of emotions: excitement, anticipation, even fear. But how often does our fear anticipate the challenges we may uncover to our own identities? This is what the dungeon offers us.