Theresa is an artist’s assistant, who prefers a surreal doll-like look when dressed in her fetish gear.

Normies by day, fetish obses­sives by night

The latex-clad patrons of Bound. During the day, they’re office regulars working a 9 to 5. At night, the kink and fetish gear comes out.

I remem­ber descend­ing the nar­row stair­case [at East Williams­burg venue Tilt], which is plas­tered with old show fly­ers into what can only be described a goth can­dy-night­mare dream­scape. Every kind of body dressed head-to-toe in black leather, PVC, latex, chains, fish­nets, silk and lace… I instant­ly felt at home.”

Jes­si­ca, a plant sci­en­tist work­ing for a start­up in Brook­lyn, is describ­ing her first expe­ri­ence at Bound, a quar­ter­ly (yes, four times per year) fetish night that took place at Tilt (now gay bar Vault), before find­ing a home in Bush­wick club Elsewhere.

Bound start­ed, as founder Katie Rex explains, as a hedo­nis­tic exper­i­ment for non-cis men” inter­est­ed in a choose-your-own-adven­ture BDSM night, where patrons are encour­aged to safe­ly explore their secret kinks out­fit­ted in har­ness­es, leather and latex. New York’s hottest club night has it all: cake sit­ting, cage play, and a stel­lar line­up of tech­no DJs. On her first vis­it there, Jes­si­ca, the plant sci­en­tist, got into the cage and had the plea­sure of expe­ri­enc­ing the Dom. Vanessa’s elec­tro­play while being chained up and put on dis­play,” she says. I’d say ini­tial­ly my expe­ri­ence of Bound was love at first zap.”

This descrip­tion could sound off-putting or excit­ing, depend­ing on your thresh­old for com­fort. But it’s a wel­com­ing safe space for all, enforc­ing a strict fetish­wear door pol­i­cy and encour­ag­ing cis-men to pay extra at the door if they have the means, says Rex. It’s become an under­ground phe­nom­e­non, and will be head­ing to Detroit next week­end to open the Move­ment tech­no fes­ti­val.

Attend­ing Bound, you may come across any num­ber of latex-clad patrons there to let loose in some of the most body-con­strict­ing get-ups around. And you may won­der, what do these peo­ple look like in the day­light? What do they do? We found out.

Name: There­sa (pic­tured at top)

Age: Immortal

Occu­pa­tion: Artist assistant

Can you describe what you do for a living?

I cre­ate exten­sive col­lage under-paint­ings out of mate­ri­als I’ve sourced from books, news­pa­pers, found objects and assist the artist in silkscreen­ing and paint­ing addi­tion­al lay­ers over them. 

How long have you been in that job?

About five years.

How would you describe your cloth­ing that you wear to work?

I have two uni­forms” I oscil­late between: a pink jump­suit and white over­alls. I need some­thing stur­dy with pock­ets that can take the abuse of gel and paint and also hold my blades, sharpies and oth­er supplies. 

When did you first get involved in fetish dressing?

When I was a kid I caught a glimpse of a news seg­ment on TV fea­tur­ing women in patent leather fetish wear. I was enam­ored by their out­fits… the rest is history. 

How do you lit­er­al­ly get into your out­fit/get-up?

Patience and Pjur.

Can you tell me about some­thing amaz­ing you wit­nessed at Bound?

I was in Zone 1 [of Else­where] and a women was lay­ing on the bar in front of me. She had her legs up and some­one was sta­pling dol­lar bills to the back of her thighs. It was the piv­otal moment where I recog­nised how much of a safe space this event had created.

What does it mean to you to per­son­al­ly to have found this scene?

It’s a com­bi­na­tion of cathar­tic expe­ri­ences. I’m always intrigued and inspired to dress up on theme and that is cel­e­brat­ed here. Both get­ting into char­ac­ter and danc­ing, espe­cial­ly to dark tech­no, are ther­a­peu­tic out­lets for me.

Does your fetish dress extend to your sex­u­al encounters?

That info will be avail­able in my memoirs.

A plant scientist for a Brooklyn startup by day, Jessica likes to put on music by TRVST or Burial while getting into her gear.

Name: Jes­si­ca

Age: 29

Occu­pa­tion: Plant sci­en­tist

Can you describe what you do for a liv­ing?

I am the head plant sci­en­tist for a start­up com­pa­ny in Brook­lyn. My job is cen­tred around research and devel­op­ment with a focus on bio­log­i­cal sys­tems and all things plant and mate­r­i­al sci­ence. Our work is in the realm of CEA/CTA (con­trolled envi­ron­ment agriculture/​con­trolled tech­nol­o­gy agri­cul­ture). My spe­cif­ic role is cre­at­ing exper­i­men­tal designs, rig­or­ous plant test­ing, mon­i­tor­ing data acqui­si­tion, analysing results and report­ing to diag­nos­tics a team of elec­tri­cal and mechan­i­cal engi­neers.

How long have you been in that job?


I have been with my cur­rent com­pa­ny for a lit­tle over a year, I start­ed work­ing with them in March 2018. I have been work­ing in plant sci­ence for the last five years.

How would you describe your cloth­ing that you wear to work?


Half of the time my work clothes are cov­ered with a lab coat, but in gen­er­al I wear long pants, long sleeves and com­fort­able shoes.

When did you first get involved in fetish dress­ing?


My per­son­al intrigue for fetish wear was a nat­ur­al pro­gres­sion from a deep love at a young age, of cult hor­ror and sci-fi/­fan­ta­sy films (pri­mar­i­ly from the 50s to 80s), clas­sic vin­tage pin-ups, and punk music. As I got old­er (late teens, ear­ly twen­ties), the icon­ic images stuck with me and inspired my col­lec­tions of lin­gerie, latex, hard­ware and leather.

How do you lit­er­al­ly get into your out­fit?


The first step of get­ting into my out­fit it turn­ing on some music usu­al­ly Ancient Meth­ods, Skin­ny Pup­py, TRVST or Bur­ial. Next, depend­ing on my look, I either lube myself up or fuss with chains and straps for an inde­ter­minable amount of time. Have you ever put on a garter belt? I swear it is its own weird sci­ence no mat­ter how often you do it.

Can you tell me about some­thing amaz­ing you wit­nessed there?

Wit­ness­ing peo­ple get­ting lined up to get put in the cage to have Dom. expe­ri­ences by Jooj and Vanes­sa was pret­ty inspiring.

It’s like Bound is this bub­ble of how the world could work in terms of inter­sec­tion­al­i­ty, indi­vid­u­al­ism and free­dom if the xeno­phobes and preda­tors didn’t exist” – Jessica

What does it mean to you to per­son­al­ly to have found this scene?

I have been a part of the punk scene in NYC and Philadel­phia for more than 15 years. I iden­ti­fy as a queer body and find­ing this scene means I have access to a plat­form for being social in a com­mu­ni­ty where there is space for me to be myself.

What appeals to you about Bound?

Bound has enforced a strict door pol­i­cy which curates a safe envi­ron­ment and sets itself apart from almost every oth­er par­ty in NYC. It’s like Bound is this bub­ble of how the world could work in terms of inter­sec­tion­al­i­ty, indi­vid­u­al­ism and free­dom if the xeno­phobes and preda­tors didn’t exist. There isn’t any­thing wrong with being a voyeur if you under­stand and respect the envi­ron­ment; after all, there’s so much to see at Bound.

Does your fetish dress extend to your sex­u­al encoun­ters? If so, how?

Yes! There is some­thing mag­i­cal about hav­ing a big reveal under­neath your reg­u­lar out­fit. My part­ner and I are very play­ful and my fetish dress adds excite­ment and plea­sure to our encoun­ters – some pieces are more util­i­tar­i­an than others.

Jon, a 25-year-old paralegal, is into the pup scene and incorporates drag make-up into his looks.

Name: My legal name is Jonathan but my club/​drag name is Villain

Age: 25

Occu­pa­tion: Para­le­gal

Can you describe what you do for a living?

I work at an enter­tain­ment law firm that pri­mar­i­ly focus­es on trans­ac­tion deals. The lawyers I work with pri­mar­i­ly work in the indie film and VR spaces, and we help our clients with all the var­i­ous legal ele­ments that go into cre­at­ing fea­ture length films, TV shows, and VR projects. This includes review­ing and draft­ing con­tracts, nego­ti­at­ing with tal­ent agen­cies, and film financ­ing etc.

How long have you been in that job?

I’ve been work­ing in enter­tain­ment spaces for a few years now but with regards to specif­i­cal­ly the legal space, about two years. I’m going to be head­ing off to law school soon though, which I’m excit­ed about.

How would you describe your cloth­ing that you wear to work?

The cloth­ing that I wear to work is pret­ty stan­dard and bland, but not too for­mal. I usu­al­ly will show up to work in a long sleeve t-shirt and long pants. It’s a pret­ty casu­al environment. 

When did you first get involved in fetish dressing?

It’s sort of been a weird evo­lu­tion for me. When I was grow­ing up in San Diego, I used to sneak out to the gay neigh­bor­hood, Hill­crest, and be enam­ored by the drag queens and club kids I used to see. I then start­ed dab­bling with tra­di­tion­al drag in col­lege, which was extreme­ly fun for me, but put that on hold when I got a schol­ar­ship from my uni to do two years of school/​work abroad. I spent one of those years in Lon­don, where I became quick friends with a tat­too artist and a piercer I used to go to and they invit­ed me out to some amaz­ing fetish events and club nights. My inter­est in fetish dress­ing evolved as the next step in my love of drag, but also grew from an emerg­ing sex­u­al maturity. 

How do you lit­er­al­ly get into your outfit?

I always like to include ele­ments of my drag upbring­ing in my fetish looks, which usu­al­ly includes a heavy degree of make­up. I enjoy the entire process, which has become a cathar­tic activ­i­ty for me. Wash­ing and shav­ing my face, glu­ing my brows down, lub­ing up my body for rub­ber, and even com­ing home and tak­ing it all off has all become a rit­u­al­is­tic process, enhanced by the ear-split­ting dis­co music that blasts from my speak­ers at home.

Some­thing unique I expe­ri­enced at Bound was a woman who brought a sta­ple gun with her and was danc­ing and hav­ing peo­ple sta­ple tips (like dol­lar bills) direct­ly into her flesh” – Jonathan, 25


What does it mean to you to per­son­al­ly to have found this scene?

What means most to me is the sense of com­mu­ni­ty that the scene pro­vides. As a queer per­son, I’ve def­i­nite­ly faced my fair share of rejec­tion from my bio­log­i­cal fam­i­ly and gen­er­al soci­ety, but the var­i­ous nightlife and fetish scenes that I’ve become involved with have always been extreme­ly wel­com­ing and non­judg­men­tal. It’s impor­tant for me to build these sup­port sys­tems that have evolved into sur­ro­gate fam­i­lies of mine. The idea of a cho­sen fam­i­ly” has become much more open­ly dis­cussed late­ly and that’s exact­ly why I con­tin­ue to par­tic­i­pate in these scenes, and we even refer to each oth­er using famil­ial titles (with the occa­sion­al pow­er dynam­ic title thrown in i.e. alpha, mas­ter, sub, etc.)

Does your fetish dress extend to your sex­u­al encoun­ters? If so, how?

Yes and no. I have a vari­ety of crops, whips, har­ness­es, wrist/​arm/​ankle bands, ropes, rings, ties, masks, and hoods and I use a lot of the same gear in my sex­u­al exploits, but I wouldn’t say the two are nec­es­sar­i­ly inter­twined or that one is an exten­sion of the oth­er. While there def­i­nite­ly is a sex­u­al ele­ment to the looks that I cre­ate, I don’t put on any of my looks with the intent to have sex in them; how­ev­er, a lot of the gear is still used in my sex life separately. 

Lanee has been a video editor for five years, but has been experimenting with fetish wear much longer, since 2014.

Name: Lanee Bird

Age: 27

Occu­pa­tion: Com­mer­cial video edi­tor and fetish photographer

Can you describe what you do for a living?

I work a day job as a com­mer­cial video edi­tor with a pri­ma­ry focus on beau­ty con­tent for cos­met­ic brands. Any addi­tion­al free time in my sched­ule is spent on my per­son­al cre­ative prac­tice as a fetish pho­tog­ra­ph­er. The lat­ter is work that I try to keep very sep­a­rate from my vanil­la clients. 

How long have you been in that job/​line of work?

About five years work­ing in var­i­ous forms of production. 

How would you describe your cloth­ing that you wear to work?

I typ­i­cal­ly wear some ver­sion of a suit to most of my com­mer­cial jobs. Not nec­es­sar­i­ly because the job requires it, but because I believe that gar­ments like blaz­ers and slacks feel like an alter­na­tive way of express­ing pow­er dur­ing those moments when fetish wear is clear­ly not appro­pri­ate for the work environment.

What was your ini­tial expe­ri­ence of Bound?

I’m one of the Bound event pho­tog­ra­phers and had a won­der­ful time shoot­ing and meet­ing so many new folks the first time I attend­ed the event. I think a lot of the New York kink scene finds its com­mu­ni­ty with­in online plat­forms so it was great to be able to con­nect IRL with so many inter­net friends.

What does it mean to you to per­son­al­ly to have found this scene?

I’ve been involved in the kink scene for a few years now. It means hav­ing a safe space to share my inter­ests with like­mind­ed indi­vid­u­als, both in terms of bdsm prac­tices and also cre­ative­ly as a fetish photographer. 

What appeals to you about Bound?

Great music, great peo­ple and great looks!

Does your fetish dress extend to your sex­u­al encoun­ters? If so, how?

I’m both a leather and latex fetishist, but have very dif­fer­ent feel­ings towards the two in terms of my own kink prac­tices. Per­son­al­ly speak­ing, latex is more erot­ic with­out ever feel­ing the need to play in a scene while wear­ing the latex. Leather on the oth­er hand is some­thing that I enjoy wear­ing and/​or play­ing in. 

What do you wish more peo­ple knew about this sub­cul­ture, so to speak?

I would like peo­ple to inform them­selves on SESTA/FOSTA, sex work­ers’ rights and the impact it’s had on our com­mu­ni­ty. Please Google it if you haven’t heard of it to bet­ter under­stand its place in our polit­i­cal envi­ron­ment right now. 

Kale, 25, takes out frustrations serving bros at an East Village bar by packing his leather outfits to work in the hopes of leaving early.

Name: Kale

Age: 25

Occu­pa­tion: Host, pho­to assis­tant and model

Can you describe what you do for a living? 

I work two jobs as a host at an East Vil­lage cock­tail bar and at a Ramen jug­ger­naut. I also intern as a pho­to assis­tant for a French pho­tog­ra­ph­er and I’m cur­rent­ly relaunch­ing my mod­el­ing career after a three year hiatus.

How long have you been in that job/​line of work?

Five years, since I first moved to New York. I’ve had many dif­fer­ent gigs along the way to sup­port my hustle.

When did you first get involved in bondage/​fetish dressing?

Fol­som East, three years ago. My fear­less gay dad, Chris, showed me the healthy way of sex­u­al explo­ration. I also did my fair amount research in my younger years (I dis­cov­ered what sound­ing is when I was 16).

What was your ini­tial expe­ri­ence of Bound?

I start­ed going when the par­ty was in its begin­ning stages, at Tilt. Every­one looked so free.

What does it mean to you to per­son­al­ly to have found this scene?

I’ve found a com­mu­ni­ty that ful­ly accepts all my quirks and fan­tasies. No one feels a type of way if I’m not in the mood to chat. Just dance. 

What appeals to you about Bound?

Tech­no. Gear­ing up. See­ing all my friends looks. Thrash­ing around till 5 am. Releas­ing pent up ener­gy that I’ve col­lect­ed from telling East Vil­lage bros what to do all day.

Does your fetish dress extend to your sex­u­al encoun­ters? If so, how?

Some­times. If I get lucky at the func­tion. But if it con­tin­ues at home, I can’t help but to get naked.

What do you wish more peo­ple knew about this sub­cul­ture, so to speak?

That’s a dou­ble-edged sword. I do want every­one to be able to explore them­selves sex­u­al­ly. I believe it is very essen­tial. But there are those who involve them­selves just for the aes­thet­ics and clout. It’s impor­tant that the integri­ty of the queer-fetish com­mu­ni­ty is upheld.

Vanilla only wears black to work, sometimes wearing a harness to subvert the conventions of her workwear.

Name: Vanil­la Honey

Age: 24

Occu­pa­tion: Archi­tect, designer

Can you describe what you do for a living?

I work as an archi­tec­tur­al design­er at a firm in Brook­lyn. I am on the track for licen­sure. I do many things, but most of my days are spent draw­ing and redesign­ing build­ings using soft­ware called Auto­CAD. I work on most­ly res­i­den­tial projects at the moment.

How long have you been in that job?

I grad­u­at­ed May 2018. I was a stu­dent for five years, study­ing archi­tec­ture and gen­der stud­ies. I have been work­ing at my cur­rent firm for sev­en months.

How would you describe your cloth­ing that you wear to work?

I wear very sim­ple, com­fort­able cloth­ing to work. My typ­i­cal look is black pants with a black top, black-heeled leather boots, and my black leather jack­et. My whole clos­et is black, and I always need some leather on me – it’s my armor. Some­times I’ll wear one of my leather har­ness­es too.

When did you first get involved in fetish dressing?

Three and a half years ago. I was liv­ing in Lon­don at the time and I had already begun to explore BDSM and kink. There are so many amaz­ing fetish shops there and I came across one in Cam­den Mar­ket. When I walked in, I was over­whelmed and excit­ed by the smell of leather and latex. I bought my first piece that day. It was a black leather cone bra and thong set. I still have it and every time I see it or wear it, I am remind­ed of that day.

How do you lit­er­al­ly get into your outfit?

It depends on the out­fit. Latex gen­er­al­ly takes longer to put on espe­cial­ly larg­er pieces. There’s lots of lube involved. With any mate­r­i­al, the more lay­ered, heavy, and/​or com­plex the pieces, the more time it takes to put on. When I start to dress for a scene, or a kink par­ty, my mind goes into a med­i­ta­tive state. My expe­ri­ence begins when I start get­ting dressed. There is a cer­e­mo­ni­ous aspect to kink that I cherish.

Can you tell me about some­thing amaz­ing you wit­nessed there?

Once Bound moved to Else­where, there was so much more space and oppor­tu­ni­ties for per­for­mances. My favorite per­for­mance by far was one of Lind­say Dye’s cake-sit­tings. I had want­ed to see her per­form for a while and my mind was blown once I did. It was absolute­ly gor­geous; I was com­plete­ly mes­mer­ized. I stood up close to the stage, front row. As the cake was smashed and smoth­ered and spread more and more, stream­ing across her skin, I remem­ber flecks of frost­ing fly­ing off of her and land­ing on me. The scent of sug­ar alone was hyp­no­tiz­ing and my mouth began to water. Her per­for­mance was one of the most beau­ti­ful, cre­ative, and enthralling­ly sexy per­for­mances I’ve wit­nessed to this day. 

What does it mean to you to per­son­al­ly to have found this scene?

It means every­thing. When I real­ized I was kinky and inter­est­ed in BDSM it felt like I was dis­cov­er­ing myself for the first time. I was always kinky but I didn’t have a lan­guage in order to under­stand it and how I was con­nect­ed to it. I didn’t under­stand it as a cul­ture yet either. I real­ized my kink­i­ness at the same time I real­ized my queer­ness as well, which was over­whelm­ing in the best way. I felt like I could breathe final­ly. These deeply impor­tant parts of my sex­u­al­i­ty came into focus. BDSM is the clos­est con­nec­tion I’ve ever had to reli­gion. For me and many, it is deeply spir­i­tu­al, heal­ing, and rit­u­al­is­tic. Now it is a major part of my life, my iden­ti­ty and cul­ture, some­thing. I prac­tice and live con­scious­ly everyday.

Does your fetish dress extend to your sex­u­al encoun­ters? If so, how?

My first thought when read­ing this ques­tion was how sex­u­al” or sex” is being under­stood and asked about in the con­text of this inter­view. BDSM play and sex can be defined very dif­fer­ent­ly and are cer­tain­ly not always con­nect­ed at all. There are many mean­ings and inter­pre­ta­tions of what sex is. But what I will say is that for me, BDSM plays a major role in all my sex­u­al and erot­ic play. My fetish wear is usu­al­ly incor­po­rat­ed but not always. This depends on the scene or type of play and can change dur­ing a scene. It’s super con­tex­tu­al. BDSM toys/​tools can also be part of my look and my role for a scene, which I use very often as well.

What do you wish more peo­ple knew about this sub­cul­ture, so to speak?

This is such a big ques­tion. There is such min­i­mal acces­si­ble and inclu­sive edu­ca­tion avail­able to help us bet­ter under­stand our bod­ies, minds, sex­u­al­i­ties, and con­sent in gen­er­al. So to zoom into kink and BDSM seems out of order. At the same time, under­stand­ing the root of BDSM’s con­sent pro­to­cols could be a real­ly help­ful way for out­siders look­ing in to under­stand kink cul­ture and simul­ta­ne­ous­ly, the ways in which kink cul­ture can lead as an exam­ple for oth­er sex­u­al and cul­tur­al prac­tices. There are much larg­er oppres­sive sys­tems that need to change first in order to tru­ly decon­struct the stig­mas around kink cul­ture that remain promi­nent today. Like any­thing else, when you are unfa­mil­iar with some­thing, do research, ask ques­tions, and lis­ten more in order to learn. Every­one has a rela­tion­ship to their sex­u­al­i­ty and it is theirs. I will always encour­age eth­i­cal, con­sen­su­al, and (health-con­scious­ly) safe explo­ration. It’s impor­tant and more of us need to make time to explore this apart of our­selves. Enjoy your journey. 


Loading...
00:00 / 00:00