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When you go to Blagden Alley in Shaw, it’s typically for hearth-kissed fare at the Michelin-starred Dabney or precious pours of vintage spirits at Columbia Room. Usually you don’t have to sign a waiver asking you to assume any and all risks associated with hot wax, spanking, and rope bondage. But when Boudoir Boheme participants put pen to paper last Saturday on said release form, they were certifying that they were physically fit enough for these frisky activities.
The invite to the “Rococo Soiree” hosted inside an empty restaurant space promised colorful interactives like “sensual rituals,” “roaming grape feeders and spankers,” and “kidnappings and intimate one-on-one interactions.” Not having seen Eyes Wide Shut, I didn’t know what to expect, so I bought a ticket to find out what goes down when D.C.’s buttoned up professionals get kinky.
Boudoir Boheme schedules events sporadically throughout the year and they’re often pinned to certain holidays. This one, taking place the weekend after Valentine’s Day, promised to whisk attendees away to Versailles with a Marie Antoinette masquerade ball theme. That meant adhering to a strict dress code of either Marie Antoinette-era attire or lingerie, plus a mask.
Since I don’t own a pannier skirt or powdered wig, I contemplate the stylistic line between “I’m on the job” and “adult film,” landing on a bodysuit worn under a spacious kimono. I buy what I believe is a child’s cardboard mask at Michael’s the day before and paint it gold to tart it up.
Though aggressively enforced, the dress code is far from the most important rule at the party. The organizers are quite clear that there is to be no touching of any kind without expressed verbal permission, and remind attendees that consent can be reneged at any point.
While guests are encouraged to express themselves and explore new things, the liability waiver emphasizes that this is definitely not kid stuff. The whole point of these BDSM activities is to feel pain. Basically, if you show up and beg to have hot wax poured on your body, don’t come crying when that shit burns.
The start time is 9 p.m., but I’ve shown up around 9:30, operating under the assumption that you don’t want to be the first one to arrive at a sex party. My fears are unfounded. The line snakes through the alley past Tiger Fork and around a corner.
I don’t cross the threshold into the party for 45 minutes. These were not ideal conditions for the queuers who are wearing negligees or something smaller under their winter coats—but the lag time does allow the opportunity to scope out everyone’s fantastic wigs and makeup, and for random passersby to ogle the crowd and wonder aloud what the hell is happening.
What the hell is happening is a carnal carnival, with something different in each corner. A surprising amount of it is PG-13 entertainment. There’s an enthusiastic rapper and several musical performances, including a flautist suspended in a knot of ropes resembling the Japanese art of rope bondage known as shibari. She contorts herself while doing aerial tricks, all while keeping time to thumping bass in the background. I appreciate it this more as a feat of strength than anything particularly titillating. Elsewhere, a burlesque artist performs an impressive striptease while balancing a sword on her head. She deftly spins out of her traditional geisha costume.
There’s also plenty of very hands-on, participatory activities, like a spanking station complete with wall shackles and a variety of paddles and floggers wielded by an itsy bitsy dominatrix. A massage station offers tickling feathers and flower petals to be placed on the body. And hot wax play is taking place on tables throughout, where sometimes a crowd gathers round, candles held aloft, dripping wax onto the eager player below.
The vibes are good and the current of camaraderie runs strong. Throughout the evening, friends greet each other with hugs and squeals of delight. The two cash bars frequently have lines that are several people deep, but nobody seems to be in any huge hurry and everyone tips their bartender.
As one of the lone solo attendees, strangers pick up on my deer-in-headlights look and politely invite me into the festivities. Standing around a hot wax demonstration, a woman very sweetly tries to pass me the candle that she’s dripping onto a woman wearing what is mostly string, and I demur. Back by the shibari watching a woman get whirled around in the rope harness by her partner, a fellow party-goer asks me if anyone can take it for a spin, and I tell her that there’s been a few first-timers trying it out. She exclaims, “You should get in there!” in a very you-go-girl, sisterly kind of way.
At one point, a man asks the woman standing in front of me in the bathroom line to watch his female partner while he grabs their coats from the coat check, and before long the two women are giggling like they’ve been friends since grade school. One of them is holding a still-buzzing vibrator like it’s nothing.
After surveying outfits that get skimpier as the hours pass, I get the feeling that there’s a no-dong rule in effect. Nearly all the men remain firmly in their tuxedos, in stark contrast to all the nipple pasties, thongs, and full-on nudity from the women. I’m on the scene for about an hour and a half before I see a male butt getting flogged over at the spanking station, at which point I’ve lost track of how many sets of labia I’ve seen. At first, I’m ready to get self-righteous—I didn’t expect these kinksters to be so retrograde! But on the flip side, the festivities are almost exclusively focused on female pleasure.
The description of private “kidnapping rooms” in the event’s promotional materials led me to believe that the truly X-rated stuff would be happening behind closed doors, much like in a bath house, but I don’t encounter any rooms behind lock and key. I didn’t plan to observe such a high volume of digital penetration, but as the night goes on and inhibitions and layers of clothing slough off, the massage tables and hot wax stations become platforms for lots and lots of handsy activity, performed only on females as far as I can tell.
At one point, I watch a blindfolded woman getting the works: nipples tweaked, stomach bitten, earlobes licked. A man politely taps me on the shoulder and asks if I would like to touch her, and when I decline, he assures me it’s all good because she’s his girlfriend.
Event organizer Reza Mostofi says that most of the tickets are purchased by women, and that tracks based on the gaggles of gal pals that were in attendance. Mostofi chalks this up to the event being “a place where they can be sexual and feel safe and not get hassled.”
By going in with no preconceived notions, I allowed myself to be surprised and pleasantly amused. “People have the best time when they come in with no expectations,” Mostofi says. “It’s not a kink meet-up, it’s not a swingers event, it’s not a cocktail hour, it’s not an immersive theater experience. It’s all of those things.”
To learn about future events, check out the host’s social media pages.