Nightlife and Nipple Clamps
When the weather starts cooling down in Philadelphia, the leather scene tends to heat up with lots of activity. This year will be no exception.
There's quite a number of leather and kink events taking place this month, starting with the first annual Philadelphia Leather Pride Night (PLPN), scheduled for Saturday, November 7th at the new Voyeur Nightclub (the after-hours space formerly known as Pure, 1221 St. James Street, Philly), from 7pm to midnight.
Although "Leather" and "Pride" are often considered near-exclusive terms to gay men, PLPN is far from being a gay male-specific event.
Produced by Mid-Atlantic Leather Woman 2009 Cowboi Jen, PLPN's mission is to "celebrate the Philadelphia area pansexual leather and BDSM communities focusing on the support of charitable organizations." In this case, it will benefit the Leather Archives & Museum (LA&M), The Leather Heart Foundation and By the Grace of George Fund.
The LA&M's mission statement is: "The compilation, preservation and maintenance of leather lifestyle and related lifestyles [including but not limited to the Gay and Lesbian communities], history, archives and memorabilia for historical, educational and research purposes."
Although the museum is based in Chicago, home of the International Mr. Leather contest, it offers a travelling road show, which brings fetish and kink history across the country through hands-on exhibits of text, photographs and artifacts. I'm informed that the road show is uniquely designed for each event, and exhibits history from a local perspective, so it should be a pretty unique opportunity for Greater Philadelphia locals to see, touch and experience some of the artifacts available from the LA&M at Pride Night.
The Leather Heart Foundation was created to provide charitable assistance to individuals of all sexual orientations in the leather, BDSM and fetish communities, offering financial assistance to members of the community during periods of unusual hardship such as uninsured health expenses or loss of employment, or to aid in legal expenses incurred by members of the community whose parental rights are being challenged based on their sexual orientation and/or sexual proclivities.
Monies raised from the raffle will go to the By the Grace of George Fund, an effort spearheaded by auctioneer Jo Arnone, who has reportedly risen over $1 million for charities with her auctioneering skills.
Jill Carter will be the PLPN Mistress of Ceremonies and the evening will also include a tribute to leather community icon Mr. Marcus, lead by Ms. World Leather 2004 Pandora.
If the Pride Night festivities leave you wanting more, the Bike Stop, 206 South Quince Street, Philadelphia, will host the official after party from midnight to 2am, and later on Sunday, Nov. 8, PLPN's host hotel (the Comfort Inn at Philadelphia Airport) will host a leather flea market from 11am-6pm. There's no cost for admission, and parking there is free. For more information about PLPN, check out their website at www.plpn.org
The following weekend is Philadelphia Leather Weekend, November 12-15, with all events taking place at Bike Stop. The fun begins with Fetish Feud on Thursday, Nov. 12; followed by the friendly, furry Liberty Bears social on Friday, Nov. 13, from 9pm to midnight; the Philadelphians MC leather club will host a Kinky Karnival for adventurous folks to experiment with some new kinks (or revisit some old favorites) on Saturday, Nov. 14, from 10pm-2am; and the Keystone Boys of Leather will close the weekend with an afternoon leather social on Sunday, Nov. 15 from 3-6pm.
Before gorging on a big Thanksgiving dinner and celebrating the bloat with hot, hairy men at the 36th annual Santa Saturday (held noon-6pm on November 28 at Club Paradise, 101 Asbury Avenue in Asbury Park, NJ), there is the annual Diabolique Ball here at home.
The Nov. 21 fundraiser is themed Steampunk, and encourages party-goers to dress up in the style of this sub-genre of fantasy and speculative fiction. (For those not in the know, tales in the Steampunk genre are set in an era or world where steam power is still widely used-usually the 19th century, and often Victorian era England-and prominently features elements of science fiction or fantasy, like the time machine of H.G. Wells or the fantastic creations of Jules Verne.)
Think Alan Moore's and Kevin O'Neill's 1999 The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen comic book series and the 2003 film adaption, and you have a pretty good idea of the Steampunk look and vibe.
Diabolique, whose mission is to support charities that provide services to Philadelphia's diverse communities, encourages you to dress up in the Steampunk fashion style you are most drawn to, or that best defines the look you adhere to, whether that's the Aristocrat, the Gadgeteer, the Scientist, the Explorer, the Officer, the Citizen, the Air Pirate, or the Ragamuffin.
VIP tickets to Diabolique are $100 for the first 100 tickets sold (remember that all proceeds go to charity and that these tickets include an open bar plus finger foods in the exclusive VIP lounge). Advance ball tickets are $45 from November 1-15 and $60 after November 15 (including at the door).
The Diabolique Foundation has been approved for non-profit status and donations are now tax-deductible. The Ball has contributed monies to several local HIV/AIDS, women's and gay organizations. Past recipients have included: Action AIDS, MANNA, Washington West Project, AIDS Law Project, Youth Health Empowerment Project, PCHA, Wisdom, Safeguards, BABASHI, Calcutta House, ASIAC, The AIDS Library, and William Way Community Center. This year's beneficiary will be The Leather Heart Foundation. To purchase tickets or learn other information about the Ball, visit www.phillyfetishball.com
* * *
Of course, leather events aren't the only things that crop up in cooler weather ... so it's probably a good time to talk nipple play or tit torture!
Although I have run across some men who really don't want their chests played with at all, I think these folks are rare. I suspect more often than not that their reluctance is based on one of three things: a sense of vulnerability in exposing a part of themselves that they don't feel is attractive (amazing how many of us tough guys are really sensitive and/or insecure), a sense of threat to self identity, or a fear of pain.
I can empathize (and sympathize) with people in the former category. I've taken so many rides on the diet rollercoaster (with the stretch marks on belly and chest to prove it) that taking off a shirt can still be difficult on occasion and eroticizing a part of my body that's caused me shame in the past can be overwhelming. I don't know a good way around that emotional baggage for others but will tell you that it's helped me when others have shown patience and understanding, and demonstrated genuine interest and attraction.
One important lesson that had to be drummed into my head during more difficult times in my life was that just because I didn't love my body didn't mean that others couldn't be genuinely attracted.
For men in particular, nipple play might bring up emotional baggage about what it means to be a man or even a top. (Although we're culturally brought up to eroticize the female breast, the same cannot really be said for men's nipples.) And unlike a hard cock, which receives pleasure as well as gives it, a hardened nipple puts us in a more passive or receiving role. For folks who are into control, that can sometimes make nipple play feel a little threatening, even while being exciting and pleasurable.
For folks in the latter category, those who fear pain, the good news is that nipple play does not have to be about causing or being hurt. (We do have a tendency in our community to throw out words like "torture" pretty easily and loosely; I much prefer to refer to it as play because it's fun and brings pleasure...in whatever way is most appropriate for playmates.) To me, nipple play is just another form of sensation play.
The truth is that everyone has their own preferences and thresholds when it comes to chest/breast and nipple stimulation. While some crave the adrenaline rush and energy flow that comes with intense sessions that include biting, chewing, sucking, tugging, twisting, clamping, slapping, whipping, weighting, punching or piercing, others prefer gentleness, like licking or tickling or other sensations of pressure without pain. Some men and women want only the nipple itself to be the object of attention, while others want the areola attended to, while still others want the entire chest or breast brought into the action and nothing left out.
If you don't actually know what you like or what your thresholds are, the nice thing about nipple play is that you can explore and train yourself... a little self-discovery can take you a long way. Of course, if you are partnered and you and your mate are adventurous, explore together. Even if your partner isn't the most articulate person in the world (even when not gagged), you'll find physiological responses if you pay attention to body language, to the eyes, to the mouth, even to the nipple itself. (One of the reasons why I had my nipples pierced was that I tended to be an "innie," and the piercing gave them more outward prominence-but even I used to get a nipple hard-ons on occasion, especially as a tactile response to cold. Not surprisingly, I found heaven in a Super Fresh freezer aisle shortly after having I had my nipples pierced.)
Incidentally, nipples harden when the smooth muscle contracts under the control of the autonomic nervous system (the same reflex that causes goose bumps), not erectile tissue, and is stimulated by the release of oxytocin, a hormone that also acts as a neurotransmitter in the brain. Recent studies have begun to investigate oxytocin's role in various behaviors, including orgasm, social recognition, pair bonding, anxiety, trust, and love... so investing your time in nipple play may pay off with rewarding, long-lasting dividends for both your relationship and your love life.
Any discussion of nipple play techniques should probably begin with the caution that play should begin with a warm-up period if any real level of intensity is being sought. Start lightly (whatever that might mean for you and your partner) and then gradually intensify. Watch for signs of pleasure, uncertainty or discomfort and modulate your play accordingly. Even a pain pig needs to start out moderately!
Although I'm a huge fan of toys, you certainly don't need any for starting out if you have fingers, finger nails, teeth or a tongue (hopefully you have most of those!). And if you do decide to use toys, you don't necessarily have to make a big investment. Many everyday household items can be turned into pervertibles for erotic play, for instance using a clothespin as a nipple clamp (of course, clothespins can be used to clamp onto other body parts too).
Of course, clamps that you can buy in hardware, automotive and sporting goods stores can be great too, and leather/fetish shops sell a number of clamps specifically devised for kinky play. You just want to be aware of how tight the tension on the clamps are to determine what kind of pressure will be exerted (snug is good, but you certainly don't want to completely cut off blood flow)!
Some other things around the house you might want to experiment with for sensation play on the nipples include toothbrush, nail brush, faucet washer, sandpaper, vise grips, kitchen tongs, surgical clamp, knife, and rubber bands. (I like items with metal and use them in conjunction with my violet wand, to add a little "juice" as the intensity builds... but I've also found that a sustained cardio workout like jogging for a sustained period of time can work over my tits as a sweaty tee rubs against my nipples. In truth, I've been more chafed and rubbed raw more from exercise than I have from personal encounters of the erotic kind.)
While the pervertibles tend to run far more on the economic side (perfect for the Frugal Kinkster in these tough economic times), it's worth noting that higher end kink-designed clamps are often designed for greater safety or maximized comfort (for instance, clamps with screws allow you to adjust the tension on the clamp to determine the ideal tightness of clamp). If you're out at a store and you see a potential clamp and you want to test it (but can't pull off your shirt and give it a trial run in the middle of Home Depot), try attaching the clamp to the flap of skin running between your thumb and index finger. While it's obviously not as erotic, it will give you an approximate sense of skin sensitivity to the clamp tension.
Although some folks enjoy vacuum pumps on their nipples (it's not just for breast feeding anymore, kids), I admit that I prefer simple suctions like the snake bite kits that you can find at an Army Navy or sporting goods stores. Usually they come as two sets of two, a larger yellow set on the outside and smaller green suction on the inside (like Russian dolls). One year at MAL, I picked up a set of black rubber cups used for putting on the ends of bar stools to keep them from sliding-although they take more force to seal than the snake bit kits, I love their look (and prefer the color black). And they are one of the only devices that actually seem to make my nipples firm for awhile... damn my innies. I've also had some success using a plastic "cupping" set used for holistic healing in many cultures.
Of course, while some folks might get off on the suction itself, don't be surprised if devices like the vacuums or snake bit kits aren't particularly stimulating to you. Their real purpose is to sensitize and enlarge your tits temporarily for other sensation play-you can't tease 'em if you can't reach 'em-although if you use suction on them regularly enough, they can be permanently stretched out (which can be the desired effect). And suction does provide pressure without pain, which may be a perfect way for beginners to test the waters.
Hot paraffin wax can also make a good opening act for a session of nipple play (colorless, perfume-free, etc.). It can be fun dripping wax over the tit, which makes a nice little cast of the nipple when you peel it off, or to drip a mound of wax over the tit, let it harden, then hold the flame close to the tit to melt the mound of wax. Since paraffin wax tends to be oily anyway, I don't generally use baby oil before applying to nipples (especially if the sub is not particularly hairy), although I know some folks swear by that. And as with any other kind of toy, I do recommend testing out the wax on yourself before you experiment on others... you don't want to cause harm to others, or a bad reputation for yourself!
Whether you're using toys or your fingers, if you're going to be doing any significant pulling, tugging or weights that require a good grip (and especially if you're starting off with wax), it's a good idea to clean the full nipples first with rubbing alcohol. Not only does this remove any oily substances that might make you of your toys slip off their intended target, but it's another gentle way to build on sensation play-you can use fire play for directly heating up the nipples and allow evaporation of the alcohol to chill them down to really bring all the nerves to the surface. One fun form of fire play is cupping, where instead of using the easy plastic cupping sets that use vacuum pumps, you actually heat air within a glass cup and place firmly on the nipple. As the air inside the cup cools, it creates a nice seal and natural vacuum, making the nipple sensitive and ripe for clamping.
The two main types of commercial nipple clamps are the tweezer and clover clamps. A tweezer clamp consists of two short lengths of metal, usually between two and four inches in length, with ends curved slightly to enable a good grip, and a small rubber sheath over the edges to protect the nipple from damage. It has a small ring that wraps around the two pieces of metal to adjust the tension, where the closer the ring is along the tip of the nipple, the tighter the clamp and more intense the sensation.
The clover (also known as Japanese "butterfly") clamp increases tension when pulled on. The clamp itself is flat and uses spring tension, which holds the clamp in place on the nipple. The clover clamp is more likely to provide a high pain level, so is not recommended for beginners. Experienced players, however, are likely to not only enjoy the pain of the clover clamp but will further increase tension on the nipples by adding small weights (like fishing line sinkers found in sporting goods stores).
Most clamps will function perfectly well as their own separate units, but are often connected by a chain. Weights may be added to the chain (rather than directly to the clamps) for additional pressure and the shifting weight of the chain when it moves increases sensation to the clamped subject. Most fetish shops also carry clamps that have a genital chain to either attach to a cock ring for the men or a clitoral clamp for the women.
If you're clamping, you'll want to squeeze the tit and make it a nice full surface to seat the clamp onto before pulling on it or weighing it down. You want to attach the clamp toward the back of the tit (not towards tip of nipple), keeping in mind that it will likely shift during play. You don't want to either tear the nipple or pull the clamp off before it's done its job! (One of my sets of clamps has a cool little vibrator built into it, which gives it a little weight as well as vibration sensations, but the vibrations do cause the clamps to shift by themselves).
A couple final notes of caution on the topic of nipple play. It's always a good idea to wash your clamps before and after each use with soap and water....the last thing you want is to get (or pass along) an infection from dirty clamps! And since nipple clamps restrict blood flow to the nipple, it's important to watch for skin de-coloration or temperature change and to check-in with your partner about any sensations of numbness-any of these symptoms are signals to stop. Even in the absence of these signs, it's most wise not to leave clamps on tightly for more than 10 to 15 minutes at a time.
And remember that there's no need to wait to remove the clamps until you don't think you can take anymore. Probably just about anyone who has been clamped will tell you that it often hurts the most when the clamp is removed and all the blood flow that had been restricted to your nipples suddenly surges back into that now very sensitive spot to create a moment of exquisite ache.
I welcome responses to this and my other writings at firstname.lastname@example.org