Halloween is when Toronto’s fetish community revs up, but can a budding fetishist break in without breaking the bank?
For most people, getting into costume once a year is plenty. But for Toronto’s fetish scenesters, Halloween is only the apogee of a year-long dedication to sexual method acting.
October is the peak party season for the fetish community, with Yonge Street landmark Northbound Leather holding its annual fetish fashion show, which usually attracts over 3,000 people. (This year’s was held on Oct. 13.)
“Halloween is kind of like Goth Christmas. There are so many different costume events,” says Toronto kinkster Heather Elizabeth. “So much of what you do [as a fetish enthusiast] involves what you wear, and at Halloween everyone goes over the top.”
Elizabeth—who will be appearing in the dungeon at the Everything to Do With Sex Show, from Nov. 2 to 4 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre—helps run a social network for young people interested in BDSM called Toronto: The Next Generation. Their website (torontotng.wordpress.com) is where you can go for tutorials on rope tying, links to local “rope meet ups,” a fetish-themed blog, and many other services. Elizabeth says that dressing in fetish gear is a way for people to feel sexy and represent their sexuality and creativity.
And indeed, dressing up has long had a place in the pantheon of risqué sexual practices. Sexologists will tell you that dressing in character is a gateway to exploring new sides of your sexuality—putting on different clothes helps you inhabit a different persona, letting you try new sexual manoeuvres or a bit of role play, while giving yourself the psychological comfort blanket of it all being a big game of pretend.
But in order to fend off the merely curious onlookers, the city’s fetish parties enforce dress codes that are as detailed as any contractual obligation. A basic outfit—a black t-shirt and skirt or dress pants—will get you through the door in most places, but it’s unlikely to make you many friends. “Why go in all black if you can wear something that makes you feel extra sexy?” says Elizabeth.
And because of the need to procure elaborate clothing and other accoutrements, there’s often a considerable financial outlay before you can even get to the door. A basic set of boots and a leather skirt or a dress can set you back up to $500.
Like a regular, non-kinky Halloween party, the fetish scene is replete with people dressed like nurses and construction workers, but the more outré options include leather outfits worth hundreds of dollars, and even laser-etched latex clothing. Boys and girls who are into Japanese rope bondage will frequently adopt traditional Asian clothing styles, while the average fetish party probably contains more guys dressed as priests than the Vatican.
It isn’t surprising, then, that Elizabeth and her colleagues at Toronto: TNG spend a lot of time figuring out how to do fetish on a budget. Elizabeth advises the thrifty kinkster to root around vintage shops in places like Kensington Market. “If you’re a girl, tutus are a big thing. Everybody loves a tutu with a bustier. A tutu, high-heeled shoes, and a bustier is a relatively cheap outfit,” she says.
Of course, one of the inherent pitfalls of dressing up is that it encourages people to judge your outfit. The fear of looking like an idiot will prevent many people from trying dress-up, even with their partners, so it takes some serious courage to step out on the fetish scene—while it encourages experimentation, there are still plenty of people who will whisper bitchy comments if you try to squeeze into a latex catsuit a size too small.
“If you wear something that you feel good in, it shows,” says Elizabeth. “A skinny person who doesn’t feel comfortable with their body never looks as good as a person of any size who is confident and feels sexually powerful in what they’re wearing. Fat people can do it just as good as skinny people.”
Everything to Do With Sex Show, Nov. 2–4, Metro Toronto Convention Centre, everythingtodowithsex.com.