Leather University

You're not likely to snooze in these classes

"Welcome to Pervertibles," says teacher and sadomasochist Drake Ferguson, who on this scorching October morning in Fort Lauderdale wears tiny, fatigue-style shorts and a black tank top that display his prodigious belly. "After this class, you'll never look at Home Depot or the Dollar Store the same way again."

He dumps clothespins, wooden skewers, wallpaper brushes, tape, massage gloves, Chore Boy bristle pads, a blow torch, and a 100,000-volt stun gun onto the carpet. Then he picks up a skewer. "You can poke someone with this, or you can use it with rubber bands to squeeze the fuck out of someone's balls," he explains. "And the best part is, if you draw blood, you can throw it away, because it only costs a penny." Giggles and cheers erupt from the dozen or so people gathered before him. The group is clustered in the ballroom of the Airport Inn, a place that seems more suited to business meetings and bar mitzvahs.

Next, Ferguson demonstrates how to turn a wooden paint stirrer, along with some tape, into a whipping paddle. "You can also rub the abrasive side over sensitive areas of the body," he explains. He follows this by picking up a wallpaper brush ("Rub it over someone's asshole and genitals lightly"), a metal pet brush ("Make someone masturbate with this"), drumsticks ("Play one area all night, and by the end, your sub [submissive one] will be so bruised, they'll love it!"), and a gas mask ("Black out the eyes and you have sensory deprivation. You can also use it for breath control -- just put a finger over the nose hole").

Floggin' fun at Leather U
Lawrence Fox
Floggin' fun at Leather U

Then Ferguson exhibits more-dangerous tools. He flips on a crème brulée torch, sprays alcohol from a tiny spray bottle into the flame, and an impressive burst of fire appears. "This feels great just above the skin," he says. "It brings new meaning to the phrase 'playing with fire.'"

He pulls out an electronic dog training collar, which he suggests using as a remote-control cock ring capable of zinging its wearer up to a mile away.

Finally, Ferguson reaches the pièce de résistance: an electric-powered, violet wand device invented in the 1930s to cure everything from hiccups to the common cold. "I got this from a CIA friend of mine," he explains with a wicked laugh. "I know lots of government employees into the scene."

Ferguson's so-called "class" this morning is part of Dungeon 701, one of the country's premier sadomasochism events, designed to teach fans of all things kinky how to play safely, sanely, and consensually. More than 100 hard-core leather folks from as far away as Canada, England, and Germany paid $250, not including hotel, for the opportunity to safely learn the newest, most titillating ways to get off. The annual weekend party of pleasure and pain was initiated seven years ago by the folks at Fort Lauderdale's Leather University, a nonprofit organization committed to educating the area's leather community. "Fort Leatherdale," as it has been dubbed by the kinky crowd, has seven leather organizations, making it one of the country's largest hubs.

Class titles range from Wax and Bondage 101 to Anal Fisting, Punching/Bruising, Mummification, and Blood Sports (which could include sewing, or "lacing," beads into the skin). Then there's Female Genitorture, Breath Control, and Branding. In some of the seminars, such as CBT (cock and ball torture), students even become intimate and, at times, nude.

After Ferguson's class, feeling like an Olsen twin in a land of Marilyn Mansons, I head out to the pool, where I meet CJ, a nursing instructor from Fort Lauderdale; her bisexual boyfriend, Charles; and Juliane, a lesbian from Chicago who explains that she enjoys bondage and vaginal fisting. "You get to explore fantasies," Juliane says. "You can strap on a dildo, and it's like, now I have a dick."

Upon hearing this, CJ grins devilishly and wraps an arm around Charles. "Ah, the look on his face when I strap one on -- his eyes just glaze over," she says. CJ is a large black woman who is into bondage, CBT, flogging, and caning. She says she steers clear of blood sports, scat play (defecation), and golden showers (urination).

As she tells me this, Charles, who is white, remains silent, a dreamy look on his face.

"In this lifestyle, you can be black, white, gay, or straight," she says. "You can walk around pinned up in latex and we won't say a word -- except maybe that you missed a spot."

Next I strike up a conversation with Karen Matroni, an instructor and zaftig redhead. Flanked by several effeminate boys in tiny shorts, she says she is a technical fetishist. In other words, she enjoys SM that is mentally exacting and precise, such as temporary piercing and cutting with straight razors. She also plays with fire, wax, electricity, and single-tail whips. Later I look up her website and see that she ain't lying. Her www.lovelifeleather.com shows astoundingly graphic photos of her clipping clothespins and inserting needles into penises, carving designs into a friend's back with a scalpel as blood pours out, and wrapping a woman head to toe in leather.

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