Our Reporter Goes Undercover in the South Florida Fetish Scene

Leather Lee explained that I was the one in control, even though ­— being a dom — he was about to take charge. He has been whipping people for 25 years. He even makes his own whips. We were in a small back room of Club X-it, back in February 2011, before the club closed for good. A row of whips hung on the wall.

Chad — friendly Chad in the black fishnet top — brought me to Lee as soon as the master was free. Lee had me face the corner and bend over the spanking bench, which was covered with a burgundy cloth. The plum-colored wall in front of me had a dark stain on it. The lower half of the wall was paneled: grungy and brown, with white specks like quartz. Two of my friends sat on the sleek, black, leather couch nearby. Another stood and got the camera ready. We had done nothing close to this before.

The party that night had a Stanley Kubrick theme. "A Clockwork Orgy" is hosted yearly by the adult-party team called Electrolust that's headed by Josepher Ringleader. Through the dark, smoke-filled rooms, people were being walked on leashes. The bar had three rooms, and the crowd was small. Under neon-green swiveling circles and stars, young raver girls giggled. Burly men in bomb gear and giant, buckled boots stomped on the main dance floor. A mirror lined the wall.

Leather Lee has a flying dragon tattooed on the forearm of the hand he uses to whip people. He started with a few upper strokes, hitting my shoulder blades, whipping to the speed of the hard-hitting, bass-thumping techno. The whip went down my back. Then the whip bounced off of my ass. When the song had a serious oontz, the whip nailed the terrain between my legs. The whipping left no welts and didn't break the skin, but it would leave my skin red for a couple of hours. Lee stopped and said: "It was a pleasure to beat you."

He took turns on my friends next. Then he grabbed a heavier whip. He lifted the back of my shirt, unsnapped my bra, and threw my lime-green tutu up. After the whipping, I was still lying down on the bench. He reached over me and, while breathing heavily, asked me how I enjoyed it.

That was my first foray into the world of S&M. Over the next year, I went headlong into the South Florida fetish community, which locals say is one of the world's most active. It's not for hedonists. It's not scenesters. Here, we have true rubberists. We're glam fetishists, and we're playful. If you have a fetish, you'll find it here.

These parties mock how sexually repressed our society is. They liberate. But they're not a done deal like other kinky joints. At a swingers club, you know what it all leads up to. At a strip club, you know who will be on the poles; you can buy yourself a lap dance. The beauty of the fetish party is that anything can happen. Maybe nothing does. But maybe you discover you have a fetish or two. Wouldn't that be a kick in the 'nads?

There seemed to be a method to the madness, a pattern to follow when you spank someone. Onstage, a woman smacked another woman's butt with her hands. The other woman hung onto a railing for support. The spanker used fast taps, pushing the bottom of the other woman's ass cheeks up. After that came hard, dead-on, in-the-middle-of-the-cheeks slaps. Perfume filled the air.

More than half a thousand fetishists were here in September for the party called the "Fetish Apocalypse," inside the Fort Lauderdale Ramada Inn. The party took over Coco Locos, the hotel bar. Everyone was celebrating: The previous night, the Broward Sheriff's Office had shut down the nightclub where the Fetish Apocalypse was supposed to be held. The prima donna of fetish retailers, Fetish Factory, had found a new venue by midafternoon.

A circular steel cage was on the corner of the dance floor right when you walked in. Behind the dance floor were a couple of benches and a scaffold, the one used for the paddling. People hid along the wall, creating a hanky-panky station.

It was thick energy — a safe, chaotic, carnal frenzy. People dressed pretty funkily: silver-coned brassieres and chain kilts. Some wore army gear, guns, gas masks, a hockey mask, a belt full of machine-gun bullets. One had a vibrating mitten. Guys dressed as women. But there were also guys in leather panties not dressed as women. All ages wore latex outfits, including full-head latex masks that hid everything. Parting the dance floor was an exotic alien/sea creature, the hot male version of the opera singer in one of Bruce Willis' many outer-space movies, The Fifth Element. On faces, the green lights looked like laser beams shooting out of machine guns. On the ceiling, lights formed flowery stars.

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Mickie Centrone