Torture Garden has become Europe's largest and most famous fetish club, known for elaborate costumes, extreme body art, and awe-inspiring performance art. With regular nights run in London, Edinburgh, NYC, LA, Berlin and Paris, it offers an opportunity to explore your kinky and non-monogamous interests in a safe, supportive, and accepting environment.
But, no one will blame you for feeling intimidated or unsure as you hear the name "Torture Garden", or peruse the gallery of partiers garbed in latex, leather and extreme body mod. So let me take you by the hand and lead you through the process of heading into your first club night, and maybe your first non-monogamous party.
First of all, the name. Torture Garden takes it's name from the 1899 French novel: Le Jardin des supplices by Octave Mirbeau. The novel was an anthology of essays and articles denouncing the hypocrisy of European 'civilisation', of colonialization, of the corrupt morality of bourgeois capitalist society and the state. And to an extent, this is what you can expect at a TG night - the rejection of status quo, a flirtation with the boundaries of proper decorum. And yes - a far amount of corporal punishment. But it does not mean that every person going to be in attendance is into sadomasochism, and there is never any pressure to partake.
The next thing to know is that Torture Garden is large. Each event averages in the hundreds of attendees, with staggered entry and three or four bars depending on venue. You'll expect at least two dance floors, a main stage and roaming performers, a 'dungeon room' - featuring cages, tables, and crosses for all manner of flagellation and bondage activities - and some other combination of boudoir or a play rooms. This is not an intimate party of select few - anyone and everyone is welcome to attend. So, as a newbie, this should lend you some assurance that no one will be looking at you - you can't pull focus at this kind of event. But it does of course lead us to our next question - with so many people coming and no vetting procedure, is TG safe?
Safety and privacy are clearly a key concern for those behind Torture Garden, not least because it is essential to the atmosphere of the place that people should feel free to do whatever they feel like doing. Photography is completely restricted and getting out your phone near the dungeon or play rooms will not be looked at lightly. The event is fully staffed by Dungeon Minders, who wear iconic garb and will step in to ensure the play is safe. Banners with the rules - including rules around consent, scene etiquette (like not getting involved without prior negotiation etc) - hang everywhere and violations will result in ejection immediately. On the door you'll have to show a vaccine passport and a negative COVID-19 test, meaning that the rates of transmission in the parties are as low as they can be.
It might seem crazy to say, but as a high femme attendee, I feel safer at Torture Garden than a normal club night (even when I'm naked and surrounded by individuals who want to flog me). I've never been groped without permission, never felt I couldn't ask someone to stop or leave me alone. This is a sub-culture in which the base-level understanding of consent exceptionally high, and a club night which has mainlined consent enforcement.
What to wear? This is your next question right? You have decided to go, but now you are looking between the gallery of past events and your own meagre wardrobe with a sinking feeling. What you wear is at least as important as anything else that will happen at the party. Many people spend more on their costumes than the ticket (which is around 40£ btw) and the extreme examples of rave, cyber goth and fetish wear has distinguish TG from any other night over the decades. For this reasn TG has and will turn away individuals who aren't in appropriate attire without reimbursement, and I've seen a few people frog-marched out when they tried to dress in civie attire after entry. The first thing to keep in mind is that EVERYONE inside will be dressed in very little or very extreme outfits. It might seem strange to think you'll feel overdressed in lingerie, but as you watch people around you in only nipple clamps and a crown making out, you'll look down at your Victoria Secret set and wish you had something a little less demure...
As a newbie you don't want to splash out on 300GBP worth of custom latex, or walk through London nearly nude. But don't worry - let me break it down. Step one: look for a simple leather harness (eg. from Etsy) and either make, borrow or buy a headpiece. On the night you are going to pair this with some underwear you like but which you don't mind taking off during the evening if you become more bold. Step two: you are going to hit the make-up hard. Experiment with prosthetics, dramatic eye-liner, fake scars. You are not aiming for pretty here! When you arrive you are going to change out of your civie clothes in the provided changing rooms and check a bag into the coat check. If you are wearing heels, make sure you are comfy and invest in a fanny pack or thigh halter.
So you have your ticket, you feel prepared, you have an outfit... let's talk about the sex. Because this is a sex club, it is a place where sex happens. If you don't want to see sex or be propositioned for sex then you would do well to return your ticket right now. Bringing your own protection, lube and toys is encouraged as these won't be available by the event organisers. But just because sex is happening around you, does not mean you have to take part or even go with a partner. Single and solo attendees are welcome and you'll find it is easy to simply walk up to someone, compliment their outfit, and have a chat. If you want to experiment, but are unpartnered, find one of those Dungeon Minders in their robes and have a conversation with them. They are professionals, and they are there to give you the experience you want. They will talk through what your boundaries are - do you want to be touched here, there, neither? Do you want to orgasm? Do you have a safe word, or do you want to use a traffic light system? How often do you want to check in? Do you want this sort of aftercare or this kind?
READ MORE: HF / Features - Interview with Torture Garden pioneer Allen TG (harderfaster.net) | Torture Garden: a conversation with David Wood | London-In-Sight Blog (wordpress.com)
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