Kinky Larp

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My first larp experience was at Knutpunkt 2014, in a run of Kink & Coffee, “introduction night at your local local BDSM club”.  It was a particularly challenging choice, as both larping and BDSM were some way outside my comfort zone.  I’d persuaded Frederick to sign up as well, but as we waited for things to begin he was having serious doubts.

“This is exactly why we have to stay,” I told Frederick. “Right now, we’re shit-scared – and that means that at the end of this we’re going to feel amazing.”  I half-believed myself.  I remembered feeling just as scared at the beginning of a tantra course on intimacy that I’d attended two years earlier.  Persuading Frederick to stay made it easier for me to quell my own worries.

In a sense Kink & Coffee is a kind of meta-larp, because BDSM is itself a role-playing game.  Hanne, the larpwright, explained to us about the principal roles of ‘Dom’, ‘Sub’ and ‘Switch’.  In the workshop we split into small groups to explore what level of realism we were happy with, from completely simulated to near-painful.  We did some fully-clothed group sex dioramas, just to get us in the mood, but we were advised that no sexual acts (either real or simulated) would take place in the game itself.

After about 90 minutes of workshopping, the game began.  Frederick was a well-known politician, keen to avoid notice.  I was Kristian, a bisexual film critic.  For reasons of confidentiality that apply to all larps, I can’t say too much about what transpired, but I can say a few things about my experience.  Within less than five minutes, I was completely immersed in the larp world.  I had a conversation with an extremist Muslim that blew my mind; I gossiped about him, and about Frederick’s politician character, to others in the club; and I got involved in a semi-real exploration of administering pain to another character.  My first thought when the larp ended was, “I could have carried on for another hour”.

The BDSM was scary and new to me; but the really exciting part was discovering what it’s like to enter the mind-space of larp.  My limited experience of acting and improvisation had led me to expect that I would feel vaguely embarrassed throughout, but I wasn’t.  Very quickly I forgot about my real life and entered Kristian’s.  Everyone in the larp was playing a character, and co-operating in the same illusion.  Nobody was watching us.  A powerful atmosphere developed.  I ‘knew’ that Kristian wasn’t real.  I ‘knew’ that the larp was playing out in a couple of classrooms, rather than in a BDSM dungeon.  But for the duration of the larp, in some sense larp reality took over.

At the end of Knutpunkt, I sought out another player, a woman that I had been, well, dominating.  I explained that I wanted to talk to her about it, because a man hitting a woman had difficult associations for me.  She reassured me that she had felt very safe and comfortable.  And she thanked me for – slowly and carefully – taking her to the limit.  Eventually she had used the safe word ‘brake’, which means ‘ease off’.  And as she turned to go she said something that still makes me smile. “You know, in all the years I’ve been larping, I’ve never used a safe word before.”

 

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