Bad Boys of St. Louis is an announcement list for local events for men who are interested in playing with other men. The list is organized by DJ, a South City resident, PHD student, and teacher. “I teach college to pay the bills,” he says. I first met DJ at a SEX+STL coffee talk just a few weeks ago. It was immediately apparent that DJ was intelligent, focused, and dedicated to fostering a community for gay men (not to mention the myriad of men who enjoy playing with men but don’t identify as gay. “People get a little shocked when they find out I’m kinky, because I come off as conservative: I don’t have any tattoos or piercings.“
DJ was nice enough to answer some questions about Bad Boys of St. Louis for the SEX+STL blog. He talked at length about finding a community, organizing play parties, welcoming anyone who identifies as male, and gives us an overview of what happens at the various events he’s involved in.
What led you to start Bad Boys of STL?
I really started to explore my kinky side, that I’ve always kind of known I’ve had, about two years ago. I had just gotten out of a six-year relationship. It was a bad relationship for me; he became abusive, verbally, even during sex. He’d yell at me during sex. Sex wasn’t something I enjoyed.
It was a combination of knowing I had these desires and knowing that I never wanted to be in one of those relationships again. I was monogamous for six years. [Once I became single I started] meeting people from Craigslist, Recon, some people from Manhunt [to explore things]. I was just out with people about what I do, you know, “I tie people up and fuck them.” [But] I found that I was missing a community, [even though] I was having a lot of fun playing [with guys I met].
I got experience but I didn’t know much else about, you know, is there a community? How do people do things? Trial and error’s all find and dandy, but I was kind of learning more from a few experienced subs who were saying “Try this, do that.”
So I went to this GRUE (Graydancer’s Ropetastic Unconference Extravaganza) back in September, when Graydancer was in town, and for me it was a great awakening to be around a lot of people who are interested in a lot of different kinds of kink. I went as a rope person. I had taken Joe Wright’s Rope University two Augusts ago. When I did rope, that kind of opened things up for me. I was like “Ooh, I like this.” I thought [Gray Dancer’s GRUE] was a rope conference, and it turned out to be a lot more. A lot of it was discussion and meeting people from all over, people from the area. I ended up meeting people who go to FLOG a lot, which I’d heard of through a friend of mine, but it seemed odd, for some reason. I wasn’t ready to delve into the pansexual BDSM community. Because I knew a few people [at FLOG], it was like “Okay, I’m going to do this.” The majority of the people at the GRUE were straight. I found that I could learn a lot and I just started meeting more people through that. [Then] I joined Fetlife and started meeting other people.
In St. Louis we have the gay community, and we have the pansexual BDSM community, but I didn’t see any kind of gay BDSM community. That, for me, was what was really lacking.
When Bo opened Charenton he came to Bad Dog [a local gay bar], to one of our third Thursdays of the month, which is Bondage Night. There are three of us who are usually there with our ropes to tie people up. That’s kind of been my monthly thing, where I’d get to see people but a lot of times it’s the same people. Bo showed up and said “I was told to talk to you, I want to start a “men only” night open play party at Charenton. I want you to come to the opening, and wanted to see about what you thought.”[Bo] was basically just going to open it up and invite people, and I said “That’s not going to work.” As I was meeting with guys, there was a lot of interest in getting involved, in exploring, but people didn’t have experience. I was afraid it would be like a high school dance where everyone was standing off to the side and just watching. Even if one couple started dancing, the others weren’t going to. That, or it was just going to turn into a de facto orgy. I didn’t know what was going to happen, but I had a feeling it wasn’t going to be good that way. I suggested that demos be done to start things off. I felt like it needed a little bit more formalization. If it was just announced on Fetlife, [people wouldn’t find out because] I just didn’t find as many gay people on Fetlife. I didn’t think we’d get that many numbers.
The best way that I could think of was to start a Yahoo group and to invite people to join the Yahoo group. To do that, I used Manhunt, where I’m a premium member, so I can send as many messages as I want. I ran a search on every profile in St. Louis that had bondage or S&M in [their profile]. The last 400 people who had logged into Manhunt over the past month got this invitation to join.
In a month we had like 56 members, and now we’re up to 116. I decided this is how I’m going to announce the all-male party at Charenton, but then I also wanted to let people know about other events that are going on. I wanted to let people know that there’s this bondage night that’s been going on every third Thursday [at Bad Dog]. I put information up about FLOG, and then, as I found out about other things that were going on, the plan was to put those up. A few weeks ago, I was contacted by someone from Clan of the Barbarian, that they were putting together an all-male play party. They asked if they could list it on the group, and I said “of course!”
Now, Bo did put me in charge of organizing the HE party, and we did just change the terminology based on the Center for Sex Positive Thinking in Seattle, and that was their recommendation that we change that. So, that, yeah, I can say that I organize that. Fetish Night at Bad Dog, I don’t organize that. I’ve been there and I just want to get that info out to people. Once Shameless Grounds opens, I’m planning to add a monthly Munch, so that there’s another opportunity.
We’ve had two open play parties at Charenton, which, for me, that’s like the main event for Bad Boys of Saint Louis. It’s also an environment where people are able to get naked, to see demos, to ask questions, to try things out. I was very pleasantly surprised. I think you heard me at the SEX+STL coffee talk, talking about how I was kind of nervous: would there be undesirables, would there be people who would creep people out? Do you screen people? [But] I didn’t want that responsibility. I don’t want to be the one responsible for saying “You can come, you can’t come.” Because, who am I to say who’s worthy and who’s not? When it came to sending out invites to the Yahoo group on Manhunt, everyone got one. Those first four hundred profiles got one[.] I didn’t care how old you were, what you looked like, anything.
I was just really pleasantly surprised that people came, everyone seemed to be comfortable. There were definitely people who were nervous, just because it was their first time, but that first play party, for me, it was just a great experience. To see people there, eager and excited and wanting to try things out.
We just had our second party last week, and more people got involved. More than half the people that came [to the first play party] I had never seen before. Now I’ll see them out at a party or at the bar, and we talk to each other. It’s a little bit different now, because we’ve been to this event together. For me, it’s given me a sense of community and I’m hoping that other people start to feel that. There are a number of events that people can go to now every month, where they can start to explore, where they can meet other people, they can ask questions. As one guy said to me, “This is so much nicer than going on Craigslist and just showing up at some guy’s house and not knowing what’s going to happen.” It was a lot safer to come to this open play party, because there are other people around and it gives you a chance to get to know someone.[Bad Boys of St. Louis] is just at the very early stages. I started the Yahoo group in November, our first event was in December and I was just amazed that the Yahoo group grew to 116 people so quickly. I think so much of that came from using Manhunt, and word of mouth has helped. So I’m expecting this to grow. My hope is that we get to having thirty or forty guys a month at the play party.
The other thing is, my hope with this is, as more events happen, to start to identify who different leaders are in the gay BDSM and kink community. When you start a Yahoo group, there are a number of people who think that I run everything, and that’s just not the case. I’m announcing things. Yes, I organize the play party at Charenton, but the other things I don’t. I’m just trying to get the information out to people. So, trying to find out who else are the leaders so that, as I meet people who say “I’m interested in this,” I kind of know where to refer people. I want to know more about different events, so if people say “I’m looking for something more like this,” I know it exists, I can tell them where to go or refer them, or put information on the Yahoo group. I‘ve tried to do a pretty detailed FAQ, so that people who are new can go through and read about what to expect.
The other thing I’d like to see, a little bit longer term, is creating some bridges between the gay BDSM community and the pansexual BDSM community. As I’ve started to meet people in the pansexual BDSM community, I’m finding that people want to get to know gay people. They’re very inclusive. I think sometimes as gay people, we carry this internalized homophobia, that we assume that people won’t accept us. We assume we’ll be on the fringe, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised that I haven’t felt like I’m on the fringe. People really do listen, they want to know, and we can learn form each other. My hope is that I’ll be able to encourage [guys from the Bad Boys of St. Louis] to go to other events that are pansexual. So: have a safe space for men who are interested in playing with other men, one that’s gay, bi, hetero-flexible and transgender. But then find time and actually go out and meet other people.
Then also see what can be done with the gay community. There’s the gay leather scene. I’m going to be running for Mr. Missouri Leather, and last year people asked me why I didn’t run. Part of it was, I didn’t feel ready, but also I didn’t feel like I was involved with the community. I went out to the bars, but I didn’t feel like I was involved. People said “Well, just join organizations to have memberships,” and I said “I’m not going to do that.” I don’t want to just join something so that it looks good. I’m only going to join things if it means something to me and if I would do it with or without the competition.
After I did that GRUE and just started getting involved in different organizations like FLOG and going to a few events for SEX+STL, going to events at Charenton, these are the things that matter to me. I’ve realized, “Okay, I’m involved now.” Something matters to me and I want to see if I can reach out to the gay community and the gay leather scene and let them know about other events that are going on.
That’s one of the things I’m planning on doing as my platform in running as Mr. Missouri Leather is letting people know “If you’re interested in exploring bondage, BDSM or kink, that there is a group that you can join, a Yahoo group, with multiple events every month that you can go to. So you meet other people. You can learn, you can see demos, you can ask questions and just kind of go from there.”
What can people expect at the Fetish/Bongage Night at Bad Dog?
Well, Bad Dog does fetish night every Thursday night. The first Thursday of the Month is underwear night, and then they’ll do different fetishes on the other Thursdays. Every third Thursday is Bondage Night.
There tend to be three of us that are regular rope tops, rope riggers. Joe Wright, and someone else I took Wright’s class with, we try to make sure we go. Joe Wright teaches Rope University, he’s so great with rope. He’s the one I studied under. Typically, you’ll see anywhere from one to half-a-dozen or more people getting tied up. It’s in a bar, so there’s no nudity. Someone might get down to their underwear like last Thursday. A few people that I met from the play party came, and one of them had not been tied up. I was like “Do you want to get tied up,” and he was like “sure,” and I did.
It was kind of funny last night. There was a guy who was watching from back in the distance. I could tell he was really interested. I said “You can come up here and watch.” He acted like he didn’t hear me, so I made eye contact and said “You can come up here and you can watch. You can get closer, it’s okay.” And he finally did move closer. I introduced myself, and I said “Do you want to get tied up?“ He was just shy.
“You know,” he said, “I don’t have a body like him, I’m older, I’m [almost] sixty,” and I said “That’s not what this is about. If you want to feel what it’s like to be in rope, this is the time. If you don’t want to take your shirt off, I’ll tie you with your shirt on.” [H]e turned it down, but I wanted him to know it’s okay, you can do that.
It’s quite frequent where the bartender might tell me “DJ, here’s someone who wants to get tied up.” It’s a really great first experience for people, because it’s not so sexual. You’ll get tied up and you don’t have to worry about someone going past limits, if that’s something you’re afraid of. It can be a great first environment. A lot of people come and watch, they observe. There are a number of different regulars who come and say “Yeah, I want to get tied up again,” so that’s kind of what you can expect at the Bad Dog Bondage Night.
The other Fetish Nights, I’ve not been to, so I don’t know about those.
And what can people expect at the play parties?
Doors open at eight, it usually takes people a good 30-45 minutes to get there and get to critical mass. We’ve been starting off with demos every month. The last two months I did demos, the next two months I’m not going to do demos because, as I said at the beginning of the last party, I don’t want this to be about how I do things, but about how a lot of people do things. So, I put it out there: Who else wants to do demos? Please talk to me, and I’ll get you on the schedule.
So people can expect to see a demo at the beginning. They don’t have to watch the demo. The first two months, everyone has. And then from there people who want to have scenes start scenes. We’ve had couples come, people come with their Subs, friends are there. Just say “Hey, do you want to do this?” We’ve had [few small] group scenes.
I’ve had people say “I don’t like to play in public, but I want to come, I want to watch, I want to learn, and I want to meet other people” and I’ve told people that’s fine. You don’t have to participate. Other people, it just took them that first month, they watched and then said “Okay, now I want to get involved.” It’s just really kind of “Go at your own pace.” It’s a mixture of both play and social. I find it to be a pretty low-key event. Some people came in fetish wear, some people came in leather, some people just got naked. Some people stayed fully clothed, it’s really kind of up to you. People really don’t judge, I find. I really couldn’t be any happier with how the events have gone. Of course I’m always going to want more people, and I’ll want more people to participate but I have to say my expectations have already been surpassed. I wanted at least a dozen people at the first one, and we had twenty-three so it was almost double what I expected.
Do guys have to be interested in BDSM or a part of the BDSM community to enjoy themselves?
I don’t know if you have to identify with the BDSM community. That’s one of the things where, for gay people, there’s a lot of different ways to look at it, the idea of communities. You may identify as gay or you may not. You may identify yourself with the leather community, you might label yourself with the BDSM or kink community, so I don’t think that you have to fit a certain label to come. One person on Fetlife asked “If I’m straight, can I come?” I said “Yeah, you can come.”
I’m just telling people this is men playing with men. If you’re interested in watching that, participating, just curious, hell, come. That’s fine. There were two people who came [this past] month, they brought someone and said “He’s not really into BDSM or kink so much, but he was curious,” and that’s fine.
I know that sometimes in the gay community, people talk in terms of fetishes, “This is their fetish, that’s their fetish,” and so if you look at it as a fetish, rope is a fetish, then that’s how you look at it, that’s how you identify it. I’m not trying to put a label on it, it just seems kind of convenient: bondage, BDSM and kink. I was trying to make it open in that sense. I like the term BDSM, it’s just my personal preference, and by making it Bad Boys of St. Louis, I don’t feel it’s so defining in a way. It just kind of sounded cool: “Are you a bad boy? Do you like to get bad?” If you’re just curious, yeah, I mean, come.
The group is open to anyone who identifies as male, correct?
When I did the GRUE here in St. Louis, I actually had the opportunity of meeting the first person I found out was a trans-guy. I just learned a lot from him. He was very open to me. He’s someone I’m just able to ask questions to, and found out about discrimination he’s faced. One of the things I found out about is that the Hellfire Club in Chicago, which is kind of like the famous man-on-man dungeon, does not admit trans-guys. If you were born female, you are not admitted, no matter what state of transition you’re in. I felt really bad when I heard that, just after getting to know Benny. I felt like I need to make sure trans-guys feel included. It was actually one of the first things I asked Bo. I said “I want to make sure trans-guys are accepted,” and he said “Absolutely.” There was never any debate about it. That’s part of it. The way I see it is: only an individual can determine what his or her gender is, and if you come and you say that you’re male, then you’re welcome. It kind of comes down to that. How else can you say it?
To my knowledge, we haven’t had a trans-guy show up yet. It has been in all of the messages. I make it very clear that any kind of intolerance will not be tolerated. I will not have a problem with personally dealing with anything that comes up. You know, my hope is nothing will. My hope is that everyone will just be fine and accepting. So far, everyone has been.
We had a great age range, that was the other thing. We had a lot of guys who have contacted me and said “You know, I’m older, can I come?” Yeah, come. That’s one of the things about a community; when we accept that we can learn from people who have more experience, that’s when we’re all enriched. I want people who have more experience. A lot of times those people who have a lot of experience, well, they’re older. Duh. So, let’s have them there. It makes things great.
It’s so delightful with Bo. Here’s Bo, he’s straight, he’s married, he just has no problem with anything. He did a fire play demo at both of the parties, and he’ll just get right up in there. He’s all about helping people have a good time and explore things. I kind of want to experience fire play, you know, as I’m watching other guys do it. He’ll take a hand to fire and put it to your balls and you don’t have to shave, and then you smell it singing, and it’s part of it. For people watching it, it’s a spectacle, it’s fun.
That first play party was just such a great feeling, to stand there and watch someone else. Watch Bo do what he does, something I’d never seen before, and all these guys are just there, just enthralled that this is something new, something exciting. It’s okay to do this, it’s okay to explore. In that moment for me it really kind of clicked, and yeah, all of this work was worth it. I mean the benefit for me just to get to watch other people and learn from them, it’s going to help me as a Dom kind of explore who I am and what I want to do.
What is the best way for interested men to contact you?
The best way is to join the Yahoo group. You are able to hide your e-mail address, so only your Yahoo ID will be available. There are some files that are there. People can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org, I’m on Fetlife as restraint314, or if you’re on the Yahoo group, you just send a message to the group moderator and it comes to me.
A lot of the info [about Bad Boys of St. Louis] is right there. I’ve tried to make it as detailed as possible, so that people can get an idea. I’ve had a few people comment that it was really detailed and they learned a lot and it was well-written, so I’m happy about that. People have come back with suggestions and said “Why don’t you add this?” and I’m always up for suggestions.
And what’s your next event?
The HE Open Play Party at Charenton, which is different in February. It’s going to be on Saturday, February 12th. We usually go the second Friday of the month, but Charenton is hosting an event with Lee Harrington [on February 11th], which I’m hoping some guys will come to.
Do you know what the demo will be that night?
Bo is doing a flogging demo. I’ve got someone who said he’s going to do a fire play demo, but that was before we changed the night, so I need to double check with him. We should definitely have the flogging demo, and then we might have a fire play demo.
Anything else you’d like to say?
I think the big thing is that Bad Boys of St. Louis is really for everyone, from people who have absolutely no experience to the people who are really experienced. I think there’s something for everyone. There’s someone I know who texted me and said “I’m really shy,” Well, we’ve got some shy guys who come. And he said “Really?” Yeah, you’ll fit right in.
I just haven’t felt like anyone kind of stood out as more this or more that, it seemed like a good mix.
I want to thank DJ for taking the time to chat with me, and giving all of us a lengthy look at Bad Boys of St. Louis, as well as insights into the gay and pansexual BDSM communities in the city. You can find the Bad Boys of St. Louis Yahoo group at: