Inside the secret world of Ireland's kink, BDSM and swinging scene

The secretive world of swinging and kink might just be the most healthy approach to casual sex in Ireland today discovers Sophie White as she dives into the world of rigging, Daddy-Doms and impact play 


If you read that headline and thought 'hey... wasn't aware that Ireland had a BDSM and kink scene' you wouldn't be alone. That is exactly what I thought before meeting Claire* who laughingly explains why the scene in Ireland is so underground.

"They don’t want the wrong people involved and to be honest they’re doing okay without the publicity."

"People are always going to be very nervous of being judged especially in a society that is, when it comes to sexuality, extremely traditional. It’s a slut-shaming culture. Even among some of my best and oldest friends I wouldn’t talk about having casual sex because they are still locked into the culture of ‘you should lose your virginity to someone special, don’t give your body to someone who’s using you…’ My attitude is ‘what’s the problem if I’m using him and he’s using me and we’re both getting something out of it?’ Woman can be beneficiaries of casual sex."

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Claire was introduced to aspects of kink when she met a guy on Plenty Of Fish early last year.

"He’s seemed pretty nice, normal and not at all kinky. We started having casual sex which was exactly what I wanted at the time and over the course of the next two weeks I realised that this was not normal sex. But I was really enjoying it. He essentially introduced me to the kink community in Ireland. He taught me that there was one! How it worked. He showed me a website called FetLife.com it’s essentially Facebook for people with fetishes. He completely opened my eyes to this whole other world that had been there the entire time though I hadn’t known it."

"If it’s not really taboo then personally I think it doesn’t really qualify as a kink," says Claire. "I like a hand on my neck but I don’t like it to be pushed down. I really like having my hair pulled. I love being tied up and being made to wait. And being edged and edged for hours and when I have an orgasm it is so much more intense than any I’d had before."

Their hookups fizzled out but Claire didn't want to, as she put it, "go back to missionary in the dark!"

She joined FetLife and a new world opened up to her.

There's a lot of sharks on here

"I really wanted to explore and I was figuring out who I was and my sexuality was a big part of that because I had always felt that there was a big part of my sexuality that I was constantly trying to ignore."

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"I didn’t really know about swinging either, I dove into the kink scene much more. FetLife is a really great resource. There’s a wealth of information and you need that because a lot of kinks are quite dangerous. All forms of rigging (bondage) is quite dangerous. You’re putting your physical safety into danger when you’re being rigged. Everything to do with anal is dangerous. Everything to do with impact play is dangerous. People like wax play and knife play. These are the kind of things you don’t do on a whim, you study up; you join the sub-community who are into that and you learn from them before you ever try it.... For about three months, my mind was blown by that website. Seeing all the things I’d always wished existed and they did!"

Before long, Claire got a message from an older woman, Eve* who advised Claire to change her profile bio on FetLife as she sounded too much like an eager newbie which could leave her vulnerable.

"She said 'there's a lot of sharks on here, change your profile or you’re going to get yourself into trouble'. In all walks of life there are predators. I don’t think that there are more necessarily in the kink world. Eve is a domme (a female who takes power or control during play ) in her 40s. She was really friendly and wanted to give me advice and mentor me because she’d seen women fumble around in the dark and get themselves into situations they didn’t want to be in."

Claire's assertion that there are no more or less predators in a scene where pain and pleasure are often entwined is a hard one to take on for a muggle like me (yes, that's really what they call us!) but as Claire points out, in kink consent is unpacked in a much more exhaustive way than in the vanilla world.

"Consent in kink is a huge thing. It’s taken really seriously. We're having conversations about consent all the time but it wasn’t the type of consent conversation I was used to. It wasn’t 'are you okay if I do this?' It was more along the lines of ‘what do you want me to do to you? What have you always been too embarrassed to try?’ It was like being researched in a really sexy way. You have to have the trust there."

Not all swingers are kinky

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"My particular kink is not very acceptable in swinger circles. My kink is the daddy-baby girl kink. I feel that’s a kink that people feel is really wrong and messed up. So I tend to keep mine fairly low key in swingers circit"

"For the most part, men in the kink community are much more respectful of consent. It’s very important to them. I’ve had guys insist on sitting down and talking about it. But as always, there are predators if there are men and women, there will be predators. You have to have your sh*t together, be as careful as you can be."

Eve invited Claire to her first party – a swingers party which is different from kink.

"Not all swingers are kinky which might surprise some people," Claire explains. "There’re some kinks that are more acceptable in the swinging community like some impact play. There’s also the St Andrew’s cross which has cuffs for your hands and feet to be restrained while others flog and tease. Lots of people who host parties might have a cross or playrooms in their houses."

"My particular kink is not very acceptable in swinger circles. My kink is the daddy-baby girl kink. I feel that’s a kink that people feel is really wrong and messed up. So I tend to keep mine fairly low key in swingers circles."

The party was a revelation to Claire who confesses she spent ten minutes sitting outside trying to work up the courage to go in.

"I was really nervous. I thought it's a room full of people riding and swapping and no holds barred but that’s an orgy. A singers party is different. People are dressed up, there are drinks and food. It was in a regular semi-d in an estate. There was about 15 people, loads of chatting. It was so much fun because everyone was really open about what they like and I was so interested. I wanted to ask them everything. There were no couples at that party and they all knew each other. Then people kind of coupled off, went up to bedrooms and banged and went to sleep. So not at all the orgy I was expecting. I got with one guy that night."

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More mature than casual sex in the vanilla world

There can be hurt feelings and things can get messy however and with this type of sexual play, communication is paramount.

"People think with swinging 'ah they’ll screw anything' but it’s not true. Just because you’re swinging does’t mean you’re willing to share in an unlimited sense. Myself and my friend have an agreement we won’t share because it’s too close. It works best when people are really open and upfront and honest. Be an adult, have the conversation. Check in with yourself and see how you’re feeling. In the larger sense, it’s a lot more mature than casual sex in the vanilla world because I think in the vanilla world people are having casual sex in the hope that it’ll turn into something and that’s not healthy."

"People think that swinging and kink is robotic and there’re no connections. But really I have had better connection because all those layers of bullsh*t are stripped away and also a connection is just a connection, it doesn’t have to be anything. You can have amazing sex for hours and hours and then leave it, enjoy it for what it was. Now I can have great sex and connect and I'm not kidding myself that it’s more than it is or needs to be more than it is."

"There’s a very strong sense of community and compassion and understanding, which you need when you’re new to it."

The scene has since become a huge part of Claire's social life and she is now friends with a big group who all go out together and keep in touch on an app called Kik which is like WhatsApp for kink. It’s only usernames and no phone numbers.

"The club is called SPICE and I go every month. They do at least one night a week. Some weeks they’ll do Friday, Saturday and Sunday and there’ll usually be around 150 people. It’s a small venue in an industrial estate. Downstairs there’s a bar, a dance floor, it looks like any other club. Then upstairs there is a narrow corridor four bedrooms off it and a room with a hot tub. In one bedroom there’s a sex swing, in another, there’s a St Andrew’s cross. It’s invite only so there’s an allocation for single men. I would say 60-70% of people there don’t play. They just go to have a night out and be with like-minded people. Sometimes they’ll pop upstairs and watch people play. The other 30% will go to play. You go in dressed up in normal going out gear and you can change into lingerie and play, then you might go back down for a drink and then go up again later."

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Play can be a complicated thing to navigate

"I’ve seen grown men crying in SPICE because their wife was having too much fun with the other guy."

"The majority of women are bi and there’s a lot of bi men who’ll have a threesome with a guy and a girl and who’ll have sex with the man but won’t kiss the guy and wouldn’t play with a guy on their own."

In the swinging world, there's a need to vet the people you are meeting with. FabSwinger.com is like Plenty Of Fish for swinging where other users can rate and leave reviews on a profile so other users can see that the person is legit, they showed up, they were who they said they were. "Some people give big long sexual reviews, which is hilarious," Claire laughs. It's a smart system that is missing from the ordinary Vanilla dating apps and could be a valuable safety feature, though perhaps minus the sexual reviews.

Of course, despite the communication and best of intentions, play can be a complicated thing to navigate.

"At SPICE, there are a lot of couples. There are true swingers who have done it before and they’re totally comfortable with their other half playing. Then there’s the couple where one is a swinger and the other is just going to keep their partner happy and that ends horribly every time. I’ve never played with couples and I don’t think I’m going to, because I don’t want to get caught up in your marital problems. I’ve seen grown men crying in SPICE because their wife was having too much fun with the other guy. I think lots of people want to be ready for it or they’re trying to save the relationship and they’re trying to spice things up and I think if you’re going for those reasons it’s only going to end badly."

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Claire feels that the kink and swinging scene has helped her to learn so much about herself. In exploring her kink, she's opened up new sides to herself and made some profound connections in the process.

I always thought it was wrong

"Some girls like to have blankies and have their daddy-dom give them colouring books. That’s not my style."

"Some kinks are role play that they can switch on and off and for other people their kink is really a part of who they are and actually everything else is the role play and when they’re expressing their kink that’s when they’re really themselves. And that’s the category that I fall into. So I can and have had really great casual sex with guys and my kink hasn’t come into it, but if I’m looking at a relationship, my kink has to play a central role in it. They would have to be at the same level as me in terms of how important that is to them. It’s the whole dynamic. I am attracted to men that are very parental in their role and nurturing. It’s a different kind of sub-dom dynamic. So some people can turn their kink on and off and some people just are their kink."

"I always knew I wanted this and I always thought it was wrong."

"In terms of my kink, there are huge differences in terms of expression. Some girls like to have blankies and have their daddy-dom give them colouring books. That’s not my style. That’s called age play. The sub will identify her age, she might say she’s four and the dom will treat her like that. I don’t really have an age, maybe a teenager. But with my ex, our whole relationship was in kink and we would do quite non-sexual things and they would be just as intense as our sex. For example after a shower he would dry me off and moisturise me and it created this incredible closeness that I don’t think I could get outside of that kind of relationship again."

"I know I have big issues with my father. My parents had a very messy divorce when I was a kid and I know that had an impact on my sexuality. But what am I going to do? Go out and take loads of drugs and say 'I hate my dad?!' Or have these incredible moments and feel connections on levels that I think a lot of people don’t ever get. It allows me to express my emotions around my childhood that is a lot healthier than a lot of ways others express those kinds of things. People repress these thing and I feel better just saying: 'My name is Claire, I did not feel like my father ever loved me, I felt abandoned and I found a way to deal with that and address those issues that works for me.'"

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Photo by Gabriel Nunes on Unsplash

*Names have been changed.

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