By Jesse Marx
By Chris Parker
By Jake Rossen
By Jesse Marx
By Michelle LeBow
By Alleen Brown
By Maggie LaMaack
By CP Staff
Photos by B FRESH Photography
Special thanks to Mark Graff and Bardot Studios
Mistress Bardot slides into the latex nun habit, her gloved hand smoothing the veil against her cheekbone. She emerges from backstage, charmingly steps into the crowd, and greets friends who traveled thousands of miles to see her.
The Mistress begins her ascension to the stage, gracefully parting the kinky people like a sexual sea. Bardot's intuitive eyes scan the room—her beaming, cherry-painted smile hinting at secret pleasures.
She ushers a lucky redheaded schoolgirl to the fore, and enjoins her to kneel. Bardot's bouncy laugh calls attention to the naughty scene about to transpire. The crowd swells with expectation.
Welcome to the Fetish Ball.
There are dozens of fetish groups and organizations in Minnesota, some dating back as long as 40 years. According to FetLife, the global kink social network, there are nearly 12,000 registered fetish practitioners in our state. You wouldn't know it from looking at us, because the citizenry hardly wear their sexual peccadilloes on their long sleeves.
"People can be fired because they are kinky in their private life," says Susan Wright, author and policy director of the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom. "Or they can lose custody of their children."
Wright works to dispel stereotypes and fight stigmas associated with the fetish lifestyle. Media coverage of sex is often sensationalized or made out to be a joke, Wright says, and because of antiquated laws, consenting adults with alternative lifestyles aren't protected against discrimination.
If you are adventurous enough to think up something kinky, it's probably happening in Minnesota, maybe right next door as you're reading this.
But this isn't a story about sex. It's a story about love.
Charger is known by many as the kinkiest person in Minnesota, and his favorite fetish of them all is dressing up as a pony.
"I've done stuff that people only dream about," he says with a jolly laugh, and scratches his brow. "I'll try anything once—twice if I like it."
Charger flops his pony gear out of its suitcase, the leather saddle making a sharp slapping noise as it meets the table. He repositions the pony tail, brushing the knots out with his fingers. A smirk crosses his handsome, scruffy face, as he recalls the day he fell in love with pony play.
Charger grew up on a ranch in Montana, always admiring the symbiotic relationship between the trusting, powerful horse and his handler. One day he sat down at his computer to look at porn. He remembered it started like any typical day, but what he came across in his browsing would change his life forever. Even though he had been into kink for more than 20 years, a flush of virgin excitement took over his body as he witnessed Lady Cheyenne ride a human pony.
"It struck me so hard that within 30 days I had designed and bought equipment for my own pony outfit, spending nearly $2,000," Charger recalls. "It's still the same gear I use today."
The first time Charger transformed into a pony, the endorphins rushed through him like he had found his first true love. It was only a short time before he began his public appearance as a pony.
Several months after seeing the video with Cheyenne, Charger showed up to a Twin Cities event on a warm summer afternoon in June. His sudden, fully formed appearance overwhelmed even veterans of the local leather scene.
"They were in complete awe," Charger says.
Charger's handler helps him slip on the horse body wrap, which laces up like a corset. The roughness and texture of the pony suit becomes a part of him, and his breathing shifts into a more methodical, beastly pace. He bends over and places his arms in crutches covered in leather, bringing his back level to the ground.
"It's very satisfying to me when a woman tells me that the movement she feels is the same as riding on a horse," Charger explains. "And when it's the right situation, I kind of blank out a little."
It may take a few hours before he drifts into the "headspace" of being a pony. It has gotten to the point where he has given so many rides that his body shakes from exhaustion at the end of the day, the leather soaking wet from sweat. He gets emotionally charged from pony play, especially the power exchange.
"[Pony play] is a hard fetish to describe to people," Charger says. "When they can't understand, I have them put on a piece of the headgear, and you can watch their eyes literally change."
"I hate feet without stockings!" Randy belts out as he places the red ball gag in Lady Lin's mouth. "They have to have stockings on."
He turns his white Minnesota Vikings hat backward and brings the Nikon D5000's viewfinder up to his squinting eye. He shoots a few frames, and cautiously steps around her.
"I wanna get some close-ups on your butt 'cause it looks soooo good like this!" Randy says.
Randy first saw Lady Lin's picture on FetLife about two and a half years ago. He was immediately astonished by her butt—so much so that he left a comment.
It turned out she had just moved to the Twin Cities from Virginia. Within six days of commenting on her rump, Randy was working with her. It was instant chemistry. As a bondage model, she knew exactly what he wanted in a scene and never failed to deliver.
Lady Lin's enthusiastically curvy body rolls around Randy's carpeted living room floor as she tries to free her hands and ankles, which he has tied behind her back with rope from the Home Depot.
Not even a ball gag can keep her mouth shut. Her demands are muffled in distress.
"Come back! Don't leave me here! Honey, please don't do this to me!"
Randy lets her struggle for five minutes as he sits back and films with his JVC Everio.
His fascination with seeing beautiful women struggle dates back to when the neighborhood kids would play hide and seek, boys against girls. When the boys cuaght their prey, they'd tie her up at headquarters until all were found.
Then came the Playboy magazines he found in his father's closet. And who could forget Wonder Woman on television during the '70s, with her shiny red latex boots and magic lasso?
From then on, he was hooked, and there was no turning back.
Before the internet—even before VCRs—people from all over Minnesota would descend on downtown Minneapolis to get their kinks satisfied in the back rooms of book stores.
"It was always an adventure to go down to the seedy part of town, sneak in, and sneak out with your little brown bag full of bondage magazines," Randy recalls wistfully.
The video scene with Lady Lin is over, so Randy switches back to taking photos. This time, his strobe reflects off Lady Lin's red-rimmed glasses, but Randy focuses his attention on getting the best angle of Lady Lin's 32Ds pouring over her teal corset.
Bondage Mischief, his damsel-in-distress website, is becoming a 24/7 job, with more than 125 subscribers and site updates almost every day of the week. Confined to a cubicle, Randy brainstorms new bondage scenes at his day job until the clock strikes 4:30 p.m., when he jets home to play.
Randy wraps Lady Lin into the cream-colored straitjacket. As he settles back into his plush armchair, the timer begins, and he quietly discovers an angle that accentuates her plump bottom as it squirms.
"Oh, and make sure you look at the clock and don't escape too quick," Randy tells her, before whispering an aside to the voyeur next to him: "I don't have to tell this to most girls, but Lin's good at escaping."
Lady Lin gets a kick out of shocking people. Whether it's walking around in a collar and leash or randomly barking at people, she's always causing a scene.
She attributes this fearless attitude to growing up in San Francisco. She always knew she was different, but it wasn't until rooming with a couple of lesbians who introduced her to the fetish community that she realized she was kinky.
Wearing a white polka-dotted spaghetti-strap dress, she invites her playmates in for practice. She motions toward her living room, which is stocked with kinky toys used for fire play and Shibari—Japanese bondage.
Standing confident at 5'5", Lady Lin radiates a warm friendliness. She's turned on by teaching techniques to newbies, and excited by learning fresh ones herself. When she connects with friends in the kink community, she experiences love on a deep level.
"I am clear about my play partners' boundaries because we communicate and negotiate limits," she says. "It's so important for a top to read the bottom. I know how her body moves when she's excited, the kinds of smiles she will start using. I know the look in her eyes."
Lady Lin leans over bare legs comfortably draped across the coffee table as she reaches for the fire wand. Standing up, she readjusts the spaghetti strap that had fallen off her right shoulder. Her hand grazes over the secret code tattooed on her outer right bicep.
She smiles and reassures her guests they will not be judged.
"If you fuck up, we know you are trying, and we're here to catch you," Lady Lin says. "We are all here to learn."
"This is how to perfect your look," the ex-Mary Kay consultant explained to her husband, handing him a guide to makeup techniques.
Her willingness to learn was undeniably touching. There is nothing she wouldn't do for her husband.
To this day, when the makeup kit is brought out, Sybil emerges. And when Sybil is loose, watch out.
Most of her life, she's not Sybil, because Sybil lives as a man who enjoys cross-dressing, bondage, and BDSM.
"I love what I do. I hold a little secret that I carry around all day," Sybil confides. "I have this pretty girl character I can spring out on you at any time."
It all began at the age of 7 when he got his hands on Cosmo, and some of those old detective magazines with girls tied up on the cover. He imagined what it was like to be a woman, to dress like a woman, but didn't have the guts to make a first move.
It wasn't until that toasty Halloween evening in Boca Raton, Florida, at the age of 20, that he got his first taste. That began a lifelong obsession with satin, lace, corsets, stockings and garters, leather, and latex.
Dressing up in women's clothing was a different sensation than anything Sybil had ever experienced. Some compare this rush to a runner's high. Sybil doesn't need sexual release to have a good time.
"Bondage is about the sensations. I love the feel of being tied to something, my freedom being taken away—I give control over myself to someone I completely trust," Sybil explains. "It feels good to be wrapped up and kept. It feels like I am loved."
"The most rewarding part of our job is knowing we are getting people off," Joshua exclaims, pouring iridescent pigments into the mold, his head cocked to the left as he inspects the flow of the silicone goo.
When John, Amy, and Joshua found each other, they realized that their collective fetish was a love for creating orgasms. And so their "synergistic interdisciplinary art practise," as they call it, began—crafting handmade silicone sex toys under the name Free Range Silicone.
Formally trained in sculpture, these young artists want to, as their tagline says, "help people get they fuck on 'mo betta."
Joshua looks up as he completes the top-secret process of sealing the psychedelic mixture into the mold and says, "The intensity of discomfort can be exciting, too. Like sharp bits of pain that linger out, and kinda sparkle at the finish."
John adds: "Pleasure is anything that makes you feel worth something."
Amy reaches for a bucket of recycled silicone materials and shuffles across the room to find the scissors. She returns to mix the unique shapes into a bold blue pigment she created. Joshua adds a scoop of cosmic neon colors. As the particles fold on top of one another, they settle into a tranquil harmony.
"It's like I birthed a baby from the molds," Amy says. "The process of creating something with your hands is erotic. This is my ultimate labor of love."
Specializing in custom fetish objects such as dildos, cock rings, masturbation sleeves, butt plugs, kinky finger puppets, and dental dams, Free Range Silicone believes that sex toys are essential to maintain a happy and healthy sex life.
But stimulating your senses isn't the only goal this threesome has on its collective minds. They also enjoy fostering the community's cultural growth by hosting workshops and encouraging discussion.
"You can't forget voyeurism is participation," John says. "So if you are going to just look and watch, you are, in essence, part of the kinky activity. And you are actually involved in kink whether you talk about it or not."
The theater goes silent as Jean Bardot snaps back. She scans the mass of smiling faces from the stage and takes a bow to the roar of applause.
After seven months of intense planning, the Fetish Ball concludes, and the last guests are ushered out. For at least one evening, they enjoyed a space where they were accepted, free to be themselves, not judged or looked down upon.
"Everyone should be able to feel this loved," Bardot says.
Growing up in a conservative suburb of the Twin Cities, Jean Bardot found her place at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. From falling in love with latex to interning with Prince in his costume department, she always knew this was the work she loved.
Every time she covers her body in lube and slips into the soft latex, the tightness transforms her into an international fetish goddess. The feeling is still as exhilarating as the first time she put on a latex dress back in 1992 for a fashion show.
Mistress Bardot closes the door to her studio, plops down on the leopard-print chaise lounge, and lets out a euphoric cry.
"It was an amazing feeling," she explains of her sudden vocalization. "I didn't know what to do but let it all out!"