In May 2023 Sadistique, one of the BDSM parties I organize every month in Milan, will turn 18 years old. Excluding a few August breaks and the mandatory stop during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been just under two hundred editions – enough to deserve a moment of celebration.
Let’s say it up front: Sadistique isn’t the oldest kinky event in Italy. Excluding a few previous occasional experiments, that title goes to another event created in 1998 to give the readers of the only BDSM magazines published in our country a chance to meet. At the time that was a momentous innovation, yet just like the magazines it was influenced by the cultural context of the previous decade.
After the 1970s, the porn boom had been sudden and chaotic, especially in a nation like ours, oppressed by the cosmetic respectability that politicians were desperately trying to impose to keep under control a nation always on the verge of exploding. Newsstands and TV channels overflowed with products that had no idea what sex positivity was and mixed violence and eroticism, atrocity and arousal without one shred of awareness.
Therefore, the first concern of the very few who tried to spread kinky culture at that time was to prevent misunderstandings, and make sure that everyone got that sadists and masochists were good people too. Not that Italy was worse off than other places: even in the legendary clubs of San Francisco or Berlin the very term ‘BDSM’ was still a novelty, and SSC as we understand it today was not even conceivable.
The general climate remained one of mystery and secrecy, where you couldn’t imagine to publicly declare your weird erotic preferences or show your face. Some practices that today are thought as almost trivial were not even discussed or admitted to in public for fear of appearing like violent maniacs.
In this context, we were saying, some among the younger generation had begun however to feel a little too restricted by the approach of the pioneers of the previous generation.
Those who spoke a foreign language – or even ventured beyond the national borders via the first connections to the “mysterious” Internet – had begun to peek into what was happening in the rest of the world. In Paris, London, Hamburg and so on, different social conditions and a more open mindset had in fact produced interesting experiments in the field of BDSM events.
I used to attend some of them myself. I happened to learn interesting things there… and every now and then I would meet other young Italians: always the same ones, whom I’d stumble upon later in Milano where we complained about how «we’d need a party like the ones they have abroad». And since nobody else seemed to step up to create it, one day we resolved to make one ourselves.
The first attempt in 2004 was so revolutionary that we even called it Revolution. It was a folly for which we even prepared an entire show every month, complete with its own soundtrack and simple custom-made sets. Then as now, organizing an ethical and safe BDSM party was a daunting task that could be considered a success if it broke even, but in some way we hit the mark. So much so, in fact, to alarm the “competition”.
The organizer of the only other event got in touch to propose a collaboration: why not create a new party together in the venue he was already using? If you were distrustful, you might have thought of an attempt to neutralize us: the old party would keep running, but “the new kids” would always stay under control in a special playpen. A space that was the “unfortunately” only free time at the club, an unlikely Sunday afternoon – like a first grader’s party.
The reason we agreed to this was simple: despite the appearances, behind the scenes Revolution was sinking because of an ugly history of insolvent sponsors, and soon we would no longer have a venue. Rather than nothing, better rather …
…But predictably, the first editions of Sadistique were a disaster. For some “unfathomable” reason everyone still preferred going to the evening event, while the crazy youngsters («What are you doing with that bullwhip? Put it away, or someone might get scared!» we were told the first time we used one at our own party) would gather at snack time with their partners. For a long time it was normal to celebrate among just six or ten people. To our great pleasure.
In fact, the logic of Sadistique was never to win the crowds, but to provide a safe and welcoming environment in which real enthusiasts could experience erotic domination and submission. Fewer people meant more space to test our strange contraptions or try new approaches.
For example, being the only Italian event designed specifically for play rather than just chatting, or having a strict dress code, or the refusal to recruit performers (although we gladly host them from time to time) because we believe that the show is made by the participants themselves when they commit to play, but also small things like having a special soundtrack, quite different from the metal ruckus that seemed to be mandatory in those days.
Like any such longstanding event, Sadistique has since gone through several phases – thinking back, I believe the only really fixed elements have been the venue… and me, flanked by the different organizers that came and went over time.
However, each adjustment has increased the success of the party, which now has an international reputation and is highly appreciated even by those coming from the very countries that inspired it. Even the Sunday afternoon placement eventually turned out to be perfect for better managing one’s schedule, so much so that many kinky parties now choose the same time.
Over the years, new things have come along such as the MasterClasses, in which kink experts teach the basics for dealing with the endless different facets of BDSM. We have introduced monthly exhibitions – often in digital format -of kinky artists from around the world, making Sadistique one of the most particular “erotic art galleries” in the world.
Each edition has a different theme, which launched a contest: the best thematic portrait among those taken on the special photo set wins two entries the following month, prompting some participants to come up with spectacular outfits. Some of the innovations are less cheerful, but they are proof of the care toward our guests: the venue was the first in Europe to deploy special air scrubbers capable of removing all kinds of viruses. Sadistique is also among the few BDSM parties to have a dedicated staff ensuring that every activity remains Sane, Safe and Consensual.
Today each date gathers far more than those 8-10 people: in fact, Sadistique often sells out and can be a bit overcrowded, so much so to prompt me to co-organize other events as well for those who prefer a more laid-back environment. Thinking back to the beginnings, however, it is inevitable to think that the mission of creating a meeting point for kinksters in Italy has fully succeeded – especially whenever I look around during a party and I see hundreds of people who feel happy and “home”, as they often say.
It would be presumptuous to think that this party has all the merits: in the meantime, dozens of other events have sprung up all over the country, but the overall result is to have today a much more serene environment for anyone who wants to explore a different way of experiencing sexuality, including finally showing their face to it with enthusiasm instead of shame. Come on, let me be a little satisfied with that!
At this point it is inevitable to wonder what the future of Sadistique will look like – and the answer is that I really don’t know. Together with the many people who collaborate behind the scenes we will surely keep updating the evemt, maintaining the spirit of being the “quality parlor for BDSM” that has always distinguished us. What form it will take, however, depends on too many unfathomable factors. The only thing I am sure of is that, if Sadistique has lasted enough to come of age, it will be around for quite a while yet.