They came in kilts, white face, chains, collars and boots, braving the heat in full leather and latex regalia, to protest what they see as unfair treatment of the Montclair’s sex toy and fetish store, Dressing for Pleasure. One man, dressed as a Puritan, staged a fake counter protest, carrying a small megaphone and denouncing the shocking behavior of the BDSM (Bondage Discipline Sadist Masochist) cluster that had found its way to 205 Claremont Avenue. Meanwhile, councilors Rich Murnick and Cary Africk, who were planning to attend the Planning Board meeting inside, looked on awkwardly.
Dressing for Pleasure found itself at odds with the township in mid-June, when the town’s compliance department received an anonymous tip in the form of an email from “Joe Shmoe.”
Someone should inspect Dressing for Pleasure at 220 Bloomfield Ave. Their basement doubles as a sex club. The place is a fire trap from hanging wires and has no emergency exit. The air stinks and is a health hazard.
The store was cited for code violations, including failing to get building and electrical permits, and agreed to close down the basement, sometimes called the crawlspace or dungeon, where BDSM events were held. They have since reapplied to re-open the basement, but were turned down by town attorney Alan Trembulak. “We’ve made a decision that the use that they’ve proposed isn’t permitted under the zoning ordinance,” Trembulak said.
Trembulak said the store could ask the Zoning Board of Adjustment for a “formal interpretation of the zoning ordinance.” The Planning Board, which met tonight, did not invite the protestors in or agree to hear them.
But store owner Ed Dougherty, who goes by the name Master Ed, believes that Trembulak “misunderstands what we’re trying to do” and has mischaracterized the basement meetings as adult entertainment. “There’s no sexual activity permitted,” Dougherty said. The events there have been, rather, educational in nature, such as a workshop on the subject of bondage safety. “If you want to explore bondage, there are ways to do it safely and unsafely, right ways and wrong ways.” In June, a gay couple demonstrated leather culture, he said.
Some events are more “theatrical” in nature, Dougherty added, such as “fire play,” which involves torches and rubbing alcohol. “Done correctly, it’s harmless,” he said.
“Montclair has a reputation as one of the more liberal progressive communities,” he added. “I’d hate to think that only extends to religion or the color of your skin.”
“I’d think this area has a whole lot more to do focusing on a recession than the fact that one of the oldest and most reputable stores of its kind might be offending some people’s sensibilities,” said Jeff Mach of Hackensack, who attended the rally.
Another protestor, who goes by the name Skully, defended the BDSM community as “one of the few places where you can see someone being a gentleman, where you can see old-world charm.”
“I want people to understand these are mothers, fathers, doctors, lawyers,” said Lady D. “All we want to do is live our lives as consensual adults.”
Both Skully and Lady D. said they’d attended gatherings in Dressing for Pleasure’s basement. “A bunch of cool people hanging out,” said Skully.
And what about sex?
“Sex is not allowed at any club,” said Lady D. “That’s what you do at home.”
She referred to people outside of the BDSM as “the vanilla world.”
Photos by Fran Liscio.