Friday, December 14, 2012

Birmingham Underground Part 3

by M. David Hornbuckle

Birmingham is rife with subcultures that fly under the radar of most people. In this series, the Birmingham Free Press pulls the lid off this underground world and lets you take a peek inside.

The Red Chair

If you have darker desires, and you don’t know what to do with them, perhaps the Red Chair is where you would turn. The website for the Red Chair says that it is “Alabama’s oldest organization dedicated to meeting the needs of those who choose alternative lifestyles.” Such lifestyles include BDSM (bondage domination and sadomasochism), swingers, and possibly things we’ve never heard of ourselves (being quite innocent, as you know). A spokesperson for the Red Chair admitted that “while the term ‘alternative lifestyles’ is a broader umbrella than BDSM, TRC’s mission is focused entirely on the BDSM segment.” If you aren’t familiar with the term BDSM, this is the lifestyle largely associated with leather, whips, and chains.

There are a lot of misconceptions about the BDSM lifestyle, the spokesperson said. For example: the idea that “BDSM is abusive. I hear this concern sometimes. The core of BDSM is consent.  There is no higher priority for any activity in the BDSM lifestyle.  The opposite holds true for abuse.” Another misconception is that “People that do that stuff were beaten as children/have daddy issues/are nuts in general/etc. I have observed this to be untrue. Do some people in the lifestyle have issues? You bet. Just like some people outside the lifestyle have issues. I’ve found the ratio to be identical.”

A subcommittee of the Red Chair called the Alabama Association of Fetish Friends (ALAFF) holds monthly get-togethers called “munches” at the Books, Beans, and Candles coffee shop near Five Points. At these meetings, members and newcomers can get to know one another in a friendly casual environment. For a part of the meeting, they usually discuss some particular topic that is germane to the alternative lifestyles they promote. In addition to these meetings, they hold educational sessions, parties, and other events for members only.

Members of the Red Chair are serious about their anonymity for obvious reasons. They often call one another by the handles they use on a social networking site called Fetlife, which is dedicated to the same alternative lifestyles as their group.

The Red Chair:

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