Why you should care
Because kinksters deserve lattes, too.
Feel like falling down an X-rated rabbit hole? Then you’re going to love the MoonFyre Café, opening in Portland, Oregon’s Creston-Kenilworth district this December. Behind a hipster monochrome design lies a warren of rooms: a coffee shop, classroom, kink store and a 950-square-foot medically themed dungeon, complete with vintage surgical beds (restraints included) and spanking benches. Post-play, guests can unwind in a Tibetan-themed decompression room with a water feature.
MoonFyre is the brainchild of flame-haired Mistress Pixie Fyre, a full-time dominatrix and kink educator with a decade of experience who envisions the leather-clad and the curious sipping espresso side by side. But she’s not the first to combine caffeine and kink in a physical space. The inaugural award belongs to London’s Coffee, Cake and Kink, which was in business from 2003 to 2008. It’s now a social enterprise with an overall mission to “free people from the ‘I’m a weirdo’ burden many carry.” Across the pond, America’s first kink café, Wicked Grounds, opened in San Francisco in 2009, followed in 2011 by Shameless Grounds in St. Louis and in 2013 by Minneapolis-based Leather and Latte. These outposts of the outré have a growing and loyal customer base; erotic lingerie sales are expected to rise 8.8 percent from 2014 to 2019, and around 23 percent of 18- to 30-year-olds participate in BDSM, with an additional 35 percent eager to try.
For Fyre, coffee and kink — defined as unusual sexual preferences — are a logical way to foster her community. “Portland’s incredibly progressive when it comes to kink, sex positivity and alternative lifestyle choices,” she says. “They want a safe space for education, resources … and gear!” After two years of R&D, she settled on a space that could contain these multiple elements. And she’s giving back to her community at large: The kink store will be stocked by Pacific Northwest artisans — think handcrafted cock cuffs and bamboo bondage rope. Her slave and trained barista, Angel, looks after the retail side of the operation while Fyre focuses on workshops. Her most popular course: a three-hour theory class on submissive-dominant relationships.
Educational events also are a big draw at San Francisco’s Wicked Grounds, co-owner Rebeccalyn Mir Bilodeau tells OZY. Her calendar is crowded with an average of 60 events per month; evening salons include Rope Club and Kinky Coders (after all, it is the Bay Area). Midday, the café feels bright and welcoming, with Warby Parker–wearing techies pounding laptops and eating Wicked Waldorf salads. But closer inspection reveals the red-velvet armoire’s arm restraints and the human-size barred cage by the register.
Cafés are places where you can talk about your sexuality without worrying about scaring the muggles.
Sexologist Charlie Glickman
And (most) clothing is optional. “If [a customer] wants to wear a dog mask and drink a milkshake out of a dog bowl, that’s OK,” Bilodeau says. When asked if there’s ever difficulty with zoning or health codes, she laughs. “We’re in SF,” she says. “The climate here is so friendly for LGBTQ businesses.” Plus, her backroom’s a “PG-13 play space,” which means no bodily fluids or blood on the premises.
Bilodeau emphasizes that she doesn’t want her kind of kink café confused with sexpresso bars, which have been popular for more than a decade now — drive-throughs and diners where lingerie-clad women serve coffee. These adult java bars originated in Seattle years before “make Portland weird” was a thing. However, bikini baristas cater to the Hooters crowd; the genuine BDSM aficionado enjoys raucous parties — and now, coffee shops. Bilodeau also finds the growth of sexpresso bars worrying on a consent level. “The deeper concern would be exploiting women who are in an economically vulnerable position,” she says.
For sexologist Charlie Glickman, the growth of kink cafés is a response to people’s growing comfort with expressing their sexual desires — consider Nikki Glaser’s Comedy Central sketch “Comedians Sitting on Vibrators Getting Coffee,” which riffs on the Seinfeld web series. “Cafés are places where you can talk about your sexuality without worrying about scaring the muggles,” Glickman says. “It’s more relaxing [than a fetish event].” But Glickman stresses that cafés must spell out the code of conduct; just because they’re kink-themed doesn’t make it OK to harass fellow patrons. “There need to be clear rules about what level of kink interaction is OK,” he says. “Can you spank them on a table? A boundary needs to be clearly stated and enforced.”
Fyre doesn’t think this will be a problem. “When you check in at the naughty café,” she says, “you only go as far down the rabbit hole as you consent to.”