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Monday Magazine, November 3, 2010

Sagacity was on the front page of this issue of Monday, just before the 2010 Birthday Bash.
Ladyfish went from religious good-girl to orchestrator of one of the most progressive and successful fetish organizations in the province

Ladyfish went from religious good-girl to orchestrator of one of the most progressive and successful fetish organizations in the province

Credit: Danielle Pope

Kinks, Floggers and Stigmas

Sagacity’s 10th anniversary gives Victoria’s fetish and BDSM community plenty of reason to celebrate

Get ready to party, kinky style.

It’s Sagacity’s 10th birthday this year and the local kink, fetish and BDSM lifestyles group is celebrating with an all-out bash this weekend. Yet the group, which has slowly changed the dynamics of Victoria’s pursuit of pleasure, isn’t just about leather fun and rope games: it’s worked hard to challenge deep-rooted stigmas, too—and it has dominated.

“We’ve come a long way from the small gathering of six people who met at the Bird of Paradise Pub to discuss life as a submissive,” says Ladyfish, creator and long-time organizer of Sagacity. “We’d be meeting and talking about all these issues, and be completely distracting the dart club and others who’d be eavesdropping on our conversations. Finally, they gave us our own room upstairs.”

Since that inaugural gathering, which was formed by Ladyfish as a support group for submissive partners, the group has expanded from six to hundreds, achieved non-profit status, and covers issues for subs, dominants, fetishists, kinksters and everyone in between. While Sagacity had trouble locking down a venue in the early days, they now regularly engage in some slap and tickle at the Victoria Event Centre—and they’re throwing their birthday party at the Harbour Towers Hotel.

“Ten years ago, you could hardly talk about this stuff, let alone buy supplies—you had to make it all—and find safe and realistic ways of living out your fantasies,” says Ladyfish. “Kink has become so mainstream now, you wouldn’t be surprised to see someone walking down the street in PVC. And society is ready to talk about it.”

School of fetish fish

Talking is one thing for which Sagacity has always had a clear fetish. The group’s success has been unique to the area, with other gatherings cropping up and then disappearing after only a few meetings. So how have they survived? The key has been honesty, an open, inclusive nature and an “enlightened monarchy.”

“The reason Sagacity has done so well for itself is because Ladyfish has been dedicated in running it,” says Fisherman, Ladyfish’s partner. “She has charisma, and she manages to get people to want to do what she wants them to do. The typical span for someone leading a non-profit is five to seven years, and she’s been doing it for 10—but people come when they know she’s going to be there, and even these crazy events, which should have no chance of succeeding, she manages to pull off.”

As a duo, Ladyfish and Fisherman have supported each other through the evolution of Sagacity. And while many may not see it from Ladyfish’s domineering exterior (something she says she needs for running such a large group), she is submissive to Fisherman—in fact, it’s what started their relationship.

“Sagacity has never been a dating scene, and it’s not a place for singles to come and have sex,” says Fisherman. “But it is a welcoming environment for everyone to explore their fantasies and, with that kind of honesty, it’s surprising the number of relationships—even marriages—that Sagacity has played a part.”

When Ladyfish first moved from Virginia to be with Fisherman all those years ago, she says she never would have believed that she’d have found the world she is in. She grew up in a religious and prudish family, and had only known the most vanilla of relationships before Fisherman. Her family is still largely in the dark about her lifestyle, yet her daughter, who moved here with Ladyfish, was one of the biggest early challenges.

“My daughter, who was a teenager when Sagacity started, would hear about us having a play party, and say ‘Oh Mom, why do you have to be the leader of some weird sex club?’” Ladyfish says with a laugh. “She’s come around since then to be more accepting, but those are exactly the stigmas we’re fighting everyday. It’s not a sex club—people aren’t even allowed to have sex at the parties—and it’s not a swinging group. It’s a place for people to come and feel accepted and be able to play out their fantasies safely, with a support group.”

For members, those fantasies have included everything from public nudity and dressing up in leather to flogging, bondage, sadomasochistic play and much, much more. The group also offers support (outside of the public parties) for the more dangerous forms of fetishism, including blood play, extreme body modification and asphyxiation. Yet during the play parties the rules are strict: no alcohol, no sex, lots of safety and—above all—consent. If you don’t play by the Sagacity laws, you’re out.

“We often point out how single women at a Sagacity play party are safer than at a bar,” says Ladyfish. “Everyone treats each other with respect and care; we’re all friends, and it’s a very communicative environment.”

Old farts in leather

Slowly, the group is starting to change its dynamics. While the median age 10 years ago would have been about 40, with members ranging from late 30s to 80s, the 2010 median age is about 25, with members as young as 19 and as old as 90.

Part of this is due to outreach initiatives and clubs that have seen Sagacity’s influence in areas of Camosun and UVic, and further accessibility on the internet. Long-time member Matt (who prefers that his last name isn’t used), is a driving force behind some of these clubs, and is slated to be the next in line for taking hold of Sagacity’s reigns—if Ladyfish has her way.

“Matt has just been a brilliant force for us,” says Ladyfish. “He’s the first kinky person I met in Victoria, he’s been dedicated to the group from the beginning, and he’s in a great place now: he has a stable relationship, stable work and enough time to do the job. It’s all about the timing, and your network.”

Matt, who is now in his mid-30s, will undoubtedly bring a younger vibe to the group than Ladyfish’s sage 56. However, he says he still has so much to absorb from Sagacity’s fearless leader that he expects the transition to be a slow process, and one that he’s in no hurry—getting things done right is most important, he says.

“Traditionally, there has been a slight alienation of the younger crowd, who obviously don’t want to come to a party where there’s just a bunch of old farts in leather hanging around,” says Matt teasingly. “But with this new dynamic, there’s a beautiful thing happening where there’s so much respect between the generations that the younger people really do look up to older members for advice, and the older members have a real acceptance and even learning from the younger crowd as well.”

While Ladyfish says she’ll always be part of the group, she wishes for the day she can just go to a party and enjoy herself without having to orchestrate and organize. But what would life without leading Sagacity look like for Ladyfish?

“I’m taking a cake decorating class, and I’ve been getting more into stitching—one of my passions,” she says. “Don’t laugh! I’m actually still quite good with my hands.”

In terms of the next 10 years, both Ladyfish and Matt hope to see Sagacity find a permanent home, where play structures can live (as opposed to being carted back and forth in the giant Sagacity U-Haul truck). More than that, however, Matt says that he hopes to see Sagacity’s next decade open this bridge up even further, to become as inclusive and wide-ranging as possible.

“We want to really promote this environment of safety and open-mindedness where people can learn,” says Matt. “The more we break down those stigmas that haunt us all, the more we can let people know it’s okay to come out in the open about this stuff—there are people there to catch you. We all just want to be ourselves and not be persecuted for it.”

Sidebar: Get Your Kink On
Just beat it at this year’s bash

For those who aren’t sure they’re ready for the lifestyle itself, Sagacity’s Ladyfish is quick to point out that everybody is kinky—at least a little.

“If you’re making dinner in the kitchen with your partner and he slaps your butt, that’s kinky. If you’re having sex and go to put your fingers in your lover’s mouth, that’s kinky,” she says. “It’s in all of us. It’s just degrees and exploring those boundaries that makes a difference.”

Ladyfish also points out that, while there is a perception that submissive partners (bottoms) are more vulnerable than dominant ones (tops), this is seldom the case. “Many times, bottoms can be every bit, or even more abusive than tops,” she says. “There’s this mentality of need, and of it being all about them, and that can get exhausting to a top . . . It’s crucial to have safety words—green, yellow, red—and to be clear with where you’re at.”

With all that in mind, get ready for one of the kinkiest parties of the year this weekend. From Friday night’s fetish formal meet-and-greet and silent auction (plus some kind of buzz-worthy “top-secret presentation”) to Saturday’s full day of workshops (ranging from flogging and fireplay to whipping, needles, poly lifestyles, dom-and-sub relationships, pony play and more—see full schedule online), kinky vendors and the big event itself—the 8pm-1am Salute-To-A-Decade Gala Play Party—now’s the time to get down with about 200 fellow kinksters. Don your finest fetish attire and help Sagacity celebrate a decade of dedication to the lifestyle.

Sagacity’s Birthday Bash runs November 5 to 7 at the Harbour Towers Hotel. Tickets range from $175 to $195 for full weekend passes to $125 for workshops only, $140 for a full Saturday pass or $35 to just attend Saturday’s play party. Visit for full details or tickets.