Santa Fe is not known for a wealth of youthful nightlife. Without even a basic gay bar, it seems the City Different is no more immune to the loss of LGBTQ+ establishments than the rest of the country. Still, under the general queer umbrella, there stands a variety of pop-up events and group socials sprinkled throughout the year, along with a backbone of the usual dating app resources. While some might call that sparse, others who fall into the kinkster category may find ample opportunity by comparison. Where does the BDSM subculture lie in the city of Santa Fe? And beyond that, where do the women and queers who fit within this field of interest go to build community?

Now, once a month, women, queer, non-binary and transgender individuals who either practice or are interested in BDSM have a real, physical meeting spot where they can chat, drink, make new friends and simply feel at home with their sexual preferences.

"You want to make sure everyone is taken care of and listened to," explains organizer Ageliki Klonis, better known as Kiki. The meetups occur at her family's business, the downstairs portion of Evangelo's, where she has tended bar for several years.

Klonis launched the group in January after an influx of interest came her way upon her sharing BDSM-focused photography on her Instagram account. The photographer and taxidermist, who was born and raised in—but then left—Santa Fe, returned to a great surprise: Our town not only has queer kinksters, but they are eager for solidarity and companionship. Klonis' first announcement landed on her Instagram account:

"I've realized there are a lot of kinky people here. Let's get together and build a community!"

Through a combination of putting herself and her interest in kink out there and the aid of hashtags, the online photo sharing platform became a way for Klonis to tap into some locals' unspoken desires.

"For the first meetup, I emphasized that I wanted a focus on women, the LGBTQIA+ community, and to be trans- and non-binary inclusive," she says.

The need for carving out space for these identities within the BDSM world comes from a history of dangerous prejudice and aggressive backlash predominantly instigated by cisgender heterosexual men who abide by biased presumptions.

"Predatory behavior exists in and outside the kink community," Klonis states. "Everyone's had the creepy come-ons, the creepy direct messages. Those are the kind of people we don't want in our community—the kind of people that would walk into a bar and see somebody wearing kink gear and automatically assume that just because they're female-passing means that they're submissive."

Unfortunately, in Klonis' experience, and the experience of countless others, these offenders most often happen to be the aforementioned cisgender heterosexual men. This is perhaps why, according to her previous time with established BDSM social groups in metropolitan areas, there is often an emphasis placed on a healthy presence of women, so that it doesn't devolve, Klonis says, into "a predatory hunting ground for cis men trying to hook up with 'freaky girls.'"

This is not to say the Santa Fe group will be exclusive to women or queer folk. "In the future I would like it to be open to all genders and orientations," she explains.

For now, however, there is a vetting process, and it's not surprising that such a subculture must take certain measures to protect itself. With Fifty Shades of Grey still being the most popular direct association the American masses have with BDSM, groups like Klonis' face false assumptions and expectations that can threaten its safety; for kinksters, the process of expressing, practicing and participating in kinky culture may not be too different from coming out of the closet. This is why the sense of community is a shared element between queerness and BDSM.

"When I first became interested in [BDSM], I didn't realize just how many people were out there that were like me, and I felt strange," says Klonis, who was previously in an eight-year marriage with a partner disinterested in the BDSM world. "It was a secret interest I'd tucked away for a long time. It wasn't until I moved to Santa Fe and got divorced that I was able to have my first experience, and I've never looked back. For eight years I was made to feel dirty and strange for wanting to experience it, so to go from feeling depressed in a relationship to coming into something that was so open and welcoming was beautiful. It was freeing, in fact."

Thus, when someone who had undergone similar hurdles attended a gathering as a first-time kinkster and shared their story, it validated Klonis' assumption that there is the need for such events.

"It was a full-circle moment for me—I had been in their shoes at one point," Klonis explains. "When I came to Santa Fe and I found just a single person, just one person that was into it, I felt comforted. I'd found somebody who got me."

But, of course, there's still work to be done.

"Even though I'm so thankful for that, I wish that there were more opportunities for people to experience that here in Santa Fe," Klonis tells SFR. "In bigger cities I was seeing that there were meetups everywhere. All the time. There were bars dedicated to it, specifically. There were not only meetups at bars but at restaurants, too."

Population and age demographics don't necessarily excuse the lack of a place for BDSMers in Santa Fe. It's unfair to label its participants a sexual minority when multiple studies, starting as far back as Alfred Kinsey's Sexual Behavior in the Human Female from 1953, have shown elements of kink and BDSM falling into practice at higher rates than its taboo status may suggest. Santa Fe kinksters shouldn't have to rely on extending their reach to Albuquerque for a sense of place—they deserve a scene in their own town.

"My hope is to normalize the BDSM community, and for us to be visible," Klonis muses. "To welcome people that are interested in it, and to offer that to people coming here from big cities who think that it's something they've lost by moving to Santa Fe. A place for people to come, meet, and talk, whether you have experienced things or not—it's fine—because it's just a meet-up at a bar."

Klonis does clarify that her meetup group is simply a place to mingle.

"It's not like in the movies where somebody walks into a bar and someone's hanging from the ceiling being whipped," she says. "No, it's people having a beer and talking about day-to-day things, sharing ideas and experiences, or even just talking about art and brainstorming."

As for that first meetup at Evangelo's?

"It went wonderfully. I was fearful that it would be a flop, or that it would become predatory right off the bat," says Klonis. "Everyone was very respectful, and more people than I anticipated showed up. People were talking, introducing each other, playing pool, and really just hanging out with a new group."

Klonis says that she plans for the group to grow organically, and part of that is listening to the community's needs. She plans to set up an email list, but for now, you can follow her on Instagram (@burning_sentiments) to catch the next gathering.

JC Gonzo is an artist who researches, documents, and re-contextualizes sub- and counter-cultural histories as a form of meta-ecological reporting. As a freelance writer, he has written for Sensitive Skin Magazine and held a year-long art column, titled "Sex/Life/Art," on the Berlin-based porn site Dandy Dicks.