Snctm, Beverly Hills' most elite sex club, holds a Masquerade party every month. The invite list is short, just 99 people. In attendance this month were a minor Hollywood celebrity, an erotic theatre troupe known as the Devotees, and Bunnyman, an expert in the ancient Japanese rope-tying art of shibari. Esquire writer-at-large Mike Sager was in attendance as well—he profiled Snctm's founder in this feature. What follows is a scene from Snctm's Masquerade.
By 2:00AM. Sunday morning, the circular driveway behind the tall hedge is chockablock with high-end collectable cars. Inside, the Snctm Masquerade is peaking. Music swirls, laughter rises, bodies couple and writhe. Like a bar at last call, anonymous eyes search the crowd, looking to couple up.
In the living room, surrounded by guests on sofas and chairs, Bunnyman is at work on a somewhat established actress, her arms and legs akimbo, the knots and coils of rope at once strong and delicate, like macramé. He is wearing his trademark black leather bunny mask along with a traditional, close fitting black Japanese keikogi top and loose hakama pants. His tuxedo slippers, one of 20 pairs in his collection, are embroidered in gold with a screw on the left foot, the letter U on the right.
A restless enthusiast who likes to "geek out" on a subject until he becomes an expert, Bunnyman's hobbies, besides the ancient bondage disciplines, include scotch, cigars, fine tobacco pipes, and post-WWII contemporary art. His real name is Phuong Tran. He's 32, and the very first to purchase a membership to Snctm. His parents are refugees from Vietnam—he hints that his family held high position in the old country. He doesn't mind using his name because "to Vietnamese people, Phoung Tran is like John Smith." Bunnyman joined Snctm, he says, "because some of my friends were in other private social clubs, like the Johnathan Club and the California Club, and I wanted to be able to reciprocate with something a little different.”
The actress on which he is working is blonde tonight; sometimes she's a redhead. She is more of a character actress than a leading lady—she'll play the friend of the lead or one of the teachers at the school. She's wearing an ivory-coloured bra and booty panties from Victoria's Secret; a black suede mask covers her eyes. She has brought along four of her girlfriends. They are watching intently; she can feel their energy as Bunnyman deploys various toys, alternating between pleasure and pain.
A "control freak" who can be the bossy type, the actress says being bound and dominated is like a form of meditation: "It's a way that I get to lose control, or give up control. For a little while I don't have to pay attention, I don't have to worry, I don't have to do anything. Someone else is is looking out for me."
She met Bunnyman on a fetish website two years back, and she's been coming to Snctm ever since. In fact, she came tonight specially to see him. "He knew I hadn't played in a long time, ever since I left my dominant," she says. "I'd been in a huge dry spell. It causes my ADD to go off, and I can't concentrate or handle things as well, because I don't have that outlet. It's like someone going without sex for a long time.”
Bunnyman works through his toys—a suede flogger, a Lilo wand, a two-headed dildo, a riding crop—asking permission before each. At some point he selects a stainless steel number, two-headed in the shape of a lazy U, a prostate massager he finds useful for G spots. Before he came to Snctm, bondage wasn't a particular interest. He was always somewhat vanilla when it came to sex. At early gatherings, another man was hired to practice bondage on the guests. "What I was so captivated by was the fact that a lot of girls randomly volunteered themselves. I was like 'Shit, I need to learn rope.'" Since then, Bunnyman has found place and purpose, more than he ever imagined; his girlfriend is a former Devotee, part of the erotic troupe. The second time he met her, he tied her up at a Masquerade—now they're facing parenthood together. "Everyone at Snctm has their different journey," he says.
Upstairs, in a bedroom with a mirrored wall, a Devotee in piggy mask and garter and stockings, a research analyst with an L.A. firm, has been directed to a bed. She's on all fours; her two handlers arranged it so her head is near the mirror; her bottom is facing outward, toward a semi-circle of onlookers. She is naked except for the mask and collar. Another Devotee begins whipping her with the riding crop; she alternates with a Devotee in a leather police hat, who kisses and strokes and gives oral.
"For a little while I don't have to pay attention, I don't have to worry, I don't have to do anything. Someone else is is looking out for me."
Looking up, into the mirror, she notices the crowd that has gathered behind her, around the bed, "not close enough to touch me but enough to have a full view of my asshole and pussy," she will later say. They keep their distance, "at once curious and intimidated." At last, she finds her own eyes in the mirror, sees they are "hooded and fierce with sensuality and lust, slightly lowered in obedience." Holy fuck! she thinks. This is fucking beautiful. "I knew I was accessing something deep within myself that I had always wanted to express," she later says.
Presently, the sounds of passionate release roll though the ageing tudor mansion. The people in the attic, in the living room, in the various private rooms available in the house, gather together their outfits and commence re-buttoning. In orderly fashion they file down the staircase and out the front door, like spectators at the conclusion of a sporting event. Black suited security guards, all of them handsome and muscular, pass through the house, moving along the stragglers.
Out back, by the pool, Bunnyman is smoking a pipe of tobacco. It is a fine piece, a Peterson Spigot with a bulldog bowl, made of briarwood, with a green emerald finish and a sterling silver army mount.
The pipe extends from his mouth at a jaunty angle; with his left hand he kneads his right wrist. It's hard to say how many women he bound and pleasured this evening. It might be a "labor of love," but it takes its toll.
"My arm is killing me," he says, exhaling a fragrant plume of his Hobbits Weed tobacco.
From: Esquire US.