"I'm a fetishist," announces Christiaan Howard. "I love women's feet."
As creative director and CEO of Afterdarkkmedia, the 34-year-old Howard is the force behind Erotik-a, an annual fetish-themed gala designed to "to try to get people of all shapes and sizes to express themselves sensually without fucking each other." The thousands of penis-pumping law clerks, wannabe strippers, goth boy-toys, local sex hobbyists and closeted kinksters who've attended the party have expressed themselves sensually every which way since the first Erotik-a back in 1998. As for Howard -- or "El Pervertido 2005," as he refers to himself -- his idea of a fun night out involves sucking female toes in the stall of the women's bathroom at the Snake Pit.
But what happened to Howard at last year's Erotik-a just sucks. On July 31, liquor-enforcement agents with the Colorado Department of Revenue, which had issued a one-day special-event license for the party, descended on the Walnut Foundry with several Denver Police Department officers in tow. They weren't at the party to bust underage drinkers, though. After inspecting the hundreds of leather-clad party-goers, liquor-enforcement officer Kurt VandenBogaard slapped Howard with two citations for violating the state's liquor code by permitting "flagellation" and permitting "a person to touch the buttocks of another person" on the alcohol-licensed premises.
In laymen's terms, this translated to butt-rubbing and ass-whacking -- at a fetish party, no less! Each charge carries a $350 fine, which Howard has pledged to fight.
One sore point was the party's "whipping stations," where officers witnessed several more-than-willing participants getting a light spanking with a small plastic implement and a multi-tasseled leather flogger. All of the spankees had their pants on, so it wasn't a case of indecent exposure. But VandenBogaard determined that one of the female spankers had been paid $50 by Howard for her services, which the officer deemed a breach of an obscure ordinance that prohibits a liquor-license holder or a holder's employee from performing or simulating acts of flagellation.
VandenBogaard then observed another spanker -- a volunteer -- "rubbing and massaging" the spankee's buttocks between swats. Colorado law prohibits any person, employee or not, on the premises of a liquor-license holder from "touching, caressing or fondling the breasts, buttocks, anus or genitals of any other person."
(This might come as news to dozens of club managers in Denver, where on an average Friday night there's more flesh-handling on the dance floor than in the Rodizio Grill meat locker. Could these fondlers run afoul of the law, too? Liquor Enforcement Director Matt Cooke referred all questions on the Erotik-a case to the Denver District Attorney's Office.)
Howard understands that the peculiar expositionism of his fetishist events makes them vulnerable to the enforcers of mainstream sexual mores. So in preparation for the 2004 party, he says he contacted the local neighborhood group, the District 6 police commander and the Colorado Department of Revenue, alerting them all to the nature of Erotik-a.
"I let them know about everything that's going on," Howard remembers. "They said it was fine, just as long as I let them know." He also hired several off-duty uniformed cops to work the door and made sure that there were no exposed nipples or crotch shots among his scantily clad attendees.
He never imagined getting busted for spanking.
"I'm not some porn king with shitloads of cash. I only do these parties on my free time so that people can have an outlet to express themselves sexually," he says. "I'm a fucking waiter at Pasquini's by day. I can't afford to take $1,000 hits on my pocketbook just because someone has an agenda."
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Fortunately, a fellow waiter at Pasquini's, Greg Kilcoyne, recently got his license to practice law and will represent Howard at his court date on July 19. And in the meantime, Howard's going all out for Erotik-a Volume 7, scheduled for July 1 at the Gothic Theatre. According to postings on www.afterdarkkmedia.com and the promotional flier, it will be a celebration of "our nation's independence and our freedom to gather and express ourselves and our sensuality," with scheduled performances including "erotique Japanese rope sculpture" and a production by adult-film starlet Persephone.
And, of course, "there will be lots of fucking spanking, too," Howard promises.