Mercury takes presentation very seriously. Impeccably dressed in a dark suit and tie, he keeps his hair cropped close, and the narrow gap between his two front teeth underscores his symmetrical features. He folds his long hands into each other when he's listening, and he moves them in circles around his wrists when he's making a point.
Right now, his point is safety, which he says is the most important thing about this place. But later, he'll show off his pommel horse and the 700-pound stainless steel surgical table he keeps in the back room. By then, his point will be pure seductive theater.
"What you'll find," he explains, "is that our crowd is interested in symmetry. We are educated in the physiology of safe play. So we're not going to strike joints — the knees, the ankles, the wrists, the spine — because that's where you cause harm. In S&M play, we don't mind hurting, but we don't like to harm. There's a huge difference."
The Mark is Nashville's BDSM dungeon, and Mercury is its executive director. It is, according to Mercury, inarguably one of the top 10 dungeons in the United States, and arguably among the top five.
In the old days before the Internet, you had to snoop around to find a club like The Mark. You had to answer cryptic personal ads in the newspaper, or scour seedy adult bookstores for clues. These days, the Internet, including social media websites like FetLife, seems tailor-made for BDSM. FetLife has a subgroup dedicated to The Mark, which counts more than 1,900 among its members.
But if you really want to know more about his lifestyle, Mercury says, all you have to do is ask.
"We have, in the Nashville area, at least six munches that meet a month." Mercury says, his demeanor both guarded and charismatic. A munch, in BDSM terms, is a casual social gathering in a public place where people can be introduced to the lifestyle over food. After the munch, sometimes play parties are scheduled. ...