Pillow fighting goes professional
They are not allowed to scratch, gouge or pull each other's hair, but the women fighters of North America's newest professional sport wield a potentially punishing weapon: a standard, fibre-filled bed pillow.
Hundreds of New Yorkers queued on Friday night for the US debut of the Pillow-Fight League, a Canadian invention that sounds like a male fantasy but is threatening to become a popular sport for women who enjoy behaving badly.
"We beat the crap out of each other and we're giggling at the end," declared Katrina Randell, a Canadian model whose pillow-fighting nom de plume is Sally Spitfire. "It's not just a bunch of sexy girls in lingerie - get ready, you're going to get walloped."
From its beginnings in a Canadian nightclub last year, the PFL (slogan: "Fight like a girl") has suddenly turned into a cult attraction with 22 fighting members, an official (male) referee and a list of rules that forbid punching, low blows and "rude, lewd or suggestive behaviour".
It is also an offence to stuff a brick in a pillow.
Most of the early audiences featured what one female onlooker described as "that leering, creepy-old-man element in the crowd". Neate Sager, a Canadian sports columnist, wrote: "I'll leave it in your hands whether this is postmodern irony or something that sets women back, oh, 40 years."
Yet word began to spread among young Canadian women that there was more to the spectacle than "some weird male fantasy sports league where chicks fight chicks", as Guinevere Hall from Toronto had initially feared.
After a visit, Ms Hall came away thinking: "I wanna beat up other people with pillows."
The PFL is the brainchild of Stacey P.Case (he swears that is his real name), 38, a former drummer who was playing at a concert when two of the female dancers on stage had a pillow fight as part of their act.
Seeing women in the audience cheering them on, Mr Case asked if anyone else wanted to fight: when he was nearly trampled in the rush, the PFL idea was born.
Bouts last five minutes and are won by pinning opponents to the ground - sometimes with the help of a pillow round their throat - or belting them so hard that they surrender.
The pillows are standard issue with man-made fibres, because down tends to settle at the bottom of a swinging pillow and can deliver a knockout punch.