This article was originally posted on 27 April 2015 and was updated on 6 December 2017.
I’m privileged enough to know the organisers of one particular local kink event, which has given me some insight into what putting something like this together is like. Of course, all kink events are different and have different challenges and goals. For example, consensual beatings are illegal in my city, but this event gets around that by calling it 'improvisational theatre'. It's held in public, in a large community centre.
There are vendors, a littles’ space, and registration in the lobby, an aftercare room full of comfy couches and a newbie room where demos of everything from stapling to electro and fire play happen. The ballroom hosts the main dungeon, boasting numerous St. Andrew’s Crosses and hardpoints for rope rigging. First aid and the DJ are set up here, alongside a room with multiple hard points for rope suspension and another room known as the mat room, where people engage in wrestling and the like.
There is no complete nudity (genitals and anuses need to be covered) and no penetrative play allowed, but attendees still seem to have a great time and often wear interesting outfits, from chainmail bikinis to adult-sized baby onesies that are especially created for bondage, with arms similar to those of a straight jacket.
A lot of time and effort goes into a kink event of this kind. I have been a host and gave tours to new folks for the first shift of three. There were five other host volunteers, as well as greeters, dungeon monitors to make sure no one was engaging in dangerous play or anything against the rules, people demoing in the newbie room and main dungeon, and senior staff - not to mention the people that help with setup and breakdown.
Being able to make sure nothing goes wrong from a health and safety standpoint, and having to make sure nothing non-consensual is going on in a very crowded space is not easy - especially when that space is loud and full of people hitting, scratching, electrocuting, and setting one another on fire among other activities.
Volunteering some kinky fun!
I'm shy about public play, so a ‘beginner friendly’ event is definitely helpful for becoming more comfortable. It was interesting seeing people’s outfits, from lolita maid bunnies and kitties with ears that have bells and a butt plug tail to those wearing see-through pleated skirts and chainmail bikini tops and those in head to foot latex.
It’s interesting to witness different fetish subcultures happening in front of you, from the doms smoking cigars outside to the littles having a tea party and colouring. It's also great to be able to experiment with some things - getting zapped with a violet wand or having a flaming torch glide across your forearm.
The great thing about public events like this is that as long as you’re not intruding on people’s play space, you can just stand and watch what they’re up to. But being in a sexual space doesn't give you a pass to touch people or say sexual things if you don’t have express permission or know the person.
One thing made me somewhat uncomfortable during the night: people I didn't know trying to approach me for play. I've talked to a few people about this, and the consensus is that it’s better to try and form bonds with people before trying to play; although the space is inherently sexual, that doesn't mean people want to interact sexually with people they don’t already know.
There's clearly potential for meeting someone at an event and engaging in play with them that same night, but you shouldn't necessarily just approach someone with that expectation. This can be hard for people new to an event or scene that don’t know many people there and/or don't have a partner with them. I've encountered this sort of mentality in other sexual spaces, like when I worked in adult retail.
Since sexuality is so repressed for most people, it can be really exciting to be in a space where they feel like they can express their sexual self and can go a little overboard in the process. This is a side effect of living in a sex-oppressed society, and understandable, but also really uncomfortable to be on the receiving end of.
Ultimately, it’s events like this that allow people to express themselves and explore their sexuality in a safe and supportive environment, and I’m glad to be a part of this one - and will continue to be, as an educator and as a volunteer. Witnessing people exploring their sexuality and kinks in a welcoming environment is not something you get to be a part of every day, and I’d definitely recommend it if that’s something you have access to.
Caitlin is a writer, sex educator, consultant, and product reviewer who focuses primarily on issues of sex toy and accessory safety, pleasure, sexuality, gender, and more.
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