Archive for the ‘Public Play’ Category
Okay, so I’ve had a few days now to actually sit back and start processing everything that happened on Saturday, and it isn’t all of it good. I’ve now heard from several people about some bad stuff that went down at the party (mostly involving inappropriate behavior / nonconsensual touching) and am actually sort of surprised that nothing worse happened. Folks in the Anarkink group have started talking (okay, emailing) about what was good and what we need to do better, and most of it has to do with being clearer on boundaries and such beforehand, keeping our invite list restricted, making sure people are monitoring scenes, checking people who are out of line, and providing safer sex supplies. All of which is good, and all of which is stuff I’m sure we would have done had we been planning a play party. Which we weren’t; we had planned a fundraiser party, a dance party that featured some performances and a spanking booth. We just hadn’t planned for the event turning into a play space, and weren’t prepared for what to do when it did happen. That said, I still think people did a really good job under the circumstances.
As soon as I let myself relax, after the party was over, I completely crashed both physically and mentally; I’m now fighting an awful cold and have spent the last three days since the party largely in bed or curled up on the couch under a blanket. I keep lapsing into crying fits that appear out of nowhere. The thought of any sort of responsibility, any task to accomplish, any project, fills me with renewed anxiety.
Honestly, it wasn’t so much the work involved with these events—though that did factor into it—as the emotional stress of, well, being out. For nine hours I sat with some stacks of zines and buttons and answered questions like “Anarkink? What’s that?” or “So what’s with the blue and black star?” I didn’t encounter any real drama, nor did I end up having real conversations with anyone about BDSM or why it’s important to talk about it. And when I noticed the two friends that I’m most scared of being out to walking around near where I was tabling, I stood up and pretended like I wasn’t tabling, but looking at zines at the table next to me. So in terms of really confronting my fears around being public about this sort of thing, I only made it about halfway. And I still felt completely fucking destroyed by it.
I know that it was all worth it. I now have a handful of friends that know about Anarkink and my involvement with it, so by extension that know (and are ostensibly okay with the fact) that I’m kinky. I helped make more people aware that Anarkink existed, which will hopefully bring more folks into the group, get a wider variety of faces and voices and perspectives, and get more ideas about what this group should and could become; ideally, this will also mean that we’ll have more people who can take over the organizational aspects of keeping the group going. And we also raised a couple hundred bucks to donate to the Long Haul Infoshop, our new meeting space, which should cover us for the next year.
But right now, it’s really hard for me to want to do any of this at all. We’re meeting again next Thursday, and I honestly don’t even know if I want to go. I was excited about the idea of starting up a small distro for kinky zines, and now I have little interest in it. I was even starting to consider contacting other people to help organize a KinkForAll in San Francisco, but after this event, I’m not sure I could handle it. I sort of want to just get back to having sex, in private, and just being happy with that.
I know in a week (or maybe even less) I’ll feel completely differently. But it’s going to take some recovery time.
The Anarkink party last night went so far beyond what I was hoping it would be. Seriously. It was really diverse, a lot of people were playing (we hadn’t actually advertised it as a play party, so I wasn’t really expecting that), and there were a lot of people interested in what we were doing and in helping to make stuff like this happen more often. A couple of times I saw people mentoring other people who were curious but had little or no experience, which was really cool to see. I overheard a conversation between two people I didn’t know in which one person was explaining the idea of d/s relationships to the other; I saw someone coaching another person through his first attempt at flogging. I saw people making and keeping boundaries. And even though we hadn’t planned for a play party and thus had no defined “monitors” or DMs, I also saw people stepping up to help keep peoples’ scenes safe and, especially, keeping folks from intruding on others’ scenes.
One important lesson for future parties, though: make sure the party flyer specifies no dogs. (Seriously, how did we think that we could advertise a party at the anarchist bookfair and not get at least three crusty punks showing up with their dogs?)
I came really close to playing at the party, but am glad that I didn’t; I’d been up since 7am and was working on just a few hours’ sleep, so it probably would have been a bad idea. The reason I didn’t play, though, was not really exhaustion but inhibition; I’m still just really, really scared of letting myself be publicly seen like that, even among people for whom watching their friends get flogged and fucked is totally normal. Feeling shy about public play makes me feel really self-conscious, like I’m somehow not really a part of things, like I’m being prudish and not “liberated” enough or something. It’s a ridiculous fear, I know; there’s absolutely nothing wrong with not wanting to play in public, and I shouldn’t feel pressured to do so. But I still do…perhaps I just feel if I could let go of my self-consciousness that much it would just sort of be a milestone, a real indicator that I’ve gotten past the inhibitions around sex that I’ve been trying to discard for so many years. I know I shouldn’t feel ashamed for the fact that I’m still dealing with those inhibitions, though. I guess that’s the first step…
The class was four hours long. Four. My head hurt by the time I left, and most of the material wasn’t even particularly new to me. I can’t imagine what it must have been like for someone who was truly a beginner, someone who actually needed the definitions of “subspace” and “aftercare.” I met one man who was in the same situation I was: has played privately for several years, but is just now dipping his toes into public play and the larger BDSM scene. Boi, who went with me, has the same background as well. I imagine that quite a few people there, if not the vast majority, were people who were not complete beginners, but who were apprehensive about bringing their sex life into this public arena.
I’ve assimilated a lot of the jargon and protocols of the scene while learning about kink from books and online, which made the class a little too basic for me, at times. But it also got me thinking about how interesting and bizarre it is that I can comfortably talk the talk without ever having been to a play party. I know basic safety issues and dungeon etiquette without having been taught them. I’m aware of which issues are controversial in the scene, and I don’t hold any of the false ideas about BDSM that the instructors spent so long dispelling.
Even if some of the material was old to me, the overall workshop was incredibly beneficial. There were definitely a few rules and points of protocol at the Citadel that I hadn’t known about, and that were good to learn. Breath play, in any form, is not allowed. I supposed I could have guessed that. “Mild” blood play and wax play are allowed, which surprised me, as long as the participants put down their own tarp beforehand and are careful about clean-up. Barriers are not required for oral sex, another happy surprise. As far as monitoring of scenes goes, I learned that DMs will check on anyone who safewords “red” and who is not immediately taken out of scene. The presenters assured me that it didn’t mean a DM would barge into a scene and force the person to stop immediately, but rather would err on the side of caution and talk to the bottom about whether or not they were really able to continue. They also mentioned that it’s a good idea to talk to the DMs around your area about what you’ll be doing if your scene is going to be “intense,” or involve heavy play. It’s a little difficult for me to figure out what that means, exactly, but it’s certainly good to keep in mind that when playing in a dungeon, a scene might be interrupted by a well-intentioned DM if you’re doing something that starts to look like “too much.” I think I’d like to learn more about DM protocol before I play publicly…
I also learned that fucking of any kind (with barriers, of course) is completely okay at the Citadel. This is pretty unusual for BDSM spaces, as I understand it. The presenters characterized those who were against public fucking in a play space as being uptight and feeling that kink was somehow superior to sex; one woman in attendance objected, in good humor, and indicated that she wasn’t too keen on it, but that she also wasn’t puritanical about her kink. (Is that an oxymoron?)
There was an interesting discussion of privacy and scene names, which I think I’ll write more about in a separate post.
Most of all, I had the happy impression that the scene, and play parties in particular, were totally welcoming of people who didn’t really want to make the scene their life. I left the workshop feeling not at all pressured into joining any discussion groups or listserves or volunteering or attending munches or anything else. Before, I had been afraid that it would seem improper to show up at Citadel workshops and parties with my partner, play only with each other, and never get involved with the scene in any deeper way. Now, I feel comfortable that maybe, there is a place for us there, too.
Which is good, because I think Saint Andrew’s Crosses are totally hot, and there’s really no space for one in my bedroom.