SouthEast LeatherFest (SELF) 2016 was an incredible ride! The energy in the common areas, classes, contest pieces, and evening gala was super charged with sexuality and playfulness. One of my fondest memories from the weekend was sitting down to rest my feet one afternoon in the common area outside the ballroom. I was preparing to go watch the Littles Pageant and chilling out on a couch beside the huge pile of donations for flood victims in the community. As I sat there human ponies giving cart rides trotted passed me with lively smiles and neighs. Beautiful fierce looking femmes sauntered by in one direction followed by handsome butches waltzing confidently by in the other direction. A Dom was teaching her mentee how to hold a leash while a submissive bounced off to fetch coffee for her Top. People watching in that space was one of those surreal and beautiful moments one can only have at SELF.
August 25–28, 2016 I had the distinct pleasure of attending SELF and serving as handler for Master Bella and slave Rooks who were competing for the South East Master and slave titles. Watching the well-oiled machine of stage management for the evening’s events was awe inspiring. The emcee Daryl Flick is unendingly charismatic and his lightening quick wit kept the audience laughing and engaged as the titles were earned. The winners this year included: Ms. SouthEast LeatherFest 2016 Tig; SouthEast Bootblack 2016 Ms Tori Jones; SouthEast Person of Leather 2016 ABizzy, and SouthEast Master/slave 2016 Master Bella and slave rooks.
You won’t want to miss the 2017 version of SELF coming up June 15–18, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia. SELF describes itself as, “the home where all people — kinksters and leather people, primals and littles, puppies and Masters, and LGBTQQIA2S — gather to celebrate our lives as sex positive individuals.” There will be over 50 classes, 2 nights of contests, parties, meetups, socials, and dungeons. Check out full details at the event website www.seleatherfest.com. Hope to see you there!
Portland, Oregon: KinkFest 2017
For anyone who hasn’t had the pleasure of attending, let me give you an overview of KinkFest. It includes three days of classes, a huge vendor fair, and over twenty hours of open dungeon. It is held at the Portland Expo Center and organized by the Portland Leather Alliance (PLA.) One of the things I’ve always loved about this event is PLA’s deep commitment to education. This year attendees had over fifty classes to choose from.
Friday and Saturday night were both hopping in the dungeon. This isn’t just a small corner of the space either, we’re talking 36,000 square feet of well-equipped play space! Kinkfest has always maintained very clear demarcation of each individual space within the whole, which makes it very simple to make sure not to intrude in someone else’s scene. Highlights included pony cart rides weaving in and out of the aisles, a very tall man in high platform shoes walking a “doll” on marionette strings, and a huge amount of space for rope suspension work (all of which was in very high demand and well utilized.)
I hadn’t been to Kinkfest in a few years; I was pleasantly surprised by the increased size of the vendor mart. There were over 40 vendors in all. While there, I ran across something that was an entirely new concept for me: ceramic insertables! I couldn’t help but think that seemed very adorably Portland. You can see them for yourself at the Big Rooster Pottery web site. Of course, the usual suspects were there as well, the Frugal Domme, Wian Floggers, InHerTube, Paddle Daddy, and BunnyFlogger.com to name a few. I admired the leather gear offered by House of Wolfram, a relatively new producer with flawless offerings. (He even offered to pair silver hardware with burgundy leather since I cannot bear gold.) The folks at Miss Haley’s Bombshell Boutique were super sweet. Miss Haley chatted with me about her love of luxurious texture, while her fetching male helpers fluttered around assisting customers.
New to KinkFest this year was the Queer Infusion created by local Queer organizations. About 40 Queer identified folks gathered in the lobby at 8pm Saturday night. Participants were invited to How Queer!, the Queer Munch, and Dirty Playground — all local Queer events. After that, we headed into the dungeon together and participated in a consent-based game of Spin the Bottle.
Following is a tour of some of the classes I attended. (Please note that quotes are not direct, they are paraphrased.)
Patrick Califia’s Politics of BDSM
Califia provided historical context to our community’s history of resistance in the face of oppression. This was not just a chronological list of events, but included his personal memories of deep involvement in early organizing and activism. Of course, it felt especially poignant with the concern and horror so many of us are experiencing in our current political climate.
What I appreciated most, was his forward thinking list of projects representing ongoing issues that we should be working on today; he offered this as a way to level up after teaching classes and general organizing. Possible subjects include: removing BDSM from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM,) updating obscenity laws, zoning laws, laws around sex work, censorship, media (both co-opting our community and depicting us unfairly,) assault laws, creditors and paypal, unwritten employment “morality” clauses, and education for medical care providers. Issues to work on within our community include domestic violence, classism, racism, and sexism.
When I first sat down in the classroom I was a sole participant, when I left I felt reconnected to a greater purpose: activism in the name of sexual freedom. From my perspective he successfully enlightened and emboldened his audience, all while building our sense of connection and responsibility. His class created the perfect lens from which to view the entire weekend.
Audience member Angie Gunn, Board Chair of SPEEC, had this to add, “He speaks from an intergenerational perspective, capturing the history of oppression and activism, while calling attention to the most pressing matters facing anyone outside the sexual norm. Patrick inspires hope that we can combat the in-fighting amongst sexual minorities, collaborate and create change to legitimize all forms of sexual expression. As he stated, he was one of ‘three crazy people with an idea and a selectric,’ and made monumental change.”
Noble Manque’s Tying For Connection
Upon entering Manque’s class, I scuttled quickly to a chair in the back of the room. About half of the audience was arranged up front, paired off, trying out rope techniques as he spoke. The other half were sitting on chairs, watching and listening. One of Manque’s strongest points, reiterated quite often, was, “it’s not about the rope!” It was quite plain, even from my vantage point at the very back of the room, that he had a strong, caring connection with the women who were bottoming for his class.
Manque covered the use of particular pressure points, both for release and giving endorphins, and quite a number of rope ties that would emphasize vulnerability and helplessness for the rope bottom. He spoke about giving his bottoms a good dose of dopamine about every ten minutes, so that they maintain a base level and are able to enjoy the scene longer.
He mentioned that if a bottom is, “puddling,” you have a choice about whether to let them enjoy it or do something to bring them back. An audience member asked him to define, “puddling.” Manque defined it as the state where there is just one way communication, an absence of fear, where the bottom is totally high and gone. If they are puddling, they have gone white, are in the zone, and the noise in their head goes away. Most of all, he said, as a top you should also enjoy this space because you have successfully created it for them.
He warned, “rope is like roofies. This is why you need to get your negotiating done beforehand. She’d do anything I asked of her right now.” Looking down at his bottom, his statement was not at all hard to believe, as a goofy smile spread across her face.
One attendee, Yvonne, noted, “This class was one of my very favorite of the weekend. Specifically about being intentional about the emotional and the physical connections you make while tying your bottom and being strong and sensual while staying present. I’m currently learning to be a rope top. I identify as a queer, female, (not so hopeless) romantic — his style resonates with me.”
Kalisti’s The Fine Points of Objectification
Have you ever wanted to be a chair? A table? Some other inanimate object of little worth? Or maybe you wanted to have a human bath mat? Kalisti addressed all of these points in her Objectification class.
Most impressive to me, was how flawlessly she flowed from addressing able-bodied versions of this play to offering ways to accommodate a wide range of differently-abled bodies. She included instruction should the person you are objectifying have bad knees, a bad back, fibromyalgia, arthritis, and a number of other examples. Her inclusion and normalization of such considerate play was extremely moving.
She offered clarification on the difference between humiliation and degradation. To her, degradation is much deeper and gets to the core of her interest in objectification. When she is objectifying someone, she is making sure that they know they have no worth beyond their object value, all with consent, of course! One particular tip was to make dollar store price labels to emphasize the ease with which a person/object could be replaced.
She created a fun, dynamic energy in the classroom and had very enthusiastic volunteers from the audience to become quite an array of furniture and objects.
An attendee who wishes to remain anonymous mentioned to me, “this isn’t at all what I was expecting, but I like it!”
Danorama and Knotasha’s Authentic Interrogation for BDSM
This class was super packed, I wouldn’t have gotten in at all if a KinkFest volunteer hadn’t taken pity on me standing outside, staring at the “full classroom,” sign.
Danorama held the audience’s attention rapt. Just being present in the room felt like we were all privy to a sort of dangerous conspiracy. His slide presentation mixed imagery from actual government torture, historic video footage of prisoners of war, and BDSM play scenes.
We learned about the Reid Interrogation technique, which is no longer used by police. Despite being very successful in producing confessions, it turns out that the confessions garnered are often false. (Not an issue for BDSM play!) For this technique the questioner will walk into the room with a file folder and start with an accusation. They might say something like, “the evidence in this folder proves that you stole the jewel.” If the person being questioned returns a question, “it does?” that is one possible sign of guilt. Most innocent people would say something like, “no, it doesn’t!”
After capture, leaving people alone in a blank room and completely isolated from the rest of the world is a very effective way to build tension. He explained that after such a pause, of say 15 minutes, there is a great utility to asking leading, open-ended questions, such as, “why were you sent to me?” Basically, your goal as an interrogator is to make your attention, during the actual questioning time, a social reward for your captive. Show them empathy when they are acting as you’d like them to. Control your own anger, only use anger as a false display for effect. Over time, you want to sway their perception of personal risk versus reward for compliance.
Another useful tip: if you arrange the person that you are questioning in a way that causes their body to experience pain passively, such as forcing them to maintain a squat, they are psychologically less likely to blame you for the pain they endure. This is also true if you have prisoners act out violence on one another, rather than administering it yourself.
Amory Jane’s Back that Ass Up: Anal Sex 101
“Don’t let your eyes be bigger than your anus,” was the wise warning kicking off this class. With anal play, the key to success is in starting slow and letting your ass expand slowly. For hygiene, lubricant is quite important for less tears and micro-cuts, plus it feels quite a bit better. For safety, always play with toys that have a retrieval loop or a flared base, otherwise you might lose your toy inside your butt with no way to get it back. Jane joked, “the anus is very helpful, what a good buddy!” She also mentioned, “I hope everyone has a friend that would help you get something out of your butt.” She had the audience laughing throughout her presentation.
A few more safety tips included not going from ass to mouth or from ass to vagina. Both of these could cause infection. When you see it in porn, it’s often an editing trick. For safer sex there are condoms, finger cots, and gloves to help. If you have long nails a cotton ball in the tips of the fingers can make things safer and more comfortable.
Jane listed some fun, “asstivities,” including, anal massage, finger techniques, and then had a live demo. She mentioned that her demo bottom has a very “hungry ass.” This was evidenced by the bottom leaning into her whenever she got near their anus with a finger or toy.
I really enjoyed her finger technique of, “ring the doorbell,” which was exactly what it sounds like. She related that it’s a good way to test the receptiveness of the anus before diving in. She also showed us how to pair anal penetration with spanking, describing how she could feel the reverberations of the spank from inside her demo bottom’s anus.
Fakir Musafar’s What Am I? Unlocking Your Hidden Powers
Fakir Musafar is well-known for putting needles into skin, often as part of ritual play. He started the class by letting us know that needles are just one way of changing the relationship between our physical and energetic bodies. It can also be done with meditation, yoga, and more. We are not just body and mind, he continued, but much bigger. It is possible to separate our electromagnetic bodies from our physical bodies.
Musafar told us a fascinating story about his first out of body experience. He was just 17 and had been reading a lot about the subject. One weekend when his parents went out of town, he got a chance to try it. He set up a physical ordeal, prepared by fasting, then danced himself to near exhaustion, and finally attached himself to a cold wall in the basement of his family’s home. He waited hours for, “something to happen.” Eventually it did. He lost all feeling, paralysis moved up from his feet to his head. He felt prepared to die. When the paralysis reached his forehead, he ejected from his body and felt as though he was floating in warm, sticky goo. He eventually gained the ability to see with a sort of fuzzy vision and went exploring until dawn. He doesn’t remember how he got himself off the wall, but eventually woke up on the floor in a pile of ropes.
Musafar emphasized that whatever your attention is on, is where you are. What your attention is on, is what you become.
Stella Harris’ From the Dungeon to the Bedroom: Asking for What You Want
Stella Harris is an intimacy coach and educator, this class brought a lot of wonderful tips to the audience for having conversations about what we want in sex or play.
There are quite a number of reasons that people might have trouble communicating on this topic. One she sees often, is simply that people want to be polite. This can manifest as an issue even if two people are very compatible.
For example, imagine a scenario where one person in a relationship strongly prefers giving oral sex, whereas the other person prefers receiving. The person who enjoys receiving more might not ask for it as often as they’d like, or might even say, “no,” to be polite when they aren’t in the mood to reciprocate. However, in this scenario the one who enjoys giving would be entirely pleased just to be able to give.
Harris pointed out the power of the word, “try.” This word gives us space to learn. Instead of having a big end goal, what if we approached sexual contact as something we’re trying out together? We can make it playful, experimental, and time limited. She emphasized that this takes away some of the pressure. Instead of setting up a new activity in a way that might fail, participants can instead revel in the success of any part of it. Maybe you won’t get the whole fist inside you tonight, but getting three fingers in can be a win too.
How do you ask for feedback during sex or play? Harris suggested moving past simple, “yes/no” questions, and instead gathering more information. Examples of this would be giving a choice between two alternatives, “would you like this harder or softer?” By asking the question in this way, you are giving the other person permission to choose one. They could still choose to say, “I like it exactly how you are doing it,” but their anxiety about giving constructive feedback should be lessened by the structure. Other good questions are, “what would make this better?” or “on a scale of 1 to 10, how close are you to where you would like to go?”
Make sure when you are asking for feedback that you are keeping in mind the difference between a request and a demand. The difference is that with a demand, “no” is not an acceptable answer. With a request, it is.
One quite enjoyable exercise she lead us through was thinking of something from pop culture that was hot for us and distilling it down to its component parts in order to be able to experience something like it in real life. Examples: power dynamics in the Labyrinth, the “helping hands,” in the Labyrinth, Phantom of the Opera, and G.I. Joe. With each example she drew a diagram on the board and the audience helped by yelling out what was hot about it.
The last bit of advice she left us with was using a “yes/no/maybe” list to start a negotiation. She mentioned that it could be helpful to get more information about why certain things were on the “no” list. Often, she related, people have different ideas of what a particular activity looks like. With more conversation, you might find more common ground than you think.
One audience member that wished to remain anonymous said, “I found Stella’s class to be super empowering! It made me re-think a lot of the movies and tv shows I loved as a kid. I think I’m going to ask my Dominant if we can try a Fraggle Rock fantasy!”
KinkFest was a fantastic weekend extravaganza.
I was grateful that my experience this year was opened by Patrick Califia’s class, which reminded me that any of level of involvement in our community is inherently radical.
I’ll leave you with a poignant quote of his, “activism isn’t always about winning. It’s about creating a record of opposition.”
by Leland Carinahttps://medium.com/media/9017019bd4c9fce0607e731c07dfdd74/href