Sunday, 5 June 2011

Weekend Musings: Play Parties, Munches, and Public Gatherings

Recently, the Masterly one was talking with some people online who were saying they had no interest in or intention on attending any munches, workshops or the like because they were too "private."  Another woman on MyDungeonSpace mentioned in a forum post about her first foray into "public play" (in reality, a private meeting between her and someone she'd met on the internet) was disastrous, and had turned her off of any rt meetings in the BDSM realm.  Both of these things boggle my mind.

I've known that I was very interested in BDSM from a young age, and so my first attempts to connect with others were done at an age too young to really do such things (not something I recommend, I could have gotten a lot of people in trouble for my lies about my age).  I never had any qualms about meeting people, and a time or two that got me into trouble - mainly because I disregarded the advice given to me by more experienced players - but when it came right down to it, I gained far more than I lost from the public interaction.

After I met my Masterly one, we moved to a smallish town in northern Alberta for a number of years.  This was a culture shock from growing up in Chicago in many ways, not the least of which was the lack of an active and thriving BDSM community.  (And the lack of great libraries, great theatre, great improv comedy, a great ballet company, a great symphony orchestra, jazz clubs, interesting galleries, a beach, a thriving arts scene, compassion and acceptance for people leading alternative lifestyles... shall I go on?  Lets just say I spent a long, long time being miserably homesick and crying when movies showed the Chicago skyline).  When we moved here to Calgary, in so many, many ways I had a sense of coming home.  I'd never lived here before. Heck, I'd never even visited Calgary before, so we moved here blind. Still and all, there was a rich and wonderful city to explore, and some of the best people we've met have been those in the local BDSM scene.

We started off at a MAsT meeting, where we had the chance to chat with other couples who lived lifestyles much like our own.  I'm naturally incredibly shy, and it took me some time to be able to speak up.  Everyone else knew each other, and seemed to have known one another for quite a while.  Would we fit in?  Would we be shunned as newbs?  Yes, we would fit in just fine, and no, of course we weren't shunned.  I began to relax into a familiar head space; being among people who really understood me.

When you are different from the norm, it can be very difficult to feel like someone can really relate to you.  Sure, you may share interests with your vanilla friends, but you have to watch the way you refer to your partner, the things that you share.  If you mention that you have a hobby of making rope floggers, those girls from the book club are going to look at you a little funny.  In reality, even if you live in a 24/7 TPE relationship as we do, that part of you is probably only 25% of your life.  What that means though, is that you're always hiding that 25% of who you are.  You can never be wholly and unabashedly yourself.

But you can, with kink friends.  I know that my Masterly one worried, because he didn't have much rt experience interacting with others, and for the time before I met him, he'd been hanging around in Gorean chat rooms (and it's rare to find a more intolerant group, in general, than Goreans.  Let's be honest here.)  He was worried that people would judge him because he practiced his lifestyle differently from the way they might, I think.  But what I knew was that it didn't work that way.  There is so much intolerance in the rest of the world that in general, the kink world embraces you for who you are, and appreciates you for what it is that you do, even if it isn't what they do.  "Your kink is not my kink, and that's okay."

Once you're able to relax with people, once you're able to be one hundred percent yourself, you can create deeper friendships more quickly than you'd ever dream possible.  It's a wonderful thing.


You can't tell munch groups from other restaurant patrons
We go to three different munch groups in the area now, and we've met amazing people at all of them.  We don't have to worry about getting funny looks when Master orders for both of us, or when I ask his permission to go to the restroom.  People don't question why I wait to start eating until he begins (sometimes a challenge to wait when plates are coming out in a staggered fashion for a large group!), and they don't stare if I'm wearing a collar of some sort.  Most of the conversation is normal everyday chatter, such as what the construction down town is doing to traffic patterns or how the Stanley Cup playoffs are going.  Other times, we might be talking about a new toy we bought or a workshop or event coming up, though instead of this being about a camper or boat or a concert or comedy show, we're talking about Hitachi wands and leather cuffs, sounding workshops and play parties.

If you've never been to a munch, it's a great first step in the public BDSM arena.  The dress is casual, the location vanilla (generally a restaurant, bar, or pub of some sort), and the conversation is typically mild.  It's not a meat market, so don't go expecting to find a person to take home, it's about making friends and getting to know one another.  It's a great networking tool, as well, to find out who the kink-friendly professionals in your area are, or to find out when the less-publicized events are taking place.  I've heard some people express concern about not knowing how to "act" at a munch, but really, if you have enough manners that you're not generally kicked out of restaurants when you're there on your own, you're going to be fine.  There are generally no protocols in place, and if you are new and submissive, no one is going to start ordering you around or making demands of you.  Or, if they do, they will generally get put in their place by other attendees pretty darn quick.

Play Parties

Some play parties are hosted by groups, such as Whiplash Productions or Bottoms Up here in Calgary or COPE (Come Out and Play Edmonton) a bit north of here.  These usually involve an entry fee, and the signing of a few documents about liability.  If you've never played at a party before, you don't have to be afraid here either.  Check out the rules and regulations of wherever you are playing; most venues do not allow photography or recordings.  They have cleaning supplies available, and usually provide beverages and snacks. There are usually standard safewords used (the red-yellow-green system is prevalent here).

Why are play parties great?  Because often you'll get to try new things that you never dreamed of.  Let's face it, some BDSM toys and activities come with hefty price tags.  For example, when we were up in that small northern town, we invested in a cupping set because we thought it was interesting.  And, it was, luckily enough for us, something we enjoyed.  For other things that spark our interest though, we did not want to make the investment without knowing what the payoff would be.  Luckily for us, there are play parties.

This weekend I discovered a new love; the violet wand.  I wouldn't have known the tricks you can do with it, or the various sensations you can create if it hadn't been for a couple of friends of ours. I got to play with it (or, more accurately, get played WITH, with it) for quite a lot that evening, and can't wait to try it again.  Would it have been a good investment for us?  Yes.  But that $300 - 600 to buy one isn't easy to spend without knowing.

Also, at play parties, you can get introduced to new techniques.  I have loved fire play for a long time.  What fire play with a girl who almost was killed in a house fire?  Yeah.  Fire scares the hell out of me, because I know the destructive power of it rather intimately.  It's why I love it.  This weekend, a lovely Dom friend set me on fire.

We had dabbled in a bit of fire play with cigars and the like in the past, but never had heard of nor knew how to implement the use of flash cotton in our scenes.  It was positively breathtaking for me, and I cannot wait to do it again.  I never would have known how much it would affect me if it hadn't been for that experience at a play party.  Believe me, fantasies are nice and all, but reality is so much better.  I mean heck, I also got elaborately bondaged to another beautiful woman, and got to spank a really cute girl with a paddle.  How can you have more fun in a night than all that??


For the new-to-the-lifestyle BDSMer, workshops are a godsend.  They are the way that one generation of kinksters can pass along their knowledge and wisdom to the next.  There are many, many activities that I believe everyone should attend a workshop for before attempting (including sounding, single-tail whippings, brandings, needles, heck most every edge play scenario, electrical play, etc) if they do not have someone to mentor them in the skill. 

Lets take sounding as a great example.  This is something I've been curious about for some time, but hadn't even mentioned it to my Master because without a workshop, wasn't NO ONE gonna stick me with one of those babies.  I may be a no-limits slave, but thankfully he is smart enough not to actually do that without learning first (or any other activity for that matter).  It was during a conversation at a munch that it came up that there was more interest in the community for it than just me, and talk came up about a workshop possibly being held this fall.  Score!  See why munches are useful?  It's that networking thing.

Workshops are a great way to try new activities under supervision after being carefully taught.  As the submissive partner in the relationship, it allays a lot of my fear, and makes me feel safe from harm.  There is nothing like education on a topic to make it accessible to everyone.

To make a long post even longer, all I have to say is that for those who are afraid of public events, get yourself out there!  There are so many more possibilities than you'll ever know, if you don't stick your toe in the pool.  If you are afraid, like me, of being accepted because you don't look like a playboy bunny, then stop being silly.  No one looks like a playboy bunny, unless they carry around an airbrush kit to use on themselves moment-to-moment.  If you're afraid because it would compromise your name, know that those in the scene are generally discreet and respectful.  They accept the use of pseudonyms (scene names) because there is always that risk of your identity getting around.  Unless you are outing others, it's unlikely that anyone is going to be rude and cruel enough to out you.  If you're afraid of not knowing what to do, just tell people you're new.  You'll find someone to take you under their wing.

Trust me, it's gonna be okay.

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