About three weekends ago, figmentj and dayo came down to visit for Frolicon, a BDSM/alternative sexuality convention here in Atlanta. Now, you might think that sounds like a lot of fun...and you'd be right. We met up with datan0de and femetal, and more than a few good times were had by all.
Now, in some ways I think that my own approach to BDSM--or at least the things bout BDSM that draw me to it--are a little unusual, at least in comparison to what I see in others. I'll get to that in a minute. First, some notes about the con itself.
Which was a blast.
lolitasir gave a demo workshop on fisting, which is one hell of an awesome way to start a weekend. Some how datan0de--at least I think it was him, it may have been one of his clones--ended up being drafted into the demo, playing the part of "lube boy." And, all in all, there are worse positions to be in. Especially considering it is, y'know, a great way to get up close and personal with a woman writhing in ecstasy, which is always fun.
I also learned to put in a pair of contact lenses. I have a set of contacts that looks like cyborg eyes, and I swear, I have no idea how you folks who wear these damn things all the time do it so easily. Half an hour of working and swearing, it took, just to get them in, and another half an hour to get them back out again.
Lots of panels (and dayo taught me a really cool no-knot two-column tie I'll be putting up on Symtoys at some point), lots of sushi. Going out for sushi straight from the con, in fetishwear and the whole bit, was fun.
And, of course, lots of play parties.
I had the opportunity to play with dayo and figmentj at the same time, and that by itself was a tremendous amount of fun. Play with each of them is effortless and tends to flow very well, and the three of us together have that same dynamic. figmentj and I had the pleasure of co-topping dayo, with floggers and crops and knives, oh my... After the fisting, it was time for us to turn our attention to figmentj, which is where I really noticed that my style of play, even at play parties, isn't the same as many of the other people I see play.
I first played with figmentj in a public play party last year. One of the things that I found with her, and one of the things that delights me a great deal about her, is her fearlessness when it comes to exposing herself emotionally. The two of us seem to have a very natural kind of unspoken language when we play, that extends far beyond the physical things we do.
It's been my observation that many of the people I've watched play in public are willing to expose their bodies for whatever scenarios they and their partners create, but are less willing to expose their emotional selves. And certainly in a situation where a person is playing casually, especially with a new partner, that makes sense.
But one of the things that most delights me about figmentj is how easily and readily she makes herself emotionally vulnerable, and how effortlessly we carve out a very private space even when we're surrounded by people. It was fun to see how that private space expanded to include dayo, too.
I've experienced the same thing with dayo, and it does seem to me that this kind of intimacy is not the norm in public play spaces. It takes, I think, a very particular kind of courage to play that way.
Later, when figmentj and I were talking about it, she was expressing frustration that she can't do the kind of edgy physical play that she's seen other people do. There was, for example, a person being whipped with singletails at the same time as we were playing--something that's definitely a nontrivial kind of scene.
I think, though, that the best measure of an activity is in how the people involved respond to it, and in the psychological environment it creates, rather than in the nature of the physical activities, or the amount of bruises it leaves. (Don't get me wrong; I love leaving marks on my partners, oh yes. Bu that's not the measure of the quality of the encounter, not by a long shot.)
I get quite a lot of email from my BDSM pages every month, and one common theme I've seen in a lot of the email is people saying "I've heard of [insert some kind of activity here], and I just don't see myself getting into that--I'm worried that I'm not a 'good' submissive."
I think that kind of idea can be especially easy to fall into at a play party, where you might be exposed to a wide range of different activities--singletail play, knife play, piercing play, needle play--I've even watched people doing fire play at a play party (sans fire extinguisher, which kind of ticked me off, but that's a whole different issue altogether). Since it's easier to see the physical side of the things going on than it is to see the emotional side, I think the tendency exists to say 'So that's what BDDSM is all about; I don't want to do those things; that must mean I'm not really doing it right.'
But for me, the stuff that happens behind my partner's eyes is the interesting stuff. The various techniques that get us there are more or less irrelevant; they're just the path to the destination. It's the destination itself, not the road you take to get there, that matters.
And I do realize that approach is somewhat unusual. For many people I've talked to, it's the activities themselves that matter. And, yes, I do get that, too. Being flogged, for example, just plain feels good--in fact, I've seen people reach orgasm just from a flogging alone. For many people, in the right context and with the right partner, things that are painful become intensely pleasurable. And that's totally cool. I like getting my partner off; I like doing things that my partner likes.
But I also like creating that shared emotional vulnerability while we're at it. That, for me, extends the activity beyond physical pleasure, into a much more emotionally charged space. It creates a physical and emotional dance that, properly done, really lets you see right into your partner's soul.
And I dig that.