Charm City Fetish Fair, Part 3

Read part 1 and part 2 of my Charm City Fetish Fair write-up.

Since I’d had so much trouble on Friday evening, I decided to wear the same outfit again for the party on Saturday. I didn’t get a good full-length picture of it to post, but I’m sure I’ll wear it again sometime. I wore a byzantium purple dress, matching nail polish, sparkly purple eyeshadow, black industrial net back-lined stockings, shiny black Mary Janes with medium heels, lacy black fingerless wrist-gloves, a long silver-white wig with bangs, and my leather jacket. I was rushing around to get food before the party so I forgot to get out the tiny black top hat I had worn the night before.

I had trouble getting out of my car again, because I slowed down to eat food and had to get up the nerve to go in again. I had expected the Captain to accompany me, but he bootblacked all day without much of a break so he decided to go home and sleep instead. I like having friends with me at kink parties, so it upped my anxiety to go alone. After steadying my nerves, I finally put on my game face and went in.

The party was cold. I stood awkwardly near the doorway for a few minutes, trying to get my bearings. Finally I snagged a chair and sat watching the scenes already in progress. A few people I remembered seeing earlier sat down near me and we started talking. From my bag I removed my equipment for my secret experiment and held it in my hand, smoothing the sheet of paper and bandana nervously over my lap. My conversation companions asked me what it was for, I explained, and then I set everything up and dove in.

I dragged my chair to the edge of the pool of light in the middle of the room, hung my leather jacket on the back of the chair, tied my pink bandana around my eyes, held up my sign, and waited. My sign read, “DDog’s Make Out Corner – All Genders Welcome – (Kiss Me I’m Queer).”

Originally, I had planned to be naked and blindfolded, and when I do this again in the future that will be the case, but the room was just too cold for me to relish the thought of sitting there for an unspecified length of time without some protection. I held my post for roughly an hour and a half and received some very nice kisses from about a dozen people. Some of them were soft, others were more forceful. One person murmured that I was quite tempting but they were unable to kiss me, and ran their fingers up and down my arms instead. Near the end I received a simultaneous kiss from three people. Most of the time I just sat there quietly in the dark, listening to the sounds around me.

I’ve fantasized about variations on the theme of “I’m blindfolded and naked, unknown people do things to me” for awhile now, and this was the first time I’ve gotten to do it. The kissing was hot and I hope the next time I do this I will get more takers, but I’m also grateful for the experience of listening to a party without seeing it. I sometimes have a difficult time processing busy environments like that, and removing one of my senses was unexpectedly calming. It reminds me of an Isaac Asimov story, “Catch That Rabbit” where a robot in charge of six other robots acts strangely until one of the underling robots is removed and the head robot is fine again, because directing six robots was overloading its organizational capacity. I wonder whether noise-canceling headphones might be useful in situations where blindfolds are not appropriate or less practical. When I mentioned this on Twitter, @greenwillow77 recommended the Simply Noise white noise generator, which I will be trying out.

After I removed my blindfold, a few of the people who had kissed me introduced themselves, and it turned out to be the group I had given directions to lunch earlier in the day, and I had given them directions to the Playhouse the night before, and they remembered my demo-bottoming for Jay Wiseman‘s rope workshop at Sugar a few weeks ago, as well as a number of other events we had each attended but not crossed paths. So, yay for meeting kindred spirits! They also gave me head skritches and a shoulder and arm massage which was pretty spectacular.

Face to face, they had some questions about my gender. On the one hand, I didn’t mind answering them because I was hoping to make friends with them so getting the baseline education out of the way early is in my long-term self-interest, as well as my personal educational goals of making the world a better place for trans people through the basic information that so many otherwise-well-meaning people still don’t have. It’s also a far less stressful conversation to have while getting a massage! On the other hand, half the reason the setup of blindfold and sign is so attractive to me is so I don’t have to have these conversations in order to get kisses. It felt like I got to not be trans for an hour, and then I was trans again which I could tell because people were asking me questions and giving me advice about it. (Most accurately, it felt like I got to not be anything, but trans is the thing that yields the most friction for me in my daily life.) My dysphoria is peculiar and comes up most strongly when I am _aware_ of other people assuming I am a woman based on my appearance, and when I am explaining that actually that isn’t the case.

On the whole, I’ll call it a successful experiment. I’ll be doing another version at a party in May, and the most involved version of this experiment is forthcoming at Dark Odyssey: Fusion in June, which I’m very excited about.

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Charm City Fetish Fair, Part 2

Read part 1 of my Charm City Fetish Fair write-up.

For the third session, I chose one called “Beyond Deep Subspace: The Spiritual Connection” given by Master Steve and slave tami, the 2009 Northeast Master/slave couple. For the first part, tami sat quietly while Steve discussed the state known as subspace, which depending on the person can  involve euphoria, a sense of floating or flying, a separation of mind from body or self from environment, or complete unconsciousness. Some things that can affect being able to reach subspace are distractions in the environment, physical comfort, each partner’s emotional state, and their trust in each other. Many people reach subspace through the application of rhythmic and repetitive pain that triggers the release of endorphins, and a top can control the bottom’s journey by varying the pace or sensation.

Steve then explained that his slave could reach a state of complete unconsciousness when she entered subspace, and he and tami demonstrated it. It was one of the most fascinating things I have ever seen. Within ten minutes of Steve starting to apply pain, I watched as tami went from labored breathing and a tense body to calm breathing and completely relaxed. She had no reaction to ice dumped on her stomach, not even a twitch or small tensing of muscle that bespeaks rigid control instead of otherwhereness. Steve switched from pain to soothing touches and tami started to come out of it, her legs tensing and her hand going to the now-melted ice, and she went right back under  when Steve switched back to pain. When he let her up completely some minutes later, she spoke about hearing and feeling nothing when she was in that state. I asked if she had a sense of timelessness, and she said that sometimes it felt like no time at all had passed and sometimes it felt like hours.

I’m still not really sure what my reaction to this session is. I’ve heard people talk about subspace but I’ve never consciously observed it nor felt it myself, and this was not what I pictured when I imagined it. I have no idea if this is a common type of subspace, or something that comes out of Steve and tami’s particular circumstances and length of relationship. It was cool to watch, but I’m not certain what I learned from it beyond “this is a thing that it is possible for humans to do.” Which can still be a good thing to know. I also seem to have missed discussion of a spiritual component of subspace in general, or how this experience might be spiritual to Steve and tami.

  • “When [she] and I first met, one of her hard limits was nipple torture. That didn’t last too long.”
  • “I never leave her there for longer than twenty or thirty minutes because my hands get tired.”

The next session was “Misconceptions about M/s” with Master Taino. I was excited for this session because I enjoyed his class on leather families at CCFF’s second year. He distributed a handout with many misconceptions listed and anonymous quotes reacting to and exploring those misconceptions, but decided to open it up for discussion and questions rather than following the handout explicitly, which was great. There were comments about Total Power Exchange-style relationships, whether masters had to be assholes, how much power slaves really have, the importance of drawing attention to M/s being used as a pretext for abuse, and what differences there are between the leather community and the M/s community.

One person asked about the necessity of M/s relationships being sexual. Master Taino drew a triangle on the easel and labeled the corners Sex, BDSM, and Responsibility/Surrender, saying that the third of these was the only one required for an M/s relationship. An M/s relationship might have either, both, or neither of sex and BDSM, but the core of M/s is the master’s calling to take responsibility for the growth of another person, and the slave’s calling to surrender in service and obedience. A relationship with sex and BDSM but without the responsibility/surrender is just a kinky couple.

I asked about titles: who uses them, what their purpose is, how you get one, do you start as a slave until somebody graduates you to master. Master Taino explained that it used to be that you could only get in at the bottom because the community was underground, and you had to know someone who knew someone who knew someone to even get in the door. Now the Internet can tell you that you’re not alone in your M/s inclinations, which is a wonderful thing, and it also makes it easy to think you know more than you do. The titles can be a mark of community recognition of your skills, involvement, and merit. It can also be a way to vouch for each other when people are outside their home turf. It’s usually pretty obvious when someone is just taking a title or showing up to meetings to get laid or status because they tend to fade out when it isn’t given to them right away. Your partner might call you Master or slave but that doesn’t necessarily mean anyone else will without the presence in the community.

At the end I asked whether someone could be a slave and a master at the same time, and everyone laughed because it was a big question for the “five minutes left” call. Master Taino said he thought it would be difficult for one person to be both slave and master to the same person, but it was not uncommon for a person serving a master to have a slave of their own. They might occupy an intermediate position in the hierarchy of a household, or they want to be a master on their own eventually but are currently serving as a slave, or they might be a slave who is assigned stewardship of another slave by their master.

A couple came up to me afterward to talk to me more about my questions. slave april said she sees M/s as a calling that is distinct from D/s or top/bottom, that one is either called to be a master or called to be a slave, but not both; that there is no category analogous to switch within M/s. This seems to be a common opinion, and M/s identities are seen as less flexible or more binary than some of the other identities within BDSM. Her Sir Tom told a story of his first MAsT meeting at april’s invitation, where everyone else had a title so he thought he needed one too and introduced himself as Sir Tom; it has been two years since that meeting and a few of those people are starting to actually call him Sir Tom, instead of just Tom or “that guy april’s dating.”

M/s is a dynamic that fascinates me, as might be surmised by my choosing All The M/s Things for sessions this year. I’m not sure how to determine whether it’s my thing or not, or what side of the slash I might be on as someone who otherwise identifies as a switch. I’m not even sure if formalized D/s is my thing, and M/s is way intense. I might check out MAsT Baltimore and investigate further, so I can ask people questions face-to-face. Nerve-wracking, but hopefully useful, and good practice.

  • “Males are doms, females are subs? Nooooo, I think I last heard that in the Bible or something.”
  • “Watch people, listen to them. You’ll know within five minutes if Goddess Mary Hotpants is Goddess Mary Hotpants or Master Mary.”

I ended up in my last session of the day almost by accident. I was thinking about going to the spanking workshop, but my conversation with Tom and april lasted through the session break so I ended up staying in the same room because I didn’t want to be rude and leave right when the next session was starting. And boy, I was glad I stayed. That session was a Q&A with Mama Vi, Viola Johnson of the Carter/Johnson Leather Library, a portion of which was on display at the event. I had never heard of the library or its caretakers before that, but it is an amazing collection of the history of “what it is that we do.”  Mama Vi was a powerful, understated speaker. She told some of her personal history with kink and its communities going back to her entry into that world in the 1970s, then opened up for questions and discussion. My notebook is just a wall of quotes.

  • “Oh my god, I am going to hell in a pair of gasoline silk drawers.”
  • “And he saw us in the doorway and said, ‘Come in, little sisters. You’re home.'”
  • “The same rope works whether you’re gay or you’re straight, and the blindfold and the whip have no gender.”
  • “We discovered that we could love together without having to sleep together.”
  • “We forget that to be a disciple simply means to witness. Jill and I were disciples of so many amazing things unfolding.”
  • “There are books in the Library that go back to the 1700s. The only reason they don’t go back to the 1600s is because I can’t afford them.”
  • “My story is boring, because I lived it. I watched things. I assisted thing, I bore witness. I didn’t do anything. Boring.”
  • “All of you have said something to someone that affected their life. But you don’t think about that, because it’s just your story.”
  • “As we share stories, we strengthen the path ahead for other people to live and share their stories.”
  • “History is shared experience.”
  • “Parents, if they do their job right, become grandparents, and it’s a very different role.”
  • “I want the information the Internet can provide to come back together with the hand on the shoulder that only a mentor can provide.”
  • “The child needs information from a parent, not just the information.”
  • “Information alone can’t give you a reason to aspire.”
  • “I do not walk on water, I pass it, and usually with some frequency.”
  • “They did that, so I can do this. I do this, so you can go on to do something I can’t even imagine.”
  • “Bottom line, this is enlightened self-interest. Don’t let anyone tell you it’s altruism. If I fail to teach you what you need to know, I’ve failed you, and I’ve failed everyone who came before me. Because if you fail your future, you betray your past.”
  • “The joy of your generation, your leather generation, is that you’re not afraid of your sexuality.”
  • “The vision isn’t mine anymore, and that’s fabulous. Jill and I are only the owners by technicality. We’re its custodians.”
  • “If it is not an ever-changing thing, it’s an antique. And antiques look nice on the shelf, but they are not a living creature.”
  • “My job is to see to it that you see it. How? That’s a future I can’t even begin to guess.”
  • “When I am dead and gone and come back again, I think it will still be there.”
  • “Rameses II would give out hand-carved copies of his phallus to favored courtiers.” “National Geographic doesn’t tell you that.” “What, you missed that bit of Egyptian history in school?”
  • “It’s amazing what you can find at garage sales. And Grandpa and Grandma weren’t as innocent as you think.”
  • “It’s hard to think that your parents had pig sex to have you.”

That wrapped up the educational portion of CCFF. I’m amused that on the whole I chose sessions that were most similar to something I could expect to see at KinkForAll. I stuck around about an hour longer to hear the results of the charity auction. There were some really cool items like a dragon necklace that was also a knife, a stay at the lifestyle B&B in Pennsylvania, hour-long play sessions with some skilled luminaries, a BDSM pride apron, a flogger with a billiard ball on the handle, and a few framed photographs. Sadly, I didn’t win anything. Then I waited for the Captain to finish up his bootblack business as he was my ride. I was rapidly losing focus and fortitude by that point, tapping and rocking much more than usual in a desperate attempt to keep it together until I could get home. A small part of me wondered if anyone noticed and the rest of me was too frazzled to care. Finally home, I began to decompress and prep for the evening party.

Continue to Part 3.

Charm City Fetish Fair, Part 1

The Charm City Fetish Fair is my super-local kinky con, being held in Baltimore itself instead of DC or northern Maryland. It is entirely slave-run, which is unusual for these things; dominants and switches volunteer in various ways but do not hold positions of authority in the actual running of the thing. The brilliant orja and her hardworking associates put on a great, small con that brings together a decent mix of speakers, attendees, activities, vending, and play. This weekend was its fourth year, and I had also attended its first and second years.

I attempted to go to the mixer on Friday night, but had a bout of social anxiety and ended up hiding in the bathroom for most of it. It was frustrating because I had put together an outfit that I loved but made me unrecognizable to the few people that I knew so no one approached me, and I didn’t know any of those people well enough to feel comfortable approaching them. CCFF came out of the Baltimore Education and Social Society, one of Baltimore’s kinky discussion and learning groups, and I had not been especially involved with BESS in a few years. I know some of the members remember me, and others would probably remember if I showed up with Rainbowzia. Reminding them myself was beyond my social capacity that evening.

After it ended and I went back to my car, I just sat there crying for awhile. My friend Syr Kris passed away in August two years ago, and the last time I came to CCFF she gave me her vest to wear for the evening. I miss her.

I went home and went to bed. The Captain called at 2:45 AM so he could crash after the party he had been tapped to manage, so I stumbled blearily down the stairs to let him in. Then up at 7 AM. On a Saturday. (What was I thinking?) I decided to remix my “glam queer schoolboy” outfit that I sported at Momentumcon last month: burnt orange sweater over pinstriped white dress shirt with rainbow tie and Tie Clip of Rassilon, brown corduroy short pants, short black boots, and harvest rainbow thigh high socks.

First session of the day, “Designing Practical Protocols” with Master Griffin and slave ann, the Northeast Master/slave couple for 2011. They had outline handouts on the chairs so I snagged one in a bright orange folder—I’m predictable like that. My main takeaway from the class was that effective protocols mean something to the people using them. An arbitrary protocol is much less likely to be remembered or enforced than one that serves the needs of the relationship. Sometimes that need might simply be creating a submissive or dominant headspace, reminding each person of their role when the outside world intrudes. They mentioned the importance of writing your protocols down so you can remember them, but not letting that keep you from remaining flexible and changing things if they aren’t working. Context can also be important; one’s standard protocols might be modulated to be more subtle or more intense based on environment and desire.

They also talked about not dominants not wasting their resources, in particular their submissive’s brain. Most M/s relationships may not be a democracy, but the dominant can request the submissive’s input and take advantage of their skills. Humiliation play notwithstanding, healthy people don’t enter into relationships where they think one or more people involved are worthless. The dominant should also take into account the submissive’s needs, because you shouldn’t break a toy you expect to continue playing with. Just because a submissive has given a dominant power to push their boundaries, doesn’t mean the dominant should do so without carefully considering the consequences, which might be anything from an unhappy submissive to friction with other people in the household to loss of the relationship to jail time on the negative side, or from a deeper bond to a strengthened relationship to more confidence on the positive side.

After sitting in this class, I understand the purpose of protocols better. I had heard of things like “high protocol dinner” and not really understood what the point was, but the appeal makes more sense to me now. I also have a clearer idea of how protocols might function in a relationship, whether it involves power exchange or not. One comment that stood out to me was that some people have protocols for themselves, either in preparation for having an M/s or D/s relationship in the future, or just for their own well-being and discipline. I’m still not sure if M/s or D/s are for me, but I might want to explore setting up some protocols for myself as a way of strengthening my relationship with me.

  • “I think most doms have frozen knee syndrome.”
  • “The bathroom thing isn’t so much about him controlling my bladder, because at my age no one controls my bladder.”
  • “Submissives can be very powerful scary people when they’re not happy.”
  • “Sometimes I come home with groceries and I will say to him with my arms full, ‘I’m kneeling, Sir!'”
  • “Are you allowed to say no?” “…only if it pleases you, Sir.”

The second session I attended was called “So You Have a Sub…Now What?” I was delighted to discover that the presenter was a submissive, Divetta. She started out with the differences among the perceptions, expectations, fantasies, and reality of D/s lifestyles, and how feelings of frustration, anger, overwhelm, and pressure are normal when confronted with those differences. As an illustration of the effects of perception, she asked the audience what our initial impressions of her were, with her enthusiastic manner and light grey business suit; she received answers like “professional,” “passionate,” “attractive,” “dominant.” She then began to remove her clothing, and the impressions called out began to change as she revealed a black leather corset over black leggings and finally asked her dominant to put on her collar: “brave,” “kinky,” “like you belong here,” “submissive.”

Divetta emphasized the “why” much like Griffin and ann had. What appeals to you about the rules, or having rules at all? What are your expectations, and your partner’s? What do you want to get out of being dominant? What do you want to communicate with your name? She also spoke about exploring your personas, so you can play with them instead of them controlling you. What is your style as a dominant? She proposed three roles a dominant might occupy, the Villain (“you’re a bad boy”), the Hero (“I’ll take care of you”), and the Victim (“why do I have to do all the work?”); a dominant might thrive in Villain or Hero but without an understanding of their motivation and capacity will eventually burn out into Victim. On the other side of that, much like some people prefer submission because they’re in charge all the time in the other parts of their lives, some people enjoy dominance because they feel powerless elsewhere.

Again, not having a submissive myself or knowing if I want one, I still have a lot to think about after this session. There was a worksheet with some exploratory questions relating to persona, role, communication, and expectations which I may use in stone skipping. I think Robin Hood would be one of my ideal dominant personae (social justice ethic, pack loyalty and support, mutual service, fealty, non-icky chivalry), but I’m afraid to tap into that side of myself because I don’t want to end up as Prince John or the Sheriff instead. Other people might be totally fine going to that place, but I still have a lot of things to work through before I can be comfortable risking it. It’s possible that because I strictly avoid the negotiable, consensual monster, those impulses still come out but in unhealthy ways, which only makes me hold on to them tighter, continuing the cycle.

  • “I just gave you Communication 101 in like fifteen minutes. Good luck with that!”
  • “If you’re inconsistent all the time, you can never do a mindfuck.”
  • “Boy, the more [rules] you have, the harder it is to enforce, and that’s your job.”
  • “I outsmarted my parents for god’s sake. I don’t want that to happen again. I don’t want to relive my childhood!”

For lunch I walked a few blocks to Carma’s, a cafe I adore for its Icelandic style yogurt and veggie meatball sub. That day, however, they had a special of a Belgian waffle with lemon curd and whipped cream, so of course I had to have that instead of my usual. I have been experimenting with externalizing my menu indecision by asking servers for a recommendation between the two things I can narrow my choice down to, and it has been going quite well. It also helps me practice making connections by showing vulnerability in low-risk situations. I suggested Carma’s to a few attendees that complimented me on my socks before I left the hotel, and I was happy to hear afterwards that they had a delicious experience too.

Continue to Part 2.