This weekend I attended my very first BDSM unconference in Toronto, named Deviant-U. It ran all day Saturday, with an optional brunch on Sunday and was open to anyone who was interested in BDSM in Toronto.
Deviant-U, An Unconference?
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the concept, the unconference model provides an open format learning experience, with participants becoming teachers. The unconference allows for smaller discussion groups, breakout learning/teaching and a relaxed, welcoming atmosphere.
The organisers of Deviant-U are some of the same people behind Toronto’s Deviant munch, which happens on the fourth Tuesday of each month. They, with the help of a few friends, decided to give a unique learning opportunity to the kinky people of Toronto by facilitating the unconference, the first of many anticipated educational events.
The day at Deviant-U began with introductions, both of the attendees and of the unconference model. For many of us, this was our first exposure to this style of event, so having a basic idea of what to expect was useful. Sticky notes and markers were handed out so that we could write down topics we would be interested in sharing as well as topics we were interested in learning about.
As more sticky notes were added to the wall, the unconference started to take shape. There were all sorts of suggestions, from play techniques to relationship dynamics to philosophical and political issues in kink.
Next, we all got a chance to put a mark on the discussion ideas we most wanted to participate in. It was hard to narrow things down, with so many good ideas on the wall. We didn’t have a limited number of choices, so it was tempting to give everything a mark!
Once we were done, the organisers took the most popular suggestions and fit them into the day’s schedule. Of course, then came the hard choice of picking which session to join in – of course we had the option to move between sessions, but I generally don’t move much once I get into a discussion.
Subspace & Aftercare
My day started with a discussion on subspace and aftercare. I have been wanting to learn more about the experiences of bottoms and submissives so that I can better understand the perspective when I write. Our group was a good mix of people who were experienced in kink and those who were new. I really enjoyed hearing about the experiences of the bottoms, submissives and switches that shared their stories. We talked a good deal about aftercare and its role in helping prevent subdrop as well.
Wax Play (and some needles)
Next up I lead a demonstration and crash course on wax play. It was nice to be able to share that knowledge and have a few people try out the candles I had in my toy bag. A few of them thought that wax play must hurt a lot, and were pleasantly surprised by my more mild wax play candles (bought from local vendors). When we were finished with wax, I gave a bit of advice on play piercing and how to weave needles. All in a day’s work/fun at Deviant-U!
Responsibilities of Dominants & Submissives
After a quick lunch break, it was on to the third session of the unconference; discussing the responsibilities of the Dom and sub in a play situation or relationship. It was an interesting talk, especially since we had a few people who were totally new to BDSM. We covered a lot of ground and our newbies found a number of kinky stereotypes challenged by what we had to say.
Feminism & BDSM
Next up I went to join the group discussing feminism and BDSM, which ended up turning into a bit of a discussion on how to make the pansexual kink community more diverse and accessible to various people. We talked about the under-representation of female dominants and people of colour at many Toronto parties. We were able to brainstorm some ideas and share concern over our rather homogeneous community.
Choking & Breath Play
Finally, we had a discussion on choking and breath play. Whoever wrote the sticky wrote “safe choking” and that was our starting place for the talk, as we remarked that it should be amended to “safe-ish” or “kinda, but not really safe”, etc. While all of us were on the same page regarding safety, one technique that I hadn’t considered was brought up. The idea of using hypnosis to ‘force choke’ (a-la Darth Vader) a person was floated by one of the hypnosis enthusiasts in our group, something that I didn’t even know was a thing. It’s definitely something I will be following up on since I’ve been meaning to learn more about hypnosis anyway.
We wrapped up Deviant-U by coming back together as a group and sharing something that really stood out for us over the course of the day. There were so many good ideas, so many insights, it was hard not to talk too much.
Overall I really enjoyed the format of the day. As I do more education in the BDSM scene, in Toronto and elsewhere, I am learning different styles of teaching and sharing information. This was my first unconference, but it won’t be my last. It’s a great idea and made for an enlightening day.
If you’re in Toronto, come out and join us at the city’s largest munch – Deviant. The organisers are incredible people and are very dedicated to the local scene. I try to attend when I can and always have a fantastic time. If you’re new or a veteran to BDSM, Deviant is a great way to meet folks in Toronto.