Conferences, conventions, expos, and exhibitions, we're used to seeing these large-scale events for a range of attendees from professionals to anime and comic book fans. On the schedule you're sure to find lectures on the latest technological advancements in the field, or panels about your favorite pop culture characters, and a main hall full of vendors ready to sell their products and services relevant to the conference.
Did you know that you can also find events about kink and BDSM?
In fact, there are roughly 3 main types of kink conventions, though the number of events is steadily growing into the hundreds around the U.S. alone, with new ones popping up each year. Three of these types of events include: Generic Kink, Fetish/S&M, and Leather Contest.
1. Generic Kink Event
What It Is: A Generic Kink Event (GKE) is an event that covers kink in general. Sometimes they can be specialized to specific play types like rope, or to kink relationships, but overall they are meant to cover a wide range within the kink and BDSM worlds. As far as our 3 main types of kink conventions are concerned, GKE’s are fairly middle ground. You can be a newbie, an experienced kinkster, or anywhere in-between and still get quite a bit out of these events because they’re made to cater to everyone.
What to Expect: These conferences will usually be held at a hotel over the course of a weekend with room blocks set aside to give attendees a discounted price so they can stay on site for the event. During the daytime portion, usually 9am to 6pm, there will be a number of classes, panels, discussion groups, and so on available so attendees can learn about chosen topics.
Depending on the focus of the event as a whole you’re sure to find classes on nearly any topic you can think of. For events geared around relationship dynamics expect to find classes on strengthening the bond between you and your partner(s) all the way up to how to handle messy break-ups and so on. Play based events will focus more on skills for BDSM play such as rope bondage, using paddles, and even advanced classes like needle play.
Also available during this time-frame is the dealer/vendor room where attendees can shop for a variety of fetish gear; anything from floggers and paddles, to fetish clothing and accessories, and so much more can be found amongst the booths inside. If you forgot to pack a favorite toy, or are simply looking to expand your toy bag, be sure to save up some money!
Once it gets to the nighttime portion of the day, most GKE’s are likely to have some kind of social event or party each night, except for the final day when everyone is likely to have gone home. It’s also very common for events to have a dungeon on site for attendees to engage in practicing their newly learned skills during the classes that day, or to simply enjoy within the set rules. What is and isn’t allowed in the dungeon at each event varies from hotel to hotel, so be sure to check the rules before you go in!
2. Fetish/S&M Event
What It Is: Fetish events, sarcastically called S&M (Stand & Model), are typically the closest thing to what you’d imagine a Fetish Event being based off of what you see on tv and in the movies. While some will run the full weekend at a hotel like GKE’s, typically Fetish Events are equivalent to being over-sized parties in a bar/club or similar feeling location. Compared to the other 2 event types, Fetish Events are a bit more geared towards newbies wanting to dip their toes into the kink world for a single night out of the year. The more experienced people who do attend these events are often times volunteers to help the event run smoothly and safely, educators to give demos, or they’re the hired entertainment.
What to Expect: Fetish events are dubbed “Stand & Model” events by more experienced lifestyle people because these are typically the events where everyone dresses to the nines and socializes. The Fetish Events that do run a full weekend are likely to have classes available, like GKE’s, but often at a more 101 level rather than advanced play. If it’s one of the events that only runs one day and night, they may still have classes during the daytime portion but they’re usually closer to being demos so attendees get a quick idea of what things feel like rather than the full “how to” experience.
At night, this is when these events really come to life. People bring out their fetish finery, decked out in full latex or leather outfits, and are there to mingle. There may be a dungeon setting, but the rules are usually a bit stricter as alcohol may be allowed here, whereas GKE’s often keep play and inebriation far from each other.
All in all, it’s usually fair to expect these events to feel like “Fetish Night” at the local club.
3. Leather Contest Events
What It Is: Leather Contest Events (LCE) are very similar to GKE’s in that they are usually held in a hotel during the weekend, have daytime classes, and a nighttime dungeon and/or parties. Compared to the other two events, LCE’s can be a bit less welcoming to attendees who are brand new to kink and BDSM however because the majority of the attendees have been involved in the BDSM lifestyle for a fair bit of time and tend to stick together with their groups and chosen families.
What to Expect: Leather Contest Events again are very similar to GKE’s with classes held during the day and a dungeon space or parties at night. One of the major differences is the addition of a contest. Leather Contests operate as essentially a kinky version of the Miss America pageant. As silly as that may sound, it’s the truth. Contestants usually have to compete in roughly 4 contest sections: a short (2 minutes) speech, an interview/Q&A session with the judging panel, a non-spoken performance (called a “fantasy”) to demonstrate one of their favorite fetishes, and a pop-question section to test their ability to think on their feet.
So, what’s the purpose of these contests?
Like the Miss America pageant, the goal of these contests is to find a representative for their community that may have to compete at larger region contests in the future, such as a national level (Miss America after gaining the Miss Florida title), or even an international title (such as Miss World). The people holding these titles usually travel to different areas to represent their region, assist in judging other contests, and often participate in fundraising for various charity groups. Keep an eye out for a future post containing more about these contests and the different views on them.
A visibly noticeable difference between LCE’s and GKE’s is that there are far more people wearing leather clothing (boots, vests, covers/hats, etc) at the LCE’s than GKE’s where people dress either fairly casually or in a range of fetish gear. If you do a quick Google image search for “leather men” you’ll see the average look for LCE’s.
Lastly, LCE’s are built and run around ideas relating to Leather subculture whereas GKE’s may have some leather people in attendance, the event as a whole is not part of the Leather subculture. To find out more about Leather as a subculture, check out this Wikipedia article. While not perfect it helps give at least some insight about the differences.
Now that you’ve got a basic understanding of kink/BDSM related events, it’s time to go participate in one! Check out this link for a list of various kink/BDSM events to find one in your own area or find one further away and use it as vacation!
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Ignixia is an international kink and alternative sexuality educator. The following blog entries range from educational information and resources from her classes to daily musings had on things occurring in the world.