For this year’s Sexapalooza Toronto, we were lucky enough to have three of our contributors offer their impressions of this widely popular show. There was lots to do and see at Sexapalooza Toronto so we thought we’d offer you with as much variety as possible. In SevErin’s take, she talks about the show’s Dungeon, BDSM 101 and Latex seminars, and an instructional video on Better Sex Guide To Enjoying Guilty Pleasures.
The first thing I noticed when I walked into Sexapalooza was the warm and positive energy radiating through the giant space. Although I showed up on the last day of the three day event, I was impressed with the amount of boisterous excitement exhibited by both the attendees and the vendors/presenters. Of course, I headed straight for the dungeon area, where there were many exciting things going on until the very end of the day! I had a lovely chat with a DM (Dungeon Monitor), while watching various rope bondage scenarios, including a beautiful suspension frame from which many people were hung by rope during the course of the day. I was also able to observe several percussion play scenarios, from play between two of the dungeon members to a coaching from a Top on a young couple.
One play scenario that stuck out in my mind (likely because I would really like to try it) was the fire play station, where a Top was demonstrating the technique of brushing a thin layer of flammable liquid onto the skin and lighting it on fire. The fire is extinguished quite quickly in this type of play, the bottom described the feeling as a beautiful and intense warm sensation, she seemed to be in a euphoric state of relaxation. I imagine that fire play can be a very spiritual type of play, plus it is so beautiful to watch! Despite my impending desire to be tied up and hung from the suspension frame, I was really intent on getting to as many seminars as possible so I politely declined the nice offer from the DM and was off to BDSM 101!
In general the seminars were quite laid back, BDSM 101 and Latex had fifty or less attendees at a given time, with people more or less coming and going as they pleased. In retrospect, my technique of sitting at the front taking notes may have been a little intense! Nonetheless, BDSM 101 was a great introduction to BDSM play led by Nikki from Ware’s and Wear (whom I discovered later was also one of my favourite vendor booths at the show). She covered the material that I address in my BDSM 101 article, plus showed examples of disciplinary implements (such as paddles, floggers, crops, leather restraints, and rope). She also spent time discussing the risks that come along with certain types of scenarios and how to play safe.
Notable points of the seminar for me were her discussion of the psychological and often physical ‘drop’ that one feels upon the culmination of a play scenario, and the anatomical guide to spanking. In addressing the ‘drop’ after play, Nikki compared the feeling to both euphoria after an orgasm, and the come down after a substance-induced high (noting that the adrenaline surge and release that come from BDSM-oriented play can show up in various ways for various people). The come down can range from unnoticeable to physical experiences of chills to emotional reactions such as crying. I found that both acknowledging the commonness of the ‘drop,’ and the various ways to deal with it was extremely illuminating and relatable. We also received a simple handout which pictured the areas of the body that are best for striking in percussion play scenarios. The handout itself was a great in-hand reference and Nikki’s explanations of the anatomy behind percussion play, such as the way that striking specific regions of the butt activate vibration-like sensations in the pubic region, was very interesting.
The Latex seminar, led again by Nikki of Ware’s and Wear, was also very informative. I very much enjoyed her insights on why latex/rubber is such a highly fetishized material, citing the unique sensory stimulation that its offers. Whether one is drawn to its smell (Nikki gave a permissive chuckle when she caught me smelling the glove she was passing around), the way it responds to temperature changes, the way it can hug the body like a second skin and intensify external sensations, or the way it can constrict, numb and bind us, latex is a unique and wonderful wearable material. The advice on how to care for specific latex colours and densities was also extremely valuable from both a retailer and wearer/fetishist perspective.
The final seminar that I attended was actually a film screening of the Sinclair Institute’s Better Sex Vol. 4: Better Sex Guide To Enjoying Guilty Pleasures. The film explored a wide variety of topics including: anal play for men and women, power exchange, and incorporating toys into sexual play. What I found positive about the film was that it was able to normalize certain taboo activities to a certain extent, and also gave valuable background and discussion time to practices such as SM sexuality and exploring the nature of socio-sexual taboos. Unfortunately, perhaps with the intent of making certain taboo sexual practices accessible for a specific audience, I found the film to be exclusionary in various ways. In addition to being hetero-normative (all of the couples were shown as male-female couples who appeared appropriately feminine and masculine), I found that the film did not acknowledge alternative relationship styles or the variations of sex outside of oral, anal, and vaginal penetration. Overall it was a film that spoke frankly and non-judgmentally about pleasure, articulating “pleasure as an affirmation of life” (it was quite a powerful and sex-positive message).
The overall Sexapalooza experience was positive for me, though I feel that this was very much due to the kink/BDSM presence there. It’s also important to note that my experience at Sexapalooza was coloured by several things: I went on the last day of the show, I have worked in close proximity with many of the products sold by the vendors through working in a sex shop for the last five years, and I have studied sex academically for the last two. My personal identity as kinky and queer also plays a huge part in my personal experience at the seminars and the show as a whole. The vendor presence was not wildly diverse, nor was the crowd, but people seemed to really be enjoying themselves — which is really what exploring sex is all about!
Unfortunately, cameras were not allowed in the Dungeon.