Thoughts from FemmeCon

This post is about my experience of the 2012 Femme Conference.

First thing on the first day there’s a kinky femmes workshop. There’s no description in the program book, but I am looking forward to being around other kinky femmes. I want to say this thing I’ve been thinking about that no one ever seems to say: that being kinky doesn’t always mean getting to do kink. I am thirty years old, and kink is vital to me, but it’s something I’ve never really had in abundance.

The session turns out to be a panel: four kinky femmes talk about how they do kink; we ask the questions, and they have the answers. I’ve spent the better part of the past eight years hearing about how other people do kink, and I can’t really bear to do it here now. I write a note to the friend I’ve come in with and slip out the door.

Where I go instead turns out to be my favorite workshop of the weekend. Kim Crosby‘s analysis of the world is so keen and expansive and intersectional that for the duration of the session (presentation available here), I almost don’t notice that no one is talking about kink.

But there is sexual tension everywhere. We are, after all, a group of queers who have come together for a weekend. On the first day, there is a speed-dating session (scheduled, aggravatingly, against a workshop on trans-misogyny). On the second day, there is a play party, but it’s far away, physically inaccessible, and costs $15 on top of the conference registration fees – besides which, the kind of erotic community I’m looking for is something I rarely find at a party). At one of the keynotes, someone shouts, “I want to get fucked at this conference,” and people cheer. I hear it in private conversations: hooking up, making out, who’s cute. I’ve thought it myself vaguely and privately: It would be nice. I don’t know if I’m ready to touch or be touched this weekend, but it’d be nice if I were and I could.

I run into people I used to know from the kink scene. “Where have you been?” one asks. “It’s been ages.”

I tell them I haven’t been to a kink event in years. “I’m kind of mad at the kink scene,” I say, honest but trying to keep it light. I talk about how it takes me time to want to connect with someone, how kink spaces always seem to be urgently about doing play right away, right now.

“That’s a good thing to know about yourself,” my old acquaintance answers. It’s the kind of answer I’m used to hearing from players in the public scene: the problem isn’t the scene, it’s you. At the kink panel, my friend who stayed tells me, someone said that if you don’t act like you belong, you never will.

If those are the rules, then I don’t belong. But outside of kink space, I miss the way that desire is understood as important, specific, variable, worth exploring, negotiating, making time for. I miss trusting that the community around me understands that we don’t all fuck the same way, that we don’t all fuck, period. When I walk into a space–yes, even a queer space–I assume that I’m not sexually compatible with most people in the room. And in a space like the Femme Conference, where the story we’re telling ourselves is that everyone wants to hook up (and we all basically know what hooking up means), I feel alienated, left out, afraid.

I want kink spaces that care about access: physical, financial, emotional. I want queer spaces that care about kink, and I want social justice spaces that value desire. At the end of the weekend, another person I know from the kink scene tells me they wish the conference had been more kink-informed. I roll the word around in my head. What would it mean for an understanding of kink to be integrated into the conference? How does kink fit into an intersectional analysis? What—as a friend wisely asked me—do I even mean when I use the word kink?

One week later, I’m still thinking it through. What about you? What do you think?

3 thoughts on “Thoughts from FemmeCon

  1. I had what felt like an important brain spark today about the necessity of considering a new range of categories when doing intersectional analysis. Race, age, gender, sexuality, economic and citizen status, and ability come to mind pretty quickly these days… but I really like the pressure to add something like desire to that list. And something like mode of communication. Lots of thoughts! (and thank you for yours!)

  2. This is great! I’m really curious about this: “They wish the conference had been more kink-informed.” What does this mean? I was the Programming chair (as an aside, I also always regret having to schedule so many things at the same time, like w/ speed dating & trans-misogyny! There are always scheduling conundrums!). I’m asking as an organizer who’s been in & out of leather & kink communities for a long time. I experience femme spaces, typically, as pretty kink-informed, and I’m sure I’m having a different experience (and/or different investments?) than your friend. Could you ‘splain a bit more, please?

    Also, have you read this?

    I am really into it. Sexual capitalism, etc. Some overlap with things you’re thinking about, methinks.


    • Thanks for commenting. It’s taken me a while to answer, in part because the question you ask – about what “kink-informed” might mean – is one that I’ve been turning over in my head for a while now. I guess I want kink to have a place in spaces like the Femme Conference that is bigger and more complicated than “here’s this thing femmes sometimes do for fun.” I want kink to be part of how we see the world – I want the ways we think about power in a social justice/anti-oppression sense to be in conversation with the ways we think about power in an erotic sense. And I want spaces that value sexuality and pleasure and desire while making space for a broad range of relationships to the erotic – spaces that don’t presume everyone is interested in sex, spaces that don’t presume that sexuality is simple. I am kinky and a survivor, and my approach to kink and sex is deliberately cautious, and I consistently feel alienated in spaces that assume that kink is simply something fun, or that kink is an optional add-on to (presumably vanilla) sex, or that being kinky means being up for play right now. I don’t know how to create a space that feels different – where kink and trauma and a broad understanding of sexual diversity inform how we see each other and see the world – but I long for such a space. I hope that helps answer your question.

      Thanks also for the link – I hadn’t seen that essay before, and it’s giving me a lot to think about.

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