A group of Denver kinksters staged a protest at the KinkForAllDenver conference last weekend. The demonstration was planned and executed amid accusations -- prior to the event -- that two KinkForAllDenver organizers censored presentations to discourage too much BDSM content and actively sought to exclude local kinksters.
The event, which took place on February 25 at the Tivoli Student Union, included about seventy people, who attended discussion groups, presentations and teach-ins. It was organized by Rebecca Crane of Boulder and "Maymay" a well-known kinkster, formerly of New York the co-founder of KinkForAll.
But several prominent local kinksters were noticeably missing, including Denver's premiere dominatrix and kink community leader Mistress Saskia, who was originally planning to present on biofeedback breathing and scene identities and roles. Saskia and husband, Jeff Jizz, were involved in the planning stage of the event, and donated $50 to help secure conference space.
But after her initial support Saskia backed out of the conference -- and she didn't mince words about her reasons why. "I decided not to present because Rebecca Crane was contacting me privately, saying my suggested presentations weren't appropriate for KFADEN -- too much BDSM content -- and also because Maymay was making it clear on the Google group for the event that he intended to destroy any safe space for people he calls 'traditional and privileged BDSMers,'" Saskia says.
A "safe space" is nominally defined by BDSM and GLBTQ advocates as a space kept free of discriminatory speech, violence and harassment.
Saskia and Jizz say that after Maymay and Crane approached them about participating in the conference and -- after their donation was made -- they were participating in an online discussion on the KinkForAll Google group about presentation topics when the conversation became heated over the issue of what topics that Crane and Maymay felt were too skewed toward BDSM.
Saskia says, "I posted other proposals, like 'Erotic Humiliation vs. Degradation.' She wasn't receptive to that and kept suggesting I try other things with broader appeal. I think my final suggestion was something on roles and identities, but after all the comments from Maymay about creating a hostile environment, I just removed my proposals and unsubscribed from the Google group."
According to Saskia and Jizz, the divisive quote was this one posted by Maymay on the KinkForAll Google group: "Maybe you don't know this about me yet, so now's a good time for me to be direct: It is my expressly stated intention to make BDSM 'traditionalists' uncomfortable. I *enjoy* it, I'm *good* at it, and I'm not going to pull any punches in Denver or anywhere else. My aim is to destroy every 'safe space' for privileged BDSM bullshit anywhere within my reach. And yes, that includes KinkForAll. So, rubbing people 'The wrong way'? Depending on who you're talking about rubbing the wrong way, hell, that's part of my *success criterion*."
This quote caused Saskia, Jizz and a local scene member named Isaac concern that Maymay's position as an organizer of the event could be in direct conflict with his personal issues concerning the BDSM scene as a whole. But in an attempt to "extend an olive branch" and facilitate advertisement of the KFADEN event, Maymay and Crane and were then invited to attend a private gathering in Mistress Saskia's dungeon under the auspices of promoting the event.
"Rebecca and Maymay came to a RACK Room event with the express intent of promoting the event by discussing it with other guests and by flyer-ing," says Saskia. But Maymay showed up with a notebook and asked people questions, she continues, which he recorded and then posted on one of his personal blogs -- a violation of safe space and guest privacy. "Nobody gave consent to be interviewed for a blog post," Saskia insists.
In response to all of this, Jizz and Isaac staged an occupy-style protest presentation at the KinkforAllDenver conference titled "Silence is Golden: A Quiet Approach to Free Speech About Sexuality." The room was silent except for the soft clicking of cameras as Isaac stood in front of a large projector screen that flashed a series of quotes taken from the KinkForAll Google group written by Crane and Maymay. There were also quotes from emails between Crane and Saskia.
One by one, eight event attendees left their seats and walked up to the front of room, placed white masking tape over their mouths, and stood next to Issac.
The aforementioned quote from Maymay was cited in the slideshow, and also this quote taken from the KinkForAll Google group thread: "I don't think the scene is doing good work. I think it's awful and I'm so fed up with it I'm almost ready to burn it down."
Crane was quoted in the slideshow as saying,"[KFADEN] isn't even being actively 'advertised' to the BDSM community," and "Since the most blatant not-in-the-spirit-of-KinkForAll entry is Saskia's...she is going to do something else, perhaps we can ask her to edit that entry, or edit it for her."
After the presentation, Crane told Westword that the quotes "taken out of context. There is more to the discussion."
Maymay, who didn't see the presentation, said, "There's always more than one side of a story, and these conversations have been getting a lot of publicity."
Maymay said he wanted to focus on the conference rather than his own opinions, but he did offer this: "My personal opinions are no more a secret to any interested reader than the KinkForAll mailing list archives are. You're more than welcome to peruse any of my published critiques of the BDSM Scene as you wish." He also provided thirteen links to his personal websites, or websites he posts on.
Mistress Saskia says she believes Maymay is on a "personal crusade to attack the kink community...Along the way, he discovered he can get a lot of attention by pointing fingers and stirring pots. He blogs ad nauseum, makes every effort to provoke well-known kinksters in various cities into blog wars with him, all to increase his Google hits for his site and control the larger conversation. He blogs so vociferously that, unless one of his semi-random targets decides to clear their schedule and stay up for days to post rebuttals to the utter nonsense he writes, his blog posts will end up being the first ones on a subject to show up on a Google search on a topic like (for instance) Kink For All Denver, and any dissenting voice will be buried in search hits by the sheer volume of his posts."
The general consensus among the few local kinksters who did attend was that the event itself was a great idea -- but that it would be better without Maymay.
"I felt that events leading up to KinkForAllDenver caused many people closely connected to the local BDSM scene to feel unwelcome," says Sable Shultz, who attended. "Even though he was not one of the local organizers, Maymay is a very vocal proponent for and promoter of KFA, and he appears to have an agenda against what he calls the traditional BDSM scene. Needless, I felt it hardly created a truly inclusive and welcome atmosphere for all variations of identity and sexuality. This effectively silenced the local BDSM community in relation to this even, and it is impossible to say what sort of dialogues and discussions our community lost out on."
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There is talk and pre-planning for a KinkForAllDenver2, and Maymay's involvement has yet to be determined. But after all the drama surrounding the first one, would anyone from the local scene be interested in attending?
"Probably -- with different organizers," says Mistress Saskia.