I took myself off to the Master/slave Conference near Washington DC over the Labour Day weekend. Me, the one who’s never been anywhere, not even to a munch. Jumping in at the deep end? Indeed. It was quite a trip.
I was invited to speak at a panel about M/s fiction, along with authors David Stein, Laura Antoniou and Reid Spencer. And I simply couldn’t pass up the chance to be on the same platform as Laura Antoniou. She was very pleasant, very busy, and extremely funny when she spoke. Later in the conference she read from a couple of her forthcoming novels. I’m glad to say that her humour is finally getting a chance to shine in her first detective novel, The Killer Wore Leather, which is coming out next year. It’s going to be a spoof on more or less the whole scene. I can’t wait, even though I’ll probably only get a quarter of the jokes.
One of the strangest things about the conference for me was the bizarre juxtaposition of kink and conference setting. I’ve been to many work-related conferences in many cities over the years, and the hotels and meeting rooms all tend to look the same after a while. I found myself in the midst of all the usual conference trappings: glossy schedules, name tags with presenter ribbons attached, banquet tickets, award ceremonies, literature tables, friendly elevator greetings, bland meeting rooms with iced water jugs on tables at the back; the whole nine yards. But in this case many of the attendees were wearing locking collars, corsets and leather vests. And the workshops were straight out of a Fetlife thread. There was a lot about M/s households and relationships. A big focus on self-knowledge, responsibilities, consent, trust, power exchange. Very introspective, and often very serious. And exceedingly strange to me: the normalization of kink in that utterly normal setting.
It was rather freeing, being in a place where what we are is out in the open, taken for granted. I liked it. Mind you, I continued to be an outlier – a stranger, not a MAsT member, knowing almost nothing about the community. Certainly on the fringes of the territory. But enjoying being on the map, even from the fringes.
How did the panel go, you ask? It went fine. Laura got most of the attention, of course, but I did well enough. And I had a couple of fans in the crowd, and got to talk to them later, which was really fun.
No, if there were play parties I didn’t see them. (Whew!) There were occasional, subtle signs of power differentials: moments when someone’s hand took hold of someone else’s hair at the nape of the neck, or grabbed the wrist of a hand about to be raised. The whole thing was – I freely confess it – hot. And I did pick up a thought or two that might be useful in a book.
I will probably mine this experience for further blog posts. What would you like to hear more about, if anything?