12 Random Observations from Shibaricon 2014

I just returned from my first-ever visit to Shibaricon, and wow – lots to process. What follows is a random list of thoughts that occurred to me during my time there (in no particular order). I may expand on some of these later.

(Background: My ex and good friend didn’t want to go solo, so offered to pay for my pass if I went with him and was his rigger during classes. I’d wanted to go for years, so I said yes, and a good time was had by all.)

1. No Cell Phones Allowed: While I applaud the efforts of the organizers to keep devices that can take pictures out of the venue, this was really difficult! I mean REALLY difficult! Most people did seem to have a phone on them but were super good about going to the bathroom to check messages or surreptitiously checking the time while their phone stayed in a bag or a pocket. And most of the vendors HAD to have them because they process payments on their cell phones. So I think this policy needs a re-work, but being the most camera-shy person when it comes to kink-related activities, I completely understand and support the policy.

2. Television in the Elevator: Seriously Hyatt? Who needs TV in the elevator? If you can’t live without CNN for 3 minutes, you need help. I will say, however, that the elevator TV was how I learned about this weekend’s shooting in California, since I normally don’t watch TV and my cellphone was in my hotel room most of the time.

3. Switches: This was interesting and a bit tricky to navigate. Nearly every couple there appeared to switch within their relationship and nearly every single person there identified as a switch, at least when it came to rope. Many couples seem to maintain a M/f dynamic in their relationship but switch when it comes to rope, with both partners being riggers sometimes and bottoms other times.  As someone who has a serious aversion to bottoming in any way…and especially to rope….this made me feel a bit like a misfit. More on this later in another post I think.

4. Lack of male bottoms/subs: This is closely related to #3. The vast majority of folks there were part of an established couple or poly group. Most of the rest had come with a larger group of mutual play partners in every conceivable configuration. Hooray for them, but it made finding male bottoms to tie nearly impossible. I did find one in one class, so that was cool. I even attended “Speed Dating”, hoping to meet some boys I could tie later in the weekend, but all I met were female subs or switches, and a couple of guys who were married and switched. (*Please don’t misinterpret this – I have lots of friends who switch and I aspire to poly myself  – this is only an expression of my frustration in the lack of single/available male subs. And while I CAN tie up women for a demo or practice, it’s really not my thing.)

5. Disparity in What’s Acceptable in a Top/Dominant’s Appearance: OK this one may need its own post too. This is not something limited to Shibaricon, but it really bugged me this weekend. I see male top/Dom after male top/Dom dressed in jeans a t-shirt and tennis shoes. Many have scruffy facial hair and look vaguely unkempt. And this is OK and accepted. The women who identify as bottom/sub/switch, are all apparently expected to look sexy and/or cute – high heels, low-cut tops, hair and makeup done, perhaps a costume – lots of effort for parties and casually sexy for classes.

Guess what though? The female tops/Dommes dressed pretty much the same as the female bottoms/subs. Not all of them (just as there were definitely male tops/Doms that dressed up and put effort into it), but most. Being stuck in the boot and having packed nothing but jeans,  yoga pants, and t-shirts/boring tops….I felt really out of place.

It bothers me that women are held to an idealized beauty standard no matter what side of the slash they’re on, while men are accepted no matter how they dress. More to come in a later post if I can write coherently about what’s in my head on this point.

6. Midori! ♥ : Midori piloted a new class on Nonverbal Power and Surrender for Women. It was fantastic! Bits of what I picked up from her may find their way into some future posts.

7. Male Doms Wanting a Challenge: Bah. So sick of this. Nearly every intelligent, attractive male dominant I know ends up propositioning me at some point – usually telling me they like the challenge or to be a challenge or I’m one of a very short list of women they’d “let” dominate them. This got old a long time ago. At Shibaricon it seemed limited to rope vendors. I’m not a notch in your belt, guys.

8. Message Board: Shibaricon needs a message board. With cell phone and laptop use banned in the venue, and very limited time between classes, there is almost no way to functionally communicate with people about wanting a bottom or a top for a particular class or perhaps to scene with during the evening parties. There is some of this sort of discussion on Fetlife, but by they time people get back to their rooms in the evenings, it’s not much good.

9. Bigger/Better Lounge or Mingling Area: This goes hand-in-hand with the message board idea. Even if one of the vendor rooms was allocated as a mingling space/lounge where cell phones were allowed, it would help. The small lounge area was under-utilized (it was unclear to me if it was supposed to be reserved for presenters and performers) and fairly small. Speed Dating was a GREAT idea, but it wasn’t enough to really allow folks to meet each other in a social setting (i.e. outside of a class).

10. Dart Players are Assholes: There is a dart competition that shares the hotel with Shibaricon every year. The official party line is that the two groups have agreed to tolerate each other and be polite. Yet, Shibaricon requires extra security guards at the top of the escalators to the venue to keep out drunk dart players. From what I saw, 90% of the dart players are drunk the entire weekend. I never saw any of them without a beer (or two…or a case….) in hand – even at 9:00 am.

The men in particular were boorish and loud, and incredibly misogynistic. Every time I had to walk from the Shibaricon venue through the lobby, it felt like I was running a gauntlet. (OK, hobbling a gauntlet in the damn boot.) Cat calls, snide remarks, swearing, yelling…it was incredibly uncomfortable and flat out unacceptable. The women mostly glared at us, but the men….ugh. After the first two days, I didn’t put on my Shibaricon name tag (required) until I got to the bottom of the escalators, hoping to go undetected by them.

11. Most Other Human Beings are Decent: Thankfully, I met a dad of a volleyball player (in town for a tournament) in the elevator who countered the drunken dart assholes. He asked what conventions were in the hotel and I told him. He asked what Shibaricon was – I explained. He said it sounded interesting and wanted to look it up to learn more about it. Go volleyball dad! Hooray for open minds!

12. Amazing Opportunities to Learn from the Best: It was truly amazing and inspiring to learn hands-on from some of the best riggers in the world. There were riggers from the US, Japan, Denmark, Australia, and France. What struck me the most was  how humble most of them were – they all credited their own teachers and talked about how they were still learning and perfecting their craft. Peter Slemrian in particular was incredibly humble and kind – I needed a  lot of help, but I can now tie a decent futomomo! Small classes (usually around 30 people or less) made for some intimate learning spaces. I needs lots more practice but I know I came away with a lot of new knowledge, which is awesome.


9 thoughts on “12 Random Observations from Shibaricon 2014

  1. The female tops/Dommes dressed pretty much the same as the female bottoms/subs.

    Aaargh to this. There are a lot of big things that keep me away from events like these, but this is right up towards the top of the list, relatively little as it may seem. I just can’t STAND it.

    Actually, scratch little. It’s big, way bigger than it seems. (eg: it’s closely related to #7 (and #3, and #4).) There is so much going on there, and it’s not exactly subtle. But there everybody is, participating and having a great time. I feel like fkn Mutatu, all “Am I the only one who can see it?? *goes completely insane*”
    Or maybe that kid from the Sixth Sense: “I see status quo. It’s everywhere. They don’t know they’re supporting it. *alienation ensues*”

    God, I resent it. I can’t think of anything much more soul-crushing than being in a room with 100 other people for the specific purpose of camaraderie— these are your people! the sign on the door says welcome home!— and still feeling lonely and like there’s no place for you. Like, seriously? Even here?? >:'(

    1. Yes! Thank you! There is SO much there and I want to do a longer post but I need to be able to write about it cogently – and not all crazy-brained like it tends to make me.

      To be fair, there WERE quite a few women dressed normally in the classes, but the vast majority were there with their male partners. The message still seems to be: Single female? Better dress to impress, baby!

      1. I wish I’d known you were there! I presented this year for the 3rd time; I follow your tumblr and really enjoy it.

        There used to be a message board – like, just a bulletin board – and I missed it this year. I hope you suggested it in the event eval.

        As to the male bottom quotient: I know they seemed in limited supply as free agents, but holy wow the con has come a long way since even last year! It used to be very hetero-centric, with mostly male tops and female bottoms (many of whom could also rig really well). Now we had more female rope tops than ever (yay!) but the male rope population has yet to catch up for the demand. Hopefully years to come will attract more male rope bottoms!

        1. LOL, I think I took your class! I debated putting my GeekDomme name on my badge – I ran into a few other tumblr fans there. I was the one limping around in the boot thanks to a tendon issue in my ankle.

          And I know there were lots of women learning to tie this year – mostly learning to tie their tops/doms/husbands. Which is great!

          I also appreciated that there were four classes specifically related to tying boys and boy bits. We got stuck in horrendous traffic for over an hour and missed Friday’s boy tying classes, unfortunately. But the boy bits class was a good review of some things.

          We just have to lure all the boy bottoms to Shibaricon next year! Come on boys – where were ya?

  2. The first Shibaricon I was at (2010?) I was mostly bottoming for rope, and it was very weird both because of my gender and size. The first class, which was Zamil’s poorly described beginner floor work class which was actually an intermediate partial suspension class, when the instruction began, suddenly all the women stripped down to undies, so I did as well, and hanging around (literally) I realized there were no other men being tied that I could see.

    This year, it was far more balanced as has been mentioned. Also far better balance with teachers.

    But even with the women teaching, the demo bottoms were women as well. I do think half of the classes I was in were taught by women, and in all classes there was mention of how ties might be adapted to men, so attention is being made.

    As far as lack of male bottoms, I would say that this event is really hard for anyone who does not come with a partner. The one class I went to without a partner there really was no spare bottoms at all. The lack of the bulletin board that always was there in my prior shibaricons, exacerbated this as there wasn’t really a good way to try to work things out, and of course lack of cell phone access made it hard to use our digital mediums for it. It would be hard for me to recommend to a male rope bottom or top to come alone to Shibaricon though. Not sure how to change that.

    I guess I didn’t see much discrepancy in classes. Most of the women I hung out with were dressed to learn, pretty casually and comfortable. There were men and women who dressed for style in the class periods but it didn’t seem like a great idea. My experience in Shibaricon 1 was mostly to have nice underpants since people are going to see them, but most of the women and men who were bottoming seemed to be dressed in easy on easy off clothing.

    I think in general that you are right however in that dungeon and play parties often have the male rigger in t-shirt and jeans and the women dressing up. I have tried to create the idea of clothing/unclothing parity (riggers should strip down) but it isn’t catching on. Ironically from a practical sense, I find that for the same reason as clothing can create obstacles in the person being tied (which can be aesthetic but do add to challenge) clothing can get in my way when I am tying, so this has become practical more than style. One of the reasons that I adopted the ‘kilt uniform’ is that I always felt so uncomfortable in a suit doing kinky activity.

    Thank you for your post!

    1. Yes, from what I’ve been hearing, this was the first year without a message board! Hopefully they’ll bring that back.

      And I agree with you about the classes – most people in classes wore casual clothes and bottoms were generally naked/partly naked for the tying. It was more of a general rant about clothing double-standards in the scene, which I’ve now turned into another post.

      I was glad to see more attention and discussion given to male bottoms in the classes – I hope it’s a trend that continues. But you’re right – if you’re a single male bottom or a single female top who prefers male bottoms….Shibaricon probably will be a disappointment in terms of finding people to tie/be tied by. Which is a shame, but it seems to be a reflection of the larger scene in general.

      This was just a list of my initial reactions that I wanted to get down while they were fresh in my mind.

      Kilts you say? Kilts are all kinds of awesome!

  3. Hi! I discovered your website because I was wondering whether or not to attend shibaricon for the first time this year. I am a male bottom for rope and was afraid I would find nobody to play with. Will you be attending in 2016? i offer myself if you are interested. (if You want to find me on fetlife, let me know.) Thanks You for Your insights and for painting a vivid picture of the experience!

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