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.