Thunder in the Mountains has this really unique way of simultaneously reassuring me that I am on the right path while also altering that path in significant ways. It’s a really weird phenomenon that I have never been able to figure out.
Usually, I have gone into Thunder with control over my play. There is at least one person who, generally speaking, is at my command and who I can do things to when I want to. This time, with both of my partners indisposed, I found myself with a completely open dance card for the first time ever at a convention. I filled one spot about two weeks in advance, planning a piercing scene for Saturday evening, and had a couple more on the fly Friday evening. Oddly enough, I think the relaxed nature of those scenes and the fact that little, if anything, was planned in advance really helped to make them all better. There have been times in the past where scenes set up ahead of time ended up with a lot of pressure on them to be awesome, which made it even worse when some of them had to be called off part way through.
The “brier patch” piercing scene Saturday night was powerful and amazing and everything that I wanted it to be. She stood for the entire scene as I put needles all over her. Chest, back, legs, arms, hands, and face. Dozens of needles placed in a relatively short amount of time. By the end, she was pointy on all surfaces and definitely had the thorny look that I was aiming for. Particularly impactful were the needles in her face and hands. I love being able to take someone somewhere that they haven’t gone before, especially when it turns out so well. A heavy needle bottom is hard to find, so I am glad that we found each other and connected. I am sure it will happen again in the future.
The two practical classes that I went to, both on rope, had me mostly playing the role of helping others through the techniques, although Midori’s Kinesthetic Rope class did give me a way to combine martial arts ad physical movement with rope in a way that I hadn’t considered before, and renewed my appreciation for rope in general.
Stefanos and Shay continue to be some of my favorite emerging voice in the BDSM community. Their class on predicament was humorous, informative, and memorable. Their class on Edge Play, in contrast, was dark, powerful, and hit me in emotional weak spots I didn’t even know I had. The class included several demos showing a variety of ways to reach the physical or psychological edge. The last demo of the class was a bit of emotional sadism against Shay which touched on the usefulness of her educational efforts in the world, the degree to which others cared about her work, and the negative impact her work has had on the people closest to her.
It turns out that worries about these things live in my heart as well, because as Stefanos yelled in her ear (paraphrased) that she was sacrificing their relationship for a cause that wasn’t helping anyone and that no one cared about, I began to have trouble breathing. And when he gave the audience a chance to rescue her from this by asking the crowd if even a single one of us had heard about her project, I felt as if I was right there with her and he was asking who had heard of XCBDSM. And when no one answered, I began to openly cry. He put her on her knees and made her say to the audience “I need validation. Someone please tell me I matter.” And not a single person made a sound. I was right in front of her, right in the front row. I can still see the look on her face and hear the sound of her voice, begging for someone to care.
After that class, I had only a short time to pull myself together, with a little helped from some friends, and even a stranger that just seemed to sense that I needed a hug. (Whoever you were, thank you). I spent the rest of the afternoon being tangibly useful in every way that I could. This helped to keep my mind off it, as well as actively battling those emotions.
Coming back here to this site today, I was greeted by several notifications, including a few letting me know of blogs that had posted links to XCBDSM and saying supportive things about it. I broke down. Right now, as I type this, I am still having to fight with tears. And this is how I have discovered just how much XCBDSM means to me, and my own fears about it’s utility and value.
This all follows a pattern of Sunday afternoon classes at Thunder which which have this tendency to shake some part of me and make me question my life. The fortunate end to this story is that I got to spend the evening talking with the Stefanos and Shay, including having the chance to talk to them privately about the way I was feeling. I got to hear a bit more about why they do that class the way they do and how they deal with those emotions that were triggered in the demo. I got to hear about how they began their educational work in BDSM and the struggles they have had throughout. The stories helped. It also reminded me that it is important, as an educator, to be willing to go to those vulnerable places and take risks.
I have a lot of thinking and self-examination to do to work through it all. But I continue to believe that education is valuable whether 1 person sees it or a million. So I will continue to work on this site and it’s growth, but I will also take better care to consider the impact that my passions, both in and out of kink, have on the lives of the people I love. I know that I neglect them far more often than is fair. My big takeaway from this Thunder was to try and be more conscious of that.