A few months ago, I published the culmination of many years of work, detailing my core beliefs and guiding principles. I said, then, that I was going to expand on each of the items listed there and it’s time to start working on that. I will be posting a long series of posts talking about the central values and ideals that I try to live by.
Principle: I will willingly share my skills, knowledge, and experience with others.
I first entered the public kink community in 2006, just after turning 21. I would have joined much earlier, but at the time, everything in the Denver community was restricted to people over 21. So before we were old enough to attend events, my partner and I based our play off of what we were able to find on the internet, which was mostly porn. It turns out, that is not the most reliable source material. As a result, there were a number of injuries, some of them were relatively serious.
So when I was finally able to enter the community, I became very passionate about education and very vocal about lowering age limits at events, especially educational things. I want to prevent others from making the mistakes that I did.
At the time, there was an educational group called SKALES which offered weekly classes with local teachers. I attended SKALES classes for many years and met many of my early mentors and role-models there.
In 2009, I was at a basic rope bondage class. As everyone was practicing, I was doing a hair-bondage trick I had picked up elsewhere when someone asked me to show them how to do it. As I talked them through the method, some others gathered around and started following along themselves. This was, in a way, the first time I had taught kink. After the class, one of the SKALES organizers approached me and said that she thought I should teach a class and asked what I would like to teach. I expressed that I didn’t think I was ready to be teaching, but she insisted. A few months later, I taught my first formal class on the topic of negotiating scenes.
About a year after that, I was invited to teach at a conference for the first time. Now, six years later, I am running a major educational organization in Colorado, and have taught at over a dozen conferences and many other venues across the US, and have even had the opportunity to teach internationally.
“I will willingly share my skills, knowledge, and experience with others.”
While I have done a lot of work developing original ideas, new techniques, and styles of play that are unique to me, I could never have done any of that without a base of knowledge and a network of individuals who continue to inspire and challenge me. I will always endeavor to pay that forward.
I also believe it is our obligation to do what we can to prevent injuries and other negative outcomes, including stigma, resulting from BDSM activities. Education is the single greatest way that we can serve that end.
However, just because I am committed to education, does not mean that I believe it should always be done solely out of the goodness of my heart. At the end of the day, I have bills to pay, and if I am going to take a week off of work (unpaid) to travel some distance at some expense to present classes that I have spent countless hours developing, I do expect to be compensated for that. I often offer what I know for free when I am able to (this website, for example), but we cannot expect educators in our community to go broke in service to the rest of us. If we value good education, we should be willing to pay for it, provided that appropriate measures are put in place to ensure that those who truly can’t afford it are still able to access those resources, as well.
What I’m Doing
I teach workshops on everything from practical kink skills to more obscure and tangential concepts like providing mental health support for your peers. As I write this, I am sitting in a hotel in Las Vegas where I just finished teaching classes for their “Sin in the City” conference. I’ll be back in Denver for a week or two, then I leave for Canada for another conference. Last year, I traveled more than ever before, including teaching for the Rome BDSM Conference in Italy.
In addition to traveling the country (and now, the world) teaching about kink and alternative relationships, I have been focusing locally on basics. I led the new member orientation at my local kink club twice a month for years and still teach a longer kink 101 class monthly, as well. And while it’s not something I keep track of, I also do a lot of one-on-one instruction.
But the work I am most proud of is founding the Colorado Center for Alternative Lifestyles, an educational charity which has drastically increased the availability of education both in Denver and across the state.
What You Can Do
Even if you’ve only been in kink for a short time, you likely have information that others would find valuable. Look for opportunities to help others, even if just to tell them about parties or other local community events. If you are coming into the community with pre-existing knowledge about psychology or building construction or any number of other fields, that information may be useful and interesting to others. You can share that by writing about it on fetlife or sending it to websites (such as this one) as a guest post submission. Reach out to local education/discussion groups and ask if you can lead a discussion or teach a class on something you know a lot about.
Attend as many classes as you can, too. Look for what’s missing or things you disagree with or have strong feelings about. Those are the topics that you can use for a class of your own.
Do Research. Having accurate, reliable information is critically important, especially for those just starting out. You can help. Too often, people teach based on their own intuition or best guesses. While your experience is certainly valid, you have to account for the possibility that you are the exception, not the rule (or that there IS no rule). Reach out and determine if your observations are consistent with others’. Also, depending on your topic, there may be actual scientific research available. As kink becomes more accepted, professional researchers have begun to explore the topics of alternative sexuality and relationships and a lot of good information is available to those who look for it.
Finally, ask a lot of questions. Explore new ideas and share them with others. But always remember to give credit. (More on that when I write about Authenticity)