Toronto
4 min

Come together

Kink conference promises polysexual paradise

MIXING THINGS UP. To Kink organizers Rowan, Dana Shaw, Arnon Clark and vendors/dungeon equipment providers for the weekend's play parties Master R and David try out their moves in anticipation of the polysexual event. Credit: Daniel Ehrenworth

TO Kink isn’t happening until September, but I’m already planning what I want to wear. I’m excited, not just because it promises to provide lots of eye candy and a conveniently-located play space, but because the weekend-long kink conference is promising to be a truly polysexual event.



Polysexual means “many-sexual” and is partly an attempt to avoid the alphabet soup of sexual interests and identities. But to many people in the BDSM scene, polysexual is code for “straight men with bi-curious female subs.” It’s hard to find a kink event where people of any sex and sexual orientation can play together without stepping on each other’s toes.



“The fact is that the kink scene is divided in Toronto, as it is in most of the world, between the straight and bisexual community, and the gay community,” says TO Kink organizer Rowan. “One of our main goals is to reach out to both communities, to try and bridge that gap and bring kinksters from both sides together to learn from each other.”



Yet labelling an event poly-sexual can deter queers from coming out. Events that ignore the power dynamics between queer and straight cultures or treat everyone the same often end up being straight spaces by default. One of the reasons TO Kink excites me is that the majority of the organizers are kinky bisexuals (like me) and familiar with the issues of both queer and straight play spaces.



As someone who usually plays in queer spaces, I’m a little anxious about encountering straight players. Nothing feels more ironic than having a straight man wearing a leather diaper and nipple clamps tell me he disagrees with my lifestyle choice. Yet queer play events sometimes leave me with the feeling that I’m wasting everyone’s time by playing with my male partner. Ideally, I’m hoping TO Kink will have a queer atmosphere yet also be a place where I can top a bio boy without people looking at me funny.



TO Kink is the baby of the TO Kink Alternative Sexuality Association, a local not-for-profit corporation. “Our biggest challenge is being a new event,” says Rowan. “We’re an unknown quantity, and we understand that it can be hard for the community to invest time and money in an event that they’re not familiar with.”



The people behind the scenes aren’t exactly newbies to kink. Rowan has been active in the Toronto BDSM scene for four years and has previous experience as an organizer of Snow-Bound 2003, a kink convention in Collingwood that drew 150 attendees.



The inspiration for TO Kink came from attending the Black Rose convention in Washington, DC. “It was such a wonderful experience,” says Rowan. “I just couldn’t fathom why, with such a big kinky community in the Toronto area, we didn’t have this kind of weekend-long event.”



Black Rose usually draws between 2,000 and 2,500 kinksters each year. However, as a result of pressure from religious conservatives and the changing political climate in the US its attendance was down to 1,800 this past year.



For its first time out, TO Kinkis limiting attendance to 300 registrations to make sure there’s plenty of room in the play space. A local kink event of this scale is perfect for people like me, who have no desire to be caught entering the US with a car load of bondage gear, floggers and assorted pointy objects.



The setting for this weekend of debauchery is the Ramada Inn (300 Jarvis St), chosen because of its proximity to the Church and Wellesley village and because it has previously hosted kink-oriented organizations including Mr Leatherman Toronto, which has held events at the Ramada for the past four years. TO Kink has booked every conference room in the hotel and organizers are hoping to fill all of the guest rooms as well.



In the US, Ramada has been targeted by Christian fundamentalists for holding similar events. Concerned Women For America (CWA) attempted to force the cancellation of the Chicago pansexual kink event My Vicious Valentine. That event had originally been booked at the Radisson, which cancelled the reservation under pressure from CWA’s Illinois chapter. CWA charged that the Vicious Valentine event would break state laws and pose serious health risks. But perhaps most effective was their charge that hosting such an event would damage the hotel’s family-friendly image. CWA members initiated a boycott of the Radisson chain and encouraged their members to phone, e-mail and fax the hotel to express their concerns. Happily, Canadian fundamentalists have been too pre-occupied by same-sex marriage to notice people flogging one another in downtown Toronto.



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I am a self-admitted workshop whore. I get excited by rows of chairs, bad coffee in Styrofoam cups and the sight of a speakers’ table. Workshops on Saturday and Sunday will cover topics like relationship dynamics and techniques such as needle play and single-tail whipping. Both days will feature a vendor fair of kinky merchandise, so you might want to bring an empty suitcase and tuck your credit card into your jockstrap.



The highlights of the weekend will be play parties on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights at Buddies In Bad Times Theatre. The main theatre space will be devoted to play stations. Tallulah’s Cabaret will be a social space with music and dancing.



Generally speaking, play parties aren’t as fussy about dress code as fetish events. Fetish clothing is welcomed, but not expected. Many people will be wearing T-shirts and jeans and some will be wearing next to nothing at all. If you’re used to kinky people (or you’ve been to certain local queer bars) this will be nothing surprising.



Personally, I welcome the opportunity to be in a venue where a PVC gown doesn’t make people assume I’m a mannequin rather than a player. (But, then, you’d need a whole other conference to address the rift between the BDSM and the fetish communities.)



Security for the event is going to be tight. Attendees must present government-issued photo ID when signing in. While similar events use wristbands and name tags, TO Kink has opted for photo ID badges. “The problem with wristbands is that they’re not really secure,” says Rowan. “We’ve all seen people who can wriggle in and out of them quite easily.” I bet she has.



Rowan adds that wristbands can also be annoying to wear for three days in a row. “Especially at an event where a large number of people will be wanting to wear some sort of cuff or restraint on their wrists.”



And if the photo turns out to be hideous, well, you can always incorporate it into some kind of humiliation scene.



* TO Kink runs Fri Sep 10-12. For more information or to register check out TOKink.com.