Ever wonder how to balance porn and sex in a relationship? Have thoughts on kink’s role in pop culture? These and many other questions will be analyzed and answered at the Playground Conference, a sexuality and activism symposium happening this November in Toronto.
Playground is labelled as “a sex positive, inclusive event for all communities.” With workshops and seminars on such topics as feminism and BDSM, consent culture and fat sex/uality, it’s not an academic sexuality-and-gender-studies type of conference, but more an inclusive, accessible and welcoming space for open-minded folks who are interested in exploring and talking about the many aspects of sexuality.
The conference is the brainchild of Samantha Fraser, poly-advocate, life coach and author of Not Your Mother’s Playground: A Realistic Guide to Honest, Happy, and Healthy Open Relationships (it's co-produced by JP Robichault).
“When it comes to sexuality, there are so many separate silos, and people haven’t always come together,” Fraser says. “I wanted there to be a space for people like me (I identify as queer, am into kink and can find non-monogamy events intimidating) where we can step outside these bubbles and also have a conference where it’s not just those who are already involved in sex education.”
Playground’s programming takes a unique turn this year, steering away from a typical workshop and social format. It features a public keynote session with New York public health expert Francisco Ramirez; a pyjama movie night (with consensual cuddling); a talent show and karaoke night, with the chance to win sexy prizes; exhibitors; and community resources that are available all weekend. There is a heavy focus on consent, which, Fraser says, showed up in many of the presenter proposals. So, in addition to a large panel on consent culture, there are specialized workshops and seminars that dig deeper, such as What is Collaborative Consent? with Vancouver-based facilitator Jaedyn Starr.
Ramirez, a long-time consultant with the UN who will give Friday night’s opening keynote speech, has an unusual approach to giving sex advice — he goes into New York parks and subways and answers the public’s questions on sexuality. Fraser says that this embodies the diversity that Playground strives for.
“For a lot of delegates, this is the first time they feel they can talk about the queer, poly or kink-leaning part of their lives, and they’re in a room where they feel safe to have these conversations,” she says.
“I have to check my privilege at the door and can’t speak for everyone. We reach out to different communities and find unique voices to make sure workshops are diverse,” she adds. “The public needs to realize the value of sexual education. I’d like to see a legacy of people to feel better and in their relationship(s) and in their bedrooms.”