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Sex conference highlights consent

Playground Conference tries to dispel confusion about consent

The fourth annual Playground Conference attempts to dispel Gomeshi-inspired confusion surrounding consent. Credit: XTRA FILE PHOTO

Organizers of the fourth annual Playground Conference are hoping people will be drawn to the conference’s various consent-related sessions.

Welcoming people of all genders and orientations, the three-day sex and relationship conference comprises panels, workshops, speeches and discussions on such topics as sex-positive parenting, sex work and polyamory. Its roster of more than 50 local and international presenters includes sex educators, BDSM community leaders, lawyers and porn performers and producers.

The list includes Jeff Perera, director of the What Makes a Man conference; Sonya JF Barnett, co-founder of SlutWalk Toronto; and Tim Rose, co-founder of the Rose Centre for Love, Sex and Disability. Kaleigh Trace, author of the recently released Hot, Wet and Shaking: How I Learned to Talk About Sex, will give Friday’s keynote speech.

The growing conversation and confusion surrounding BDSM and consent made it clear to Samantha Fraser, Playground’s executive producer, that Playground might have the answers people seek.

“I saw that people were a little bit lost and a lot of people don’t seem to know where to go” for information on consent, Fraser says. “So I thought we’d highlight those aspects so that people can use us as a resource.”

Fraser points to some of the more relevant sessions. Playground Laws: Examining the Legalities of Alternative Relationships is a discussion of the law as it relates to polyamory, sex work, sexual assault and consent. Striving to Be a Consensual Ally is a discussion of how men can be better allies to women, how heterosexuals can be allies to homosexuals, and so on. A Conversation on Consent goes beyond the simple catch phrase “no means no,” exploring some of the practical and emotional difficulties surrounding giving and getting consent.

While these discussions were going to take place regardless, the final panel of the conference is happening, at least in part, because of former CBC radio host Jian Ghomeshi. “Originally, we were going to do a panel on sex-positive groups in and around the city and how they’ve survived over the years, but that has fallen through because some of the panellists aren’t available,” Fraser says. “So now we’re actually going to do a talk specifically on Gamergate and Ghomeshi.”