Vir Cotto's BDSM Blog

Why I won't teach at bars

This post is inspired partially by the wonderful @Sonya's post The Real Reasons I Don't Drink and Dom.

I've recently come up against a problem that's tested my convictions. I love teaching/presenting. I made my first presentation to a group of computer enthusiasts at 19, and continued throughout college and afterward giving talks on technical topics for local groups and at large conferences.

Once I joined the wonderful NYC kink community (shout out to TES), I knew that at some point, I'd want to start giving back to the community though teaching. I've been in a discussion with a group outside of NYC about presenting to their group, but have had to decline because it would have involved teaching at a bar while alcohol was served. This is understandable for that group, they're used to social events rather than teaching, but they've gone ahead and scheduled presenters to present during drinking.

Let me be clear that I don't think that all presentations in bars is terrible. I've presented on technical topics at bars with a projector and I've also taken a kink class in a bar, but I would not agree to teach in one, and here's why:

1. Safety

The class format in the US kink scene often includes a hands-on component, and at that point, you're immediately mixing kink with substances that are effect decision making as well as effecting the pain response. This is a real detriment when evaluating kink activities.

I want to know that the class participants are at their best, or at least not artificially inebriated for both the safety and enjoyment of everyone involved.

2. It sends a bad example

So much of what we hear about and discus in the kink community is around the issue of consent accidents and consent violations. While I believe that if people want to drink and kink, they should be allowed to privately, event organizers have an additional responsibilities, and that includes setting good examples regarding negotiation and generally promoting behavior that increases safety. Even if safety isn't a direct problem, the message itself is not one I can promote.

3. It puts kink on display

While I realize that some of us are exhibitionists (I myself sometimes enjoy being watched during a scene), I don't want to be seen as being or being part of any kind of freak-show. I am concerned that in a mixed event with alcohol that I and my co-presenters would be seen as nothing more than "the entertainment" and that the art that I practice, which is core to who I am would be seen as titillating entertainment.

4. Kink should be its own reward

I've heard the argument that if alcohol isn't served, then people won't attend. That's not born out in the communities I've seen, but even if it were true, I think there are metrics that are more important than attendance.

I want kink education to be as widely available as possible, but I also don't have any problem with a little bit of effort being required by a participant in order to learn a new skill. After all, that class will hopefully be something they can take with them for years to come. I want to keep the cost of attendance low, but if someone has to avoid alcohol or other substances for a few hours while learning a new skill, I think they should be willing to do that. If they're not, then I'd be concerned about their general interest in practicing BDSM safely.

I hold the BDSM community in incredibly high regard, and part of that is that it encourages the best out of us. Workshops in bars just don't make sense and I think that for those of us who take kink seriously, we need to make it known that is a hard limit.