Huffpost Gay Voices
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Amy Shiner Headshot

Kink in Vermont?

Posted: Updated:

I will always be a supporter of continuing sexual education. In my opinion there is always something that can go wrong, even in non-kinky sex: unsafe practices, poor communication, and the complications that arise with multiple partners or activities considered kinky. I frequently travel to kink classes and conferences; it's educational and a pretty good time when you start forming friendships that reignite during conferences. Recently I had the opportunity to attend Greydancers Ropetastic Unconference Extravaganza, also known as GRUE, produced by Graydancer, the host of the Ropecast, with help from Dov and Murphy Blue, rope educators based in New York City.

For more than a year Vermont Adult Sexuality Education, also known as VASE, has presented different topics that range from rope play and communicating in relationships to more intense activities. Unlike normal conferences, where classes are planned and adhere to pre-printed schedules, GRUE has a more grassroots structure whereby participants are welcome to present on topics that they are passionate about. Overall, it was a positive addition to my community's offerings and has sparked interest in new areas of kink.

My kink community has been very active in bringing new ideas and events into the community. About a year ago I made a comment to a friend that being in Northern Vermont has its advantages and disadvantages. I have never really been concerned about my safety in the kink scene up here. There is a very strong poly and kink community and an already existing LGBTQ community, and the one LGBTQ community center in the state is located only miles away from me. On the other hand, it's the bigger cities that have workshops and conferences to promote education and expand knowledge in kink. Because of my location, it takes at least four hours to get to the nearest big city, Boston, and by bus or train it takes even longer.

The "Unconference" part of GRUE's name really helps set it apart from other educational resources. When I first entered the kink lifestyle, Eric and a previous partner both made similar remarks that mentoring and educating other members is something the lifestyle should include. I have friends who have talents I didn't know they had. Watching the GRUE wall fill up with the apparent need to share knowledge came to light.

Being a person who loves structure (I create Excel sheets because they make me happy and relaxed), the first thing that went through my mind was panic and dismay. But I was reminded, after my moment of panic, how strong my community is when we all work together. We were thrilled to be part of an "unconference" that has caught on like wildfire since 2007. Classes can vary, and some classes, such as the "introvert corner" or "fishbowl," which has a Q-and-A for dominants and submissives, have been on the slate more than once. My community decided on top of some of the more intense classes that we also needed cuddle time.

GRUE has become a beneficial part of the kink community. Starting in 2007 in Madison, Wis., GRUE has created a new type of learning experience. Berlin, Amsterdam, and London have hosted at least once each, and GRUE has also been a presence in the kink community in Toronto, Vancouver, St. Louis, Connecticut, Los Angeles, Seattle, and D.C., to name a few. Structure staying the same, it has been strongly recommended that participants not skip any of the main conference, in order to get the full benefit of the experience. Each community brings new and old topics, adding to the "Spirit of GRUE."