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More on the edge play contest

I'm glad to see that my last post has triggered wide-spread discussion. There are excellent points being made across the board... in the comments to my original post, and in other journals like passionandsoul, forgelives and fd_midori.

Of course, someone posted about this issue to a national SM Activists list, and it took precicely two e-mails for an "edge player" to scream out defensively "so edge play isn't SSC?" Unfortunate, but annoyingly expected.

This is precicely what I wanted to happen when I hosted the discussion at LLC. No matter what the opinions, this is a discussion worth happening. We are living in a period of time in which there are more people into SM than EVER before. The public scene has national attention... groups and weekend events are everywhere. Even the smallest of towns have SM organizations now. We also have more people who have been "in the scene" for 10 years or more than ever. It is natural that edgier topics are being discussed, because a lot of people are beyond the 101 levels of play, and groups are looking for ways to continue being a resource and a destination. Of course edgier topics are going to be taught, as well they should.

I remember when lolitasir and I sat in on Sharrin Spector's Caning 301 class at Dungeon 801. We both leaned to each other and cackled evily, because we had both just absorbed so much that we would integrate into our own play. This was because we were ready for it and hungry. Because it made sense in our styles of play, and in the play relationships we have with others. NOT because we wanted to become a cool edge player as well. But because we were attracted to it... because it made us wet/hard.

Another point of discussion that is occurring is the validity of SM contests. Now, I am not saying competition is neccessarily a bad thing. It is impossible to do anything and not have people inject a competitive angle to it. It's just the way humans are. For years, we have seen singletail accuracy contests, ball/tit-clamp weight competitions, creative bondage contests. These are all fun. They tend to be jovial, and non-threatening. I have never seen a person who managed to lift the heaviest amount of weight from his balls suddenly become the king of the hill. Instead, they tend to get a few more playdates from CBT enthusiasts, and the shakes of the hand from other people. It's fun, it's silly, fine.

But this contest - the most extreme scene competition - this is something different. This has many more risks to it. The push and drive to go beyond your or your bottom's limits just to win the title. The enouragement of others to play beyond their expertise. The positioning of an "extreme" scene as the pinnacle to what one can be in the scene - a goal that people should be heading towards. And the disenfranchising of others. For me, edge play is holding onto me while swimming into the deep end of a pool. I can swim, but barely, and I am scared of deep water. But obviously, that scene would not be extreme enough for the judges, I would imagine. I image they would be looking for something a bit more... viceral.


( 19 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 15th, 2006 04:21 pm (UTC)
I think that's really the problem with the entire concept- edge play isn't something that can be measure by external objective views. Accuracy, weight, aesthetics (even that toes the line) are all very easy to measure by others.

Edge? How on earth can you say one persons edge is more than another?

So, beyond the "raising the stakes from silly fun to serious "cooler than thou"" isues, is the entire problem with the premise of the competition to begin with.

But I agree- it's a good discussion and I'm glad we're finally having it.
Jun. 15th, 2006 04:33 pm (UTC)
Jun. 15th, 2006 04:49 pm (UTC)
It's about intent, I think.

I've had long conversations with another top I know who used to say that in the end, intent didn't matter, it was all about outcome. For me, in most instances, intent matters quite a bit.

Why are you doing it? Ego, status, glory? Connection, experience, joy, knowledge?

I don't think anyone I've read on any of these threads has a problem with edge play. I don't have any objection to two (or more) players flying out on the edge, whatever emotional or physical line of demarcation that is for them. I treasure each memory I have of my personal experiences on the edge. It's more about ... why are you there?

I'm all good with not judging other people's kink. I think edgy exploration is part of growth, but I also think it's ok to step back, look at the common culture we are creating & question. I think it's a necessary part of our process as a subculture. It's important.
(Deleted comment)
Jun. 15th, 2006 05:14 pm (UTC)
Now, I see where you are going with this, and I'm going to have to disagree with your post. I DO defend with all my honor the right to play "edge" scenes in public. I defend someone's right to exercise their sexuality is just about anyway they want, just as long as everyone is a consenting adult and they are following the rules of their local playspace. My posts here are NOT to slam edgier play.

My focus is on this contest, and how it is being presented.
(Deleted comment)
Jun. 15th, 2006 06:09 pm (UTC)
How did you reconcile this with the "pink bunny costume in the mall" scene?
Jun. 23rd, 2006 05:38 am (UTC)
"My focus is on this contest, and how it is being presented."

Actually, if I may reply at this late date, your focus seems to be on how you saw the contest being presented. It was the "Extreme Scene Competition," not the "Most Extreme Scene Competition." Mere semantics? No. Most of the discussion I've read tangents into "what is extreme?" For the contest sponsors, "extreme" could be extremely funny, extremely scary, extremely beautiful, extremely intricate, etc. This notice was for local members of the club, who saw it posted at the club or on the website, and thus asked the club owners directly about any requirements, clarifications, etc. It was not posted nor intended for "outside" people.

All the most vociferous protests seem to center on the assumption that this was an "Edgiest Scene" contest. It was not. (And even if it had been, may I suggest that what you consider "edgiest" is not necessarily what someone in the local Denver Sanctuary-member community would consider to be edgiest? I personally played with a local girl with whom sheepskin was the Absolute Edgiest Play. Seriously. She was stupendously ticklish, beyond anyone I'd ever met before.) As for the offending last sentence of the original notice, "The winners will get bragging rights until the next competition (twice a year!) and their names on a plaque that will be hung in the social for all to see and admire!", that was written rather tongue-in-cheek. We in the local community knew that. Yes, there will be a plaque. But the whole thing was in no way meant to BE a "serious competition" like all the Leather Titles and so forth. (hence the tongue-in-cheekedness of the "prize.")

You yourself said it up there: "For years, we have seen {various skill and endurance}contests. These are all fun. They tend to be jovial, and non-threatening. .... they tend to get a few more playdates from CBT enthusiasts, and the shakes of the hand from other people. It's fun, it's silly, fine." But then you assumed this contest, which you erroneously labeled "the most extreme scene competition," was different from those. It was not. It was fun, it was rather silly, it was fine. We in the local community knew that.

Please... what you and others assumed was happening was not, in fact, happening.

Thank you.
Jun. 15th, 2006 04:57 pm (UTC)
Your last paragraph holds the key. It is what you imagine the judges' criteria to be. Or what we're imagining it might or might not be. Does anyone really know what thejudging criteri is? Are we knee-jerk reacting to what we imagine this is going to turn out to be? If that's the case, this is a huge circle jerk.
Find out what the criteria is before you set off an alarm. Otherwise, the sky is falling.
Jun. 15th, 2006 05:12 pm (UTC)
See, I disagree. Even the criteria would not change my opinion on this. It's how edge play is now being presented. I dislike how it is being hoisted as the goal. And it IS happening - this is not deniable. There ARE other players who are feeling that they are not "up to snuff" unless they seek these extremes. There ARE program coordinators who feel the pressure to present edgier topics to crowds that might not be skilled enough to learn them. There ARE players now playing outside of their expertise and comfort levels because they feel they have to.

A contest like this only fans the flames more.
Jun. 15th, 2006 05:29 pm (UTC)
I feel anytime S/Mer put on a public display of their technique with a live partner,it encourages people to "stretch their limits", whether they're tops or bottoms. If this were a caning contest instead of an edge contest, the dynamics are the same. I feel the display to the public sets the stage. "Edge" is just the latest topic on display, and you have an issue with the topic.
Yes, there'll allways be the people whose actions scream "Look at what I can do" or "Look what I just bought on the internet/Home Depot/local kink store. The "outing" of the leather scene, the opening up to John Q. Public, the plead for "acceptance" has a by-product. This is part of that by-product. It driven by the motivation to accumulate capital. Whether it's for a "good cause" or just to pay the rent of the local s/m club or weekend retreat operator or club run, whatever, someone thought, "Gee, what would bring a crowd?" This kinda stuff lures a crowd. It's P.T. Barnum's circus act and guess who's on stage as the performing freaks? You want to put an end to it? Boycott the event.
Jun. 16th, 2006 03:15 am (UTC)
I stopped teaching the edgy stuff (sharp edges, etc) in a public venue where I wouldn't have time or opportunity to do one on one coaching after I DMed an event where someone had just "watched" a cutting and branding demo, went to the vending area and bought not only scalpels but a bovie, and were "doing it" because it didn't look that hard. I'm sure it happens at every damn major event where the weekend warriors (or yearly warriors, as I've come across) clash toybags with folks who do this on a truly regular basis (therefore getting regular practice at what they're doing.) It sounds judgemental as hell, but the medic in me just really doesn't want to encourage people to "try this stuff on their own" if they don't have someone there to guide them through the first time or two that they navigate a totally new technique.

I can only imagine what maniacal things people will resort to when there is a prize offered for being the edgiest.
Jun. 23rd, 2006 05:41 am (UTC)
"Your last paragraph holds the key. It is what you imagine the judges' criteria to be. .... Are we knee-jerk reacting to what we imagine this is going to turn out to be?"


Thank you.
Jun. 15th, 2006 04:59 pm (UTC)
Well I think that this whole thing highlights the reasons why we do what we do in the first place.

Are you seeking out a hard flogging because you have something to prove, or are you seeking out a hard flogging because you find it erotic, and you wish to establish a connection with someone?

I wonder sometimes if people who are in the leather scene, solely for the purpose of being king of a "social hill", would have a better time in the rotary club or the red hat society.

Leather and kink are -sex-. And what two (or more) people could find wildly fufilling and positive sexually might not even register on the 'edginess' meter of other people.

I question the motives of the people who put on such a competition, and I question the motives of the people that would be in such a competition. Highschool era pissing contests have no place here.
Jun. 15th, 2006 05:11 pm (UTC)
What about Leather Runs?
I agree mostly with what has been said here. I also hope that the people running this event had different intentions than what the majority are perceiving.

That being said - do we not somewhat encourage this behavior by making "fantasies" a part of various leather title runs? It is a judged arena, wherein someone's scene - its audience impact, visual effects, creativity - is computed into the contestant's final tally.

I think if we begin this discussion, we need to also ask if judged scenes or fantasies, whatever they are labeled, are not one step away from what we're all questioning so vehemently.
Jun. 16th, 2006 03:25 am (UTC)
Re: What about Leather Runs?
I'm not sure what your background is with leather contests with fantasies but I suspect since you're referring to them being "leather runs" that you might not have all that many of these to base your comparison on. Here's an example of the 4 fantasies that were just done on stage in a leather bar in Philadelphia for a title contest:

Sir: He's working in a garage, and the "customer" is whining about his car being finished. Top/mechanic ties whiny customer up, makes him "suck his dick" and then tosses him the keys to his car.

Boy 1: Finds a 'magic lamp' and is jerking it off like a cock, making a wish. "Genie" shows up and ties him up, blindfolds him, gags him, and leaves him bound with the lamp pumping its' smoke on top of him a la 'I dream of jeannie"

Boy 2: Gets caught by dad jacking off and spanking himself to poster of David Hasselhoff. Dad calls shipping service and they tie and pack him up, shipping him off to "Bad Boy School"

Boy 3: Gets caught playing with matches by his Sir. Sir ties him up and then proceeds to torment him, spanking him, blowing smoke in his face, making him suck the cigar, etc.

My own for my title contest in Philadelphia contained me being named "Supreme Mistress of the USA" by President George Bush. The other folks that weekend did a flogging scene, a waxing scene (involving Ben Franklin), and an electric company lineswoman being 'picked up."

I'm not sure that these "staged fantasies" are really good comparisions to encouraging folks to push someone's boundaries, physical or mental, in order to win a "edge contest."
Jun. 16th, 2006 12:24 pm (UTC)
Re: What about Leather Runs?
Thank you for the response. I must admit I was amused that my experience or response was questioned because I used the term "leather run". I am from Atlanta and just attend SELF last weekend, where the term was used many times. It is a commonly used term here to describe the title contest portion of the event. C'est la vie.

I brought this angle up because, although I must admit I know nothing more about the offending event in question other than Boymeat's post, I have to wonder if the INTENT of the group throwing the event wasn't similar to those judging the fantasy section of [insert your prefered noun for leather title contest]. Perhaps they were just encouraging those involved in the contest to choose edgy activities for this specific event. I should read the description of the event again, but I do not recall reading "please intentionally push your bottoms limits to unsafe regions and disregard all safe words". Should a warning against such activities have been included in the press release? Probably. If for no other reason than to clarify to the judging masses that their intentions are not to put their membership in danger, only to encourage play of a specific nature.

My point also included that judging of a fantasy in a contest or judging of a scene in a specific play genre ('edge', etc.) can be pretty similar. I'm not saying stop either - in fact, go ahead and have more scene "competitions" where that week's genre of choice is implemented. I'm thinking of an Iron Chef of BDSM here... and this week... the CANE. Next week... the CLAMP! Sure, perhaps it doesn't enlighten anyone spiritually, but it can be fun and encourage creativity.

There will be dumbasses who "just don't get it" everywhere. These people will abuse their property and/or people, be disrespectful of others and disregard rules at venues.

Anyway, I just wanted to clarify some of my points and explain why I used the term "leather run". Thanks.
Jun. 16th, 2006 02:46 pm (UTC)
Re: What about Leather Runs?
Thanks for your post. I hope you had a great time at SELF. I seem to miss it every year because it falls on our Pride weekend.

I think the 'run' thing was what confused me about your post. Where I come from, and traditionally, from old MC clubs, a run is something that a club does. If we look at the Satyrs MC in California (the oldest gay club still in existence today), they do an annual run to Badger Flat. And yes, they have contests -- with their motorcycles, and also things like drag contests, singing contests, talent shows, etc. (There is info on the club and their runs on their website, http://www.satyrsmc.org/) The Philadelphians MC have runs -- Tri Cen is one of them that happens only on years where New Years is on a weekend. And likewise, many other clubs do runs, inviting other leather or MC clubs along with them. Olympia is one here on the east coast that gets a ton of the men's leather clubs together, and all of them do themed "contests" against one another to win the "_____ of the run" prizes. Heck, I think I recall that a friend of mine won "Big Dick of the Run" this past NYE.

Maybe some event staff/producers, or the folks attending them, have adopted this terminology for the het or pan events that are happening now.
Jun. 15th, 2006 05:33 pm (UTC)
Ok, so for me, the thing that makes this phenonmenon offensive is the "Playing to impress others" aspect. I love edge play. But not when it's about showing off for someone else...
Jun. 15th, 2006 05:45 pm (UTC)
I have been reading these posts in fear, wondering when someone would say, "oh my god, do you remember when xxx, at that leather event in xxxxx, did xx to xxx and it was TERRIBLE!!" I guess no-one has said it yet.

I have had scenes that I look back on now and think oh my god. I kind of break out in a sweat and get nervous thinking about them, lol. At the time they were really not that big a deal. Other people had reactions and I guess I am remember that more than the scene itself. I do remember safety was always a huge factor but when others hear about what happpened they don't always know how safe things really were.

I really do try and not be the judge when it comes to scenes. I have had to check myself a couple of times though. Like one time seeing someone do a very public piercing scene, when it was clearly for a crowd and not for themselves. I didn't like that. It felt non consensual and grossed me out. So I left. End of scene. I loved that they grumbled all weekend that people were watching them and they couldn't enjoy their scene properly. I guess that would be hard when your back is to your bottom and you are facing the audience. I mean gagging onlookers.

I have always felt that one person's comfort zone is another person's edge. I could list a lot of things here that would make others giggle, "you don't like that!?" But then there are scenes I like, that to others are way out there. I don't think of it as edge play but that is what it is called regardless.

As for edge play competitions, hmmmm. Again, I'll do my best not to judge. Prettiest rope harness? Most accurate single tail? Neatest needles? Or is it most blood spilled, how many canes broken? What are we talking about here? One makes me gag the other sounds like it could be good night out.

Jun. 20th, 2006 08:43 am (UTC)
Remind me to never ever mention my feelings or opinions around leather life on my blog again. That was exhausting. I'm still getting it.
( 19 comments — Leave a comment )