So... What actually happens at a Sex Positive festival?Jun 21, 2021
Photo from Sexolution festival
After leaving my third sex positive festival of the season, I thought I would share a bit about my experiences with these types of events and why I think they are SO important, and why I think EVERYONE should go to one at least once!
As you probably know if you're following me already or if not, because you've just found this article elsewhere on the internet... I'm a full time conscious sexuality teacher and event organizer, and tantric sex & relationship coach in training. I run frequent workshops in cities all over the world, as well as run my own sensuality retreat, and I previously ran a sex positive festival... The sex positive world is my chosen workplace, as well as my passion and when I go to teach at festivals I am mostly 90% facilitator, sometimes (rarely) just a participant, sometimes a volunteer and sometimes a mix of them all.
Many of us never learned about consent, how to ask for what we want, how to give pleasure and how to be aware of trauma and help create safety for our partners.
We may have put a condom on a banana if we were at a progressive school, but most adults still have no idea about safer sex practices in group settings, for oral sex or anal sex. We still may fumble when trying to ask if someone has been tested for STIs or what exactly we need to say before entering a kinky scene.
I'll talk a bit about the 3 festivals I attended in the last months to give you some examples of what different style festivals are like and what you can get from them.
Xplore, like the title suggests, is a festival about exploration- exploring your sexuality, desires, curiosity and the edges of your comfort zone... It has a very contemporary and artistic vibe to it and the participants tend to go pretty hard in the workshops and play spaces. Each year has a theme and the festival is massive- hosting multiple workshops at a time plus ongoing play spaces, massage and shibari areas, a roleplay space and areas to hang out and meet people.
The 'School of Love' was a roleplay space where you could go and be guided through some fun kinky roleplay scenes if you so desired. There was also the opportunity to be tied by teachers from one of the Berlin shibari dojos. One thing I love at Xplore is the ongoing silent play space. It is nice that at any point if you don't feel like joining a workshop you can go there to play and move or just witness. A lot of other festivals only have play spaces at night which I don't personally like as someone who likes to go to bed early, though I find silent spaces a bit difficult to navigate as I really like having check-ins and constant communication with play partners. As I was a participant at this festival and not a facilitator, I got to have some fun of my own which included lots of sensual contact dancing, rope play, role play and cuddles.
Xplore also run retreats in different places, which I hear are much more 'gentle' and relaxed, so I would love to attend one of these in the future and see the difference for myself.
THE SUMMER HOUSE (UK)
The Summer house was a new experience for me, my partner and I were invited to teach by one of our fellow Sensual Arts Retreat facilitators, Katy. The Summer House has also been going for a long time, building up from a small gathering of friends into a massive festival (I think there was 450 people or so at this one). This year it was located in regional Scotland so it was very difficult to get to for us as international folk, but a really beautiful location. Most people camp on the site though there are some rooms in the mansion that you can rent. We luckily got to stay in the massage tent at night because we weren't able to bring all our camping things on the flights, as well as all our workshop gear- though we wished we'd had some privacy as teaching can be very draining and being able to recharge is super important. The Summer House is by far the most diverse festival I have been to, proudly boasting a large community of queer folk, POC, trans, non-binary and people with disabilities. Related to this there was definitely a political tone to the festival with a lot of emphasis on empowering minority groups, education and political correctness. There were a lot of sharing circles and workshops specifically for groups to talk about their unique experiences with their sexuality and to bond in a sex positive space. If you are someone in a minority group and you're worried that many festivals seem very white and heteronormative, this is definitely a festival where you won't be alone and you can connect with others with similar experiences to you. Everyone works really hard to be as inclusive as possible and celebrate diversity, though there was also a lot of tension around this and 'calling out' in ways that didn't feel fully integrated and constructive to me personally, but I really appreciate how hard everyone seemed to be working to do their best. The care team worked really hard and were always available and accessible.
There wasn't much spirituality at this event, though Katy and another friend did an amazing Queer Tantra workshop that was really magical and powerful, I got a lot out of it, even as a tantric teacher. We taught a workshop on consent (There were 3 consent based workshops, which I think is amazing and so important, and consent was an ongoing and important topic addressed over and over again) as well as our 'Erotic embodiment and lap dancing' workshop (always a big hit and a lot of fun) and 'Primal Playfighting' (Which got totally wild and ended up spreading across the large outdoor lawn when the dome couldn't fit all the wild folk!). I didn't get to attend many workshops at this event due to us teaching quite a lot and not having much free time, but another workshop I loved was 'Decolonize, galvanize, moisturize'. There were lots of other ones I wish I could have attended (though usually scheduled while we were teaching!) like non-binary panels, sensual kink, a rave ritual, a beard making workshop, partner dancing and so much more. I always get overwhelmed when festivals have so many spaces open at the same time, and the schedule was overflowing with great content. The nights had really high quality performances and entertainment by members of the community and all of this supported and made possible by an ace production team. A massive bonus was the hot tubs and sauna, which were vital in the rainy Scottish 'summer' and total lifesavers.
In all I found this a really interesting festival and I learned so much, though I was definitely missing the 'conscious' and heart-centered feeling I get at the more spiritually focused events. I'm curious how it will evolve over the years so that this diverse space can be revolutionary and inclusive in a way that feels truly loving and relaxed, and deals with conflict in a more integrated way that can make people feel more safe and less triggered.
My favorite event of the 3 was Sexolution, a festival only in it's first year that managed to pull off a truly amazing event. This festival was run by Schwelle Wien, a sex positive space that has been running for many years. The event was focused on tantra, kink and love... so it was absolutely perfect for me!
Some really amazing teachers were part of the team, including Seani Love (@realseanilove) , Blixx (@xperience_blixx), Rosie Heart (@golden_clit_on_tour) , Wilrieke Sophia (@the.intimacy.coach) and many more. The schedule was nicely spread out where I felt I got a lot of time to socialize, relax and sleep as well as attend lots of workshops and host the three I ran.
The evenings had dance parties, karaoke and play spaces, as well as an art space with some exciting installations, though my partner and I enjoyed our room and each other most of the evenings after building up so much sexual energy in the days.
I was blessed to share 3 of my favourite workshops at this event- Self-worship (an honouring self pleasure ritual), the Embodied Erotic dance and lap dancing again and the Sensual Rope Ritual. All of the workshops got great feedback and I felt so grateful to get to share my passion in these spaces with so many lovely people. I can't wait to reconnect with the people I met there and hopefully return next year!
There are more and more sex positive events and festivals popping up all over the world, and it makes me so happy to see this. Taking some time to learn about your sexuality, explore your desires and learn communication and connection tools is vital to our collective healing and sexual liberation. Most of the trauma in the world begins with disconnection from others and from ourselves, and most of us underestimate how much our sexuality and relationships play into our whole lives.
Whether you want to learn new skills to up your game as a lover, meet people who share your kinks and desires, put yourself on the edge of your comfort zone to meet new parts of yourself or you want to learn about consent and boundaries... We could all gain a lot from these spaces.
Retreats v Festivals
Usually in 3-4 days you see the rise and peak of emotions, things start off pretty exciting, ecstatic and blissful. You're learning new things, meeting new people and feeling good about yourself! This is when the deeper wounds start to feel safe to come up... And at festivals this is usually when you go home. If you don't have a supportive community then integration can be hard, and you just met all these lovely people who then leave and you might not see them again. In a week period you can ride the wave and stay in the container for the whole experience with the support of the team and the other participants, which enables you to process any wounds that come up, so you can release and integrate them. In a smaller group you can connect deeper with people and feel more 'seen' in the space. Also festivals take huge teams and a lot of work, and can often not even make much money, which generally means underpaying the teachers and team, which I don't like to do anymore.
If you're someone who likes things a bit more slow paced, and you want to go on a deep journey, then week long or month long intensives will really create shifts in your life.
Sensual Artistry is a space for exploring the realms of pleasure, intimacy and spirituality through the Tantric Arts.
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