Leather Life: “A Taste of Kink” for Sexual Health Professionals


“A Taste of Kink”, an evening of interactive kink demonstrations and discussions, recently allowed over 100 sexual health professionals from across the country to see, and perhaps experience firsthand, the dynamics and feelings associated with kink and BDSM practices.

The evening was part of the 47th annual conference of the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT). The conference, held June 3–7 in Minneapolis, featured over 50 workshops providing continuing education credits for sexual health professionals.

Workshop topics at the conference included GLBTQ youth, transgender health issues, gender roles, working with non-monogamous couples, and sex-positive Christianity. The conference also included a performance by Wicked Wenches Cabaret, a Twin Cities burlesque troupe.

The “Taste of Kink” event on Saturday, June 6, was co-produced by AASECT’s AltSex SIG (Special Interest Group) and the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (NCSF), with help from Twin Cities volunteers and groups including MSDB, Knights of Leather, MinKY (Minnesota Kinky Youth), and The Electrical Group. The event took place at Patrick’s Cabaret in Minneapolis.

The purpose of the evening was to explain the dynamics of kink and BDSM scenes, and to show non-kinky professionals how kink feels. One of the organizers explained, “We are doing this to become more professionally and culturally sensitive to the needs of the BDSM community.” Another organizer commented, “As therapists we need to be prepared to deal with this, especially with 50 Shades of Gray out there.”

The event started with a one-hour “munch” — food, nonalcoholic beverages and conversation. Local community volunteers and demonstrators wore “Ask me about . . .” name tags listing their kink interests and inviting questions from AASECT conference attendees.

After the munch, the demonstrations began. Six demo areas offered concurrent demonstrations of flogging, whipping, and impact play; foot worship; punching; spanking; sensation play; bondage and suspension; and electrical play with a violet wand.

The demonstrations showed not just technique, but also the processes of negotiation, consent and aftercare (checking in with a partner afterward to make sure everyone is okay). Demonstrators also talked about what they felt as they were involved in the activity, why they liked to do the activity they were demonstrating, and what appealed to them about it.

AASECT members then had the opportunity to try, or “taste,” the practices being demonstrated if they wished, and many of them did. Their tastes gave them firsthand experience not only with one or more BDSM practices, but also with the processes of negotiation, consent and aftercare — and with the use of safewords. As someone commented, “This isn’t just PowerPoints or slideshows; this is experiential learning.”

For your humble columnist, a nonprofessional spectator, the evening was a series of amazing moments. It was interesting to see the slightly startled expression on someone’s face as they felt the electric charge of a violet wand for the first time, or the blissful expression on someone else’s face as they were having their feet worshipped.

When the flogging demonstrator asked if anyone wanted to feel the tails of the flogger, almost everyone watching wanted to. That enthusiasm progressed to a continuous line of audience members at the flogging station, wanting to see what being flogged felt like. “I can’t believe I’m doing this,” said one audience member when it was their turn. When I asked another audience member for three words to describe the experience of being flogged, the response was “mellow, soothing, and relaxing.”

Audience enthusiasm was just as evident at the other demonstration stations. A female attendee who had just experienced a singletail whip described the experience as “exhilarating, intense, and exciting.” Asked what she thought of the entire evening, she said, “I’m intrigued to bring it home now.”

There were enthusiastic comments from other AASECT members as well. One said of the evening, “I’m really grateful; I’ve watched people have transformative experiences. This evening has let me receive in a way I haven’t been able to in years.”

Another audience member liked “having people expand boundaries and experience touch in a new way, in a safe and consensual manner,” and still another was “surprised to be able to ask for what I want.” A member of AASECT’s AltSex SIG, one of the evening’s cosponsors, was happy that the evening was going so well: “I am so psyched that this is actually happening!”

Everyone enthusiastically agreed that the evening had gone very well, and that the experience was transformative for some attendees, and even cathartic. One AASECT board member was pleased: “This evening has given us all a lot of insight.” While attendees might not have been into kink themselves, they now had a better understanding of the dynamics and feelings associated with kink, which will allow them to better serve clients who are into kink and other alternative sexualities.

And Susan Wright, one of the founders of event cosponsor NCSF, made a prediction: “I think this is going to be talked about for years.”

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