“Yeah, I thought about coming to the GRUE,” my friend said to me. “Thing is, I’m just not all that into rope…”
I sighed. It’s the curse of being dumb enough to create a niche podcast, and becoming known in a lot of circles as “that Rope guy.” Folks, let’s get something straight here: I’m into rope for the simple reason that when I started really developing my kink I couldn’t afford leather, or steel, or corsets, or any of that stuff. At the time, I could afford the .10/foot MFP from Rainbow Rope, and so I bought enough to start tying, and looked at James Mogul‘s sites and Ian Rath and some others, and that’s how I got into rope. Kind of ironic that now my preferred rope costs more per foot than most leather, but that’s the price of passion, I guess.
But getting into rope? Economics, that’s all.
And the GRUE does have the word “Ropetastic” in it, but that’s more because I needed something to go along with the letter R. That’s all. So when we have the GRUE’s it’s more for the “unconference” feel, and that’s why our class list on Feb. 7th was as follows:
- Single Tails
- Top/Bottom Space: Before, During & After
- Making It Hard*
- One-handed Rope Techniques
- Rope Bondage for Male Bodies
- Intro to Chain Mail
- Foot Bondage: Form, Function & Fantasies
- Graydancer’s Fishbowl
- Needle Play 101-301
- Gender & Kink
- Kink & Self Esteem
- SEXY: Walk the Walk & Talk the Talk
- Engineering Stuff: Hard points, rope conditioning, etc.
- Sensation Play: Only Skin Deep?
- Pick Shaun’s Handcuffs!
- BDSM & Wrestling
- What to Wear? Fetish Clothing for the Scene
- Cock & Ball Torture & Bondage
- 2% Discussion with Instant Expert
- Kink on a Budget
- BUZZED! Violet Wand Play
- Payback Through Volunteering
- Play Spaces: What do you like?
Which means that approximately 1/3 of the classes were about rope. Except, of course, that they often went into tangents – Instant Expert’s 2% class morphed into a foot-rubbing orgy, for example. There was a nice balance between hands-on pragmatic stuff and intellectual discussion. My Fishbowl discussion is a perennial part of the GRUE, a chance for tops, bottoms, and switches to ask frank questions of each other and hear the responses from an insulated pool – where the people asking the question just listen, and the people answering discuss it amongst themselves. Here’s the questions each group asked:
The subs asked:
- Are you ok with silent sub space?
- What aftercare do you want?
- How obedient is too obedient?
- Is it a 50/50 Split?
- What do we need to do to get you into Top Space?
- Is it more difficult to play with another switch?
The doms asked:
- What is the most annoying thing I do to you?
- What is often missing from a scene that you need to get where you need to go?
- What thing do you wish we would carry in our toy bag?
- Since you have needs as both top & bottom, can any one scene fulfill you?
- When you switch, do you go from one side to the other completely?
- Do you feel persecuted?
The switches asked:
- Why don’t you switch?
- What bottoming experiences have you had?
- Do you think switches are aliens?
- Why don’t you switch?
- What topping experiences have you had?
- Do you bottom for someone who bottoms for someone else?
The discussion lasted about an hour, and I confess, I worried at the time that people were getting bored. I shouldn’t have; in the closing circle many people expressed that this discussion had been enlightening and interesting, a favorite part of the GRUE. Another unintended benefit of this GRUE was the way it brought together a large cross-section of the community in Madison – TNGers, Old Folx, Queer and Straight and Leather and Neobari and JustPlainSickFucks – and started a dialogue between them that is continuing on FetLife even now.
That’s part of the GRUE: trust. People over and over take a chance that something that is different than other conferences they’ve attended will be a positive experience, and I’m humbled by that chance they take when they sign up and show up. Then it’s my turn, at the conference, to trust that, starting with no agenda at 10am, we would have the class list you see above figured out by 10:35…and that by 5:30, we would have covered them all, as deeply or shallow as we wished. There was a moment, about 4:30, when I felt like it was falling apart – only one discussion was really “together”, and the rest of the rooms were people talking, eating the many snacks and drinking water and coffee, just kind of hanging out.
I had that moment of panic – I should do something, get people into discussion groups, get things going…but I trusted the group, and instead went to hang out with the Instant Expert. He was fiddling with some suspension gear, not really doing anything specific. We realized this was another difference in the GRUE: he and I present a lot, all over the country, and at most events the burden of keeping an event going is on the presenters. Yet here we were, in the middle of an event with 60 people, and we had down time, because everyone else was engaged with learning what they wanted to learn.
Now, a few minutes later Raging Journey, my partner-in-crime in the event planning, came over to ask him to teach her a cool chest harness. And a moment later those dispersed knots of discussions had coalesced into several larger groups talking about posted discussion topics, from rope chest harnesses to the Kink Eye for the Vanilla Guy.
I relaxed, secure that everyone was being eaten by the GRUE. You can see more of the fun at the GRUEGallery.
If you’re interested in attending a GRUE, word has it that the next two will be in the Tri-state area out east and, sometime in the summer, in St. Louis (they are apparently pissed that Madison broke the GRUE attendance record, and already have 30+ people planning to attend). Join the GRUEp on FetLife and see what it’s all about; try your own Unconference model, such as the one planned at KinkForAll in NYC or in Atlanta at Sex2.0.
However, it’s only at the GRUE that you’ll get Graydancer’s World-Famous Cheap-Ass Pankinbakucakes!
*(for the bottom to escape)