Tomorrow is the start of one of the local conventions run by AIS (Adventures in Sexuality), Winter Wickedness. Winter Wickedness (aka WW) is one of the first cons that I ever attended, and it holds some very special memories for me. My first one was back in 2011, so this will be my fifth year there, but it is also a year of note for the event itself as it is it’s tenth anniversary. Here is a small chronology of WW and it’s sister event, COPE, and AIS as an organization from mine and other’s perspectives.*
There aren’t as many details or anecdotes as I would have liked to have gathered, but things have been busy with life lately and getting ready for this convention. Anything that people leave in the comments or PM me with would be welcome additions to incorporate into revisions.** I’ma go all ethnographer on your asses!! Well, sorta. 😉
In my early years of exploring BDSM on the web (pre-Fetlife, Collarme.com days), when looking for events in Ohio I came across a party thrown on occasion at a now defunct swinger’s club in Columbus called Cupid’s. I sorta wanted to go, but at the time wasn’t connected to community and would have had to venture there by myself. That wasn’t terribly appealing, especially since I was living in Dayton at the time and would have had to drive over an hour to get there and then back. I don’t really care for travelling long distances by myself, especially late at night after a party. I shrugged this one off, putting aside such plans for a later date. Years later a former partner and good friend, BN, told me about his experience of these gatherings. It was by his estimation the first open-to-the public kink party in Columbus. There had been invite-only private house parties for years and years, so this new thing at Cupid’s was unique in that it was public. This was spearheaded by a new group in town called AIS and it’s benevolent dictators, Barak and Sheba (I use this term with love, admiration, and respect. Barak and Sheba have been two of the largest contributors to the development of the local kink scene, and have far reaching influence beyond the state as well. I admire and look up to these individuals as people and community leaders). Being a swinger’s club, the house rules were also somewhat unique. I’m not sure if everyone reading this would know, but in yesteryear’s incarnations of many parties, especially in some Leather communities, sexual penetration was not something that was allowed at parties for various reasons. I won’t go into those here as they are rather complex depending upon local law, culture, and other variables. Adventures in Sexuality, true to it’s namesake, would be the first party in Columbus (known to my partner) to allow sexual penetration. Ever. This was a huge deal for a lot of people who didn’t believe that their kinks should be separated from the thing that they felt play naturally led to: sex. To paraphrase my old partner, “What’s the point of tying up a hot bitch and beating the crap out of her if you can’t fuck her once she’s drooling on the floor and your cock is bulging in your pants [consensually]?” I will note here that these parties were open to swingers walking in, dissimilar to what we have in Columbus now. According to BN’s memory, a couple years later, after it became clear that the kinksters were starting to outnumber the swingers, other parties that were exclusive to kink, co-sponsored by the local National Leather Association (NLA) chapter, were held at a place now known to Columbusites as “the old hotel”. One of these was my first play party ever, and it was incredibly impactful in a number of ways. Due to the overwhelming popularity of the parties at the “old hotel”, a larger, even better event was founded. The Columbus Ohio Perversion Excursion.
Another small personal anecdote, followed by another of BN’s: I was visiting the boyfriend that I first explored kink with several years ago here in town one weekend, and we decided to stop by The Chamber, the local BDSM store, on a whim. While chatting with the cashier, she handed us a hand flyer for an event that she seemed particularly excited about. It was the very first full weekend convention to ever be held in town – the Columbus Ohio Perversion Excursion, or COPE. At the time we were both broke – I was a college student and he was working retail – and it was the next weekend. We weren’t even really sure what it was from her vague description, so we shrugged our shoulders and went home. Damn, do I wish we hadn’t.
BN was among the attendees of that first COPE, and experienced it as novel in a few ways. The joint NLA parties had been at the earlier referenced “old hotel”, lovingly called that because of the memories there, but also because it was a bit run down. COPE was held at, and is held at, a very nice, very courteously staffed hotel. Another thing about the joint parties – penetration of any sort was not allowed, even though it was a kink event. Remember that thing about Leather? There was some debate about whether even ball gags were allowed (pesky ball gags, penetrating your mouth….). Those parties numbered around one hundred attendees according to a few informants. COPE was extraordinarily different in a few ways. First, it was by far the largest number of people ever gathered at a kink event in Columbus at that time, at least double the size of the parties at the old hotel. Second…. it was the first kink-exclusive (sans swingers) gathering that would allow penetration at an event. According to BN, at the Opening Announcements when this was announced everyone cheered inexhaustibly. Finally there was a space in which people could arrive at the “full expression” of their kink at the same party where they had begun said “expression”.
Personally, COPE and WW were the proving grounds for me in some ways in my kink journey. There are too many personal firsts that happened at these events over the years to count. Of note are my participation as a giver in Scarlet Sanctuary, my first time doing rough body play and wrestling, my first time getting suspended in rope, my first time witnessing and participating in ridiculously goofy antics within kink, some of my first and most impactful poly experiences…. These are the ones that come to mind right now. I forged many of my kink friendships at these gatherings, some of which have spilled over into my day to day life. I run into people that I see every week, but I also run into those who I see only a few times a year and miss dearly. A LOT of the greatest learning experiences I’ve had were at these events. There are world class presenters brought in every time, ranging in all sorts of topics in play and theory.
And so the true gushing begins, completely irreverent of the concept of cultural relativity (sorry, Franz Boas). As part of the Final Announcements, Barak usually asks the crowd for all of the superlatives from the weekend. Some examples: “Who has the most bruises?” People rush to the stage to show off their battle scars that they’ve accumulated. “Who traveled the furthest to come to this event?” People shout out from across the ballroom to compete for that title. As I recall, there was once an individual that traveled all the way from New Zealand. I know there was someone from Australia last WW because we talked for a good long while (S’up, Australasia?). The culture and space that AIS creates with these conventions, not to mention the other events they host, have brought people from around the city, state, the country, and the world. These are some of the hidden gems of the midwest and nation, imho.
More gushing: We who live here in Columbus and within a commutable distance are sooooo blessed to have these world-class conventions. I wish that everyone could know about the wonderful things we have going on in our little city, and these are two of the big ones.
*This writing is an oral history that may or may not be completely substantiated in the full facts in all of it’s details. It is comprised of the memories of it’s informants, as well as myself. This has not been approved as anything official by Adventures in Sexuality, and is not in any way solicited for publishing by them. This is an independent personal project exclusive of any particular organization.
**All personal anecdotes herein are used with the express permission of the informants who relayed them to me, with any included names or pseudonyms agreed upon by them as well. I would like to thank everyone I’ve talked to in my efforts to prepare this small, informal piece.