What to Expect at a Bash
By Ms. Constance
A bash is a national or regional event, attendance at which may range from 100 people to over 1000. It's conducted in very similar fashion to any sort of conference or seminar. You register in advance. Registrations usually run from $75 to $125 depending on the size of the event, the location, and what precisely is being provided. Registrations do not normally include meals, hotel, or transportation to and from. What they do cover is your attendance at the event including seminars and event-sponsored parties.
Check-in usually begins on Friday afternoon and the events continue on through Sunday afternoon or evening. Accommodations are usually available at the host hotel and a list of other hotels will be provided that offer reasonable access to the host hotel. Host hotels run from $100 to $150 a night for up to four people per room. Non-host hotels vary greatly, both in price and amenities. Bear in mind that if you are without transportation in the city you may need to stay either at the host hotel or at hotels that have transportation arrangements with the host. The advantage to the host hotel is convenience to the events. The disadvantage is that the staff and services of the hotel may be somewhat overwhelmed, so getting an elevator, a meal, or an extra pillow can be more challenging. By and large, if you're not attended events before or don't have transportation once you've gotten there, you'll be better off in the host hotel.
Meal and transportation costs depend on what you want to spend, to some extent, and how far you're going. You can have expensive meals or eat at McDonalds, you can get there in style or not. It's often possible to share a ride or a hotel room with others. If you're interested in doing so, ask around your area to see who else might be going and if shared arrangements are possible.
Be aware that you will be expected to have the name badge in sight when you are in bash-sponsored events.
At check-in you'll be expected to produce the registration number or letter you've received, as well as photo id to prove you are who you say you are. You'll sign a release form and be given your registration packet, which will include various free items and the event's program. At recent bashes I've had a band attached to my wrist, sometimes with a number printed on it, as well as being issued a name badge. The wristband is permanent for the length of the event. Be aware that you will be expected to have the name badge in sight when you are in bash-sponsored events, as well as having the wristband visible. This is to eliminate the possibilities of gatecrashers and is done for your protection, not to be an annoyance. If both the name badge and the wristband have numbers, event staff will check to see that the numbers match. If you should lose your name badge, report that to the staff immediately and they will handle issuing you a new one.
There is usually a meet-and-greet event Friday afternoon and evening, a no-host party to allow people get to know each other. There are usually icebreakers, too, which might include slave and/or Master auctions, games or performances on Friday night. Usually Saturday night has awards and recognition for those who have worked on the event. Sunday afternoon at Black Rose they play "The Leather Family Feud," for instance. "Name a popular material for scene clothes..." There may be a kennel show or an equestrian extravaganza, with pets and ponies strutting their stuff. There may be S&M games with events designed to show off your skills in popping balloons with a single tail. Creativity might be showcased by giving all participants a bag with the same items and seeing who uses them in the most creative bondage scenario, or endurance tested by seeing who can bear the most weight on a set of nipple clamps. There may be opportunities to speak with authors or have books autographed. There are often sobriety meetings as well.
Often there's a silent auction or craft show that's open during the entire event, as well as vendor room(s) wherein you can purchase nearly anything your little heart desires and your wallet allows, from a $12 crop to a $400 whip and anything in between. If you're thinking of expanding your toy bag, events offer a great way to see and feel the items you're considering, and most vendors do mail order as well if you're not ready to purchase it just yet. Remember out of courtesy to vendors not to "test" any of the merchandise without their express permission. Most are happy to let you take a few swings with the flogger, or see how the whip feels in your hand, but leaving blood on an edge because you didn't handle it carefully, for instance, is NOT acceptable.
Bashes are also a good place to purchase fetishwear. Vendors usually have a clear understanding that not everyone is a size 8 or has a perfect 32" waist. They normally have a wide variety of sizes available on premises, and will usually take orders for items as well. If you want to try on something, ask the vendor for assistance. Don't expect private dressing rooms, however, so if your intention is to shop for apparel, you might want to wear clothing that is either easily removed or, if you're more modest, over which you can try items.
There will be a number of people strolling the room with sashes or buttons that proclaim DM, meaning that they are Dungeon Masters, or security for the dungeon.
Friday and Saturday nights beginning around 9pm the dungeon will open. Normally a ballroom or a parking facility is transformed into a dungeon, with a separate social area with free light refreshments and soft drinks. Equipment will be provided, but toys will not; you will need to bring your own. There will be a number of people strolling the room with sashes or buttons that proclaim DM, meaning that they are Dungeon Masters, or security for the dungeon. Their job is to make sure that all play remains safe, sane and consensual. Their word is law. If they ask you to do something, do it regardless of whether you agree or not. If you have plans for something particularly outrageous or something that might appear to be non-consensual or dangerous, let them know first. If you notice something that you think is unsafe or non-consensual, notify them, don't intervene on your own. You'll usually find that as you turn around to look for one, they're already behind you.
Equipment is available on a sort of first-come first-serve basis. If you see a piece of equipment you'd like to use and no one is currently using it, feel free to set up there. If you're unsure if someone is waiting for the same equipment, ask. The equipment should have been wiped clean of any bodily fluids before you begin, but if you didn't see that yourself, it's a good idea to clean it prior to beginning. You're also expected to clean up after you're done. There are numerous stations with cleaners and towels as well as safe sex supplies. If you don't see them, as a DM. While nudity is normally allowed in the dungeons, sexual activity is usually regulated. Signs detailing what is and isn't allowed will be posted, and will also be in your program. Abide by them.
Once a scene is finished clear your things out of the way to make room for the next person. You needn't rush, but you can move out of the way before settling in for the half hour cuddle with your sub that's your aftercare. The number of pieces of equipment is limited and it's unfair to monopolize it. If the scene you envision is quite lengthy, check with a dungeon monitor. They may be able to direct you to a quieter corner or a less-popular item, or suggest you begin either early or late.
On a practical note, if you're not there with friends or an extended group, I suggest having a bottle of water in your toy bag. Dungeons are kept fairly warm to accommodate nudity. If you have water at hand, you'll not need to leave the equipment area to get a drink, which you will want for both the dominant and the submissive, probably during play and certainly after.
It's perfectly acceptable to simply be a voyeur in the dungeon, but remember to do that respectfully.
It's perfectly acceptable to simply be a voyeur in the dungeon, but remember to do that respectfully. You can watch, but watch from a reasonable distance. Don't crowd the people playing; be aware that they may be using floggers or whips that require room around them. If you're impressed with a scene or want to give a compliment, please do, but don't interrupt to do so. Catch them after the scene when they're in the social room or in the vendor room the next day. Most people are glad to share their knowledge and experience and are happy to answer questions, if you ask them pleasantly and at an appropriate time. You can say, "I watched part of your scene last night, it was very well done," or "I really appreciated your technique with the canes yesterday."
During the day on Saturday and Sunday there are usually a variety of seminars and workshops offered. I divide them into two broad categories, technical seminars and issue seminars. Technical ones can be especially valuable for the novice dominant. Seminars are offered on subjects like flogging, caning, electrical play, edge/knife play, watersports, feminization, CBT (cock and ball torture), aftercare, single tail whips, bondage, fire play, temporary piercings, cutting, fisting, or making your own toys. The issue seminars cover a very wide range of less tangible issues. I've either attended or read about seminars on community building, mind fucks, fear as a turn-on, postures and service, legal issues, Gorean dancing, corsetry, pony play, BDSM introductions, fetishism, rights and responsibilities, sissy maids, online relationships, leather history, long-term scenes, 24/7 relationships, etc.
If you do attend a bash, I encourage you to attend the seminars. The presenters are respected members of the community chosen for their expertise. Some are truly old guard with decades of experience. There are technical aspects to a great deal of what we do, and it's not as if one can sign up at the local community college for a class on temporary piercings. It's valuable to look through your program on Friday before the seminars begin and develop a schedule so you don't miss out on something of interest to you. The normal schedule of an event will allow some downtime from late afternoon when the seminars end until mid-evening when the dungeons open for dinner and naps.
By Sunday afternoon the event will be winding down, with an afterglow party as one of the last events. If you've gotten your money's worth, and I always do, you'll come away with a whole new body of knowledge, a fistful of email addresses, and a couple of toys that you just had to have.
Ok, ok, sometimes the new toys can walk on their own two feet, but what's wrong with that, anyway?