We almost didn’t go to Dark Odyssey this year for a variety of reasons, but as it turns out, femme tops top everyone: Tristan told me we had to, so we did. When we were leaving, and I was getting really choked up and was sad to be going, I knew I wouldn’t ever think of not going again. What Tristan and Greg and all the many perverted presenters, staff, and attendees create on a campgrounds – nearly out of nothing – is really singular, in my experience.
There were plenty of familiar faces missing this year – some in the middle of new book publicity, others dealing with personal stuff or health concerns, and many, many people were missed. But people stepped in to fill the gaps, and it was as if Betty and I had an omen of what a good DO it would be when we found ourselves, the first night that we got in, talking to one of the staffers we’d just met about Neil Gaiman.
Betty read Stephen King’s IT the whole time we were there, and I’ll let her blog about how meaningful she found that book this time around.
I wasn’t really reading much of anything; instead I was enjoying moments by myself with my iPod and my thoughts. In some ways it was the Great Unwind for me after finishing the book; it rained some but you get used to the mud. Mostly it was great to be around trees and green again, and yes, there were a few cats at camp, but they were all healthy and so we didn’t bring one home this time. My time there certainly was not hurt by getting a fantastic blurb from Kate Bornstein via email, and half a day later running into Barbara Carrellas who immediately told me that she would be reading my book next because Kate had raved about it so much.
It’s the talking I like the most: talking to the staffer about fantasy books, talking to a young lesbian friend about her sexual experiments with men, talking to a bisexual man about his recent epiphanies, talking to a swinger about jealousy. The new workshop I did on gender roles and relationships went over very well, but at DO, it’s hard to have a bad workshop; my style of presentation – throwing ideas out there, sharing our experiences – is exactly what works in a group of people who are turned on and thinking about their own sexualities and genders. But I can say for sure that no one who likes more or less sex than their partners is alone; my uneven libidos workshop was packed.
But it was an image from our last night there that will always remain my picture of DO 2006. A young, beautiful woman we’d met had gotten dolled up in a black lace dress, her panties & bra visible through it. She never wears heels, she told us, except sometimes – and that night was one of those times. We escorted her through mud – I’ve never felt more butch than with both she & Betty on either arm – and at some point we parted ways with her, as she was going to find an adventure, and we were only hungry and so headed to the cafeteria for Midnight Snack (which is held, in the spirit of DO, at 12:30: even the mealtimes are perverted). And in the dark, with fireplayers lighting up a basketball court, the mud squishy underfoot, we watched our new friend step her way to whatever she was about to find, and I realized that the one thing about DO that is different from the rest of the world is that young, beautiful women can be sexual there and be safe. And I thought about Betty, too, and how often I feel tense around people who take her harmless flirtation as an invitation, and how I don’t feel tense at DO when she flirts. I have no doubt whatsoever that many of her flirtees are willing & able – they are, very much so – but the sense of respect for people’s boundaries, the sense of sex being a good, positive thing that is better and hotter when everyone is consenting – really hit me between the eyes this time. It’s a space where I feel free to ‘wear my tits’ – something I feel comfortable doing almost nowhere else – and where I don’t worry that an interested man will freak out if and when he finds out that Betty has a penis. It’s a place where a queer woman like me can feel comfortable leading a workshop on uneven libidos in a room full of het swingers, bondage enthusiasts, & other queers.
Really, I’d be happy if sometimes the world could feel a little more like DO, where sexuality wasn’t something to fear or buy or repress or exploit, where women’s bodies and sexualities aren’t airbrushed and starved, where men know they get the kind of sex they crave when they listen to what women say. As much as people might see Dark Odyssey as being radical for the dungeon or the kinkiness, the nudity and public sex, what’s truly radical about DO is that it is a safe space for women to be women: beautiful, sexual, full of desire and lust and power.