What to Expect
People attending their first Leather event ... and especially people who are also new to the Leather/BDSM scene ... have a lot of questions about what will happen, what they will see, how they should behave, and what in general they should expect.
I've been to a number of Leather events around the country, and while each one has its own flavor, here, no particular order, are some things that you may expect to experience at Thunder in the Mountains!
- Lots of friendly perverts from around the country and around the world. Leather events such as Thunder offer a great way to meet people, to visit and learn, and to obtain many new ideas.
- Seminars given by great presenters on a variety of topics. Sometimes it seems that all the best seminars are scheduled at the same, so be prepared for "seminar selection stress".
- A great vendor area with lot of toys and affordable shopping! Bring credit cards and money! If you see something you like and are unable to purchase it immediately, be sure to ask the vendor how many they have in stock. And if there's only one, you should consider buying it now! If you decide to come back later to get it, it may not be there.
- Membership-only play parties. The energy level at events is usually pretty high, and you get to see how different people play. (Maybe even with you!) People tend to "dress up" for the parties, and although a dress code is not enforced it is recommended that everyone attempt to maintain a Leather/BSDM "style". Dark clothes, leather clothes, and black shoes or boots are usually safe. If you show up in a Hawaiian shirt, shorts and white tennis shoes or sandals, people will probably think you don't have much of a clue about the lifestyle.
- Not much sleep. Up early for breakfast before the seminars and back to bed late after the parties. Bring vitamins or 5-Hour Energy Drink!
- Tired feet and sore backs. Dress comfortably during the day as you will be sitting in seminars and cruising the vendor area. (The chairs in the seminar rooms aren't always extremely comfortable.) You will also be walking a lot and maybe standing. Bring some foot lotion. Even if you don't have a slave to massage your feet, it will make your feet feel better. Most hotels have pools and hot tubs (pack your swimsuit!), workout rooms, massage services or spas. Use them! (Some Leather events provide massage service for attendees.)
- Be prepared for an incredible high during the event, and for culture shock when you get back to the "real world" after the event. (We call this "event drop".)
- Come with a very open mind. You will see lots of different kinds of people, hear lots of different viewpoints and opinions, and see lots of different kinds of relationships and different kinds of play. People tend to "pull out the stops" at these events, and some of the action can be very unusual. It's all good, and it's all a learning experience. (Even just thinking about *why* you reacted in a certain way to something can be a valuable learning process.)
- Be respectful, courteous, and tolerant of others. If you're new to the lifestyle, watch a lot and try to pick up the dynamics of relationships or protocols. If you don't know how to address someone, and you make a mistake or find yourself in an uncomfortable situation, tell the other person that you're new to the scene and you're not quite sure what's going on. They will very likely understand and explain things to you. We were all new at one time, and we remember what it was like.
- READ THE RULES for the event and the play parties! Don't just browse them quickly and sign them at the registration desk. The rules are important, and the Thunder in the Mountains staff enforces them very strictly for the protection of the event, the attendees, and the hotel. Look for the rules on the event website, study them, read them again at registration, and make sure you understand them. At Leather events, as in the legal system, ignorance of the law is no defense!
- Expect to be amazed, surprised, delighted, shocked, startled, amused, and expect to experience a whole range of intense emotions. Sensory overload and unexpected emotional reactions are a common side effect of Leather events. If it gets to be a bit too much, find a quiet corner to sit in and just watch for a while, or find someone to talk to about how you're feeling. You can also go back to your room to relax for a bit or watch mindless drivel on TV for a while. Then go back to the event and jump back into the pool!
- If your schedule and finances permit, check into the hotel the day before the event (Thursday) and check out the morning after (Monday). This has a number of benefits.
- You can get in, get settled in the hotel, have dinner, and chill out before the event starts. (Some Leather events have "pre-event" activities like bar meet-ups for early arrivals).
- The day of the event you can get up, have breakfast, sit in the lobby watching people check in, and look for your friends.
- You can register early, check out the schedule, and hit the vendor area. (Get those neat shiny toys before anyone else has a chance!!)
- The last day of the event, you don't have to worry about checking out on time and figuring out what to do with your luggage before getting to those last seminars on Sunday afternoon.
- After the event closes, you can go back to the room and relax instead of rushing off to the airport. You can "decompress" before returning to reality.
- You can avoid the challenge of trying to find a luggage cart and waiting for an empty elevator when checking in and out! It's a lot easier than when hundreds of kinksters with lots of leather and toys are looking for carts and filling the elevators at the same time.
- Food. Food is important. Food is part of a balanced diet, and provides the energy necessary to socialize, play, and shop. Nine out of ten Dominants surveyed recommend Food. (The tenth was too busy eating to respond.)
Food service at Leather events can be an adventure. Imagine ... the last seminar of the day is over, and everyone goes to their room to drop things off and freshen up ... and then a few hundred starving kinksters hit the hotel restaurant at the same time! Staff can get overwhelmed, delays can be long, and people can get grouchy. Here are some possible solutions:
- If the hotel offers buffets, use them rather than ordering from the menu.
- Eat early if you can, and avoid the rush.
- Keep some food in the room. Many hotels have a mini-fridge in the room these days. Have a light snack after the seminars and eat later after the rush.
- Leave the hotel to eat. The hotel will usually have a list of nearby restaurants at the desk, or there may even be one in your conference packet. Some hotels have shuttles that will drop you off or pick you up at nearby restaurants. Or you can find some friends with cars and carpool to a restaurant.
- If you're new to the lifestyle, it's important to know that you do not have to play at Leather events ... at the parties or anywhere else! Everything that happens at these events is consensual. You are free to just watch, and you are free to play if you want to. If someone asks you to play and you're not quite ready, just say something like, "No, thanks, I'm new to the scene and I'm just watching and learning." If you are interested, don't be afraid to ask for references, and be sure to negotiate the limits of the play session. (If you don't know how to do that, ask one of the event volunteers, they'll be able to find someone to help!)
- Bring enough cash! Some vendors don't take credit cards (although most do). It is always good to have cash in case you want that one piece of equipment from a vendor who accepts only cash. Hotel ATMs have been known to run out of money during these events (although that is rare as well), and since the event occurs over the weekend, they don't get re-stocked until the event is over. So make sure you have enough to get that special toy, tip the hotel staff, etc.
- Be polite to the hotel staff. It's difficult to handle a weekend with a crowd the size of a typical Leather event. You may run into delays getting room services or dealing with problems with your room. The hotel staff is doing the best they can, so please be patient. Be respectful of the housekeeping staff; don't leave toys and explicit materials lying around the room. It's not easy to find a hotel that will host this kind of event, so we need to make a good impression so that we will be invited back. Thank the hotel staff any time you talk to them, and tip well!
- The Thunder volunteers put in a lot of time and effort to help the event run smoothly. Show them that you appreciate it by saying "Thanks!" or "Good job!" And especially, be respectful of the Security staff. Yes, will ask to see your event badge and id every time you go into the private event areas, even if you just left and turned around because you forgot something. And they will not let you in without it. They are doing their job, and the rules are there to protect you, the event and the hotel. It only takes a second to show your id, so just smile, show them your badge, and thank them!
- And finally ... have lots and lots of fun!!!
Master Grey, Denver, CO
Permission to repost granted, with the following conditions:
- If you are posting this for your own event, you may of course change any reference to "Thunder in the Mountains" or "Thunder" to your event name.
- Include a statement that your version is based on "What To Expect At Your First Leather Event", written by Master Grey for Thunder in the Mountains, Denver, CO, and provide a link back to this document. (Especially if you make significant changes to the document!)