NSFW. Fair warning… if you are squeamish about alternative lifestyles, are challenged by mildly sexually graphic images, or are judgmental about people who openly express themselves and their bodies, turn away now. This is not the story for you. For the rest of you... made you look!
Doms and subs unite. Fetish Con, a.k.a. Kinky Camp, or more likely Voyeur Fest are all monikers that would fit the event happening in St. Petersburg this weekend at the Bayfront Hilton. Call it what you will but it is edgy and sexy and brings together a flock of fetish followers and connoisseurs to celebrate most things kinky. It's the 18th year Fetish Con has landed in the bay area and this year there were at least 1500 in attendance according to a show official. The primary attraction is the trade show which consists of four ballroom spaces at the hotel. Other events include classes in kink and the adult industry, the annual Fetish Ball and Bash (for all access pass holders only), and Pervy Pool parties (Pool Pass holders only).
You must be 18 to attend, sign a waiver holding the organizer harmless, show a picture ID, and pay $75- $150 for an all access pass, or $40 for a one day limited access wristband. Full disclosure- I had a press pass. BTW- there's no nudity (thongs and pasties excepted) or indecent behavior allowed, but it is def edgy.
I am a fairly conservative guy but have a great curiosity about what makes people tick. As I stroll through the show space on the first floor of the Bayfront Hilton, I watch as performers, many of whom are in the adult entertainment industry, tout wares, services, and events. Other vendors offer costumes, toys, and pleasure devices, some of which I have never heard of. At times I feel like an uncomfortable voyeur peering into this world as an outsider. But no one seems to care that I am carrying a camera and watching it all happen. In fact, there are dozens of people like me watching and taking pictures. Attendees are informed that members of the press will be present. Still... awkward.
I suppose if you're going to have an event called Fetish Con and open it to the public, it's going to be a bit of a spectacle. Exhibishionism is also a form of fetish after all.
If you are reading this you must also have a little voyeur in you, since you are still looking after seeing the fair warning above. It's okay....I suppose sexuality is a curious thing.
I did not attend any of the kink-inspired classes in "The Dungeon" or the 3rd Annual Fetish Awards & After Party. However after looking at the rules for The Dungeon, like no whips longer than 4 feet and no wax play or open flame, my attention was piqued. Nor was I privy to the hotel poolside as entry takes a special pass. But I saw enough to satisfy my curiosity as to what this lifestyle looks like in concentrated form.
If you are curious or want to learn new skills, Fetish Con is the place to do it. It offers experts in everything kink, and practical classes in things like obscenity law, taking better erotic photos at home, countering internet bullying and shaming, and even tickling 101.
The main draw (and the only area I had access to) is the trade show floor. Toys, erotica, and high tech dominate the ballrooms. I just had no idea.... I learn a few things like what a violet wand is and that being tied up and suspended is called flying. I am slightly curious about some things, but others, like wearing a chastity belt, not so much.... But, def cool to photograph.
Frankly I learned a few things and appreciate the openness of those in attendance. It might be easy to see Fetish Con as a 1500 person freak parade if you are an outsider. The convention certainly does push the envelope of socially acceptable ideas here. But the entire time I heard no criticism of one another, no judgement of who was doing what, and no political bantering or bashing. They're just people being themselves. There's something enviable about the complete lack of inhibition this community has especially when they're around one another. Don't freak out if you missed it this year. Fetish Con 2019 is already planned for next year August 13 - 16 at the Hilton St Pete Bayfront. Find out more at the website here.