Reading between the lines: decoding workshop blurbs to get what’s right for you
I’m always grateful for the chance to sit in on sex-ed classes or go to conference sessions. Watching how more experienced educators teach can only do good things for my own work, as I promote Intimacy Improv and build up the rest of my programming. In the back of my mind, though, there’s always a question: would I have chosen this event if I were NOT networking or observing? If I were just a kinky or sexually curious individual and this opportunity came my way, how would I make that decision?
Word of mouth is important, obviously; you’re gonna hear from friends, “yeah, GO to that person, you have to experience them.” But if you have limited time or budget for sex/kink classes, or if you’re looking at a cram-jammed conference schedule, you have to be a bit more thoughtful about what classes to take, and you may have nothing more to go on than the workshop blurb. THAT’S OKAY. Even a 50-word write-up and a bio can give you the information you need:
First of all, READ THE DESCRIPTION. Read it. Sometimes the title is accurate, sometimes it doesn’t, but always read deeper. The description will give you content, items to bring, any prerequisites (“must know single-column tie” for shibari, etc.). It also may answers some other important questions:
WHAT IS THE PERSPECTIVE? That is, who is this workshop directed toward? Yes, you can learn a lot from looking at a situation from different perspectives, but maybe you are seeking something specific for your situation, so look for that perspectiveâ€”explicit or impliedâ€”in the blurb, and ask the organizers if it’s not clear. Is this event for doms or subs? Is this for people who want to learn how to do TheThing, or be better able to have TheThing done to them? If the event does not specify that it is only for one particular group, e.g. mistresses or rope tops or littles, how does the description talk about the other perspectives around that dynamic, if at all?
WHAT IS THE TONE? Is the learning experience pitched as problem-solving, or visioning, or exploring, or learning? How does it align with how you feel about the subject? Maybe your attitude toward menstrual sex is spiritual in nature, so you will want to keep an eye out for write-ups that speak to that. Perhaps you are interested in pegging, but you want less about the how-to and more about the social/political/gendered aspects of it.
WHAT IS THE PEDAGOGY? Is it demo only, or hands-on? Lecture, discussion, interactive? If the event is interactive, are the activities clearly outlined? People learn in different ways, and a capable instructor should be able to work with that, but a workshop that inherently leans toward one style of instruction may not be for you. If talking things out with other people is how you like to learn, then a discussion group may be your best choice. If you are new to TheThing, and shy to boot, then a demo session is a good option, rather than an all-hands-on-deck immersion experience
WHO IS THE TEACHER? Look at that bio, for how many years of experience they have, where they have worked, what they have written. Also look for the less tangible clues. What is the tone: playful, matter-of-fact, serious? How accessible is it, e.g. is there a lot of jargon or in-group language where it’s not necessary to the subject at hand? What titles/awards and other affiliations do they mention? If you are exploring matters of leather protocol or other areas with strong in-group identity, you will want to know. If, on the other hand, that is not a thing for you and the bio is loaded with it, there might be a mismatch there.
What else do you look for in workshop write-ups or publicity? Or is it all word of mouth? What makes you jump on a workshop? This aspiring educator wants to know!
Filth. Self-revelation. Theatre. Think pieces. Humor. Occasionally helpful. Support my writing and become a patron of mine over on Patreon!