These are unprecedented times indeed. Regardless of where people stand in regards to the pandemic itself, one thing we should be able to agree on is the impact it is having on our kink communities. Individuals are struggling with finances, and dungeons who rent or own space are likely struggling to maintain the financial commitment for these spaces without large events funding them.
I have been peripherally involved with some local efforts to create safer ways to restart events, though most of the credit for the hard work of researching and implementing has to go to the local dungeon owner here. The strategies we’ve adopted here may be helpful to others who are looking for ways to kink outside of their homes in safer ways, or who are struggling to maintain their spaces.
Handle Immediate Financial Need
Our first step was mid-May/June when we realized this was going to seriously impact whether or not our dungeon would still be in existence when all of this does finally resume some semblance of normality. We opened a Go Fund Me and dropped the link in our local community space. It was truly humbling to to watch people respond with an outpouring of support in the midst of feeling powerless. Every single donation was appreciated and we raised enough to maintain the rental space through the end of 2020 in that opening drive.
Some of that money went to upgrading the space in ways to make it safer, such as hand sanitizer units, a digital thermometer, a heavy duty sprayer to clean with, and a plexiglass shield for the check-in area. The rest went to keeping the rent current until virus urgency level started to recede in our region. Plans began being made for what we affectionately refer to as LAT parties, or limited attendance and time.
Once we felt safe enough, we rolled out the plan and gave community members opportunities to discuss and make suggestions before any implementation. The owner consulted local experts in the medical field and in engineering and sanitization at every step. He has made transparency his goal, from the way the money is spent, to what all of his procedures are. That transparency has helped people feel safer attending events, since it means they know exactly what to expect.
Opening the Dungeon Again
For indoor events, such as any rope classes or dungeon events there is a clear procedure. Tickets are purchased in advance through Square, which allows an individual to keep their anonymity and credit card information safe, but allows for a comment to be dropped with the user’s scene name so the dungeon knows who will be attending. Attendance is limited to ten individuals, since that was the recommendation as of the time of planning. Any new attendees are sent the membership form and covid waiver that discusses the recommendations for how to handle contact tracing in the event of any incidents (don’t mention fight club, if it is necessary, please contact dungeon owner and he can let others know they need to go for testing). Leading to the door, waiting spots are marked six feet apart. People can peek in the window to see if the prior group is clear of the entryway before entering. Masks are absolutely required while people area present in the building.
Upon entering, guests have a touchless hand sanitizer unit immediately to their right, and are expected to use it prior to moving into the space. They are then greeted and announce their name for verification on the list and to confirm they returned their forms. Stepping forward, the person manning the plexiglass enclosure can remain behind it while reaching around to digitally check the temperatures of each attendee. The CDC states that a reading of 100.4 constitutes a fever, so anyone with a reading there or above is asked to leave (though that has not happened to date). Attendees are then expected to leave the entryway and go down the hallway to the dungeon area.
The dungeon area has been modified from its pre-covid layout. The setup was workable before to allow for whip space between furniture, but has been adjusted to take half of the furniture temporarily out of commission. Those pieces have been turned around or otherwise adjusted so that it clear they are not for use. With a maximum of five couples having scenes at one time, there are a few more pieces available than people, which allow for some equipment choices.
Individuals are permitted to allot their time however they please. They can watch others scenes, they can socialize, or they can choose to indulge in their own scenes. As their time slot nears to a close, a ten minute warning is announced to allow people to wrap up scenes and pack their gear. Once everyone is out, the owner dons protective gear and thoroughly disinfects the entire space with a spray that should not be touched or inhaled, and then clears out for a minimum of twenty minutes, as recommended for usage of that chemical. The sessions are scheduled in two hour blocks with a thirty minute window for cleaning between them.
Because people have freedom to purchase tickets, but they are limited to 10 available ones, a group looking to make sure they are only sharing space with one anther can purchase the entire block of ten when dates and times are released and basically have a private event. For those with immunocompromised partners, that option can be sanity-saving.
Restarting Vendor Events
Because vendor events typically have more of a revolving door type atmosphere, we struggled some with finding the right balance of safety in order to comfortably begin holding those again. For vendors of kink gear and implements, some of them are truly hurting right now after ten months of few to no options when it comes to in-person events. Often, those in-person events tend to be hugely important for clientele, particularly newer community members who may not know what to expect in regards to appearance or quality of offerings. Being able to see and touch items is a vital part of their education, and a piece that has been noticeably absent this year.
We decided to hold our events outdoors, and to require masks. We release an informational document with safety info at the time of advertising these events. We are clear that face shields may not be used as a substitute for masks, due to the most recent research available. Additionally, we hold it in the dungeon’s gated lot so we can limit attendance to two individuals per vendor, and do thermometer checks. We have a security person and someone handling an outdoor handwashing station, stocked by a local soapmaker. Additionally, each vendor has a bottle of hand sanitizer on their table and requires people to use it prior to making contact with any merchandise.
Vendors occupy parking spaces to make things simple. Ones with larger vehicles (vans mostly) park next to the gate to block the view of anyone walking past. They set up tables in the parking spot directly next to their vehicle and are able to space it as they like. Some bring canopies. By alternating car – vendor – car – vendor, we are able to space vendors out nine feet plus add a blockade of the vendor’s car. Vendors remain masked for the duration of the event. One person or germ group may shop a given vendor at a time. A second may wait six feet distant until that group has finished. Additional interested shoppers must browse elsewhere or wait outside of the gate, physically distanced. We encourage anyone who wants to crack a whip to briefly step inside, but other than that and brief bathroom visits, the event is able to operate fully outdoors.
Our first event went well. We didn’t have a high number of attendees, but the ones who came clearly had full intention to purchase from our local people. All the vendors felt satisfied that they were safe and also able to accommodate shoppers. Vending fees are minimal and go directly to the dungeon to help make sure it continues to operate as we move forward.
Neither event is perfect. They don’t have huge attendance. Some people are unwilling to use masks during play and choose not to attend the dungeon events. Some are unwilling to wear them outdoors and choose not to attend the vendor events. Others feel both events are still beyond their risk profile and also choose not to attend. We support their choices either way, but have to move forward in ways that provide the highest level of comfort and safety to the highest percentage of our kink community’s population. As things change, we are doing our best to change with them.
Do you have any additional safety measures your community is taking? Feel free to let us know in the comments.
Christmas bunny has been exploring kink since she was legal to do so. Her serious writing started in college, where she accidently got some of her papers published in educational journals. She has recently expanded her writing to include her kink journey. She began writing in the physical realm, but shed some of her inhibitions and began sharing those entries with others. She now keeps an active blog of her personal growth and her relationship with her Master / Daddy Dominant and writes helpful educational posts on a variety of subjects.