While I was planning KinkForAll Providence, I was contacted by Brown officials because a community member was emailing the University with concerns about the event. Though, as I found out, most of these concerns were alarmist and visibly laced with prejudice and ignorance about the event and many of the sexuality topics that we hoped to address, the University heard this individual out and I met with various Brown officials to discuss the points that had been raised. After speaking with me and making sure I was following the appropriate protocol (which I was already doing because I’m a very experienced event organizer at this institution), the Brown officials did not find a reason to cancel the event or do much else, other than closely review my plans and tell me to keep in communication with them before, during, and after the event.
That, however, was not the end of the saga. After KinkForAll was held on February 6th, and after Get Your Heart On: Sex Educator Showdown with Reid Mihalko (a Brown alum) and Megan Andelloux (a certified sex educator) happened on Valentine’s Day (co-sponsored by SHEEC, Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance, Students for Choice, Queer Alliance, Sarah Doyle Women’s Center, and Brown Health Education), the emailing continued.
As I eventually found out, thanks to the Internet, this community member was someone by the name of Margaret (Barber) Brooks, none other than a Brown alum and professor of Economics at Bridgewater State College in MA. I was deeply saddened that a professor and Brown alum would go to the lengths she did to shut down a student event (or two, really), especially one aimed at creating a space where information about sexuality could be shared, a space where people could feel safe and empowered to discuss these issues without being judged. I appreciated her concerns and her desire to maintain Brown students and community members safe, but the overall manner in which she approached the situation was appalling.
Aside from the emails, she and Donna M. Hughes, a URI professor, posted and widely circulated a bulletin about the event. The bulletin, however, was more about bad-mouthing my friend Maymay (the co-founder of the KinkForAll unconference model), spreading inaccurate information about KinkForAll Providence, and fear-mongering than actually addressing any real issues.
Did Margaret ever reach out to me, the event organizer? No.
Instead, she chose to contact Brown multiple times, even after the University officials responded with their final decision to allow SHEEC to make the events happen.
Did Donna ever reach out to me? I’ll give you one guess.
Neither of these individuals have engaged with anyone directly related to the events’ organization. Instead, they have paid eerily close attention to our blogs, Twitter accounts, Google-groups, and online presences and have then twisted the information found there to fit their agendas. They have spread inaccurate information (heck, they have spread flat out LIES) and incited other individuals to call us horrible things, such as sex-traffickers.
Because of this, and because I believe in what I do (and I want to be as transparent as possible), I wish to clarify certain things about KFA Providence. Though most (if not all) the information in this post is easily available on the Internet, I will attempt to make a concise summary of concerns and my responses/clarifications.
1. KinkforAll–model or organization?
KinkForAll is a conference model, not an organization. Simple as that. There are no “members” or general KFA “presidents.” Each KFA event is specific to that time, place, and set of organizers. As far as KinkForAll Providence goes, I can’t claim ownership of the MODEL, but I can claim responsibility for the drive and organization of that event.
2. KFA’s relation to Brown and who organized it
I was the main organizer, and my community co-organizer was Emma Gross. The sponsoring group was SHEEC. It’s insulting to hear people like Margaret (Barber) Brooks and Donna M. Hughes credit Maymay with organizing the event, because that was not the case. Personally, while I think May is an AMAZING human being (a-may-zing? wow, I just went there) and I appreciate his founding the KFA model, I feel my work is being invalidated and dismissed by these two women. Furthermore, I feel that one of the organizations I lead at Brown University, the one dearest to my heart, is being disparaged. This is all very unacceptable.
The idea that “No one is apparently in charge; therefore no one is responsible” is, again, insulting, because I was clearly in charge and SHEEC was the group responsible. If anything had gone wrong, it would have been our responsibility.
Throughout the conference, we stated that the sponsor for the event was SHEEC, and that Brown was giving us access to the venue through that. This was said a few times, and in multiple rooms, and also during the live-stream. I also know that in CarnalNation, the language used was “held AT Brown,” which is accurate. Also, there were signs in the building explaining what the content was, where the livestream was, that the sponsor was SHEEC, and so on. Everything was carefully labeled.
In regards to us using Brown’s Wi-Fi and facilities, and arguments that these conditions make Brown a sponsor? By that logic, it would mean that ANY and EVERY event held on campus is “officially sponsored” by Brown University. This makes no sense, and is NOT aligned with Brown’s definition of sponsorship. In our communications, we weren’t using Brown’s name to make it sound “more legitimate” or anything; we merely had to use Brown’s name so that people would know where the conference was being HELD. Finally, GuestIDs are given to people who stay at the Brown Inn and people coming in for conferences, so this, again, was within their/our right to pursue.
3. Safety issues and children
This particular event would have never resulted in children being “approached, propositioned, or molested.” We took specific safety precautions to ensure the comfort of all our participants and to make sure that everything going on at the event was legal, consensual, safe, and in accordance to Brown’s policies and regulations, as evidenced by my meetings with Brown officials and the ridiculous amounts of signs and posters stating what was going on and what rules the attendees and presenters had to abide by. Furthermore, no minors were allowed at the conference unless they were there with a legal guardian or parent.
4. Extra rooms and “one Brown female undergraduate at the conference” that “appears to have engaged in a sexual activity at approximately 2:20 pm”
Extra rooms, yes. I reserved them to make sure that all the people on the first floor were people we WANTED there, and who were explicitly coming for the conference instead of merely wandering in. We also had greeters at the door, time-keepers in the rooms, and people flowing in and out of presentations making sure things were going according to plan. In regards to small groups of participants going off by themselves into the extra rooms—I wandered around and people were always in rooms where presentations were actively going on; otherwise, the other rooms were empty. The only time when presentations were NOT going on was during lunch, from 1 to 2 pm, and we were on break.
A Brown undergrad “engaging in sexual activity” at approximately 2:20…? What does that even mean?
There were NO SEXUAL ACTIVITIES TAKING PLACE AT OUR EVENT (unless you count DISCUSSIONS about sexuality) and we made it clear at the beginning of the event and on the venue rules in each room that no sex/nudity/play was allowed.
5. Credentials of presenters
The public is welcome, and thus, we don’t require people’s credentials in, say, sexology or psychiatry when they want to present about a topic they’re passionate about. This conference is a place for people to speak candidly about sexuality from their own perspectives, and that is how we describe it. We do not in any way misrepresent who is attending and what they’ll be doing at KinkForAll.
6. Videos and livestream
All the people who were videotaped either personally asked us to record them OR specifically chose to use Room 102, with the livestream. NO ONE was taped that did not consent to being taped; we had our sticker system (orange dot = do not tape), time-keepers, and organizers helping enforce this in every room. We made everyone who was going to take pictures be identifiable on their name-tag, and the people taking pictures were basically me and Meitar. There was a huge sign explicitly stating that there was a live-stream in room 102 and what that meant (for those people who were unfamiliar with the term “livestream”). Furthermore, there were signs ON the computer that was recording and all around it cautioning people that it was taping, so no one would accidentally walk into its line of vision (another reason why we angled it in such a way that it wouldn’t capture the doorway).
7. Meitar, KinkForAll, KinkOnTap podcast, and money
Meitar is the co-founder of the KinkForAll conference/model. He has organized some KFAs, but not all of them. Re: KinkOnTap podcast, Megan Andelloux and I were on as guests the day after KFAPVD, and a) this podcast is NOT personally making Meitar money at all because whatever donations they receive are for the funding of the program itself and b) the podcast is a separate entity that is not seeking to make money off KFA Providence. The podcast is separate and, yes, we mentioned KFAPVD, but that’s because we were talking about recent events and news items (such as the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy articles that have been floating around). The footage shot at KFAPVD is NOT being sold and is NOT being used commercially at all. In fact, quite the opposite. The mission statement of the KFA model is to make all this information FREELY available to everyone. That’s also the reason why the conference ITSELF is free; it’s one of the most important parts of the model!
8. “Illegal sadist practices,” NELA’s Fetish Flea Market, and KFAPVD
As far as I know, discussing “illegal practices” is not illegal itself, or else no one could ever talk about, say, underage drinking. This conference is a place for critical analysis and discussion, where these topics can and SHOULD be addressed, especially when it comes to talking about their legal ramifications. Again, I invoke our right to free speech. As far as NELA goes, yeah, I HOPED to get BDSM advocates from across the country. The presenters at the Fetish Flea are highly respected in the community and have a lot of things to say, so they would’ve been more than welcome at our event. Also, for those of you who don’t know, NELA is “an incorporated non-profit 501(c)3 organization dedicated to the support, education, and political organizing of the leather/fetish/SM/bondage communities in New England.”