A First Trip to Dark Odyssey: Winter Fire

25 Feb

valentines dayValentine’s Day weekend is always a crazy time for us here at Secret Pleasures. We joke that Valentine’s Day is our Black Friday because the store is almost always packed to capacity with people looking for something special to spice up their sex life. This past Valentine’s Day was especially hectic for me because not only did we deal with our usual crowd of people (maybe even more since we were closed the day before because of snow) but I also made my first sojourn to a major Dark Odyssey event! And wow, what a weekend it was!

You may recall, back in July, I went to The Crucible & Black Rose’s Dungeon 101 night to learn more about BDSM and see what the public scene was like. Since then, I have been to a few more events at The Crucible as well and a few other local parties and wanted to expand my knowledge more.  Dark Odyssey seemed to be the perfect next step for me. DO was created “in 2003 as a wholly unique experience, built to bring together sexuality, spirituality, education, and play in a fun, supportive, non-judgmental environment where fantasy becomes reality”.* They produce 4 major events per year – Winter Fire, Fusion, Summer Camp & Surrender, 3 of which are held in the DMV area. I have been hearing about them for the past couple of years and several friends of mine have presented workshops at the various events but I never got a chance to attend.. Their events have always looked amazing but up until now I was afraid that I was too inexperienced to actually go to one but when I was presented with the opportunity to go this year, I jumped on it. Experience be damned, I was diving in head first. 😉

dark odyssey winter fire

Winter Fire is a 3 day event held in a hotel situated in Downtown DC. For the duration of the event, workshops are held on various topics during the day and then the ballrooms open up into massive, well equipped dungeons and play spaces at night so you can mingle, watch and try out some of the stuff you learned during the workshop sessions. The entire hotel is rented out for this event so the only people you will see are kinky folk and hotel staff (who may also be kinky. Possibly. I don’t know). How many people are we talking? Well, the event was sold out and I was told that meant 1,300 people. Yeah, it’s a lot of kinky folk in one place. I was actually pretty nervous at first because I’m shy and introverted and the idea of being in a space with 1,300 people wasn’t exactly my idea of a good time. But here’s the thing. The BDSM community prides itself on communication, respect and consent. This is HUGE and you don’t realize how much communication and consent goes out the window in the “real world” until you spend a weekend with people who constantly make eye contact, ask if they can speak to you, ask if they are allowed to shake your hand, ask if they are allowed to look at what you are wearing and, by and large, respect your answer if you say no! It was amazing – and made for quite the shock when I had to do my re-entry to the real world on Monday.

So what was the event like? Overwhelming and wonderful! I took several great workshops during the weekend. Each topic was something I had never had a chance to explore and learn about (tantra, energy work, hypnosis) and I came away from each with a new found respect for the myriad ways in which it is possibly to express and explore our sexuality. A very special shout out to Heather Elizabeth who taught an amazing class on pain processing for submissives. Not only was her class excellent, presenting many techniques that you could use right away, but she was an incredibly engaged and thoughtful presenter. I think I learned just as much about how to teach a workshop as I did about the topic itself. That is always the best thing as an educator – to come away with new found knowledge and a new found approach to teaching.

But the workshops weren’t the only things I learned from. I mentioned that the ballrooms turned into open play spaces in the evening. As someone who is just beginning their education on BDSM, there are many types of play that I have heard of but have never actually seen. Well the open play spaces at Winter Fire were an education all their own. You can walk from space to space and see everything from an intricate rope suspension scene to a playful spanking to an intense body piercing. Pretty much every type of play you can think of (medical, electrical, gang bang, impact, whipping, wrestling, boot worshiping, cross dressing, etc.) were on display – and it was incredible. Granted some types of play may not have been my cup of tea but it was fascinating seeing others engage in it. Regardless of whether it’s something you would want to participate in, there is something beautiful in seeing folks from all walks of life express their sexuality in a way that feels wonderful and authentic to them. I even got a chance to experience mummification when a good friend wrapped me up in duct tape for what became a ridiculous and really fun scene ( I can neither confirm nor deny that I may have tried to escape by inch worming across the floor)! Don’t worry, the duct tape was layered over plastic wrap – no hair or skin was harmed in the making of this blog post!

All in all, Winter Fire was a phenomenal experience and I would encourage anyone interested in BDSM to attend … with a few caveats. The event can get very overwhelming with the amount of people and energy. If you aren’t staying at the hotel, there isn’t a lot of space to go and decompress so if you are prone to a bit of social anxiety or feel burnt out being around a lot of people, that is something to keep in mind. I also don’t know that this would be a great first timer event. Yes, there certainly were a lot of first timers there and everyone was incredibly friendly and approachable but it may be all together too much for someone completely new to the scene to take in. Try going to a 101 night or a small party first before taking the plunge into this event. So keep in mind – yes there is nudity and crazy outfits. Yes there is sex. Yes there are activities that you may or may not be comfortable seeing. Yes there are people walking around who may present or express themselves in a way that you are unfamiliar with. But if you go with an open mind, an open heart and a willingness to learn, it can be a wonderful, perhaps even life altering experience. For me, it was crazy … and wonderful … and I can’t wait to go back!


*Copied from Dark Odyssey’s “About Us” page

2 Responses to “A First Trip to Dark Odyssey: Winter Fire”

  1. DomDynamite August 14, 2015 at 1:22 pm #

    I may be in the minority, but I don’t recommend going to DO. I have attended three major DO events, (Fusion, WF, summer camp), as a single man and as part of a couple (with a woman). I have VERY MIXED feelings about DO, the organization. First, I saw multiple instances of single men being very pushy and doing things to other people (99% of the time women) without consent. This was everywhere – in the dungeon, in the hotel rooms, outside in the outdoor campground, etc. I could get the impression that consent was not established beforehand because I could see the (not pleasant) surprise of someone new joining an ongoing scene in the face of not just the person who was the subject of the scene, but also the other people who were around the subject person. Most of these men were never reprimanded on the spot. It’s complete hypocrisy for DO to say ( as they do on their website) that non-consent will not be tolerated. The dungeon monitors (or scene monitors) were often simply other attendees and were just standing around talking to other people or even on their cell phones texting. There is a requirement to do several hours of “volunteer” work at each event for all attendees. I suspect to meet this requirement, some people just sign up to be monitors but they don’t really do the job of monitoring. Frankly, I wonder if in some of these situations, the actions by certain people (who are left unpunished) can be considered sexual assault, and therefore DO may be indirectly breaking a law by providing the environment for this sexual assault to occur. I have heard of people who have been “banned” from all DO events, while other individuals (apparently either friends of the DO organizers, or “famous” presenters or well known people in the kink world) have done exactly the same thing or worse, without a word being said to them. Second, I found in many cases the people there were very cliquish. They had already formed their own very close knit groups in which they played together, and in my experience (and “our” experience as a couple), they rarely allowed new outsiders to join their group. I suspect these people play together all the time, and have understandably developed a very close relationship and level of trust with each other. In our experience, we found it to be difficult to meaningfully play with anyone. I noticed the EASIEST persons who played with new people were inevitably the few single women (with all due respect, not all of whom were my “cup of tea” in the looks department). They were nearly constantly being approached by men, single or not. Not being a single woman myself, I felt very much like an outsider on numerous occasions. During my last experience which was Fusion, I went with a girlfriend (early 30s, athletic, blond, reasonably good looking) who is experienced in the alternative lifestyle, and we actually did not feel comfortable joining in with most of the people because of their difficult to approach attitudes and when they were “approachable”, it was usually a single man interested in my girlfriend. So we played by ourselves, and occasionally watched a scene, but that was it. The food in the cafeteria was not that great in my opinion, and we paid a lot for the meal plan. So overall based on my experiences, I would NOT recommend the DO events. We have decided that we are not going again – there are many other events where I don’t need to spend $300-500 (just for registration) and still meet nicer people at a better run, safer event.


    • Gwen August 19, 2015 at 1:04 pm #

      Thank you so much for this analysis. This was our one and only event with them so we haven’t had a broad experience with the organization. Non consent is certainly a very serious matter and we appreciate you lending your experience so that others may gauge whether this is the appropriate event for them.


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