Boundless is a four-day kink retreat located at a beautiful private resort about 2.5 hours north of San Francisco. Boundless 2016 took place September 30-October 3 and I was lucky enough to be awarded a scholarship to attend. My partner, Matias, also joined me there (and it was his first time going to a kink camp as well).
I first heard about Boundless when we received some of their promotional posters/fliers at She Bop. I had missed a few kinky camp out events earlier in the summer when I was traveling the country in my sex ed mobile, so I was glad to see something scheduled for early Fall when I was at the end of my tour. The Boundless website said that the cost was $335 for the full weekend and covered all meals and workshops, which didn’t seem like a bad price. Still, it was out of my budget, especially if my partner and I were both going to attend, so I almost just closed my laptop and moved on… until I noticed something in fine print about offering a scholarship for sex educators.
Good thing I got my eyes lasered to perfection in 2009 and can read the tiny font at the bottom of a website.
I sent an email to the organizer, James, asking him about the scholarship application, and he sent back a friendly response encouraging me to apply. I answered a few questions in essay format (I always nailed the essay portion of my tests in school) and was feeling pretty good about my chances of being accepted. Sure enough, James got back to me a few days later offering me the scholarship, which covered all costs of the retreat, including a camping spot! He even said I was the exact candidate they were hoping would apply. Sweet!
When the time came to head to camp, I made sure to pack everything I thought I would need: a tent and lots of blankets, condoms, lube, edibles, a couple of my favorite sex toys, and lingerie. I also overpacked cute summer camp clothes and underpacked clothes that would keep me warm, which means I ended up spending the majority of the time in one pair of fleece-lined leggings and an extremely unsexy sweater. Next time I will remember that California + “summer camp” does not equal warm and dry. I mean, it was October and we were north of San Francisco, (and I’m always cold), so I should really have known I couldn’t survive only wearing a corset and my Sasha harness. Plenty of other people there managed to be comfortable in their kinkiest costumes, sexiest lingerie, and completely nude though. Maybe handling cold temperatures with a smile is a special skill reserved for masochists, which I very much confirmed I wasn’t over the course of that weekend.
More on that later.
Matias and I spent a good portion of our drive to the retreat discussing our boundaries, desires, and concerns. We both wanted to primarily play with each other but were open to making connections, we wanted to learn/practice new skills, and we wanted to sample kinky things we hadn’t yet had a chance to try. We had been to plenty of play parties, BDSM events, kink nights, munches, and sex workshops during our 2+ years together, but never an overnight camp or a multi-day event that wasn’t a conference. I had also attended sex clubs and swingers parties while in a previous relationship and am part of a femme fisting coven, so I love kinky spaces and feel comfortable with consensual sex happening all around me. Still, a kink retreat would be a new experience and neither of us really knew what to expect.
After a long (but beautiful) Autumn drive through Southern Oregon and Northern California, we found ourselves driving alongside a large freshwater lake called Clear Lake. We knew we were close and speculated what kind of welcoming committee would be at the camp. Would people already be walking around naked or clad in latex and leather? Would we show up presenting as the most vanilla people there? Turns out, we were fairly accurate with our hypotheses. As we pulled in, there were some people hanging out wearing little to no clothing, some people in Boundless crop tops, and one gentleman wearing stilettos that were chained together and a very frilly tutu. We were in hoodies and jeans with beanies on our heads. We looked very much like we were from Oregon. Still, we were greeted with a wave and a smile and the volunteers helped us figure out where to park our car and set up camp.
After putting up our tent, we went into the main lodge for dinner. There were at least 50 other people there, from all walks of life, and most of them were already sitting down to eat. Meatloaf and veggies were on the main menu, along with vegan options and gluten free pasta. The food all weekend was really good, and they always had snacks available. As a person who needs to eat every few hours, it was a relief, and it helped me stay fueled for all of the workshops and sex adventures. While we mostly took in everything around us and kept to ourselves during dinner, we got out of our shells more during the opening address and formal mocktail party. Matias and I volunteered to walk around with drink trays and offer tasty beverages to attendees, which took me back to my days as a cocktail server, except for that instead of serving hipsters at a karaoke dive bar, this time I was serving kinksters in their finest fetish gear. I also helped get a sexy lady into her corset, which I had never done before, and it turns out it is only sort of like lacing up a pair of boots. Definitely more tugging and gasping and overflowing cleavage. It wasn’t an easy task for a first timer, but I have zero complaints.
After the opening address, which included info about the weekend and a talk about consent and dungeon rules, Sinclair Sexsmith presented a fun and interactive icebreaking workshop called Flirting Dirty. We got to practice being turned down and saying no, negotiating boundaries, and asking folks if they wanted to play. I was paired up with the stranger sitting in front of me, who had a completely opposite flirting style, and that was sort of eye opening. He was telling me about how he’ll just say hello and start a nice mild conversation that is not at all sexually charged, and I appreciated his low pressure approach. However, it was in stark contrast to my approach, which is usually more like, “We seem to be checking each other out, which is cool. I really like your nose and I would be down to ride your face if you’re interested.”
That was only the beginning of eye opening things I discovered and/or reaffirmed about myself that weekend.
After the flirting event, Matias and I stayed in the Heart Lodge as they transformed it into the dungeon/play space. Multiple spanking benches, sex swings, St Andrew’s Crosses, rope suspension areas, massage tables, and mattresses for the floor were set out. There were also towels, wet wipes, condoms, gloves, and extra sheets. Hooray for a well-equipped dungeon!
We spent most of that first night hanging back and observing. We snuggled and made out on a floor mat while watching people get whipped, tied up, and fucked. We talked about what turned us on, what didn’t seem like our cup of tea, and what we were curious about trying. We listened to the sounds of a woman riding a Sybian while giving her partner a blowjob, watched some artful Florentine flogging, and took in all of the hedonism that filled the room. Eventually we realized that we were exhausted from the long drive, and went back to our tent to have a quickie and pass out for the night.
I slept on an under-inflated air mattress and woke up in the middle of the night to baby deer prancing around on the tarp right outside of our tent (which was adorable, but kind of scary to hear at first, since we were in the woods also surrounded by bears). Still, even with a bad night of sleep, I woke up on time for breakfast and attended a workshop called “How to Be a Successful Male Submissive.” I found myself nodding my head on most things, disagreeing on a few points here and there, and generally daydreaming of a harem situation where an assortment of submissive men serve me and worship my body whenever I snap my fingers.
That first workshop put enough ideas in my head that I decided to skip the second one to go back to the tent with my boyfriend. After a few orgasms, we fell asleep and accidentally napped through lunch. Fortunately, we woke up with enough time to find leftovers before the next session. That session was the Heart Centered Needle Pull and it seemed to be getting a lot of attention around camp from nervous but curious attendees who wanted to know what it was like to be pierced in the chest and connected to a pulling cord while ecstatic frenzy was being whipped up all around us. The Boundless website describes the Heart Centered Needle Pull like this:
Join a community ritual to open our heart centers and bring us closer together as mindful individuals. Facilitated by Fakir Musafar and Cleo Dubois, variations of this ritual have been used for centuries by Native Americans (the Sun Dance) and other cultures as a way to develop mind/body awareness and connection with others.
The ritual consists of an invocation and invitation for traditional sources of spirit and our own higher selves to join us in creating an ecstatic state. Each participant will be safely pierced in their heart Chakra with two small needles by Fakir or Cleo and attached by a sterilized cord to a common point. Music, chanting and drumming will then propels us to ecstasy. Sound interesting?
If you join this ritual you will be guided every step of the way by experts who have facilitated this ritual for over 30 years in the USA, Canada, England, Portugal, and Italy.
We were “cleansed” with sage as we walked through the doorway into the dungeon, which had been converted again into a new type of space. This time there was a horizontal pole in the center of the room with many cords hanging from it, a very large suspended gong, and tables filled with unopened boxes of sterile gloves and needles. We took off our shoes and found a seat, facing a person who appeared to be in his late sixties (it was Fakir Musafar and it turns out he is 87). Then, after everyone else finished walking through the door, Cleo joined Fakir at the front and they proceeded to tell us about the history of the ritual and what to expect.
Matias was definitely nervous, but I was feeling incredibly calm about the whole thing. Piercing has never bothered nor scared me and I had read enough to know about the possible risks and about the incredible strength of human skin. I was ready.
We stood in line and waited our turn to get pierced. Fakir was using hooks on the more advanced campers and Cleo was piercing those of us who were new to the ritual with 22 gauge needles. With each new participant, she had an assistant help her put on a fresh pair of gloves and she would pinch the skin (above the breasts, below the collarbone) and slide the needles through. On my turn I took a deep breath and looked at Cleo’s face as she pierced me. The first needle went through perfectly but the second one went through a little too easily and poked her finger as it came out of the other side. She immediately started gushing blood, even through the gloves, and I could tell this was something that didn’t usually happen. I felt bad that she was hurt, but I wasn’t freaked out, and it didn’t have any sort of negative impact on my piercing experience. After getting cleaned up and bandaged, she put a small carabiner at the end of my string loop and I felt the weight of it gently pull at my skin. Matias was pierced next (he did really well), and then we walked together to the room’s center point to connect our carabiners to the hanging cords that we would use to pull ourselves.
Music swelled around me, the smell of incense was strong in the air, there were people (who weren’t pierced) drumming and dancing, and the rest of us (who were pierced) were leaning back with the skin on our chests stretched out. It was like a mini suspension, but both feet were on the ground, and as the music grew faster and louder, many of my fellow campers started having stronger responses. Some had their eyes rolling back in ecstasy, some were swaying to the music or testing their bodies. A couple of people were crying in a way that you could tell they were releasing something more than just tears. I pulled harder and focused on the feeling, hoping to also feel something powerful or release grief, but I couldn’t feel any adrenaline running through me. All I felt was a tugging, a very literal tugging. It wasn’t a bad feeling by any means, but no matter what I did, my body just stayed very neutral and I didn’t feel anything strong or spiritual. I even unhooked from the main point after a while and hooked my carabiner to Matias’ carabiner and had us both pull back and stare into each other’s eyes. Matias kept breaking eye contact when his eyes would roll back into head, but it still felt very bonding, very novel and was a unique experience to share. However, I admit I was slightly disappointed that my body just wouldn’t get into the intense energy around me. Empath-types are supposed to feel all of the energies, right? – that’s what normally happens to me in crowds – but this time I just felt the most basic sensations in my body without any sort of energy rush. It was curious, and not the only time something like that happened to me that weekend.
My favorite part of the ritual was when a percussionist was dominating the room with the sounds of the hammered gong and Cleo was going around and whacking our tautly pulled strings with a cane so that the vibrations were sent into our chests. She also used a vibrating sex toy against the strings for the same purposes, and I enjoyed the rumbling and shaking sensation. Of course I did. Because I love vibration in pretty much all of the ways it comes to me.
I also enjoyed coming down after the ritual, watching people sort of float back into their bodies and then have their needles removed. Matias and I were some of the last to have our needles taken out, and the twenty minutes or so that we sat quietly waiting for that to happen were some of the best moments of the afternoon for me. Hearing about what the experience was like for him and watching his eyes light up as he talked about it made me feel very happy that I was attending Boundless with a partner. Even if my body has a hard time with adrenaline production or I am sometimes too much of a control freak to stop my observation mode and fully let myself go, at least I was experiencing new things, learning a lot, and feeling closer to someone I loved.
That night in the dungeon, Matias and I were both flogged (at separate times) on a St. Andrew’s cross by a trained professional with a very extensive set of hitting implements. There were leather floggers made from different animal hides (deer, elk, rabbit, buffalo, etc.), skinny whips, rubber toys, and a few items I had never seen in person. It was an impressive collection…but you’ll have to wait to hear about our flogging adventures in a future post.
My First Time at Kink Camp: Part 2 will be all about our second and third nights in the dungeon, what it’s like to be on edibles at a kink retreat, what I learned about mental health at the workshops I took on day 3, and my newfound love for sex swings. Stay tuned!