However, not everyone has a local kink community. In that case, some Google searching may be in order. There are some websites that keep listings of upcoming conferences, and a quick look at the conference's website will let you know if that conference is still happening as well as the registration cost and the date.
What are the requirements to attend a kink conference?
Many kink conferences have more lenient requirements than local play parties! While local play parties will usually require you to have attended a couple of their non-play-focused meetings, kink conferences will usually just require upfront payment for your registration. Some conferences may require a link to an active Fetlife profile and may vet your registration (and refund your purchase, if denied). Conferences want everyone to have fun, but they also want to ensure that no one dangerous or harmful makes it into the event.
Anyone of any skill level can attend a conference! That being said, in order to get the most of your conference experience, it definitely helps if you're very open to learning, enjoy watching other people do kinky things together, and are open-minded. Whether you've only been interested in kink for a month or you've been whippin' those little subbies of yours for years, you will be welcome at kink conferences.
What actually happens at the conference?
The idea behind these BDSM conventions is to create an immersive, three-day experience filled with all types of adult, kinky fun. They aren't swinger's clubs and they aren't sex parties, but they are going to be filled with content that you certainly don't talk about with the neighborhood grocery cashier.
When you first arrive, take a moment to examine the schedule. Expect to find a listing of classes that will be running the entire weekend at specific times. Many conventions will run three or four dissimilar classes at the same time to fit in 20+ classes over the weekend. So expect to have to pick your favorite sometimes - and feel sad that you can't attend them all.
You'll also see a couple social events on most kink conventions' schedules. They may be specific (such as a "Dominant Discussion" or "Newbie Meet-up") or they might just be social hours to encourage people to talk to one another. Expect to also see some downtime between classes and various scheduled events - all of this time will unofficially turn into social time in the common areas.
Most conventions will also have a vendor area. This area will be open during set times, and it will features various vendors selling, well, various kinky things! You'll find smaller businesses with one person making all of their inventory, and you'll find larger businesses that offer some of the selections you might see at a sex toy store. Many of these vendors will take credit, but it's always worth carrying extra cash just to ensure you're prepared.
Each evening, you'll also see play parties scheduled. Most parties are scheduled to last between six and eight hours - usually until 2 or 3 a.m. Play party times are flexible, and unlike standard play parties where you must stay at the party or you won't be allowed back in, most kink convention play parties will allow you to come and go as you please. Watch some scenes, leave the area and chat with people, get a snack, come back and do a scene, etc. Just be courteous to everyone around you during your comings and goings.
Do NOT expect to be touched without your permission. This is not standard behavior for any conference. Even as a single woman, in all of the conferences I've attended, I've never had this happen to me. Most kink convention attendees are extremely friendly - to the point where people will leave their stuff in various spots and come back later to find it still sitting there. But they are also exceedingly respectful and careful about obtaining consent.
DO expect to see people in various states of dress. You'll most likely see a lot of nudity and kinky things throughout this weekend. Compliment outfits you like. Dress up in your own sexy attire. Whether you decide to play or not, you can definitely take part in the fun of it all.
Read: Everything You Need to Know About Your First BDSM Play Party
I'm not sure I want to go ...
Many kink conferences may not offer transferable or refundable registration. A lot of conferences also sell out a month or two before the conference itself. After all, there are only so many bodies a space can handle, and nobody likes an over-crowded event. If you can, try to register as soon as possible.
If the conference is a "hotel takeover" type of conference, hotel room registration preference is usually given to those who registered for the event first. In this circumstance, I'd always recommend registering ASAP to be in the host hotel. Try to figure out any scheduling conflicts and make your final choice before registration opens up. In many "hotel takeover" events, the event administration will announce the day ticket sales will go live ahead of time to make it easier to plan to register first.
What should I bring to a kink conference?
Packing your luggage already, hmm? I'm glad I could convince you! Now let's get down to what you need to bring.
First, you'll want to plan for at least two outfits a day - a daytime outfit and an evening outfit. Some kinksters love playing dress-up (and this is the time to do it!), so you'll see them in three to four outfits a day. If you're staying at the host hotel, this is as simple as just going up an elevator and changing, so why not? Pack what feels comfortable to you, but ensure you bring an extra set of clothes for both outfits, just in case. Make sure to pack public-appropriate outfits as well - especially if the event requests vanilla attire outside of the kink event. Even if it doesn't, you may want to venture out to local restaurants, so make sure those family-friendly clothes are in there too!
You'll need a photo ID. Many conferences will require this for your initial registration. You can leave it in the hotel for subsequent nights if you have privacy concerns. A credit card and lots of cash is also helpful.
If you plan on attending any of the classes, a pen and paper is a good idea as well. Yes, you have to go back to the '90s for note-taking at kink conventions - no laptops or cell phones will be allowed.
The most important thing to pack is your toys! You don't have to bring your entire toy bag, but if you have a particular scene in mind, you'll want to bring the toys that'll help you accomplish it. (Having a vague idea of what scene you'd like to do ahead of time makes it easier to pack light). Some people will literally drag rolling luggage bags into the play rooms filled with kinky toys, so feel comfortable packing what you need, but don't pack more than you can carry. If you're flying, make sure you know basic airplane sex toy travel rules for a smooth flight.
If you plan on having intercourse, make sure that you have all the safe sex supplies that you need. Most parties, if intercourse is allowed, will require safe sex supplies - regardless of your personal preference. This means having waterproof pads (dog training pads from the pet store work wonders!), condoms, lubricant, and gloves on hand if you intend on doing any more intimate playing.
What should I leave behind?
Don't bring your introversion or judgment to the conference! While I know many introverts that attend (myself included), you'll have a lot more fun if you just pretend to be an extrovert for the weekend. There are awesome people to meet, unique things to see, and fun activities to participate in. That said, nobody will bother you or be upset if you choose to be a wallflower. Every style tends to be accepted!
Try to also leave your judgment at home. You will likely see some couples doing things that you're definitely not into. That's OK! Just try to appreciate that they, like you, have a safe space where they can do what they'd like. If you're particularly triggered by any specific kinks, take the time to ask a Dungeon Monitor about it in the early moments of the party. They can most likely direct you to a space where you'd be least likely to encounter those scenes.
Leave your cell phone in your hotel room. Take all the pictures of your outfit and aftermath while in your hotel room. Most events will confiscate any electronic devices on sight for security reasons.
Do kink conferences have a dress code?
We've already talked a little bit about how many outfits you should take for each day. Now we're going to talk about a very important point: abiding by the conference's dress code. Is fetish attire allowed throughout the whole hotel? Will you need to cover up until you make it to the fetish area? Make sure to plan all of your outfits according to the dress code - possibly packing a trench coat or other large coverage item to help you make it discreetly to the conference area.
During the day, many conferences have educational courses. During these courses, you're free to wear what you'd like. You'll see lots of people in fetish attire wearing stiletto heels, and you'll also see lots of people in t-shirts and jeans. You'll see people a bit more dressed up with nice dresses or dress pants. During educational courses, within the dress code, anything goes. Pick what you're comfortable wearing, and remember you'll probably need to wear that outfit for the majority of the day, so make sure it's something you're comfortable in.
During the evening, all bets are off in the play area! During play parties, you're free to pick out your favorite fetish attire to match your mood for the evening. Be sure to abide by any minimum coverage rules. Aside from that, you may pick whatever fits your mood. Kinky outfits, such as black leather, are always appreciated, but people will show up to the play party in street clothing as well. At the very least, try to go for something that looks sleek and sexy; even if you don't feel like dressing in kinky clothing, wearing something sexy will put you in the right mindset.
What should I expect to see at play parties?
Play parties at conferences are just like the play parties you've experienced at home - only they're much more pumped up. The play spaces are usually gigantic, and there will be a plethora of new people to talk to and play with (but make sure you know whether talking is allowed where people are involved in a scene). There's usually a wider variety of furniture and play spaces to go along with the larger event, and there will be a much wider variety of activities to watch. Some events may even offer a late-night buffet to keep your energy levels running high all night.
Keep an eye out for separate areas for different types of play as well. While many smaller groups don't have enough space to offer various blocked-off areas for different types of play, one of the benefits of conferences is that they have the room! Look for exhibitionist sex areas (complete with mattresses), age play areas, pet play areas, medical/needle play areas, wet and messy areas, fire play areas, quiet rooms (without music) for playing, and more. Each individual conference will vary in the distinct areas it offers.
Plus, many events have two or three play parties throughout the weekend event!
Can I attend a kink conference by myself?
Just because you're going stag is no reason to cancel your amazing weekend. Most conferences will offer multiple ways to meet up with new people - even if you're with someone and just looking for a fun play partner for the weekend!
Look out for a "Meet and Greet" or "Newbie's Orientation" on the first night of most events. These will be a great way to meet other people at the conference who are open to talking. It also offers a quick and easy way to learn more about the event and to feel more comfortable.
Some events also offer color-coded wrist bands. Wearing these wristbands lets other attendees know that you're looking for a partner. Usually, there will be different wristbands depending on what you're seeking - one color if you're looking for topping or bottoming, another if you're looking for only a top, and another if you're looking for only a bottom. While these wristbands won't replace talking with someone and getting to know someone, it will quickly help you determine if someone you've been eyeing is available for play.
How can I document my memories?
With your brain, of course! However, I know what you mean. When you attend amazing conferences like this, it's fun to take home some visible reminders of the time you spent there. When it comes to photography, you'll need to take any photos of your sexy attire in your hotel room. While the conference itself will not allow photos, you're free to take as many photos as you'd like while in the privacy of your room. To respect the event, though, try to avoid getting any that clearly identify what hotel you're staying in.
When it comes to meeting up with other people, make sure to get their usernames so you can add them on Fetlife or other social media sites. You can continue to chat with all of your newfound friends even after you've gone back to day-to-day life...and maybe even meet up with them again if you come to the same conference next year!
Many conferences will also have a name badge or other identifier that you can keep as a memento of your trip.
What else do I need to know?
Make sure you read and understand the rules of any kink conference you attend. Then, read them again. Each individual kink convention has its own rules. You need to be aware of what those rules are - especially if you plan on taking part in any type of edge play kinks.
Not only do most events make the rules readily available on their website, but you'll most likely have to read them again and sign a document stating you've read them at the conference before you're allowed in. Rules are what keep these conferences safe for everyone.
If you're a bit shy when it comes to warming up to new people, consider joining Fetlife and joining the kink convention's event group on the website. Most conventions will have a group on Fetlife for the specific event - including people looking for play partners, information about what vendors will be there, people wanting to make new friends, and lots more!
Should I go to another kink conference?
Most of the popular kink conferences are held annually, and often reoccur in the same location. If you had a great time one year, you're likely to enjoy it the second (and third) time around
To experience new types of conferences, though, I'd always recommend that you try out new conferences when you get the chance. Each individual conference is going to have its own particular nuances. Some may have nudity-allowed pools while others may have sexual exhibitionist rooms and, of course, you'll most-likely meet new people at each individual conference.
Conferences can be loads of fun, though, and a big change from the boring day-to-day life, so enjoy treating them like the short-term escapes from daily life that they really are!