In the more distant past when I have attended sexuality and kink workshops, I recall being in awe of the people participating in demonstrations. These demos generally involve nudity, exposure of genitals, being touched, engaging in ‘taboo’ kinks, being vulnerable in front of an audience and being in visible states of arousal.
Before I did anything like this myself, I looked at these people and perhaps put them on a pedestal a little. I saw them as being part of a radical sub-culture of queers and erotic rebels who defied sexual shame and society’s rules. By societies rules, I’m referring to the supposed appropriate ways for different gendered bodies to behave sexually, what should turn us on, the idea that sex and arousal should be a private act in the bedroom and even laws about public sex acts!
Several years on, I’ve been a life model for art classes, self-pleasured in rooms full of people and been on a massage table openly having my most intimate body parts mapped.
Quintimacy’s Bodywork Demos
Nowadays, I am far more likely to be on the other side of the equation, fully clothed, delivering demonstrations in workshops with a bodywork demo volunteer on the massage table (or floor).
I’ve been working hard recently on recruiting and preparing people who are interested in being demo volunteers. This process has stimulated a lot of thought for me about why people volunteer for this comparatively unusual way to spend a Sunday afternoon!
Amongst our team and the demo people, there are sometimes warm and slightly cheeky references to being an exhibitionist, enjoying being the centre of attention, or that this is a way of receiving sexual touch (almost with the acceptable facade of doing something for the community or ‘for the cause’!).
So, Why? Here Are My Thoughts…
A Self Development Challenge/Rite of Passage
Some people who have attended Quintimacy or similar events before might see participating in a bodywork demo as a logical next step for them. Perhaps it makes their heart race to consider it, but they have a desire to feel the fear and do it anyway — to be able to say, “look how far I’ve come” (in my healing, confidence, identity, etc).
Wanting to Give Something Back
People who have come to Quintimacy before and benefited from it — especially from witnessing brave and real bodywork demos — often tell me they want to give this gift to the other workshop members. They understand how important seeing queer and trans bodies enjoy touch, intimacy and pleasure is to Quintimacy workshops, and they genuinely want to be of service.
A Chance to be Part of Quintimacy
On a practical level, bodywork demo volunteers are usually also workshop assistants. This means that they don’t pay for their place, often get free accommodation and a contribution towards travel expenses. So it’s an opportunity to ‘be in the room’ at a low or no cost. And, although you’re working, you still get drenched in the queer oxytocin!
Curiosity and Adventure
I’m not sure being in a bodywork demo at a Quintimacy event is a common bucket list experience, but human beings are diverse! For some people, it might be about seeking out a safe but exciting experience where the outcome is not completely known in advance. Some people are following curiosity and embracing life (and being in an erotic, feeling body) as an adventure.
To Engage with a Sexological Bodyworker
Being in a bodywork demo is one way of engaging with me and my work, although this is different from being a paying one-to-one client, of course. You’ll experience a thorough effort to establish consent agreements ahead of time and might experience first-hand what it’s like to receive mapping, active receiving or genital massage.
If any trauma or obstacles arise during our planning, on the day, or even on the table, this will be carefully attended to in a trauma-informed way. Not as an aside or interruption to the work we are here to do, but because it is the work!
Performance and Exhibitionism
This might be an element of some people’s motivations — that they like the idea of being the centre of attention, being admired by others and having others look at their naked body.
This is a valid part of many people’s personalities and core erotic themes. It’s the one reason there’s often humour about, which perhaps indicates that it might seem incongruent with the tone or values of Quintimacy. My feeling is, let’s welcome it in as one part of the experience for some people.
Reclaiming Queer/Trans Body with Witnesses
One of my most memorable bodywork demos was working with a trans man whose sexual expression centrally involved a packing dick. My default position is, “well, why wouldn’t you offer touch and massage on and over the packing dick?” So our collaboration led to us doing just that and finding much pleasure — physical on a nerve-ending level and gender euphoria.
I know that on that day, several workshop members expressed utter gratitude at having been able to witness bodywork with a trans body and how permission giving and inspiring it was to them.
Many of us have grown up with strong mandates about sexual shame and secrecy, even more so if we grew up in conservative or religious families and cultures. We may have been told that sex and your body are private things, that they should be contained in one room in your house and only with one partner.
For LGBTQIA+ people especially, we’re told, “what we do behind closed doors is our own business”. Women, queer and trans folks in particular aren’t supposed to be interested in pleasure, or the way we do enjoy pleasure is weird and wrong according to normative values.
So, some people who choose to do radical things — such as do kink play in public, train as sexological bodyworkers, get into sex work or opt to be a bodywork demo volunteer — might have a bit of a ‘fuck you’ attitude towards restrictive gender-based oppression and sex-negativity.
Maybe it’s a chance to be in control and choose what you want to do with your bodily autonomy, and this is completely valid and understandable.
Miscellaneous reasons I am not aware of
The involvement in Quintimacy, the being present on the day and the experience of being in a bodywork demo, is a rich and highly subjective experience that every individual will interact with in their own way. This involves the themes and combinations of the above. If you have your own thoughts, then I’m open to you sharing!
Once a bodywork demo is done, it is impossible to know how the rest of the workshop would have unfolded in the parallel universe in which there was no bodywork demo!
I like the idea that the ripples and impacts spread far and wide, through the workshop and out into the world…
The butterfly effect is the idea that small things can have non-linear impacts on a complex system. The concept is imagined with a butterfly flapping its wings and causing a typhoon…
I write this with gratitude and respect for all the bodywork demo volunteers of the past and all those who are going to be brave, vulnerable, curious and generous volunteers in the future.
Did you watch a demo and want to share your experience and thoughts?
You can complete this form (anonymously if you choose).
Interested in being an assistant/volunteering for a bodywork demo?
Complete this form if you have an interest in participating in a bodywork demo for Quintimacy in the future (discretion assured).