I know people who cringe any time someone publicly associates the Burn community with sex. And yet the sex-positive, open-minded, truly “adult” (in the sense of maturity) atmosphere of Burning Man events is one of the things I find most valuable about the event; it’s part of the event with lessons I’d like to see the subculture teach the national culture. Two principles of the event are “radical self-expression” and “no spectators.” As a result, participants are encouraged to push the boundaries of what they’d normally do in the “default world.” It’s true this could mean exploring new sexual behaviors, but it could just as easily mean exploring new foods, art, music, or fashion.
One group that has been encouraging Burners to expand their minds while warming their bottoms is Camp Smack That Ass! Everyone loves to get prizes or swag, and at Smack That Ass! anyone can “earn” a hand-made wooden paddle in return for submitting to a spanking on the camp’s custom spanking benches. I recently got to chat with camp founder karen; she shared with me the story of how it began.
Like so many great ideas, the camp began as a unexpected consequence of another project. As part of a “confessional booth” for Burning Flipside 2006’s “Fall From Grace” theme, flames were cut from wood leaving a by-product of about 20 paddle-shaped chunks. karen’s camp that year, Sin City, gave the paddles away — they lasted a scant 10 minutes.
The following year Camp Smack That Ass! was back as an organized theme camp. They’ve been present every year of Burning Flipside since, and the camp’s members have given away more than 1,400 paddles (yes, one thousand and four hundred) since that modest beginning. They’ve even given two to me, a switchy sadomasochist who notoriously hates to be spanked. karen credits the inviting, friendly atmosphere for the eagerness with which people approach the experience of being spanked, often for their first time ever. The Smack That Ass! spankers are always careful to moderate the intensity of the spanking to the experience level of the recipient, or, as in my case, offer the “wimpy dominant’s spanking.”
I remember earning my first STA! paddle. It wasn’t at their camp, but wandering with campmates on the grassy playa on the night of the Burn in 2008. I encountered a similar group from Camp Smack That Ass! — what karen calls a Mobile Spanking Unit. I remember much of the situation felt incredibly sexy — between both our camps and random passerby, I had quite an audience. I also remember how much my ass hurt afterwards, which combined with a lack of tasty endorphins convinced me I’m much better at giving spankings than taking them.
Earning a paddle has an effect on many. I know of several people — who shall remain nameless — that are now active in the kink or BDSM communities after receiving their first ever spanking at Smack That Ass! Karen loves it when participants return to share their stories with her, and she says, “I can tell when that first whack changes someone.” The camp has even had an effect on karen herself, who describes herself as someone who only learned to dish out spankings out of necessity but has come to love it.
Why is any of this important? Experiences like a spanking at Smack That Ass! — with a pretty new wooden paddle to proudly show for it — help people see that even kinky things can be playful and open. When asked to talk about her camp’s philosophy, karen says, “We believe that most everyone likes spanking, whether it’s to have it done to them or to do it to someone else. When done correctly, it can be very enjoyable, and add a little spice to your love life. That’s it. We have fun and we hope people who come to see us have fun as well.”
I think we all need to be reminded from time to time that it’s fun and safe to explore the new. Camp Smack That Ass! will return in 2011 at Burning Flipside: Bad Idea.
Big thanks to karen for sharing her camp’s story. Smack That Ass! was previously mentioned in this blog here. Check out more of Kit’s writing about Burning Man in A Burner Lexicon at https://kitoconnell.com/lexicon/
“Lifting the Veil” is a story of sex, experimental drugs, and the end of the world. The anthology will be available in both print on demand and ebook formats. Click here for more information and to learn how you could win a free copy of the ebook.