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Kit Q&A: Is Burning Flipside All About Sex?

Posted in Burning Man, Kit Q&A, and Sex & Relationships

Lately I’ve been keeping an eye on search terms used to reach my site, and responding to the questions asked there in blog entries. Here is the latest:

Is Burning Flipside just about sex?

No. People do have sex at Burning Flipside, just like they have sex at music festivals, hotels, in national parks and camp grounds, in bathrooms everywhere, and just about anywhere else they can get away with it. There are theme camps where people go to get it on, but at this past event most of them were confined to a single area. The majority of the event consisted of theme camps for music, costumes, food and drink, hiding with friends from the hot sun, non-sexual massage and yoga, getting clean, knitting, serving popsicles or candy, along with many more.

A mutant vehicle at Burning Flipside, 2011. Photo by Sam Ley.

Burn events are not about any one thing — they are not about sex any more than they are about music, large-scale art, personal growth or exploring temporary communities. Just as there is no official meaning to the burning of an effigy, so too it allows each participant to find their own purpose for attending. For some it is a gigantic, hedonistic party, to others an opportunity to socialize, dance, or experience new things. Some people find it a life-changing exploration of ritual; most have a variety of experiences there, spiritual, uplifting, irritating, unpleasant or joyous.

Scribe, the author of Tribes of Burning Man references another book, Counterculture Through the Ages: From Abraham to Acid House by R.U. Sirius and Dan Joy. There he finds Burners in a list of countercultural groups along side such diverse others as “punks, avant-garde artists, … anti-globalization activists, … anarchists, … Zen Buddhists, Gnostics, iconoclasts,” and many others. However, he goes on to say:

It doesn’t feel right to place Burning Man on a list that is actually comprised of many of Black Rock City’s component groups of citizens. Indeed, many of the thousands of theme camps overtly define themselves with many of the labels above… In a society that generally restricts the activities and reach of countercultures, Burning Man courts and magnifies smaller subcultures … ultimately giving these disparate groups a bit of shared culture… –from Tribes of Burning Man

So while sexual subcultures like polyamorists and kinksters are certainly present, he later qualifies this by quoting veteran Burner Polly Superstar:

“Sex on the playa is gross. Everyone’s all sweaty and dusty… I’m not going to be sucking some dusty cock when I don’t know that person, who’s been in some kind of pleather costume for the last two days and hasn’t bathed. That shit is fucking nasty.” –from Tribes of Burning Man

In conclusion, many citizens of Pyropolis like to remind newcomers that while Flipside might be a sexy party, it is not a sex party.

Submit questions for Kit via the comments or contact info at the top of this page. 

For more on Burning Flipside and sexual ethics, see “Don’t Be “That Guy.” For more of Kit’s writing about Burning Man culture, see A Burner Lexicon.

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