As editor of XCritic I get tons of invites to industry events that I am too far away from to attend. Being HQ'd in Portland, Oregon has its distinct advantages (we do after all have the most strip clubs per capita...!) But reasonable location to things like Tony Batman's Porn Star Karaoke isn't one of them.
So when I got the note about Darklady's 7th Annual Portland Masturbate-a-Thon that was mere minutes from XCritic's HQ I couldn't help but jump at the opportunity.
Darklady, in case you don't know her, is one of the amazing sex positive voices out there. She's in the camp with Tristan Taormino, JamYe WaXman and Jane of Jane's Guide. Oh yeah she's also a board member for the Free Speech Coalition. To say that Darklady has made her life's work all about educating and communicating about good positive sexuality is an understatement. So how could I miss her big annual Portland event?!
Given the theme of the Masturbate-a-Thon I decided to go solo. Held at the Mt. Tabor Theater, the largest venue of it's seven year history, the Masturbate-a-Thon was packed with a wide array of people dressed in one of the most diverse range of costumes I've seen at an event. Some of the more notable get-ups included: a guy in his fifties dressed in full pirate dress (he even had his own mug that he had filled at the bar), a twenty-something woman in a corseted wedding gown with full angel wings, a man in a wheel chair carrying around a sign with a hole cut out of it declaring "Glory Hole on Wheels", A guy in full tux minus the pants (and under pants, yup he was letting it all hang out), a thirty something guy in full Marilyn drag - blond wig and all, a woman in full rope bondage and people like me... dressed in smart 'I'm going out this evening' street wear. If you walked in off the street with no idea what was going on at the Mt. Tabor Theater you would think that several different groups had converged and collided into one. While many people in this 200+ group were expressing their sexuality, it was clear more of them were there to watch.
When I first thought of the concept of a Masturbate-a-Thon, I imagined a big room with everyone trying to find out just how long they could masturbate without reaching orgasm... That's just the way my mind works. What the reality of the event was it was more an exhibition and celebration of sexuality than anything else. Yes there was masturbation. A smaller theater room was dubbed the 'Rubitorium' held about thirty people and was a more 'private' area for exploration, also an area off to the stage in the main room which was not very visible was designed for exploration as well. For the sake of this event 'masturbation' was defined as anything that didn't involve penetrative sex. One couple took the concept of a 'thon' to heart as the guy performed cunnilingus for over thirty minutes. I timed it. Several people tried out the various sex machines and bondage set ups. One woman rode the Syban to at least five screaming orgasms. I counted. But the main focus wasn't really the people engaging in some form of 'masturbation', the real main event was a burlesque show which featured everything from a live demonstration of phone sex, a fellatio 'how-to' from adult performer Sara Jay, naughty music from The Wet Spots, Burlesque from The Von Foxies and a painfully bad dirty comedian from Low Comedy (yeah I know his act is supposed to be bad).
The message of the evening was clear, sexuality means a lot of things and Darklady's Masturbate-a-Thon is the place to get a peek into something that you may be interested in exploring. It was less about people coming to a place to hook up or to be exhibisitionisitc and more a celebration of the wonderful universe of sexuality.
While I did not partake in any of the action I was treated to a really fantastic Tarot reading by 'The Tarot Wizard' (a supposed mainstay at Darklady's Masturbate-a-Thon), I did watch my fair amount of 'masturbation' (sitting on a bar stool the guy next to me was fellated as I sipped my Maker's Mark) and I did enjoy myself. But the evening didn't require someone to 'whip it out or rub one off' to enjoy the spectacle.
Beyond education and celebration Darklady's Masturbate-a-Thon did have a much higher purpose. The event was a fund raiser for Esther's Pantry, Center for Sex and Culture and Woodhull Freedom Foundation and a silent auction did raise a significant amount of money towards those charities.
After attending Darklady's Masturbate-a-Thon I wondered why there weren't more events that celebrated sexuality. It was clear from the crowd at this event that a wide range of people are interested and curious about expressing and exploring their own sexuality, why then aren't' there more opportunities for people to do that?
In the end I commend Darklady for crafting and executing this unique event and I'll surely be back next year.
- Chris Thorne