Behind the scenes of GRÄNSLANDET // SALONGEN (2021)
This weekly musing is for the nerds. Or the ones that are interested in creating play parties and sex-positive environments. I first ran the GRÄNSLANDET event five years ago, and it is the seed to the in-between space project. Now, during COVID-19, I got the time and energy to plan a follow-up. And I did it with two friends outside the BDSM and tantra subculture, that has much more experience than me in creating participatory and theatrical events. So this musing is some of the information that we collected. Parts of it made it into the final event, others will remain as inspiration for the future. I hope it will inspire others in their creations. Thank you, Riadalom and Herzog, for the many long breakfasts we spent together.
This material is created by Riadalom, Herzog and Andy Buru, and is publish under Creative Commons CC BY.
The roots and reason
Maybe most essential or most overkill was creating our “why”, “how”, and “values”. I have done it while working in the big telco industry, but never before in a kinky project.
In four words
Fighting shame and leading awe.
We believe that expressing and appreciating playfulness and pleasure in a curious and consensual manner is an empowering experience, providing the first-hand experience of being a creator and transformer of your world.
We believe collective dreaming is a necessary antidote to the capitalist matrix of measurable usefulness as well as mystery, and states of not knowing are key to engagement, transformation, and the birth of something new. So challenge the status quo and celebrate!
An empowering experience of imagination and desire, a recurring celebration, welcoming discerning decadents as well as innocent individuals with an intense curiosity on creative sexuality!
In the context of a social club and the spirit of communal get-togethers, offering a container for safely encountering your own desires as well as connecting people in their expression of sexuality and creativity so they can learn from each other and grow – and just have fun!
Dedicated, challenging, curious, responsible. Evolving, researching, valuing the community, the people and what they bring more than themes and ideas—but demanding commitment.
The ∆ of CURIOUS / MAGICAL / PERVERTED
Out of the roots and reasons came three words, CURIOUS, MAGICAL and PERVERTED, as an attempt to triangulate what we wanted to create. Think about them as three ingredients that together set the tonality of an event.
My biggest inspiration for creating play parties is Felix Ruckert, and he often says; the most important thing is the people you invite. So we started to work on an invitation that hopefully would attract the right people. It starts with three keywords that define what the need participants need to be curious about; to simply know if they are at the right party.
Next is the fairy tales, or the story that welcomes you to come along.
Let me take your hand.
We are not going far… just around the corner where no one sees us.
We are creating a special place.
We want you to come along.
Maybe you are used to playing and navigating the kinks with ease. Or you are someone that likes to express yourself in words, dance or the arts. Or you have a burning desire inside yourself, a curiosity, a will to go further than your life allowed so far. It’s okay.
We want you to come along.
We are creating a special place where decadent connoisseurs and innocent individuals with a burning curiosity of creative sexuality can enter a shared fantasy. “Salongen” is a unique place, different every time we gather, a room that gives opportunities but also demands something in return.
Enter “Salongen” and enter a shared imagination.
A unique place, reborn every time you visit.
A room with specific possibilities as well as obligations.
You move about “Salongen” simultaneously as participant and audience.
You are an aspect of yourself – dressed up or dressed down, an alibi to be different, not hiding but revealing more.
Together we are the movement, the music and the mystery.
Play is the immediate reason for your visit and the purpose of “Salongen”. But, in the long term, we create a community and a culture.
The commandments follow the fairy tale, and the work of Felix Ruckert very much inspires them. And, of course, they must be commandments rather than rules because some contradict each other, and some are impossible to fulfil. But they represent a striving for something bigger. So they are symbolic of the play party.
- First commandment: Presence – Be entirely here. Turn off the mobile – no filming or photos. Conversations about the future or the past are taboo.
- Second Commandment: Authenticity – Be clear about both desires and boundaries. Avoid small talk – Eye contact before body contact. Communicate both attraction and rejections openly.
- The third commandment: Attitude – Dare to be much. Dare to be even more. Create a character for yourself that allows you to play with sexual expression. Celebrate this bravery together with others.
- Fourth commandment: Modesty – Slow down. Listen. Always have an ear for the music and the atmosphere. Never be the person speaking the loudest. Appreciate the constellations that form and dissolve—practice patience. Show consideration.
- Fifth Commandment: Devotion – Be ready to play with power: dominance or submission. Take control and leave it. Appreciate letting go of the burdens and privileges of everyday life. Submit to the standard fantasy.
- Sixth Commandment: Humor – Welcome new ways of looking at reality. Challenge your self-image. Let go. Smile. Or cry…
- Seventh commandment: Elegance – Comes ultimately by itself if you follow The Parlor’s previous commandments…
Finally, there are some rules.
Everything should be done under consent. And obviously, a no is a no, before or during anything. Everyone has the right to step out of any situation at any given moment without having to explain or debate it.
Please adhere to the fiction we create together. Adhere to the rules of the house. And we take for granted; don’t break the law. But, if a crime or a suspicion of a crime occurs, we will support you to report and investigate.
If you need pre-negotiate consent, do so in the off-play area or on-stage, where words are allowed. There is a stop word for the whole space overriding all other agreements.
The code of conduct
In our many meetings that COVID-19 gave time and space, we started to dig into the underlying belief system that shaped everything above. And I think the results are a balancing act, an in-between space, between creating the awe-inspiring out of this world play party experience and caring about the people that contribute to our vision. And trying to define this vision so people beforehand can know; is this for me? The code of conduct never reached a fixed revision and was never set in stone, but the talks that led up to it greatly inspired how the first “Salongen” event came to be created.
” GRÄNSLANDET // SALONGEN” attempts to a code of conduct.
We reserve the right to interpret the guidelines according to our own minds and have the final say in any eventual complicated judgement call.
STATEMENT MORE EXPLAINED – aka THE BOLD PRINT
Now we try to deepen the understanding of the above statements and anything else we could think of that is suitable to put to print. However, we are aware that reality is complex and that rather than an apparent dichotomy between right and wrong, there are numerous grey areas of life, power, and psychology. Due to this, we generally are against policing behaviours since this can lead us down murky roads.
With that said, based on our experiences and values: when people from different cultural backgrounds and identities come together, we need to set a clear baseline for expected and unacceptable behaviour for everyone.
Our events are collaborative and curated experiences. We invite all those who participate in our events to help us create a brave, positive and pleasurable experience for everyone while adhering to the overarching narrative. Our Code of Conduct applies to our participating visitors and venues and those with decision-making authority (in this case, the organizers, members of the crew, and invited performers).
At the end of the day, it all comes down to upholding a responsible community engaging common fiction, a shared fantasy, running under an aesthetic and value-based vision.
We thrive to create a community that is welcoming and inclusive to all its current and future members. We may not be perfect in accommodating to all experiences of exclusion and inclusion and are therefore committed to being open and learning. Constructive feedback on how to improve our ways is always welcome.
We want our events to promote the exploration and expansion of a diverse spectrum of roles and experiences, regardless of your background or what minority or majority you may be coming from. We want to encourage everyone to push the limits of their comfort zone and the roles that life may confine them to otherwise. And we expect you to support others in doing so.
Be aware; when bringing together people from different backgrounds, different ways of being, comfort zones and expressing boundaries and desires may abound. We are also in a space encouraging freedom of expression of fantasies. You can have an impact on what you are experiencing together with someone else. But what other people do somewhere else in the space is not your responsibility – either appreciate it, turn your attention elsewhere, or contact emotional support.
Part of us upholding the common fiction involves asking you to tone it down if we feel that your behaviour is disrupting the experience of others (including ours). We will communicate this to you clearly and with respect. We expect you to listen to what we say and go along with it.
In some instances, individual events have additional rules to them. We will always present these rules to you clearly in advance. Throughout the event, these rules are to be taken as part of our general Code of Conduct.
We operate under the rule of active consent during the entirety of our events. This includes from the moment you step into our spaces to the moment you leave. Active consent means you should not try to or need to persuade other participants to agree to anything. If you receive a no, don’t start debating it. You do not get to choose what feels right and safe for others, just like others don’t get to choose what feels right and safe for you.
We expect from our participants a mature awareness of the nature of consent.
Consent can happen on many levels; one way of seeing it is (1) before // pre-negotiated, (2) during // on-the-fly, (3) after, and (4) meta. Meta is wanting or not wanting something based on an outside value, like cultural, religious, or a long-term BDSM power exchange. We cannot control level 3 or 4, how you process an experience after or on a meta-level. However, we expect everyone involved to explicitly agree on levels 1 and 2 before and during the play.
Consent can also take the expression of consensual non-consent. That is wanting to uphold a fiction of not being able to say no, or control the situation in any way. While you can agree before and during that your play will be consensual non-consent, the whole event still operates on a global safeword, and all participants and staff support that.
Our events happen in compliance with Swedish law. Anything the law deems illegal is also illegal within our premises. In all the other grey zones and negotiations, we expect you to act following our Code of Conduct and our guidance.
We have a zero-tolerance policy towards discriminatory behaviour based on belonging to any minority, majority, background, identity, etc. We also do not tolerate harassment or any non-consensual behaviour that violates someone’s dignity or health. If you want to go into the legal definitions of discrimination and harassment, please consult the following resources: English / Swedish.
If you experience unwanted discomfort, we advise you to contact one of our emotional support staff, and we will do our best to help you negotiate and navigate the situation. However, if an uncomfortable situation persists after an attempt to negotiate it, we reserve the right to make final decisions.
We, as curators, will always prioritize the well-being of our community members. Therefore, we also have the right to ask anyone to leave – and in the utmost case, permanently revoke any individuals right to be part of our community. If we deem the matter to be breaking the law, we will act immediately and take the necessary legal steps.
In case anything happens during our events, we aim to:
(1) Provide emotional support for everyone involved in a traumatic experience by validating them and providing a safe space to land. Here we are not judges or executors but rather supporters for everyone involved in the conflict.
(2) Provide legal support for anyone feeling discriminated against, harassed or otherwise violated. Again, here we are not the judge or executor but rather witnesses to help the police.
We hold the right to refuse entry if we find or receive troubling information about you from members of our community. This includes a history of abusive, violent or harassing behaviour, repeated issues with substance abuse, or anything else that goes against our Code of Conduct and Swedish law. Please know that in all cases, we will operate, prioritizing our members’ privacy and safety.
Note that in all the cases above, your ticket will not be refunded.
OFF-PLAY SPACE, EMOTIONAL SUPPORT AND CURATORS
At all of our events, we provide our members with an off-play space, where they can come, decompress, and talk to someone. We are not trained counsellors but offer decompression with a friend – a chance to speak to someone who will listen to and believe you.
During the runtime of an event, we will always have curators monitoring the event and upholding the common narrative. They may notice you if you are violating the rules and ask you to change your behaviour. We also have an emotional support team. If you have any safety concerns, anything you need to discuss, or just need someone to hold your hand; please come to them.
We will make sure to introduce them to all of you upon arrival. Should you wish to speak to someone who presents as a different gender than the person currently on duty, please let us know, and we will do our utmost to find someone you are comfortable speaking with.
DRUGS, ALCOHOL POLICY AND AGE LIMIT
Moderate consumption of alcohol is permitted on a situation-to-situation basis as long as your behaviour doesn’t create unwanted discomfort among others or impair your judgement. To be clear, we decide what behaviours are acceptable, not the person who has been drinking. Drugs, whatever view one may hold on them, are against Swedish law and therefore not permitted.
All our events are 18+. Visitors are expected to, upon request, present a valid ID upon arrival to be sure of entry.
ACCESSIBILITY, GRIEVANCES AND FEEDBACK
If you have any questions regarding the accessibility of our venues and our events overall, please contact us beforehand.
If you feel you have been falsely or unfairly accused of violating this Code of Conduct, you should notify us via email with a concise description of your grievance.
We are happy to learn and improve – and are open to suggestions, feedback and criticism. Send us an email. We will review your request and test it with the rest of the code, other legal frames and relevant points of view if we can include it.
So how much safer, more remarkable or transparent does this make a play party? I guess I’ll await the feedback from the first event about a month from now.