Avoiding discussion of traditionally taboo subjects like politics and religion for their controversial nature is simply an element of society. But it is just this controversy that fuels progress and supports diversity over bigotry-an equally important dynamic in society.
While we fervently push the taboo underground, shunned topics simultaneously receive a lot of attention-the leading example of this paradox being sex. Americans reside somewhere in the middle range of tolerance for sexual freedom, our proclivities to our prejudices scoring better than the Middle East but prudish compared to Europe. And yet in a nation where sex sells, home to idol worship of film stars and pop singers, what happens to genuine discussion of sexual expression? Usually it's misunderstood or frowned upon, swept under the rug in a hush hush fashion despite our passive acceptance of superficial sex overload in daily American life.
But change itself is the only unchanging aspect of life, cliché as it may sound, and this weekend the general public is warmly welcomed to explore their sexual fantasies, ideas and limits at Boise's second annual Alternative Lifestyle eXposition (ALX). Sponsored by the non-profit BBDSM organization (Boise Bondage Discipline Sadism Masochism), the event targets many "underground" communities in Boise as a celebration of their alternative lifestyle, and as an educational extension to all others curious and open-minded.
"Although Boise is a conservative town, there is a huge alternative community that do not have events. Our intentions are to embrace all communities of lifestyles that are alternative to society: gay males to the goth scene, to bondage. It's a little exciting and a little darker," says Barb, co-producer of the expo and director of Saturday's finale show.
The festivities begin Friday with a body modification and erotic art exhibit at the Bomb Shelter featuring everything from body branding to body suspension (suspending a person mid-air by their piercings) with locally produced art as a backdrop you won't find in a gallery. Paul from Imperial Body Art will give a presentation alongside fetish piecing artist Ambrose Campbell. "This lifestyle is our religion. People have different kings," says Campbell, who is also the founder of the BBDSM with his wife, Dawn. "We try to portray safety, sanity and consensuality. It's what mom and dad would like to do in the bedroom but are not doing."
Dawn is the central producer of the expo and as last year's event was such a triumph, her mission has only been strengthened this time around. "There is so much stigma on top of this. My goal is to pull that off. What's so amazing is that all of a sudden, it became acceptable last year, " she says. Acceptable is not a stretch for the expo that leans just as much on the artistic side as the sexual.
"We want to portray that taboos are OK, like piercings and tattoos. But we want to portray them in a very classy, sophisticated, sexy way," explains Barb. "I think there are a lot of people curious about alternative lifestyles, but they don't have the resources to get information," she continues. Both producers Dawn and Barb particularly invite those who are not directly involved in the alt culture, as this expo is just as much an outreach to the "vanilla" crowd as it is a haven for those already involved. "Vanilla" meaning: "If you're at an ice cream shop and have 31 flavors to choose from, why pick vanilla every time?" according to Barb. As people generally want "to be different, like everyone else" there is a logical attraction for many to search for new ways of exploring sexuality.
One of the nation's most famous sexual pioneers is the next non-vanilla flavor at the expo. Fetish diva Midori will give three lectures Saturday at The Big Easy, including interrogation, predicament bondage, and fetish corsets and costumes as a series of provocative education kink classes. After growing up in a feminist Tokyo household and receiving a degree in psychology from U.C. Berkeley, Midori returns to Boise to participate for the second time with ALX. Her work as the educator of Fire Horse Productions has appeared on HBO, the BBC, and in Mademoiselle, Playboy, Wired, and Vogue, among many others. Dawn and Barb were pleasantly surprised they were able to draw such a big name in the biz last year for the first-ever show in Boise, and are especially honored as it was one of the top events Midori said she participated in. "Midori is an amazing, powerful woman, a genius, an educator," says Dawn.
The BBDSM community originally was a rather secretive club, an "eyes wide shut" affair. Though strict anonymity remains, when Dawn and Campbell began the organization four years ago, they joined the various groups in Boise under the larger encompassing umbrella of the BBDSM society, and simultaneously sought to bring the organization into the public eye. "It was very disorganized and we wanted to make a pansexual place where people can learn about it," Dawn says. "We have over 2,000 members in Idaho and about 150 active members that come to meetings and events. This is our lifestyle which we're proud to share with the rest of society."
Though ALX is fortunate to have the generous help of Idaho Dance Theatre choreographer Thax von Reither and the incredible hair styling of Jennifer from Nephthys salon and many more, Dawn and Barb virtually coordinate the entire weekend themselves.
As the director of the show Saturday night, Barb describes the collaborative effort of all involved as "Huge. It creates such a visual feast." The show begins with a gothic ball scene blending fashion and movement with the theme of the show entitled Inferno! El Corazon del Diablo. The character of El Diablo is bored with the imperfect women his mad scientist creates, until El Corazon is unveiled, and woos El diablo with her live rendition of "You Give Me Fever." The performance originally designed to be a fashion show of alternative clothing, morphed into this large scale production with several head-to-toe body painted participants representing mythical animals including a unicorn, dragon and a phoenix.
The undercurrent of the story is love. "You'd think that love and sex should go together," Barb says as a response to the often collective repression of sex, but support of love. "It's all about them finding each other (El Corazon and El Diablo) and about finding your inner passion which ties into this community of being yourself. And having the courage to be yourself as far as your inner passions and desires go."
The cornerstone of the alternative community and the ALX weekend in general, is the uninhibited freedom and individual diversity summed up in their slogan: "My kink may not be your kink, and your kink may not be mine."
Erotic Art & Body Modification Exhibit, Friday, 8 p.m., $15, The Bomb Shelter, 600 W. Curling Dr. (off Bogus Basin Rd. near Hill), call 353-2277 for all ticket infomation.
Famous Fetish Diva Midori, Saturday, 10 a.m., $25 per class, The Big Easy Concert House, 323-2277.
Inferno! El Corazon Del Diablo, Saturday, 8 p.m., $15, The Big Easy Concert House, 416 S. 9th St. Post Party at The Balcony Club, 150 N. 8th St.