Camp Beaverton: Burning Man’s sex-positive space for queer women

AE: Talk to me about the Strap-on-a-thon. We kind of can infer what it is, but what is it like to be a part of that or around that?

Glo: A big focus for Camp Beaverton is sex-education. A lot of our campers are sex-education coaches. We teach several workshops throughout the week. Girl Sex 101 by Allison Moon started on Playa from people who wanted to learn from the experts, to learn from the queer ladies. Now we have a workshop called “How to Strap it On”; a workshop called “Boning Babes” an introduction to sex with women; we have a fisting workshop, a squirting workshop; and we also have another one called “Oval Ascension,” which is a female masturbation party. The big draw, though, is the Strap-0n-a-thon.

It’s really grown over the years. The Beaver “Dome” can only hold 80 people at a time and last year we had three hundred people show up waiting to go in. But how the strap-on-a-thon works; it’s safe sex based, it’s consent based, you don’t have to play in order to participate. We ask people to self identify by a stop-light-system, red, yellow and green. If you’re just there to chat with people and watch, you put on  a red bracelet. If you’re maybe there to play you wear a yellow bracelet. If you’re there to meet someone and have a good sexy time you wear a green bracelet. I started off with the yellow one my first strap-on-a-thon but quickly learned I was good to go, and that I wanted the green one!

The party starts off with a lot of boundary teaching, how to say no, how to negotiate with people, we provide safe sex materials like gloves, lubes, condoms, and wipes. We also use donated sex toys that people can use if they don’t have their own. There are people who can help you learn how to put on a strap on and if you don’t bring one or have never used it before, you can borrow one, too.

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AE: Wow. So is this the answer for the heterosexual stuff that goes on in Burning Man? Or is this camp specifically created to be a sex-positive space and is unique to your camp only?

Glo: Well, our camp is about two things. One, we try to make Camp Beaverton an oasis for women. Not just queer women, but all women. We label it as a safe place to escape the male energy of the playa. You don’t have to have sex, just come in to chill out and be around men only. At our camp we get a lot of people who are overwhelmed with the stimulus–it’s a lot like regular life, where there is a lot of male gaze on you at all the time, a lot of scantily clad and naked people–so we offer a special place in the Dome that is women’s only. We also have a space at our camp for everyone, because we love our queer brothers and straight brothers, but we thought it was important to have a separate space only for women.

And secondly, it’s also a sexually empowering space for women and queer folks as well. And we are a camp for queer women and we are also trans inclusive. There are [trans men] and trans women that camp as well. We’re very inclusive.

 

AE: Tell me about a typical day at Camp Beaverton.

Glo: Well , a small group heads out a week early to  build the Beaver Dome, the structure, the camp shower. But in an ordinary week, if there’s nothing left to build, you wake up and everyone has a duty that day. Somebody greets people who might wonder onto the camp so we are sure people are greeted by friendly queer faces, someone else makes coffee, someone else puts on good music. People generally leave their tents once it gets too hot to stay in there and then we hang out in the shade together. Then we sort of wander around. You might pop onto an art car that’s passing by, make sure you have your water and goggles and sunblock and you might not come back to camp until the end of the day.

I like to go on art adventures with my bike and my girlfriend, and ride around all day–and I think for me once I get out of camp duty mode and am out with my love, the most fun thing about Burning Man is not having a schedule or a time schedule. You might have a workshop or a specific camp–like getting that champagne snow cone–that you’re sure you want to hit, you sort of plan to get towards that. But even as you go towards that you might be stopped by someone who wants to take a shot with you, or jump on a trampoline, or ride the slip and slide. That’s what I love about Burning Man.

 

AE: Is there a Burning Man closet? Like, my friends in the corporate world who do go, they almost don’t tell anybody or really only  tend to share it if they trust you.

 Glo:Definitely! There’s a moment when you’re in a new job and you have to request time off from your boss. I have friends that have been going many years who when they request off they call it a family reunion or a spiritual retreat [Laughs]. We have playa names that are like nick names too so that helps with the feeling like you’re in a new space. Mine is “Glo,” my partner is “Crush” and there’s a “Foxy” a “Stallion” a “Sparrow” and “Ren” and “Galaxy.” We even have a “Bucket.”

 

AE: [Laughs] is there one misconception you can point to that people have about Burning Man and /or your camp?

Glo: I think the idea that it’s just one big party, or just going out to do drugs in the desert, I think that’s the most common misconception. Because while it is happening out there,  it’s really about building community, meeting amazing people. I know people joke that it can’t possibly be about the art–but it really is! You see the most incredible art pieces –people who put together amazing work. And the people that you meet out there, you all have one thing in common: you got your asses out there to Burning Man. And you’re there now  for each other. A lot of people go sober, a lot of people go for the workshops, and to have this philosophy of community around them.

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AE: I’ve been reading articles about how Burning Man is becoming more corporate? For example, Art Cars coming in that are really elaborate, or VIP campers coming in, with celebrities, changing the vibe etc.?

Glo: I think it’s always been there, but the more that Burning Man has become globally known and with social media, it’s grown–even when I first started going in 2009, it was much smaller than it is today. But I don’t think it’s ruined the experience. I think you can still find the people you want to find out there. There’s still a big push that it should all be open and accepting. Our camp hasn’t seen it too much, but we’re kind of a cash-poor camp. We don’t have famous lesbians hanging out with us and footing the bill yet.


AE: Susan Sarandon hasn’t wandered over yet?

Glo: Not yet but we have hung out with Rosario Dawson. She had a misting vagina art piece out there a couple of years ago.

 

AE: Awesome. What’s one thing you’d like our readers to take away about Camp Beaverton?

Glo: Our camp is full of brilliant and talented sex educators, people who run their own business, who have creative art projects, being around powerful, smart, gorgeous, dusty women! I think that’s such a special thing. Being in a space where you can be yourself, you can talk about parts of yourself you may not get to express back home. I know I’m in my Oakland/Bay Area bubble, but people from Indiana or other parts of the world who can’t even be out or hold hands with their partners in public. So I think the reason why I’ve stayed a part of this camp for so long is because we give people this space to explore themselves. They may not even be out yet or know that they’re attracted to women but I want to provide that space if they want to be around like-minded people. These are my best friends now; my family. You can feel that immediately when you get to our camp. I met my partner through Beaverton so, yeah, there’s nothing quite like it.

 

AE: And what would you say to someone who is a little intimidated to check this out?

Glo: It can be intimidating. For the people who might think it’s too much for them they should do their research to see if it’s something that they’d be into doing. Try a regional event first, see if being around crazy freaks and weirdos and amazing people is something that feels good to you before you go to the middle of the desert for a week. If you’re not the camping type think about an RV so you have your own space and air conditioning.

But it is intimidating. You just have to prepare. Every year I feel like it’s going to be my last one, because it’s a lot of work. It takes most of August to prep! But it’s always worth it.

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AE: Where can people find you guys?

Glo: Check out our website, and our Facebook, where we keep up  to date with events we’re having. We have events going on through the year to fundraise, so the Strap-On-A-Thon could be coming to a town near you!