Boundcon report – This is what a bondage expo looks like (Part 1)

Bondage show at Boundcon 2014

As I announced a little while ago, on May 23-25 I took advantage of a German tour to return to Munich and visit Boundcon, the largest European trade show dedicated to bondage, fetish and BDSM. Today I finally found the time to sort the heaps of brochures and business card I collected there, which constitute a great starting point for a report.

The bondage trade show
Let’s start with some basic information. Boundcon is a true professional fair, not one of those seedy and terribly sad wankerfests marketed as “erotic festivals” all over the world. It is thus held in a classic trade show hall where the industry’s main companies and shops display and sell their products as business people use the opportunity to meet and talk shop. In other words: you won’t find sweaty crowds of screaming creeps desperate to «see the naked chicks» here. The conversation and the occasional background music are kept at a polite volume; everyone kindly asks for permission before taking a photo, and the overall atmosphere is very calm.
This doesn’t mean however that Boundcon can be mistaken for an accountants’ reunion. Part of the reason is of course the kind of products on display, but also in what ‘business people’ means in this context. Fetish models, erotic photographers, sex toys designers, bondage artists, latex couturiers, whipping teachers… Colorful characters indeed, especially because most of them conduct business wearing their favorite kinky attire. And talking about looks, the public is also encouraged to attend in style. Within the limits of being of legal age and not exposing the genitals, you can enter as you feel more comfortable – including full-body latex furry suits.

bondage furries at Boundcon 2014

The public’s diversity is in my opinion the most pleasant and spectacular aspect of the show. This year my favorite participants have been a very loving couple of eighteen years old kids perfectly at ease in their master and slavegirl roles; an equally loving over-70 couple elegantly dressed in black leather from head to toe; the nice team of mother-and-son who in their spare time sew teddy bears with a fetish flair, and most of all a not especially young gentleman who – holding a riding crop and sporting a classical leatherman look, attended the three full days of the expo and the final party. What’s so strange about this, you say? The matter of his body ending at the waist forcing him to go about on a wheelchair – having fun and respected by everyone, without any apparent integration problem.
To see breathtaking corseted goddesses on 6” heels amiably chatting with all of these characters and find them all happily goofing side by side at the buffet gave me a splendid feeling of harmony. I would have liked to see there also those sad bigots self-righteously condemning alternative sexualities are a menace to society. In fact, a world more informed and tolerant about sexuality looks like that: carefree and polite.

In a sense, the most surprising thing about the bondage trade show is that this practice actually makes up less than a half of the offer. The biggest part is represented by fetish clothing and accessories, BDSM instruments and other strange stuff. Ropes and other various restraints do dominate the scene through the performances of the world’s most famous experts and their models, who appear on a large stage and in two smaller areas to show their art. An additional booking-only floor is taken by dozens of workshops where you can learn all of their techniques, and maybe this is another reason for which the most hardcore riggers are somewhat less prominent than you would suspect.
Not counting the official performances and the visitors’ couples admiring the stalls while on a leash, the final opportunity to watch more bondage demos is a small area dedicated to the irreverent contest between female escape artists. They compete in getting free as quickly as they can from the impossibly complicated rope creations of specialized riggers, while an official jury has fun commenting their efforts.

This year’s trends
Seeing so many shops and manufacturers under the same roof is ideal to notice where the world of extreme eroticism is heading to. In fact, just like any other community and subculture it is subjected to fads and trends, that judging by this year’s overview are:

  • Kinbaku is now old news

This might well be just a personal impression, but everything suggested that the past huge interest towards rope bondage – and kinbaku, or Japanese style in particular – is running out of gas. Partly due to the overabundance of websites, manuals, seminars and tutorials available, partly for the dire lack of innovation, people now know everything there is to know about it. “Regular folks” have learned the basics required to play occasionally, the hardcore enthusiasts are deep in their exoteric details, and the world of sex is now waiting for the next fad.

  • Metal is the new black

BDSM imagery is of course still very attached to its medieval look with its wood and leather, but this year you couldn’t fail to notice the quantity of shiny metal offered by most vendors. From huge and complex restraining furniture to tiny (and expensive!) BDSM toys, it looks like XXI century eroticism is going to borrow a ‘70s science fiction movie look.

  • Electrifying experiences

The toy of the year? No doubts about it: it’s the Neon wand, finally certified for direct use with EU electric sockets. Every major shop had it, and every time someone demonstrated it (which is to say, roughly every five minutes) it gathered a small crowd. The reasons are clear: it is a spectacular toy, it gives unique sensations and, differently from the old and fragile violet wands, it does work well. Also, there were several other electrical sex toys – but we’ll get to them later.

  • Recession hit hard…

Noticeably absent from this Boundcon edition were many manufacturers of extra-high end items – such as the sort of dungeon furniture with a four or five digits price tag. Some vendors steeply discounted their ware (which often continues to have unreasonable prices no matter what) just to get rid of it, and the one latex shop that kept turn-of-the-century prices made every single visitor burst into laughter.

  • … yet there are more smiles all around

The vendors’ somewhat forced smiles were complemented by the very serene ones of most attendees. Decades of popularizing unusual sexualities eventually paid and attracted to the world of fetish, bondage and BDSM lots of people living these practices as yet another fine way to have fun, instead of a lifestyle. The effect is a lower average age (something I also noticed at my Sadistique party, where under-35s are now the majority) and much more levity. Such an easygoing attitude sure feels good… but my impression is that we are risking to lose that little bit of gravitas required not to turn it all into a big joke. But enough talking: in Part 2 I’ll show you what exactly you could find at Boundcon.

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