For a change from all the book reviews in the Sex & Relationships section here at Queer & Now, I decided last year that I wanted to find more of a sexual experience to review for you lovely readers, something that’s offered regularly and available for you to try yourselves. Since most kink events don’t welcome press coverage, I had to do some digging, but I eventually stumbled upon something called the Submissive Playground, facilitated by writer and educator Sinclair Sexsmith. Having worked with Sinclair previously at a queer erotic bodywork workshop, I thought this would be an awesome opportunity, and so I participated in the Playground for an eight-week course in the summer of 2014. If this review interests you, the course is running again right now, but stay tuned to the website for the next round, and in the meantime dominant folks have a couple of weeks left to register for Mastering Dominance, a half-day online workshop from Sinclair that takes place on February 22nd. If it’s anything like my experience in the Submissive Playground, I’d highly recommend it!
“I create space for your submission to thrive,” the Playground’s homepage boldly states. “Come explore safely, gain confidence, and learn to go after what you want. Because you fucking deserve it.” Entering the course with that attitude, I found the experience to be something refreshing that’s not offered anywhere else online. Perfect for kinky nerds who enjoy MOOCs on academic topics and workshops at weekend kink conventions alike, as well as less-experienced submissives who want to learn more about themselves in a safe environment, build community, and have the guiding hand of a temporary dominant/instructor giving them homework stars along the way, the Submissive Playground is a blend of coursework and camaraderie over the eight week period.
The four live sessions were probably my favorite part of the experience, as our group instantly connected through text chat and some (technologically challenged) video introductions. Many of the folks in the class, while submissive-identified, were also snarky and flirtatious, and we all enjoyed getting to know each other and teasing both our instructor and their charming submissive assistant/tech geek on demand. The technical snarls were frustrating, but once we got past them the semi-weekly sessions let us ask our burning questions in a group setting and learn from each other’s experiences, often pushing a bit past the content of the course and getting into what we really wanted to hit upon. Sinclair (who asks participants to call them “Sir” or “Mr. Sexsmith” during the course, to create a space of submission and guided learning where they’re the dominant guide for the duration) adapted to participants’ needs with ease, while ultimately staying on track for the four key topics (bondage, discipline, service, and masochism). I also particularly appreciated the opening meditations offered to put us into something of a “class headspace” while holding onto a particular course object that we were asked to choose as a touchstone for this experience.
The course object and the whole idea of keying into a particular headspace, setting learning intentions for the course, is a great way for submissive folks to engage with their own personal process, but also a reminder that this experience is exactly what you make of it. Sinclair provides excellent materials to get participants through from week to week, including video lessons from some of the biggest names in kink, reading materials, and worksheets for those inspired by homework and star charts (apparently many of us!) But it’s up to the participant to decide what the experience is going to be for them, and to commit to the process of personal growth. While Sinclair does serve as course dominant, in a way, and offers more personal coaching/feedback in that vein for those who sign up for a “Star” or “Fancy” package, this is really a process guided by the submissive participant. The course activities provide ways for dominant partners to get involved, but everything in the course is perfectly easy to accomplish for solo and unpartnered students. It’s up to you to decide what you need from this course and get that, whether you’re a total newbie or experienced in the scene. As someone who is more experienced, I did sometimes find it challenging to get as much out of the activities in particular without a partner handy, but at the same time I got a lot out of the worksheets and the opportunity to do deep guided reflection.
If you’re the kind of s-type person who totally geeks out on homework and wants to embark on a personal journey, I recommend considering the course the next time it comes around (I’ll be sure to post a notice on this blog when that happens!) I plan to participate myself for a refresher, as the course is designed in a way that you can easily get something new out of it by recommitting to your journey. I’m particularly impressed by the offer of a sliding scale for those who need a little help in the realm of financial accessibility, and with a queer/trans facilitator, I found it to a breath of fresh air as far as gender and sexuality go. I also was impressed by Sinclair’s willingness to help me out with accessibility to audio content, providing transcripts whenever possible and asking participants to get involved in the transcribing process as well. One thing I did note is that my cohort was, as far as I could tell, pretty white, which is a problem in every kink space I’ve been in thus far. If you’re a person of color considering the course, I will note that from what I’ve seen in a few years of acquaintance, Sinclair is very willing to acknowledge their own room for growth in this area as a white educator, and open to suggestions for how to make space as welcoming as possible for participants of color.
For more information about the facilitator, visit mrsexsmith.com.
Disclosure: Sinclair offered me a discount on this program upon request to participate as a reviewer.