Despite Right Wing Pressure, Straight BDSM Gathering Goes Forward

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Tuesday February 10, 2009

The anti-gay group Americans for Truth About Homosexuality have posted passages from an "action alert" email circulated by a sexual freedoms organization onto the AFTAH Web site, with the text of the accompanying article comparing the observation that hundreds of "BDSM" events, catering to straights and gays alike, take place around the country every year, bolstering business for the hotels that host the gatherings, to government attempts to stimulate the nation's economy.

In previous postings, AFTAH suggested that leather and BDSM events involved sexual activity in public spaces in hotels, and that this led to unsanitary conditions for hotel workers and other guests.

Most recently, AFTAH and other right-wing media targeted the "Winter Wickedness" gathering that was scheduled to take place over the weekend of Feb. 6-8 at a Columbus, OH Holiday Inn.

In an its "action alert," the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom, which AFTAH called a "sadomasochist advocacy group," encouraged readers to contact the hotel targeted by the anti-gay group, and point out several things to the ownership and management of public accommodations.

Read the text of the NCSF email, "Suggested points to make:

"1. Thank you for upholding the Fair Accommodations Act and choosing not to discriminate against legal events.

"2. Please don't let a small number of religious extremists manipulate you by drumming up fear with their misinformation campaigns.

"3. There are over 200 weekend-long BDSM events that take place every year in America b we bring in a lot of revenue in these hard times. We like to stay at hotel chains where we have been welcomed when we're traveling on personal or business travel.

"4. Organizers of BDSM events such as Winter Wickedness at The Holiday Inn comply with state and local laws prohibiting public sexual intercourse and other forms of sexual intimacy. Demonstrations, lectures and discussion groups as well as dinners and evening parties compose the variety of offerings to guests, nothing different from any of the other hundreds of conventions hosted by your franchisees on a weekly basis."

AFTAH referred to the section of the NCSF email that read, "...we bring in a lot of revenue in these hard times" as "perversion stimulus," and characterized its attempts to pressure the hotel's parent corporation and management to cancel the event as "pro-family."

A few weeks earlier, the anti-gay group had succeeded in pressuring a Washington, D.C. hotel into canceling a gay leather and motorcyle convention. The Colombus, OH event was a heterosexual gathering.

Noted, "[AFTAH president] Pete LaBarbera is determined that no one in United States be allowed to enjoy sexual freedom.

"To that end, he's now turned his piggy lust-filled eyes to the straight world's cavalcade of kinkster and swing events, calling on his... followers to deluge an Ohio hotel with complaints about a planned swinger/SM party.

"In his latest missive," the JoeMyGod posting continues, "LaBabera's tongue hangs out as he details all of the various demos and activities slated for this weekend's Winter Wickedness, but he fails to mention the slight detail that this is an event primarily for heterosexuals."

But with the precedent of the earlier Washington, D.C. event's cancellation before them, the NCSF responded with an "action alert," mounting an organized resistance to attempts to mischaracterize and cancel the "Winter Wickedness" event.

The Feb. 4 email from NCSF informed readers that "The religious extremist group, Americans for Truth About Homosexuality, along with a local religious radio station in the Columbus, Ohio, area are running a smear campaign against this pansexual BDSM event," and encouraged anyone willing to support the event to call the hotel's corporate owner.

"It doesn't matter where you live or if you're not going to attend this event," the email read.

"Please call the Intercontinental Hotels Group Corporate Customer service line at 800- 621-0555, then press option 1, then option 5, and thank them for not discriminating against groups, and for being willing to face minor adversity for the sake of our freedom.

"You can also call the Holiday Inn Columbus-Worthington today at 614-436-0700 - they'll be very glad to hear a friendly voice to counter the hatred of the religious extremists," the email continued.

Despite right-wing attempts to close the event down, the gathering went ahead as scheduled, though the hotel's management sought to defuse any conflict before it could occur by offering guests rooms at another local hotel and providing extra security.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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