I saw more boobs last Friday than I have in my entire life. While they aren’t something I generally seek out, at the Rochester Erotic Arts Festival (REAF) last weekend, there were quite a few exposed pairs. However, despite the slightly higher than normal rate of toplessness, the majority of people at REAF were wearing nothing more unusual than jeans and a t-shirt. It is set up similarly to any other art show — artwork hanging on the walls, people being classy, sipping alcoholic drinks and wandering around — just with a little extra fun and a lot of extra kink.From talking to Rauncie Ryan, the co-creator and co-producer of the event and assistant dean of Graduate Student Success at RIT, that seems like it was the goal. “I think that once people walk in, they realize that this is a very classy event,” said Ryan. “We have a lot of fun and it’s just very cool.”
Ryan and her friend Susie Scott hosted their first festival just five years ago. “We came up with this idea of having a juried art show where people could show erotic art because there’s not really a whole lot of outlet for that,” says Ryan.
In organizing the show, Ryan explains that it’s not just about finding artwork that would be classified as erotic but also to “look for artwork that makes people think.”
This year, the REAF had a variety of pieces in many different mediums. There was everything from explicit nude photography to an artist’s collection of “pet” tit, clit and a dick sculptures with googly eyes added. The featured artist for the REAF, a suspension artist named Lew Rubens, came to the event to present a demo on his work. Rubens constructed what he called a puppet suspension technique which would allow his assistant, wearing no more than a thong, a set of high heels and a pair of nipple rings, to move around once she was suspended in the air. He constructed a harness out of rope and then hoisted her into the air using a pulley. There, she did flips and different posses and occasionally asked Rubens to give her a push. After showing how the knots were done, Rubens gave brief, clothed demonstrations of how the technique could be used for more than just erotic photography as well.
Many of the events also looked at how the average person could use the presenter’s artistic techniques for their own pleasure too. “We make sure that our workshops are educating people about positive sex culture,” says Ryan.
Every workshop included safety reminders. For instance, at the workshop about fire massage, safety was an important component, both in knowing how to not burn your partner but also in making sure that people would know how to not burn their house down. In erotic photography, the safety portion was less vital but it still provided some tips on how not to get sued.
Either way, Ryan believes that safety is an important component of each workshop and the festival as a whole. “If people don’t talk about things but are interested in doing things, they might not be getting educated about it and they might do things that could be harmful to themselves or others,” explains Ryan, “We believe that by having educational workshops, we are helping people to be safe and that’s one of the goals of our festival.”
Given the high attendance, this important safety information reached hundreds of people. Last year, between 500 and 600 people attended the event and this year, the numbers were even higher. Maybe they can up it next year too. After all, who doesn’t appreciate sex?
photo by Matthew Burkhartt