The weekend before last, Arisia came to town, and sci-fi and fantasy fans of all ages let their hair down and donned custom-made corsets and kilts.
At the top of this post, you’ll find footage I filmed of my favorite event of the con: the Belly Dance Show (we’ve also uploaded a full playlist of all the performances). The dancers requested that we make as much noise as possible during the show, and in their list of suggested shout-outs they included “wookie noises.” As you’ll hear, the audience was happy to comply.
I shouldn’t have to explain why the Belly Dance Show had standing room only: it involves the skillfully undulating bellies of attractive self-professed nerds, all for the benefit of an equally nerdy audience. And even though Arisia is billed as a sci-fi/fantasy con, the atmosphere is a lot sexier than you’d think - and the belly dancing is only the beginning.
Everywhere I walked, I was surrounded by ladies of all ages, shapes, and sizes in steampunk and rennaissance-inspired burlesque, wearing cleavage as their most eye-catching accessory. The convention had a blood drive - and a bevy of “naughty nurses” who wandered the halls, flirting the blood out of passers-by in a way that would put Edward Cullen to shame. (You can check out a picture of the nurses and other costumed congoers in our Arisia ’10 photo album.)
Arisia has completely defenestrated the notion that liking Star Trek or Dungeons & Dragons won’t get you laid. The women outnumber (or at the very least, equal) the men at most conventions nowadays, and at Arisia, it feels like everybody’s looking for love. Between innocuous Joss Whedon and Doctor Who panels, you’ll find titles like “Flirt Like A Pro” and “Poly Parenting” flooding the schedule, not to mention kinkier councils for BDSM practitioners, furries, et al.
Don’t misunderstand - you’ll get no prudish condemnation of any of this from me (okay, maybe I am condemning the parents of a ten-year-old Columbia cosplayer I saw - but nobody else!). With an openly polyamorus sister getting married this year, I’m familiar with the poly lifestyle, and I know for a fact that it works well for some. I also happen to be a cosplayer and a frequent attendee of Anime cons, so I’m into alternative, performance-based expressions of geekery. It takes a rare level of weirdness to make me feel ostracized.
So, why did I spend Arisia feeling like an outsider? Well, I’m an already-attached monogamist, with bedroom habits that are thoroughly vanilla by Arisia standards. The alternative sex culture at Arisia is as prominent as the sci-fi and fantasy, so if you aren’t devoted to both, then you’re missing half of the fun.
I met my significant other through the Anime con circuit a couple years back, so I often recommend conventions as a good place to meet nerds with similar interests. But even after I found someone, I kept going to cons -- for content, not singles searching. Arisia seems to emphasize the latter over the former. It could be the sex-related panels, the sultry outfits on display in almost every vendor’s shop (and on most of the attendees), the existence of the undeniably sexy Belly Dance Show, and the fact that most of these people are part of New England’s polyamorous social network. Throw all that together, and Arisia starts feeling less like your average fan meet-up and more like Boston’s annual geek meat market.
Should getting laid be a bonus of a con - or the purpose? The answer depends on who you ask. It’s hard enough to separate the geeks from the creeps at your average Anime con (it’s more of a Venn Diagram than an either/or, really). The task becomes even more difficult at Arisia, where the sexual undertones are … not particularly undertoned.
For the record, I did enjoy the sexy aspects of the con - such as RKO Army’s shadow-cast of Repo! The Genetic Opera, the aforementioned belly dancing, and even the “Flirt Like a Pro” panel (I admit, I was only there for the lulz, not the advice). I also enjoyed the nerdier events, like the staging of the radio play Red Shift, and the two hours of old film previews on display at the “Trailer Park” panel. There’s plenty of great material for geeks to take in at Arisia ... but you’ll probably enjoy the whole experience a lot more if you’re single and/or poly.
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