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The Assless Chapel Newsletter #47: Radical Self-Expression and Consent Edition

The Chaplain’s Screed

For those of you who have camped with me, you understand that Radical Self-Expression is one of the Ten Principles I live most and nowhere more so than at Burning Man, much to Red’s chagrin.  I can be myself in ways that would be wildly inappropriate in most other settings.  As we plan our camp, I want you all to think about how you may want to express yourselves through the camp.  This camp belongs to and represents all of us.  If this sounds familiar, it should be, as in this Chaplain’s Screed, I’m largely reiterating and expanding on our Agreements about Radical Self-Expression.

So, if you want to set up a nuru massage station, great!  If you want to put up a myriad of LGBTQIA+ flags, go for it.  If you want to run around naked, I love that for you.  If your thing is having your genitals shocked, more power to you.  Plan a dance performance, man a kissing booth, create a miniature world for everyone to get sauced in, do a little pole dancing, do karaoke, do burlesque, do a karaoke-burlesque-pole dance!  We’re in favor!  Or maybe your thing is just being super friendly and open.  That works, too.

Because that is our ethos, you should, to directly quote our Agreements, “expect to be sharing space with naked, intoxicated humans doing some weird shit and saying things that might not be appropriate in most off-Playa situations.”

You should also make sure that part of your self-expression includes communicating your boundaries.  Self-expression is sometimes in tension with consent.  This can be just the line between being weird/amusing vs. being a prick (like walking through camp singing the Barney song into a megaphone at 8 a.m.)  That is something we all just need to negotiate with each other.  You should always be willing to express your boundaries and try to properly gauge your tone and volume to the situation. 

The flipside is that we must respect others’ boundaries and make a good faith attempt to do so proactively.  Make sure you’re not so into your experience that you fail to consider others’ experience.  If someone sets a boundary, say thank you and, if appropriate, sorry.  If you’re in a situation where you might be pushing someone’s boundaries in a sense that you feel is a good thing, make sure to check in with the other person to ensure that interpretation is shared.  This is not something we’ve had much of a problem with in our camp and we will keep it that way.

Here are some specific guidelines:

   Sexual behavior should always include only people who have made clear they are enthusiastic about it.  Yes, some people like to blur boundaries as part of their kink, but that should be negotiated in advance and made clear before getting into playtime.  No one owes you anything sexual, no matter what, and anyone can revoke sexual consent at any time.

   Touch works along similar lines.  Ask before hugging.  If someone says yes with words, but not with mannerisms, make it a quick, light hug and don’t ask again.  It is true that we develop personal relationships that create space for more casual initiation of touch, but this too can be revoked.  For touch that could be interpreted as initiating sexual behavior, treat it as such.

   Photography is a seriously sensitive issue.  Do not take people’s pictures (or video) without their permission.  If you see people doing so, explain to them that they must first obtain consent.  Yes, it’s probably ok to take pictures of people if they are unidentifiable in the picture but be sensitive: taking a picture from atop a giant piece of art where everyone down below look like ants is fine, but taking a picture of someone showing his butthole but not his face is not fine without permission.

   Gifts are great, but there are also consent issues around this.  Not everyone wants to be sprayed with cold water.  And absolutely do not spray scented water without affirmative consent – people have allergies.  Never dose someone without permission.  Tell people what’s in food or drinks you hand them.  Someone may be drunk or high and not mention an allergy.

   And here’s one for me: when you’re engaging in a conversation that’s long, controversial or possibly offensive, check in with other people to give them an out: “Should I stop?”  “Do you want to talk to someone else?”  “Am I going on too long?”  “Do you need to get somewhere?”

No, we’re not going to be perfect, but we must get the big things absolutely right and, like with every other Principle, we’ll keep working on the rest.  Now, if you haven’t yet, read this.

Group News Redacted

Camp Planning

Wedding Planning

We have our first legal wedding in the pipeline.  Jolanda and Marcel are two Dutch folks coming to Burning Man for the first time and we’re going to marry them!  I’ll share more details as they come in.  Still no one for the Center Camp wedding, but I just started posting to FB groups about this.  If you’d like to help with this, feel free to let me know if you have an idea for a couple, food, music or drinks.

Other Camp Planning

If you haven’t yet confirmed the meetings below, please let me know.

·         First Week of May: Peaches, Peter, Curtis and Katie, in Salida!

·         May 9th 8p: Mojito Molly

·         May 22nd 8p:  Sia

·         May 28th 8p:  Fresh as Fuck and Rahul

·         May 29th 8p:  Ellie

·         June 4th ­­8p: Stupid Seamus and Red 

On another note, let me know if you want to show up early this year for build week.

Red Folder Video: How to Effectively Use a Fire Extinguisher

Here’s your Red Folder assignment for the week (I’m putting them on YouTube now to save my own cloud space).  If you want a podcast, download it here.

Black Rock City News and Acculturation

·         Some news on BORG’s plans for Center Camp, now called Central Plaza (where we are hopefully doing a wedding!)

·         Burner Express Bus tickets go on sale May 8th.

·         Some cool info and video about Fire Conclave and El Diabla.

Placement and Ticketing News Redacted

Schedule Redacted

Upcoming Tasks

To Do in the Next 10 Days


·         Send me any updates on your plans to join us or bring friends.

·         If you haven’t yet, please look through the spreadsheet, so you know where to find essential information.

·         Let me know if you have any news you want to share.

·         Help figure out a couple to marry or arrange for music, booze or food.

·         Let me know if you CANNOT do the time I scheduled to meet with you by Zoom.

·         Once STEP opens up, arrange to sell and buy tickets and vehicle passes.

·         Here’s your Red Folder assignment for the week (I’m putting them on YouTube now to save my own cloud space).  If you want a podcast, download it here.


·         Review red folder and begin Quixotic quest to share with everyone.

·         Try to find a couple to marry in Center Camp.

Curtis & Matt

·         Get me the signed agreements.

To Do in the Next 30 Days


·         Let me know if you want to join us for Build Week.

TAC and Stupid Seamus

   Stain, sand and spruce up The Dusty Altar Bar.  Add wheels?

   Write and approve a script for Jolanda and Marcel.

To Do in the Next 60 Days


·         Find our camp listing and share.

·         Find out our placement and share.

·         Print wedding certificates.

·         Put our events into WhatWhereWhen.

·         Finalize WAPs.

TAC and Stupid Seamus

·         Pull out and spruce up the altar and signage.

Closing Thoughts

These are The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence:

The Sisters refer to themselves as “a leading-edge Order of queer and trans nuns … [who] believe all peole have a right to express their unique joy and beauty.  Since … [their] first appearance in San Francisco on Easter Sunday, 1979, the Sisters have devoted [them]selves to community service, ministry and outreach to those on the edges, and to promoting human rights, respect for diversity and spiritual enlightenment … [they] use humor and irreverent wit to expose the forces of bigotry, complacency and guilt that chain the human spirit.”

Part of this is their dedication to community service, but most obvious is their Radical Self-Expression.  Many of them have been Burners since the 90s and have had a strong influence on Black Rock City’s culture.  They are, most certainly, exemplars of Radical Self-Expression and some of the few Burners whose self-expression is more radical off-playa than on-playa.

“I’m here, and I’m just as strange as you.”
- Frida Kahlo

The Sisters can be seen around the Bay Area, even up in Sonoma County sometimes and they’re hard to miss.  There’s even a local bank up here that will let you get a debit card with a picture of them on it.  While times have changed, when they were first getting started, their in-your-face queerness and dedication to making the world a better place made them like points of light for young queer people in a world that was often quite dark for them. 

Whether queer or not, the world can often seem dark to us and more often a blasé grey. We owe it to ourselves to find those points of light in our lives: a baby’s laugh when you’re standing in line at the grocery; a dandelion poking out of broken asphalt; the people who run to help during a disaster; the art that a homeless man created all over your city’s downtown; the guy dressed up as a wine bottle for no good reason at the farmer’s market; the crate of free persimmons on the town green; a three-year old blowing bubbles on the sidewalk – the list goes on an on. 

One of the things that makes Burning Man special is that, with everyone encouraged to exhibit Radical Self-Expression, those points of light are everywhere.  Literally everywhere.  Amazing art, sexy burners in sexy outfits, creative gifting, random weirdness, a community coming together to do unprecented things for just this little bit of time.  It is a grouping of bright lights that come together to form a constellation of communal self-expression, constantly adorned with those shooting stars that grab your attention amidst the dazzling light radiated from all those little lights working together to illuminate the darkness and banish the mundane grey of everyday life.

“Yesterday’s Weirdness is Tomorrow’s Reason Why”
- Hunter S. Thompson

The Man Burns in 123 days! 

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