Move over, Ramada Inn and Howard Johnson. Another major hotel chain is about to host a sadomasochist conference – this time, it’s Hilton.
In January, the American Family Association of Michigan and Concerned Women for America of Illinois exposed sadomasochistic events at Ramada Inns in those states. Earlier this month, Missouri pro-family activists revealed another sex bash named “Beat Me in St. Louis IV” scheduled to take place April 26-28 at the Howard Johnson St. Louis Airport hotel.
Now, a Hilton hotel is preparing to welcome pain lovers. Tribal Fire Oklahoma, a leather fetish weekend that includes sadomasochistic workshops, is scheduled to be held April 19-21 at the Hilton Oklahoma City Northwest. The event is sponsored by the Oklahoma City chapter of the National Leather Assocation in conjunction with the Sooner State Leather Contest. NLA is described as “a panfetish, pansexual organization committed to the exploration, support and inclusion of all forms of alternative sexual expression and gender orientations” on the group’s website.
According to Tribal Fire website pages, which have since been removed, scheduled “seminars” include: “Suturing and Cutting,” “Body Punching,” “Humiliation and Objectification,” “Puppy Play,” “Branding,” “Pervertables,” “Fire Play,” “Electrical Play,” “Buying the Right Corset” and male and female genital torture workshops.
Another seminar titled “Point of Impact” is described as “a whip workshop for the advanced handler” that will offer “further discussion of the dynamics of whip play in scenes and advanced cracking techniques as well as medical concerns on breaking the skin while breaking the sound barrier.”
Presenters include “JailStrap,” a man whose “first electrical toy was a cattle prod that he spent time testing on himself to adjust the power output” and “Mistress Nona” who “gave up her day job to become a full-time Domme (female dominant) who makes her living dreaming up devious ways to torment and train her submissives.”
A planned “vendor fair” will feature sales of such S&M accoutrements as “underground dungeon music for BDSM (bondage and discipline, domination and submission, sadism and masochism) play” and “Quality bondage and BDSM gear, leather clothing for men and women, low-temp wax play candles, unique floggers and other whipping implements, dungeon furniture … medical and torture toys, plus custom leather work and more at exceptional prices!!”
The weekend package also includes “After Hours Parties (2 nights),” a “Fetish Ball” and “Military Ball,” “Sooner State Leather Contests” and an excursion to the Oklahoma City National Memorial.
In addition, representatives of the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom, a pro-sadism lobbying and advocacy organization, will host “an open strategy session to focus on issues related to sexual freedom in the South/Central U.S.” and a workshop titled “What to do when the Law knocks on YOUR Door.”
‘We don’t discriminate’
According to its website, Beverly Hills-based “Hilton Hotels Corporation is recognized internationally as a preeminent hospitality company … owning, managing and franchising hotels with several of the world’s most recognized brand names, including Hilton, Hampton Inn, Doubletree, Embassy Suites Hotels, Homewood Suites by Hilton and Conrad Hotels. …”
Mark Davis, general manager of the Hilton Oklahoma City Northwest, confirmed the Tribal Fire booking.
When asked if he was aware of the content of the seminars, Davis said, “We do not comment on a group. When we qualify a group, we qualify them on the basis of ability to pay and whether their needs meet our space requirements. We do not try to make a judgment about what they are or what they do.” Davis said he did not know if Tribal Fire planned to set up a dungeon or conduct live torture demonstrations. “The agenda that they have furnished for us is information only.”
Regarding public health concerns for hotel workers or guests who might come into contact with contaminated blood or other body fluids, Davis said, “We consistently train our staff on how to deal with risk factors associated with blood-borne pathogen illnesses. We do not anticipate any problems. We’ve done our homework on this group and they have received consistently high marks on how they conduct themselves.”
“[Any] concern about what the group does needs to be addressed to them. We provide meeting space for groups who contact us,” said Davis.
Hilton Vice President of Corporate Communications Kathy Shepard echoed Davis’ remarks: “We have a policy that we don’t discriminate against anyone. We’re a place of public accommodation, as long as they aren’t doing anything illegal. We’ve held events of just about any kind at any of our hotels. As I said – and I’ll say it again if you need me to – we don’t discriminate.”
Family accommodations available during Tribal Fire
Another Tribal Fire webpage, also removed, describes Hilton’s generous group discount rate for fetishists: “This hotel is reserved exclusively for this event so it will be just us and staff. Smoking rooms are already in short supply. Reservations end and the remaining rooms, if any, open to the public April 4th for standard rates. Rooms are $85 per night. The Tribal Fire rate is lower than their standard rate, which begins at $139.99. So take advantage of this great rate by booking your room by April 4, 2002.” Complimentary airport shuttle service is also included.
On April 5, telephone calls were placed to Hilton’s nationwide reservation system and the event hotel requesting rates for a family of four, consisting of two adults and two children, for the nights of April 19 and 20. In both cases, Hilton agents confirmed that family accommodations are available during the Tribal Fire event. General Manager Davis also confirmed that he is currently accepting reservations from the public.
Asked about Tribal Fire, Lieutenant Doug Kimberlin of the Oklahoma City Police Department special projects unit said, “There was a similar event last year that we obtained information on, and nothing that they were doing or displaying was against state law. The name they went by last year was Leather and Lace. I don’t know if it’s the same people or a different group, but we did investigate. Last year, we didn’t know what to expect when we went in, but they didn’t do anything that was remotely close to illegal.
“Just from the descriptions (of the planned seminars),” he continued, “I don’t know exactly what’s going to go on, but as long as they don’t use any adult nude subjects, I don’t know that there would be a legal issue involved. Obviously, if you have a nude woman there during the genital torture sessions, that would get into zoning laws pertaining to adult entertainment. We have other requirements governing adult entertainment that certain parts of their bodies have to be covered. If they are showing pictures, as long as they’re not showing intercourse, they’re not breaching our morality standards and the pornography statutes do not come into play. If they’re live and nude, then there are legal requirements that come into play.”
When asked if there are any protections for children or other members of the general public who might witness Tribal Fire participants dressed in fetish attire or vendor tables displaying sadomasochistic “toys,” Kimberlin said, “It’s not the kind of place I would take my children to, but there’s nothing in state law that prohibits dungeon furniture from being displayed. That’s getting into personal issues, and I can’t make an arrest for that.”
Churches called to pray for sadomasochists
David Dunn, research director of the Oklahoma Family Policy Council, had this reaction: “In agreeing to be the host hotel for Tribal Fire 2002, Hilton Hotels – like Ramada, Howard Johnson, Disney and so many other major corporations – is unfortunately placing allegiance to the almighty dollar above its responsibility to look out for the best interests of kids, families, business travelers and others in the mainstream of society.
“Our Oklahoma laws allow just about anything. Tribal Fire conventioneers can learn all about torture equipment and attend the Fetish Ball. They can scrupulously follow the city’s indecency rules, which require men and women to keep their genitals covered with a 2-inch strip up the back and for women to cover their nipples. Then, with all the Ts crossed and Is dotted, hotel guests apparently aren’t supposed to complain, and police can’t arrest. What’s wrong with this picture?”
Dunn concluded, “How sad that these events – once held underground – are now promoted openly in society. Maybe churches will overcome evil with good and make these emerging sadomasochist conventions nationwide a matter of prayer, action and evangelism.”
Allyson Smith is a freelance reporter based in San Diego.