Sex at Burning Man

Posted on September 6, 2011

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When people who’ve never been to Burning Man before ask me, “What is Burning Man?” It is an almost impossible question to answer. It is a combination of so many things, and so many different types of people from many different walks of life. Of course there are those who’ve never been, yet think they know what its all about. “It’s a bunch of dirty hippies”, “its a huge orgy”, or “its a bunch of people on drugs,” are some of the most common stereotypes I’ve heard.

At the rate the event is growing, up to 50,000 people this year and 70,000 expected next year, it seems that it may be attracting more and more men who think their $350 ticket purchase includes a guarantee of getting laid all week long. They seem to think that “Burning Man Women” are all horny sex fiends that just can’t wait to take their pants off for the first yahoo that walks by. When the reality differs from their pornographic fantasy induced expectations,  they may be in for quite a disappointment.

Of course Burning Man is a place where people can feel free to explore any number of sexual fantasies from group sex, to participating in the “harness races” (and please don’t ask me what that is). One year we camped next to a group of middle-aged swingers and were out with them one night when they all started taking their clothes off and messing around. I wasn’t really bothered by that, I just thought it was gross, but kind of funny. It was one of those crazy things you end up seeing at Burning man and laughing about later.

There are certain places within Burning Man, specific camps where people can go to explore this type of thing, but its not out in the open, and if this is the kind of experience you are looking for, then I recommend seeking out these camps. I’m all for people being free to explore their sexuality in any way they wish as long as everyone is a consenting adult and has not been coerced or forced into doing something they don’t want to.

The problem is that it seems there are some who think that free self-expression at Burning Man means the dissolution of all sexual boundaries. They think that they are “owed” some sort of sexual experience, and that every woman who goes is OK with being grabbed and stared at lewdly. She must be, right, if she goes to Burning Man? I’ve heard way too many horror stories from women who’ll never go back because of bad experiences, ranging from mild sexual harassment to rape. There’s a story I heard, about a nearly-naked woman who was dancing when a large group of men swarmed around her and started grabbing and touching her all over. She was not able to get away from them in spite of her yelling and protesting. That is definitely sexual assault, and I would define it as being a severe one equivalent to rape, although the exact definition of rape may vary according to technicalities. The woman was traumatized by her experience and the men who did that to her should be in jail.

In addition to being date raped one year at Burning Man, I’ve had some other unpleasant encounters, such as the time a guy I just met kissed me on the neck when I leaned in to hug him, and when another man I didn’t even know, started describing explicitly what he wanted to do to parts of my body. The guy who kissed me on the neck was actually someone I found attractive at first but after his disrespectful behavior, I felt nothing but repulsion towards him. Even these minor transgressions make me feel violated and angry now years later as I recall them. These incidents demonstrate a serious problem within the community that needs to be addressed.


One year I traveled to Burning Man with a girlfriend I had just met, and an older guy named Barry. He seemed like a nice guy and invited us to join his camp which sounded like a diverse and welcoming group of people ranging in age from about sixteen to sixty, including his kids and some of their friends. Well this man pulled all manner of manipulative tricks to try and get one of us to have sex with him. I was assured before we left that all of my gear would fit in his truck, otherwise I was going to plan to rent my own vehicle. When they arrived to pick me up, he told me my stuff wouldn’t fit and told me not to bring my tent. He said he had a tent we could all share. After making a big fuss about that, it was found that my stuff could all actually fit in the truck. Later in Reno we stopped for the night, and he wanted us to all share a room, and even though I kept saying I was going to pay for my own room, he kept insisting we all share one room.

The next day at the grocery store, he said my friend and I didn’t need to buy any food, that he would buy it all and the group would feed us. I felt like he wanted to put us in a position where we were completely reliant on him for everything for the whole week, and his behavior seemed so controlling. He wouldn’t take no for an answer. He kept telling me over and over that I didn’t need to buy food, even though I kept insisting that I did. I later read that offering favors that aren’t asked for and not taking no for an answer is an early sign of abusive behavior. After we arrived at the event, he latched onto me for a few days, and every time I tried to go off on my own and do my own thing he would follow me.

One time he came and sat down next to me and started rubbing my bare leg. I felt like I couldn’t say anything about it because he was our ride and that if I did the other camp members would think I was being a bitch. The issue came up again about the tent. He ended up setting up his tent and said we could all sleep in his tent together. He ended up using the tent that I had brought, and it ended up collapsing half way through the week. I wouldn’t be surprised if he broke it on purpose so he could try to weasel his way into ours. Then he started complaining to others in the camp about how we weren’t including him and that it hurt his feelings. He claimed that his feelings towards us were just “brotherly/sisterly.” but on the way home he kept asking my friend over and over if she would go to the hotsprings with him for the night and wouldn’t take no for an answer. Then he later emailed her saying that she should have had sex with him because he “took” us to Burning Man and that he was really angry about it.

While nothing happened to us that week, I feel like if one of us had gotten too drunk he would have tried to take advantage of the situation. I’m guessing that he trolls around online forums looking for hot, young girls who want to go to Burning Man who he can take advantage of. While my friend and I, no longer being teenagers, don’t really think of ourselves as “young girls” and don’t believe its inappropriate to socialize with people a few decades older than ourselves, we are clearly not interested in a sexual relationship with someone thirty or forty years older. Ironically, this man seemed to attract a lot of interest from women his own age, but he didn’t want anything to do with them. He had some deluded fantasy that he was going to hook up with someone half his age.

In addition to the fact that he made our week pretty uncomfortable, he’s the type who acts like the epitome of  the “cool, artsy  burner guy” He claims to be an artist, and goes around giving out these really ugly necklaces to everyone, and volunteers to be a Black Rock Ranger. I think that one thing people don’t realize is that anyone can volunteer to be a ranger. I doubt they do any sort of background checks on people or give much training. The title sounds official, which I think can be a problem when dealing with serious crimes (such as rapes). I don’t want to see anyone arrested for smoking a little pot, or minor things like that, but I do think they need more trained professionals there. As I update this now, I’d like to add that I recently learned through an acquaintance that a male friend of hers was sexually assaulted by a Black Rock Ranger, showing that this is an issue that doesn’t only affect women.

In closing, I’d just like to make it clear, if you see a girl who’s young and hot, and think that because she’s at Burning Man it’s OK to go up and touch her or grab her, or make some sort of inappropriate explicit sexual remark, think again. You’ll probably just make an ass of yourself, and if you’re not careful you could even end up behind bars. The best thing to do if you don’t understand what Burning Man is about and don’t know how to handle yourself, is to stay home, or maybe you’d rather save your money for a hooker at Mustang Ranch. You might have better luck there. Better yet, if you’re really desperate to get laid at Burning Man I’m sure some fifty-year old swinger would love it if you got it on with his wife while he watches.


Note: I don’t condone prostitution. This is a comment I received in response to my other blog post, Date Rape at Burning Man, and I think it is an important issue for people to be aware of:

“I am a sex trade victim who were raped by various men in your country, United States.
While sex crimes do occur and happen to other american females, many foreign victims who are unable to speak the language can experience something really disturbing.
and I am the one who has experienced this and have been getting various death threats for past 10 years. they told me that I would be locked up in mental hospital for lying. I have already been locked up in mental institution twice. I am an educated and bright young woman who just were raped violently for 10 years in United States. and your country men are responsible for this. they Sadistically abuse, use foreign women and make illegal videos of them, make profit, and have them commit suicides. and if you can tolerate Your man to do this to a young woman, foreign or american…I think it’s just absolutely the worst thing that can possibly happen to a female..its a lot worse than a shooting a person with a gun. at least the pain is instant. this underground crime is something I am very well aware of and experienced. and I can share more..But I just hope that the women in your country need to be informed about this…so that way, they can decide “am I going to live with a guy who has done this to a other woman, and have never publically spoken out against this atrocity?”

Because I can guarantee that 98% of men watch these porns and many of these porn stars, both foreign and american have committed suicides.
you have experienced a sexual assault, and I think thats really bad but..
what these women go through as “brain-dead, chemically induced, horny lab rat” is beyond inhumane and down right disturbing….

meaning that most of these men are rapists and support of rapes of other women.
and the fact that these naive women live with these rapists men, just disturbs me so much.
just like you would hate to think of the man, tim who raped you, to seduce some young woman and marry her and she would have no idea, how many women he had raped and practically ruined their lives.

and this statistic applies to sadly majority of your country men as well as majority of my country men as well.”