By Susan Wright
The 2008 survey saw a total of 3,058 responses collected. Of those, 2,412 respondents resided in the United States (83.4%). Of the remaining 480 respondents, a total of over 42 other countries were represented. Where appropriate, the data is compared to the 1998 Violence & Discrimination Survey Against Sexual Minorities which collected over 1,000 responses to similar questions over the course of a year. The 1998 survey did not cover business or event-related experiences of harassment, nor did it ask about Internet experiences. The 2008 survey also included more questions about sexual activity and identity.
|Table 1. Gender||2008||1998|
|Table 2. Sexual Orientation
A total of 1,146 (37.5%) respondents indicated that they had either been discriminated against, had experienced some form of harassment or violence, or had some form of harassment or discrimination aimed at their BDSM-leather-fetish-related business. Of the respondents who reported some form of persecution,
- 476 (41.5%) identified as male
- 615 (53.7%) identified as female
- 9 (.8%) identified as intersexed
- 78 (6.8%) identified as transgendered
(Sexual orientation, like gender, was a question which required some answer, but allowed respondents to choose as many as they felt might apply, so the percentage totals more than 100%.)
Of the 1,146 respondents who indicated that they had either been discriminated against or had experienced some form of harassment or violence,
- 380 (33.2%) identified as heterosexual,
- 440 (38.4%) identified as bisexual
- 292 (25.5%) identified as gay or lesbian.
- 97 (8.5%) indicated that they identified in some other way from heterosexual, bisexual or gay/lesbian.
(Sexual orientation, like gender, was a question which required some answer, but allowed respondents to choose as many as they felt might apply, so the percentage totals more than 100%.)
The sexual orientation of respondents who were discriminated against or had experienced some form of harassment or violence is compared in Table 6.1 to the total percentage of respondents who identified their orientation. It is interesting to note that Gay/lesbian, Bisexual and Other respondents have slightly higher rates of persecution than their average percentage of total respondents, while Heterosexuals are less likely to be discriminated against.
|Table 3. Sexual Orientation
In 1998, the survey asked: "Are you completely 'out' about your involvement in sexual minority practices? "62% stated they were not "completely out." That is statistically almost the same as the 59.5 and 59.7% of respondents in the current survey who said they weren't out to work and/or family.
11.3% (346) of the total number of respondents (3,058) reported being discriminated against by professional or personal service providers. That is 30% (346) of the respondents who were discriminated against (1,146). Those respondents could check one or more of the specific ways they were discriminated against (Table 8.), with 48.8% discriminated against by a medical doctor, and 39.3% discriminated against by a mental health practitioner.
|Table 4. Discrimination by Professionals|
|Mental health practitioner||39.3%|
|Police or govt. employee||25.4%|
|Other Professional service provider||8.4%|
|Other Personal service provider||6.1%|
In total, 203 (6.6%) respondents stated their business had been harassed or discriminated against.
Respondents could check one or more of the specific ways they were discriminated against
|Table 5. Business Discrimination|
|Negative media coverage||26.1%|
|Harassment by police/author||22.2%|
|Harassment by neighbors||20.7%|
|Harassment by organizations||20.2%|
|Loss of lease||17.7%|
|Refused credit card services||14.8%|
|Loss of business||13.8%|
|Refused insurance coverage||8.9%|
|Loss of occupancy certificate||4.9%|
When asked, "Have you curtailed your use of the Internet for fear of prosecution?" More than one-third of the respondents, 1,065 (34.8%) of the 3058 respondents, said "yes". Respondents could check one or more of the specific ways they curtailed their Internet use (Table 10.).
|Table 6. Curtailed Internet Use|
|Didn't post image||71.5%|
|Didn't visit website||45.7%|
|Didn't post text||43.4%|
|Didn't link to website||38.7%|
|Didn't join email group||31.0%|
|Posted 18-over warn||25.7%|
|Didn't add meta-text||8.0%|
9.3% of respondents, 285 out of the total returned surveys, reported that US 2257 had an impact on their use of the Internet. Of the 1,065 respondents who indicated that they had curtailed their use of the Internet regarding BDSM activities, 214 (20.1%) reported that US 2257 was a significant reason for that curtailment.
When respondents who experienced violence and/or harassment were asked, "Did you press charges?" 90% said no as compared to 96% of the respondents in the 1998 survey who did not press charges.
|Table 7. Reasons Declined To Press Charges|
|Fear of further harassment||41.0%|
|Fear of family disapproval||24.1%|
|Fear of job safety||22.2%|
|Fear of legal repercussions||21.9%|
|Fear of losing child custody||10.6%|
Copyright Susan Wright, Survey of Violence & Discrimination Agaisnt Sexual Minorities (2008)
When we applied for a street fair permit for an outdoor leather
festival, we were met with tremendous opposition from a very vocal
member of the local community board, implying that Leather people
belong behind closed doors and out of the public eye where children and
others could see them. Not knowing how to handle this, I immediately
contacted the NCSF for their help in this matter. After speaking with
Susan Wright at the NCSF, I was more than armed with important
information and a long list of our rights, feeling ready to face not
only the community board but the local press with confidence and
Because of a ten minute conversation the NCSF, not only were we awarded the street fair permit for the event, but the community board voted unanimously in our favor. In addition, the NCSF made sure they were on hand at the Leather weekend, meeting with the media, making sure we came off looking good in the public light.
Our event could not have happened without the experience and support of the NCSF and we are very thankful an organization such as this exists.
New York Leather Weekend
As Director of one of the largest BDSM/Fetish educational events in the country - The Floating World, I have had numerous occasions to work with people from NCSF in assuring the event goes off with minimal friction. They have offered invaluable advice on dealing with municipal authorities and have been very helpful in dealing with an always-prying media. Susan Wright of NCSF has been our media relations expert from the beginning, and has done wonders in keeping us out of the media circus spotlight.
One particular case was when a reporter from The Star Ledger newspaper decided our event was excellent human interest material, even though we explained clearly that we wanted no press. Susan spent much time on the phone and in person with this very determined reporter and managed to expertly turn the focus away from us. She did her best to get the story canceled, but when the Editor wouldn't have it she did excellent damage control, injecting positive elements into the story and delaying the release of the article until AFTER our event, avoiding a flood of curiosity seekers and other media looking for their own stories.
What could have easily been a media disaster became a manageable issue, and her help meant I could focus on keeping the event on track and protecting the privacy of our attendees.
Director - The Floating World
Planning a larger kink event like Winter Wickedness is stressful enough, without adding in efforts to shut it down by the Radical Right. Although we recognized an effort such as this is largely based on misinformation and people’s fear of the unknown, we had invested significant amounts of time, effort and capitol, and were unwilling to be swayed by biased attempts to cancel the event.
With two weeks left before opening day, we heard that a local Christian radio station had done an inflammatory story on our event. Subsequently, the host hotel began receiving a smattering of calls from the listeners demanding the event’s cancellation. We initially contacted the NCSF to consult with their specialists as a preparatory step, in case this was picked up by the mainstream media.
A week later, the Radical Right had discovered their efforts were not producing the desired effect. They stepped it up and began contacting the mainstream media, the local authorities, including the health dept, the fire marshal, the local police dept, etc – in an effort to bring more pressure. We again reached out to the NCSF, which had Susan on the case, and Robin coming in for the event. Between the coordination of the Action Alert e-mails, Robin on the ground as the local media spokesperson, Susan keeping the heat on, and calling in to offer the media another voice – we had the NCSF as an invaluable ally in maintaining our sexual freedoms.
Although what it is that we do (WIITWD) is legal, safe, sane and consensual and had been given the go ahead by the local and state authorities; the radical right’s sensationalism, grassroots efforts and pointed innuendos implying inappropriate behavior, can create enough fear to jeopardize a venue. The NCSF has proven to us, beyond any doubt, that they are willing and able to fight back the bias and discriminatory efforts against us. The NCSF is a valuable asset to the Kink, Leather, GLBT and Alt Sex lifestyles. Adventures In Sexuality (AIS) is proud to be an NCSF Coalition Partner and will continue to bring the NCSF to all our events.
Barak & Sheba
Owners – Adventures In Sexuality
Adventures In Sexuality
Susan Wright of NCSF held the positions of Public Relations Director and Media Spokesperson for TES Fest 08, a 700-person weekend event over the 2008 July 4th weekend hosted at the Radisson Hotel in Piscataway NJ. This TES event, like the previous one, had the challenge of establishing a working relationship with a new venue and a new town. Susan continued to be a great ambassador for us as she met with the hotel, police and fire departments and did a spectacular job with helping us to forge a new set of relationships. She also, along with her vast resources at NCSF, helped research all relevant laws in the new town we were in to ensure that our event was in total legal compliance. In particular, she also performed admirably at-event in interfacing with the local law enforcement personnel which we hired as auxiliary security staff. We owe Susan a hearty "Thank You" for a series of 4 TES Fest's that were trouble free!
Director, TES Association
Executive Director, TES Fest 08
Susan Wright of NCSF has helped Paddles, the BDSM nightclub here in NYC, tremendously in the various issues we have encountered over the last few years involving all applicable laws/policies and interfacing with the local community. With NCSF's resources and her own years of expertise, she has worked diligently with us to research the health code regulations in NYC and how they affect an alternative sexuality nightclub such as ours. She has also done extensive work with us towards the goal of the city removing and/or amending its "anti-sex club" policies which has created an environment which makes it challenging for Paddles, a legal BDSM nightclub establishment, to operate in. She has also helped us understand and stay in compliance with all other regulations that would affect a club such as ours. Susan is a great asset to have "on our side" who is always available to lend us assistance. Thanks for all the help, Susan!
Some Quick Facts:
- Millions of Americans practice some form of kink or nonmonogamy in their loving and caring relationships.
- These consenting adults have created over 1,000 nonprofit educational and social groups, and hundreds of businesses across the country.
- People from all walks of life, including professionals, parents, teachers and police officers, practice kinky sex.
- In the 2008 and 1998 Violence & Discrimination Surveys conducted by NCSF, 37% of the 3,000 people surveyed said they had been discriminated against or suffered from harassment or violence
BDSM vs. Abuse
Guidelines for distinguishing between safe, sane & consensual SM & abuse
What is Polyamory?
Overview of demographics of polyamory, benefits and types of relationships.
What is the Lifestyle?
Overview of demographics of swingers, and social and sexual attitudes
NCSF Supports Your Rights
NCSF On the Front Lines
NCSF Supports Your Rights!
In 2003, National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (NCSF) once again took the lead in defending the rights of individuals and groups in the SM-leather-fetish, swing and polyamory communities. NCSF's coalition of 38 educational and social groups is committed to creating a political, legal, and social environment in the United States that advances equal rights of consenting adults who practice forms of alternative sexual expression.
Leigha Fleming directs NCSF's Incident Response team. In total during 2003, NCSF responded to more than 500 cases, with more than 1,300 contacts between NCSF and individuals, groups, attorneys, prosecutors, and businesses that requested assistance. Some incidents required only one or two phone calls, but many evolved into much larger projects such as the attacks by religious political groups against SM conferences.
In 42% of the incidents, NCSF assisted individuals. The largest category of incidents involved parents who were engaged in child custody and divorce cases. Parents continue to experience difficulties gaining child custody due to their interest in SM, swing or poly activities. NCSF worked with a number of attorneys representing parents accused of being unfit because of their alternative lifestyle interests. In many cases, because of information we were able to provide, the courts decided that alternative sexual expression alone was not cause to impugn a parent's ability to be a good parent.
We also helped families dealing with child protective services because of their alternative lifestyle interests.
NCSF saw a sharp rise in the number of requests for help from individuals experiencing employment discrimination because of their involvement in alternative lifestyles in 2003. Individuals also consulted with NCSF on a variety of other issues, including: the legality of obscene materials, guidelines for posting sexually frank information on websites, the law regarding private parties, criminal cases, dealing with law enforcement and dealing with personal media exposure.
In 2003, NCSF also opposed zoning and other local regulatory measures against those who practice some form of alternative sexual expression. NCSF assisted the swing communities in Illinois and North Carolina by working with them to fight back against punitive zoning restrictions. In addition, we extended our outreach to the polyamory community in 2003 by working with individuals impacted by discrimination against their relationship style.
Opposition to SM events based on religious concerns continued in 2003. The host hotel for My Vicious Valentine (February 14-16) received calls from Concerned Women for America at the end of January. The CWA attack against My Vicious Valentine fizzled out, in large part due to the extensive education about SM events that NCSF did for local authorities in 2002. Only one reporter called NCSF from the hotline number posted on MVV's website.
The Tribal Fire conference (April 4-6) in Oklahoma was again targeted by religious groups who took out ads in the local papers denouncing SM practices and threatening to picket the event. Tribal Fire's organizers met with the police detective and the hotel to ensure the event would go on as planned. However four Mennonites held a prayer vigil in the hotel lobby for 72 hours. NCSF staff members attended Tribal Fire and spoke out about the importance of standing up for our rights.
When Concerned Women for America attacked International Mr. Leather (May 30-June 1) they quoted the Illinois State Health Department as saying there is a higher rate of STDs in homosexual men. CWA proclaimed that IML was therefore a danger to employees and guests at the host hotel. Susan Wright contacted the Illinois State Health Department, and the AIDS/Infectious Diseases department declared they would speak to any media outlet to debunk the CWA's absurd claims. IML was held as planned.
The Black Rose conference (November 11-14) was forced to move from Ocean City, Maryland, back to their former host hotel in New Carrollton, Maryland when two churches in Ocean City led a grass-roots movement to prevent the event from taking place in their rural resort town. There was a great deal of initial confusion regarding Black Rose's media response, and as a result, there were many misrepresentations and prejudicial and inaccurate descriptions included in the articles in the Maryland Coast Dispatch and the Daily Times of Salisbury which inflamed the situation. NCSF attempted to mediate the situation by providing accurate and unbiased information on SM/leather/fetish to the local media.
Fetish in the Fall (November 20-23) scheduled to take place in Kenner, Louisiana (part of metropolitan New Orleans) was moved after it was attacked by the Kenner police chief. Police Chief Nick Congemi urged hotel managers to decline any request to hold the event in any Kenner hotel. In his letter and press release to the media, Chief Congemi stated that "allowing the event to take place would seriously jeopardize the family atmosphere for which Kenner is noted." Congemi had already announced his run for mayor of Kenner (election held in March, 2004). For many years prior to this, Congemi had allowed his police officers to work as off-duty security for the adult swing conference in Kenner, N'awlins in November, produced by the same company that produced Fetish in the Fall. NCSF was called in immediately and was able to generate positive media coverage of this incident.
NCSF also opposed zoning and other local regulatory measures against those who practice some form of alternative sexual expression. NCSF assisted the swing communities in North Carolina and Illinois by holding open-forum discussions about how to affect zoning regulations and current litigation against lifestyle clubs. NCSF also worked with the Gay and Lesbian Activist Alliance (GLAA) to lobby against the Washington DC's Alcoholic Beverage Control regulation 905, which has been used to prohibit SM play in local establishments with liquor licenses even when liquor isn't being sold or consumed. In response to an Action Alert created and distributed in conjunction with D.C. Sexual Minority Advocates (DCSMA), NCSF received over 130 cc'ed letters from community members stating they were concerned that this regulation will prevent SM community spaces from existing in Washington D.C.
The Labyrinth in Denver, a community SM space, was shut down by a restraining order because of zoning violations. The undercover investigation took many months. The Denver community organized an ad hoc group called COSMA (Colorado SM Advocates) to fight for their right to have an SM club. NCSF conducted multiple interviews with the Denver Post, Rocky Mountain News, Lakewood Sentinel, Channel 7, ABC affiliate, and KHOW 630 AM radio during this incident.
NCSF gave 67 media interviews in 2003, with Susan Wright, Spokesperson, giving 49 interviews and Sue Gould, Swing Spokesperson, giving 18 interviews. Clubs and businesses regularly contact NCSF to receive media training for incidents or prior to holding an event.
NCSF began working with John Cloud, a reporter with Time Magazine in November 2003 on an article about the SM community, its history and practices. NCSF assisted in locating appropriate people in the SM community to be interviewed. Several SM conferences considered allowing the reporter into their event, but concerns over privacy prevented that. The positive article was published in January 2004.
In Indianapolis, a female professional dominant gave an interview with the local newspaper and Channel 6 News in May. This caused serious problems for her because she was located near a church-school and ran a home-based business (a D/s and role-play salon) with no business license or permits. The media and police received an anonymous tip about her illegal business operation. NCSF encouraged her to seek proper zoning, educated her about dealing with the media, and responded to media inquiries for her.
In March, NCSF was contacted by concerned community members about the Black Party's promo image, which showed a young man with a black eye and split lip. NCSF protested to the producers of the Black Party in NYC that this image doesn't portray SM but rather shows abuse. The NYC Anti-Violence Project, the National Coalition against Violence and other groups joined in this effort, writing to the producers protesting this image.
In one media incident, a nonprofit club in Muncie, Indiana, was threatened with closure along with a nearby strip bar until the media was educated about safe, sane and consensual SM. NCSF also gave media assistance to a swing club in Connecticut which was closed because of zoning issues.
Another media incident involved Nerve.com when they published a series of articles in June entitled "Letters from Leather Camp." The Nerve reporter infiltrated a private event, Leather Retreat. Leather Retreat didn't have a clause in their release form preventing reporters from writing for a commercial media outlet. Susan Wright negotiated with Michael Martin, Editor-in-Chief at Nerve.com, and sent out Nerve's statement and apology in NCSF's Media Update covering the articles. The comments section of Nerve.com was reinstated so SM community members could respond to the articles, and the articles themselves were purged of their most reprehensible comments.
Job discrimination continues to be a problem for individuals. NCSF helped more than a twenty people draft and file formal complaints with their employers regarding employment discrimination claims. One West Virginia woman lost her job because she belonged to a leather club. One Texas woman was sexually harassed by her supervisor when he found her website on the internet. She was initially terminated from her job when she complained about the harassment. NCSF worked with her and her husband to draft a formal grievance and helped her find a sympathetic attorney. She was rehired.
A number of discrimination complaints continue to be made regarding Paypal and E-bay regarding their policies for dealing with adult oriented vendors. Paypal and E-bay are deleting accounts that sell adult oriented merchandise. NCSF has contacted the parent company, E- bay, regarding their discriminatory practices. These companies continue their "no-adult content" policy in large part out of fears of prosecution for obscenity.
NCSF was contacted by individuals, attorneys and prosecutors on a variety of criminal cases, including: several cases of false rape, three different cases involving death of a participant, and two murder investigations. NCSF also made referrals to resources and the appropriate authorities in several domestic violence incidents. In three cases, NCSF was able to help the victim obtain protective orders and find appropriate counseling.
NCSF: On the Front Lines
NCSF is here to help you -- the SM, swing and polyamory communities. If you have a problem with discrimination, persecution, or harassment because of your sexual expression, please call NCSF for assistance. If you are contacted by the media, please call NCSF immediately so we can assist in educating the reporter about SM, swing or polyamory.
And please support NCSF in our effort to change the political, legal, and social environment in the United States. We are a volunteer organization committed to making a difference. Join NCSF as a member or please hold a fund-raiser and donate to NCSF!
September 2007 to August 2008
The NCSF Media Committee reviews, edits, and refines the documents that NCSF distributes. The media committee is chaired by Susan Wright, spokesperson for NCSF, and consists of Levi Halberstadt, Keith Richie, Lisa Vandever, Lolita Wolf, and Howie Z.
- 33 Interviews
- 30 Incident Response Requests
- 22 Inquiries
Among others, Susan gave interviews to reporters with the following publications: Bay Area Reporter, Star Ledger, ABC News, WABC Radio, Globe & Mail, Portfolio Magazine, 1010 Wins, and The Colbert Report. A few examples:
- Interview with Jeff Bercovici of Portfolio Magazine regarding the NY Post's sensationalized coverage of the Canadian man who went into a coma at the Nutcracker in New York.
- Interview with Carly Weeks of Globe & Mail regarding the incident itself.
- Interview with writer in Brisbane Australia regarding the proliferation of BDSM groups at universities.
- Interview with David Shoetz of ABC News about Hunt Club of Brevard swingers, and an accidental bondage death case.
- Interview with Lisa Rose of the Star Ledger regarding Floating World's "Torture and Interrogation" workshop featuring techniques used at Guantánamo Bay and Abu Ghraib.
- Interview with Curtis Sliwa on WABC Radio about the Star Ledger article.
- X-Biz reporters continue to contact NCSF about a variety of issues, helping to feature BDSM and swing issues in adult entertainment coverage.
- Several interviews were also given to Judy Dutton who is writing a book for Random House.
The biggest media incident of the year involved the wide-spread national media attacks on Folsom Street Fair orchestrated by religious political extremist groups who denounced Miller for sponsoring the Fair. NCSF broadcast an Action Alert to help. Miller remains a sponsor of the fair.
- Community Boardmember Goldman attacked the NY Leather Weekend, claiming the NY Leather Weekend streetfair doesn't belong in the West Village.
- A man lost his church music job because he was photographed with a man on a leash at the Gay Pride Parade.
- A nonprofit BDSM club was seeking media help while obtaining an adult entertainment license.
- A club needed help writing letters to local officials regarding city health code and sex regulations.
- The Cherry Pit, a swing club in Duncanville, Texas, that is now operating as a not-for-profit in a residential neighborhood consulted with both Susan and Legal Director John.
- Guy Baldwin was attacked by religious political extremist groups when he was given a leather leadership award by NGLTF's Creating Change.
- A hotel tried to break a contract with a fetish conference. With NCSF's help, the event went off as planned.
- In three separate incidents caused by dangerous insiders, community members who feared being outed to the media requested help.
Reuters Insight Community Experts contacted Susan to join as a sexuality expert, and after submitting her credentials and application, Reuters is now referring her as an expert. The Hawaii Health Department requested statistics of BDSM practitioners. Plus there was an inquiry about how to go about removing Sexual Sadism, Sexual Masochism, and Fetishism from the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistic Manual IV-TR.
Two Action Alerts were broadcast over the past year: NCSF urged community members to write to the Task Force and thank them for recognizing Guy Baldwin with their Leather Leadership Award at Creating Change. NCSF also called for letters of support for Folsom Street Fair to be sent to Miller Brewing thanking them for being a sponsor of the Fair. Miller remains a sponsor of the Fair for this year.
- NCSF 10th Anniversary Historical Retrospective: The Coalition Partner Perspective
- Coalition Partners Celebrate a Year of Success at NCSF's Annual Meeting
- NCSF Welcomes New Executive Director
- NCSF's Education Outreach Program (EOP) welcomes a new Coordinator
- Nominate ITCR: The Foundation of NCSF for ALT.com's Charity Giveaway!
- NCSF 10th Anniversary pins now for sale!
- Volunteer for NCSF!
- Stand Up and Be Counted! Participate in the Survey of Violence & Discrimination Against Sexual Minorities
How You Can Help
- Work to change antiquated laws
- Work to change the social climate about sexual issues
- Promote acceptance of safe, sane, and consensual alternative sexual practices among consenting adults
- Oppose censorship of consensual sexual expression
- Fight for freedom of academic expression about sexual issues
- Help communities and individuals facing the threat of prosecution or legal action
- Support the right of adults to express their sexuality, gender identity and orientation freely and openly without fear
- Learn more about NCSF
Why You Should Care
- Can result in discrimination, prosecution, and even violence against you
- Can cause you to lose your children
- Can cause you to lose your job or your income
- Can lead you into a maze of antiquated laws and regulations you never even knew existed
- Is arbitrarily criminalized by state and local authorities
- Is used by the radical right to marginalize minority groups
- Can result in the invasion of your privacy by the government, both within your own home or in educational, social and group environments