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"Ex-Polyamorous Trio Granted ‘Tri-Custody’ of Their Child by a New York Judge"

on Wednesday, 15 March 2017. Posted in Front Page Headline, Media Updates

The Cut

By Lisa Ryan

A New York judge has granted three people who had previously been in a polyamorous relationship “tri-custody” of their 10-year-old son. The New York Post reports that the Suffolk County Supreme Court Judge H. Patrick Leis III’s ruling is the first of its kind in the state.


Long Island couple Dawn and Michael Marano, who got married in 1994, befriended their downstairs neighbor Audria Garcia in 2001, according to the Post. Garcia had been living with her boyfriend at the time, but after they broke up, she moved in with the Maranos and “began to engage in intimate relations,” the ruling states. Dawn Marano had been unable to conceive, so Michael Marano and Garcia conceived a child together — a son who was born in January 2007, according to court documents.


Per the Post:

“It was agreed, before a child was conceived, that [the Maranos and Garcia] would all raise the child together as parents,” the judge said.

Garcia’s pregnancy was covered by Dawn Marano’s insurance, and the two women attended doctor appointments together and took turns feeding the baby at night, according to the Post. Eventually, Dawn and Michael Marano split up, and Garcia and Dawn Morano began a romantic relationship.


Later, Michael Marano sued Garcia for custody, and Dawn Marano filed for divorce. Michael Marano and Garcia agreed to joint custody, according to the Post, but Dawn Marano then filed another lawsuit “to secure custody rights for [the boy] because she fears that without court-ordered visitation and shared custody, her ability to remain in [the boy’s] life would be solely dependent upon obtaining the consent of either Audria or [Michael],” Judge Leis wrote. ...

Preconference Institute on Consent and Kink at SSTAR

on Wednesday, 15 March 2017. Posted in Front Page Headline, NCSF News

Russell Stambaugh, NCSF Kink Aware Professionals Advocate, and Susan Wright, NCSF Spokesperson, will be presenting on the 30+ year history of kink safety and consent campaigns at the Annual Conference of the Society for Sex Therapy and Research (SSTAR) in Montreal, Quebec April 20, 2017.
This is a 3 CE preconference institute, and you won't need to miss a minute of the excellent SSTAR main program. It includes their research report on the 2014 Consent Violations Survey examining consent violations in a kink context.
This is designed for anyone interested in becoming a kink-aware clinician and those seeking to understand what teaching consent may or may not accomplish with kinky people.
We hope to see you in Montreal!

"My Kids Make Me Feel Proud To Be Polyamorous"

on Sunday, 12 March 2017. Posted in Front Page Headline, Media Updates


by Margaret E Jacobsen

Over the last four years, my family dynamic has changed because of divorce and polyamory. I'd always wanted a large family, but I believed was only attainable by having lots of kids, and polyamory was never something I thought of because I grew up in a religious and conservative environment that placed monogamy on a pedestal. Anything else was a sin; adultery. So when I began to explore non-monogamy, I was most surprised that the two easiest people to explain polyamory to were my children because my kids make me feel proud to be polyamorous. As my ex-husband and I eased into non-monogamy before separating, I remember my 4-year-old daughter asking me when I'd have a boyfriend outside her dad. I laughed and asked her why she asked me that, and she said, "I just want more adults to love me!" That comment has stayed with me and has served as the foundation for how I talk to my kids about polyamory.


The first time I talked with my children about polyamory was when my ex and I told them we'd be separating. I remember feeling slightly nervous about it, wondering if it would confuse their then-4-year-old, and then-5-year-old brains, but I'd promised myself that if I was going to practice non-monogamy, I was going to include my whole family. After all, this decision wouldn't just affect me; it'd affect all of us. So I told my both of my kids the truth: even though I was still married to their dad, I'd been dating other people, particularly my current partner, someone they'd already spent a lot of time with. When we told our kids we were separating and the reasons why, both my kids just said, "Oh, wow! We love him, that's so cool!" I remember breathing a little bit easier as we went to bed; there were no secrets between any of us anymore. It's always been important to me to have my kids be a part of this lifestyle change, and I was amazed by their reactions.



Our conversations about polyamory are different than they were when they were younger. My kids don't see a difference between polyamory and monogamy — they just see people practicing love in different ways.

After that initial conversation together, my daughter had a few more questions about loving multiple people. She wondered why more adults don't have multiple partners, which opened up a discussion about how our differences give us strengths and also set us apart. I told her that even though I felt like I was capable of loving and caring for more than one person, her dad was opposite of me, and both of those things were acceptable and valid. When we had a mother/daughter overnight trip to a hotel in town, she laid in bed next to me and said that loving a lot of people made sense in her head, and she likened it to having lots of best friends. It was amazing to hear my 5 year old express such a grown-up view on relationships and love. ...



on Sunday, 12 March 2017. Posted in Front Page Headline, Media Updates


by Faye Seidler 

I’m polyamorous and I live with my two girlfriends, who both mean the world to me. They contribute to making me a better person by challenging me when I’m wrong, supporting me when I try something new, and comforting me if I fail. It has been a relationship built on trust, consent, family meetings, and more happiness than I’ve ever had at any other point in my life.


That said, it’s really hard to share any of that with people I meet. It’s easy to talk about my girlfriend, it’s easy to come out as lesbian or trans, because we have narratives for that. Even if someone doesn’t like it, they understand what it is.


But if I come out as poly, I also have to prepare to spend time in a possibly awkward conversation, trying to justify my love and how we live. It’s a conversation I often avoid having with anyone other than those I consider friends, because the frustration just isn’t worth it otherwise.


That is why I am incredibly thankful for PolyAware, an organization in our area dedicated to educating individuals about poly issues. They also provide a plethora of resources and even support for individuals looking to explore what it means to be poly. I had the honor of sitting down with the members of PolyAware, among them Ashton Shepard and Andrew C. Tyson, for questions.


High Plains Reader: What does it mean to be polyamorous?


PolyAware: Polyamory is the non-possessive, honest, responsible, and ethical philosophy and practice of loving multiple people simultaneously. Polyamorous individuals are like most people: they seek a fulfilling love life, only theirs can involve multiple partners while a monogamous individual has only one. It isn’t about whether polyamory or monogamy is better, it is about what is a better fit for each person.


HPR: What are the primary functions of PolyAware?


PolyAware: PolyAware is an education and advocacy group for polyamory in the Fargo-Moorhead region. We increase awareness of polyamory for anyone who wants to hear. We support legal movements to increase the rights and protection of polyamorous people. We offer support to polyamorous people in the community and we keep confidential information confidential. If it’s not small talk, we assume it’s private.


The members of PolyAware fill in where needed to accomplish those functions. Some of our tasks include scheduling events, advertising for events, coordinating with the Pride Collective, presenting at events, networking, giving advice, and posting interesting articles on our Facebook page.


HPR: What are some of the misconceptions people have about polyamory?


PolyAware: Polyamory is not cheating. Cheating implies breaking the rules, and we negotiate our own rules. Polyamory is not swinging. Swinging focuses on recreational sex, and polyamory focuses on romantic connections. That said, some poly people also swing. Polyamory is not religious, though some people practice poly as part of their religion. Polyamory is not sexist, though some people practice poly in a sexist way. Polyamory is not easy. It requires a great deal of communication, trust, and self-esteem.


HPR: What are some unique challenges in polyamorous relationships?


PolyAware: We like to say love is infinite but time is not. Juggling schedules can be a bear. Managing feelings of jealousy can be difficult and require constant communication and consent.


It’s hard to find supporting religious communities, but some pagan groups tend to be welcoming of poly individuals, and a few other congregations are discerning their stance on welcoming polyamorous folks as well.


Also, polyamory is less well understood than gender and sexual minorities, with many individuals accepting someone in the broader LGBTQ+ spectrum, but rejecting them for being poly. It unfortunately is an issue where people can be at risk of losing their friends, families, jobs, housing, spiritual communities, and children just because they have two or more significant others.


Further, polyamory is not a protected class under the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), and we’re likely going to be waiting a long time before polyamorous individuals can enjoy marriage equality and the privilege of having all our loved ones be able to visit us in the hospital or sharing legal custody of children in our households. ...

"Are Sex Parties Legal? We Spoke to A Veteran Promoter To Find Out"

on Sunday, 12 March 2017. Posted in NCSF in the News!, Front Page Headline, Media Updates


By Sophie Weiner

Over the past few years, alternative sexual culture has gone from niche to nearly mainstream. The first two films in the BDSM-themed Fifty Shades of Grey series each made over $100 million at the US box office. Polyamorous relationships are also becoming increasingly commonplace—in a 2015 study by the legal data startup Avvo, 4% of American respondents classified themselves as currently in an open relationship, and only 45% of men (and 62% of women) said they were morally opposed to them.


Sex parties—events where participants can have sexual experiences with other attendees in a safe and consenting environment—are also growing in popularity. Ben Fuller, the founder of Modern Lifestyles, a ticketing service for swinger parties, told Quartz that his business has increased by 81% over the last two years.


But just because these subcultures are becoming less taboo, doesn't mean that the authorities see them that way. There are still laws on the books in many states that prevent kink and BDSM—an acronym for Bondage, Domination, Sadism and Masochism—from being practiced openly. Non-kink sex-positive events are also stifled by these laws, which prevent these events from openly advertising and charging for tickets.


We asked Deborah Rose, a Philadelphia-based veteran promoter of sex-positive events, to explain the regulations surrounding the industry, how promoters get around some of these barriers, and strategies for making the scene better and safer for participants.


THUMP: How would you define a "sex party"?


Deborah Rose: I think that it would be a mistake to call a sex-positive space a "sex party, because they're usually not just sex-centering. Some of them are, but most of them aren't. Most of the communities who go to these kinds of parties call them "play parties" more than anything else.


There are many different iterations [of what a sex-positive event can be]. They can vary largely in size. There are parties in people's private homes that range from five to 10 people, and then there are really large-scale events that can be 150 people on a Saturday night in a warehouse or at a music venue. Largely, those parties exist in BDSM, kink, and fetish communities.


The swinger communities tend to have what are commonly called "sex parties." But they largely don't have those in warehouses—they have their own clubs. We see swing clubs in most major cities, and those are established, for-profit businesses that facilitate a sex-positive space in a really specific context. Those communities are largely straight, white, and heteronormative.


What are the laws surrounding these kinds of events?


The most common misunderstanding is that the laws are the same everywhere. Actually, the biggest problems that these communities face is that the laws are different everywhere you go.


In major East Coast cities, they vary wildly. Most cities do have a swingers club, which facilitates sex parties that are completely above-board. They're licensed clubs. It's a special licensing they seek from the zoning board or from licensing and inspection that allows them to operate as a completely confidential, private, members-only club. When people come in, they don't buy a ticket for the night. They buy what is branded as a "membership," so that they buy into this membership, which allows the clubs confidentiality [and therefore protection from prosecution for potentially violating vice laws].


On the East Coast, "vice laws," sometimes called "blue laws," are laws that govern people's moral behavior. In Massachusetts, Pennsylvania—recently in New York, it was changed—you cannot facilitate sex or facilitate "abuse" in any way, which makes it so that it's almost impossible for a promoter to organize a party without opening themselves up to liability. Vice laws typically regulate sex, alcohol, and drugs.


When we talk about BDSM, kink, and fetish communities, those communities have largely been relegated to spaces that are not zoned and licensed. Because in many East Coast cities and in many East Coast states, you [legally] do not have the ability to consent to "abuse". So, facilitating these parties or participating in these communities can be illegal and can open you up to prosecution.


For swinger parties at licensed clubs, is it at all apparent in the laws or paperwork that sex will be happening at these locations?


Swingers clubs largely try to avoid explicit language on what we call the "public-facing internet" or "public-facing media." You go to the clubs and you understand what is happening there, but they don't advertise sex.


The other thing they don't advertise is alcohol. One of the biggest liabilities for a promoter is to allow alcohol into their spaces, because then you are involving whatever liquor control board—whatever organization that governs alcohol within your community—into your space. Anytime you mix alcohol and sex, you're automatically opening yourself up to a huge liability. Especially if you're taking money at the door.


So, the way swingers clubs circumnavigate that is almost all their spaces are BYOB. They have a bar--you bring your alcohol to them and they will serve it to you--but they are not selling you alcohol.


Aside from swing communities, which do have a lot of alcohol inside their community, most of the sex-positive communities that organize play parties shy away from alcohol because of the liability that it brings [due to intoxicated people who can't consent or who may be a danger to others or themselves], and because of the level of regulation that it brings. It shines a light on what is already a space where we don't want too much exposure.


Could a sex-positive event be prosecuted as operating an illegal brothel?


In some states, parties that sell tickets or charge a cover at the door definitely open themselves up to prosecution for facilitating prostitution. Promoters sell tickets to events ahead of time to mitigate this issue.


You mentioned that because of some of these laws, it is difficult to throw any parties with a kink or fetish element. How do people get around that?


In the states where it is illegal to "facilitate abuse," they largely don't. Massachusetts is a really good example of this. Massachusetts has a very large kink community that does not participate in that culture within Massachusetts. They travel to Rhode Island, Vermont, and Connecticut, where events are more easily facilitated, and where the laws are slightly more friendly to these spaces. On the East Coast, the most active kink and fetish communities are in Baltimore and DC; because spaces are able to exist there legally, they're able to license themselves, and exist above board. Maryland and the District, as well as Pennsylvania, benefit from more relaxed laws in this regard.


What's different about the laws there?


Ironically enough, the law that makes it so that you cannot consent to or facilitate abuse is the Violence Against Women Act, which is an incredible law written to protect domestic violence victims. But what it also does is make it so that the police can prosecute somebody without the consent of the victim. So, in states where that doesn't exist, we're more able to provide spaces for kink and fetish communities to flourish. But in states where it does exist, [the kink community] is largely stifled, for fear of prosecution.


You mentioned that the laws are also a little more relaxed on the West Coast.


Absolutely. States on the West Coast have more progressive ideas about sex and sexuality in general. Maybe not pervasively within the culture, but definitely within the laws. Because that exists, the best centers for sex-positivity and for sex-positive culture exist on the West Coast.


In San Francisco, The Armory [building in the Mission, owned and operated by BDSM-focused porn production company] provides one of the best sex-positive spaces in the country. The other best space in the country for sex-positive culture is in Seattle. Both of these spaces exist above board and have both for profit and non-profit entities that serve communities. The laws that exist allow them to participate in communities that facilitate discussions about sex-positivity and provide spaces for these communities to grow in a way that is not available to us on the East Coast.


Are there any organizations out there trying to advocate for sexual freedom and sex-positive spaces as a First Amendment right?


Free expression is really what we're talking about. There's an incredible organization that exists within kink communities called the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom, or NCSF, which exists to help all alternative sexual communities. Their goal is to raise awareness about alternative sexual practices and the way these communities govern themselves, and to add resources for people to explore their sexuality in safe ways.


They've created consent workshops and incident response structures; they advocate for sexual practices to be removed from the DSM, and they are lobbying Massachusetts, Virginia, and Kentucky to see BDSM and kink as a sexual practice rather than a paraphilia. They're an organization that has stood up for kink and sex-positive communities all over the country. ...

"Donald and the Dominatrix: How the White House Inspired a BDSM Movement"

on Sunday, 12 March 2017. Posted in Front Page Headline, Media Updates

If critics of President Trump have noticed an uptick in female devaluation, it's not reflected in the S&M scene



Soon after Donald Trump joined the presidential race, a professional dominatrix named Tara Indiana announced her plans to follow suit. “If a carnival barker like Donald Trump can run for president, why not a dominatrix?” she said during an interview with GQ. Her slogan? “Whipping America back into shape, one middle aged white man at a time.”


Her platform included decriminalizing all consensual sex acts between adults, funding scientific research to show that S&M is a sexual orientation and adding “kink” into laws dealing with discrimination. She also favored the idea of the prohibitioning of middle-aged white men from holding office without permission from their Mistress, and requiring men to carry purses so they can look after their own belongings.


“The women in my field, we don’t live as victims. When we want to make change, we make changes,” says professional dominatrix and sex educator Sandra LaMorgese. “When we want to influence the world around us, we take action.”


“Women are feeling a little powerless right now,” she notes. And she’s right. In the weeks following election, sex therapist Kimberly Resnick Anderson noticed a steady decline in sex drive among her female clients. They appeared irritable and easily annoyed. Often, it was the men in their lives that bore the brunt of these developments. Anderson dubbed the phenomenon The Donald Trump Bedroom Backlash. “The misogyny displayed by Trump throughout his entire presidential bid. . . has undermined the hard-fought progress to de-objectify women,” she wrote in a think piece on the subject. “This general malaise can easily zap libido and ruin your sex drive.”


But there are those in the sex-o-sphere who haven’t abandoned their prowess. Instead, they’re using it to get even.


In an interview with Vice, Indiana explained, ““I’ve noticed being in the scene for over 25 years, that fetishes and kinks come in trends, just like fashion, music, et cetera. And these trends tend to be reactions to the social and political zeitgeist.”


“When I got into the business in 1989 your garden variety slave was into foot worship, and cross dressing. I see this as a reaction to changing gender roles and a need to work through those issues. Then when AIDS started to affect the straight community, things like heavy medical, blood sports, and scat became popular. People were tired of ‘safe sex’ — they wanted to do things that were dangerous and risky. “ ...




"Maybe Monogamy Isn’t the Only Way to Love"

on Sunday, 12 March 2017. Posted in Front Page Headline, Media Updates

NY Magazine

By Drake Baer

In the prologue to her new book, What Love Is and What It Could Be, philosopher Carrie Jenkins is walking through Vancouver, from her boyfriend’s apartment to the home she has with her husband. She wonders at how the romantic love she experiences firsthand is so different than the model presented by popular culture and academic theory alike. “If indeed romantic love must be monogamous, then I am making some kind of mistake when I say, ‘I’m in love with you’ — meaning romantically — to both my partners,” she writes. “I am not lying, because I am genuinely trying to be as honest as I can. But if romantic love requires monogamy, then despite my best intentions, what I’m saying at those moments is not, strictly speaking, true.”


Her book examines the long, sometimes awkward legacy of philosophers’ thinking on romantic love, and compares that with a new subfield in close-relationships research — consensual nonmonogamy, or CNM. While singers and thinkers alike have been riffing on a “one and only” for decades, she argues that space is being made in the cultural conversation to “question the universal norm of monogamous love, just as we previously created space to question the universal norm of hetero love.” These norms are more fluid than they appear: In Jenkins’s lifetime alone, same-sex and cross-ethnicity relationships have become common.


When I asked Jenkins to describe how it feels to have both a husband and a boyfriend — she rejects the “primary relationship” moniker altogether — she said that it’s like having more loving relationships in your life, like a close family member or friend. She and her boyfriend, whom she’s been with for about five years, used to work in the same building; he was teaching creative writing on the floor above her philosophy department, though they didn’t meet until they matched on OkCupid. While both men have met each other, they’re not close; Jenkins describes the relationship as having a “V shape,” rather than a triangle. Both helped in the development of the book: husband refining philosophical arguments; boyfriend editing the writing, and helping her to sound like a normal person, rather than an academic.


Still, CNM faces lots of stigma; even the study of it is stigmatized. Yet in the limited yet rich vein of research out there, the evidence suggests that it’s a style that, in some populations, leads to greater relationship satisfaction than monogamy. In any case, the researchers tell me, the insights into what makes more-than-two relationships work can be applied to any given dyad, given the communicative finesse required when three or more hearts are involved.


In a forthcoming Perspectives in Psychological Science paper, Terri Conley, a University of Michigan psychologist who’s driven the field, defines CNM as “a relational arrangement in which partners agree that it is acceptable to have more than one sexual and/or romantic relationship at the same time.” That’s distinguished from the “polygamy” practiced by some religious groups, where it’s not always clear whether wives can opt out of the relationship.


I was surprised to discover how common it is: A 2016 study of two nationally representative samples of single Americans — of 3,905 and 4,813 respondents, respectively — found in each case that about one in five people had practiced it during their lifetime. A 2016 YouGov poll found that 31 percent of women and 38 percent of men thought their ideal relationship would be CNM in some way. Other research indicates that around 4 to 5 percent of Americans in relationships are in some sort of CNM, be it swinging, where partners have sex with people outside their relationship at parties and the like; an open relationship, where it’s cool to have sex with other people but not grow emotionally attached to them; or polyamory, where both partners approve of having close emotional, romantic, and sexual relationships outside of the couple itself. People are curious, too: From 2006 to 2015, Google searches for polyamory and open relationships went up. Other data points to how sticking to the boundaries of monogamy doesn’t come easily to lots of people: A 2007 survey of 70,000 Americans found that one in five had cheated on their current partner. ...

"Dominatrixes and Porn Sites Report a Huge BDSM Uptick Since Trump Became President"

on Sunday, 12 March 2017. Posted in Front Page Headline, Media Updates


Following November's election, intense fear overtook wide swaths of the country, spurred on by fears that President Trump would make good on his controversial campaign promises. What better way to shake yourself out of political panic attack than a lively BDSM session? According to dominatrixes and others in the sex work industry, a strong uptick in interest following the election suggests that many Americans are giving that a try.


"It was really intense the week of the election," said New York based dominatrix Sandra LaMorgese. "I was getting requests from people I had never met, and my regular clients were asking for more intense sessions. They were pushing past their boundaries in a very big way." LaMorgese first entered the industry in 2011, after losing her business following the 2008 market crash. She now specializes in BDSM roleplay and corporal punishment, but she said that milder forms of the latter are no longer passing muster among certain clients since Trump was elected. They want her to go harder. They want her to draw blood. And she does.



On January 10th, an unverified document surfaced accusing President Trump of having his own kinks—it alleged he had once hired prostitutes to urinate on a hotel bed. On January 11, PornHub reported a 289 percent increase in searches containing the phrase "Golden Shower" (link NSFW) compared to their usual daily average. While a president's influence on American culture and politics has always been an obvious and inherent part of the job, it's possible our current president may be having an unintended effect on American sex, too. 


"Something has been going on since the Trump election," said LaMorgese. "It's like these guys are in shock. They're using sessions as a way to wake up."


Veteran adult film director Colin Rowntree has seen a similar shift unfolding on the website he founded in 1994,—a large BDSM, bondage, and fetish porn website. Since the election, he said the site has experienced a significant increase in views and requests for harder impact play. "Ball-busting," "face slapping," and "trampling" have all made their way into the top most searched terms. Viewers have also begun to favor videos having to do with "slave training" and "psychological games" over some of the site's more traditional content.


"All strange, but true," said Rowntree. "I can't be sure how much of this is connected to our new president changing the 'power paradigm' in America, but it's interesting to watch the shift in sexual desires and kinky needs and tastes." ...

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