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"Polyamory and the city: “I tried to live without men, and I tried to live without women. I couldn’t do either”

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

An enlightened bisexual man on the search for the perfect ménage

Salon

by Daniel Krieger

Seven years ago, I met a German woman in South Sinai, Egypt, who was practicing polyamory. (I grew up in New York and Chicago, but spent two years traveling around the Middle East and living in Egypt.) It wasn’t the first time I was introduced to the idea, but it was the first time it clicked. All my life I had the idea that being devoted to a lover meant being exclusive. It’s this idea that society imposes on us, so I had always tried to fit into that mold. But I’ve known since puberty that I am bisexual, so being in a relationship, to me, always meant having to choose permanently between one side of my sexuality or the other. It always felt like a huge sacrifice. Knowing what a sacrifice it was subconsciously undermined a lot of relationships I had or frightened me from getting into them in the first place.

 

Read more Narratively: “Polyamorous People #2: ‘Once You Start Questioning Gender, Other Things Fall Down Like a House of Cards‘”

 

After I met that woman in Egypt, I resolved I would date only poly people. I realized I was never going to find success in an exclusive relationship because it was always going to be an unbearable compromise. And then when I came to New York five years ago, I plunged directly into the poly scene. I went to every poly group I could find (there’s a bunch). It didn’t take long to figure out that Open Love NY (the group behind Poly Cocktails) was the best one for me. There’s a feeling of inclusivity I hadn’t felt elsewhere. It was the most welcoming for a bi man.

 

 

 

I should clarify that a lot of bi people are perfectly comfortable being exclusive, even having a lifetime exclusive relationship and not feeling like they’re missing out on the other gender. But then there are people like me. There are two very distinct sides of my sexuality and each needs expression, confirmation and appreciation. When I try to be exclusive to one person, the other side feels neglected. I just couldn’t hack monogamy. I tried to live without men, and I tried to live without women. I couldn’t do either.

 

A big part of the paradigm of monogamy is a sense of property, a sense of owning another person. The other thing is jealousy, and the idea that it can be healthy to be jealous. I think both of these concepts are quite neurotic, but because they are accepted by our society it’s considered normal to treat other people as property and to regard jealousy as a sign of love rather than insecurity. With polyamory, there is instead the idea of “compersion,” which is taking pleasure in whatever makes your lover happy. You are happy to see your lover happy, and that includes them being made happy by the love of another person. ...

"3 Ways To Start Experimenting With BDSM"

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

So you wanna get kinky?

Women's Health

BY ANNA DAVIES

Whether we're just more willing to let our freak flag fly these days or Christian Grey has something to do with it, our survey of 6,700 men and women found that nearly twice as many women as men (19 percent versus 11 percent) said "light bondage/kink" is what they want more of in the bedroom.

 

The gender distinction is intriguing. "Women finally feel equal to men in many areas," says Daniel Lebowitz, codirector and male sexuality specialist at The Intimacy Institute in Boulder, Colorado. "They know they're not subordinate." That has freed us up to play with being submissive—now that it's clearly just play.

 

 

Not into such bedroom games yourself? No worries, no judgment. But if this starts you thinking, consider that you may already be incorporating a little BDSM into your routine without realizing it. For instance, bringing a person to the edge of orgasm and stopping briefly to prolong things is a form of "orgasm denial" in BDSM-speak.

 

To explore more, use this beginner's guide:

 

1. LISTEN IN

 

Downloading a podcast that deals with BDSM themes, like "Modern Love" or "Savage Love," can open the door to talking about your own turn-ons, says Kendra Holliday, blogger at Thebeautifulkind.com. Or watch a lite-kink (mainstream) film, like Secretary, to see the psychological elements involved.

 

2. PUT IT IN WRITING

 

There are apps that prompt you both to share your desires via fill-in-the-blank quizzes; Holliday recommends MoJo Upgrade or iPassion. "Sometimes, writing things down is a lot easier than saying them." ...

"Your Brain on BDSM: Why Getting Spanked and Tied Up Makes You Feel High"

on Friday, 03 March 2017. Posted in Press Release, Front Page Headline, Media Updates

Broadly

by Gareth May

 

There's no denying that understanding how the human body works can lead to some intense sex. After all, as clichéd as it is, the brain is the biggest erogenous zone—and BDSM is no different.

 

It may conjure up images of bondage, discipline, sadomasochism, dominance, and submission, but many BDSM practictioners attribute the pleasurable pain of their fetish to the endorphin rush that accompanies the acting out of their fantasies. There's even a word for the state of a submissive's mind and body during and after consensual kinky play: subspace, often described as a "floaty" or "flying" feeling.

 

"For all of us, endorphins bind to opiate receptors to naturally relieve pain," explains Maitresse Madeline Marlowe, a professional dominatrix who also works as a performer and director for Kink.com, a leading BDSM content producer. "Since BDSM play can include power exchange and masochistic acts, endorphins are one of the most common neurotransmitters [produced]."

 

As far back as 1987, leather activist and author Dr. Geoff Mains hypothesized that BDSM activity stimulated the release of endorphins, but scientists have yet to tease out the exact relationship between neurochemicals and S&M. But subspace does exist: Dr. Brad Sagarin, founder of the Science of BDSM research team and a professor of social and evolutionary psychology at Northern Illinois University, has compared it to runner's high, the sense of euphoria and increased tolerance for pain that some joggers feel after a long run. Except, obviously, one is caused by the asphalt flashing beneath your feet, the other by a whip swishing through the air.

 

In a 2009 study titled Hormonal Changes and Couple Bonding in Consensual Sadomasochistic Activity, Dr. Sagarin discovered that cortisol levels increase in subs and decrease in doms over the course of a scene. The effect was replicated in the research team's subsequent research: One 2016 preliminary study which measured the brain's executive functioning (i.e. basic control of our thoughts, emotions and actions) after participating in BDSM; and another that found that participants in the extreme S&M ritual known as the Dance of Souls (involving temporary piercings of the skin with weights or hooks attached) exhibited increases in cortisol throughout the ritual.

 

"Like many potentially stressful or extreme experiences (e.g., sky-diving, fire-walking), individuals' bodies react to that stress when they engage in BDSM," Science of BDSM researcher Kathryn Klement told Broadly. "We interpret these cortisol results to mean that when people engage in BDSM play (as the receiver of sensations) or extreme rituals, their bodies release a hormone usually associated with stress. However, we've also found that people subjectively report their psychological stress decreasing, so there is a disconnect between what the body is experiencing, and what the individual is perceiving."

 

For their 2016 study on brain functioning, Klement admits that the team didn't directly measure brain activity ("that would require an fMRI, which would be tricky to incorporate into a BDSM scene"). Instead, they had participants complete a Stroop test—a neuropsychological assessment commonly used to detect brain damage—before and after a scene. "Bottoms do much worse on this measure after the scene, while tops show no difference," Klement says.

"Where Do Kinks Come From? It's Complicated"

on Friday, 03 March 2017. Posted in Front Page Headline, Media Updates

Bustle

By EMMA MCGOWAN 

Kink has made its way from back rooms and hidden dungeons and burst its way into the mainstream in recent years. And while many long-term kinksters are vocal about their dislike of the Fifty Shades series, there’s no denying that it has awakened some previously dormant (or at least kept more secret) sexual desires in people across the world. This newly-popular status for sexual interests that were previously deemed “deviant” brings up a lot of questions, the biggest of which is: Where do kinks come from?

 

The short answer is: No one is really sure.

 

“Kinks, much like sexual orientation and gender identity, are created through a complex interplay that research doesn't fully understand of genetics, environment, and our experiences paired with sexually relevant contexts,” clinical sexologist Rena McDaniel tells Bustle.

 

Before we dive deeper into where kinks come from, let’s establish a working definition. However, just like the question of origins, defining kink is trickier than it seems at first. Dictionary.com says it’s “bizarre or unconventional sexual preferences or behavior.” But of course, it's more complicated than that.

 

“‘Kink’ is a construct and the meaning is subjective,” sex therapist and sexologist Stefani Threadgill tells Bustle. “There are no defining factors that deems one ‘kinky.’”

 

 

With that said, there are some sexual practices that are commonly put under the “kink” umbrella. For example, bondage, sadism (pleasure from giving pain), masochism (pleasure from receiving pain), spanking, foot fetishes, and role playing are all well-known types of kinks.

 

“People who are not into role-playing are in the minority among Millennials,” McDaniel says. “The 2017 SKYN Condoms Millennial Sex Survey found that two thirds of Millennials reported that they are into role-playing, and research by Alfred Kinsey in the 1950s showed that roughly 50 percent of folks like being bitten."

 

So if kinks are just different ways to enjoy sex, where do they come from? Up until fairly recently, being kinky was considered a mental disorder. In fact, kink was only removed from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders — the guidebook for psychologists and psychiatrists — in 2013. When you think about the fact that that’s only four years ago, it’s pretty amazing that we’re able to have such an open discussion these days. ...

Is it time to decriminalize sex work?

on Friday, 03 March 2017. Posted in Front Page Headline, Media Updates

Seattle Globalist

by Sylvia Lin

 

Is sex work inherently exploitative?

 

A council of 160 current and retired sex workers from the Seattle Sex Workers Outreach Project don’t think so, and they’re joining other regional chapters of the organization in pushing for decriminalization of sex work.

 

Sola, the president of SWOP Seattle, is a 43-year-old woman who had 14 years of experience in the sex industry. She has a husky voice and an uninhibited laugh, which is often triggered by her indignation over laws prohibiting sex work.

 

Sola believes most sex workers chose their profession voluntarily and says she loves her job.

 

“It’s the most satisfying and profitable career I’ve undertaken. I really adore my clients. And there’s not many positions out there that’s so rewarding and allow you to enjoy yourself,” she said.

 

 

“It’s the most satisfying and profitable career I’ve undertaken. I really adore my clients.”

 

Savannah Sly, the president of the national SWOP USA, also lives here in Washington, and estimates the number of sex workers in the state to be “a couple thousand.” She acknowledges the number is hard to count since the criminalized industry has to conduct their business in secrecy. Sola, Sly, and many other sex workers, don’t go by their real names because of fear of prosecution. Washington state law deems all commercial sex as illegal.

 

“I feel like I could be arrested every day.” Sly said, citing previous experiences that have taught her not to trust law enforcement. She says she has a lot of friends who have been raped or blackmailed by police, both in Washington and other states. To her, trouble with police is “a lot scarier than whatever could happen at work.”

 

Sly says she supports the decriminalization of sex work because she’s a feminist. She argues that people should have the freedom to engage in what she calls “consensual sexual activities.”

 

She believes decriminalization would mean less stigma for sex workers, and allow them and their clients to inform police about sex trafficking without fear of prosecution.

 

A global movement to decriminalize sex work

 

The demand for sex workers’ rights is hardly unique to the United States.

 

Ever since more than 25,000 sex workers gathered in India on March 3rd, 2001, sex worker communities around the world celebrate March 3rd as “Sex Workers’ Rights Day.” Using the red umbrella as a symbol against the violence and discrimination toward sex workers, the movement has sparked protests by sex workers from Nigeria to the U.K. to Korea.

 

Increasingly, movement to decriminalize sex work also has the support of major global organizations like the World Health Organization (WHO), Amnesty International and UNAIDS. On Amnesty’s “Q&A policy to protect the human rights of sex workers” webpage, the organization states that after more than two years of research, they recommend the removal of laws penalizing the selling, buying and organizing of sex work to enhance the safety and human rights of sex workers. ...

"Is 'Fifty Shades' a boon or bust for couples exploring kink?"

on Sunday, 26 February 2017. Posted in Front Page Headline, Media Updates

CNN

By Ian Kerner

"Fifty Shades Darker," the sequel to "Fifty Shades of Grey," hits theaters this month, the second installation in the wildly popular series. There's no doubt that the films -- and E.L. James' bestselling books on which they're based -- have introduced millions to the concept of kink, an umbrella term that includes bondage, discipline and sadomasochism (also called BDSM).

These practices include such practices as restraints, blindfolds, spanking and whipping, basically any act that involves one person consensually giving the other more power in the situation. But are the fictional portrayals in the "Fifty Shades" franchise accurate or responsible vehicles for real-life experimentation? I asked several of my colleagues to weigh in on some common questions about the trilogy.

Is 'Fifty Shades' realistic?

In a word, no. "There were many inaccurate BDSM descriptions communicated throughout the series," clinical sexologist Anna Randall said. "One of these inaccuracies is the inclusion of scenes that violate BDSM's cardinal rule of mutual consent." Real BDSM requires communication and consent. Otherwise, it's a boundary violation.

Still, many experts believe that viewers can parse fact from fiction, the same way one can enjoy an over-the-top romance novel without expecting the same fantasy in real life.

" 'Fifty Shades' is to kink what 'Star Wars' is to space travel, a kind of romantic heroine's journey with about as much realism relative to sexual science as the Death Star has to NASA," sex therapist Russell Stambaugh said. "It is not representative of BDSM, but was never written to be, either."

Does 'Fifty Shades' hurt or help BDSM?

Despite the concerns about its portrayal of BDSM, most of the colleagues I spoke to agreed that "Fifty Shades" has been good for the BDSM community in the six years since the first book was published.

"In general, 'Fifty Shades' has had a positive effect in that it's exposed alternative forms of sexuality to a much broader audience," sex therapist Michael Aaron explained. "It's taken BDSM mainstream in the sense that there's more awareness around it and it is portrayed much less as a bunch of sleazy perverts in dark dungeons."

Some experts take it even further. "It's been said that 'Fifty Shades' was BDSM's Stonewall Rebellion," said sex therapist Margie Nichols, referring to the 1969 protests that marked the beginning of the fight for LGBTQ rights. "It brought BDSM out into the light of day and gave it incredible visibility. Readers got turned on by kink, so now they know what that's like. It's hard to demonize something after you've been turned on by it. It creates an automatic kinship."

What's the appeal of BDSM?

In my opinion, BDSM can appeal to people for many reasons, just like "vanilla" sex. Some people find it hot because it's different. Sex play that's outside the norm can make us feel like we're doing something subversive and getting away with it. "For some people, BDSM also seems to trigger altered states of consciousness that feel very spiritual," Nicholsadded.

Another appeal is that BDSM can tread the line between pleasure and fear.

"I sometimes call BDSM the 'extreme sports of sex,' " psychologist Richard Sprott said. "There are many similarities between peak experiences in sex and peak experiences in other kinds of activities, so it's not surprising that some people can find self-actualization through kink."

Is there a link between an abusive past and BDSM?

Of the concerns experts do have about "Fifty Shades," the greatest involves the hero's traumatic past.

"My main complaint is that by portraying Christian Grey as someone who is compelled to sadomasochism due to childhood trauma, it plays into the stereotypes that all BDSM practitioners have been traumatized at some point in their lives," Aaron said. In fact, Randall points out, several reliable studies show that people who are into BDSM and other types of kink are no more likely to have experienced childhood abuse or sexual abuse than the general population.

Indeed, BDSM can even be healing for those who have experienced this sort of trauma.

"I once worked with a couple in which the husband was submissive, but the wife had been physically abused as a child and couldn't imagine dominating him," Nichols said. "Through therapy, she got to the point where she was less bothered by the idea, and they tried BDSM. She found she was able to see that what they were doing was a loving act, not a harmful one, and she was able to shut the door on her abusive past."

Other benefits of BDSM

One of the biggest benefits of BDSM is the closeness it can facilitate. "Kink requires a lot of talk, negotiation and exploration, so communication is the starting foundation," Sprott said. "Kink play depends on consent and knowing what is arousing and what is not, which is different and unique for each person." ...

"Monogamy is out. Polyamory is in."

on Sunday, 26 February 2017.

The Week

By Carrie Jenkins

There's no longer anything unusual about wanting an open relationship. Many who consider themselves progressive about sex, gender, love, and relationships know this. It's just that almost nobody in an open relationship wants to be open about it. What's surprising is that so many people feel the need for secrecy.

I've been out as polyamorous for years. Because of this, non-monogamous people who aren't out often feel able to talk to me about their own situations. When I go to conferences, I can't help noticing all the philosophers who are in closeted non-monogamous relationships. This discrepancy between reality and socially acknowledged reality can be disorienting; the "official" number of non-monogamous people in the room is almost always one (me).

So what's going on? No doubt there are several factors at work, but I want to talk about one that's both powerful and insidious: Non-monogamy isn't considered "romantic."

Romantic love is widely considered to be the best thing life has to offer: "Failing" at romance is often construed as failing at life. Amatonormativity is a name for the attitude that privileges lives based around a focal monogamous romantic relationship. What gets called "romantic" isn't just about classification; it's about marking out those relationships and lives we value most.

This monogamous ideal is supposed to appeal to women especially. According to the stereotypes, single women are desperate to "lock down" a man, while men are desperate to avoid commitment. There's nothing new here: Monogamy has historically been gendered. Even in situations where marrying more than one woman has been illegal, it has often been normal for men to have mistresses, but different rules have applied to women. This is unsurprising: In a patriarchal society with property inheritance passing along the male line, paternity is key, and enforced female monogamy is an effective way to control it.

Women's sexuality can also be policed by developing a feminine model that includes a "natural" desire for monogamy, plus social benefits for conforming to that model (and penalties for non-conformity). This model can then be internalized by women as a "romantic" ideal inculcated via fairytales. In a similar vein, rather than allowing only men to have more than one partner, we can instill a subtler cultural belief that men's infidelity is "natural" and therefore excusable, while women's infidelity is not.

Our language undermines gender-related optimism about monogamous romantic ideals: there is no word for a male "mistress"; romantic comedies are "chick flicks." "Romance" novels are marketed to and consumed by women. Brides are "given away" by men to other men. We never hear about "crazy old cat gentlemen." And how many married men do you know who've taken their wife's surname? These attitudes persist not just in word but in deed: Wives in hetero marriages still do more housework than their husbands, even if they earn more (which they rarely do).

Recent growing acceptance of same-sex love as "romantic" has presented challenges to gendered norms. But this has happened alongside another change: Monogamy has become an even more powerful "romantic" ideal by including same-sex relationships. And its impact is intensely gendered.

Women who enter voluntarily into non-monogamous relationships are a direct challenge to the idea that women are "naturally" monogamous. They are socially penalized to maintain the status quo. A non-monogamous woman will be portrayed as debased and disgusting — a "slut." When I have discussed my open relationships online, I have been called many other colorful names. ...

"BDSM Expert Weighs In on What Fifty Shades Gets Right – and Wrong – About the Lifestyle"

on Sunday, 26 February 2017. Posted in Front Page Headline, Media Updates

People

BY LINDSAY KIMBLE

For many, the world of restraints and floggers was a total mystery before E.L. James’ erotic sensation Fifty Shades of Grey was published in 2011. The mega-hit quickly introduced aspects of kink to a wider audience, and now the second film chronicling the story of Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele is set to be unleashed this Friday.

While the world of BDSM (bondage, domination, sadism and masochism) has hit the mainstream, Mistress Couple – the headmistress of La Domaine Esemar, a BDSM training chateau in the Berkshires – tells PEOPLE that the way the franchise portrays the lifestyle is sometimes misleading.

“The basic tenet of La Domaine is not about how much you can take, but rather how much you can give,” Mistress Couple explains. “Many people, when they’re involved in BDSM dynamics, they are bracing themselves to take a punishment from their dominant. And I think the Fifty Shades series usually approaches BSDM in this way: What can you endure? But the way that we view training here is more about understanding that this is an equal dynamic between two consenting partners and that your submission is a gift.”

Mistress Couple has been the headmistress for La Domaine for three years, and has been in the BDSM lifestyle for six years. She says she began her training at the chateau as a submissive, and began to explore her dominant side after staff at La Domaine noticed her capacity to lead as a former professional ballroom dancer.

While she’s familiar with Fifty Shades, Mistress Couple admits she’s never been able to make it through the whole book or movie.

“I just can’t sit through it – I’ve tried, multiple times,” she shares, noting that her main issues with the story are the “abusive aspects.”

The headmistress says, “[I don’t like] the idea or the notion that a twenty-something billionaire can dominate somebody else and all you need is money and then you can go out and buy all these toys and be a good master or mistress. I’ve worked with many couples who read the book, thought that that was the case, went out and bought some toys and without understanding the psychological underpinnings of BDSM, ended up really hurting each other emotionally.” ...

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