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"Open marriage, open heart"

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

Polyamory is not a character flaw, Rose Dawson writes, it’s simply the path we have chosen

The Globe and Mail

by Rose Dawson

I have a boyfriend and he is married to someone else.

When people find out that I am in a long-term relationship with a man in an open marriage, they assume that I am a mistress or a bunny boiler (remember Fatal Attraction?) or both.

My friends talk both to and about me, wondering what I could possibly be thinking. How can I be unfailingly faithful to a man who gives me no stability or future? How can I choose to be monogamous, when he does not?

In an era of increasingly liberal approaches to romance, polyamorous relationships remain chronically misunderstood. But more than that, the responsibilities and boundaries held by a girlfriend (or boyfriend) who is not the “primary” are never discussed.

My boyfriend has a wife and two beautiful children. I’ve met his wife and, though it would be easy for us to despise one another, she and I have found a balance of tolerance and respect. We ask after one another and send good wishes. Though I have visited their home several times, she and I have spoken face-to-face only once. As his life partner, she decides the terms of their open marriage and she wants no friendship from me. I understand that feeling and I respect it. She and I approach our relationships with the man we both love in our own ways and at our own pace.

If I were able to do so openly, I would dote on his daughters. Instead, I quietly admire them from afar and occasionally send them small gifts. They are too young to understand the implications of another woman in their father’s life, so they don’t know the presents come from me. I watch videos of them on their birthdays and at Christmas; I am rooting for them to become the strong, confident women their parents are raising them to be.

There are areas of my boyfriend’s life I have no access or claim to. We do not discuss money, except when strictly necessary. We talk about our futures as individuals, but not as a couple. We approach each day with the shared knowledge that at some point, I will move on to a man who will give me all the things my boyfriend cannot. We talk about dancing together at my wedding and how it will feel to look back on the magic we shared together. Our relationship encompasses more than sex, but our love is also limited by time and appropriateness.

I have been in this relationship for nearly two years; I am almost 30. I knew my boyfriend’s marriage was open before our first kiss and I have known all along that he does not have the slightest inclination to leave his wife (nor have I ever asked that of him). Though it is difficult for people to understand, he is happily married. His relationship with me is not the result of a character flaw in any of us. It is simply the path that we have chosen; the path that keeps us all happy. My obligation to both my boyfriend and to his wife is to accept the certainty of no promises and no future and to be sufficiently sure of myself to move on from him when I am ready. I hope that he and I will always be in each other’s lives, even once our romance has ended. I believe we have come too far together, to be without each other’s platonic company and support once we are no longer lovers. Some accuse me of being idealistic, but in a relationship like ours, such transitions have to be possible.

Loving and being loved is a gift and I have learned more from my boyfriend than any partner I’ve ever had. We cheer on our successes and we build one another back up when times are tough. We hold obligations to each other and we delight in each other’s pleasure. We consider ourselves a team, albeit a unique one. ...

"At Long Last, Portland Has The Kinky Coffee Shop It’s Needed"

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

Portland is spearheading the alternative sexual lifestyle.

Willamette Week

By Sophia June

In Portland, you can take your coffee with a splash of semen.

Well, kind of. Food and drinks aren't actually allowed in the dungeon, as a paper sign informs visitors.

But you can sit with a latte and watch an ex-military sergeant called "Puppy" bark like a dog in a Polyamory 101 Workshop. You can go to classes covering everything from "electrical play" to the master/slave relationship to high protocol service to a monthly Fetish Night.

Welcome to the nation's second-ever sex-positive coffee shop, the MoonFyre Cafe at 5224 SE Foster Road. It recently opened as Portland's first dedicated spot for coffee enthusiasts who are also members of the kink, BDSM and sex-positive communities. They meet, drink coffee, learn and have sex.

It also features handcrafted sex toys, leather items and paddles from local vendors, a play room to cater to blood and scalpel play and an after care room where you can heal.

The 18-and-over cafe—near an adult video store, lingerie modeling shop and several strip clubs, including popular Devils Point—has been in the works for the past three years. MoonFyre began fundraising in December 2015. The cafe has been running workshops since the summer, in the same building as Catalyst, a sex-positive resource and event center.

It will open as a full-time cafe soon—but not soon enough.

Last year, The Guardian described Portland as "the city making open relationships easy," and a site called Kink University deemed Portland the "Kinkiest City in America."

"Portland is spearheading the alternative sexual lifestyle," says the cafe's founder, Pixie Fyre, a professional dominatrix, kink educator and victim's advocate. "We want to obliterate the taboos."

Which is why she's committed to offering workshops for people wanting to learn about polyamory and the BDSM community. ...

"Chelsea gay bar invites puppies to come and play"

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

Man's best friend just might be a man in a puppy mask.

Metro

by JOSEPH DARIUS JAAFARI

On the fourth Friday of each month, the first floor of The Eagle — a gay leather-themed bar in Chelsea — is crawling with puppies.

At any given moment, a handful of puppies will be playing with each other, sleeping on the floor and getting belly rubs, while the rest of them will be standing at the bar drinking.

These are not your Westminster Dog Show pups. These are gay men who enjoy putting on masks and tails and assume the roles of a dog. The fetish evolved from the gay leather scene nearly 40 years ago as a form of punishment, but today it’s something more playful and fun.

It’s also been one of the few ways to keep the gay leather scene growing in cities like New York, where gentrification and cost of living have driven out some of the cultural institutions that many in this community feel have dwindled.

“Gay bars are our safe places from a hostile world and our refuge. It’s just nice to come to a bar — especially a gay leather bar — where I can find people who are like me,” said Vidhra Alexander, 27, one of the more recognized pups in New York.

Alexander is the winner of Northeast Puppy, a contest of sorts that happens every year within the leather community.

“This is where I get to be unapologetically me, versus when I walk down the street I can’t just start barking at people,” he said.

The puppy fetish began in the late 1970s, when submissive gay men were punished by their more dominant partners. Despite its 40-year history, the puppy scene has only begun to flourish in the past few years with young gay men like Alexander being the primary audience drawn into the fetish.

“This is an opportunity for people to come and really see what being a puppy can be for them, and maybe experience a different fetish they never knew they had,” said Damien Basile, 36, who is a “puppy handler,” the term given to someone who is paired with a puppy. “You’d think New York would have this vast underground leather scene where people can experience different fetishes, but that’s just not the case. We went from 12 leather bars to one.”

Though New York has a highly visible kink population compared to other cities — the city hosts the Folsom Street East Street Festival, the East Coast’s largest kink street fair, every summer — the number of safe spaces for gay kinky men to indulge in their fetishes have decreased significantly. The last place to close down, Rawhide, was around for 33 years before its rent nearly doubled in 2013, forcing the owners to cease operations.

Alexander and the other pups who gathered at The Eagle last week say their culture is at risk without the leather bar.

“Queer space will always will be needed because we're a culture, we really can’t pass our culture down by the typical ‘have a kid’ kind of way,” he said.

And in today’s political climate, where many LGBTQ members view the rights they gained over the past eight years at stake under a Donald Trump presidency, gay bars are their safe spaces from the outside world. ...

"Why You Need to Tell Your Doctor If You're Having Fifty Shades-Style Sex"

on Sunday, 26 February 2017. Posted in NCSF in the News!, Front Page Headline, Media Updates

If Christian and Ana inspired you to get kinky in the bedroom, experts say you’ll want to loop your doctor in, stat.

Cosmopolitan

By Michelle Konstantinovsky

ix years ago, whips and chains were anything but mainstream. But thanks to literary juggernaut-turned film phenomenon Fifty Shades of Grey, everyone and their grandma knows kink. But what most don’t know is how concealing bedroom behaviors can hurt your health.

A study recently published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine titled “Fifty Shades of Stigma: Exploring the Health Care Experiences of Kink-Oriented Patients” revealed that less than half of BDSM practitioners (that’s bondage/discipline, dominance/submission, and sadism/masochism) confess their kinky lifestyles to their doctors, and most cite fear of judgement as the reason for their secrecy.

The stat suggests a pretty large community (accounting for 11-14% of Americans, according to rough estimates) is failing to get adequate health care because its members are afraid of what doctors may think of their bedroom behaviors.

“Other sexual minorities, like those in the LGBT community, have all been found to suffer from health disparities,” says Jess Waldura, MD, medical director of The Alternative Sexualities Health Research Alliance (TASHRA), the team behind the study. “This shows up as poorer health, worse access to culturally competent medical care, and healthcare-related stigma.”

This prompted TASHRA researchers to dig deeper, and they’re currently crunching the data from a larger follow-up survey that explores the reasons why so many kinky people stay closeted. This new study, likely to be published later this year, also delves into the potential consequences that can arise from keeping BDSM behaviors secret.

“A [clinician] might bypass or fail to recognize your needs if they don’t have all the information,” says Carol Queen, sex educator and author of The Sex & Pleasure Book. “Doctors aren’t mind readers, and they’re mostly very poorly trained about kinky sexual practices. Hearing real info from patients will help them put faces to sexual practices and help them better understand what the stakes are.”

For some BDSM practitioners like Sally,* a kinkster from suburban South Carolina, the stakes can feel astronomically high. “I fell while being untied from a suspension bondage scene and hit the edge of a table,” she says. “I broke a rib. I didn’t seek treatment because I was embarrassed to tell them how it happened." Despite the act being consensual and the injury an accident, she was worried: "I thought they would take my boyfriend in for domestic abuse.”

This kind of fear is overwhelmingly common in the kink community, according to Anna M. Randall, LCSW, MPH, a San Francisco-based sex therapist and TASHRA’s executive director. “About 13 percent of the survey respondents told their doctors their injuries were caused by something other than BDSM,” she says. “People make up stories; some are embarrassed, but most are more worried about being shamed by their doctors or not getting good care.”

“I've delayed OB/GYN visits due to bruises,” says Julie*, a submissive from Hanover, Massachusetts. “Having visible marks when going into a medical setting usually means I have to ‘out’ myself and that I won’t receive the care I require.”

While a busted ankle or broken rib may not seem like a major health concern, the injuries that sometimes arise from BDSM can potentially lead to bigger issues if left untreated. According to Randall, bruises, muscle strains, and piercing tears are common medical issues associated with kink, but foregoing medical care for seemingly minor problems isn’t a good idea.

“Big bruises can develop into hematomas, for example,” she says. “There are rare injuries from rough sex that may lead to serious complications, such as torn vaginal tissue or scrotum injuries, and because more risky sexual BDSM behaviors may include controlling the breathing of a partner, those with asthma face real risks if they’re not treated for attacks immediately.”

Others, like Jen* from Knob Noster, Missouri, risk complicating existing chronic conditions by delaying treatment. “I have rheumatoid arthritis and frequently injure myself [during BDSM sex] because of joint deterioration,” she says. “I worry about the multiple medical visits being seen as a sign of abuse, and being further questioned, so I often delay going to the doctor. Right now I have a severe sprained ankle that needs an X-ray, but I had a wrist X-ray a month ago and I’m not sure what reaction it might create.”

But while the TASHRA team acknowledges the risk of BDSM-related injuries, their research has helped refute some widespread stereotypes regarding the root causes of practitioners’ interests. “People who engage in this appear to be no different from the regular population,” Randall says, noting that her one major gripe with Fifty Shades involves Christian being the son of — as author E.L. James not-so-delicately puts it — a “crack whore.” “They’re no more likely to have been sexually abused than vanilla folks. In fact, we found they had the same ACE scores as the general population, which measures Adverse Childhood Experiences like neglect and poverty.” ...

"UNF strikes workshops on polyamory, sex toys from Sex Week"

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

Campus Reform

by Anthony Gockowski

The University of North Florida has cancelled several workshops that were to be held at its annual “Sex Week,” conceding that they only served to distract from the event’s original educational intent.

Workshops discussing "ethical non-monogamy as an alternative to cheating" and offering sex toy tutorials have already been axed from the schedule, and the school is exploring ideas for replacing a "Coming Out Kinky" event, as well.

The University of North Florida recently cancelled several workshops that were to be held at its annual “Sex Week,” conceding that they only served to distract from the event’s original intent.

Campus Reform initially reported that UNF planned to host a number of controversial workshops during the annual event, including one for “poly-curious” students considering “ethical non-monogamy as an alternative to cheating,” and another called “A Grownup Toy Story,” which offered students an “explicit, but non-threatening” introduction to sex toys.

Now, the school has informed Campus Reform that it has cancelled both workshops “to ensure that the emphasis is truly on the original mission of this series of events,” and pulled both down from the school website.

In fact, Vice President of Public Relations Sharon Ashton explained to Campus Reform that while “no taxpayer money, tuition, or student fees” have been used to sponsor the event, the school ultimately decided against hosting the aforementioned workshops so as to retain the original purpose of Sex Week, which is to educate students on topics such as “health and wellness, relationships and intimacy, identity and orientation, safety and risk awareness, and consent.”

“Nonetheless, we were concerned that the issues of consent, safety, and healthy relationships were being lost in the week’s activities,” Ashton wrote, noting that her office has “worked with the Sex Week planning group to ensure that the emphasis is truly on the original mission of this series of events,” which had “led to a number of changes.”

Among these, she noted, were the cancellation of the two workshops previously reported on by Campus Reform, the descriptions of which overshadowed “the serious topics that will be discussed” during the rest of the week’s proceedings.

“The planning group has decided to cancel ‘A Grownup Toy Story’ as well as the session that was to be taught by a representative from the Relationship Equality Foundation, originally titled ‘Love Without Limits,’” Ashton confirmed. ...

Statement by the Relationship Equality Foundation:

Relationship Equality Foundation is saddened by the abrupt cancellation of the classes we offered. We worked very closely with the LGBT Center of UNF to develop classes that align with the mission of the program and the University, while providing classes that the student body requested. It is unfortunate that upper University administration caved to a few far right voices and listened to those over the many students, faculty, staff and community members that were in favor of this programming.

As recent data shows us Young Americans are choosing Ethical Non-Monogamy as a relationship choice in greater numbers than any other age group. It is vital that adult students get comprehensive sex education that covers these topics: https://today.yougov.com/…/young-americans-less-wedded-mon…/

We want to be clear that we support the students right to access the information and education to make informed decisions about relationships in order to promote consent, safety, and healthy relationships.

"University of North Florida Advertises Student Workshops on BDSM, Polyamorous Relationships"

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

Heat Street

By Ian Miles Cheong

For students looking for more “ethical” ways to cheat on their partners, the University of North Florida appears to have a solution: a workshop on polyamory.

It’s all part of the school’s annual “Sex Week,” which also advertised sessions on kink and BDSM.

Per Campus Reform, the “Polyamory vs. Cheating: Lessons from a Former Serial Monogamist” workshop is being sponsored by the Relationship Equality Foundation, a group that claims to provide support for people seeking non-traditional relationships. The workshop is open for “poly-curious” students and those “looking for “ethical non-monogamy as an alternative to cheating.”

Curiously, since Campus Reform reported on the school’s “Sex Week” curriculum, two of the racier workshops (including the one on Polyamory) have been renamed. “Coming Out Kinky” was changed to “Coming Out” and “Polyamory vs. Cheating” was renamed “Healthy Relationships.” The description for the latter workshop now says: “A conversation focused on healthy relationships and identity. Stay tuned for more information soon!”

Meanwhile, a session on sex toys titled “A (Grownup) Toy Story” has been removed from the listings altogether.

While the earlier titles and descriptions have been wiped from the website, a trace of them can still be found in the search engine as well as through Google Cache (Archive).

With the changes to the titles and descriptions, it’s unclear whether the curriculum itself will be any different. The speakers are unchanged.

UNF’s BDSM workshop, formerly called “Coming Out Kinky,” was described this way:

I’ve watched “50 Shades of Grey”, is that really what BDSM is about? What is BDSM exactly? What is considered kinky? This lecture based class is an introduction to what it means to be “kinky.” Born out of the popularity of the “50 Shades” series, girl leira adapted this class in her sophomore year at Stetson University and first taught to a student body of over 200 participants. This lecture allows participants to get a clear picture of what BDSM actually is and what are considered safe and practical behaviors. This is an introductory lecture that goes over the fundamental basics of T.H.I.R.D. (trust, honesty, integrity, respect, and dominance), along with R.A.C.K. (Risk, Aware, Consensual Kink) as well as S.S.C. (Safe, Sane, Consensual) . ...

"‘Fifty Shades Darker’ Premiere Brings Lots of Leather, Loads of Love"

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

Variety

by Dani Levy

Though the cast emphasized the dark tone of the next installment of the erotic romance series, Thursday night’s “Fifty Shades Darker” premiere was anything but.

The mood was positively titillating on the Ace Hotel’s red carpet in Downtown Los Angeles, while screams and hollers filled the theater during the screening. Interviewers asked the cast the naughtiest of questions, handing them props like whip cream, handcuffs, and feather whips. But as big of a theme as romance was, the love between the cast members shined brighter than anything else. Ashleigh LaThrop, who plays Ana’s coworker Hannah, called the cast the “Fifty Family.”

“Great to see you, brother,” Jamie Dornan, who plays millionaire sadist (the character’s own words) Christian Grey, said to co-star Eric Johnson with a handshake and hug.

“I didn’t really know what to expect, but we had a lot of fun. That I didn’t expect,” Johnson said of filming, though he lamented having to “show up at work everyday and do awful things to Dakota [Johnson].” Eric plays Jack Hyde, a new villain and Anastasia Steele’s boss at Seattle Independent Press, a character that Eric says is “slowly unraveling.”

“I think this film is about two people with a very deep connection trying to figure out their s— together and all the things in life that get in the way between you and love,” Eric said.

Eloise Mumford, who plays Ana’s best friend Kate, said the film “opens our eyes to different kinds of love stories, encouraging us all to delve a little bit deeper into what actually is going on behind closed doors.”

Such a romance, filled with chains, whips, and what seems like an endless supply of luxury cars requires a lot of trust, which director James Foley fostered when the camera was both on and off.

“Trust is a pivotal word,” the filmmaker noted. ...

"Beyond 50 Shades Darker: Debunking Popular Myths About BDSM"

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

Groundbreaking new research challenges stereotypes about BDSM participants.

Psychology Today

by Michael Aaron, Ph.D.

First, a caveat: We are not advocates of the ill-informed works of Sigmund Freud or E. L. James, author of the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy, nor do we consider them authorities on sex and sexuality. However, it would be foolish to deny the impact they have had on society. Freud, although his theories and therapy were rooted in misogyny and opinion, did something no other psychological professional in the Western world had done before him—he openly talked about sex and sexual identity development. This laid the groundwork for our current sexual world and profession, one where we can now talk about sex, and where we have space to assist clients in working through their sexuality-related concerns.

Author E. L. James, has done something similar for the world of Bondage and Domination/Dominance and Submission/Sadism and Masochism/Sadomasochism (BDSM), or kink—she has opened up a larger discussion around these practices and erotic orientation. This is arguably the one positive outcome of James’ books and the related movie series. These questions and conversations around BDSM are much needed and long overdue. So for this outcome, much like that of Freud’s enabling talking about sexuality in general, we are thankful.

To the point of our caveat: Freud did not base his ideas on research-informed knowledge, leading to harm and misunderstanding by many consumers of his works, and neither did E. L. James, leading many of her readers to have grave misunderstandings of what BDSM is and is not. While misconceptions about BDSM are not new, some of the most frequently asked questions include: What kinds of personality types engage in BDSM? Do people who engage in BDSM come from abusive families? Why would someone want to engage in BDSM play? Is BDSM abuse? Are BDSM relationships cold, distant, controlling, or abusive? What kind of feelings do people who engage in BDSM experience before, during, and after intense sensation play?

So, in order to help elevate greater understanding and provide answers to these questions, we conducted an ethics board approved study involving over 200 participants who engage in BDSM. We recruited subjects via online networks and professional listservs. Information was obtained from respondents via an online survey, consisting of roughly 12 qualitative questions about the individual's motivations and experiences engaging in BDSM, as well as three psychological instruments: the Experiences in Close Relationships Scale-Short Form (ECR-S), which measures attachment style; Adverse Childhood Experiences Scale (ACE), which measures level of childhood trauma; and The Big Five Inventory (BFI), which measures personality traits. Using these measures, we were able to answer many of the above questions. Our preliminary findings are below. We are currently writing up these findings and will be sending them to appropriate journals for publication.

Why would someone want to engage in BDSM play? What kind of feelings do people who engage in BDSM experience before, during, and after their intense sensation play?

The qualitative section asked about the individual's motivation, as well as subjective experiences before, during, and after engaging in BDSM sensation play. In response to these kinds of questions, many BDSM participants stated that they felt excitement and anticipation ahead of time, a sense of excitement and pleasure during the encounter, and a wave of deep connection to their partner afterward, as well as a stronger sense of self-empowerment and authenticity.

Do people who engage in BDSM come from abusive childhoods or unhealthy families?

Regarding the ACE assessment, we found no significant correlation between people who engage in BDSM and reports of being touched/groped/molested as a child by someone 5 or more years older. The BDSM participants also showed no correlation with a variety of negative factors, such as feeling unloved, not having enough to eat, separated or divorced parents, or mental health or substance abuses issues in the home.

What kind of personality types engage in BDSM?

Regarding the BFI measure, we found a significant correlation between BDSM and Openness to New Experiences. Otherwise, this group was considered 'typical' in terms of the standard/normal sample on which the BFI was developed. ...

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