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"Fifty Shades versus BDSM: The reality of consent"

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

The Globe and Mail


They’re back, and ready to tie up some loose ends: Fifty Shades Darker, the highly anticipated sequel to Fifty Shades of Grey, opens in theatres next Friday, Feb. 10. Whether you loved, hated or ignored the first movie or the 150-million-copy book trilogy that preceded it, there’s no denying that the blockbuster started a larger conversation about BDSM in popular culture.

Just in case you somehow missed it, BDSM is an abbreviation: It stands for bondage and discipline, dominance and submission and sadism and masochism. In other words, it’s an umbrella term to describe a myriad of sexual kinks, including but not limited to bondage (rope, blindfolds or handcuffs), impact play (spanking, flogging or caning) and kinky role-play (think doctor/patient or teacher/student scenarios).

When Fifty Shades of Grey hit bookshelves in 2011, people got all hot and bothered. Kinky traffic on the adult website xHamster in Canada rose 28.56 per cent in the year after the first film came out, which, by the way, grossed $81.7-million (U.S.) in North America in its opening weekend. The storyline goes like this: Boyishly handsome millionaire Christian Grey woos recent college grad (and virgin) Anastasia Steele with spendy gifts before introducing her to the Red Room of Pain in his basement. The books arrived at a time when BDSM wasn’t part of the mainstream dialogue and it catapulted women’s hidden desires into mainstream conversation.

If Fifty Shades is your guilty pleasure, that’s fine. But if it’s inspiring you to explore BDSM, keep in mind that long-time practitioners – or players, as they call themselves – largely criticize author E.L. James’s depiction as woefully inaccurate. More than once, Christian refuses to listen to Anastasia’s “no,” but the community has put big efforts into prioritizing consent for many years. And, advocates say, since sexual consent is a critical topic everywhere from postsecondary campuses to criminal courts, a better understanding of BDSM could probably help society at large.

“He is a powerful, rich man with a lot of social power and he uses that to manipulate her and coerce her into a relationship that he wants,” says podcast host Dawn Serra about Fifty Shades. “Nothing about the agreement is about what Ana wants, nor does he ever acknowledge how his power automatically makes her agreement questionable.”

On her show, Sex Gets Real, Serra often discusses the importance and practicalities of two core BDSM beliefs about consent: that all acts should be safe, sane and consensual, or SSC, and that everyone should practise risk-aware consensual kink, or RACK. “The goal is ultimately the same,” says Serra, who lives in Salt Lake City, Utah. “That everyone involved in an activity understands the potential risks and has taken the necessary precautions for their required level of safety, and that everyone involved has the ability – mentally, psychologically and socially – to choose for themselves whether or not to engage in this activity.”

BDSM players typically communicate via a “safe word”: an agreed-upon verbal safety net of sorts. The most common one is “red,” meaning stop, like a stop sign. According to Whiplr (Tinder for the kink community), fruits and colours make up nine of the top 15 most popular safe words. Banana or pineapple, anyone?

“In BDSM, it is common practice to discuss ahead of time what all partners want to do, and what limitations they have,” says Carol Queen, the staff sexologist at San Francisco sex-toy shop Good Vibrations. She adds that these limitations are sometimes based on boundaries, and sometimes on health issues, “as when a person who has asthma shouldn’t have a hood put on them.”

Queen began exploring BDSM in the 1980s, and says that it’s where she first heard the actual word “consent” used regularly, and discussed as an integral part of an erotic experience. She says it’s far less common for those having “old-fashioned skin-to-skin sex” to have involved conversation about what they like, don’t want to do and what kind of STIs they might have.

She believes that most of us are poorly equipped to have an honest dialogue about sex and that many negative experiences – from awkward misunderstandings all the way to sexual assault – might be avoided if we got comfortable with these conversations. “The BDSM players are among the only people on the planet who elevate sexual/erotic communication this way,” Queen says. “We all have tons to learn from them.”

The official trailer for Fifty Shades Darker has been viewed more than 17 million times on YouTube, but it’s unlikely that the franchise will help teach us about healthy sexual consent. Here’s a line from the first book, written from Anastasia’s point of view: “No,” I protest, trying to kick him off. He stops. “If you struggle, I’ll tie your feet too. If you make a noise, Anastasia, I will gag you.” Trust and communication is essential in BDSM relationships, but it’s nowhere to be seen in these scenes.

“It romanticizes a coercive, manipulative, abusive relationship that is not consensual, while also insisting that being abused is the reason someone would be into BDSM,” Serra says. “In the second and third books, it’s clear that Christian begins to let go of his sadism as Anastasia begins to fix him, which reinforces a lot of dangerous cultural messaging around women being responsible for fixing emotionally unintelligent, unavailable men. Ana never had a chance.” ...

Update on the American Law Institute Project

on Sunday, 26 February 2017. Posted in Front Page Headline, NCSF News

Dick Cunningham, NCSF's legal counsel, has been selected for membership in the American Law Institute. The ALI is the American law profession's elite organization for the study of important current legal issues and the drafting of "model laws." The model laws drafted by the ALI, often in a process, are generally incorporated, albeit often with some amendments, by the great majority of state legislatures in their civil and criminal laws. As a member, Dick will now have the opportunity to participate in any of the ALI's on-going model law projects.

At the top of Dick's priority list will be two projects of direct importance to NCSF. The most important is the Institute's on-going effort to revise criminal laws concerning various forms of sexual assault and-of particular interest to NCSF: the principles of consent applicable in such criminal prosecutions. NCSF has already made written submissions to that ALI project that have been favorably received and that promise to introduce into the model laws and commentary concepts that clarify the issue of consent in the context of BDSM.

The second project in which Dick will participate is the ALI's study of the issues concerning sex on college campuses. This whole subject is almost daily in the newsheadlines. Here again, issues concerning the rules of consent are central to the project, and decisions made as to consent in this emotionally-charged context could have implications-good or bad-to the criminal law of consent in the BDSM context.

Look for more updates on the ALI project in the coming months.


Novedades sobre el Proyecto del Instituto de Derecho Americano (American Law Institute)

Dick Cunningham, asesor legal de la NCSF, ha sido elegid miembro del Instituto de Derecho Americano. El ALI (American Law Institute) es la organización de elite de profesionales del Derecho que se dedica al estudio de asuntos legales actuales importantes y el diseño de "modelos de leyes". Los modelos de leyes esbozados por la ALI, a menudo aún en proceso, son generalmente incorporados, aunque frecuentemente con algunas enmiendas, por la mayoría de las legislaturas estatales en sus leyes civiles y criminales. Como miembro, Dick tendrá a partir de ahora la oportunidad de participar en cualquiera de los proyectos de modelos de leyes en curso.

En lo alto de la lista de prioridades de Dick estarán dos proyectos con una importancia directa para la NCSF. El más importante es el esfuerzo, aún en curso, del Instituto para revisar las leyes criminales referentes a varias formas de asalto sexual y -especialmente interesante para la NCSF-: los principios del consentimiento aplicables en dichos procesos penales. La NCSF ya ha presentado alegaciones por escrito para tal proyecto de la ALI las cuales han sido recibidas favorablemente y prometen introducir en los modelos de leyes ejemplos de ideas que clarifiquen la cuestión del consentimiento en el contexto del BDSM.

El segundo proyecto en el cual Dick participará será el estudio de la ALI sobre cuestiones relativas al sexo en los campus universitarios. Este asunto suele estar casi a diario en los titulares de las noticias. Nuevamente las cuestiones relativas a las normas del consentimiento son fundamentales para el proyecto y las decisiones tomadas en cuanto al consentimiento en este contexto emocionalmente intenso podrían tener consecuencias -buenas o malas- en la legislación penal sobre el consentimiento en el contexto del BDSM.

Busque más novedades sobre el proyecto ALI en los próximos meses.

"Cosplay's Unlikely Anime Bondage Stars"

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


by Luke Plunkett

There’s always been a bit of a stigma attached to hentai, a highly sexualised form of Japanese anime and manga. Ditto for any associated cosplay, which can often be explicitly pornographic. Despite this, a German couple is finding some surprising mainstream (for the cosplay world, at least) success combining the two.

Because I run our cosplay website, I browse DeviantArt (one of the world’s most popular sources for cosplay images) a lot while looking for cool photos, and started noticing an influx of a certain type of photo maybe 6-9 months ago. Every time I’d go and check the site out, I’d see that near the very top of the “most viewed” section of images, right alongside the Harley Quinns and Disney Princesses, would be these photos of a girl, usually dressed as anime character (though video games featured as well), bound and gagged. Sometimes there would be a man alongside her doing the binding, sometimes there’d be a man being bound as well.

At first I thought the images were coming out of a scene I’d never encountered before, some fetish BDSM or shibari community that was finding its feet on the site, but eventually I noticed that it was always the same girl. And there were never any shots of other cosplayers doing the same thing to indicate it was a community. It was just her.

That girl’s name is Kitty, and along with her husband Jester they’re now caught in the midst of a surprising (and accidental) rise to cosplay fame.

The couple, who have been together since 2009 (and married since 2015), met each other through cosplay; Kitty began in 2006 and Jester in 2007, and the pair remain committed to the craft, building their own costumes and attending cons in their native Germany every year. They operate together under the name Natsuko Hiragi.

To set this straight, they began as, and remain outside certain photos, “traditional” cosplayers. They don’t attend cons tied up, nor do they do their bondage stuff with other folks, and every outfit they make is done with regular cosplay in mind. Despite this, bondage is what they’re fast becoming known for, with increasing levels of both support and notoriety.

“It began as a silly bet”, Jester tells me. “I told my wife about my love for bondage-related stuff and showed her my Deviantart Page”. After some discussion about the possible intersection of two of his interests, Kitty made a bet with him that they would upload a gallery of her in cosplay, bound and gagged, and see how well it did.

If they got less than 200 views in 24 hours, she’d never do it again. If they got more, then she’d do more.

“By the end of the day, the image had been viewed over 2000 times”, Jester remembers, laughing. ...

"The ancient Chinese were pretty kinky"

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

NY Post

by Alexandra Klausner

No one can accuse aristocrats in China’s Han Dynasty of being prudes.

Long before actress and Goop founder Gwyneth Paltrow was selling “magical” Yoni eggs — meant to balance chi and enhance female health and pleasure — the ancient Chinese were inserting kinky doodads in both the living and the dead.

The 2,000-year-old tombs of Chinese royalty and elites, excavated near Shanghai between 1995 and 2011, reveal a varied collection of sex toys including bronze dildos, along with everyday items such as urinals and loofahs, reported IFL Science. The items will be on exhibit at San Francisco’s Asian Art Museum on Feb. 17.

Jade was an exalted and priceless material in ancient China that was used to create “deaths suits.” Thought to ward off spiritual evil and preserve the body, jade was inserted into the orifices of the wealthy deceased.

“The jade plugs are used to seal the body and keep in vital essences that can leak out during life and death,” curator Fan Zhang of the Asian Art Museum told IFLScience.

“Basically, it is to maintain the chi. The most important orifice was the mouth, and we have a beautiful example of a mouth seal in the shape of a cicada in the exhibition.”

As for the living, there were custom dildos and other sex toys for enhancing pleasure. ...

"Polyamory 101: should you open your relationship?"

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

Metro UK

by Rebecca Reid

Valentine’s day is fast approaching, meaning that the world is about to be filled with overpriced roses and love.

But what if v-day isn’t about dinner with the one you love. What if you could fill a dinner party with the people you’re involved with?

It’s easy to assume that relationship means two people, but in fact, that’s just not true. Relationships can include just as many people as you like (a bit like families).And when it does, it’s called polyamory, or an open relationship, or ethical non-monogamy.

So what is polyamory all about? Take a seat, sharpen your pencils and get comfortable. Welcome to polyamory 101.

What is polyamory?

Polyamory is (putting it simply) the practice of having relationships with more than one person at a time.Polyamory is often confused with or used as an interchangeable expression for ethical non-monogamy or an open relationship.

Being poly tends to mean forming relationships to people, rather than just sleeping with them, whereas ethical non-monogamous relationships tend to focus on having sex with other people rather than relationships with them.

What qualifies you to talk about it?

I was in a poly relationship for just shy of five years and no-one killed anyone (though some extremely passive aggressive texts were sent).

How does it work?

Explaining how any relationship works is tricky, but the main focus of polyamory is that it’s a relationship with more than two people in it.

It can work in all different combinations. Sometimes all the people in the poly are romantically involved with each other, sometimes they’re only involved with a few. Sometimes there’s no connect at all between some members of the group.

The only universal principle of polyamory is that it’s an honest and transparent relationship. Unlike an affair, everyone is acutely aware of what’s happening, and there’s no deception.

So you can sleep with anyone you want?

Sometimes, but not always. In some poly relationships, it’s perfectly legit to sleep with whoever you want. In others, it needs to be cleared first, and some poly relationships are monogamous within themselves. ...

"Mark Your Calendars! LGBT March On Washington Planned For D.C. Pride Weekend"

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

The Gaily Grind

On the heels of last weekend’s Women’s March on Washington, a gay activist in New York City has set in motion plans for a National Pride March on Washington on June 11, which he hopes will draw hundreds of thousands of people.

David Bruinooge, 42, a Brooklyn, N.Y., resident, said he was inspired to create a Facebook event page announcing the march on Jan. 21 while he was watching the Women’s March on Washington at home.

“I was watching the events unfold on TV and I was very proud and inspired by all the women, the strong women in our country who were kind of taking this to the street and getting their voices heard,” he told the Washington Blade. “And in the back of my mind as an openly gay man I thought the gay community should be doing something like this to follow up on the momentum.”

“This will be an ALL-inclusive and peaceful event,” reads the announcement on Facebook.

The Washington Blade adds:

Ryan Bos, executive director of the Capital Pride Alliance, which organizes the D.C. Pride events, including the Pride Parade set to take place on June 10, said he has spoken with Bruinooge and expects that Capital Pride officials will collaborate with the march organizers so the march and the D.C. Pride events will complement each other.

1485189229_241_Some-of-the-best-trust-me-they-are-tremendous-protest-signs-from-the-Women’s-MarchWashington, D.C. in front of the Trump International Hotel. Photo via Pantsuit Nation on Facebook.

He acknowledges he and others working on the march will have a significant amount of work to do logistically, including obtaining permits for street closings. He said he’s hopeful that Capital Pride officials will provide support and consider the march to be a joint Capital Pride project.

The last major LGBT protest held in D.C. was the National Equality March in 2009. The march drew hundreds of thousands of protesters who demanded full equality for LGBTQ people in all matters of civil law. Only five states had legal same-sex marriage at that time. ...

"The Big Five Personality Traits Applied To Sexuality"

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


by Prachi Gangwani

One of the most commonly used tools to assess and understand personality is something called the Five Factor Model of personality. This model suggests that our personalities can be ultimately reduced to a combination of five traits: Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism. The big five personality traits have been used to predict one's performance at work, and even success at relationships (read more about that, on our website here). It isn't a stretch to think that these traits might also have something to do with our sexual preferences.

A group of researchers set out to see if they could find a connection between the five traits, and alternate sexual likes and dislikes (kinks, fetishes, and anything other than what we call vanilla sex). They found that those who are more inclined towards BDSM and a poly lifestyle also score high on the Openness scale. This means that they are imaginative, creative, curious, and open to new experiences in all areas of life. Breaking away from one-on-one vanilla sex is done in the same vein.

Another Dutch study found that in the BDSM community, both the dominant and submissive partners score high on Conscientiousness. This scale is a measure of orderliness, discipline, dependability, and dutifulness. In the context of BDSM, this can be extrapolated to a preference for rules and order. However, the dominant partners did not score very high on the Agreeability scale. This means that they aren't the most compassionate, and focus more on their individual interests than the interest of others.

Michael Aaron, a certified sex therapist and clinical sexologist, takes this a step forward. Based on what he sees in his office, he suggests that those who are preoccupied with their partner's pleasure, and not as focused on themselves, might score high on Agreeableness. Further, he says that those who score high on Extraversion are outgoing and like a sense of community. This may translate to them being comfortable with a poly arrangement, than someone who is an introvert. ...

"Sex Game Removes Intense BDSM Scene Following Fan Feedback"

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


by Cecilia D'Anastasio

Kinky at face, Ladykiller in a Bind is not fucking around about fucking. But it's also not kidding about consent. Yesterday, developer Christine Love removed sex from a potential plot branch after players expressed discomfort.

Ladykiller in a Bind is an uncensored, queer, BDSM sex game that is now sold on Steam. Its alternate title says it all: "My Twin Brother Made Me Crossdress As Him And Now I Have To Deal With A Geeky Stalker And A Domme Beauty Who Want Me In A Bind!!." In Ladykiller, the protagonist, a lesbian woman dressed as her brother, hooks up with various women with various proclivities on a cruise. There are two male-bodied characters she can pursue, too.

Ladykiller's President (a man) is the sworn rival of the protagonist's brother, whom the player impersonates. In the game, he reveals himself to be a manipulative jerk. In a sexual context, his dark side is a lot to handle. The scene in question's script describes the encounter as a "hate-fuck." Essentially, the President manipulates the protagonist into giving him a blow job, but context surrounding the scene adds some nuance.

"Let me hear you say 'YES!'. Come on, where's that ENTHUSIASTIC CONSENT?" he says. He puts his hand on your character's neck. Begrudgingly, she's into it. The scene escalates. The script is online and, frankly, I found it hard to read. The scene was prefaced by several warnings and an opt-out button. Even reaching the scene takes a lot of effort.

In her latest Ladykiller patch notes, Love says that she removed the scene "due to strong player feedback." She adds that the scene has been "completely rewritten and now has a different tone."

Her explanation:

"The original goal of the scene was to demonstrate a darker — certainly not safe IRL — fantasy to contrast with the safety of the Beauty's arc. But even after multiple revisions, clearly a lot of players were extremely uncomfortable with its presence, and still ended up being blindsided — I think I failed to account for the player's context, and I'd rather the scene be gone than make anyone else uncomfortable." ...

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