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Exploring Black Women's Sexuality and BDSM in NYC's Oldest Dungeon

on Sunday, 07 May 2017. Posted in Front Page Headline, Media Updates

The one-night-only art installation and performance "Sexual Fragments Absent" transformed Manhattan's oldest dungeon with emoji videos, disturbingly beautiful sculptures, and interactive play performances.

Broadly

by Larissa Pham

On n a monitor high above the space glowing with red light, a woman cuts her tights open to reveal her shaved pussy. She inserts an internal condom, then a speculum—the metal's glint exaggerated by sparkling gifs that dance playfully on the surface of the screen—and slowly begins to crank it open. You can see her stomach ripple as she breathes deeply, taking the extension, which surely must be painful; what appears in the open gap of the speculum is an uncertain space, a void. After a moment, she folds a series of dollar bills and puts them in the space that she's created, then, removing the wad of dollar bills, she shows them to the viewer. On the screen, words flash: "I'VE MADE THIS SPACE FOR YOU." Heart emojis spiral on vertical axes and give off sparkles. I watch the video through one time, then again, even though I don't really want to, clutching at my stomach and feeling slightly sick.

 

"Did that hurt?" I ask the artist, Shawné Michaelain Holloway, now seated next to me at the bar. The same video is playing on a monitor behind the counter, and I'm having trouble looking at it, but I also can't bring myself to look away.

 

"Ugh, yes," she says, laughing at my horrified expression.

 

Read more: Inside a BDSM Dungeon with a Hillary Dom and a Guilty, Diaper-Clad Trump Voter

 

The video is one of three featured in Sexual Fragments Absent, a one-night-only art event performed and installed at Paddles, Manhattan's oldest dungeon. Along with Holloway—whose work deals with networks and browsers—the artists Doreen Garner, known for her visceral, disturbingly beautiful sculptures made of silicone and glass, and Tiona McClodden, whose work deals with BDSM and its psychological dynamics, had sculptures and video pieces throughout the basement space. Together, the three artists presented a body of work, curated by School of Visual Arts curatorial practice grad Ikechukwu Onyewuenyi, that engaged the complicated dynamics of black women's sexuality and bodies within the context of BDSM.

 

It's an audacious conceit for an art show, and ultimately, a rewarding one. Paddles, a notably white, gay, and male play space, seems an odd choice for a culminating curatorial exhibit. Yet the space was changed by the presence of the work—the night of the show hosted a majority queer, femme, black, and otherwise diverse audience; perhaps the most diverse crowd Paddles has ever seen—and its setting as a dungeon, as a place specifically for BDSM play, was integral to the context of the exhibit itself. "I think of feminism as waves that don't take a physical form," said Onyewuenyi, referring not to historical movements but to the overlapping social, economic, and other dynamics that influence political perspectives in popular culture. "What if they took physical form? BDSM is a site where there's a collapsing of waves."

 

Sex isn't necessarily violence, but it can be. In our intimate moments, dynamics of structural power, pleasure, and pain are very often intertwined. And, as Onyewuenyi suggested, it's at sites like Paddles and during BDSM scenes where these dynamics seem to collapse. What would seem painful in daily life becomes acceptable and pleasurable in a play space. Preexisting dynamics—like that of the patriarchy or of racism—can shift in meaning entirely, not disappearing, necessarily, but taking a different shape.

 

Many themes influenced the show, but I was struck by one statement of Onyewuenyi's in particular. "I was thinking about this line from Hilton Als," he said. "'How do you get people to forget their own history? When I'm in love, I forget,'" he paraphrased.

 

In some ways, the night was about reclaiming a history that has already existed. Throughout the dungeon's space were historical images from Dark Connections, a black BDSM resource, selected by McClodden. I spoke with her about the images and her work—but only after borrowing some red lipstick from Holloway.

 

"I wanted the space to remain a play space," said McClodden. She showed me a small card, which listed her terms of engagement: red lipstick, white nail polish, eyeliner, or fishnets. Anyone who wasn't dressed accordingly, she didn't engage with. In this performance, she sought to preserve a kind of cruising atmosphere, keeping a boundary around who she interacted with. McClodden's work directly references the materiality and haptics of BDSM. In a sculptural piece named Lost Subs, old gear from her past submissive partners was hung in the space—a replica of a harness; two actual collars worn by subs—generating an eerie, mournful energy. Behind it, as part of a series called Undergone, was an old pair of boots, worn by McClodden, filled with a bouquet of flowers and now rendered somewhere between art object and poignant re-remembered subject.

 

The historical images are there to explain that black BDSM has always existed, McClodden explained. "When I first saw BDSM, with the master-slave talk, I was like, no way!" But later, after seeing a black BDSM contingent march during Pride, McClodden recognized her interest in power exchange, embodied in a community familiar to her. "Well, if that's what it can do," she thought, then it was simply a matter of language—of finding the words that made sense.

 

"I think the show is important," Holloway agreed. Dedicating space to their work, and to including sexuality in blackness, presents a full self—one that still feels rare. ...

Exploring Black Women's Sexuality and BDSM in NYC's Oldest Dungeon

on Sunday, 07 May 2017. Posted in Front Page Headline, Media Updates

The one-night-only art installation and performance "Sexual Fragments Absent" transformed Manhattan's oldest dungeon with emoji videos, disturbingly beautiful sculptures, and interactive play performances.

Broadly

by Larissa Pham

On n a monitor high above the space glowing with red light, a woman cuts her tights open to reveal her shaved pussy. She inserts an internal condom, then a speculum—the metal's glint exaggerated by sparkling gifs that dance playfully on the surface of the screen—and slowly begins to crank it open. You can see her stomach ripple as she breathes deeply, taking the extension, which surely must be painful; what appears in the open gap of the speculum is an uncertain space, a void. After a moment, she folds a series of dollar bills and puts them in the space that she's created, then, removing the wad of dollar bills, she shows them to the viewer. On the screen, words flash: "I'VE MADE THIS SPACE FOR YOU." Heart emojis spiral on vertical axes and give off sparkles. I watch the video through one time, then again, even though I don't really want to, clutching at my stomach and feeling slightly sick.

 

"Did that hurt?" I ask the artist, Shawné Michaelain Holloway, now seated next to me at the bar. The same video is playing on a monitor behind the counter, and I'm having trouble looking at it, but I also can't bring myself to look away.

 

"Ugh, yes," she says, laughing at my horrified expression.

 

Read more: Inside a BDSM Dungeon with a Hillary Dom and a Guilty, Diaper-Clad Trump Voter

 

The video is one of three featured in Sexual Fragments Absent, a one-night-only art event performed and installed at Paddles, Manhattan's oldest dungeon. Along with Holloway—whose work deals with networks and browsers—the artists Doreen Garner, known for her visceral, disturbingly beautiful sculptures made of silicone and glass, and Tiona McClodden, whose work deals with BDSM and its psychological dynamics, had sculptures and video pieces throughout the basement space. Together, the three artists presented a body of work, curated by School of Visual Arts curatorial practice grad Ikechukwu Onyewuenyi, that engaged the complicated dynamics of black women's sexuality and bodies within the context of BDSM.

 

It's an audacious conceit for an art show, and ultimately, a rewarding one. Paddles, a notably white, gay, and male play space, seems an odd choice for a culminating curatorial exhibit. Yet the space was changed by the presence of the work—the night of the show hosted a majority queer, femme, black, and otherwise diverse audience; perhaps the most diverse crowd Paddles has ever seen—and its setting as a dungeon, as a place specifically for BDSM play, was integral to the context of the exhibit itself. "I think of feminism as waves that don't take a physical form," said Onyewuenyi, referring not to historical movements but to the overlapping social, economic, and other dynamics that influence political perspectives in popular culture. "What if they took physical form? BDSM is a site where there's a collapsing of waves."

 

Sex isn't necessarily violence, but it can be. In our intimate moments, dynamics of structural power, pleasure, and pain are very often intertwined. And, as Onyewuenyi suggested, it's at sites like Paddles and during BDSM scenes where these dynamics seem to collapse. What would seem painful in daily life becomes acceptable and pleasurable in a play space. Preexisting dynamics—like that of the patriarchy or of racism—can shift in meaning entirely, not disappearing, necessarily, but taking a different shape.

 

Many themes influenced the show, but I was struck by one statement of Onyewuenyi's in particular. "I was thinking about this line from Hilton Als," he said. "'How do you get people to forget their own history? When I'm in love, I forget,'" he paraphrased.

 

In some ways, the night was about reclaiming a history that has already existed. Throughout the dungeon's space were historical images from Dark Connections, a black BDSM resource, selected by McClodden. I spoke with her about the images and her work—but only after borrowing some red lipstick from Holloway.

 

"I wanted the space to remain a play space," said McClodden. She showed me a small card, which listed her terms of engagement: red lipstick, white nail polish, eyeliner, or fishnets. Anyone who wasn't dressed accordingly, she didn't engage with. In this performance, she sought to preserve a kind of cruising atmosphere, keeping a boundary around who she interacted with. McClodden's work directly references the materiality and haptics of BDSM. In a sculptural piece named Lost Subs, old gear from her past submissive partners was hung in the space—a replica of a harness; two actual collars worn by subs—generating an eerie, mournful energy. Behind it, as part of a series called Undergone, was an old pair of boots, worn by McClodden, filled with a bouquet of flowers and now rendered somewhere between art object and poignant re-remembered subject.

 

The historical images are there to explain that black BDSM has always existed, McClodden explained. "When I first saw BDSM, with the master-slave talk, I was like, no way!" But later, after seeing a black BDSM contingent march during Pride, McClodden recognized her interest in power exchange, embodied in a community familiar to her. "Well, if that's what it can do," she thought, then it was simply a matter of language—of finding the words that made sense.

 

"I think the show is important," Holloway agreed. Dedicating space to their work, and to including sexuality in blackness, presents a full self—one that still feels rare. ...

This Is What It's Actually Like to Be in a Polyamorous Family

on Sunday, 07 May 2017. Posted in Front Page Headline, Media Updates

Common fears include jealousy, competition and abandonment, yet these risks are not any higher in non-monogamy.

Willamette Week

By Angie Gunn, LCSW

 

In a recent Willamette Week article, the authors visited a former Kink Café for a Polyamory 101 class and shared one perspective on polyamory. I would like to provide another, first-hand perspective.

 

It is important to note that alternative sexuality is not the same as polyamory. Many people practice polyamory or ethical non-monogamy but don't engage in BDSM/ Kink/ Fetish/ or any alternative sexual practices.

 

The term polyamory or ethical non-monogamy speaks to relational structure, not orientation or expression. Many individuals may fall along the sexual/ romantic spectrum within non-monogamy, and they also may or may not also practice an alternative sexual expression. Polyamory usually refers to individuals who date and partner in meaningful, long term ways, with more than one person, but may also include casual relationships too. Each grouping of people defines polyamory for themselves, and some identify as polyamorous or non-monogamous (an identity or orientation) even when not in relationships.

 

In general, monogamy has far more restrictive "rules" than polyamory, though they tend to be fewer in number. Monogamy requires that you don't sleep with or romantically engage with anyone else (one rule, but very restrictive), whereas polyamory sets broad agreements related to how we engage with other people (many agreements, but very permissive).

 

Monogamy is still a valid relationship style and is not inherently selfish or shortsighted, but speaks to that individual and couple's understanding of themselves, their needs and how to best meet them.

 

In addition to polyamory and monogamy, the range of relationship expression can vary widely. Non-monogamy is an umbrella concept which can include relationship anarchy (a very individualistic style of relating), solo polyamory (identifying as someone who practices long term partnering with more than one person, but does not combine/ intertwine lives as much), Mongamish (Dan Savage coined term to refer to generally monogamous people who have occasional encounters with others), and swingers/ lifestylers are those who generally have sex with others when with their partner, for time limited periods.

 

For me and my non-monogamous family, I date and live with one person, sometimes called a nesting partner. He dates another person, sometimes referred to as my metamour (partner's partner), with whom he stays with a few days a week. I also date another person in town, and have casual sexual, romantic, or close friend relationships with a number of people locally as well as across the country. All of these individuals are close to me, considered an extended part of my family. Both my nesting partner and my metamour have a number of other casual BDSM or sex partners locally and across the country. Overall we have a high level of respect, care and consideration for one another. The four of us have mutual communication and shared agreements regarding STI testing, barrier use, and sharing of space and time. No one has veto power, or control over the others, but we communicate and care for one another's feelings as we venture into long term non-monogamous partnering.

 

A common misconception is that non-monogamy is all about sex. On the contrary, it's about flexibility and beauty and connection outside of typical constraints. I have partners who are non-sexual, those who I relate to on a variety of levels with the ability to be physical, but without the requirements to do so that often exists in monogamy.

 

Common fears include jealousy, competition and abandonment, yet these risks are not any higher in non-monogamy. We see that adding a new partner is not a threat to any relationships involved, but an adding on, a building up and nurturing through love. While this sounds beautiful and straightforward, it's actually incredibly difficult, heart wrenchingly vulnerable work to find your family or community, while managing your own needs and emotions. Finding individuals who fit you, your wants and needs, and fit well within your respective partner configuration is really complex. Many who try non-monogamy find that it's not a great fit, while others find the that process of the ideological shift in value systems and learning new patterns of relationship negotiation suits them well.

 

Regardless of your choice in partnering, there is an expansive community network of others to learn from, share with, and collaborate with here in Portland. One such organization facilitating these opportunities is SPEEC, Portland's Sex Positive Event and Education Center. ...

Is Kink the Future of Monogamy?

on Sunday, 07 May 2017. Posted in Front Page Headline, Media Updates

Pop Sugar

by GIGI ENGLE

Finding the person you want to spend your life with is amazing. That's such an enormous hurdle for many of us. We all want to find love, and once we have it, life is pretty amazing.

 

But, what happens once we find love? And furthermore, what happens to our sex lives?

 

When it comes to long-term relationships, we're always looking for new and exciting ways to shake things up in the bedroom. Seriously, just google it. When you're sticking with one person for the long haul, you've got to keep sex fiery.

 

Where do ruts come from? Well, when you're in love and things are going well, it's easy to fall into a routine. There are only so many different sex positions you can try and lingerie pieces you can buy before even the most aerobic and sexy things can becomes stale.

 

This is where kink comes in. When you think of kinky sex, the first place your mind goes is to a dungeon, a dominatrix tying up a submissive or an orgy in an erotic room full of oriental rugs.

 

Just me? Oh, come on. I know I am not alone here.

 

There is a lot more to kink than that, trust me. What if there were more to kink than just wild sex parties and pain? What if kink were actually the future of monogamy?

 

"When this happens and we find ourselves in a rut, it's important to set aside some time to reconnect. Believe it or not, sexual intimacy is elemental to happiness," Sandra LaMorgese Ph.D., author, former dominatrix, and CEO of Attainment Studios told POPSUGAR.

 

Kink may seem extreme, but it may actually be more aligned with monogamy and commitment than you might think.

 

Doing kinky stuff takes trust

 

First and foremost, practicing kinky sex takes trust. It seems more likely that you'd be willing to try something weird or taboo with a person you trust, right? Some of the more wild fantasies you have may be nerve-racking or embarrassing — wouldn't it be better to try hot wax play or bondage with a person who loves and respects you?

 

Whether it's BDSM, role play, or otherwise, a monogamous relationship is a wonderful place to try things you may never have been brave enough to try before. A person who loves you is not going to judge you for wanting to try something unorthodox betwixt the sheets.

 

If you're going to ask someone to drip melted chocolate on your labia and lick it off, isn't it more likely that you'd ask someone you truly trust? I know I'm less likely to let some random stranger I met in a bar to whip me with a riding crop.

 

These games are not just for anyone — they're for people who are trying to attempt risky things without a lot of risk, you know? Hell, even Christian Grey was a one-person-at-a-time kind of guy.

 

Kinky sex can rejuvenate your sex life

 

Sex in long-term relationships can get stale. Let's just be real here. It's just a fact of life: if you're having sex with the same person, it can get boring.

 

Don't look at this as a bad thing. As you move along in your years together, you have more room and leverage to try new things. Strong relationships take a willingness to open yourselves up and explore new avenues of pleasure.

 

Kink is better for your sex life than any list of sex tips. Forget trying new takes on missionary and go darker — explore your deeper fantasies.

 

Sure, kink is a little unnerving and breaks up the routine you're so comfortable with, but that's a good thing. According to LaMorgese, "Bringing an element of uncertain kinkiness into your sexual relationship can be rejuvenating and powerful! It reawakens our curiosity about each other, gives us courage to try new things, and builds confidence." ...

UKIP BACKS SM SEX GREATER MANCHESTER MAYOR CANDIDATE

on Sunday, 07 May 2017. Posted in Front Page Headline, Media Updates

Salford Star Exclusive

 

SEX SCANDAL UKIP GM MAYOR CANDIDATE'S EXPLICIT TEXTS

 

Following yesterday's SM sex hypocrisy expose of the UKIP Greater Manchester Mayor candidate, Shneur Odze, the party has refused to withdraw its support for his campaign... "Mr Odze remains the UKIP candidate in the Mayoral elections" UKIP stated this afternoon.

 

The Salford Star has been handed sexually graphic texts, a pornographic photo, a sound recording and a full statement by the woman involved. The Star believes there is a strong public interest case for revealing more information about the Salford man who wants to be elected to the most high profile public office in Greater Manchester.

 

 

Yesterday the Mail on Sunday ran an article on Salford based Shneur Odze, the UKIP candidate in this week's Greater Manchester Mayor election.

 

The story, picked up by the Salford Star, alleged that Shneur Odze indulged in sadomasochistic sex practices with a woman from York who he met on a 'kinky community' dating site. Mr Odze is a married ultra-orthodox Jewish man, who, in the past, the Mail alleged, has refused to shake the hands of rival female candidates on religious grounds.

 

The woman, known as 'Cassie', exposed the story to the press insisting "Odze was presenting an image of himself as a happily married pillar of the community.

 

"He had lied to me, by telling me he wasn't married and he's lying to the people he wants to represent by pretending to be something he's not" she added "It is hypocritical..." (for a full background see previous Salford Star article – click here or the Mail on Sunday article – click here).

 

The Salford Star has tried to contact Mr Odze to ascertain whether he now intends to withdraw from the Greater Manchester Mayor election, and to offer him a chance to put his side of the story, with no response. Last night, the Star also contacted Noel Matthews, UKIP's national officer, asking for a reply to two questions...

 

Will Mr Odze be withdrawing from this week's Mayor election; and if not will he continue to have the backing of UKIP?

 

Does UKIP or Mr Odze deny the allegations against him – and if so could we have statement from either UKIP or Mr Odze?

 

Matthews responded "This is a personal matter for Mr Odze. No law has been broken and we have no further comment to make..."

 

This morning, the Salford Star again contacted UKIP with the same questions, and the party responded backing its candidate...

 

"Mr Odze remains the UKIP candidate in the Mayoral elections" its press officer stated "This is a personal, not political matter."

 

While the Star agrees that no law has been broken, we do not believe that it is merely a "personal matter". Shneur Odze is standing on behalf of UKIP for the most high profile public office in Greater Manchester, representing almost three million people. ...

 

The only statement Mr Odze has made was to the Mail reporter..."I've no idea what you're talking about". The Star believes there is an incredibly strong public interest case for presenting more evidence which we believe to be accurate. ...

How the Leatherdykes Helped Change Feminism

on Sunday, 07 May 2017. Posted in Front Page Headline, Media Updates

A brief history of lesbian sadomasochism, from the shadows to the front lines of the “Sex Wars.”

Atlas Obscura

BY SAMIR S. PATEL

t was Memorial Day, 2004, and Alex Warner was at a barbecue near Washington, D.C. It was an important time for her. She was in graduate school at Rutgers University, planning a dissertation on women’s social justice movements, and had recently experienced something of a personal awakening. A couple months prior, she’d attended her first Leatherdyke play party, and the community of like-minded women she encountered there had embraced her. The barbecue was in the backyard of a woman named Jo, a founder of the Lesbian Sex Mafia, one of the godmothers of the lesbian sadomasochist leather community. Jo told Warner stories about what it had been like, decades before, to be a Leatherdyke before there was a name for it. There were no parties, no barbecues, no safe spaces. Before founding the Lesbian Sex Mafia—a support and education group, despite the name—in 1981, Jo went to men’s leather bars and passed as a man, she explained. She had sexual encounters with men—Jo is a lesbian—to find some kind of sexual fulfillment. She also told Warner about how wonderful it felt, later, finally to find other women who shared her interest in playing around with power and pain.

Warner was moved to tears. It felt, she says, like she was learning her history for the first time—learning for the first time that she even had a history. By the time she got home that night, Warner had decided to switch her research topic to the social and cultural history of Leatherdykes.

The history of sadomasochism is long and complex, but the origin of the term is clear enough. The first part famously comes from Donatien Alphonse François de Sade—French aristocrat, philosopher, and profane libertine author of various violent, blasphemous sexual fantasies. The less famous second half comes from Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, an Austrian journalist and author of Venus in Furs, a novella that reflects a fetish for dominant women. Together they encompass the practice of deriving pleasure from giving or getting pain or humiliation. SM (practitioners drop the “&,” though usage has varied) has its most popular conceptions today in poorly written novels and the basic image of the Leatherman, icon of the subculture of gay males who draw aesthetic inspiration from biker culture and aesthetics. (We should stop for a moment and marvel at how subversive it was that a Leatherman appeared on the pop charts with the Village People in the 1970s and sang about the YMCA and the Navy, and it didn’t seem to bother anybody.)

The Leatherman, clad in chaps, vest, and motorcycle boots, has penetrated popular culture, but the Leatherdyke—a queer or bisexual women who participates in consensual sadomasochistic behavior—is less well known and less visible. As a sexual practice it’s quite diverse: bondage; dominance and submission; caning, punching, or spanking; and a range of toys and tools, from gags and restraints to paddles and floggers. It is all conducted with consent and in service of power and pleasure, and sometimes humiliation and the trance-like “subspace,” a kind of flow state for submissives. Based on Warner’s research, it is clear that the particular strain of sexual expression this represents has provoked uncomfortable questions in feminist and lesbian circles, and played an outsized role in the development of feminist thought in the 1970s and 1980s. But that impact did not come easily.

 

Warner’s dissertation research, which she completed in 2011, is the only academic excavation specific to the Leatherdyke in the United States. She drew primarily from archival sources, feminist journals, and what might be called zines. She’s assembled here a selection of quotes from her research that reflect a history of marginalization—from the mainstream, lesbians, and feminists—that conceals the role of the Leatherdykes in opening conversations about sex, power, patriarchy, and consent that resonate today.

 

While women most likely had been participating in SM privately for a long time, they only began to connect with one another publicly in the mid-1970s, usually through published works and general workshops on sexuality that came with the decade’s greater openness to sex.

When I was eight years old I was masturbatory, lesbian and sado-masochistic. Subsequently, because of my feelings of guilt, I renounced all three. Then, along came women’s liberation. I learned to affirm my feelings of self-love and woman-love … But I’m still in the closet on S-M. I have admitted that I used to be into it, but said that “those feelings” (I only owned up to masochism) were aroused only with men and attributed the whole thing to what I call my “lousy heterosexual instincts.” … I have not “come out” on S-M.

—Barbara Lipscutz (aka Drivenwoman), in the Journal of Radical Therapy, 1976

 

Myself and half a dozen women I know are into S&M or bondage and discipline … we’re not exactly sure what we’re doing! I’ve never talked about it with other lesbians. I wanted to sort of come out!

—Anonymous, quoted by Jeanne Cordova in Lesbian Tide, 1976

 

We had a sexuality workshop a year and a half ago, and I … came out as a sado-masochist there and got no support … from one person out of a hundred women. I was so fed up I almost quit my [feminist health collective].

—Anonymous, quoted by Jeanne Cordova in Lesbian Tide, 1976

 

 

As these women were discovering their sexuality, Warner’s work shows, the feminist world was taking notice of SM. First-wave feminism, which dates to the 19th and early 20th centuries, was largely about suffrage and other legal issues. Second-wave feminism, which began in the 1960s, took on a wider range of issues, including reproductive rights, domesticity, sexuality, and violence. Several feminist thinkers of the time, including Andrea Dworkin and Gloria Steinem, cast SM in general as anti-feminist because it simulates the sexual power dynamics that allowed men to oppress women for ages, they claimed. There was, however, a counterclaim, that lesbian SM allowed women to reclaim power and consent, and generally upset ideas about how women are supposed to behave.

S&M is a game people play called “who’s got the power.” It’s a game because there are two sides (the sadist and the masochist), but it’s a win-win since both should end up with an equal amount of the power, and with sexual satisfaction.

— Rosenjoy, in GCN, 1976 ...

How My Three-Way Polyamorous Relationship Works

on Sunday, 30 April 2017. Posted in Front Page Headline, Media Updates

“These men that I love, they are my family.”

Huffington Post

by Jeff Leavall

We are told our whole lives that we can hate as many people as we want: whole nations, groups of people, ideologies and races, our bosses, our neighbors: we are allowed to hate freely and abundantly, but we only get to truly love one other person.

 

When my husband, Alex, and I met Jon, a handsome intellectual with blue eyes and the gait of an old man trapped in a young man’s body: sexy and endearingly awkward all at the same time, it was just supposed to be a hook up in a long line of sexual adventures. But then Jon came back again, and again and again. And then we were making plans to watch movies and eat pizza. We invited Jon to spend the night.

 

I knew the first time Jon came over and the three of us didn’t have sex that something important was happening: Jon was no longer a trick. We were falling in love. All three of us.

 

I had no idea what to do. I had no idea what was normal or not normal. I was like a crazy person: madly in love and jealous at the same time: watching Alex, my brilliant artist, my dark-eyed passionate soul mate, the love of my life, falling in love with Jon was torturous and beautiful, watching the two of them kiss and hold hands, sitting on the couch giggling over gifs was almost too much to bare, and yet I couldn’t get enough.

 

We had terrible fights. Once, while on vacation in Vancouver, I threw myself out of bed, pretending I had fallen. I stormed throughout the one bedroom apartment we had rented , getting dressed, threatening to leave. I even made it to the elevator, where I hesitated for five minutes waiting for someone to come and get me. No one did. In Spokane Washington, on my birthday, we had an eight-hour fight that got so bad Jon ended up booking a separate hotel room. In Seattle a minor annoyance over Bahn Mi sandwiches (they were the only thing I wanted for breakfast every day) turned into relationship negotiations.

 

Everything was heightened and out of perspective. We were falling in love. We were sharing our new love, Jon, with each other. We were out of minds.

 

All the books I read said jealousy was wrong, the emotion of the monogamous unenlightened. Something we poly people should transcend.

 

And yet I wasn’t transcending jealousy. I wasn’t enlightened at all.

 

I hated the word poly and what it seemed to mean. I didn’t identify with the new age philosophies attached to a poly lifestyle. I didn’t think I was more enlightened than my monogamous friends. I am a jealous, insecure cave man.

 

There were moments of true beauty and wonder as well. I am still stunned by those times when I stumbled upon them, lying in bed together, holding hands, kissing, laughing at some passing comment, cuddled on the couch. Moments when the three of us all huddled together before we left the house. A night Alex drove Jon and me through Terminal Island, the industrial lights igniting fires in the sky around us, creating a matrix of magic and wonder and beauty. The three of us holding hands on a hilltop looking over downtown LA, Alex and I face timing with Jon from Berlin: Jon still in bed, his hair disheveled and beautiful. The three of us eating donuts at two am while watching Strangers With Candy. Exploring Granville Island in Vancouver, eating rosemary and salt bagels, taking the ferry back to the mainland, walking endlessly throughout Vancouver and Seattle, Madrid and Paris, Berlin and New York City, the three of us exploring the world together.

 

We are a family and like all families we have our struggles and our heartache, we strive and toil and trudge the road of life together, doing our best to take care of each other, sometimes failing, sometimes succeeding.

 

I learned that love is not limited: it is expansive, it grows, it is endless. I can love Alex completely, with everything I have, and still have more than enough to love Jon just as completely, just as fully.

 

The decision to introduce Jon to our friends and family at our wedding seemed like a pragmatic choice. Everyone would be in one place at the same time. East Coast and West Coast merging. Get married and introduce the world to our boyfriend.

 

I am lucky. My family are all left wing, about as liberal as you can get. They are tolerant. They try to understand. I’m sure this was not easy for them, but in the end my father said, “Well, as long as you are happy I guess that is all that matters.”

 

“I am happy,” I said. “It’s not always easy, but I am happy.”

 

“I imagine it isn’t always easy. Being with one partner is hard enough. I can’t imagine two. Just do your best to take care of each other.”

 

My father is a wise man.

 

Our wedding was held at our small Craftsman house in Hollywood. My best friend Amy flew with her family from New York City to officiate. Over a 150 people showed up. Jon stood in the back of the room during the ceremony. When people would introduce themselves to him he would say, “Nice to meet you. I’m Jon, Alex and Jeff’s boyfriend.”

 

Later Jon told us how stressed out he was. We had all underestimated the timing. The emotions that would come up through out the day.

 

We seem to do that a lot. Underestimate what is happening until it is over, and we are left thinking: why would we have thought that was a good idea?

 

But we wanted everyone to see Jon. To know him. We were proud of him. We wanted to show him off.

 

In time this thing that seemed so far outside the norm, so far outside what was acceptable, began to feel normal. Life began to fill back in. Jobs and goals and the gym, paying the bills: all the ways that normalcy takes over even the most extreme situations.

 

No longer was there just two of us. We were three. I think that was the hardest part: trying to maintain Alex and me while allowing Jon to be a full third. Eventually I began to see this not just as one relationship but as four completely whole and separate relationships: Jeff and Alex, Jon and Jeff, Alex and Jon, and the three of us. Then there are our relationships to our selves. Carving out time to be alone. Finding a way to remain autonomous inside this thing that can easily consume you.

 

 

When I found myself falling in love with Conor, this beautiful little puppy of a guy bouncing around me full of energy and excitement, I remember thinking, “Is there no end to this?” ...

Drupal Developer Larry Garfield Ostracized Over Involvement in Sci-Fi Based Kink Community

on Sunday, 30 April 2017. Posted in Front Page Headline, Media Updates

The scandal has exposed odd taboos in the liberal-leaning Drupal community and how hypocritical their talk of tolerance can be.

Reason

by Elizabeth Nolan Brown

Here's another good example of the limits of liberal "tolerance": in the name of equality and diversity, tech leaders have turned against a long-respected member of their community over his private and consensual sex practices. Sure, the scandal has revealed that Drupal developer and spokesman Larry Garfield has a penchant for BDSM broadly and also for a specific sub-genre of the kink centered on the fictional land of Gor, in which a subset of women serve as men's sex slaves. But more importantly, the situation has exposed strange taboos in the liberal-leaning Drupal community and how hypocritical their talk of tolerance can be.

 

Taking the brunt of the hypocrisy criticism is Drupal trademark owner Dries Buytaert. Buytaert's main gig now is chief technology officer for Acquia, a company he co-founded in 2007. But he's better known as the the creator and original project lead for the open-source content management software Drupal, which has attracted a huge and devoted community since its 2001 launch. Drupal is "supported and maintained" by the nonprofit Drupal Association, which also organizes Drupal conferences.

 

According to Executive Director Megan Sanicki, the association began looking into Garfield last October at the behest of another member of the Drupal community. That person had discovered Garfield's profiles on membership kink and dating websites and shared some screenshots with Drupal leadership.

 

But a Drupal Community Working Group investigation into Garfield found that he had not violated anything in the Drupal community's Code of Conduct, which probably should have been the end of things. No one has offered any evidence that Garfield discriminated against women in his professional life—in fact, many women whom Garfield has worked or associated with have rushed to his defense—let alone committed any more severe offenses or violence against them. Garfield himself says he believes women are every bit as intelligent as men and that his desire for female submission extends only to his own personal romantic/sexual partnerships. "The [dominant/submissive, or] D/s and Gorean community in general places a heavy emphasis on explicit, active, informed consent and constant communication," he notes, adding that he personally has "never, ever advocated for treating women, as a class, with anything other than dignity and respect."

 

But even if Garfield did hold sincerely sexist views in private, it hardly seems grounds for community expulsion in the absence of publcly articulated views or actions. The idea that women should be submissive to their husbands is a prominent feature of many religious faiths, and a value that plenty of Christians, Jews, Muslims, and others still hold dear—typically with way less add-on feminism than you'll find in BDSM relationships. Would the Drupal Association feel as comfortable ousting a devout supporter of Islam or evangelical Christianity if it came out that their wives practiced voluntary submission?

 

If—as Buytaert says—the association is commited to treating people equally regardless of "their heritage or culture, their sexual orientation, their gender identity, and more," they seem to doing a pretty terrible job. People's preferences toward certain types of sex or particular fantasies can be no less innate than a sexual orientation toward same- or opposite-sex partners (and no more reason for alarm). And it's hard to imagine a woman receiving the same treatment and derision if it came out that she once worked as a dominatrix or wrote 50 Shades of Grey fanfic.

 

Meanwhile, Garfield was disinvited from the upcoming DrupalCon Baltimore, had his status as a conference track coordinator revoked, and (in a February phone call that both agree on at least the basics of) was asked by Buytaert to stop contributing to the Drupal community. (The request might not seem like a big deal to those outside the tech world, but "open-source communities/projects are crucially important to many people's careers and professional lives," explains John Evans at TechCrunch, "so who they allow and deny membership to, and how their codes of conduct are constructed and followed, is highly consequential.")

 

At this point, Garfield went on the offensive, telling his side of the story in a blog post that professed "no choice but to clarify some private details" of his life that were the subject of "a whisper campaign going around the Drupal world," one which was hurting him greatly professionally. Garfield explained his involvement in "hierarchical relationship" communities based on dominance/submission practiced with "informed, active consent," admitting that he is "involved in two such communities, specifically the BDSM community and the Gorean (Gor) community." From Garfield's post:

 

The former is by far the larger of the two and more varied, although I spend more of my time and activity in the Gorean community. It's a small community, and sadly much of what is found online about it is utter crap, just as most in the BDSM community find the '50 Shades' representation of BDSM to be harmfully misleading. The Gorean subculture is inspired by a science-fiction book series written [by John Norman] from the 1960s onward to today, and predicated on a strong sense of personal honor, integrity, and community. It also practices consensual Master/slave relationships, and has a strong gender bias toward male-Dom/female-sub relationships, but that is not the cornerstone of Gorean culture. [...] The idea of consenting to give your significant other outsized control over your life may seem strange or uncomfortable to some. That's fine; it's not for everyone, nor does anyone claim it is, nor should anyone ever be forced into such a relationship. [...] Yes, I have been involved in several consensual Master/slave relationships with women. I will continue to do so, but only with those who are also interested in such relationships. I discuss the social and personal dynamics of such relationships on private forums set up for people with similar interests. I know many people who are happily coupled in such relationships

 

After Garfield's post was up, Dries Buytaert responded with a post of his own, explaining that he was trying to break off the relationship because "Garfield holds views that are in opposition to the values of the Drupal project." Buytaert stressed that "the Drupal community is committed" to not discriminating against anyone based on "their heritage or culture, their sexual orientation, their gender identity, and more" and works hard "to foster a culture of open-mindedness toward difference." But Garfield "actively promotes a philosophy that is contrary" to these values and the basic belief that "all people are created equally," Buytaert wrote.

 

In a sentence now deleted, he stated that "when a highly-visible community member's private views become public, controversial, and disruptive for the project, I must consider the impact," and ultimately was not able to "get past the fundamental misalignment of values." Buytaert's explanation was updated several times in the face of public response, with him later apologizing for "causing grief and uncertainty...to those in the BDSM and kink communities" and stating that the situation was "never about sexual practices or kinks." It wasn't "Larry's alternative lifestyle" that was the problem, Buytaert suggested, but "confidential information" that he cannot share, as well the the underlying "beliefs conveyed in Larry's blog post."

 

What beliefs would those be? In Garfield's decade-plus association with the Drupal community, no one has publicly accused him of treating women as inferior, trying to coerce people he knew professionally into sex, or even talking about his sex life at all in professional settings. Many men and women who know him from these settings have spoken out in his support, including 120 Drupal "developers, supporters, and funders," who told Buytaert that they are concerned with his actions and, if Garfield did not violate the law or Drupal's Code of Conduct, he should be welcomed back and offered an apology. The Drupal community should not "discriminate against people for who they are on the outside, for what they believe, for what they value, or for how they lawfully, consensually, and peacefully live their personal lives," it said.

 

It's equally unclear what sort of other behavior of which Garfield is being accused. Garfield says he does not know, and has publicly asked Buytaert and the Drupal Association to enlighten him; they have stayed mum, not even revealing the basic nature of the alleged info. As John Evans writes at TechCrunch, "Dries & co. could surely have told the community substantially more (indeed, anything) about Garfield's problematic behavior, if any, without revealing sensitive information. For instance, they could have said they'd received reports of threats, harassment, or coercion by Garfield, if any such reports existed. They have said nothing of the sort."

 

But "just trust us is not enough," Evans continues. "Especially since it also seems possible that the CTO and co-founder of a heavily funded pre-IPO company has participated in expelling a man from what has been his professional community for the last twelve years, ignoring that community's own Code of Conduct and Conflict Resolution Policy, because it was decided he was guilty of, essentially, thoughtcrime; that no real accusations have been made, and no allegations of problematic behavior have been cited, because none such exist."

 

The few Drupal threads floating around as evidence that Garfield's chauvinistic views crossed over into his tech life are laughably non-offensive (see some examples below) or only suspect if read in the least likely and charitable light possible. And the writing being used as "proof" that Garfield truly believes in male supremacy come from the kink forums he posted to—i.e., places where one's persona, comments, etc., tend to serve as an extension of sexual fantasies or fetishes, not credible indicators of full-time values. Some have claimed that by not hiding his identity better in these forums, Garfield deserves what he is getting, but keep in mind that these were registration-required sites in which he had been participating for over a decade that only came to light after another Drupal devotee found them last year and then (against the site's terms of service) screenshotted them to share more widely.

 

Throughout all this, Buytaert and others opposing Garfield insist that it isn't about "sexual practices and kinks" and what Garfield does in his own time is fine—it's the fact that he "flaunted" it online which made a difference, or it's the "underlying" belief system behind his sexual kinks. Their statements sound a lot like some of my older relatives talking about gays and lesbians a decade or so back—if a man wants to have sex with another man in his own bedroom, that's fine, just don't go holding hands in public, or calling another man your boyfriend in front of the children! Buytaert et al. seem to suggest that sexual practices and kinks are relegated to things that happen in the flesh, in the bedroom, and entirely on the physical level. But for many BDSM practitioners, part of the fun lies in rituals and rules that extend beyond the bedroom, and role playing often (or exclusively) happens in online forums. Saying you're cool with someone's sexuality unless they ever talk about it or allude to it in public doesn't really hold water.

 

"In the past, Dries might've kicked Larry out because 'BDSM is a threat to family values'," notes Nadia Eghba at Medium. "Today, leaders like Dries kick Larry out because 'BDSM is a threat to gender equality;. Unfortunately, the end result is the same....If diversity is our dogma, call me 'spiritual, not religious'. I still pray for the same things as you, but I won't be at the witch trials." ...

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