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NCSF Celebrated its 21st Anniversary in Atlanta!

on Friday, 16 March 2018. Posted in Front Page Headline, NCSF News

At NCSF's Annual Meeting on March 9th in Atlanta, GA, the Coalition Partners elected the Board Members and discussed new and ongoing projects, like Consent Counts which aims to decriminalize sexual conduct between consenting adults.

NCSF was fortunate to have Aida Manduley, MSW, provide a 3-hour diversity training on Sunday for the Board and Staff so we can continue the process of ensuring NCSF is a welcoming and accessible organization for everyone. We're looking forward to our next training!

NCSF would like to thank LLC for donating the room for NCSF's Annual Meeting prior to the Leather Leadership Conference. NCSF would also like to thank our Coalition Partner, 1st Capital Finance and NCSF Southeastern Advocates, the House of Trei, for providing a delicious lunch and great conversation during the Annual Meeting.

This year 11 people ran for the NCSF Board, all of whom had excellent qualifications. The current Board Members are:

Susan Wright, Chairperson
Keira Harbison, Vice-Chair
Kevin Carlson, Treasurer
Jackie Harris, Secretary
Ruby Bouie Johnson
Judy Guerin
Richard Richbart
Max Rulz
Ben Schenker
Rudy Serra
Russell Stambaugh
Julian Wolf

The Coalition Partners who attended the NCSF Annual Meeting were:

1st Capital Finance
DC Sub Club
MAsT Boise
Modern Tribe Counseling
Satin Sheet Dreams
The Mark
The Red Chair
The Woodshed

NCSF Board Members and staff participated in events throughout the weekend in Atlanta:

LLC, the Leadership Conference – Workshops and an Award!

The “Leadership in Action” Leadership Awards were presented to both NCSF and the Men of ONYX by LLC XXII on March 9th, in recognition of our contribution of our skills, time and effort into sharing with and being supportive of our community. NCSF presented 3 workshops: Liberation is Felt, Seen, and Heard conceptualized by Ruby B. Johnson, and presented by Choc Dionne and Aida Manduley; BDSM, Consent & the Law with Judy Guerin, Richard O. Cunningham and Rudy Serra; and Media Strategy and Tactics with Susan Wright. NCSF also celebrated our 21st Anniversary by bringing a birthday cake to the LLC Hospitality Suite on Saturday.

 LLC cake

Keira Harbison, Susan Wright, Kevin Carlson and Ben, LLC Chair

LLC Hospitality Suite with Onyx Pearls

The Women of ONYX Pearls Southeast celebrating NCSF's 21st Anniversary in the LLC Hospitality Suite with Susan Wright, NCSF Chairperson

 Atlanta Poly - Consent Counts with NCSF!

NCSF met with the polyamory community in Atlanta to share our experiences in a roundtable discussion led by Nickie Fuentes, MS LPC, NCC of Modern Tribe Counseling, along with NCSF Board Members - Keira Harbison and Kevin Carlson.

 Rope Bite at 1763 - Celebrating NCSF's 21st Anniversary!

NCSF enjoyed "Rope Bite @Nite" a rope-centric event held the second Saturday of each month at 1763 from 8-2pm. The evening started out with a class and demo focused on rope education and then evolved into the Decadence play party. NCSF brought a birthday cake to celebrate our 21st anniversary with Rope Bite members!

 Whippersnappers - Consent & the Law Presentation

Whippersnappers is an Atlanta-based educational and social BDSM group for people in their 20s and 30s. NCSF Board Members Judy Guerin and Rudy Serra along with Dick Cunningham presented a BDSM, Consent and the Law discussion on Friday evening to talk about consent and NCSF's American Law Institute Project.

The Loft and Trapeze - NCSF Meets & Greets

NCSF Board members Keira Harbison and Rich Richbart along with Kim, representing Coalition Partner Satin Sheet Dreams, attended The Loft on Friday night and Trapeze on Saturday night to do outreach to the Lifestyle community organizers and members.

For those who are interested in volunteering and joining the NCSF team, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Guest Blog: Southwest Love Fest - Arizona's First Conference on Ethical Non-Monogamy

on Thursday, 08 March 2018. Posted in Front Page Headline, NCSF News

By Matt Connolly

April 6-8, 2018, marks the first time Tucson, Arizona will be the site of Arizona's first conference on ethical non-monogamy, Southwest Love Fest ( Created with the intention of establishing an annual forum to discuss the many aspects of non-monogamous relationships, this event will introduce an active and growing national community to some of our best known leaders and mentors in the practice of Polyamory. Kevin Patterson, Dr. Elizabeth Sheff, the Multiamory Crew, Cunning Mix and Lusty Guy as well as NCSF's own Susan Wright, will be some of the presenters sharing their experience with attendees.

As one of the leader's of Phoenix's Polyamory community and a member of NCSF, I was very excited to hear about the planning of this event. I attended the first organizational meeting and signed up to fill the role of Volunteer Coordinator. I like to think of myself as a Poly Advocate so I was happy to get involved in helping to create this conference. Advocacy for me means both living the practice of ethical non-monogamy as well as offering support in whatever position I'm able.

Please visit our website for more information and to purchase tickets. We look forward to seeing you there!

Guest Blog: The Open Photo Project - An Artist Statement from Photographer Erika Kapin

on Monday, 26 February 2018. Posted in Front Page Headline, NCSF News

Gloria was in the closet about being polyamorous for years. What it took for her to come out was being diagnosed with breast cancer. Upon diagnosis, she realized how short life is and that she wanted to be out and proud in all her identities. However, she still keeps her polyamorous identity hidden from her sister in order to avoid condemnation from her family or origin. Rose, Josh and Xtina are in a committed relationship, share a home and raise their young child together. They have worries about legal rights for all three parents and protections for their child. They hope the state will eventually acknowledge their three-parent household. Ignacio Rivera raised a daughter to adulthood as a non-monogamous single parent. When Ignacio’s daughter was very young, they were living on welfare and Ignacio faced intense stigma, judgment and slut shaming for being a single mother who is also polyamorous. Aida has several romantic partners and works as a therapist helping others with similar identities. Most of Aida’s family are very religious would not approve of non-monogamy, so Aida often introduces partners as ‘good friends’ for fear of family non-acceptance and retaliation. Chrissy avoids socializing with her children’s friend’s parents because in her conservative neighborhood, she fears if other parents discover she and her husband are polyamorous, they will be stigmatized.

TheOpenPhotoProject MichaelAndSarah 2016 08 03 MG 1250 2

Consensual non-monogamy is typically defined as the state of being sexually or romantically involved with more than one person simultaneously, with the full awareness and consent of those involved. Many relationship identities exist under the consensual non-monogamy umbrella including polyamory, relationship anarchy, swinging, open relationships, poly-fidelity and more.

02 MG 8411

Adults who love outside of the monogamous ideal often face negative repercussions. Non-monogamous people can face discrimination from mainstream society, employers, and landlords. Many become ostracized from their family of origin and experience lack of legal protection around issues of child custody. Polyamorous people have been fired from their jobs because, while there are legal protections against workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation, being polyamorous is not legally defined as a sexual orientation and therefore does not receive the same legal protection. Because of the threat of social, familial and legal ramifications, many people in these relationships are forced to remain closeted and present socially as monogamous.

TheOpenPHotoProject 2015 MG 9127

By combining photographs of non-monogamous people in their daily lives with their own words about relationships, The Open Photo Project challenges the mainstream social ideals that enforce a compulsory understanding of monogamy as the only ethical relationship style. The stories in this project strive to de-stigmatize consensually non-monogamous relationships by bringing awareness and cultivating empathy.

TheOpenPhotoProject ChrisAndZ 2015 03 28 MG 2093

By photographing non-monogamous people in a variety of their everyday activities, I seek to present them as the complex, multi-dimensional human beings that they are. Whether cooking a meal, on the way to work, or naked with a partner, these images reveal the complex lives of these people and their choices. A combination of portraits, daily life activities and text excerpts from conversations will show an in-depth look into their lives and relationship choices.

TheOpenPhotoProject KevinAntoinetteRebeccaCira 2017 09 MG 0969

My goal is to confront the broad misconceptions that exist in the mainstream social landscape where monogamy is the default relationship style (and the only one universally considered ethical). In addressing people who believe that monogamy is the only acceptable relationship model to cultivate healthy romantic love, I wish to introduce them to the beautiful, complex and fulfilling lives that are possible among non-monogamous people.

TheOpenPhotoProject LolaAndThreePiece 2017 09 MG 1075web

This project offers a look at the uniqueness of human relationships and an invitation to re-examine preconceived notions of successful, sustainable, and healthy romantic love.

TheOpenPhotoProject RoseMegan 2017 04 30 MG 0222

Take our New Survey!

on Thursday, 22 February 2018. Posted in Front Page Headline, NCSF News

Please take our new Health and Technology Survey, done in partnership with Dr. Rob Cramer’s Old Dominion University research team. Help us to better understand the health issues we face as members of the kink, leather, fetish and non-monogamy communities, and find out how technology can be used to improve our health.

It takes 20-30 minutes to complete, and has Human Subjects Review Committee approval from Old Dominion University:

This survey is a follow-up to our 2015 Mental Health Survey, done in partnership with Dr. Cramer’s research team at University of Alabama and University of Central Florida. Over 800 kinky people took the 2015 survey and were found to be mentally and emotionally healthy as a group.

The results also documented the effects of stigma due to kink discrimination and persecution. These results have been published in: Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, Journal of Behavioral Health Services & Research, Journal of Trauma and Dissociation and International Journal of Social Psychiatry. A poster on the results will be presented at the American Psychological Association annual conference in San Francisco, CA, this August with NCSF Board Members attending and exhibiting to help educate mental health professionals.

Help us further the understanding of our communities by taking this survey!

Guest Blog: Parenting and polyamory

on Wednesday, 21 February 2018. Posted in NCSF News

by Tiro

A few years ago, I was talking to a therapist who knew nothing about polyamory. (In fact, she seemed to know very little about most things and our sessions were more like a series of 45-minute lectures on alternative lifestyles—thanks, National Health Service!) I was attempting to explain that yes, I had two partners, both of whom knew about each other, and who had at least one other partner of their own, and yes, this was completely comfortable for me and not in any way pathological, and so on. Eventually, after a lot of rhetorical and emotional labor, she finally looked at me and said, with some satisfaction, “Well, since you’re not planning on having any children, I guess you should do whatever works for you.”

At the time, that felt like enough of a victory, but I’ve heard the same claim repeated both inside and outside the poly-knowledgeable spheres I live in, and every time it’s bothered me slightly more. Why would a poly family be a bad environment to raise children?

More than one in three Americans is part of a stepfamily. This means they have experienced the addition of other adults and/or children, not genetically related to them, into their domestic life. It also means that they have experienced the trauma of a relationship ending, either as a child or a parent.

Research suggests that the single biggest positive factor in minimizing negative outcomes for children involved in separation is positive co-parenting. If children are able to spend the right amount of time with both parents and are not subjected to acrimony, the vast majority of them do well.

In a poly family with children, there is a biological mother and father for each child, and a selection of additional adults, some of whom may take on a measure of parental responsibility. This looks very similar to a blended or step-family of two divorced adults, their new partners, and children from their current and previous relationships. The major difference is a poly family doesn’t come together after a traumatic separation. It’s all of the benefits of having extra adult perspectives in a child’s life, only nobody hates each other—or worse, desperately tries to pretend they don’t hate each other.

Of course, poly families with less stable bonds, or whose lifestyles entail more disruption of the children’s routines, are much less likely to produce stable, well-adjusted children, but the same can be said for situations where one parent has multiple short-term monogamous relationships as they spasmodically try to rediscover the dating scene.

Naturally, there’s no research out there to compare children raised in poly families to those from monogamous post-divorce blended families or monogamous couples who stayed together, so this is all conjecture. I believe, however, that the obvious comparison with blended families means there’s no clear reason to claim that poly families can’t raise happy, successful children.

NCSF is Coming to Atlanta for our 21st Anniversary Celebration!

on Tuesday, 13 February 2018. Posted in NCSF News

2018 Schedule PG1 cut

Click to Download 

Annual Coalition Partner Meeting

Friday March 9th 10 am – 6pm

Atlanta GA

@ Crowne Plaza Atlanta Airport, 1325 Virginia Avenue, Atlanta, GA

The NCSF Annual Coalition Partner Meeting is for representatives of the Coalition Partners and the NCSF Board and Staff members to come together to discuss the year-end reports on NCSF projects and programs, and to set goals for the coming year. The NCSF Board members are elected at the annual meeting, and the budget and financials are approved.

The NCSF Annual CP Meeting is open to all members of NCSF and its member organizations. The Annual CP Meeting will also be available via video conferencing. Please RSVP to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to receive the details.

NCSF will be participating in events throughout the weekend in Atlanta:

Rope Bite at 1763 – Celebrate NCSF’s 21st Birthday!

"Rope Bite @Nite" is a rope-centric event held the second Saturday of each month at 1763 from 8-2pm. The evening starts out with a class and demo focused on rope education and then evolves into the Decadence play party. NCSF Board Members and staff will bring a birthday cake to celebrate our 21st anniversary with Rope Bite members!

LLC, the Leadership Conference – Workshops and an Award!

NCSF is proud to be receiving the “Leadership in Action” Award at LLC which is designed to recognize the people who have contributed their skills, time and effort into sharing with and being supportive of our community. NCSF Board Members and Staff will be attending and participating in the Leadership Conference with 3 workshops planned. For those who want to attend LLC, go here to register and get a discounted hotel room rate:

Atlanta Poly – Consent Counts with NCSF!

This is a chance for the polyamory community in Atlanta to get together and discuss our experiences in a roundtable discussion. It is also an opportunity for newcomers to learn all about polyamory. March's topic of discussion will be Consent Counts with a representative from the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom. There will also be a bonus opportunity to discuss how to find a kink/poly-aware mental health professional with our very own Nickie Fuentes (facilitator of the Lilburn support group and Atlanta Poly sponsor).

For those who are interested in running for the Board of NCSF or volunteering, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Guest Blog: Being Out as a Kinky Person of Color,

on Tuesday, 06 February 2018. Posted in Front Page Headline, NCSF News

Why I Started Perverts of Color

by Jaki Griot


When I began attending local kinky event around 2006, I was often one of the only Black faces in the dungeon. I knew I wanted to learn about rope and kinky power dynamics because I read every book I could find. I was eager to gain real-world exposure to the Kink/BDSM/Leather community and naive about how to establish peer relationships. Looking back, I believe that many people in the kink communities are open-minded but their intentions doesn't always translate into action regarding how they handle cultural differences or racism. The first event I attended had an odd start when the hosts tried to convince me that I was at the wrong location, “Are you sure this is where you belong? The NAACP meeting is down the hall.” I remember feeling unsure if I should stay partly because I felt like I was alone. This experience may be unusual for others exploring kink but it remained with me. It's sometimes scary to explore a world if you are unsure you will be welcome. Sub-culture groups may believe they are open-minded yet can send different messages when an attendee shows up and looks different than they expect. Luckily for me, I am the right mixture of stubborn, naive and extrovert to show up anyway. Yet I have met other people who stopped coming to events because they felt uninvited. I believe finding ways to make kink events inclusive and diverse across racial, gender and sexuality populations is how to create a stronger community for everyone.

As a person of color, I personally felt uncomfortable if the hosts don't acknowledge all the guests. As an organizer, I believe it is a simple to acknowledge everyone with a quick hello. Yes, it is time-consuming and often tedious. If any attendee paid to enter an event but no one even said hello, don't feel surprised if they won't return. There is a safety element where I expect a host or organizer to have spoken to everyone in the space because it establishes everyone as included. It also allows DMs to have a face to go with names in case of any behavioral concerns. If the hosts only speak to their friends or popular people, it can establish a cliquish environment for others. Part of the job of a host is greet everyone thoughtfully. Unfortunately some places I've visited have felt openly hostile to new people of color. At times, when I mention the need for small changes to make people of color welcome, my words are taken as aggression. This also fuels my resolve for change.

I am dedicated to finding tangible ways for people like me (racial minorities) to find each other and grow networks of support. Through the years, kink representation for people of color continues to evolve from Dark Connections online message boards to leather clubs like ONYX and ONYX Pearls. Events like BlackBeat and Weekend Reunion thrive because there is a need that is fulfilled when people of color feel included in BDSM communities. Larger lifestyle events have begun to hire more diverse staff and to add programming to be more inclusive to racial, gender and sexual minorities. I believe there is still room to grow.

After discussing these concerns with my Leather family for years, I was met with an ultimatum. “What are you going to do about it?” On February 3rd, 2018, I started Perverts of Color Zine as a way to celebrate the diversity of people in kink, BDSM and Leather communities. I procrastinated about the Perverts of Color zine project for six years because it seemed too big. We all wrestle with our decisions about how public to be with our kink journey. It reached a point where I was scared to create the Perverts of Color zine because it would feel like outing myself again. As a Black queer woman, I wanted to pause before adding another identity to my worldview. I reached a point where I realized that the reason there is so little kinky representation is that many people of color like myself are still grappling with how their kink, their sexualities and their racial identity connect. Even among the kinksters of color I know, we are still hungry to see more kink because there is often a very normative view of sex that is shown in our racial communities. For me, #BlackLove looks different if I got exactly what's in my happy sadomasochist fantasies. Yet, if I wasn't ready to do it, I couldn't complain that other people of color weren't willing either. I had to become okay with being a pervert of color, publicly and with conviction. Seventy two hours later, the first edition of Perverts of Color Zine is born. POC Zine is an outlet for people to see diverse expressions of alternative sexuality. I believe representation of people of color exploring sexuality is beneficial to all communities. There is not one way to do What It Is That We Do. POC Zine is dedicated to challenging the stereotypes others project onto our lives while celebrating the diversity of our perversity.

More information about the zine can be found at their website, can also follow Perverts of Color (not safe for work) on Tumblr for Zine updates, or JakiGriot on Instagram.

Guest Blog: Darkness

on Wednesday, 17 January 2018. Posted in Front Page Headline, NCSF News

by Russell J. Stambaugh, PhD, DST, CSSP

Back in April, the New York Times printed a review of Mary Gaitskill’s new book, “Somebody with a Little Hammer: Essays”. Those of you who have been paying close attention know that Gaitskill is the gifted author of the short story that became an iconic 2002 movie about kink, The Secretary. In this review are included some remarks which serve as an excellent jumping off point for our exploration of a heretofore neglected discussion about kink that emphasizes its dark side. Trite as it is to say, if you have been reading this blog closely, you may well fail to know the power of the dark side.

Despite the extreme good fortune of inspiring a commercially successful movie of our chosen subject, and there is only a handful of such films, Ms Gaitskill was not altogether satisfied with the transition of her oeuvre to the screen. Here I shall quote directly from the Dwight Garner’s review.

“She was displeased with that movie, [Gaitskill] writes. It was breezy and upbeat, absent the darker shading. The takeaway, she writes, ‘is that S/M is not only painless; its therapeutic: It has made both characters more confident, better looking, happier, freer, and self-actualized. Best of all, it has led them straight to marriage!’” How kinky is that?

It would be easy to dismiss this as the conventional culture and its agents; director Steven Shainberg; or the movie’s producers, cleaning up BDSM for mass market consumption. For her part, screen writer of record, Erin Cressida Wilson, won a Sundance Festival Award for this work, her very first screenplay. At least that awards committee didn’t see her work in such a critical light. But if you have both read the short story and seen the film, there is no debating that Gaitskill’s original is truer, grittier, and the more sadomasochistic of the two works. And in the rest of Garner’s review, it Is made clear that Gaitskill has enough sadism to recognize it for what it is in others and that she sees herself as the wielder of those little hammers, a characteristically kinky position. In her own way, she is a social critic.

Kink and the problem of idealization:

One might be tempted to accept the ‘cleaning up’ of Gaitskill’s story as evidence of the intrusion of ever present fetish elements into kink. And it is true that the movie settings are lovely, Maggie Gyllenhaal’s blouses exquisitely pressed and silky as any fetishist might crave, but hardly consistent with her role as a down and out woman for whom a job as a secretary constitutes social advancement. And kink itself has a somewhat convoluted relationship to erotic idealization. Fetish itself represents the triumph of fantasy over utilitarianism, just as Krafft-Ebing warned us long ago. For those not so inspired, it is difficult to imagine a brassiere, an opera-length glove or a well-turned boot could provoke more passion than a human body expressly designed by eons of evolution to stimulate procreative desire. But fetishism is not simple idealization, as anyone who has encountered its intense specificity can attest. As a teen, I remember reading those letters to Dear Playboy and Penthouse Variations in which fetishists would go on and on about how only barefoot hogtied cheerleaders would do, tennis shoes were completely outré! There is something going on in fetishism beyond simple idealization. But it also takes a certain optimism to believe that, with billions of people engaging in various forms of sexual intercourse around the planet, a specific regime as stigmatized, awkward, often alienating, and sometimes downright dangerous form of human expression could be transformative. Good psychotherapy doesn’t routinely leave bruises except perhaps to the ego. But there is a serious discourse about kink that it isn’t genuine if it isn’t dirty, doesn’t leave bruises, isn’t dark enough, and doesn’t break the rules.

As a therapist, I have encountered any number of people who earnestly represented to me how kink is therapeutic. I believe them, as far as it goes, but I also take such declaration with a large grain of salt. As beneficial as it can be to get what you want, so much human behavior is difficult to explain in terms of simple drive satiation. If it was, millionaires would quit work when their earnings exceeded their initial ideas about how much money they need to spend, rock climbers would quit climbing El Capitan’s sheer face after a single success, and no one would go back to the exact same kind of lover who left them broken-hearted the conclusion of their last affair. Often, exactly the opposite is observed.

People do accomplish therapeutic achievements sometimes in kink, but when it comes to shadow play, that process of knowing our dark sides, Freud and Jung, its original proponents, were frighteningly pessimistic about the possibilities. In Analysis, Terminable and Interminable (1937), Freud wrestled directly with the observation that no amount of good psychoanalysis ever made the unconscious go away altogether even though therapy was the process of making the unconscious conscious. For Freud, the process of confronting repression was valuable, but one could never know all of one’s dark side, and there were some impulses it would never be OK to enact no matter how insightful one became about them. Jung was more optimistic, but, looking at the broad cultural sweep of symbols, he was the first to admit that darkness never really goes away. So, what does it mean to ‘play’ with it? It is a pathway with no clear destination.

Organized BDSM tries to create space for darkness to be expressed ‘safely’, and as might be expected, such safety is always a little bit relative. Certainly, it is safer to lie at home in bed masturbating to fantasies of whipping someone and imagine they are loving it than it is to go out and find such a person, acquire the whipping skills to do this safely, get to know the partner well enough that you serve Goldilocks her porridge up at just the right temperature, and suffer the possibility that your partner will flee in terror somewhere in the middle of the process before you learn enough to make the enactment satisfying enough to both of you become sustainable. For all of kink’s confrontation with conventional romantic idealization, there is a genuine dollop of optimism, if not wild-eyed idealization, in such attempts to find kinky liaisons. Yet this was even more true in the past, before the internet, use groups, self-help references and FetLife, and people still attempted kink and succeeded in establishing relationships based upon conducting it.

Likewise, is it rather optimistic to imagine that one’s life will be greatly improved if someone knows about your kink and accepts it. Surely this achievement would be balm to life-long fantasies and case histories of actual rejection, but it won’t cure your herpes, fill your bank account, or stop your excess drinking. People in BDSM all face stigma over their behavior, and this is a powerful leverage to create community, although kink was stigmatized for years before such communities became common and above ground. And just when it appears that kink is making genuine headway to social acceptance, out comes evidence of the Ashley-Madison hack, or content changes at Fetlife due to credit card billing restrictions, or Russian kompromat trying to out the President of the United States for urophilia, to rub our noses in the fact that doing kink still carries substantial social vulnerability even for out practitioners who have taken reasonable steps to protect themselves from the consequences of the judgments of others. If kink still carries risk, so too is idealization a potential motive to undertake risks in hopes that getting what one wishes for will be as good in reality as one has long imagined only in erotic daydreams. And before we mistakenly attribute this kind of thinking exclusively to kink, please note how similar this kind of idealization is to conventional heteronormativity.

Despite the idealization surrounding fetish, and the optimism that facing risk will bring delights far beyond mundane sexuality, kink is rather contemptuous of conventional idealization. Some of this goes back to de Sade’s confrontation with Rousseau and The Church, but modern kink is dismissive of conventional relationship structures, often surprisingly disparaging of conventional sex behaviors even though conventional folk (and kinksters) pursue them with durable enthusiasm, and kink is often strongly anti-romantic. This is not to say that great loves are not built among kinksters, but many kinks can’t be pursued without eschewing romanticism. While many new submissives dream of finding and all-knowing top, part of a good top’s role description is keeping submissives from over-whelming themselves and that involves denying them some of what the submissives imagine they desire. Tops want to frustrate sometimes, and bottoms desire to be frustrated and give consent to exactly that treatment.

Perhaps stigma can be blamed for this variant of MKIBTYC (My Kink is Better than Your Kink) is an occasional form of socially divisive behavior within the organized kink community, where it is actively discouraged. Here I have creatively perverted the term to apply to kinksters’ occasional tendency to assume superiority over ‘Conventionality’ and use the term ‘vanilla’ as a put down for those who just aren’t hip enough to recognize that kink is ‘superior’.) Cognitive dissonance alone might be sufficient to explain anyone preferring their chosen forms of sexual expression: having paid the costs of such ‘choices’, we are vulnerable to becoming wedded to their benefits. Alfred Adler would have no trouble explaining the shaming of conventionals as a turning passive into active after enduring lifelong shaming of one’s kink, and seeking mastery over the very tools of one’s historically experienced vulnerability.

Like other areas of human striving, BDSM is sometimes a great deal of work to get to the fun. Dolling up for those sexy fetish pin ups can take many hours of perspiring in latex under klieg lights. Good suspension rigs can take hours to do aesthetically. Playing so quietly that you don’t wake the kids is mostly a turn off that needs to be overcome rather than central to the fun, just as it is for conventional folk. And rough play requires days of self-care long after the endorphins have worn off. For many sensation players, that discomfort is a source of pride, but it still hurts, too.

Similar routine inconveniences plague other forms of what DJ Williams refers to as ‘serious leisure’, and conventional sexuality, too. Serious snow board enthusiasts just as regularly cope with the dangers of taking a spill, or from triggering avalanches. In kink, it is not always sufficient to overcome routine negative emotions, but to court and intensify them to the limit of personal endurance. Kinksters don’t just crave intense orgasms, but intense theater that evokes the darker emotions. Transvestism, cuckolding, and other erotic role play are often shame-based even as participants complain about the social stigmatization of their kinks. People who crave acceptance do so acting on impulses to do the unacceptable. All the conventional fears and disgusts: rejection, abandonment, loss of control, loss of autonomy, loss of freedom, loss of identity, injury and loss of bodily integrity, racism, sexism, infantilization, even evil itself are sometimes directly courted.

Dom/mes and tops, and even submissives deliberately dress to look scary. They play in ways that routinely exceed any hope of plausible deniability. Often, they appear to be showing off. Edge play may be in the eye of the beholder, but being edgy is often seen as a source of status in the communities. While many try to conceal their kinks, there is considerable pride and public esteem to be had in the community for being out about them; often, the edgier the better. This is not a new development, back in the forties and fifties, this was a characteristic of the S/M outlaw motorcycle cultures only a few of whom may have been presumed to have ever read de Sade or Genet. There are many in kink who are openly contemptuous of being normalized, suburbanized, or commodified for mass market consumption. There is a thrill to be enjoyed scaring children, and furry little animals. It is not just sensation-seeking that keeps emergency room staffs telling tall tales of removing gerbils from the occasional rectum. An otherwise respectable kink research organization nicknamed their survey of the health needs of the BDSM communities “The Gerbil Survey” in jest, but playing on precisely this dynamic. An anonymous wag suggested to me that the survey needed a trigger warning!

Kink often embraces things that are despised, dirty and disgusting, from the scut work of polishing boots, to playing with urine and feces, to giving up power and social status, to eroticizing performing the dusting. The problem of idealization is again illustrated by kink eroticism, which tends to veneer over the unpleasant implications of all this. While cinematic depictions of Pauline Reage’s perverse training at Chateau Roissy are invariably clean stylish and resplendent with fetish appeal, cleaning up must be a fulltime job with all the blood, saliva and feces involved in all that slave training. Laundry must be a constant preoccupation despite the scanty attire. And the Marquis de Sade’s writings would have required an army of hired help he could never afford (He may have been an aristocrat, but the Divine Marquis was chronically short of money!) just to clean up after his literary parties, and that is before we get to the problem of disposing of the dead bodies. In reality, the Divine Marquis got into plenty of legal difficulty precisely because, once the judgments made at the height of concupiscence were made, he was unable to clean up after their messy interpersonal consequences. While many of these literary exploits are ‘only’ fantasies, they are willfully messy ones. No one gets pregnant or an STI unless it serves a dark story line. It should be noted that most kinky play does not require unwanted contact with dirt and disgust, but the critical term is ‘unwanted.’ What is the point of having a slave if they cannot be forced to sleep in the wet spot? And how do you know you have surrendered any power unless you have to do things that are genuinely unpleasant?

Jack Morin, reworking John Money’s theory of love maps--or personal erotic templates--could not escape a conclusion that would have nonplussed the late 19th century learning theorists: rather than mainly stemming from early but repressed positive experiences, eroticism in Morin’s view was equally likely to be erected on earlier experiences of fear, loss and emotional travail. Robert Stoller for a time considered that kinks might be caused by childhood medical ordeals. Von Sacher-Masoch believed his love of being beaten by imperious women and his erotic fixation on fur stemmed from a preadolescent experience of being whipped for disrespecting his haughty aunt. Suffice it to say, she had not specifically intended to awaken his eroticism, but to punish him into submission. In this way, turning an oppressor’s intended punishment into a source of lust constitutes a kind of mastery. It restores some personal agency to a story in which the victim rescues something symbolic from maltreatment. These examples illustrate Morin’s idea that sexual excitements come as frequently from ‘troubling’ experiences as they do from routine drive expression or the desire to repeat good times.

In conventional media, kink is just emerging from a period in which sadomasochistic attire is used to denote villainy. Only in the last few years have immaculately suited villains in haute couture duds been opposed by good guys who look like they emerged from the fringes of punk rock (for example, The Matrix)! Ordinarily, a kinky costume is an unsubtle device to spare us the trouble of character development. Kink is bad, and everyone knows it. But not only is it sometimes highly erotic to be bad, it can be socially productive and necessary.


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