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"Panel sparks discussion on BDSM, consent"

on Monday, 20 April 2015. Posted in NCSF in the News!, Front Page Headline, Media Updates

Ball State Daily

by Kara Berg

Some people expressed concern about the definition of sexual consent within Bondage and Discipline, Dominance and Submission, Sadism and Masochism following the recent release of the film adaptation of the "50 Shades of Grey" series.

 

BDSM is a type of sexual relationship where the partners are either dominant or submissive and it can involve roleplaying and restraint.

 

At a panel April 14, the Office of Victim Services invited psychologists, students and BDSM advocates to speak about consent.

 

“Some people may misunderstand and think that when sex includes roleplaying or dominance and submission, that a person can do whatever they want to their partner, but that’s not the case," Allison Wynbissinger, Ball State’s victim advocate, said in an email. "Each party still needs to be able to say yes and agree to what is happening.”

 

Misconception of abuse

 

Susan Wright, a spokesperson for the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom, said the biggest misconception people have is thinking BDSM is out of control or harmful to people.

 

“It’s a game people play,” Wright said. “They set out rules and they agree what kind of game they’re playing and they talk about it beforehand. Most times when people have sex, they don’t really talk about it beforehand. They feel the spark and … they get turned on and they don’t talk about, ‘This is what I like when I have sex’ and, ‘This is what my limits are with sex.’ That’s what people who do BDSM have to do, is talk about it first.”

 

She said with “vanilla sex,” or traditional sex, consent can be implied, and it isn’t always clear whether there could be coercion or fear involved.

 

When people come into the “kink community,” as Wright called it, she said they finally learn how to talk about sex, because it is not usually something that is taught.

 

“We have basically no sex education—how to be responsible, how to make sure you do have consent, how to talk about limits and what you really want,” Wright said.

 

She said for BDSM relationships, there can be consent for one thing, but not for another, and participants are supposed to respect those limits.

 

“We have a hard time trying to explain this to law enforcement and say this person was sexually assaulted,” Wright said. “They look at it and say ‘Well, they consented to a spanking, how are we going to be able to convince people that she also didn’t want to be sexually penetrated?’ But really it’s simple—she also didn’t consent to being sexually penetrated.”

 

Bernard Rhombus*, a speaker at last Tuesday’s panel, said in the BDSM community, consent is emphasized and is something that is constantly talked about.

 

Rhombus said for people who don’t understand the kink community and base what they know off of misconceptions, they tend to jump to the conclusion that people can’t be assaulted if they willingly enter that lifestyle, but that isn’t true.

 

“Within the community where everyone is supposed to be very hyper-aware of issues and boundary violation, there could be subtle things that to most people wouldn’t seem like a big deal, but would be considered unforgivable sins within the community inside that framework of protecting everyone,” Rhombus said. ...

"Kinksters face social stigma in search of acceptance"

on Saturday, 11 April 2015. Posted in NCSF in the News!, Front Page Headline, Media Updates

The Spartan

by Taylor Atkinson

In the interest of supporting consensual kink and not abuse, it is time to advance the conversation about alternative sex.

The Alternative Amory and Kink Union at San Jose State University is an anonymous, supportive space for students to explore the world of kink and polyamory through educational and explorational discussions in meetings and informative panels given by credentialed professionals. It has been a campus-recognized club for two years.

“It’s a community that understands,” said Cassie Lawrence, who uses an alias to identify herself. “It seems intimidating, it really does, but it’s a journey. We want to encourage people to check it out.”

Club host Ryan Ventura said it uses alternative amory as an umbrella term to encompass both monogamous kink and polyamorous relationships.

He said this term truly addresses everyone in whatever form they choose to express their relationships.

“I end up using polyamory … I feel like that’s a catch-all phrase, but if you look in the dictionary it’s not,” Ventura said. “There’s so much diversity in how a relationship can develop–emotionally, romantically, physically, sexually–and once you add up the number of people involved it gets really complex. It’s alternative amory.”

Ventura said the majority of meetings are discussion-based, and he identifies as a host instead of a president because he is essentially just hosting the conversation. Lawrence is a co-host and moderator.

“We try to alternate our meetings so we’ll have one where we focus on a kink topic and one where we focus on alternative amory,” Ventura said.

Lawrence said various titles are used to identify a person’s role in a relationship involving bondage and discipline, dominance and submission and sadomasochism or BDSM.

“Ninety-five percent of the time, labels are for convenience,” Lawrence said. “We’re not just going to be sitting there dressed in leather, holding whips and floggers. We’re normal people too and we want to be a bridge between the community of SJSU and the community of South Bay kink.”

Ventura said the book-turned-movie “Fifty Shades of Grey” sparked mainstream interest in kink and related lifestyles. To increase its presence on campus, the group held a panel on the book in November prior to the film’s release.

“We thought, ‘We should probably do a panel on that because there’s going to be a huge influx of people who don’t really know what this is about,’” Ventura said. “It is a gross misrepresentation of what kink is.”

The number of students involved in the club has varied since its first meeting. For those not comfortable attending meetings in person, they can participate in conversation online, where there is a much larger presence.

“My initial approach to running the organization was no online access, no member list, no nothing,” Ventura said. “We found just through membership numbers that was way too extreme. There were people who were probably looking for a resource and had no idea how to find it.”

Ventura said he may not know everyone personally, not even their real name, but that is what kink is about. Many members fear

persecution and choose to be identified by an alias.

“I’d say a little more than half of them will go by their real name in meetings, but we have a rule, what you would call the Vegas rule,” Ventura said. “What happens here, stays here.”

According to the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom, people who practice kink are persecuted in high numbers. In a 2008 survey pool of 3,058 respondents, 37.5 percent indicated they experienced any combination of harassment, violence and/or discrimination based on their sexual expression or a perception thereof. ...

"He hopes to make 'fringe' less frightening"

on Wednesday, 08 April 2015. Posted in NCSF in the News!, Front Page Headline, Media Updates

Des Moines Register

by Rekha Basu

Elton Davis is a 53-year-old farm-raised Iowan, a separated husband and father of two, a self-described cultural worker and job coach. And he's a member of Des Moines' bondage, domination, sadism and masochism or "kink" community.

 

I've known Davis in different contexts, but until he approached me recently, upset that I gave what he felt was a black eye to a community he thinks is already misunderstood, I didn't know he was part of what he calls that "fringe." He was willing to put a face on it because, "if you shine a light on something, it becomes less scary."

 

This column is typically more concerned with people's rights than with their intimate behaviors, but at times those can involve overlapping or conflicting interests. In a February piece, I shared a former member's concerns about CIPEX, a local club for people with fetishes, because of one board member's past and questions about whether policies were always properly enforced. But it's important to sift through the secrecy and stigma and one person's experiences to acknowledge the importance of the club's mission to its community. Because no adult deserves to feel persecuted or shamed for practices he or she engages in with other consenting adults.

 

Davis says CIPEX is educational, and it aims to foster "a safe, sane and consensual practice of BDSM." Those are also criteria spelled out by the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (https://ncsfreedom.org). By sane, Davis means it wouldn't include anyone who, for example, was abused as a child and is perpetuating a self-destructive pattern. Safe refers to specified rules that he says are taught and modeled. Members also can make "safe calls" to a CIPEX board member before having an encounter with someone they don't know well. If the member doesn't check back in, the board member will follow up — even with calls to police. Davis says any sexual assault or rape reported in the kink community results in police calls. "If you pick someone up in a bar, I don't know anyone that provides (those safety controls)," he said of the general population.

 

And by consensual, he's not talking about the sort of situation depicted in "Fifty Shades of Grey," with its billionaire dominant man and inexperienced submissive college woman. Davis calls the male character "extremely unhealthy, mentally unstable and obsessive," and said it isn't clear if the student even gave her consent.

 

In his experience, Davis says: "Couples negotiate with each other. They are honest to a fault." He says these kinds of relationships involve a greater level of trust than others he has had. "One person is assuming control. One is relinquishing control. Either one can stop at any time if one is uncomfortable." ...

"The Kink Club: inside the secret world of BDSM"

on Sunday, 05 April 2015. Posted in NCSF in the News!, Front Page Headline, Media Updates

A growing cohort of Torontonians are indulging their wildest fetishes—and negotiating every slap, spank and lash of the whip.

Toronto Life

By Stacey May Fowles

...Lord Morpheous is at the centre of a thriving kink culture in Toronto, an underground community of people who derive their pleasure from pain, congregating at parties, meetings and classes. FetLife, the hugely popular social networking site for BDSM participants, lists more than 41,000 kinksters living in Toronto. Users identify their sexual tastes and what they’re looking for, post photos of their bruises and rope marks, and narrow down potential partners and friends by fetish, searching for things like caging and confinement, clamps and clips, nun and priest play, or a standard flogging.

 

BDSM is an overlapping abbreviation of bondage and discipline, dominance and submission, sadism and masochism. It covers a continuum of practices outside of mainstream sex, which means something as tame as a blindfold or as intense as a caning falls under the same wide umbrella. A kinky encounter is often referred to as a scene: a single interaction where participants pre-negotiate safe words and acceptable activities. Scenes can involve consensual bondage, confinement and violence—including spanking, slapping, pinching, cutting or choking—but relationships can also be full-time, where a submissive is “owned” by a dominant partner, sometimes wearing a collar to indicate his or her status. Outside the bedroom, subs can provide non-sexual services to their dominants: they may cook, clean, run errands or shine their master’s shoes. Though from the outside doms seem to be calling the shots, the submissive partners hold equal power. They’ve voluntarily surrendered control—and can take it back at any time. Arrangements are as varied as the people who create them, and can be complicated and delicate to maintain, which means constant communication is key to their success.

 

Last October, the Toronto BDSM community was thrust under a harsh spotlight when several women accused Jian Ghomeshi, the former host of CBC Radio’s Q, of abuse. He defended himself on his Facebook page, claiming he’d participated in “a mild form of Fifty Shades of Grey”: rough sex, dominance and submission. Later reports suggested Ghomeshi hadn’t received consent, and he was charged with several counts of sexual assault. “All of a sudden he choked me, slapped me in the face a few times,” said the actress Lucy DeCoutere of their sexual encounter. “It came out of nowhere. It was unprovoked.”

 

Ghomeshi-gate has been a PR problem for Toronto kinksters, who worry their consensual practices are now wrongly tied to allegations of violence. Worse still, the case exposed the criminal grey area that kink occupies: in Canada, a person can’t legally consent to bodily harm. That puts some Toronto practitioners in a precarious position—a rope burn, bruise or chokehold could lead to a potential assault charge.

 

As long as couples have been having sex, they’ve been incorporating consensual pain, control and surrender—erotic BDSM appears in the Kama Sutra, ancient Roman poetry and Etruscan frescoes. Modern kink culture came about in the mid-20th century, colliding with the sexual revolution and queer movement. Kink as we know it grew out of the gay leather scene in 1950s New York, San Francisco and Berlin: after World War II, young men started establishing underground fetish and sex clubs, favouring chaps, harnesses and rough sex. In the early 1970s, the first two official North American BDSM organizations were established: the Eulenspiegel Society formed in New York in 1971, and the Society of Janus in San Francisco in 1974, both focused on education and support for those in the closet. It was in these societies that the movement finally crystallized, and practitioners developed a shared ethos, rules and vernacular. These early proponents characterized their behaviour as “safe, sane and consensual”—a guideline meant to distinguish kink from abuse. By the end of the millennium, BDSM imagery had bridged into pop culture—Madonna played the sub and the domme in her music videos, Isabella Rossellini begged to be hit in Blue Velvet, and CSI detectives encountered the wisdom of the dominatrix Lady Heather.

 

More recently, the practice of BDSM has grown from a niche subculture into a mainstream obsession. The catalyst, of course, was Fifty Shades of Grey, a kinkified Twilight fan fiction series that sold 100 million copies, spawned a $40-million movie and triggered a worldwide fascination with spanking, leather, cuffs and Ben Wa balls. All across town, entrepreneurs are capitalizing on the growing demand for kink. Over the past three years, the Yonge Street fetish shop Northbound Leather has experienced a 20 per cent increase in sales of harnesses and collars, which range from $10 plastic versions to $2,500 diamond-encrusted chokers.

 

It used to be a challenge for kinksters to find like-minded practitioners, but now there are dozens of places for them to congregate. “The scene hides very quietly under the surface of everyday life,” says Morpheous. “You just have to know where to look.” At pubs and cafés across the city, kinksters gather for munches—casual meetups to discuss relationships, coming out to family members or new rope tricks. Munches are designed to be as anonymous as possible: organizers prohibit photography and toys, and guests wear street clothes instead of fetish wear. “These people are often just talking about, like, the new Star Wars movie,” Morpheous explains....

Despite its popularity, kink is still the subject of intense scrutiny and stigma: until 2013, it was classified in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual as a mental disorder. BDSM was only depathologized after a lengthy campaign by the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom, an American advocacy group that argued the existing definitions failed to distinguish between consensual sadism and abuse. Many kinksters still feel like their sexual preferences put them at risk of persecution: most of the people who appear in this story asked that I use a pseudonym, afraid they might be outed to their families, friends and employers. It’s legal in Canada to fire someone for BDSM activities if the disclosure is deemed damaging to the brand of the company—though many kinksters see their sexual preference as an orientation, it doesn’t fall under the protection of the Human Rights Code. Even Lord Morpheous hides his real name and face from the public. “I’m not ashamed. Anyone who wants to meet me can come out to an event,” he says. “I just prefer to have control. I like my world a size I can manage.” ...

"NCSF: Fighting for Your Sexual Rights, Privacy and Freedom"

on Tuesday, 24 March 2015. Posted in NCSF in the News!, Front Page Headline, Media Updates

Dating Advice

by Hayley Matthews

The 411: Founded in 1997 and made up of more than 50 businesses, groups, individuals and more, The National Coalition for Sexual Freedom has been the go-to supporter for people who participate in consensual alternative sexual behaviors.

 

Have you ever been afraid your boss will fire you if he or she found out you like BDSM?

 

What about your family? Have you been worried they will shun you if they discovered that you and your partner are swingers?

 

Discrimination and concerns like these are just some of the reasons the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (NCSF) was formed.

 

Founded by Susan Wright, the NCSF brings together kink and non-monogamy educational groups, therapists, domestic violence centers and other professionals to stand up for the legal rights and privacy of people who take part in these types of activities.

 

“Our goal is to fight discrimination against people who are kinky or non-monogamist,” she said.

 

We spoke with Wright to discuss the organization’s most impactful services, how people can overcome prejudices in their lives and the team’s plan to get all of America, and even the world, involved in the discussion.

 

Your rights. Your privacy. Your freedom.

The NCSF may be a small nonprofit, but they’re still able to create some incredibly impressive initiatives that make a real difference.

 

Their one of a kind media outreach program works directly with newspapers, TV stations, online outlets and more to get accurate information out there about alternative sexuality, especially when it comes to consent.

 

“Consent is at the heart of what we do, and you have to make sure that you have consent ahead of time. In this day and age, people look at sex as you make the move and see if you get a no,” she said. “With kink, you can’t do that. You actually have to verbalize what you want first and then be able to speak it and map out the game you’re going to play before you start playing it.” ...

"How Kink's Largest Social-Networking Site Fails Its Users"

on Wednesday, 04 March 2015. Posted in NCSF in the News!, Front Page Headline, Media Updates

By protecting the identities of people with a history of abusive behavior, FetLife.com leaves members of the BDSM community vulnerable to harm.

The Atlantic

by DAVID Z. MORRIS

The Fifty Shades of Grey books have unleashed a wave of mainstream interest in kinky sex since their arrival in 2011. The film version, which hit theaters on February 14, will probably trigger a second surge. But the kink community is less than enthusiastic about that.

 

“I’m not looking forward to it,” says Autumn Lokerson, a BDSM blogger and self-identified submissive.

 

That’s because Lokerson has seen many Fifty Shades converts dive headfirst into BDSM, without taking much time to educate themselves about the elaborate rules, rituals, and culture that have developed over decades. Her main concern is that newbies can put themselves in danger. All those rules—summed up by the oft-repeated community mantra "Safe, Sane, Consensual"—are vital to making risky practices like bondage and the infliction of pain safer.

 

Also worrisome is that many dipping a toe in the waters of BDSM will start exploring through FetLife, which, with more than 3.5 million members, is the most popular social networking site for kinksters. FetLife lets members discuss issues, explore their desires, and arrange offline events and dates. But Lokerson and others have long contended that FetLife does an inadequate job of safeguarding its users, and even creates a false sense of safety in the community—primarily, by preventing identification of abusive members.

 

Just as the rest of society has more openly confronted the ugly reality of rape, the BDSM scene has had to acknowledge that "Safe, Sane, Consensual" is often more of an ideal than reality. In 2011, Kitty Stryker, a blogger and longtime member of the BDSM community, spoke out about having her negotiated boundaries repeatedly violated by people she trusted. This triggered a flood of similar accounts across blogs, message boards, and discussion threads.

 

In 2013, these anecdotes were backed up by a survey by the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom, a group that works for the legal protection of alternative sexual practices. The survey found that 30 percent of people who participated in BDSM had had their pre-negotiated boundaries violated by a partner.

 

Revelations of abuse also frequently surface on FetLife. But these discussions are seriously limited—Fetlife doesn’t allow users to name their abusers. In a 2012 forum thread titled “Confessions: TRIGGER WARNING,” dozens of members accused others of violating their consent, using their FetLife screen names. However, FetLife administrators quickly emailed the user who started the thread, requesting that all usernames be removed. The thread can still be viewed in its anonymized version by registered Fetlife users.

 

Many of the stories shared on FetLife are horrific. One user shared this message from a FetLife admin regarding accusations against a high-ranking community member, whose username is here replaced with [Tribe Leader]:

 

Hi [Poster],

 

My name is Maureen, and I’m writing to let you know that we’ve removed a post you made in your status referring to [Tribe Leader] that said: “[Tribe Leader] has anally raped a person who was bound and gagged and unable to resist” I’m very sorry, but I’m afraid we don’t allow criminal accusations to be made anywhere on Fetlife against another member : (

The frowny face is a nice touch.

 

The policy is clearly laid out in Fetlife’s Terms of Use, which prohibit making “criminal accusations against another member in a public forum.” Whatever the rationale for the policy (FetLife founder John Baku and his staff did not respond to repeated requests for comment), its implications are profound. ...

"Des Moines kink community welcomes 'Fifty Shades'"

on Saturday, 21 February 2015. Posted in NCSF in the News!, Front Page Headline, Media Updates

Des Moines Register

by Courtney Crowder

" 'Fifty Shades of Grey' came out and we just exploded," said Jay, a founder of local BDSM group Central Iowa Power Exchange (CIPEX) who requested to be referred to by his first name. "We are growing left and right."

 

A pop phenomenon, "Fifty Shades" centers on college student Anastasia Steele and her complicated relationship with Christian Grey, a 27-year-old CEO and kink enthusiast with dominant tendencies. The movie is Fandango's fastest selling R-rated title, according to the company, and the YouTube trailer has been viewed more than 50 million times.

 

"I am expecting to have another big spike (in members) after the movie," Jay said. "When the book came out we were nervous we were going to get men saying 'I'm dominant, bow to my needs,' but we didn't get that. Instead, we got a lot of people who were curious and wanted to learn." ...

Kink defined

 

BDSM is short for bondage and discipline, dominance and submission, sadism and masochism. But tying down what exactly that means is like herding cats. Simply, to those in the BDSM community, it means what you want it to mean.

 

"It's about stimulating other parts of the body and the mind and the heart," said Susan Wright, founder of the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom, an advocacy group for the kink community. "... For some people, it's not a sexual thing at all. It's a spiritual response, a cathartic response. For other people, it's an endorphin rush, like a runner's high. For other people, though, it's sex and it's how they have sex."

 

For Ms. Robin, domination is about the skill, not the sex. "I, myself, am always clothed," she said of her client sessions.

 

Unlike the popular image of the leather bustier-wearing, stiletto-healed, foul-mouthed dominatrix, Ms. Robin is merely a free-spirited craftswoman. She spent five years apprenticing with dominatrixes across the country before turning pro. Now she speaks at conferences and colleges nationwide.

 

"I'm the most monogamous person, (and) I'm pretty straight-laced in some ways," said Ms. Robin, who lives with a partner. "But I'm very open and accepting of people and their kinks."

 

She was 40 when she entered the BDSM lifestyle. After a divorce, she dated a man who pointed out that her natural sexual penchants were dominatrix-like. She didn't know what the word was, but a quick Internet search introduced her to the culture.

 

Many people come into the kink community in a similar way: Someone tries something, they like it, they seek out people with similar interests.

 

It's like quilting, but with whips. ...

 

"Dear BDSM Community: Your Fifty Shades of Complaining Isn't Productive"

on Saturday, 21 February 2015. Posted in NCSF in the News!, Front Page Headline, Media Updates

Huffington Post

by Cassie Fuller

As a lifestyle kinkster, educator and founder of Touch of Flavor, I understandably have mixed feelings about Fifty Shades of Grey. But with all the kinksters bashing the books, including here on the Huffington Post, (and here), it would probably surprise you that I think the Fifty Shades franchise has been beneficial, both for the BDSM community and the general population. Why the difference in opinion? Because as an educator, I work with the general public, an entirely different segment of the population than the one most of the professional dominants and submissives providing opinions for these articles deal with.

 

Shortly after Fifty Shades came out, I was having a discussion with Susan Wright from the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom. Susan is a household name in the BDSM community, and has dedicated an enormous amount of her to life fighting for acceptance and freedom for people involved in the BDSM lifestyle. When our discussion turned to the book, she told me: "This is the BDSM communities' Stonewall, and no one even got hurt."

 

That quote has stuck with me because it's true. Like any minority community, the BDSM community has a history of being misunderstood and persecuted. Not so long ago, the only place to meet like-minded people was in back rooms at seedy bars with a referral and a secret knock. Admitting to, or worse yet, indulging in, the kinky fantasies that so many of us have would have resulted in you being ostracized and could have resulted in you losing your job, your children or even being institutionalized or arrested.

 

Nowadays? There's a thriving BDSM community in almost every large metro area. People meet for munches and discussions at restaurants, kink events are booked in upscale hotels and venues catering to kink are operating -- legally -- out in the open. I've been in the community long enough to see much of that change, and while most kinksters will agree that the rise of Internet social networking is largely responsible for our community's growth, surprisingly few are willing to admit that Fifty Shades of Grey has done more for our acceptance in the mainstream than any other single factor.

 

And it's not hard to figure out why. Research has shown that lots of people harbor some fantasies that could be considered kinky. The Fifty Shades franchise gave people who would never have otherwise been exposed to BDSM a framework for those fantasies, and made them realize kink was something they might be interested in. When you have books that have sold over 100 million copies (we're talking Twilight and Harry Potter territory here) and a movie breaking February box office records, it becomes clear that those of us interested in kink aren't a minority at all.

 

And the general public has realized it as well. Kink has become an everyday topic of conversation. Women's Health is giving tips on how to tie up and spank your partner, floggers are popping up at sex stores and on Amazon, we're seeing Dom shirts at our local mall and celebrities being suspended in music videos. Fifty Shades has probably set us ahead ten years in terms of acceptance.

 

The hatred for the franchise from the kink community doesn't surprise me; I understand it. Even though Fifty Shades has given us a huge boost in terms of acceptance, the relationship between the two main characters isn't healthy or an accurate depiction of BDSM. It is fraught with consent and abuse issues; and the impression that you have to have some kind of traumatic background to want to dominate someone isn't true. Like many other kinksters, I'm afraid that those readers with a new found interest in kink will be headed down a dangerous path without further education. ...

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