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Articles tagged with: Advocacy

"Best and Most Beautiful Things Premieres at SXSW"

on Thursday, 10 March 2016. Posted in Front Page Headline, Media Updates

Huffington Post

by Xaque Gruber

One of the year's most touching documentary films, Best and Most Beautiful Things, makes its world premiere this month at SXSW. A provocative and joyous coming of age portrait of precocious 20 year old Michelle Smith of rural Maine, she's both legally blind and diagnosed on the autism spectrum, but the film does not pander to that. She bursts off the screen as someone immensely relatable. You'll want to know her. This is a powerful, affecting journey into a young woman's mind as she searches for connection and empowerment by exploring life outside the limits of "normal" through a "fringe community."

I had the pleasure of speaking with the film's Executive Producer, Kevin Bright, who has succeeded in navigating the waters of both TV (he was Executive Producer of Friends) and film (his previous documentary work includes directing the 2007 film about his vaudevillian father, Who Ordered Tax?). Kevin executive produced the film with Claudia Bright.

Xaque Gruber: What was it about this project that attracted you? How did it find you?

 

Kevin Bright: My involvement with the project began in 2009 when I started a filmmaking class for students at the Perkins School for The Blind in Watertown, Massachusetts. Michelle Smith was in that first class and was part of a group that made an award winning film Seeing Through the Lens. I loved the impact the film had on these students, giving them the power to tell their stories to the world. Our director, Garrett Zevgetis, was a volunteer at Perkins who at that time was making a short film about the impact of Helen Keller on current Perkins students. After seeing an early cut, my recommendation was to focus the film on Michelle as a "modern day Helen Keller". Garrett filmed Michelle - it was a 20 minute short that became a feature film and now here we are with a premiere at SXSW.

 

XG: Let's talk about Michelle Smith. She is legally blind, on the autism spectrum and lives in rural Maine - with those details she seems plucked from a Stephen King novel. She's bound to win over many fans and hearts. Tell me what it was like working with her and do you see any of yourself in Michelle?

 

KB: Michelle is an inspiration to me. She could roll over and be a victim of her disability, instead she embraces it and challenges the rest of us to step out of our comfort zone and be open to different people and life styles, "unlearning normal" as Michelle says. Everyone falls for Michelle because she draws you in, makes a connection, but sometimes, can really shock you. Pity is not what she seeks, it is not in her vocabulary. ...

"Bar Raid At Alamo Leather Contest"

on Monday, 08 February 2016. Posted in Front Page Headline, Media Updates

The Leather Journal

by Vonn Tramel

Attendees of The 2016 Alamo Leather Contest will certainly never forget!

 

Late Saturday evening, at approximately 1030, just a few minutes prior to the announcement of The Alamo Leather Contest’s Winners bar staff swept through the Mad Marlin’s basement and parking lot. They were instructing customers in the basement to finish their drinks and instructed to dump their drinks if they were in the parking lot. Soon thereafter contest producers abruptly announced Mr. Alamo Leather 2016 Shawn Fox and Alamo Bootblack 2016 Sugar Bear.

 

At this time the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission and San Antonio Police Department proceeded to raid the north side establishment. It was announced at the beginning of the raid that persons with faces not matching their photo ID could be ticketed and or arrested. Members of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence and the event’s emcee bolted from the establishment. ...

"Beyond Safe Words: When Saying 'No' in BDSM Isn't Enough"

on Saturday, 12 December 2015. Posted in NCSF in the News!, Front Page Headline, Media Updates

Broadly

by Trudie Carter-Pavelin

Miss Jackie* sits in the back of a dingy Leeds café in England, sipping tea and speaking urgently. She describes herself as a T-girl (a transgender woman) who has been a veteran of the BDSM scene for over 20 years, save for a seven-year break in the early 2000s.

 

When she returned in 2010, she barely recognized it. Jackie moved to a new town and joined her local munch, an informal pub meetup for the community to socialise and play. "To begin with, the play was very mild, people hardly hit each other. After a while, this couple turned up from one of the other munches in the county, and just seemed to take over," she says. "The woman injured my foot, and flogged me on the back of the head, which is a real no-no. She was falling off her high heels because she was drunk, but she'd more or less appointed herself safety monitor."

 

This behavior went unnoticed by other, inexperienced members, whose knowledge of BDSM came mostly from internet porn. Jackie shudders when she recounts the couple. "They were pushing limits." The man is now banned from a number of British clubs, after an incident when a woman was tied up and touched without permission.

 

Miss Jackie soon became aware that much had changed since her departure from the scene. "I was topping for a friend who was a prostitute, and she seemed surprised that I was polite to her afterwards," she says with a tinge of irony. "She didn't realize that was the norm. She'd had experiences in London where people had forced ketamine on her, and kept her against her will for days."

 

In the BDSM community, to 'grass' or out kink abusers is to isolate yourself. When Jackie appealed to prominent figures to help, she was met with outright hostility. In one email exchange seen by Broadly, one of the country's most influential munch figures told her that any "perceived abuse" was likely just part of a normal master/slave interaction in a power exchange dynamic. "A decent master is not going to want to harm their property on any level," he wrote, much to Jackie's horror.

 

 

"I have never been the same person since I first read that," she says. "If a dom breaks the law, it's considered vanilla law, and nobody will acknowledge it." ...

 

... At the moment, the community is trying its best to self-police. Consent Counts is a network of kink activists aiming to do just that—to open a dialogue and introduce an ethical system of care to the scene. "BDSM subcultures need to develop an ethics of care for ourselves and others, and this can only be achieved through collective efforts and networks of support," a spokesperson explains. "In part this will act as a deterrent from abuse, and show potential abusers that their behaviour will not get buried in the sand and forgotten easily. A collective voice is much more powerful than that of an individual."

 

"All you need is love(s)"

on Friday, 20 November 2015. Posted in Front Page Headline, Media Updates

Columbia Spectator

BY AIDAN GOLTRA

To manage her multiple relationships, School of Engineering and Applied Science junior Arya Popescu uses Google Calendar.

 

Like any other busy student, Popescu has work to manage, homework to do, and assignments to complete. But despite her busy schedule, Popescu found a polyamorous niche embedded within an apparently vibrant kink and bondage, domination, sadism, and masochism community at Columbia. Sitting with me at a table outside Hartley Hall, Popescu speaks rapidly and with verve about the community, making frequent use of hand gestures.

 

“I found out Columbia had a kink community and was like, ‘Oh my god, this is so awesome. In that context poly is normal.”

 

A standard definition of polyamory, often shortened to “poly,” is non-monogamy. However, according to Popescu, this definition is too broad. She explains that while non-monogamy could be used to label every incident of infidelity or random group sex, none of these acts fall under polyamory’s umbrella. In ethical polyamory, what often looks like and is judged like deceit in fact follows consensual, pre-determined rules.

 

It is perhaps these loose associations, along with a traditional allegiance to monogamy, that keep polyamory from gaining popular acceptance. According to a 2015 Gallup Social Poll, while acceptance of polyamorous marriage has more than doubled since 2001, approval remains at a mere 16 percent.

 

Throughout our interview, Popescu repeatedly said that she didn’t view one relationship model as superior, just different from one another. Still, she believes most people take a perspective on polyamory that is too informed by monogamy.

 

“Really the practice of ethical polyamory involves a lot of openness and mutual communication. Sometimes it’s like, ‘Oh, give me all the gory details.’ Other times, not so much. There’s this mindfulness and openness and active consent regarding relationship practices in the polyamorous community.”

 

For Popescu, this openness allows her to pursue a spectrum of relationships suited to her different desires and needs, ranging from platonic friendships to what she describes as a “primal” sexuality. On one hand, Popescu says her most intimate relationship is with someone who identifies as asexual. While she and Popescu have “played” together, Popescu says that for the most part, their relationship is platonic.

 

On the other hand, Popescu is president of Conversio Virium, Columbia’s BDSM and kink club. This involves being plugged into a large and private kink network, through which she can pursue many sexual, but less intimate relationships. Yet Popescu does not associate with these people much in her daily life.

 

Interested in observing the polyamorous scene of New York City at large, I visited Bluestockings Cafe in Midtown’s Astor Place, a bookstore where every few weeks the polyamorous club Open Love NY meets. “We try to create a nonjudgmental group that just so happens to love the same way,” Open Love NY Vice President Puck Malamud, whose pronoun is they, says. The group also aims to educate about polyamory through speakers and group discussion. ...

"'Folsom Forever' Captures The Spirit Of San Francisco's Legendary Queer Street Fair"

on Thursday, 14 May 2015. Posted in Front Page Headline, Media Updates

Huffington Post

By JamesMichael Nichols

The origins of San Francisco's legendary Folsom Street Fair may be much different than you think.

 

When someone talks about Folsom Street Fair in 2015, the leather and fetish elements of the historic outdoor celebration of sexual diversity are likely what come to mind. However, this event is also rooted in a very specific issue that queers and other marginalized groups have dealt with for decades: gentrification.

 

"Folsom Forever" is a new film from director Mike Skiff that takes a look at the historic legacy of Folsom Street Fair and how this festival was birthed from San Francisco's narrative of gentrification surrounding the HIV/AIDs panic.

 

"If you've attended the Folsom Street Fair in the last 30 of its 40 years, it would seem this outdoor kinky celebration has always been a Leather-oriented event," Skiff told The Huffington Post. "Making this film gave me the opportunity to, among things, correct that misconception. The fair was actually born in ’84 out of South of Market neighborhood's need for survival, as developers sought to bulldoze buildings and sex businesses -- like the bathhouses -- being closed by the city in misguided AIDS hysteria. What Folsom Street Fair always has been is an expression of human rights, be it the right to low-cost housing or to willingly be flogged without fear of arrest."

 

Skiff also added that the 1970s in San Francisco was a very specific time -- one in which members of the LGBT community were given the space to explore the spectrum of their sexuality and queerness. ...


"Beyond 50 Shades Of Grey: Are Kink And BDSM Following In The Footsteps Of The LGBTQ Movement?"

on Monday, 16 February 2015. Posted in NCSF in the News!, Front Page Headline, Media Updates

Collectivity

by Lindsay Schrupp

I watched 50 Shades of Grey last night, and all I could think about through that long, sloppy, and ultimately failed orgasm was Gigli.

Oh, you remember Gigli. How could anyone forget Ben Affleck as a disgruntled hornball in a leather jacket who holds hostage and verbally abuses a differently-abled man? Or Jennifer Lopez as the lesbian turned straight by Affleck? That one is seared into our collective memory forever.

Unsurprisingly, Gigli walked straight into a Sandlot-style smack-down of criticism following its release, including disapproval of its anachronistic plot device of 'curing' a gay person into becoming straight. People were like, "It's 2003! We know Mel Gibson just won a People's Choice Award so no one is going to look back on this year as a landmark time for progress, but… seriously?"

Fifty Shades of Grey, the erotic romance novel by E. L. James that originated as fan fiction for Twilight enthusiasts, is now bringing its Gigli-inspired non-conventional sex shaming bullshit back to the big screen. Just in time for V-Day.

Mr. Grey Just Up And Decided To See You Now

50 Shades tells the story of Laney Boggs from She's All That, err... I mean the young, white, ponytailed virgin known as Anastasia Steele (played by Dakota Johnson), who falls in love with the closeted BDSM practitioner, Christian Grey (played by Jamie Dornan). Christian has a 'damaged' past that leads him deep into the Conradian heart of kinky darkness with a Regis Philbin haircut to boot. The story revolves around Anastasia's descent into Christian's kinky underworld, with her playing the Submissive and Christian as the Dominant. Throughout the film, Anastasia works ridiculously hard to 'cure' Christian of his interest in kink through a combination of dopey eyes, sad faces, and compelling arguments, like "can't you just not?"

Now, pretend you've never heard of 50 Shades for a moment. Journey deep, deep down into the recesses of your televised memory (if you hit Cool As Ice you've gone too far-- get outta there). Try to picture the last BDSM practitioner you've seen characterized on screen. It's probably not an Oscar-worthy moment.

"Kinky people are really discriminated against because of the misconceptions out there," said Susan Wright, spokesperson for the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (NCSF), over the phone. "We were considered mentally ill. We had to fight that misconception."

NCSF has been leading the charge for years to dispel that myth that kinky people are mentally-ill or somehow damaged. "Millions of people do this," said Wright. "Some people are just wired to like intense sensation. Some people like extreme sports and some like extreme sex. Look at Christian Grey—he had a hard life, right? 50 Shades really repeats that tired old stereotype. But that's the romance novel trope; the wounded hero has to be saved."

50 Shades might be able to play the "romance novel trope" card to get away with advancing the denigrative stereotype that an interest in BDSM, kink or fetishes is derivative of childhood abuse or qualifies someone as mentally-ill, but really this misconception is much bigger than one giant ejaculation of box-office garbage. It speaks to a larger issue of oppression and vilification of non-normative sexual expression by larger social and political structures, including psychiatric and medical institutions, mainstream media and pop culture.

In a 2008 survey conducted by NCSF, 26 percent of nearly 3,000 kinky people reported being discriminated against because their SM, leather or kink fetish or perceived fetish. Six percent reported a loss of child custody, 20 percent reported a loss of job or contract, and an additional 13 percent reported a loss of promotion or demotion due to their sexual expression or a perception thereof. NCSF hit a landmark moment in 2010 when the American Psychiatric Association agreed to change the diagnostic codes for BDSM, fetishism, and transvestic fetishism in the revised Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) for 2013. This pathology had real repercussions for kinky people--particularly when used in court battles over child custody.

Does any of this sound familiar? It should. NCSF is up against a battle that LGBT and queer activists have been fighting for decades. In fact, it wasn't until 1974 that the listing of homosexuality as a mental disorder was removed from the DSM-II, and only to be replaced by ego-dystonic homosexuality until its removal in 1987. ...

"25 Facts About BDSM That You Won’t Learn In “Fifty Shades Of Grey”"

on Sunday, 15 February 2015. Posted in NCSF in the News!, Front Page Headline, Media Updates

Forget Fifty Shades of Grey. Here’s your real primer on all things kink.

Buzzfeed

by Casey Gueren

1. First things first: Here’s what BDSM actually stands for:

 

BDSM includes bondage and discipline (B&D), dominance and submission (D&S), and sadism & masochism (S&M). The terms are lumped together that way because BDSM can be a lot of different things to different people with different preferences, BDSM writer and educator Clarisse Thorn, author of The S&M Feminist, tells BuzzFeed Life. Most of the time, a person’s interests fall into one or two of those categories, rather than all of them.

 

2. It doesn’t always involve sex, but it can.

 

Most people think BDSM is always tied to sex, and while it can be for some people, others draw a hard line between the two. “Both are bodily experiences that are very intense and sensual and cause a lot of very strong feelings in people who practice them, but they’re not the same thing,” says Thorn. The metaphor she uses for it: a massage. Sometimes a massage, however sensual it feels, is just a massage. For others, a rubdown pretty much always leads to sex. It’s kind of similar with BDSM; it’s a matter of personal and sexual preference.

3. There is nothing inherently wrong or damaged with people if they’re into it.

 

This is one of the most common and frustrating misconceptions about BDSM, says Thorn. BDSM isn’t something that emerges from abuse or domestic violence, and engaging in it does not mean that you enjoy abuse or abusing.

 

Instead, enjoying BDSM is just one facet of someone’s sexuality and lifestyle. “It’s just regular people who happen to get off that way,” sex expert Gloria Brame, Ph.D., author of Different Loving, tells BuzzFeed Life. “It’s your neighbors and your teachers and the people bagging your groceries. The biggest myth is that you need this special set of circumstances. It’s regular people who have a need for that to be their intimate dynamic.” ...

 

24. There is an immensely helpful list of kink-aware professionals so you can find a doctor or therapist who uniquely understands your lifestyle.

 

Maybe you’re worried that your gynecologist or your lawyer won’t be sensitive to your lifestyle or doesn’t allow you to feel comfortable talking about it. Check out the Kink Aware Professionals Directory from the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom to find someone who will be more accepting. ...

 

"'Fifty Shades' Of BDSM Misrepresentation"

on Tuesday, 10 February 2015. Posted in NCSF in the News!, Front Page Headline, Media Updates

Huffington Post talks about the way kink is misrepresented in popular culture - with NCSF's Susan Wright along with Robert Rubel, Nichi Hodgson and Ummni Khan.

http://live.huffingtonpost.com/r/segment/fifty-shades-of-grey-bdsm-/54d5150078c90a4fc90005ad

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