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A federal court case against a man from Lebanon gravely concerns those who practice an alternative sexual lifestyle nationwide and here in the Ozarks.
Ed Bagley is charged with 11 counts of abuse against a woman whom police say he made his sex slave. The prosecutor wants to show Bagley had a history of abusing women by bringing up Bagley's sex life with his own wife.
The Bagleys practice something called BDSM, short for bondage, discipline and sadomasichism. Locals in that lifestyle say what they do is pleasurable, not criminal.
A man whom we'll call Bill tours the country giving presentations on BDSM. Yet, here in the Ozarks, he won't show his face.
"If they don't know, then they're scared of it," he said on Thursday.
Bill says what they don't know is there is an underground network of sadomasichists called dominants and submissives, or masters and slaves, right here in middle America. We're just slow to accept it, he says.
"Most conventions they have in big cities, we'll have anywhere from 1,500 to 2,000 people at those conventions," Bill said.
The group that he ran in Springfield for more than two decades had, at its peak, 500 members and a private dungeon. They played with devices like whips, floggers, cuffs, and ropes. Bill says they played safely.
"That is why we basically set up the club we started, so people would learn what they should do, shouldn't do, their rights, how to play with somebody because there are certain parts of the body you touch that can be very dangerous. We taught them how to slowly build a person up so that they could play a little harder. We taught the submissives how to recognize when somebody is doing something wrong and they could say 'back it off, that's not what I want,'" Bill said.
He and other advocates and practitioners of BDSM are concerned the case from Lebanon that calls into question the defendant's kinky sex acts with his own wife will criminalize their lifestyle.
"It means that everybody who is kinky right now and doing any sort of those bedroom activities, it means those things could be used against them as some sort of evidence of assault if they get involved in a case like this," said Susan Wright with Baltimore-based National Coalition for Sexual Freedom. Wright says it means fear. Fear of persecution is what keeps Bill's face in the shadows but fear of criminalization could do worse.
"Strictly somebody brand new or wanting to know something about it, then it would scare them," he said.
Even though BDSM is growing in popularity, Bill says the single thing that's helped the BDSM community most is the internet, because it's been an easy and private way for those interested to learn about the lifestyle.
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