In 2003, National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (NCSF) once again took the lead in defending the rights of individuals and groups in the SM-leather-fetish, swing and polyamory communities. NCSF's coalition of 38 educational and social groups is committed to creating a political, legal, and social environment in the United States that advances equal rights of consenting adults who practice forms of alternative sexual expression.
Leigha Fleming directs NCSF's Incident Response team. In total during 2003, NCSF responded to more than 500 cases, with more than 1,300 contacts between NCSF and individuals, groups, attorneys, prosecutors, and businesses that requested assistance. Some incidents required only one or two phone calls, but many evolved into much larger projects such as the attacks by religious political groups against SM conferences.
In 42% of the incidents, NCSF assisted individuals. The largest category of incidents involved parents who were engaged in child custody and divorce cases. Parents continue to experience difficulties gaining child custody due to their interest in SM, swing or poly activities. NCSF worked with a number of attorneys representing parents accused of being unfit because of their alternative lifestyle interests. In many cases, because of information we were able to provide, the courts decided that alternative sexual expression alone was not cause to impugn a parent's ability to be a good parent.
We also helped families dealing with child protective services because of their alternative lifestyle interests.
NCSF saw a sharp rise in the number of requests for help from individuals experiencing employment discrimination because of their involvement in alternative lifestyles in 2003. Individuals also consulted with NCSF on a variety of other issues, including: the legality of obscene materials, guidelines for posting sexually frank information on websites, the law regarding private parties, criminal cases, dealing with law enforcement and dealing with personal media exposure.
In 2003, NCSF also opposed zoning and other local regulatory measures against those who practice some form of alternative sexual expression. NCSF assisted the swing communities in Illinois and North Carolina by working with them to fight back against punitive zoning restrictions. In addition, we extended our outreach to the polyamory community in 2003 by working with individuals impacted by discrimination against their relationship style.
Opposition to SM events based on religious concerns continued in 2003. The host hotel for My Vicious Valentine (February 14-16) received calls from Concerned Women for America at the end of January. The CWA attack against My Vicious Valentine fizzled out, in large part due to the extensive education about SM events that NCSF did for local authorities in 2002. Only one reporter called NCSF from the hotline number posted on MVV's website.
The Tribal Fire conference (April 4-6) in Oklahoma was again targeted by religious groups who took out ads in the local papers denouncing SM practices and threatening to picket the event. Tribal Fire's organizers met with the police detective and the hotel to ensure the event would go on as planned. However four Mennonites held a prayer vigil in the hotel lobby for 72 hours. NCSF staff members attended Tribal Fire and spoke out about the importance of standing up for our rights.
When Concerned Women for America attacked International Mr. Leather (May 30-June 1) they quoted the Illinois State Health Department as saying there is a higher rate of STDs in homosexual men. CWA proclaimed that IML was therefore a danger to employees and guests at the host hotel. Susan Wright contacted the Illinois State Health Department, and the AIDS/Infectious Diseases department declared they would speak to any media outlet to debunk the CWA's absurd claims. IML was held as planned.
The Black Rose conference (November 11-14) was forced to move from Ocean City, Maryland, back to their former host hotel in New Carrollton, Maryland when two churches in Ocean City led a grass-roots movement to prevent the event from taking place in their rural resort town. There was a great deal of initial confusion regarding Black Rose's media response, and as a result, there were many misrepresentations and prejudicial and inaccurate descriptions included in the articles in the Maryland Coast Dispatch and the Daily Times of Salisbury which inflamed the situation. NCSF attempted to mediate the situation by providing accurate and unbiased information on SM/leather/fetish to the local media.
Fetish in the Fall (November 20-23) scheduled to take place in Kenner, Louisiana (part of metropolitan New Orleans) was moved after it was attacked by the Kenner police chief. Police Chief Nick Congemi urged hotel managers to decline any request to hold the event in any Kenner hotel. In his letter and press release to the media, Chief Congemi stated that "allowing the event to take place would seriously jeopardize the family atmosphere for which Kenner is noted." Congemi had already announced his run for mayor of Kenner (election held in March, 2004). For many years prior to this, Congemi had allowed his police officers to work as off-duty security for the adult swing conference in Kenner, N'awlins in November, produced by the same company that produced Fetish in the Fall. NCSF was called in immediately and was able to generate positive media coverage of this incident.
NCSF also opposed zoning and other local regulatory measures against those who practice some form of alternative sexual expression. NCSF assisted the swing communities in North Carolina and Illinois by holding open-forum discussions about how to affect zoning regulations and current litigation against lifestyle clubs. NCSF also worked with the Gay and Lesbian Activist Alliance (GLAA) to lobby against the Washington DC's Alcoholic Beverage Control regulation 905, which has been used to prohibit SM play in local establishments with liquor licenses even when liquor isn't being sold or consumed. In response to an Action Alert created and distributed in conjunction with D.C. Sexual Minority Advocates (DCSMA), NCSF received over 130 cc'ed letters from community members stating they were concerned that this regulation will prevent SM community spaces from existing in Washington D.C.
The Labyrinth in Denver, a community SM space, was shut down by a restraining order because of zoning violations. The undercover investigation took many months. The Denver community organized an ad hoc group called COSMA (Colorado SM Advocates) to fight for their right to have an SM club. NCSF conducted multiple interviews with the Denver Post, Rocky Mountain News, Lakewood Sentinel, Channel 7, ABC affiliate, and KHOW 630 AM radio during this incident.
NCSF gave 67 media interviews in 2003, with Susan Wright, Spokesperson, giving 49 interviews and Sue Gould, Swing Spokesperson, giving 18 interviews. Clubs and businesses regularly contact NCSF to receive media training for incidents or prior to holding an event.
NCSF began working with John Cloud, a reporter with Time Magazine in November 2003 on an article about the SM community, its history and practices. NCSF assisted in locating appropriate people in the SM community to be interviewed. Several SM conferences considered allowing the reporter into their event, but concerns over privacy prevented that. The positive article was published in January 2004.
In Indianapolis, a female professional dominant gave an interview with the local newspaper and Channel 6 News in May. This caused serious problems for her because she was located near a church-school and ran a home-based business (a D/s and role-play salon) with no business license or permits. The media and police received an anonymous tip about her illegal business operation. NCSF encouraged her to seek proper zoning, educated her about dealing with the media, and responded to media inquiries for her.
In March, NCSF was contacted by concerned community members about the Black Party's promo image, which showed a young man with a black eye and split lip. NCSF protested to the producers of the Black Party in NYC that this image doesn't portray SM but rather shows abuse. The NYC Anti-Violence Project, the National Coalition against Violence and other groups joined in this effort, writing to the producers protesting this image.
In one media incident, a nonprofit club in Muncie, Indiana, was threatened with closure along with a nearby strip bar until the media was educated about safe, sane and consensual SM. NCSF also gave media assistance to a swing club in Connecticut which was closed because of zoning issues.
Another media incident involved Nerve.com when they published a series of articles in June entitled "Letters from Leather Camp." The Nerve reporter infiltrated a private event, Leather Retreat. Leather Retreat didn't have a clause in their release form preventing reporters from writing for a commercial media outlet. Susan Wright negotiated with Michael Martin, Editor-in-Chief at Nerve.com, and sent out Nerve's statement and apology in NCSF's Media Update covering the articles. The comments section of Nerve.com was reinstated so SM community members could respond to the articles, and the articles themselves were purged of their most reprehensible comments.
Job discrimination continues to be a problem for individuals. NCSF helped more than a twenty people draft and file formal complaints with their employers regarding employment discrimination claims. One West Virginia woman lost her job because she belonged to a leather club. One Texas woman was sexually harassed by her supervisor when he found her website on the internet. She was initially terminated from her job when she complained about the harassment. NCSF worked with her and her husband to draft a formal grievance and helped her find a sympathetic attorney. She was rehired.
A number of discrimination complaints continue to be made regarding Paypal and E-bay regarding their policies for dealing with adult oriented vendors. Paypal and E-bay are deleting accounts that sell adult oriented merchandise. NCSF has contacted the parent company, E- bay, regarding their discriminatory practices. These companies continue their "no-adult content" policy in large part out of fears of prosecution for obscenity.
NCSF was contacted by individuals, attorneys and prosecutors on a variety of criminal cases, including: several cases of false rape, three different cases involving death of a participant, and two murder investigations. NCSF also made referrals to resources and the appropriate authorities in several domestic violence incidents. In three cases, NCSF was able to help the victim obtain protective orders and find appropriate counseling.
NCSF is here to help you -- the SM, swing and polyamory communities. If you have a problem with discrimination, persecution, or harassment because of your sexual expression, please call NCSF for assistance. If you are contacted by the media, please call NCSF immediately so we can assist in educating the reporter about SM, swing or polyamory.
And please support NCSF in our effort to change the political, legal, and social environment in the United States. We are a volunteer organization committed to making a difference. Join NCSF as a member or please hold a fund-raiser and donate to NCSF!
The DSM-5 Says Kink is OK!
The American Psychiatric Association has depathologized kinky sex – including cross-dressing, fetishes, and BDSM – in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5). Now the paraphilias are considered to be “unusual sexual interests,” while those who have sex with children or people who haven’t consented, or who deliberately cause harm to themselves or others, may be diagnosed with a Paraphilic Disorder.
“The APA has made it clear that being kinky is not a mental disorder,” says Susan Wright, Spokesperson for NCSF. “That means people no longer have to fear being diagnosed as mentally ill just because they belong to a BDSM group. We’ve already seen the impact – NCSF immediately saw a sharp rise in the success rate of child custody cases for kinky parents after the proposed DSM-5 criteria was released three years ago.”
NCSF would like to thank everyone who participated in signing our DSM Revision Petition and for telling the APA about their own stories of discrimination and persecution. NCSF also thanks every member of the APA Paraphilias Subworkgroup for responding to our concerns, and drawing a hard line between consensual adult kinky sex and those who willfully engage in nonconsensual or harmful activities.
NCSF is proud to build on the work of kink-aware professionals who have come before us, including Race Bannon and Guy Baldwin, who helped make seminal changes in the DSM-IV in 1994.
The following are some statements about the various paraphilias in the DSM-5. Although highly clinical in language, they show the APA’s intent to not demand treatment for healthy consenting adult sexual expression:
“A paraphilia is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for having a paraphilic disorder, and a paraphilia by itself does not necessarily justify or require clinical intervention.” p. 686
“In contrast, if they declare no distress, exemplified by anxiety, obsessions, guilt or shame, about these paraphilic impulses, and are not hampered by them in pursuing other personal goals, they could be ascertained as having masochistic sexual interest but should not be diagnosed with a sexual masochism disorder.” p. 694
“Many individuals who self-identify as fetishist practitioners do not necessarily report clinical impairment in association with their fetish-associated behaviors. Such individuals could be considered as having a fetish but not fetishistic disorder.” p. 701
“Clinical assessment of distress or impairment, like clinical assessment of transvestic sexual arousal, is usually dependent on the individual’s self-report.” p. 703
To support NCSF, go to www.ncsfreedom.org. NCSF relies entirely on your donations to advance the rights of consenting adults and to do advocacy like our DSM Revision Project. Please donate now!
The Atlantic recounts how NCSF, Race Bannon, Guy Baldwin, Charles Moser and Peggy Kleinplatz fought to make the APA acknowledge that BDSM is a healthy form of sexual expression! Read the Full Article
Normal or Not? A Sexual Attraction to Objects
The DSM-5 marks this transition by attaching the term "disorder" when an unusual sexual interest crosses these boundaries. So, hypothetically, someone who simply uses shoes to masturbate or whose partner accepts his unusual interest in shoes could be diagnosed with fetishism, but not a fetishistic disorder — unless the fetish crosses the threshold in one of the ways described above.
Along the same lines, Wismeijer also suggested that accepting one's unusual sexual preferences and choosing to live in a societal niche like the BDSM community might involve huge amounts of psychological work, which could translate into positive mental health.
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A detailed look at effective techniques to get your points across regarding the polyamory community.
Usually there is no graceful way to segue into a sound bite. That's fine, reporters are used to nonsensical conversations when they give interviews. Whatever the question, respond with one of your sound bites. Repeat these sound bites over and over. Out of a 1/2 long interview, you will be on the air for about 10 seconds or quoted once or twice in a newspaper. So don't ad lib. Keep repeating these sound bites below, as well as any sound bites you and your organization agree to provide to the media about your event or local group.
You don't have to get all these in, sometimes it's best to pick a few and keep repeating them in different ways.
Polyamory is the desire for and conduct of responsible, non-monogamous, consensual, romantic relationships with more than one partner. Polyamory is different from cheating because of the honest communication between partners and lovers about their relationships.
Polys say theirs is a relationship orientation and an aspect of personal identity just as monogamy is a relationship orientation and an aspect of personal identity for others, whether they are involved with anyone at a particular time or not.
Poly relationships take many forms. They may be open relationships where a two primary partners agree to have relationships outside their committed primary relationship, or they may be group relationships consisting of three or more people. Some group relationships are cohabitating relationships, others are not.
Poly relationships are formed between adults of all ages, races, genders and sexual orientations.
Polys focus on love, commitment and family just as monogamous people do.
Millions of Americans are looking for ways to spice up their sexual and emotional lives and get more of their needs met than is possible for them through traditional monogamy. The polyamorous lovestyle can be a consensual, safe, and gratifying way to strengthen healthy, caring, committed relationships and realize a greater abundance of love and companionship for all concerned.
Poly families often have more assets to support their families. More adults in the family means more income, less housing cost, and more help with child care and household chores. If a partner is ill or elderly, there are more adults available to help care for them.
Poly people are your friends, neighbors and co-workers--doctors, lawyers, bus drivers, and teachers--and there is no scientific evidence that polyamory is unhealthy for relationships or affects parenting skills. Polys are committed to their partners and consider the partners of their partners to be extended family.
Many Americans, even those who are married, structure their sex lives differently today than 50 years ago. Most adults are not married, and many families don't include two married heterosexual parents anymore.
The fact is that millions of Americans practice polyamory, and it is the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom's mission to make sure that they can do so without fear of harassment, violence, or discrimination.
Blumstein and Schwartz (1983, cited in Rubin & Adams, 1986) noted that of 3,574 married couples in their sample, 15-28% had "an understanding that allows nonmonogamy under some circumstances. The percentages are higher among cohabitating couples (28%), lesbian couples (29%) and gay male couples (65%)" (p. 312).
In 1976, Knapp administered a battery of standardized psychological assessment measures to a sample of polyamorous couples (Peabody, 1982). No significant differences were found between the couples in her sample and the general population norms. "That is, neither group was particularly neurotic, immature, promiscuous, maladjusted, pathological, or sexually inadequate." (p. 429).
Rubin & Adams (1986) found that after several years, there was no significant difference in marital stability (i.e. breaking up vs. staying together) between those couples who had been polyamorous versus those whose marriages had been exclusive. Similar proportions of each group reported happiness versus unhappiness, compared to the earlier sample. Additionally, "the reasons given for breakup were almost never related to extramarital sex" (p. 318).
In many cultures, polyamory is the norm, and many benefits of this lifestyle have been reported. For instance, in Nigeria it is said that "the sharing of responsibilities among members may greatly dilute the burden, financial or otherwise, of care for members with problems" (Makanjuola, 1987, p. 366). Venezuelan Yanomamo women who choose a poly lifestyle may not need to work as long on household and child-care tasks as their monogamous sisters do, due to co-operation between co-wives (Hames, 1996).
Polyamory is the complete opposite of irresponsible promiscuity. Polyamory involves couples or groups consensually sharing playful loving life experiences--sexual and otherwise.
Research shows that most Americans support privacy rights for consenting adults to choose and practice safe, sane and consensual sexual loving relationships, regardless of marital status.
Of course many people prefer monogamy and aren't interested in developing intimate relationships with more than one person. Poly people aren't trying to convert anyone. We are adults living our lives how we choose, and no one has the right to dictate our personal choices.
If parents are happy in their intimate relationships, it helps the family. Happy families are good for children.
Some poly families are structured so that one parent can be home to care for the children while two or more other adults work outside the home and earn an income, thus providing a better standard of living for all concerned.
More adult caretakers means more people available for child care, help with homework, and rides to soccer practice.
Children thrive on love. The more adults they have to love them who are part of the family, the happier and more well-adjusted they are.
There is no evidence that growing up in a poly family is detrimental to the physical, psychological or moral well being of children.
Recently a legal case was heard in which a young child was removed from a polyamorous household after her grandparents petitioned for custody, on the grounds that the home environment was immoral according to the Bible. No evidence of child abuse or neglect was found, and mental health professionals found that the child was well-adjusted; but the child's family still had to fight a court battle in order to have her returned; and even then, the child was only returned on the grounds that one of the three parents move out (Cloud, 1999).
People involved in polyamory in general, are better educated about safe sex and sexual responsibility. Often polyamorous social events offer educational programs about consent, communication, as well as safe sex education.
Polyamorists consider the practice of safer sex to be essential to the practice of responsible non-monogamy.
People involved in polyamory tend to get a lot of experience with communicating their desires, feelings, and boundaries. It's well-established that good communication builds healthy relationships.
Polyamory can meet more of one's emotional, intellectual, and sexual needs through accepting that one person cannot provide everything.
Positive elements to polyamory: increased personal freedom; greater depth to social relationships; the potential for sexual exploration in a non-judgmental setting; a strengthening of spousal bonds; a sense of being desired; a feeling of belongingness; added companionship; a greater abundance of love; increased self-awareness; intellectual variety; and the chance for new aspects of personality to emerge through relating to more people.
People who decide to open their relationship to include others must be secure in the strength of their partnership bond, and comfortable in developing relationships with new people.
Jealousy is a natural emotion and is a signal that additional communication and negotiation must occur in order to keep the relationship healthy.
Polyamorous unions are not typically recognized by church or state, and spousal health benefits are not available for one's non-married partner(s). Many of the discriminations that the gay community faces are concerns for the polyamorous community as well.
Poly people often remain "closeted" about their relationships because of the social stigma involved, as well as fear of threats to job security and child custody. Poly people fear discrimination and persecution, so having to keep such a secret can cause stress in their lives.
You really have to wonder what motivates people who would go to such extraordinary lengths to sensationalize someone else's private life. It's obvious that sex makes some people uncomfortable, and we think that these people should deal with their own issues instead of interfering in our lives.
This is not about sex, this is about a threat to our most basic constitutional rights - freedom of assembly and the right to privacy. The Supreme Court recently abolished Sodomy Laws because they violate Americans' fundamental right to privacy.
What Psychology Professionals Should Know About Polyamory
by Geri D. Weitzman
Working With Polyamorous Clients In The Clinical Setting
by Joy Davidson, Ph.D.
Journal of Human Sexuality
Individuals from the SM-Leather-Fetish community available for interview
Publisher (Circlet Press),
Board Certified Sex Therapist,
San Francisco, CA
Publisher (Greenery Press),
San Francisco, CA
San Francisco, CA
Policy Director of NCSF,
New York, NY
The following Principles and Guidelines are intended to help law enforcement and social services professionals understand the difference between abusive relationships vs. consensual sadomasochism (BDSM). BDSM includes a broad and complex group of behaviors between consenting adults involving the consensual exchange of power, and the giving and receiving of intense erotic sensation and/or mental discipline.
BDSM includes: "intimate activities within the scope of informed consent that is freely given."
Abuse is: "Physical, sexual or emotional acts inflicted on a person without their informed and freely given consent."
The BDSM-Leather-Fetish communities recognize the phrase "Safe, Sane, Consensual" as the best brief summary of principles guiding BDSM practices:
Safe is being knowledgeable about the techniques and safety concerns involved in what you are doing, and acting in accordance with that knowledge.
Sane is knowing the difference between fantasy and reality, and acting in accordance with that knowledge.
Consensual is respecting the limits imposed by each participant at all times. One of the recognized ways to maintain limits is through a "safeword" which ensures that each participant can end his/her participation with a word or gesture.
Informed consent must be judged by balancing the following criteria for each encounter at the time the acts occurred:
Whether an individual's role is top/dominant or bottom/submissive, they could be suffering abuse if they answer no to any of the following questions:
These guidelines were created by activists and leaders at the Leather Leadership Conference in 1998.
NCSF has an active media committee which provides interviews for print, radio, and television. We creates press releases, action alerts, and entertainment media updates. The Media committee also provides media training and coaching to coalition partners, advocacy groups and responds to hundreds of media related queries. With the action around the CDA lawsuit as well as other media events, this has been a busy year. This report details NCSF media activities over the last twelve months.
September 2007 to August 2008
The NCSF Media Committee reviews, edits, and refines the documents that NCSF distributes. The media committee is chaired by Susan Wright, spokesperson for NCSF, and consists of Levi Halberstadt, Keith Richie, Lisa Vandever, Lolita Wolf, and Howie Z.