In light of recent attacks by religious and political extremists, here are some suggested guidelines for protecting your event and attendees, including website issues, spokesperson training, and community response to an incident.
There are many considerations organizers must contend with when planning a large event. Large events include educational and social conferences, leather contests, weekend play parties, vendor markets, and club runs. In light of recent attacks by religious and political extremists, here are some suggested guidelines for protecting your event and attendees.
NCSF recommends that you do outreach to local law enforcement. We can not stress enough the importance of doing so. There is no way to fly under the radar if you are hosting an event with a few hundred people that is being advertised over the Internet! Approach the Community Affairs Officer for the precinct in the jurisdiction where the event will be held. Law enforcement can tell you the local and state laws you must observe at your event.
Make sure you investigate local and state obscenity laws. If you are hosting vendors at your event, you run the potential risk of violating state obscenity laws and/or state laws on certain items. Many states criminalize the sale of erotica that depicts bondage, sadomasochism, penetration or ejaculation. Additionally, many states also criminalize the sale of certain "toys" often found at event vendor fairs including throwing stars, certain styles of knives, police memorabilia (like badges or handcuffs) and so forth.
Many religious and political extremist organizations have made a point of gathering information from our own community websites before they attack educational and social events. This information then gets distorted, misquoted and often ends up in the larger media. The mainstream media exposure can be problematic for groups.
1. Be careful about the amount of detailed information you have on your website about your event. It may be prudent for your organization to restrict access to descriptions of classes and presenters to paid attendees or group members only.
2. Layer and password protect the website. Have pages with more information available to those who have registered and paid
3. Do not use explicit language in the areas the general public can gain access to. Do not use words like dungeon or bloodsports or torture because the mainstream doesn't realize that our definition of these words refer to safe, sane and consensual sexual expression. If you want to have the colorful descriptions of the workshops and parties, have them on the page that is available to paid attendees.
4. Consider not posting the name of the hotel/venue on the website. While there are certainly benefits in posting a hotel name, it can be prudent to give out the host hotel location information only to registered attendees. Some groups rent the hotel space in the name of their group/organization as a whole. Other groups find that this is not practical for them and opt to publicize the hotel name and allow conference attendees to make their own reservations. There are pluses and minuses to both approaches.
You will know if your event is targeted because the venue will receive calls from religious political extremists. If your event or organization has been targeted by religious political extremists, please place the following blurb on your website so that media can contact NCSF for general information about safe, sane and consensual events for adults. You need to act fast because it can quickly become a nationwide media situation. For the good of our community it is important to have NCSF debunk some of the lies and scare tactics these folks are using against us. Please post on your website:
For general information about [event name], please contact [contact info]
Prior to the conference, find someone in your community who can speak for your group - chose one person or things can get confused if they inadvertantly contradict one another. NCSF will train your spokesperson and supply them with soundbites and will work closely with them during the incident. This is very important because it shows the media that this is a local event produced by local volunteers rather than something that's being brought into the community. Please call Susan Wright at 917-848-6544 for media training.
Your Spokesperson criteria:
1. They must be out and able to use their real name - if they have custody of children or a sensitive job, they shouldn't do it unless they are out.
2. They must be nonagressive and able to maintain their cool even when their buttons are pushed. You'll talk to media who say terrible things about us.
3. They must be able to stick to the sound bites and aren't "chatty". Once you start chatting with media, you're sunk. No discussions of technique or practices - that's for educational events, not a mainstream audience.
4. They must be articulate and well-spoken.
5. Most of the media coverage is radio or newspapers, but it also helps to have someone who can go on television. They should look as professional as possible so people won't reject them on first sight. They should be willing to wear a business suit.
When you first begin negotiations with the venue, be completely honest and forthcoming. You may even let them know that they may be contacted and hounded by religious extremists. Forewarned is forearmed. Consider putting a clause in your contract that indicates hotel management is aware of the full nature and the scope of the event.
Make sure your contract includes a clause for penalties if the hotel cancels the event. Most contracts will have a penalty clause attached if the promoter cancels. Protect your event by making sure it flows both ways. Make sure your contract includes a provision to notify you in the event of a management change. And make sure to include a substantial cancellation fee so the hotel will think twice about arbitrarily canceling your event. If there is a change in management, you will need to make sure that you do outreach to the new management. Assure them of the legality of what you are doing and let them know all the precautions you are taking to protect the hotel and its guests.
Check the license structure of your host venue with local laws and regulations, such as the liquor licensing division. Alcohol and beverage control in your local area is often the enforcing arm for "adult entertainment" violations. Depending on local laws, venues that are licensed to serve alcohol may have trouble hosting a private adult event. It is better to know ahead of time and make provisions, than it is to find out at the last minute.
If the parties, or portions of the event, are held off-premise, make sure that you have fully investigated all the licensing regulations, and conform to the requirements. Make sure the police you've been working with in the jurisdiction of the hotel are the same ones who run the jurisdiction where the social parties will be held. If not, you'll need to do outreach to the police in that jurisdiction.
If on your own your event cannot fill an entire hotel, check to see if there is a local sex positive group or organization who can "share" the hotel with you. Coordinate their event dates with yours.
One way to protect your event is to keep it "private." The way to keep your event private is to have attendees register in advance and don't allow people to pay at the door. If you have an event that has different levels of registration, such as workshop only, workshops and one play party, etc., and want to sell upgrades, set up a special business office. The upgrades are only available to those who have already registered and paid for the event.
Have a strict age policy that restricts your event to adults only. In America, anyone 18 or over is considered an adult. Many groups require that attendees must be 21 or over.
Have a "no photography" of any kind policy. Establish in the rules that anyone caught with a camera, video or still, or any other kind of recording equipment, who did not have prior authorization, will be kicked out of the event with no refund, and may be banned from any future events as well.
Many groups have found it beneficial to staff their event (at least partially) with off-duty uniformed police officers. You can check with the secondary employment unit at your police department to see if this is an option for you.
Make sure precautions are in place to keep the general public out of those areas where they might see something that offends them:
Do a de-briefing with the hotel management. Make sure that you part on good terms, so that they will be willing to fight for you if there is a problem the next time you hold an event there. Additionally, make sure you follow up with the local police to maintain your relationship with them.
You do not have to be afraid of people who engage in SM. SM players are doctors, lawyers, teachers, construction workers, fire fighters, secretaries and everything else you can imagine.
In her 1983 book Erotic Power, sociologist Gini Scott examined the dynamics of the heterosexual SM subculture.
She stated: "Unlike the psychiatrists and psychologists who deal primarily with psychologically troubled individuals who are also interested in D&S [Dominance and Submission], I did not find them to be psychologically troubled or socially inept; rather, a spirit of good humor and fun prevailed, and the participants appeared to be mostly attractive, quite ordinary-looking people who had ordinary relationships outside the D&S scene... A vast variety of people with a diverse range of erotic interests participate in sadomasochiSM. Their backgrounds, activities and attitudes are quite unlike the social stereotype that depicts sadomasochiSM as a form of violence, mischief, or mayhem perpetrated by the psychologically unstable who seek to hurt others or to be hurt themselves... At the core of the community are mostly sensible, rational respectable, otherwise quite ordinary people. Thus, quite unlike its public image, the community is a warm, close and supportive one."
Gini Scott (1983). Erotic Power, Citadel Press: pg. x.
In recent years as more research has been published, the mental health and medical communities have begun to accept that SM is a safe, legitimate pursuit.
According to the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) which defines currently recognized mental disorders, SM per se is NOT a mental disorder. In their diagnostic criteria for both sexual masochism and sexual sadism, the DSM-IV states that SM only becomes a diagnosable dysfunction when:
"the fantasies, sexual urges, or behaviors cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational or other important areas of functioning."
In addition, the DSM-IV clearly allows for non-pathological sexual behavior:
"a paraphilia must be distinguished from the non-pathological use of sexual fantasies, behavior or objects as a stimulus for sexual excitement."
[The entire diagnostic criteria for sexual masochism and sexual sadism are reproduced Appendix A.]
SM-Leather-Fetish educational and social organizations consider the cornerstone of SM activity to be the guidelines: "safe, sane, and consensual." While it is possible to do any activity in a reckless and dangerous manner, SM is no more dangerous than skiing or other thrilling activities.
Safe is being knowledgeable about the techniques and safety concerns involved in what you are doing, and acting in accordance with that knowledge. Safety includes the responsibility of protecting yourself and your partner from STD (sexually tranSMitted disease) infection including the HIV virus.
While the media often portrays the more extreme SM behaviors, the reality is that a lot of SM play never goes beyond a playful spanking. Just as there are ways to reduce the risk in activities such as scuba diving or driving a car, there are ways to reduce the risk and engage in SM behavior safely.
The organized SM community is active in promoting safety seminars and teaching the practitioners how to engage in these behaviors safely. The fact that SM practitioners are not clogging the emergency rooms every weekend, is an indication that these programs are working. If SM injuries were occurring, it seems obvious that the press would be highlighting this for the entertainment of its readers/viewers.
Sane is knowing the difference between fantasy and reality. Fictional accounts of SM are often distorted for fantasy sake, and are not representative of real situations and relationships.
Sane also distinguishes between mental illness and health. A real distinction between mental illness and health is when a behavior pattern causes problems in a person[base ']s life. Washing your hands until the skin is peeling off, or so frequently that you can not otherwise function is a sign mental illness. SM, like any other behavior, can be a sign of psychiatric problems. However the vast majority of its practitioners find that SM enriches and promotes functionality in the other areas of their life.
Consensual is respecting the limits imposed by each participant at all times.
Consent is the prime ingredient of SM. One difference between rape and heterosexual intercourse is consent. One difference between violence and SM is consent. The same behaviors that might be crimes without consent are life-enhancing with consent.
The type and parameters of control are agreed upon by the people involved, and the ongoing consent of all participants is required. Some practitioners use a safeword, which is a designated word that signals the scene must slow down or stop.
Rick Houlberg writes in "The Magazine of a Sadomasochism Club: The Tie That Binds":
"The only 'cardinal' rules which the Club's membership insists each member must uphold are that all SM activities must be consensual, nonexploitative, and safe. As children are not considered to be able to consent, all activities must be between adults. The consensual and safety rules of the Club are constantly being reinforced. Safety and etiquette issues, including restrictions on overt and heavy drug use, are strongly stressed at new-member orientations and in all written materials produced by the Club."
Rick Houlberg (1993). "The Magazine of a Sadomasochism Club: The Tie That Binds." Journal of Homosexuality 21 (1/2), Haworth Press: pg. 167-83.
SM is a sexual orientation or behavior among two or more adult partners. The behavior may include, but is not limited to, the use of physical and/or psychological stimulation to produce sexual arousal and satisfaction. Usually one partner will take an active role (top or dominant) and the other will take a passive role (bottom or submissive). SM practitioners can be heterosexual, bisexual, homosexual, transgendered or intersex individuals.
By Susan Wright
with contributions from Charles Moser, Ph.D., M.D.
In the last decade, SM awareness has exploded into popular culture. SM is commonly depicted in advertising, books, movies, music, and is becoming commonplace on television. SM has been positively covered by Newsweek, Time, Ms. Magazine, the New York Times and many other national publications. SM fashion accessories have become commonplace, as have jokes about SM play.
Yet separating the truth about SM from the stereotypes can be difficult.
This article is an attempt to educate the public about sadomasochism (SM). The following are some answers about consensual SM that are supported by scientific research.
The National Coalition for Sexual Freedom does media advocacy for the millions of Americans who suffer discrimination and persecution because of their normal interest in some form of alternative sexual expression, such as SM, fetishes, polyamory, and swinging. A great deal of the bigotry against sexual minorities occurs because of a lack of information and the resulting negative depiction by the media. We offer resources for both the media and the alternative sexual expression communities.
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NCSF's Media volunteers are the people who put the face on what we do. From writing press releases, newsletters, articles, to doing interviews and coordinating with the press, they are the people who craft our presentations to the outside world. If you have good communication skills, come help us!
Freelance Writer - Develop articles about NCSF for hardcopy magazines
Opportunity for freelance writers to get international exposure writing articles about NCSF for the hardcopy magazine, Power Exchange Magazine.
Writers will cover a NCSF program, project or aspect of our services by interviewing staff members and Coalition Partner reps. Essays can be 1,000 to 1,800 words long.
Possible ideas are - a Coalition Partner fundraiser roundup; the swing and poly and what BDSM community has in common with those communities; the NCSF EOP program and presenters; a behind-the-scenes look at our Board and the work they're doing; NCSF's KAP program and people who have benefited from it.
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