NCSF is a resource for the members of the kink, poly and Lifestyle communities and for people seeking information about them. If you engage in BDSM, fetishes or non-monogamy practices, and you are being persecuted or discriminated against because of it, please contact NCSF. If you need help removing kink or non-monogamy as a barrier to public services, please contact NCSF. If your group or business needs help with outreach to local officials, please contact NCSF. GET HELP NOW!
The National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (NCSF)’s Incident Reporting & Response (IRR)
The issue must openly, directly, and specifically relate to BDSM, swing or poly activities between consenting adults; in other words, the problems you face must relate to or be caused from your involvement in BDSM, swing or poly without question.
NCSF is not legal aid, nor do we offer specific legal advice for individuals. NCSF is a resource for the members of the kink, poly and Lifestyle communities and for people seeking information about them. NCSF provides publicly available information on kink and nonmonogamy for consenting adults. NCSF assists individuals in removing discrimination as a barrier to public services when they make a request to our Incident Reporting & Response program. We also advocate on behalf of the BDSM, swing and polyamory communities.
Incident Reporting & Response - 2014 Report
By Susan Wright
NCSF’s Incident Reporting & Response helps people who are being discriminated against because they are kinky and/or nonmonogamous: 184 requests for help were received in 2014. One-fourth of the cases evolved into weeks- or months-long projects, requiring the education of a number of legal, medical and mental health professionals about kink. Other professionals who requested information or resources to better serve kinky people included: academics, social services, vanilla nonprofit organizations & events, authors, merchant services, and insurance brokers.
The drop in IRR requests can be partly attributed to the increased page views on NCSF’s Kink Aware Professionals database, with over 1,200 kinky people directly accessing KAP in 2014 to find a lawyer, therapist or other professional rather than asking NCSF for help through Incident Reporting & Response. Recognizing the need for more professionals to be listed in KAP, in 2014 NCSF joined forces with GayLawNet, a free referral database of gay-friendly attorneys. GayLawNet also began offering a Kink Aware Professional category for their lawyers to self-identify as kink aware.
Of the 184 requests for assistance, the majority dealt with BDSM while only 6 involved polyamory/swing issues:
73 criminal issues
33 child custody
26 requests for info from professionals
20 kink group issues
10 discrimination issues
5 job discrimination
6 media related incidents
4 civil law issues
The 73 requests that involved criminal issues typically took the most time and effort to help resolve, including finding kink-aware legal representation and educating relevant professionals to remove kink as a barrier to services. The requests break down as follows:
42 – assistance with victim services, reporting an assault, sexual assault, blackmail or stalking to the police, and obtaining restraining orders
13 – referrals for kink-aware defense attorneys
6 – assisting sex workers who were arrested
6 – assisting people in dealing with: probation, sex offenders, sex traffickers
5 – research on state criminal laws and contracts
In 2014, there was a significant drop in requests for help with child custody/divorce issues. That is due to the change in the DSM-5 criteria, which made it clear that people who are kinky are not mentally ill:
2014 – 37 people
2013 – * see note
2012 – 87 people
2011 – 115 people
2010 – 125 people
2009 – 132 people
An even bigger change due to the DSM-5 can be found in the percentage of kinky parents who now retain child custody. More kinky parents who come to NCSF for help are successful in removing kink as an issue in family court and with social service workers and Child Protective Services. Of the 33 cases, 3 are still ongoing, but of those that assigned custody:
2014 – 89% (27 out of 30 parents) custody was not removed because of kink.
2012 – 53% (41 out of 77 parents) custody was not removed because of kink.
2011 – 23% (23 out of 101 parents) custody was not removed because of kink.
2010 – 12% (13 out of 109 parents) custody was not removed because of kink.
There was also a drop in the number of requests from BDSM, swing and polyamory educational and social groups. Most people are now aware that they need to get professional advice in setting up their clubs and association papers, and it is common knowledge how to produce an event legally. As a result, NCSF received fewer requests for establishing a nonprofit or dealing with zoning laws, and instead primarily assisted groups in handling adversarial members, liability issues, doing outreach to local law enforcement, and handling media incidents. NCSF helped 20 kink groups in 2014 vs. 77 in 2012.
Requests for help with swing and polyamory issues dropped to less than 3% of the total requests in 2014 compared to nearly 9% in 2012 and nearly 5% in 2011. There has been a significant drop in the number of house parties as Lifestyle events have shifted toward a business model that uses club venues, cruise ships and hotels. This means fewer busted house parties, and less need for NCSF services.
The decline in discrimination against nonmonogamists may also be due in part to the success of gay marriage. The mainstream media covers relationship issues like nonmonogamy much more positively than it did five years ago. According to the NCSF Media Updates, of the articles that involved nonmonogamy as a subject:
2014 – 53 articles: 77% were positive and 23% were negative.
2013 – 42 articles: 81% were positive and 19% were negative.
2012 – 21 articles: 62% were positive and 38% were negative.
2011 – 33 articles: 30% were positive and 70% were negative.
2010 – 50 articles: 16% were positive and 84% were negative.
For updates and details on IRR requests, look for our quarterly IRR reports in the NCSF Newsletter. Sign up by emailing
* Note: From 2002-2011, NCSF’s Incident Reporting & Response received over 500 requests every year. In 2012, that number dropped to 474, likely due to the change in the DSM-5 and an increased use of KAP. The IRR data for 2013 was destroyed by Leigha Fleming when she deleted her emails and documentation from the NCSF server. Some people have reported receiving no response last year, and that may have contributed to fewer people coming to NCSF this year. Susan Wright took over as director of IRR in January, 2014.
NCSF is not legal aid, nor do we offer specific legal advice for individuals. NCSF is a resource for the members of the kink, poly and Lifestyle communities and for people seeking information about them. NCSF provides publicly available information on kink and nonmonogamy for consenting adults. We advocate on behalf of the BDSM, swing and polyamory communities.
Unfortunately, due to limited resources the NCSF is only able to take the cases that meet the criteria set by our mission. All of our work is done by volunteers and we accept no payment for our services.
We are however happy to receive donations earmarked specifically for use in the IRR Program. Click here to donate, Make sure you note "Incident Reporting & Response" or "IRR" in the comment box if you want to restrict your donation. We do provide basic information as resources dictate and referrals to professionals as part of our Kink Aware Professionals database.
The criteria for acceptance listed were developed to meet the primary concerns of our voting constituencies, our Coalition Partners. When the NCSF agrees to take a case the impact can be realized by all of our constituents as a whole and therefore it is up to the policies set in motion by NCSFCoalition Partners to decide whether existing resources allow for a case to be handled effectively.
If you practice BDSM in fully consensual ways, you may still be criminally prosecuted for assault under many laws throughout the U.S. The BDSM-Leather-Fetish communities have focused heavily for years on defining “safe, sane and consensual BDSM practices” for practitioners as well as to help the broader public better understand what it is that we do. It was, after all, only in 1994 that the DSM criteria of the American Psychiatric Association changed their categorization of sadomasochism, paving the path for us to do more effective social, legal and political change. Until 1994, BDSM was defined automatically as a mental illness. Prior to 1994, it was difficult to organize effectively to protect and advance our rights as BDSM practitioners. This categorization and long-term societal view of BDSM as a mental illness resulted in severe consequences for many practitioners over the years—loss of child custody and jobs as well as criminal prosecutions. Fortunately for all of us, NCSF was formed in 1997 to work on these issues and to protect and advance our rights.
Although things have certainly improved for us over the years, we still have significant legal, political and societal issues facing us. The majority of us are not “out of the closet”, still fearing the very real threat of being prosecuted or losing our jobs or families. BDSM is still prosecuted criminally as assault, and the legal precedents related to consensual BDSM assault prosecutions are not in our favor. Many of the laws intended to protect victims of domestic violence and rape need to be modified in their application to consensual BDSM activities. The DSM criterion still needs further reform—it is still used against us, and we can still be defined as mentally ill for what it is that we do. And, members of our communities still routinely face ongoing issues of divorce, child custody, job discrimination and even criminal charges.
NCSF has two major national projects aimed at protecting and advancing the rights of the BDSM-Leather-Fetish communities. First, NCSF has taken charge of the “Consent Counts” initiative that was launched in 2006 at a Leather Leadership Roundtable as the single most important national priority of the BDSM-Leather-Fetish communities. Our goal: to decriminalize consensual BDSM throughout the United States by ensuring that consent will be recognized as a defense to criminal charges brought under assault laws and other statutes. The Consent Counts project is a nationwide education and activism program that includes a comprehensive analysis of current laws and court decisions, the development of legal arguments for changing the laws, participating in court cases, and ultimately, through lobbying, education and grass-roots activism, changing state laws and the way the public and the courts view BDSM.
The other important advocacy project is NCSF’s work to change the DSM criterion so that consensual BDSM will be categorized, not as a mental pathology, but rather as a normal variant. In this effort, we are coordinating research and advocacy and working with recognized experts in the field.
We need your help and support to be successful. You can make a difference. Get involved. Visit www.ncsfreedom.org.
Copyright, 2010, NCSF. NCSF grants permission for this article to be reproduced and distributed, provided it is distributed in its entirety and free of charge.
National Coalition for Sexual Freedom 822 Guilford Ave #127 Baltimore, MD 21202 410.539.4824 www.ncsfreedom.org
Raid on iconic Atlanta Eagle bar highlights A.P.D.'s disregard for civil rights, common sense
SEPTEMBER 17, 2009
In protest of the violent raid on the 22-year-old Atlanta Eagle bar on September 10, GLBTATL and members of Atlanta's LGBT community (and supporters) will be gathering in front of Atlanta City Hall on Saturday, September 19, at 12:00 p.m.
GLBTATL, made up of members of Atlanta's LGBT community, and our allies are highly concerned with the Atlanta Police Department in their handling of the police action against the Atlanta Eagle bar on September 10, 2009. We believe that no person, regardless of sexual orientation, race, or other aspect, should be treated in the manners alleged in the official complaints. We are further disappointed in the sluggish response from the Atlanta City Council, and particularly with the abject silence of Mayor Shirley Franklin. We join with other local and national groups in calling for an immediate, transparent investigation into the events. Should the allegations of improper police conduct prove true, the offending parties should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. As community leaders, we want it to be understood that our trust in the protection and dedication of Atlanta Police Department officers has been violated.
No community should live in fear of its protectors in law enforcement, whether in Fort Worth, TX (where a similar raid occurred in June at that city's "Rainbow Lounge"), Atlanta, or anywhere in America. As Atlantans, as Americans, and as humans, we demand respect, fairness, and common sense from our law enforcement and our government. We recognize that this issue represents a gross violation of the civil rights, and likely violation of United States Constitution-conferred rights, of Atlanta's citizens. Though as activists we may represent Atlanta's gay community, these events are a pandemic issue of violation of civil, and basic human rights.
LAW ENFORCEMENT METHODS QUESTIONED:
Common sense and precedent form the backbone of American treatment of law towards citizens. If the A.P.D.'s allegations of past illegal acts at Atlanta Eagle are true, we ask why such dramatic measures as occurred on September 10 were necessary. If, as in A.P.D.'s later media statement, permit violations were the reason for the raid, are there not procedures through which the owners and management of Atlanta Eagle could be made aware -- methods that would not have resulted in the violent humiliation, unwarranted personal searches, and possibly illegal background checks performed upon 62 innocent bystanders?
We are all reasonable people and we believe in fair and reasonable action by our law enforcement officials. If their undercover work and actions on September 10 came about as a result of only two questionably factual complaints, why were the owners and management of Atlanta Eagle not made aware of the complaints and offered a chance to remedy the situation? Since neither illegal drugs, nor any serious act of harm in which the business was obviously complicit, were ever found as part of the investigation process , we are hard-pressed to find any justifiable precedent for the behavior of Atlanta Police Officers as described in the official complaints.
In short: Why the raid? Don't we have more important crimes to address? Why not get Atlanta Eagle's owners involved, once the alleged illegal acts were identified?
THIS FAR, AND NO FURTHER:
To concerned citizens, such as GLBTATL, it seems that this police raid was not meant to investigate or deter crime. Rather, it sent a message that the LGBT community, comprising as much as one-eighth of Atlanta's residents*, is second-class and not deserving of the same basic human respect as others. With only a paltry apology issued via the A.P.D. media office, this message of disrespect, a message that can easily turn into hate, has begun to echo throughout the gay community, and Atlanta as a whole.
We must be clear: This far, and no further. The alleged police behavior on September 10 cannot be tolerated again, without truly justifiable cause. Atlanta stands together, to say that we will not be silent until our grave concerns, echoed over the past week by numerous local and national organization and media outlets, are addressed thoroughly. We look forward to a future day when we can rebuild our bridge of trust between Atlanta's LGBT community and Atlanta law enforcement.
STANDING IN PROTEST ON SATURDAY:
On Saturday, September 19, 2009, at 12:00 p.m., concerned Atlantans and others will assemble at Atlanta City Hall, 55 Trinity Ave., Atlanta, Georgia. A small number of speakers will provide statements of either prepared or personal nature, and may be available for media interviews. Based on Internet discussion, we also expect many attendees to be standing in protest during the event.
Media are encouraged to attend. For more information, call 888-452-8285. Calls will be routed directly to the event organizers. Separate interview opportunities may be available, and event organizers are happy to direct media to the appropriate persons.
In 2008, the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (NCSF) 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 over 40 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. NCSF's Incident Response team is directed by Director Leigha Fleming. In total, over 500 individuals, groups, attorneys, prosecutors, and businesses contacted NCSF for help in 2008. Each incident sometimes required only one or two phone calls, but some evolved into much larger projects.NCSF received 489 distinct inquiries/requests for assistance. 317 required more than one contact/response to resolve, often requiring multiple contacts.
It is difficult to categorize many incident requests as clearly falling into one camp or another. Many overlap in categories. For example, many of our custody/divorce related issues involve at least 2 of our core constituent groups (i.e. SM/leather/fetish and poly for example). In trying to do a statistical breakdown of the requests, we placed it in the category it most clearly matched.
11% were requests regarding SM/abuse/domestic violence issues
27% were regarding criminal complaint issues
4% were regarding employment discrimination
31.5% were regarding child custody/divorce issues
15.5% were related to SM/leather/fetish group issues
1% were classed as non-employment discrimination
5% were related to swing community issues
2.5% were regarding online obscenity issues
2.5% were classed as “other” Of the inquires,
85.5% were driven by SM/leather/fetish issues
9% by swing
5% by poly
0.5% by other
2008 saw an increased number of requests around criminal and domestic violence or SM/abuse related issues. NCSF worked with more than 27 attorneys representing defendants in criminal cases. In addition, we worked with more than 11 district attorneys and prosecutors related to SM issues. The vast majority of these criminal cases revolved around domestic abuse or consensual sex/play issues. There is a clear need for education within our own communities about the role and limits of consent and for education to police authorities about the differences between SM and abuse. Employment related discrimination is increasing as well. The implementation of KAP under NCSF’s administration resulted in fewer requests for referrals because we were able to refer the request to our site. As we improve the KAP administration, and resource, the number of requests for referrals that need to be handled by a person will drop since we’ll be able to refer people to the KAP database. The new administration tools for KAP in our website overhaul will also make the use of this tool much more efficient for both user and professional.
We continue to receive a number of requests for assistance from groups, businesses, and other support organizations who want information about how to operate legally, do law enforcement outreach, file for non-profit status, deal with the media or the press, do hotel/event outreach, or do research around zoning or other legal issues.We also continue to receive requests for assistance involving 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. 2009 incident response statistics are currently being compiled.
As of the end of May 2009, more than 114 distinct requests for assistance have been processed.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. You can submit a request for assistance online or find a Kink Aware Professional (KAP) on our website as well at www.ncsfreedom.org. Emergency contact information is available by calling our office at 410-539-4824, 24 hours per day.Please support NCSF in our effort to change the political, legal, and social environment in the United States. We are committed to making a difference. Join NCSF as a member or please hold a fund-raiser and donate to NCSF!
Guidelines for how to discuss the subject of sex with the news media.
This document offers some simple suggestions on approaches to discussing sex, particularly as it relates to common situations that the executive directors of activist organizations may encounter. It was prepared with input from executive directors about issues affecting them and those knowledgeable about how to deal with GLBT issues surrounding sex effectively.
General Techniques That Work Effectively:
First, in any situation, it is important to gauge the "intent" of the individual making the comment or asking the question. Is this an ultra-conservative publication, reporter, or politician, or is it someone who is sympathetic to the issues?
Be proactive about introducing the subject first or bringing up "onerous" topics once the subject has been introduced into conversation and it seems likely that the other party is moving to "attack". This takes away the "shock value" the other party has in introducing the topic in an inflammatory manner first. Simply stated, "The best defense is a good offense."
Using direct, confrontational responses to insensitive and inappropriate comments or attacks related to sex and/or sexuality. This is usually best done in an "off the record" conversation with media (when possible, of course), or by taking the conversation "off-line for a minute" with politicians and others. Making the other party feel "small" or embarrassing them for trivializing or minimizing issues of civil rights by sensationalizing sex. This technique is particularly effective in public speaking or live media situations involving inappropriate comments, jokes or attacks.
Disputing the incorrect and faulty research used by the radical right to perpetuate myths. Be very comfortable talking about issues of sex and sexuality and maintain a sense of confidence and sense of humor, which is often helpful in a public discourse on sex.
Suggestions on What to Say About Sex
The pluralist argument: Americans take a pluralistic stance in religious and political choices. We say we believe that each religion has a right to its way of practicing its faith and that each political party has a right to its specific platform and legislative goals. You may think one religion or party is better than another is, but you would never try to have your choice taught in the public schools and imposed by law on everyone. Such a pluralistic approach is considered a fundamental part of our constitutional rights in this country. But in sexuality we don't openly voice our support of sexual standards other than abstinence even when we believe in them. And we are much less tolerant of differences in sexual practices and in ideas about sex.
Discuss "the freedom to love" and "loving relationships", which in normal, healthy relationships includes sex. If this involves a form of alternative sexual expression or non-traditional sex (e.g. anything other than the missionary position), talk about the issue in terms of the right to love the way you want, which includes sex in healthy adult relationships, providing it is consensual and not harmful. Use terms to discuss non-traditional sex such as "recognized as a normal and healthy form of sexual expression."
Specific Things to Say About Sex Regarding:
"He made a pass at me in the bar." Respond with, "What if Matthew Shepherd did make a pass? He didn't deserve what happened. What if every woman in America who had ever been hit on in a bar used this excuse? (Or, in a more confrontational situation that allows an "off the record" conversation "What if Matthew Shepherd did stick his tongue in his ear and put his hand on his crotch, it still doesn't justify his being tortured and killed.")
GLBT folks are "oversexed" or "always having sex"
Once again, refer to this as a false stereotype perpetuated by the radical right with no scientific basis. It is also appropriate to expand this discussion into how even hand holding in public by GLBT partners is often portrayed by the radical right as "overt sexual", even when the activity is a normal and publicly accepted sign of affection in a loving relationship.
Stress that these issues are more about identity than about sex. Also, a transgendered person may be gay, but is at least equally likely not to be gay. Many people are curious about how transgendered people have sex and ask this insensitive question. A good response is, "Just like any one else, but this isn't about sex. It's about the serious discrimination and persecution that persists exactly because of the sensationalistic focus on sex such as questions like this one."
The "sick joke or attack" in public
When circumstances arise related to crude jokes or attacks in public related to sex, such as talk shows or public forums, use responses intended to embarrass the other party and change the subject. Use responses like, "I'd like to ask you how you think your inappropriate question/comment made those gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender folks sitting here with us tonight feel? I'm here to have a dialogue about serious civil rights issues affecting GLBT people, not provide a vehicle for crude entertainment or inappropriate discussions."
Introducing sex politically
It may be useful to begin by saying that these are issues on which many people hold strong and sensitive emotional opinions. But then stress that if we can't discuss sex issues in rational, objective, scientific terms, we leave people in the dark and create health risks and emotional problems and make discrimination and bigotry more likely.
NCSF’s Coalition Partners Join Together for Consent Summit The National Coalition for Sexual Freedom held its annual Coalition Partner meeting in Phoenix, Arizona from February 8-10, 2013. The Consent Summit took place Friday evening, and Coalition Partners were able to participate via streaming video to give their input on the new Consent Statement. Go to www.ncsfreedom.org to see the Consent Statement and comment on it. “The Consent Statement…
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE National Coalition for Sexual Freedom NCSF Survey on Consent The National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (NCSF) wants to hear from you! Please take our Consent Counts survey and tell us what you think about consent: www.ncsfreedom.org/survey.html As part of decriminalizing BDSM in the legal codes, we need to be able to articulate a clear definition of consent that the BDSM communities believe in. The results of this…
NCSF Launches the Next Chapter for Consent Counts February 27, 2012 The National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (NCSF) announces two new publications as part of its nationwide campaign, Consent Counts. The Consent Counts Project was launched by the BDSM-leather-fetish communities in 2006 to decriminalize consensual BDSM in U.S. law by ensuring that consent will be recognized as a defense to criminal charges brought under assault laws and other statutes. "For…
Our BDSM communities could be adversely impacted by a well-intentioned, but overly broad, piece of proposed criminal legislation that has been introduced by Senator Christine Kehoe in the California Senate. NCSF is asking all of you to sign and send to NCSF letters (a draft is attached below) that we can introduce if necessary at a hearing likely to be held in April, 2011. The purpose of the bill, SB…
In an indictment rendered by a Grand Jury in the Western District of Missouri on September 9, 2010, five Missouri men allegedly participated in torturing a mentally disabled woman online or in person over a multi-year period when the victim was between the ages of 16 and 24. Among the charges are: Sex Trafficking by Force, Fraud or Coercion, Forced Labor Trafficking, Transportation for Sexual Activity, and Conspiracy. The allegations…
Developed Educational Programs and Outreach Materials
Built Alliances With Sexual Freedom Advocacy Groups
About Consent Counts
NCSF is leading a major national campaign—Consent Counts—to change the laws and police practices that our communities now endure, and to establish that consent is available as a defense in criminal BDSM prosecutions.
BDSM is prosecuted as assault in the U.S., even when it is consensual.
No state or appellate court has allowed consent as a defense to assault in BDSM cases.
Consent Counts is a nationwide project to decriminalize consensual BDSM.
Program Goals: Consent Counts is a nationwide project to decriminalize consensual BDSM through education, advocacy, legal actions and lobbying.