The National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (NCSF) believes that the most important issue facing the BDSM/Leather/Fetish communities today is the consistent practice of courts and law enforcement officials to prosecute BDSM as criminal assault, with no defense of consent permitted. We know that BDSM is not assault, but rather is pleasurable, loving adult erotic activity, as long as it is mutually consensual.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.
Best Practices in the BDSM/Leather/Fetish Communities The practice of BDSM (Bondage, Discipline, SM) consists of intimate mutually pleasurable erotic activity within the scope of informed consent. The following “best practices” have been developed by our communities to ensure that the standard of “safe, sane and consensual” is met by all BDSM participants:
Guiding Principles “SAFE” All participants are knowledgeable about the techniques and safety concerns involved in what they are doing, and all act in accordance with that knowledge.
“SANE” Knowing the difference between fantasy and reality, and acting in accordance with that knowledge.
“CONSENSUAL” All participants understand the nature of the activity in which they will be engaged, and the limits imposed by each participant, and respect such limits at all times.
Best Practices Each participant should fully understand both the desires and the limits of each other participant. Such understanding may be based on long familiarity with the other participant(s) or, where participants are new to each other, on a full discussion in advance of the BDSM activity.
Consent must be clearly given to all aspects of planned BDSM activity and such consent must be freely given.
Each participant in a BDSM activity is free to withdraw previously given consent at any time.
Each participant should fully understand any limitations on another participant’s ability to understand and consent fully to the planned BDSM activity, such as age, diminished mental capacity or use of drugs or alcohol.
A means should be provided - normally a “safe word” - for the “bottom” to signal clearly her/his desire to terminate the activity.
Relationships among BDSM practitioners should be fully respected by others. It is the responsibility of each person to make clear to others any relationship that imposes limits on that person’s participation in BDSM activities.
At parties or other events, the use of monitors may be advisable and rules should be clearly displayed.
The more intense and physical the BDSM activity is, the more important it is to ensure clear understanding of and consent to the planned activity.
Participants must recognize that BDSM activity resulting in serious bodily harm or that goes beyond the expectations of one of the participants may be deemed criminal, even where consent was initially given.
Established in 1997, theNational Coalition for Sexual Freedom (NCSF) is committed to creating a political, legal and social environment in the US that advances equal rights for consenting adults who engage in alternative sexual and relationship expressions. NCSF aims to advance the rights of, and advocate for consenting adults in the BDSM-Leather-Fetish, Swing, and Polyamory Communities. We pursue our vision through direct services, education, advocacy, and outreach, in conjunction with our partners, to directly benefit these communities.
In 2007, NCSF organized a leather leadership round table at the
Creating Change conference to discuss the goals of the
BDSM-leather-fetish communities. The number one priority was determined
to be the decriminalization of BDSM.
A subsequent town hall meeting at
LLC was held to further discuss this goal and to establish an outline
for a working plan for this 10-15 year project. This is a community-wide
project with participation by national groups as well as activists to
help determine the plan to accomplish this goal.
Earlier this year, it
was determined that it would be in the best interest of this project forNCSF to take a leadership role. Since NCSF had already established the
DSM project as a major area of focus, it made sense to also add the CONSENT COUNTS project as a major focus.
, former Executive
Director of NCSF and long-time sexual freedom activist, recently
re-joined NCSF as the CONSENT COUNTS project director.
NCSF is actively involved in supporting the Atlanta Eagle and the plaintiffs in this suit.. In the case filed by Lambda Legal, Southern Center for Human Rights, and Dan Grossman as representation For the plaintiffs a federal law suit alleging multiple civil rights violations was filed 24 November 2009.
In speaking with Leigha Fleming NCSF Board Chair, Wednesday afternoon, attorney Dan Grossman said, "NCSF's publicity and support is very welcome and needed in this effort."
Said Ms. Fleming, "We need everyone in the Alanta community getting involved in this. There's a mayoral election coming up. Ask your candidates their opinions of the police action at the Eagle and whether or not they support the kind of bigotry and discrimination exhibited. Blog about it. Talk about it. All the various Eagle's around the country should link to this. Support this suit and support NCSF" Said Grossman, "The police believed that they could violate the rights of these men precisely because they were in a gay _leather_ bar."
NCSF is committed to creating a political, legal and social environment in the US that advances equal rights for consenting adults who engage in alternative sexual and relationship expressions. The NCSF aims to advance the rights of, and advocate for consenting adults in the BDSM-Leather-Fetish, Swing, and Polyamory Communities. We pursue our vision through direct services, education, advocacy, and outreach, in conjunction with our partners, to directly benefit these communities. Donate to NCSF now.
NCSF 822 Guilford Ave #127
Baltimore, MD 21202
Help make history by signing the DSM Revision Petition now! The diagnoses in the DSM-IV-TR still subject people who practice BDSM, fetishes and cross-dressing to bias, discrimination and social sanctions without any scientific basis.
We need 3,000 signatures, but we only have 2,200 now. If you don't speak up and call on the American Psychiatric Association to adhere to empirical research when revising the diagnoses in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM V), then the Sexual and Gender Identity Disorders Work Group won't make a meaningful change.
You can make your signature anonymous on this secure petition site so it doesn't appear on the Internet or when the petition is delivered to the APA.
"We, the undersigned, support the American Psychiatric Association's (APA) own goal of making its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) a scientific document, based on empirical research and devoid of cultural bias. A diagnosis of a mental disorder can have a severe adverse impact on employment opportunities, child custody determinations, an individual's well-being, and other areas of functioning. Therefore we urge the APA to remove all diagnoses that are not based upon peer-reviewed, empirical research, demonstrating distress or dysfunction, from the DSM. The APA specifically should not promote current social norms or values as a basis for clinical judgments."
A detailed look at this effective technique to get your point across to the media.
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, which is usually one or two of your sound bites. Or you get one quote in an article. 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 on local issues.
You don't have to get all these in, sometimes it's best to pick a few and keep repeating them in different ways.
Safe, Sane and Consensual
This is a must! Say it over and over and over like a mantra. "Over fifteen years ago, a community-wide ethic was established known as "safe, sane and consensual". This credo has permeated SM literature and lore far beyond the subculture of the organized community." Or "We constantly discuss issues of consent, which are the basis of safe, sane and consensual sexual education."
If They Want Specific Definitions:
"Safe" is being knowledgeable about what you are doing. Each participant must be informed about the possible risks, both mentally and physically.
"Sane" is knowing the difference between fantasy and reality. Knowledgeable consent cannot be given by a child, or if you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
"Consensual" is respecting the limits imposed by each participant. One of the most easily recognized ways to maintain limits is through a "safeword" - in which the bottom/submissive can withdraw consent at any time with a single word or gesture.
The Need for Educational and Social SM Gatherings
It's important to emphasize the contributions our educational and social groups make to society. We teach people how to do SM safely and consensually, and that takes hands-on instruction and community discussion. Say, "Our group has existed for 10 years as an educational and social group, teaching people how to do SM safely and consensually." Say, "Our group is only one of over 500 educational and social organizations that exist in America for SM-Leather-Fetish practitioners." Or "Like the gay and lesbian community in the 1960's, the people in our community feel very alone and isolated. We provide a place for them where they can get the support of their peers, where they don't have to be ashamed or afraid of who they are."
Say, "Safewords are key to consensual sexual activities." "The participants can stop what's happening at any time with a pre-arranged word, or by saying safeword."
Communication and Negotiation
Say, "We negotiate before engaging in SM or fetish practices to make sure that what we do is fun for both of us." Or "People who play together must learn how to communicate exactly what we want"
Sensual, Loving Sexual Expression
Emphasize that SM is done between loving, communicative partners. It is mutually pleasurable for all involved. SM is stimulation that is often perceived in a sexual way. Stimulation is a great word to use--it is clear and non-threatening unlike "flogging" or "spanking" etc.
Defining SM, Dominance & Submission and Bondage
Stay away from going into an SM 101 and don't give any lessons on technique. The most effective soundbites talk about issues of discrimination and injustice against our communities. If they ask, what exactly is SM? You say, "SM is sensory stimulation, either physical or mental, that is interpreted as pleasure." Please try to get the reporter to write SM, not S&M - that evokes the old stereotypes and we are trying to get around that. S&M stands for sadism & masochism while SM stands for sadomasochism; inherent in the word is the mutual necessity for both as well as the consent involved.
Statistics of Practitioners
According to the 1990 Kinsey Institute New Report on Sex, released by St. Martin's Press:
"Researchers estimate that 5 percent to 10 percent of the U.S. population engages in diverse sexual practices for sexual pleasure on at least an occasional basis, with most incidents being either mild or staged activities involving no real pain or violence." That would bring the number of practitioners into the millions, with many, many more who do things like love bites or holding their lover's hands down. Say "Most are just like your neighbors, doctor, bus driver, even your sister or uncle. There are probably 1 in 10 people in your office who practice SM as a loving form of sexual expression."
Say, "Contrary to stereotypes, there are many women who enjoy being sexually dominant, and many more people who enjoy switching roles." Or, "People can roleplay with roles and experience things they normally wouldn't get to do in their real life."
Discrimination and Violence
This one is also extremely important because most people don't realize how much we are attacked and closeted because of our sexual expression. "Discrimination and violence happens every day to people like you and me just because they engage in diverse sexual practices such as SM or fetishes. Discrimination ranges from family pressures, to job loss, to loss of child custody." Or "The NCSF Violence & Discrimination Survey 1998 found that 1/3 of over 1000 people surveyed suffered some form of discrimination or persecution--losing their job or even their children because of the myths and stereotypes of SM. Another 36% suffered violence--were physically attacked--because of the stereotypes about SM." Or "According to the NCSF survey, 4/5ths of the people surveyed are closeted to the rest of the world out of fear of serious repercussions."
SM Practitioners Are Not Sick
In 1994, the American Psychiatric Association changed its medical definition of SM in the Diagnostic and Statistic Manual (DSM 4) so that it is no longer automatically defined as a mental illness. Say "As long as a person's SM practices don't interfere with their day-to-day life, it's considered to be a healthy form of sexual expression."
If you or your organization needs help in reaching out to the media, contact Susan Wright with the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom's Media Outreach Program at:
You don't have to answer the interviewer's exact question.
You rarely see the question in TV or print interviews, only the response. So feel free to pick out one word or phrase in the question and respond to that. For example, if they ask, "What do you think when people say you're eroticizing violence?" give one of your sound-bites: "Safe, sane and consensual sexual expression is not violence because at any time the participants can stop what's happening." For example, if they ask, "What does your husband think about you cheating on him?" give one of your soundbites:
Don't repeat nasty or inflammatory phrases.
See the above question - and don't repeat, "SM isn't eroticizing violence because..." or "Swinging is not cheating..." That makes their point for them.
Universalize the questions.
If the reporter says something like, "You people who beat each other up..." or "You people who have sex with other people..." then respond with, "We, like you and everyone else in America, believe we have First Amendment rights to express our sexuality in any way that is safe and consensual."
Use standard terms rather than "scene" language.
If you start saying "scene" and "munch" and "leather" and "vanilla" and "top" and "bottom" etc. then people won't understand you. Use vanilla terms as much as possible, or very rarely use terms and define them as you use them. ie "The top, that is the person giving the stimulation, must respect limits."
Keep repeating your sound bites.
It doesn't make for a stimulating conversation, but that's the way professionals get their point across. The reporter will ask their question several times, trying to get you to expand on what you're saying, to get a more sensational quote. Just be firm and keep repeating your point. They will respect you for it, and will print the sound bites you give them. Check out our recommended sound bites for the SM, swing and polyamory communities.
Flag your sound bites.
This is done by saying, "The most important thing to remember is that sadomasochists educate each other about safe, sane and consensual sexual practices." Or "A key part of having engaging in polyamory is communication prior in order to negotiate both partner's limits and desires."
Don't do anything sexual on camera.
In this case, a picture is NOT worth a thousand words. Don't let reporters take pictures of your polyamory family sitting on the bed. Don't do an SM scene in front of a camera. We need activists who will speak up for the SM-Leather-Fetish communities and explain the serious issues such as discrimination and violence against our people.
Wear appropriate attire.
This means business or casual wear, such as an activist t-shirt. Don't wear revealing fetish wear or lingerie. See above--a picture is NOT worth a thousand words. If our communities want to be taken seriously, we must present an image that the average person can relate to.
Don't utter a word you aren't prepared to see in print.
Reporters will try to make you comfortable with them, to chat with them informally. Those are usually the quotes they use. You aren't there to make friends or "sell" the reporter on alternative sexuality, you are there representing the community and yourself in the best light possible. Stay friendly, but reserved, and think before you speak. If you make a misstep, then stop and start all over again. Then the reporter will have to use the completed thought.
Don't do or say anything you feel uncomfortable with.
By the time you get into an interview, then the story will be printed or produced no matter what you do. You are completely free to say NO to anything you don't like. It is highly unlikely the reporter will just walk away and end the interview, even if they try to say you MUST do something or answer something. If the reporter keeps insisting, use one of your sound bites: "We believe that consent is the basis of any good relationship. You are becoming abusive by not respecting my limits."
Use the name of organizations.
Say you're a member of NCSF or the International Lifestyle Association. Mention the name of your local group. Explain that many groups are educational and social organizations that have been in existence for many years: "Over 500 educational and social, nonprofit groups exist in America for SM-Leather-Fetish practitioners."
Be animated, confident and happy.
In TV interviews in particular, often the best thing is not what you say but how you say it. People will remember the image of your happy, confident expression much longer than the words you say.
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.