A few weeks ago, Diana—not my girlfriend's real name—mentioned that a friend had just quit a high-profile gig at a high-profile restaurant to embark on a new career.
"She's dancing at Saint Venus Theater now," Diana informed me.
"Oh, nice," I said. "Is that on- or off-Broadway?"
Diana narrowed her eyes in disbelief.
"You really don't know what Saint Venus Theater is?"
According to its site, a marvel of late-90s web design that still links to a MySpace page, Saint Venus Theater "is an art, music, and performance inspired erotic venue." I have attended SVT just often enough to know that the only accurate piece of that statement is the word "erotic." Saint Venus is where your iBanking buddy takes you to get touchy-feely lap dances from women who do not identify as strippers. Even "venue" is misleading—SVT has no fixed address and occupies a constantly shifting roster of vacant Manhattan clubs and restaurants. The "art" is whatever happens to be hanging on the walls, the "music" is a worst-of selection from Top 40 hip-hop and R&B. These events are members-only, and every Tuesday we lucky few wake up to an email that contains a secret password and the addresses for that week's three, sometimes four events. That password—plus $50, cash—gets you in the door.
You'd be forgiven at first for mistaking the scene inside for a boozy hedge-fund mixer. In the darkness of the sprawling spaces, the women, often vastly outnumbered, can be difficult to spot among the sea of suits. But there they are, dressed in formfitting, easy-off cocktail attire, most looking like they belonged to a sorority as recently as last semester. There are no stripper poles in sight, and only a PG-13 amount of skin. The "SVT girls," as the member emails refer to them, sip drinks, check phones, and make small talk with guests. Most of them have—and are happy to discuss—other jobs and ambitions (not that there's anything wrong with lap-dancing for a living). I've met alleged med students, alleged classical violinists, alleged actress-slash-models and, once, an acquaintance of my little sister. After giving you a fake name and asking what you do for a living, the typical SVT girl will offer you a dance—$20 a song—take you by the hand, and lead you to a back section, hidden by curtains, where the action takes place.
And now my girlfriend's friend had quit her job to join them.
"She wants to dance for us," Diana said. "We should go."
Diana and I do this kind of thing from time to time. Like eggplant, I can tolerate monogamy with a dose of spice and exotic accouterments. After years of trying and failing to walk the line in vanilla relationships, I realized that, as the boxing coach Eric Kelly says, every thing is not for everybody. I don't remember exactly what I said to Diana when I fell hard for her three years ago, but it went something like this: "I'd be happy to commit my mind and soul to you, but I think we should keep our bodies in the public domain, because the idea of having sex with only one person out of a possible seven billion seems kind of insane."
Diana, who was dating a woman and a man when we first met, said that sounded good to her. ...
NCSF’s Trauma pamphlet is intended to help both survivors of traumatic experiences and the people around them. Community organizers have been asking NCSF for more information on how people react when they’re traumatized so they can better help their members when they are in need.
We worked with over a dozen Kink Aware Professionals to create this pamphlet:
•Learn about short-term reactions such as shock, denial and fear of judgment or retaliation. Also possible ongoing challenges like anxiety, engaging in high risk behaviors or feelings of detachment or isolation.
•Find out what you can do (and friends and loved ones can say) to help you ease the pain and transition to healing.
•Get information on PTSD and trauma bonds, which form in the presence of danger, shame or exploitation.
Help is available for people who have been injured and their loved ones. This includes free mental health counseling, emergency medical care, possible recouping of lost wages, and a safe and confidential shelter that removes you from imminent harm or danger if you need to get out of your house.
You don’t have to go it alone. NCSF trains local victim services on BDSM vs. abuse. Call your local rape crisis hotline or contact NCSF’s Incident Reporting & Response for help for you or a friend at
When she was a journalist, Olivia Troy decided to write a story on men who liked being sexually dominated. She accepted an apprenticeship with a professional dominatrix—and became hooked on the rush of power and uncensored sexuality. Now, after having spent several years as a dominatrix herself, Troy is a BDSM consultant, helping TV shows and Broadway productions tell accurate stories about kink. She's also the host of the new podcast "Bedtime Stories," where she reads erotica to listeners.
Troy views her career as part of a larger effort to empower women sexually, which she also believes empowers them in the rest of their lives. We spoke with her about what it's like to be a dominatrix and what happens when women gain control over their sexuality.
What first appealed to you about being a dominatrix?
I first thought, "I'll just do this so I can learn some things and then I'll quit" because I was like, "I don't need to be a sex worker. I have a master's degree." But I was just amazed by all of these smart, interesting, vivid women. I found myself suddenly in the company of women who really did not have to apologize for anything, women who really were themselves, their unedited selves. Among my fellow apprentices, one was a Fulbright scholar who spoke five languages and played classical piano. Another was a math prodigy.
It was an incredible opportunity to engage with men who were finally in a space where they could be their whole selves, to reveal a part of themselves that they weren't able to share or felt uncomfortable sharing with their family or being public about. There was a safe space where we could celebrate and honor that, and it felt like an incredible privilege. It just satisfied me on so many levels. It was intellectually and emotionally challenging. It allowed me to be sexual and flirtatious. It also allowed me in a healing way to hold people accountable for promises they made. It exists in a space where actions and consequences are genuine. It has been and is some of the most challenging work I've ever done.
What do you mean by "hold people accountable"?
For example, if you live with somebody and you tell them to wash the dishes and they don't do it or they won't take out the trash, then, in a relationship, you have to sort of go into this battle. But in a BDSM context, it's always, well, "I gave you an assignment to do and you didn't do it, so I'm going to give you six cane strokes"—whatever the consequence may be. But it's not as fraught. It's not as if somebody disappoints you. You can say, "Hey, you did not fulfill your obligation, so you're going to be punished."
How exactly did the dynamic with your clients work?
It depends on the submissive. Not all submissives are task-oriented. Not all people who see dominatrixes are even submissive. Some of them are fetishists. Some of them are seeking a particular experience. Sometimes, they want to be in bondage, which can be a very meditative experience, to be in very restrictive bondage. But when there is a service element to their kink or their expression of submission or to the context in which they serve a dominatrix, then there are assignments. Sometimes, the assignments are performative. Sometimes, they are life-enhancing, like assignments to lose a certain amount of weight or to modify one's diet. It's really like working as a life coach to help some men be their best selves, and one of the ways you can be your best self is by expressing and articulating all of yourself, and here's a space where you can be all the man you are without judgment, and that's a really wonderful thing. It's an opportunity that a lot of us as adults don't have.
You hear about men who feel like they have to be dominant all the time, and they see a dominatrix to get relief from that. Has that been your experience?
I think women and men, culturally, as a society, are always getting the message that we must be strong, that we must take charge, that we must lean in, that we must be independent. For some, that's true, I suppose. But you get those signals as well. Do you see a dominatrix? There's absolutely the cliche of "I'm so dominant in my professional life" and everybody wants to talk about that stupid story. Sometimes, they want to have an opportunity where they don't have to make decisions, and who doesn't want that? Suddenly, you can go into a space where there's somebody who tells you what to do. The liberty, the freedom of just being able to do what you're told, and it is not your responsibility how it all turns out—don't you want that? ...
In polyandry—the gender-swapped version of polygamy—women have multiple male partners. We spoke to several women in polyandrous relationships to find out what it's like.
Many women may casually date multiple guys, but some modern-day women are practicing polyandry: having multiple husbands (or, in a contemporary, repurposed definition, several serious or life-long partners).
Polyandry, the reverse version of polygamy, is technically illegal in the United States; thus, those who practice it do so without literally getting married. "I would say [polyandry] is when a woman has many male partners," says Dr. Denise Renye, a San Francisco-based psychologist who specializes in sex and intimacy.
But that doesn't mean a woman can't dream of putting a ring on those many male partners. "Having multiple husbands was something I had thought about since early adolescence. I even asked my mother about it, and she laughed said it would be way too much work," a 44-year-old woman from Boulder, Colorado, who goes by Jislaaik tells Broadly. Very active in her local kink community as a mistress, Jislaaik is currently seeking three husbands in a scenario she likens to Big Love, only with "a higher level of control and authority on my part, and way better sex."
While some women like Jislaaik relish the chance to celebrate polyandry, other women in polyamorous communities view having multiple male partners as simply an inherent facet of the general polyamorous lifestyle. "Polyandry is polygamy for women. In either case, marriage is the key component that differs it from polyamory. It's not something that is widely discussed in the polyamorous community, unless someone is correcting a misunderstanding," says Effy Blue, a New York City-based life coach who specializes in unconventional relationships.
Blue has multiple male partners herself and says more men offer more emotional support—not to mention the sexual benefits. "My partners have different strengths, styles, points of views, all coming together to be an amazing support network for me. It also provides me different sexual experiences, somewhat eliminating monotony that inevitably happens in all long-term relationships. The variety ultimately keeps all of our sex lives exciting."
Those who are specifically seeking a modern American version of polyandry view the distinction between polyandry and polyamory as one that stems from differing power dynamics. These women want to have multiple male partners, but their men must be completely devoted to them, a different relationship structure than what Blue practices.
"I tried polyamory first but found that to not work for me at all. The poly world wants you to be completely open. The mono[gamous] world, well, we already know what they want," says a 38-year-old Colorado woman who asked to be called Goddess Andromeda.
"My ex tried really hard to give his power to me. One day he came to me and declared, 'I've lost that subbie feeling,'" says Andromeda, referring to a dominant/submissive relationship. "We tried to work on it until one day he called me late at night and told me that he wanted to be full-on polyamorous for a while. I told him, 'Fine, but it would be without me.' He did not appreciate that and decided that it was too late at night to communicate about it. The next day I gave him his wings to explore." ...
·Increased intimacy – Hiding important relationships means closing off parts of your life, and being honest about significant things allows greater authenticity and emotional connection.
·Explanation for person in social environment – Sometimes people in poly relationships that have become serious and entail more involvement in their lives decide to come out to both explain the presence of the person/people and acknowledge the importance of the relationship(s).
·Being outed by an event or person – When someone else threatens to out a poly person, sometimes taking control of the situation and outing themselves
·Political belief – As amply demonstrated by LGBT activists, it is difficult to take political space and organize for rights without a visible and recognizable presence in society. The more poly people who come out, the more visible polyamory is, and the more likely it is that poly communities will be able to gain rights for their constituents.
·Not – If there is no real reason to come out, reconsider doing so if you are vulnerable. That vulnerability might be to losing custody of your children, losing your job, losing connections with your family and friends, or losing your housing. These things can happen when people come out as poly, so think carefully before deciding if the risks of coming out are worth the benefits.
Although the idea of coming out is politically important and some people feel compelled to be scrupulously honest with the others in their lives, most people should use caution when coming out because be identified as a sex or gender minority can be dangerous and should be done cautiously. A few of the ways to do so cautiously include:
·Selective disclosure – Tell the people who are important and need to know that you have a poly relationship, but let them know this is sensitive information that they should not share with others until you are ready. If you are not sure if someone is safe to tell, then consider using a “litmus” question such as how that person feels about same-sex marriage or something like that. Their reaction could give you information about how they might react to the news of polyamory.
·Matter of fact, not dramatic – If you present the information as a matter of daily life and not a cataclysmic announcement, others will be more likely to take it as a regular piece of news. Presenting it as normal part of your life can help others accept it as normal for you as well.
·Private setting – In case you or the person you tell has a strong reaction to your coming out news, consider a setting that allows some conversational privacy.
Once you have decided to come out, prepare yourself. Think about what you are going to say, and plan ahead with your partners. Use the resources below to educate yourself and those to whom you are coming out.
·NCSF has a resource library filled with information for activists, lawyers, people concerned with consent, mental health, and professionals knowledgeable about polyamory and BDSM.
·I have written three books that would be very helpful to people coming out as polyamorous. The first one, The Polyamorists Next Door(2014), reports on my 15 year study of poly families with children and is best suited for using when coming out to social workers, lawyers, school counselors, doctors, and other professionals. Stories from the Polycule (2015), my second book, is an edited volume of stories written by poly people themselves and is best suited for coming out to younger family members, friends, and open minded people or people with shorter spans of attention. My most recent book, When Someone You Love is Polyamorous (2016), is a short introduction to polyamory and best suited for dear friends and family members who are older, more conservative, or might be afraid that polyamory might be a bad thing for their loved ones.
I knew I’d been invited to a convention for sex therapists but my God! I could not believe my eyes. Stalls meant to educate, elucidate, and lubricate human intercourse were set up everywhere. “Contraception,” “Viagra,” “Gender Bend.” I watched a middle-aged mom demonstrate a seesaw contraption with dildos attached. It was called, she said, “The Monkey Rocker.” She explained that, yes, you can certainly sit in either direction for anal or vaginal penetration. I ambled about timid and titillated. That all these folks were chatting with the greatest of ease about sex was a rather fabulous surprise. And all so early in the morning.
I found coffee, a bagel and a table. A man sat down across from me. His floppy paper plate was stacked with chunks of honeydew. We nodded at each other.
“Where are you from?” he asked.
We exchanged some basics. He was a therapist and I explained that that I was an actor there to present a one-man play I’d written.
“Oh, that’s the sex abuse play, right?” he asked.
I cringed and stopped myself from launching into an explanation of how my solo play, The Tricky Part, was oh so much more than that “Yes. That play,” I replied.
“You going to go to the dungeon?” he asked.
“There’s a field trip Saturday night. The local BDSM community has invited any therapists who would like to, to come and observe an evening session at their dungeon.”
“Yes. Everyone’s talking about it. You should sign up.”
Before heading back to my room to shower, with a curious quickening of the blood, I made my way to the appropriate desk and promptly added my name to the list.
A tall man in blue jeans and cowboy boots greeted us at the door His nametag read, “Master John” It occurred to me that Master might be a misspelling of Mister but upon entering the premises I spotted many more nametags affixed on the shirts of friendly fellows (and women)—Master Greg, Master Steve. Most of the tags included a one- or two-word designation printed below the name.
Folding chairs had been set up on the perimeter of the main room which had loft levels and very high ceilings. We quietly took our seats. A man with long black hair came forward. He looked to be, perhaps, Native American. His voice was lovely, his words laced with an intoxicating cadence that I could not pinpoint. Spanish? Mexican?
“We all want to welcome you and thank you for coming. We want you to feel safe and taken care of. That’s how it is here. It’s a safe place and we take care of one another.”
He spoke of his work in education, his part-time job at a local ranch. I was struck by his eloquence and humor.. He talked about the reason, the importance, for this evening’s event. As best as I can recall, he said something like this:
“We are here to show you, to share with you in the mental health industry, who we are. We are teachers and lawyers and ranchers, just plain folk from all walks of life and we comprise what we lovingly call our Kink Community. It is our aim to help you understand what might be your prejudice about our community and communities like ours. Some of your own clients back home may well be part of their own kink community and we hope that you don’t automatically think of us, of them, as someone with a disorder. For many of us, our exploration of power dynamics and BDSM is our path to a deeper connection. It is simply a part of who we are and we feel open and healthy about it. Perhaps tonight we can dispel some fears or biases. You’ll notice that we’ve all worn nametags so that you can identify us by name and ask any questions related to what we are into. We are here to answer your questions openly and honestly. Once the demonstration is over, please feel free to stay and we can all talk. We’ve put together a nice potluck. Remember: if at any time you feel unsafe or uncomfortable, just know that you are free to step out. There’s coffee and tea in the lobby.” ...
From an early age we’re taught that “happily ever after” means falling in love, getting married, and staying with that one person forever and ever. But thanks to modern medicine, ‘til death do us part can mean shacking up with the same man or woman for five to seven decades. Sure, that might sound like heaven to some—but for others, this modern-day monogamy fairytale just isn’t realistic.
And so, this second group has increasingly begun to seek out other arrangements. In fact, according to new research, more and more Americans are actively Googling information about alternatives to monogamy—and 1 in 5 Americans say they’ve engaged in consensual non-monogamous relationships IRL.
These revelations come courtesy of Amy Moors, a researcher at the National Center for Institutional Diversity at the University of Michigan. Moors recently conducted a study published in the Journal of Sex Research that looked into the prevalence of Google searches involving non-monogamous relationships. Her goal was to see if searches for terms like “polyamory” and “open relationships” were increasing over time, which, of course, might indicate a growing interest in consensual non-monogamous relationships.
For the study, Moors analyzed 10 years of Google trends data from January 2006 to December 2015 using sets of the keywords related to polyamory, open relationships, open marriages, and swingers. In order to make sure she was looking at searches in which users had genuine interest in the topic, she also created “negative” search words to exclude certain results. For example, Moors found that a term like “open marriage” yielded a lot of results about Newt Gingrich, who famously had an affair outside his marriage. Searching celebrity gossip doesn’t really count as being interested in exploring the lifestyle, so she excluded all things Newt related (LOLz). Likewise, “open relationship” keywords also produced a plethora of Will and Jada-Pinkett Smith results—go figure!—so they were also used as exclusionary items.
After analyzing the data, Moors found that Google searches for terms related to polyamory and open relationships indeed rose steadily from 2006 to 2015. Interestingly, however, searches for “swingers”-related keywords fell over time. Moors hypothesizes that this is likely due to the fact that the term itself has become outdated, eliciting images of 1970s swingers parties and dropping keys in bowls. Likewise, the terms “polyamory” and “open relationship” or “open marriage” are being used more and more by media and in general discussion of the lifestyle, making them more popular contemporary terms.
Of course, Google doesn’t tell us everything. As Moors points out in her study, the search data was merely a starting point to gauge broad trends.
“Although the present study cannot shed light on why people are searching for more information related to polyamory and open relationships, these results do show that there is increased visibility of these types of consensual non-monogamy and likewise an interest to learn more about them,” explains Moors in the paper.
What can help us gauge interest is asking people if they’ve ever participated in a consensual non-monogamous relationship—which is exactly what Moors, along with researchers from Indiana University, did in another paper, recently published in the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy.
Moors and her colleagues analyzed data collected in 2013 and 2014 by the Singles In America study, sponsored by Match.com. (Participants in the SIA study are not culled from Match.com—they are drawn from a nationally representative sample established by the firm Research Now.) In total, researchers looked at data on 8,718 participants in two different studies. The first consisted of 4,813 participants who were over the age of 21 and legally single, which means they could have been single, dating, or cohabiting but were not legally married to anyone. The second looked at an additional 3,905 participants who were over 18 and were functionally single at the time of the survey, meaning they were not seeing or dating anyone.
As part of the survey, all participants were asked if they “had ever had an open sexual relationship.” In the questionnaire, this was defined as “an agreed upon, sexually non-exclusive relationship.”
In the first study, 21.9% of participants answered yes. In the second, 21.2% of participants answered yes. Put simply? One in 5 Americans now says they have participated in a consensually non-monogamous relationship. Bazinga! ...
Misty Plowright is the first transgender nominee of a major party for the US House of Representatives – win or lose, she’s changing perceptions
by Maria L La Ganga
isty Plowright believes she will live long enough to see people like herself run for public office and only be asked about real election issues: immigration and gun control, taxing the rich and nuclear energy, universal healthcare, abortion.
Someday the other questions won’t come up, because voters just won’t care anymore.
“When did you realize you were born in the wrong body? How long did it take you to become a woman? What’s it like to be the first transgender candidate for congress/senate/governor/president? Do you really think voters are ready for someone like you?”
Plowright has reason to be hopeful. Even as the battle over access to public bathrooms rages on across the country, transgender rights took a few big steps forward in recent days.
On Tuesday last week, Plowright, a 33-year-old Colorado resident, became the first transgender candidate to win a major party primary for the US House of Representatives. At the same time, Misty K Snow, a 30-year-old Utah native, became the first transgender candidate to do the same for the US Senate.
And on Thursday, the secretary of defense, Ash Carter, announced that transgender men and women will be able to serve openly in the US military within a year. Members of the armed forces, he said, also will be able to transition gender while serving in the military.
Plowright, an army veteran who transitioned after leaving active duty, said in an interview with the Guardian that “it’s about damn time” the military – and politics, for that matter – became more inclusive. “Anyone who wants to serve”, she said, “who is capable of doing the job, should be able to.”
To some, this marks a seminal moment in the push for civil rights in America, an upswing for the estimated 1.4 million adults who identify themselves as transgender, according to a study released Thursday that pegs the transgender population in the US as double what was previously thought.
“The attitudes toward sexual identity have changed much faster and more radically than anyone could have anticipated a dozen years ago”, said John J Pitney Jr, a political scientist at Claremont McKenna College. “As late as 2004, Republicans were using same-sex marriage to rally their ranks.
“This is one of the fastest and deepest changes in public opinion in the history of polling,” Pitney said. “It’s much faster than change in race relations.” ...