If you’re anti-monogamy, a social movement awaits you. But are polyamory’s supporters too evangelical in their mission to convert the rest of us to their bed-hopping ways?
The Daily Beast
by Emily Shire
“I’m probably the only little girl who fantasized about meeting her handsome prince and having him sweep her off feet—and then falling in love with another guy,” Cunning Minx tells me with a laugh.
It’s a rosy, even wholesome way of framing her first childhood indications that she would ultimately identify with polyamory, a term Merriam-Webster defines as “the state or practice of having more than one open romantic relationship at a time.”
People who identify as polyamorous, like Minx—a sex educator who uses the pseudonym professionally, including for Poly Weekly, a podcast “devoted to tales from the front of responsible non-monogamy”—would likely pick a bone with that rather sterile definition.
According to the website for Loving More, the leading national support and advocacy group for the polyamorous community, “Polyamory refers to emotionally connected relationships openly involving three or more people. It is about honesty, integrity and respect.”
I would venture that most Americans would not be familiar with either of those definitions of polyamory. Many may not have even heard of the term.
Despite a Showtime reality television show and Loving More’s 25,000-strong database of members, polyamory is still a relatively unheard of relationship construct.
To those who have heard of polyamory, the concept is surrounded in stigma, often conflated with “swingers.”
In fact, proponents of polyamory (or just “poly” as it is colloquially referred to) are quick to point out sex with multiple people is by no means a requisite.
The term “polyamory” is “intended to differentiate emotionally connected relationships from simple coupling, casual dating around, or recreational sex,” according to the Loving More website.
Not that most of America is aware of these nuances.
Case in point: when I told a colleague, a thirty-something New Yorker, about polyamory, he said he had never encountered the term and assumed it was a form of polygamy, like the kind practiced by fundamentalist Mormons.
If anything, members of the poly community sound less like Joseph Smith and more like John Humphrey Noyes, who founded the free love Oneida community in upstate New York in 1848.
Noyes declared monogamy was “a tyrannical institution that did not exist in Heaven and eventually would be abolished on earth.”
Not only do poly people soundly reject monogamy as the only acceptable form of romantic relationship in much the way Noyes did, but many also have that same, shall we say, fervor. ...
One of my favorite things about the field of social work has been its strong interconnections with other fields of study, including a full range of social and behavioral sciences. Social work formally utilizes a generalist approach, thus workers are trained to be able to respond effectively to a variety of client needs and potential problems. In doing so, ethical practice is emphasized, and social workers are admonished to challenge injustice, promote client self-determination, embrace human diversity, and practice with cultural competence (National Association of Social Workers, 2008).
Since 2008, the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), which accredits all social work education programs in the United States, has required that social work students demonstrate mastery of specific competencies, referred to as Educational Policy and Accreditation Standards (EPAS). These competencies include a focus on ethical behavior (competency 1), embracing diversity and difference (competency 2), social injustice and human rights (competency 3), and the interconnectedness of research and practice (competency 4) (CSWE, 2015). EPAS competencies are designed to apply across social work education and practice.
In this paper, I will summarize scholarship on consensual bondage and discipline – dominance and submission – sadomasochism (BDSM) and briefly explain why this topic is relevant to social work practice. I will then discuss my frustrations in attempting to publish work on this topic within the field of social work. Apart from a notable exception in the journal Canadian Social Work (Williams, 2013), the topic of BDSM is absent from the social work literature. However, what is particularly surprising and disturbing to me, based on personal experience, has been the refusal of journal editors and reviewers to accept an accumulating empirical research literature on BDSM, which then results in manuscript rejection. I will discuss my experiences of manuscript rejection and editor/reviewer biases concerning BDSM shortly. Contemporary social work, after all, is predicated on EPAS core competencies, including those mentioned above, and also emphasizes evidence-based practice (CSWE, 2008, 2015; Rubin & Babbie, 2014). While I have occasionally encountered difficulty in getting specific manuscripts published, including on the topic of BDSM, it is only in the field of social work that I have faced consistent rejection.
Despite considerable research over the past two decades showing that BDSM participation is not associated with psychopathology, many helping professionals continue to marginalize and discriminate against clients who practice BDSM (Hoff & Sprott, 2009; Kolmes, Stock, & Moser, 2006; Wright, 2009). In the Survey of Violence and Discrimination of Sexual Minorities sponsored by the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom, Wright (2009) found that in a large sample of participants (N = 3,058) with alternative sexual identities (including BDSM and fetish enthusiasts), about 40% reported facing discrimination from a mental health professional and 50% experienced discrimination from a medical doctor. These findings illustrate the glaring need for sexual diversity training among helping professionals.
Clearly, there is much current interest in BDSM, thus social workers and helping professionals need to be informed. Nearly a decade ago, Kleinplatz and Moser (2006) estimated that up to 10 percent of the general population participate in some form of BDSM. Social workers, whether they recognize it or not, are highly likely to encounter numerous clients who participate in BDSM but who may seek professional help to address any of a range of diverse personal issues. People who enjoy BDSM, like anyone else, sometimes face typical issues, such as relationship difficulties, job / career decisions, loss and grief, and significant life transitions. However, such clients also could potentially seek help for BDSM-specific issues, including how to navigate alternative relationships or how to deal with stigma that many BDSM participants face. Informed social work professionals could be extremely valuable in helping these clients, including empowering, supporting and advocating for this population as needed.
Social Work Gatekeeping and Dismissal of BDSM Research
Considering where I am in my career (assistant professor currently applying for promotion and tenure), I have a fairly strong publication record with over 50 peer-reviewed articles and book chapters, including numerous papers on sexual diversity. Although the topic of BDSM is relevant to the field of social work, my experience has been that several editors and reviewers for social work academic journals are not open to this topic. One editor responded to a recent manuscript submission on the importance of social workers becoming informed about BDSM by simply writing, “This manuscript is not of interest to us at this time.” Similarly, another journal editor also rejected the manuscript “for lack of interest.” ...
To finish reading, go to the Journal of Positive Sexuality where this article appears in the current issue: http://journalofpositivesexuality.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/Does-Social-Work-Need-a-Good-Spanking-Williams.pdf
When exes and relatives call social workers on BDSM-loving moms and dads, the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom is there to help.
The Daily Beast
by Katie Zavadski
Like many women, Samantha likes kink. Unlike many women, she lost custody of her children over it.
In July 2013, Samantha’s ex-boyfriend told social services that her dominant-submissive relationship with her new boyfriend was harmful to the children.
A social worker backed up the ex-husband’s proofless allegations, even outlandish ones where he claimed their eldest son had been hung from the ceiling by his wrist, and removed the children.
Samantha asked a court to order a second evaluation and waited for months. In the meantime, she contacted the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom for help. NCSF is a volunteer-run nonprofit that strives to connect kinky, poly, and “other” parents with the legal resources they need to fight custody battles and the like.
In that case, NCSF spokesperson Susan Wright said she called a local LGBT and got references for queer-friendly lawyers for Samantha. She vetted them before passing them along. Wright even called case workers in Samantha’s county and urged a second evaluation.
Within weeks, social services took back their evaluation of abuse: the kids, they said, should be reunited with their mother.
Often, parents like Samantha are pursued by an ex-partner or another relative who claims the parents’ their sexual proclivities are harmful to children. Judges decide what is in “the best interests of the child,” and parents who are sexual sadists, masochists, or who have multiple romantic partners can easily arouse suspicion.
“We’re leaving this really vague standard of ‘the best interests of the child’ up to subjective interpretation,” said Brooklyn-based lawyer Diana Adams, one of the kink-aware professionals who works with NCSF.
But Adams said individual trial judge decisions can be very difficult to appeal. Saying that a judge was biased or used poor judgment is not enough—in many areas, the standard for appeal is error. ...
Mary, a petite woman in a black dress, rolls back the sleeve of Ryan's T-shirt to reveal his newly-scarred flesh.
"Wow, so cool!" she says, examining the still-fresh cuts he's made that form a lattice on his bicep. Then, without a word, she starts slapping him. She's gentle at first, just quiet little flirty ones to the cheek, but they get louder and sharper as she screws up her face and starts properly laying into him, genuinely trying to inflict as much pain as possible. Soon, couples from the surrounding tables stop talking to clap and cheer her on.
Given that we're in a north London gastropub with wrought-iron staircases and ceiling beams—the kind of place where adult men who try to one-up each other with microbrewery trivia might meet up to be awful—this behavior seems particularly odd. But tonight is the venue's monthly fetish speed-dating event. Having a girlfriend already, I'm not here to get slapped repeatedly by a stranger in front of an enthusiastic crowd. But I figured it could be a good place to get a succinct overview of London's fetish scene—a series of four-minute encounters with as many subs, doms, pay pigs, sneaker destroyers and scally gear fetishists as possible, all in a venue without loud music or an aroused naked man locked in a cage distracting everyone there.
I've never been to a fetish speed-dating night before, so I was initially unsure of the dress code—whether I'd look like a nark in a sea of latex and cock cages—but the event's website informed me that smart-casual was fine and that above all I should "be myself." When I arrive I'm greeted by Miss Jo, the organizer, who has run kink clubs in London for the last 20 years. Eating olives out of a ramekin with a cocktail stick, she is jolly and welcoming, putting everyone at ease. She gives me a white sticker to write my name on and tells me to have a good time.
What I've always disliked about the idea of speed-dating is its rote, inauthentic, ruthless nature. Like it or not, you'll be judged heavily on your fitness as a potential sexual partner. If no one enjoys the mental image of you naked, you mope off with no phone numbers, left to get really insecure about your weird neck on the night bus home. But with fetish speed dating there's another layer—after all, your kinks have to match those of the person you're attracted to. And what if the kink you're into is simply too niche for the vanilla nerds who've turned up on the night? ...
"Place your hands below your husband's foot?" Surely a controversial statement in Shakespeare's time, in today's world it is hopelessly misogynistic. Unless... What if Katharina is a submissive in search of her Dominant? What if Bianca is a Dom auditioning subs?
With the success of "Fifty Shades of Grey," BDSM is front and center in the public consciousness, but is still largely misunderstood. Broads' Word Theatre sets Shakespeare's outdated Taming of the Shrew in a BDSM dungeon, where the all-female cast investigates the dynamics of power and submission with a modern fearlessness.
Tell me... what is your fantasy?
Katharina (Jen Albert) is the older sister of Bianca (Tara Donovan). Although Bianca has several suitors - including Lucentio (Dana DeRuyck), Gremio (Marti Hale) and Hortensio (Esther Mira) - her father Baptista (Lacy Altwine) won't let her marry until the notoriously difficult Katharina finds a husband. Enter Petruchio (Dawn Alden), who embraces the challenge.
As a life-long lover of Shakespeare's "Taming of the Shew" and now a fan of the "Fifty Shades of Grey" trilogy, I was certainly wondering how the two could be combined. Well it appears to be much easier than I thought given the exciting new production of "Fifty Shades of Shrew" at the Lounge Theater. The all-female cast, most members of the production company Broads' Word Theatre, uses the Bard's exact text and makes it come alive in the most creative BDSM connotations possible by just using a different emphasis on words and actions that promote such fun activities as spanking, Master/Submissive games, handcuffs, and other elements which are discussed for the uninitiated by latex-clad Mistress Kara before the play begins.
Standouts in the cast are Dawn Alden as the overly macho Petruchio, Jen Albert as Master wanna-be Katharina, Lacy Altwine as huffy Baptista, and Marti Hale as Bianca's jilted suitor Gremio. Tara Donovan begins the show as apparently super submissive Bianca until she meets her match in Lucentio (Dana DeRuyck)and discovers how fun it is to lead him around. Quite comical and very fun to watch! ...
The rumors are true: author EL James is writing another book in the worldwide hit series, Fifty Shades of Please God Not Again. The new book, to be released this summer, will be written not from the point of view of original protagonist Anastasia, but from the perspective of the domination-happy and ultra-rich Christian Grey.As if women don’t hear enough about what sex counts as “good” from real assholes, now we’re going to have to contend with the perspective of a fictional one as well!
The book, desperate not raise reader expectations beyond mind-numbing obviousness and mediocrity, will be called, “Grey: Fifty Shades of Grey as Told by Christian.” Riveting.
Yes, I realize I’m in the minority here – over 100m copies of the so-called erotica series have been sold, and the movie adaptation broke records with its $81.7m dollar opening weekend. But its popularity can’t change the horrific combination of bad writing, BDSM myths and the charming notion that most women secretly want a bossy rich guy to stalk them and smack them around a bit.
The book series focuses on the life of Anastasia Steele, a hapless college senior who bites her lip a lot and meets a fabulously wealthy CEO who’s into BDSM. But as Emma Green wrote earlier this year in The Atlantic, “Fifty Shades eroticizes sexual violence, but without any of the emotional maturity and communication required to make it safe.”
As several experienced BDSM practitioners emphasized to me, there are healthy, ethical ways to consensually combine sex and pain. All of them require self-knowledge, communication skills, and emotional maturity in order to make the sex safe and mutually gratifying. The problem is that Fifty Shades casually associates hot sex with violence, but without any of this context.
The biggest problem with the sex in Fifty Shades isn’t the violent sex: it’s the normalization of the lack of communication between the participants in that violent sex that is dangerous for both BDSM neophytes and experienced practitioners.
And it doesn’t get better for the BDSM community: eventually Christian comes to believe his penchant for sexual domination is due to childhood abuse and gives it up – a further mischaracterization of BDSM as an emotional problem that needs to be cured. Anastasia gets an end to the kinky sex she never really seemed that into but almost allowed to happen to her and a bordering-on-traditional marriage with children. The sexual politics stink: BDSM isn’t a sign of illness and no one should consent to sex they don’t really like and wish they didn’t have to put up with. ...
NCSF thanks AASECT for allowing us to produce A Taste of Kink with the AASECT Alt Sex SIG at their annual conference this past weekend in Minneapolis. 109 members received 3 Continuing Education credits for attending the event which showed demonstrations of BDSM activities and allowed participants to "taste" the sensation.
It was an exciting event that has been years in the making by the kink-aware sex educators, counselors and therapists of AASECT. Attendees had the opportunity to talk to kinky people about their relationships, and how and why they enjoy BDSM and fetishes.
Thank you to all the MN kink volunteers who gave generously of themselves, welcoming the AASECT members into the inner workings of our community!
Leaders of the Puppy Community Initiative on Facebook, have gathered together to create a “Code of Conduct” for pups and handlers to take in consideration in public spaces. As the puppy community has grown and their cultural concepts are solidifying more and more, there are some who are stepping up to ensure that a good time is had by all-both Pup community members and non.
The purpose of the Puppy Community Initiative according to their Facebook page – “This is to find ways we can work within our community and be able to interact better at all community events and interact better with other aspects of the Leather/Kink Communities.”