The year 2015 was a landmark one for same-sex couples in America—the Supreme Court made marriage equality the law of the land, and even before the decision, some 390,000 gay couples had already gotten hitched in states like Massachusetts and New York. The Washington Post projected that number would increase nationwide to 500,000 by the end of the year.
What makes these newly married couples unique is more than their gender. Surveys indicate that a high percentage of same-sex relationships—particularly among queer men—are non-monogamous, and often even after marriage.
Over the past decade and a half, studies from San Francisco State University and Alliant International University have found that around half of gay relationships are open. This rate is considerably higher than for heterosexual and lesbian couples, but it’s difficult to say by how much exactly, due to the widespread lack of substantive research on the subject. (After all, SFSU’s Gay Couples Study was back in 2010.)
Conservative estimates suggest that less than 1 percent of all married couples are in an open relationship, but other approximations are much higher. Back in 1983, the authors of American Couples, Phillip Blumstein and Pepper Schwartz, found that around 15 percent of committed partners—whether homo or heterosexual—had agreements that allowed for some degree of flexibility.
Writer and sex columnist Dan Savage famously described these arrangements as “monogamish”—“mostly monogamous, not swingers, not actively looking.” And even more couples are in them than you think. I’d say that the Alliant and SFU figures are a tad low, at least for gays. I can’t speak for lesbian couples, but few queer men I know—including myself—are in relationships that are exclusively, 100-percent monogamous. Some couples occasionally invite a third into the bedroom for a night of play, while others independently arrange their own casual hookups. Some men might even have long-term partners outside their primary relationship.
In a 2013 column for Slate, Hanna Rosin called non-monogamy the gay community’s “dirty little secret,” citing a study from the ’80s, which showed that up to 82 percent of gay couples had sex with other people. That number sounds about right to me, but here’s the thing: It’s not dirty and it’s hardly a secret, at least if you know where to look.
Monogamish couples are a constant presence on apps like Grindr and Scruff, which allow gay men to connect with other men to chat or hook up. Users commonly describe themselves as “dating,” “in an open relationship,” “partnered,” or “married,” while others set up an account with their partner if they’re looking to play together.
I spoke to one couple that hasn’t let marriage get in the way of their Scruff account. Eric, 34, and Martin, 33, walked down the aisle last October after dating for five years. Like many gay couples, they were initially monogamous, although with “infrequent and informal” exceptions. “Think post-bar bathhouse outings,” Eric explained. But after creating a profile together on Scruff a few years ago, the couple agreed on a set of boundaries. “We only sleep with people together, we have to both communicate with the person to some extent before we meet up, and the guy has to very clearly be attracted to both of us,” Eric said.
Like nearly everyone I spoke to, the pair had few gay friends that were in monogamous relationships, and Martin believes it’s because there are fewer rules and expectations around gay relationships. “I think we don’t have heteronormative templates that we have to subscribe to,” Martin said. “There’s just not that same kind of pressure to be monogamous when you’re gay.” ...
Lightsabers aren't just for defending the galaxy; when used correctly (with a safe word), they can provide hours of sexy fun. Etsy seller Geek Kink turns to lightsabers and other trappings of the Star Wars universe to create enough whips, restraints, and paddles to keep BDSM aficionados sore and still through the entire saga.
Geek Kink doesn't trade just in Star Wars sex toys. The shop also sells TARDIS-handled canes, Harley Quinn restraints, and enough My Little Pony tail-shaped paddles to swat the bums of a small, horse-loving army.
Bootblack and artist Leslie Anderson opens NAKED LEATHER exhibit during the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom and Leather Archives & Museum Sexual Freedom Reception. 1/22/16 8p at LA&M. Free shuttle to and from Creating Change host hotel.
Remember stories from the 60s and 70s, when couples went to parties and put their house keys in a punch bowl? The person's keys you drew at the end of the night was the person you went home with.
Few people know this, but swinging as a fad in America actually began in the 1950s with Air Force officers in California swapping wives. Today, though, in clubs and private homes in London, Paris, New York, and many other places, the swinger trend has reemerged. Nightline, ABC News, The Daily Mail and plenty of other media outlets have covered it. Some participants are bored, middle-aged couples trying to revitalize their sex lives. Others are young, sophisticated urbanites looking for a weekend thrill and a way to blow off steam after a stressful work week.
Times have certainly changed since the 60s Sexual Revolution! What was once extremely taboo and only took place behind closed doors now has a website, and researchers are noticing a shift towards younger generations. Once, swingers were generally 35+, but that's changing. Today's 20- and 30-somethings are marrying later and are taking their liberated dating habits into marriage. It's not surprising that they are also more apt to take part in zestier enterprises once there, lacking the urge for secrecy and guilt the older generation faced.
Gen X and Millennials are interpreting monogamy in an entirely new way these days. What's more, women seem to be the ones driving the most recent swinging fad, calling the shots and being choosy with their partners.
So should you try swinging?
That's entirely up to you, your partner, and your shared interpretation of your relationship. Some people can't stand the idea of their lover with someone else. Others find nothing hotter. There are women who allow their partner to kiss and touch other partners, but still keep sex off-limits. Others allow kissing, touching and oral sex, but no penetration. Some couples allow freebies during business trips or when one partner is more than 20 miles away from home. Then, of course, there are plenty of "no holds barred" couples as well. There are endless variations and combinations. Some couples don't want to know anything about the other's escapades; others want to know every detail. Swingers are just as varied and individual as any like-minded group of people, and it all comes down to individual preferences that have been clearly communicated between committed partners.
So how can you get into swinging?
If this is a conversation you've never had with your partner, try to feel them out first with indirect questions and casual conversation. Be subtle at first. Suggest a movie or book where swinging takes place and is portrayed positively, and then see how they react. Then sometime later discuss it with them, and don't just make it sound like you're looking for some guilt-free cheating. Tell them what excites you and turns you on about it, and ask if it excites them too. ...
When *** was handwritten on books and periodicals in the New York Public Library’s permanent collection, it meant one thing: supervision required.
The triple-star code, created some time in the first part of the 20th century, identified the printed works that were considered too hot for the general reader to handle.
Playboy was once classified with a triple star. So were raunchy pulp novels, fliers for Times Square massage parlors, business cards offering phone sex for $2 a minute, even playing cards with illustrations of naked women.
For decades, they were kept in locked cages, accessible only with special permission and viewed in a small, secured area in the main research library.
More recently, hundreds of works that make up the triple-star collection have been liberated from the restricted controls. An adult with a library card can simply fill out a request and peruse the material on the premises. (The library maintains a filter system to restrict access to erotic materials on the Internet.)
“Erotica was not something we were particularly going after, but we needed to collect life as it was lived,” said Jason Baumann, a collections curator. “We needed to understand and document for history what the city of New York was like. That meant collecting the good and the bad. It was always part of our mandate.”
The triple-star collection is a miniature version of the vast archive of erotica at France’s National Library. That collection, called “L’Enfer” (“Hell”), dates from the 19th century, when the library, in Paris, isolated any work considered “contrary to good morals.” In 2008, the National Library mounted its first major exhibition of highlights from the collection. It drew record crowds; no one under 16 was admitted.
The New York Public Library, by contrast, has never had a similar exhibition. The materials are not as rich, and the standards of what is considered proper for an exhibition in a public institution differ in France from those in the United States.
And unlike France’s National Library, whose sexually explicit material is contained in one archive, only a part of the Public Library’s erotica was designated triple star. The rest is dispersed in other collections in the building, including in the Berg Collection of English and American Literature (rare books and manuscripts) and the Spencer Collection (artists’ books and illuminated manuscripts).
A guided visit to the library revealed some of the richness of its erotic (or pornographic, depending on who was doing the classification) material. The works are hidden treasures, many of them awaiting discovery. Not even the curators and librarians know everything that is there.
“There were many materials in the library’s special collections that I had never seen before,” Mr. Baumann said. “The range and depth of our collections never ceases to astonish me.”
The main building of the Public Library had such an impact on the neighborhood that there was once a massage parlor a block away on West 43rd Street named the Library. A 1976 flier in the *** collection advertised its $10, tip-included service, with “7 Beautiful Librarians to Service You.” The flier shows a longhaired “librarian” dressed in a necklace and high heels. A large bunch of feathers covers her private parts. ...
Bob Dylan had it right when he said "The times they are a changing." While a few decades ago the idea of a polyamorous relationship may have been largely unheard of, more Americans than ever are accepting of the practice (although a majority still oppose it) and psychologists estimate that up to 5% of Americans are in consensual, poly relationships.
This is potentially for good reason. A recent study published in The Archives of Sexual Behavior is perhaps providing further proof that less traditional configurations of love and sexuality may have some benefits we hadn't yet considered.
The study, which compared "mate retention behaviors" between monogamous and consensually non-monogamous (CNM) couples discovered that when it came to satisfaction with the primary partner, both types of relationships reported equal levels of happiness.
But non-monogamous couples did express a notable difference in one key area: communication. According to the study, "...Monogamous participants reported less satisfaction with the amount of communication and openness they had with their partner compared to CNM participants’ reports of their primary partner." Despite the idea of "sharing everything" with your partner, polyamorous couples tend to be more open and sharing than their monogamous counterparts. I guess communication really is that important. ...
Plush Talent, a New York City-based agency representing adult film stars, recently started giving new clients a welcome guide to the porn industry. Along with tips on social media (“Twitter is a must have for every porn star, period.”) and taking photos for producers (“Don’t use filters”) the guide has a section on “Reputation.” It begins: “The adult industry is a lot smaller than you think and everyone talks, especially if they run into a problem with someone. What I tell the girls is, they are to act like robots …. Little adorable performer robots.”
Telling women to be well-behaved may sound repressive, said Kelli Roberts, the 19-year industry veteran who wrote it, but her intention was to warn female performers to let their agents handle on-set issues. The guide even suggests that if an issue arises, they pretend to go to the bathroom to make the call.
Roberts, who serves as kind of den mother/advocate for young women in the industry, said on-set issues tend toward “jackass producers who try and change what they agreed to at the last minute,” like one director who booked a model for a blow job scene then asked her to perform in rape fantasy once she was on location, or adding new partners to a scene last minute.
Her advice is a reminder that on-set “issues” in the porn business are common enough that models literally need a guidebook to help navigate them, and that there’s a wide gulf between what happens on paper and what happens on set.
That ambiguity extends far beyond respecting agreements about what people are willing to do on camera. In interviews with dozens of performers, producers, directors, and agents, BuzzFeed News found that not only are avenues for reporting sexual assault on a porn set unclear — it’s even a point of contention whether such assaults are common. Many described the industry as a close-knit community that bands together to drive out bad actors, where assault is rare and consequences for it unforgiving.
Many also argued such an environment leaves performers, especially those new to the industry, vulnerable to abuse, with little formal recourse if something goes wrong. And the events of recent weeks have shone a harsh spotlight on the industry and one of porn’s few household names, who has been accused of — and vehemently denied — sexual assault against co-stars and fellow performers dating back years.
Since late November, nine women have claimed that James Deen sexually assaulted them, quickly elevating the issue from the insular porn community to the national stage.
Two of the allegations were related to incidents said to have occurred in his personal life, but the others allegedly took place in a professional context, at a shoot or in a porn studio — during and after a scene. None of Deen’s accusers formally reported the alleged assaults at the time; in the instances where the women did speak up in the moment, neither the studio nor the director investigated further.
The lack of reporting is a red flag, many believe. “The question I think our industry has to ask ourselves is why did the women feel that they wouldn’t be heard or why didn’t they feel safe coming forward?” Diane Duke, CEO of the Free Speech Coalition, a trade association for adult film producers, told BuzzFeed News. “The avenues are there,” she continued. “Why don’t people feel comfortable using them?”
In contrast, the industry’s response to the women going public — long after the fact and without the involvement of authorities — has been unequivocal. “He’s the biggest performer in the industry,” said Eric John, a longtime actor and producer. “And they blacklisted him.” ...
On a warm Saturday night in November, about 800 gay men wearing harnesses and other items made of leather gathered at Brut, a party held at Santos Party House in Lower Manhattan.
Mostly in their 20s and 30s, the men danced to pounding house music, flirted in an intimate lounge below the dance floor and ogled two beefy go-go men gyrating on boxes. Shirts came off, but leather harnesses stayed on all night, as Brut bills itself as New York’s only monthly leather party.
But if the party was introducing the leather scene to younger gay men who had never heard of the Village People, it also underscored a social shift: The leather scene has lost much of its overt sadomasochistic edge, and is now more about dressing up.
“I’m wearing a harness from Nasty Pig” — a sex-oriented clothing store in Chelsea — “but I’m not a part of the leather community,” said Joseph Alexiou, 31, a writer in New York, who was taking a break from the dance floor. “This party is introducing leather in a fun way that doesn’t seem so serious.”
Stalwarts of the leather scene agree that there has been a shift from lifestyle to sexy dress-up.
David Lauterstein, who opened Nasty Pig in 1994 with his husband, Frederick Kearney, said that his store has undergone a transformation of its own. While the store still carries leather harnesses and chaps, they have become seasonal items tied to specific parties; most racks these days display flannel shirts, hoodies and nylon bomber jackets.
“Leather has been integrated into the larger downtown culture, as gay sexuality has become more accepted,” Mr. Lauterstein said. “Being into kinky stuff doesn’t mean you have to wear certain clothing to let the world know.”
The leather scene used to occupy a very visible part of gay culture. In the 1960s through the early ’80s, men in leather caps and chaps could be seen strutting about Christopher Street, looking as if they had emerged from aTom of Finland illustration by way of a Marlon Brando movie still.
“Leather became metaphoric for claiming masculinity,” said Michael Bronski, a gender and sexuality studies professor at Harvard University and author of “A Queer History of the United States.” “These guys were baby boomers who’d been told that being gay meant being a sweater queen or being fluffy or effeminate.”
Gay leather bars dotted Manhattan, with names like the Spike, Rawhide, the Ramrod and Badlands. And during the city’s annual gay pride parade, wearers of leather played a prominent role. Indeed, the annual Leather Pride Night party was one of the parade’s main sources of funding.
But “progress” in the name of same-sex marriage, social acceptance and civil rights seemed to have taken its toll on the leather scene.
“Many factors, like gentrification and the fight for marriage equality, have contributed to the rise in homonormality,” said Jeremiah Moss, who chronicles the city’s evolution on the site Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York. “This is a very American melting pot phenomenon: If you assimilate, if you give up what makes you different, you can have rights.” ...