A number of essayists, at Slate and elsewhere, have criticized the affirmative consent policies that are increasingly being adopted at universities across America. The basic idea underlying these policies is that “s/he didn’t say no” should not be an acceptable excuse for initiating unwanted sexual contact. It raises the bar from “no means no” to “yes means yes.” For sexual conduct to be acceptable, each participant must understand that their partner(s) are actively and continuously agreeing that the experience should continue.
I share some concerns about how these policies are being implemented. In particular, they will remain irrelevant as long as rape investigations are handled by university officials who are biased against admitting that sexual assaults happen on their turf and who lack adequate training to be effective as either investigators or victims’ counselors and advocates, let alone both. However, I do not agree that the affirmative consent standard is the problem. The problem is that it is not universal.
If you observe the way Americans tell stories about sex—in porn, romance novels,popular movies, song lyrics, even in our ineffective abstinence-only sex-ed classes and our schoolyard gossip—it becomes clear that part of our tacit understanding of “good” sex is that it is spontaneous, initiated by a strong male and yielded to by a compliant female. We actively discourage communication. A real man knows intuitively when his woman is ready and how to please her. Asking, or even worse getting told what to do, is a turn off and a threat to his masculine identity. On the flip side, only sluts know so much about sex that they come on to a man, or can describe what they want. These stereotypes set the stage for young people to hurt each other—they’re part of the foundation of what activists describe as rape culture. They must be directly targeted and dismantled.
One advantage of having aberrant desires is that it forces you to learn to articulate what you want, which is a valuable skill for anyone, in or out of the bedroom. Even if your tastes are completely “normal” and you’re looking for a long-term monogamous partner, shedding embarrassment about discussing sex frankly, and conquering fears of rejection, will improve your sexual and romantic life. When you have a new flame, you can find ways to hint at what you want in flirty conversations, or by pointing at examples of pop culture or literature that model what you’re into, or even by sharing porn. You can tell funny stories about past encounters, if you’ve had any. If somebody’s threatened by the idea that you have a sexual past, or thinks it makes you a slut, you’re well rid of them. (If you don’t have a sexual history, you can still share what you’ve learned from exploring your sexuality on your own. And if you haven’t even spent time discovering what you enjoy on your own, then you’re probably not ready to have a partner.) Learning about each other’s histories and fantasies should be a fun way to build intimacy, long before any clothes come off. Once you’re getting hot and heavy, consent can be sexy:
(Playful voice) “I saw that look. Are you thinking about [X]?”
“If you’d like me to [Y], honey, you’re gonna have to beg.”
“Ohhh, you gorgeous thing ... I want you to [Z]!”
The California affirmative consent law explicitly acknowledges that even nonverbal cues—appreciative moaning or physically “leaning in” to a partner’s touch—can constitute affirmative consent. There have been legitimate criticisms of the law—in particular, it may be problematic to create a different standard for campuses than for the rest of the state, and for college students than for everyone else. The larger problem, though, is that we train young people to expect, and act on, the lower standard. ...
The highly anticipated film adaptation of E.L. James’ erotic novel “Fifty Shades of Grey,” starring Jamie Dornan as dominant Christian Grey and Dakota Johnson as submissive Anastasia Steele, debuts Valentine’s Day 2015.
But the film has been beset by difficulties in casting (Charlie Hunnam dropped out of the starring role) and reports that Dornan and Johnson had to reshoot sex scenes because of their lack of chemistry.
And now Dornan has angered some in the BDSM community for comments he recently made in an interview with Elle about his visit to a sex dungeon in preparation for his role as the "dom" Christian Grey.
“I saw a dominant with one of his two submissives,” Dornan told Elle. “It was an interesting evening. Then going back to my wife and newborn baby afterwards … I had a long shower before touching either one of them.”
“Hahahah, how hilarious!” wrote blogger TheMarySue sarcastically. “Sexual preferences that deviate from the norm are repulsive, even when all parties involved are consenting! Unless, of course, you can exploit and chronically misrepresent those preferences in a highly problematic film, in which case deviancy is hot, hot, hot!”
She went on to say that Dornan's comments “dehumanize BDSM participants” and demonstrate that the “Fifty Shades’ creative team doesn’t understand or respect the very lifestyle it’s ostensibly showcasing.”
Rumpus-founder and author Stephen Elliott ("Happy Baby," "The Adderall Diaries"), who counts BDSM sexuality has his primary sexual orientation, agreed with her and considered the comments discriminatory. Elliott also took issue with the way in which the BDSM community took Dornan in and allowed him to see their sexuality, only to have him talk about them like "circus freaks."
"To me it's the equivalent of making a movie about gay people and making homophobic remarks," Elliott told International Business Times of Dornan's comments. "For some people, BDSM is an orientation. 'Fifty Shades of Grey' is based on people who exist. To make a movie based on those people and then call their desires disgusting, I feel like anyone with kinky desires should boycott this film."
How a sophomore is making waves in the BDSM community.
By Jordan-Marie Smith
BDSM (bondage, discipline, sadism and masochism) is an acronym that might conjure up ideas of leather-clad dominatrixes in velvety lounges but they might not be the four letters that people associate with a sophomore college student.
Think of a typical college student’s night out. There might be basement fraternity parties, drinks at Sign of the Whale in Dupont or a quiet night watching Netflix. College of Arts and Sciences student Gwen, who asked that an alias be used to protect her privacy, does some of those things. Although on any given night she might also be suspended from metal hooks attached to a pendulum of thick ropes, arms behind her back, not very clothed and taking orders from a top, or dominant partner, in a dungeon. The Crucible in NoMa, Maryland served as D.C.'s primary dungeon for local kinksters, including Gwen.
Gwen is an up-and-coming bottom, or submissive partner, in the D.C., Maryland and Virginia's BDSM community. Her involvement in the scene started after she joined a social networking site for kinksters. Later, her friend invited her to The Crucible.
It's taken Gwen only two months to get invited to a DMV fetish ball and Philly kink convention.
There is a range of people who participate in the scene and make it their own. BDSM is a normal part of life for all kinds of people that you wouldn’t expect: Wall Street types, professors, bosses and students.
It's a scene that's often misunderstood. Despite what a majority of people might think, BDSM is not entirely sexual. Fifty percent is sexual and 50 percent is therapeutic release, according to Gwen.
For Gwen, playing is usually therapeutic. Before getting involved in the community, she worried her age would be a distracting factor. Most of Gwen's partners are much older than her, she said.
“I thought my age would freak people out. I really thought that, me being in college, they would either obsess over my age and be like ‘I have to play with her’ or ‘She’s way too young she reminds me of my own kids or my niece or my nephew,’” Gwen said. “But people really don’t care about the age.”
People who want to “play” with Gwen want to do so not because of her age, but because of her attitude when it comes to putting her trust in a partner holding the whip.
“One of the most common things I’ve gotten is people really want to play with me because, apparently, I have this energy that is super positive and open and whether you are believer of energy or play or not, it’s a factor,” Gwen said. “It’s an amazing thing to feel and to be the recipient and the cause of.”
One of her partners mentioned that her smile alone changed the energy of whichever scene they were doing at the time, according to Gwen. That excitement and happiness isn’t frivolous, she said.
“I’m not going to go willy-nilly, pell-mell jumping off the deep end and burning out,” Gwen said. “They say I’m pretty level-headed and I know what I want.” ...
After a turkey-meatloaf dinner, they went down to the dungeon and she undressed, tied her hair up, put on a cat mask and leather collar, and assumed slave position on her knees.
Even before the whip hit, the slave’s fingers curled into a fist. A spandex mask stretched over his face, covering his eyes and nose. His chin rested on the thick plastic collar buckled around his neck. A metal ring accented its front, at the Adam’s apple. Chained to a large X-shaped table, propped up in a standing position with his arms above his head and legs spread, his mouth hung agape waiting for the air to split and the whip to sing. …
Upstairs, in the living room, splintered logs of hemlock cackled and spat from inside the wood stove. The main floor of the house boasted the usual makings of a home: a dining room table with four chairs and corresponding placemats, a piano that acted both as an instrument and a bookshelf, a vintage three-seater sofa, dozens of different strands of tea in a cabinet above the stove, a guest room with a private bathroom, and a collection of empty wine bottles, mostly French, opened and shared in the house over the years by Master R, the founder of La Domaine Esemar, the only Bondage, Discipline, Sadomasochism (BDSM) chateau left in the world (and, also, a completely legitimate and legal business, where clients come for erotic, non-intercourse-related services) that specializes not only in dominant/submissive roleplaying and fetishism for paying clients, but also engages in long-term, lifestyle applications of BDSM with specific individuals. His home as well as his place of work, R, who has been running La Domaine since 1993 (and, at 65, has been practicing BDSM as a lifestyle since the 1960s) has publically announced that he will be retiring as owner of the chateau.
“I’ve always wanted to do this. I’ve always had the crazy idea of having my own S&M chateau and end up retiring up here,” explained R, who, starting this year, has officially passed the whip down to Mistress Couple, who acts as Head Mistress and is currently training mistresses to work under her. She had been living at La Domaine full-time since last summer and, downstairs in the dungeon, was now flogging Slave Destiny—one of ten house slaves at La Domaine—as he bent over a horse’s saddle, his fingers clenched through every stroke of her treatment. …
Does your media agency have resources for these special interest pieces?Contact the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom for interviews and information on kink and open relationships. NCSF is the national advocate for consensual adult sexual expression.
There has been a significant interest in BDSM sparked by the wildly successful Fifty Shades of Grey. Similar topics appeared in recent TV Shows from CSI to House to Desperate Housewives, and even animated shows such as American Dad.
Furthermore many people, married and otherwise, are discovering and practicing non-monogamy. From polyamory to swinging to open relationships, a notable percentage of the public are shifting their relationship parameters in an honest and ethical fashion. These people are taking cues from books like Opening Up and The Ethical Slut, along with TV Shows such as Showtime’sPolyamory: Married and Dating.
A compare and contrast: What the movie got right, what the movie got wrong and what you need to know about kink.
“Who, What & How”
The kink subculture: What its practitioners like to do, and the kind of people who are kinky.
“What is Consent?”
Consent is enthusiastic and informed agreement, without coercion or pressure, and is agreed upon while you’re of sound mind.
Open relationships aren’t just sexy storybook fantasies. Relationships with more than two people take honesty, effort and ethical agreements.
“Persecution of Kinksters”
Job discrimination and child custody challenges result in only one-in-three people being “out” about their involvement in kink.
“Kink is not a Diagnosis”
The American Psychiatric Association agrees that kink is a healthy form of sexual expression.
The NCSF is the national advocate and resource for consenting adults who engage in kink and non-monogamy. The NCSF is a coalition of educational and social groups across America, along with the businesses that serve them and individuals who are kinky. Since its formation in 1997, the NCSF and its programs have significantly changed the way the media, legal and psychiatric professions view kink and non-monogamy.
For now, a few teasers. Firstly Mr Dornan arrived direct from one Mr Eddie Redmayne's stag do (Eddie stars on our January issue collector's cover, get it here). We have never seen anyone so tired and still vertical. Yet even one-step-short-of-comatose he sent the temperature through the roof.
Secondly, he told us all about researching the part of Christian Grey. So how does a nice lad from Holywood, Co. Down, prepare to play THIS sexual sadist (as opposed to the sexual sadist serial killer he plays in The Fall)?
He visits a sex-dungeon of course. "I went there, they offered me a beer, and they did…whatever they were into. I saw a dominant with one of his two submissives," he says.
There was plenty of kink... and plenty laughter. "I was like: 'Come on guys I know I'm not paying for this but I am expecting a show.' It was an interesting evening. Then going back to my wife and newborn baby afterwards... I had a long shower before touching either of them." ...
Finally, a video game that may start to undo all the damage that "Grand Theft Auto" has done. (Maybe.) Hurt Me Plenty — an interactive, online game now available for free download — teaches you how to engage in BDSM practices safely. All you need is a trackpad.
The game begins with a consenting partner (whom developer Robert Yang describes as a "hairy beefcake") kneeling on all fours, ready for you to administer some light BDSM. Swiping your hand along your computer's trackpad, sort of as you would when spanking someone, garners a reaction from your partner ("Yes, Mistress!"). It's a pretty brief game, and you win when your partner is sufficiently aroused and you've maintained the intimacy of your sexual encounter.
If any boundaries are crossed (if you spank too hard or for too long, for example), your partner in the game shouts "STOP!" When that happens, it's safe to say you lose — and that you have a few more rounds to go before you understand how to be respectful in your little 3-D bedroom. Of course, the game doesn't address the complexities of negotiation with an IRL partner; the use of safe words, for example, or any two-way discussion of boundaries is notably absent. But, despite its playful name and relatively simple design, Hurt Me Plenty aims for a teachable moment. It reinforces the necessary rules of playing with submission, dominance, and pain with a sexual partner: that these practices should be carried out in an open, safe way, preferably with plenty of enthusiasm.