Whips, chains, collars, gags, blindfolds, handcuffs, knives… My eyes roam the soundproof room in which we are enclosed. The subject of our conversation is BDSM (Bondage, Domination, Sadism, and Masochism), a discipline that includes a wide variety of consensual power-exchange activities suggested by the various implements on display.
“Whether they are soldiers or victims,” Leslie Rogers explains, “there is nothing that binds people together better than war. What I'm re-creating in BDSM is like war—but in re-creating war, I'm ending it. I'm going to a place with you where I shouldn't go, and we’ll meet there, and in the end we’ll realize that we are still capable of being loved.”
I am talking with Rogers in a dungeon beneath a cabin in Salinas, California. The burly 36-year-old has one hand on the bar of a jail cell. The other clutches the nape of his partner’s neck, 33-year-old Tani Thole.
“We come across as really straight and vanilla,” Thole noted with a grin. “I have this soccer-mom vibe, and Leslie has a businessman vibe. People are very surprised when they find out who we really are.”
The American Psychiatric Association has its own definition. Rogers, a self-identified dominant, enthusiastically endorses having “recurrent and intense sexual arousal from the physical or psychological suffering of another person.” In her desire to be the object of that suffering, Thole, a self-identified submissive, is his mirror image and ideal mate. Respectively, they meet all primary criteria for Sexual Sadism and Sexual Masochism Disorders.
However, rather than experiencing “significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning,” the pair credits their lifestyle with producing dramatic improvements in mental health. While conventional psychotherapists still debate the ethics of hugging their patients, Rogers and Thole have pioneered a form of intensive therapy that incorporates consensual BDSM activities into their sessions with clients. The objective is to activate repressed emotions in order to process them in a safe and supportive environment.
In order to better understand their technique, which they call Light/Dark Therapy, the couple invited me to participate in an immersion with them. For the next 48 hours, we will not leave this cabin.
* * *
While psychology has historically defined sadomasochism as strictly pathological, there is some research that supports Rogers and Thole’s perspective.
A study from the Netherlands found a greater prevalence of positive psychological traits in BDSM practitioners than in the general public. The practitioners were less neurotic, more extraverted, more open to new experiences, more conscientious, less rejection sensitive, and had higher subjective well-being.
A subsequent U.S. study of BDSM-identified couples found reductions in self-reported stress and negative affect, as well as increases in intimacy following BDSM play.
According to Brad Sagarin, the effects can be even more profound. The psychologist’s latest paper investigates the potential for sadomasochistic activities to induce altered states of consciousness.
“Dominants show evidence of flow,” Sagarin explained, “a very pleasurable state that occurs when people are in optimum performance and tune out the rest of the world. The submissive seems to enter a different altered state of consciousness that the BDSM community refers to as sub-space—a pleasurable and timeless, almost floating feeling.”
Sagarin attributes the changes in a submissive’s consciousness to a temporary reduction in prefrontal-cortex activity, which is thought to be integral to the euphoric and dissociative experience of endurance runners, meditators, and individuals under hypnosis.
“One of the things that resides in the prefrontal cortex is our sense of self,” Sagarin elaborated. “When that area of the brain gets down-regulated, we can lose the distinction between ourselves and the universe.” ...
Three women have defied deeply conservative trends in Brazil by celebrating a polyamorous civil union.
The happy trio, who reportedly have shared a bed for years and say they want to raise a child, took an oath of love in early October in the presence of Rio de Janeiro notary Fernanda de Freitas Leitao.
The lovers - a businesswoman and a dentist who are both 32 and a 34-year-old office manager - have been together for three years and wish to remain anonymous.
While these are the first women to enter a three-way civil union, a similar ceremony was held in 2012 for a man and two women in Sao Paulo state.
Contrary to what you might have been told as a kid, vampires are real. At least according to DJ Williams, director of the social work program at Idaho State University anddirector of research at the Center for Positive Sexuality in Los Angeles. Williams argues not only are vampires real, they walk among us—and they deserve equal access to social services.
Williams made the case for vampire acceptance in his article, "Do We Always Practice What We Preach? Real Vampires' Fears of Coming out of the Coffin to Social Workers and Helping Professionals," published in Critical Social Work in July. While his research is focused on so-called "self-identified" groups like vampires, furries and BDSM practitioners, he said the principles of his work—arguing for more understanding of the nature of identity—can be applied much more broadly.
"We've seen a lot of people who are gay or lesbian who don't want to come out, who want to stay in the closet, because they face discrimination," he said. "It's the same process. They're the same social processes. We live in an age of technology so there are more possibilities for how people live and understand themselves. We need to be more savvy about that process so that we don't marginalize and discriminate. This isn't going to go away."
What is a self-identified vampire?
A self-identified vampire has to do with how people select that term to represent a part of themselves. They can be categorized as lifestyle vampires, in which they identify with a certain aspect or persona of the mythical vampire, versus real vampires, who use the term "real" to distinguish themselves from lifestylers. But real vampires believe they have a deficit processing energy.
What kind of energy are we talking about?
They call it "subtle human energy." They feel like they need a little extra energy to feel healthy physically, psychologically and spiritually. A lot of times when people hear "vampire" or "real vampire," people think that's very strange. It's interesting to me how the word "vampire" has a different connotation for people. Outsiders really tend to focus on the term "vampire" and the associations that come up. That gets in the way of clinicians, too.
How many vampires would you say there are in Idaho?
It's hard to say because it's such a closed community, for good reason. Our experience is that any substantial city is probably going to have a vampire community or vampires. Numbers are difficult, but our estimates are probably in the thousands worldwide. This is an international phenomenon. A vampire community study got 750 responses from over 30 countries. It gives you a little more perspective. But there's a lot of demographic diversity in this community. There's tremendous age diversity and diversity in terms of religious identification, culture and education level.
What about other self-identified communities?
We get a lot of media attention with our vampire study, but my research team studies people who engage in BDSM, and we see very similar kinds of things. A lot of demographic diversity. Clinicians are starting to get a little bit of a grasp on those kinds of worlds, but there's a lot of bias and marginalization still that needs to change.
What's the current disposition of social workers toward self-identified groups?
With BDSM, there's accumulating research now that people who engage in BDSM are normal, well-adjusted people, but there's still a lot of bias among clinicians to frame it pathologically. Now when we look at vampires as another step further, we see the same kind of thing happening. With people who engage in BDSM, we have a difficult time finding clinicians who are open-minded to work with that population. Vampires are an even more secretive, underground group, and there's even less information about this community and who these people are.
How do these kinds of biases manifest in the clinical setting?
We struggle with relationships sometimes, or career changes. That sort of thing. When somebody who's in a minority position goes to a clinician for something like that, that really should be the focus of treatment and intervention. But at the same time, the better a clinician can understand the client's world, the better the rapport is going to be between the clinician and the client. The issue is, somebody comes in and they understand themselves in a certain way, it would be really helpful if the clinician could understand that and work within the client's world to provide better treatment. ...
That’s the solution to China’s huge surplus of single men, says Xie Zuoshi, an economics professor at the Zhejiang University of Finance and Economics, whose recent proposal to allow polyandry has gone viral.
Legalizing marriage between two men would also be a good idea, Mr. Xie wrote in a post that has since been removed from his blogs. (He has at least three blogs, and his Sina blog alone has more than 2.6 million followers.)
By 2020, China will have an estimated 30 million bachelors — called guanggun, or “bare branches.” Birth control policies that since 1979 have limited many families to one child, a cultural preference for boys and the widespread, if illegal, practice of sex-selective abortion have contributed to a gender imbalance that hovers around 117 boys born for every 100 girls.
Though some could perhaps detect a touch of Jonathan Swift in the proposal, Mr. Xie wrote that he was approaching the problem from a purely economic point of view.
Many men, especially poor ones, he noted, are unable to find a wife and have children, and are condemned to living and dying without offspring to support them in old age, as children are required to do by law in China. But he believes there is a solution.
A shortage raises the price of goods — in this case, women, he explained. Rich men can afford them, but poor men are priced out. This can be solved by having two men share the same woman.
“With so many guanggun, women are in short supply and their value increases,” he wrote. “But that doesn’t mean the market can’t be adjusted. The guanggun problem is actually a problem of income. High-income men can find a woman because they can pay a higher price. What about low-income men? One solution is to have several take a wife together.”
He added: “That’s not just my weird idea. In some remote, poor places, brothers already marry the same woman, and they have a full and happy life.”
Polyandry has been practiced before in China, particularly in impoverished areas, as a way to pool resources and avoid the breakup of property.
Yet much of the online response to Mr. Xie’s proposal has been outrage.
“Is this a human being speaking?” a user with the handle dihuihui wrote on Weibo.
“Trash-talking professor, many single guys want to ask, ‘Where’s your wife?’ ” a user who identified as Shanyu jinxiang1887003537 wrote.
Attempts to contact Mr. Xie on Monday were unsuccessful.
On Sunday, he published an indignant rebuttal on one of his blogs, accusing his critics of being driven by empty notions of traditional morality that are impractical and selfish — even hypocritical.
“Because I promoted the idea that we should allow poor men to marry the same woman to solve the problem of 30 million guanggun, I’ve been endlessly abused,” he wrote. “People have even telephoned my university to harass me. These people have groundlessly accused me of promoting immoral and unethical ideas.
“If you can’t find a solution that doesn’t violate traditional morality,” he continued, “then why do you criticize me for violating traditional morality? You are in favor of a couple made up of one man, one woman. But your morality will lead to 30 million guanggun with no hope of finding a wife. Is that your so-called morality?” ...
Pink Therapy is a British kink education and therapy group. They have been known to attend the Community-Academic Consortium for Research on Alternative Sexualities annual conference, which will next meet immediately prior to the 2016 Folsom Street Fair in San Francisco, September 24. 2016..
They have produced excellent educational materials about the handling of power and the ethical obligations of participants, leaders, facilitators, educators and therapists. I get questions all the time from therapists in training about their responsibilities at kink events. Should they even go? Do they need to sacrifice their personal sex lives to serve their clients? How long after a therapeutic relationship stops is it safe to be seen by a client at an event?
These documents, which do not answer all questions, do outline the ethical responsibilities of informed consent among participants at different levels of power and experience.
Pink Therapy has produced two sets of guidelines that can be downloaded from their website:
Guidelines for Community Members Attending Parties or Events, downloadable here:
How needed are these? The 2014 Consent Violations Survey reported that over 30% of the over 4000 respondents who volunteered to complete the survey had experienced a violation. This must not be confused with all kink event participants due to a self-selected sample, and we have no way of knowing what percentage of kinksters saw our survey, and how many of those decided to respond. But 20% of the violations involved kink event organizers or leadership in the event sponsorship. This violations were perceived not just as mistakes, but abuse of institutional authority within the community.
Please feel free to reproduce these, distribute them, and modify them as best suits your community.
Three people accused of conspiring to lure a 22-year-old Fallbrook woman out of her home three years ago, killing her and dumping her body in a neighboring county were convicted of first-degree murder and other felony charges Wednesday.
Louis Ray Perez, Dorothy Grace Marie Maraglino and Jessica Lynn Lopez were found guilty of murder, kidnapping, torture and attempted sexual battery by restraint. Perez and Maraglino were also convicted of conspiracy to commit kidnapping, though jurors acquitted Lopez of that charge.
The defendants were involved in bondage, discipline, sadism and masochism, often referred to as BDSM. Their conversations, writings and other expressions of BDSM fantasies became a major component of the evidence presented during the six-week trial, and several people who participated in the lifestyle were called to testify.
"We owe a great debt of gratitude to these individuals who basically exposed parts of their personal life to come forward and to offer testimony in hopes that ultimately justice could prevail," said Deputy District Attorney Patrick Espinoza after the verdicts were read, noting that the witnesses had been apprehensive because of intense media coverage early on in the case.
The victim, Brittany Killgore, was not involved in BDSM. Prosecutors Espinoza and Garret Wong argued that Killgore became the victim of the defendants' abduction fantasies played out in real life. She had just filed for divorce from her then-deployed Marine husband and was preparing to move back home with her parents in another state when she was killed.
On first hearing the word “guilty” for first-degree murder, Killgore’s parents hugged each other Wednesday as they sat in the front row of the courtroom. Her father Darryl Wrest closed his eyes as the guilty verdicts kept coming. Her mother Michelle Wrest dabbed her eyes.
Later, the mother thanked prosecutors for their work, and credited Sheriff's Detective Brian Patterson with "keeping us from completely losing our minds."
"Our daughter was a beautiful young woman inside and out, and unfortunately she ran across people that were not good, were monsters, and took her life," Michelle Wrest said. "She is going to be missed for the rest of our lives and we've got a lot of family that had to deal with this on a daily basis.
Recently I have had two conversations that reveal the incredible breadth of moral pluralism that exists not just in America but in the Christian population of America.
In one conversation, a young lady told me that her family adheres to a very conservative Protestant tradition. One aspect of this tradition is what can only be described as an extreme form of the idea that God set up a world where men are to rule and women are to serve.
In this family, the father works outside the home, but inside the home he is served by his women, a wife and daughter. After work, he comes in and sits down and puts up his feet. The nearest available woman literally takes off his boots and puts them away. He wants coffee. The nearest available woman makes him coffee. His women cook and serve and clean up after each of his meals. Every day. Every single day.
I gathered that the wife was much more amenable to this scheme than is the daughter. But contemplate that couple for just a minute. It is 2015. The feminist movement has helped shape modern America. Two women are serious candidates for president of the United States. But here in this country is a woman who has chosen to practice a religion in which it is explicitly understood that the man is superior and is to rule, the woman is inferior and is to serve. No one has required her to live such a lifestyle and to practice such a religion. But right now she (and many others) are voluntarily doing just that.
Second conversation. I had been lecturing on Christian sexual ethics to an audience of committed Christians. In the lecture, I ruled out the option of polyamory for Christians. I suggested that it was outside the boundaries of a recognizably Christian sexual ethic, that it had never been contemplated as an option in Christian history, and that there were very good reasons today to rule it out. I learned in a follow-up conversation that the practice of polyamory was not viewed in this way by certain of my listeners; that, indeed, there were practitioners of polyamory in the audience.
I had heard that polyamory was on the rise. I had not anticipated that it would be a live option among committed Christians.
It’s chaos out there. The spectrum of moral views among Christians on just about every subject spans from one extreme to another. And that’s within a faith community that supposedly shares a common Lord, common sacred text, and much common tradition. Now just add in adherents to every other religion and no religion at all and try to have a conversation. What a country!
For those who have managed to carve out a nicely homogeneous little enclave to live in, you might not notice it all that much. Everyone you know has a roughly similar set of beliefs.
But for various reasons I encounter the whole (Christian) spectrum, from the most liberal to the most conservative, the most traditional to the most avant-garde. I address audiences where, often enough, adherents of every particular spot on the spectrum are sitting in the room listening to me. It makes my work incredibly interesting. It also makes it at times almost impossible. ...
When I met Zed, he was wearing a pirate costume, restraining my friend with his faded red rope while slyly smiling at her but also with her. The smiles exchanged were heart warming — playful yet stern.
I fell in love with him in a way I like to have sex: fast and hard.
I don’t particularly care for relationships. Around the one-year mark, I get bored — bored of knowing that my interactions with my partner are repetitive cycles, that our life mimics what society expects of us and that I can have sex with only one person, of one gender, for the foreseeable future. So after ending my last relationship, I promised myself I wouldn’t repeat this cycle again.
I had a couple of partners when I met him, but none of them were serious. Zed was different. At the beginning of our courtship, we discussed what we each would want from a relationship while affirming that we were both polyamorous — in multiple, consensual relationships simultaneously. We had no intention of being emotionally committed, but it quickly happened anyway.
When some explain what polyamory is about, they tell those who are unfamiliar with it that it is “legalized cheating.” The issue with this approach is that it situates the negative repercussions of cheating within what could potentially be healthy relationship dynamics. Previous boyfriends have cheated on me, and my issue wasn’t the physical component but that they didn’t communicate their needs with me. Of all those times of lying and sneaking around behind my back, what hurt the most was that none of it was necessary. The pain of betrayal could have been prevented by a conversation.
Throughout my dating life, I have always lacked the jealousy that seems to be normal in other monogamous relationships. My previous boyfriends have criticized my lack of attention when others flirted with them, but I didn’t particularly care. As far as I’m concerned, I shouldn’t have to manage my partners’ responsibility to me, and if they are no longer interested, they can leave.
One of my favorite parts of being polyamorous is that I don’t participate in that jealousy. Although we are dedicated to each other, we are also very relaxed about our affection toward others. He swipes through Tinder frequently, and I encourage him to openly discuss his experiences. I would rather know specifically what is happening than be in the dark, coming up with imaginary scenarios that never occurred. I have proven to be more lazy than he is, which has resulted in him being more active in his “sluttery,” as he jokingly refers to it. I occasionally contemplate sleeping with others, but ultimately, the search of another partner is too tolling (especially given my desire to hook up with queer folk, which is often trickier than finding heterosexual men). ...