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"Scholars in Bondage"

on Wednesday, 22 May 2013. Hits 518

Dogma dominates studies of kink

The Chronicle of Higher Education

Once confined to the murky shadows of the sexual underworld, sadomasochism and its recreational correlate, bondage and domination, have emerged into startling visibility and mainstream acceptance in books, movies, and merchandising. Two years ago, E.L. James's Fifty Shades of Grey, a British trilogy that began as a reworking of the popular Twilight series of vampire novels and films, became a worldwide best seller that addicted its mostly women readers to graphic fantasies of erotic masochism. Last December, Harvard University granted official campus status to an undergraduate bondage and domination club. In January, Kink, a documentary produced by the actor James Franco about a successful San Francisco-based company specializing in online "fetish entertainment," premiered at the Sundance Film Festival.

Three books from university presses dramatize the degree to which once taboo sexual subjects have gained academic legitimacy. Margot Weiss's Techniques of Pleasure: BDSM and the Circuits of Sexuality (Duke University Press, 2011) and Staci Newmahr's Playing on the Edge: Sadomasochism, Risk, and Intimacy (Indiana University Press, 2011) record first-person ethnographic explorations of BDSM communities in two large American cities. (The relatively new abbreviation BDSM incorporates bondage and discipline, domination and submission, and sadomasochism.) Danielle J. Lindemann's Dominatrix: Gender, Eroticism, and Control in the Dungeon (University of Chicago Press, 2012) documents the world of professional dominatrixes in New York and San Francisco.

These books embody the dramatic changes in American academe over the past 40 years, propelled by social movements such as the sexual revolution, second-wave feminism, and gay liberation. It seems like centuries ago that, as a graduate student in 1970, I was vainly searching for a faculty sponsor for my doctoral dissertation, later titled Sexual Personae, which was—hard to imagine now—the only project on sex being proposed or pursued at the Yale Graduate School. (Rescue finally came in the deus ex machina of Harold Bloom, whose classes I had never taken. Summoning me to his office, Bloom announced, "My dear, I am the only one who can direct that dissertation!") Finding a teaching job in that repressive climate proved even more difficult. By the mid- to late-1970s, however, the gold rush was on, as women's studies programs mushroomed nationwide, partly as a quick-fix administrative strategy to increase the number of women faculty on embarrassingly male-heavy campuses.

Today's market for sex topics is wide open. Major university presses balk at little these days, short of apologias for pedophilia or bestiality, and even those may be looming. However, despite the refreshing candor displayed by the three books under review, a startling prudery remains in the way their provocative subjects have been buried in a sludge of opaque theorizing, which will inevitably prevent these books from reaching a wider audience. Weiss, Newmahr, and Lindemann come through as smart, lively women, but their natural voices have been squelched by the dreary protocols of gender studies.

It is unclear whether the grave problems with these books stemmed from the authors' wary job maneuvering in a depressed market or were imposed by an authoritarian academic apparatus of politically correct advisers and outside readers. But the result is a deplorable waste. What could and should have been enduring contributions to both scholarship and cultural criticism have been deeply damaged by the authors' rote recitation of theoretical clichés.

Margot Weiss, a product of the department of cultural anthropology and the women's studies program at Duke University, is an assistant professor of American studies and anthropology at Wesleyan University. In her absorbing portrait of San Francisco as "a queer Sodom by the sea," Weiss surveys the gradual transformation of BDSM from the "more outlaw" era of gay leathermen in Folsom Street bars of the pre-AIDS era to today's largely heterosexual scene in affluent Silicon Valley, where high-tech workers congregate at private parties or convivial "munches" at chain restaurants with convenient parking lots. During her three-year fieldwork, Weiss became an archivist for the Society of Janus, which was founded in San Francisco in 1974 as America's second BDSM-support group. (The first was the Eulenspiegel Society, founded three years earlier in New York.) She also enrolled in "Dungeon Monitor" training, where she learned safety guidelines for "play parties," including proper use of whips and floggers and the adoption of a "safe word" to terminate scenes. ...

"The Ethics of Extreme Porn: Is Some Sex Wrong Even Among Consenting Adults?"

on Tuesday, 21 May 2013. Hits 964

The Atlantic

In "What Do You Desire?" Emily Witt travels to San Francisco, attends a shoot for a pornographic video about "women bound, stripped, and punished in public," reflects on her own unsuccessful search for romantic love, and ponders the implications of a sexual culture where no desire is considered off-limits so long as all participants give their consent. She'd prefer love to sexual novelty. But "what if love fails us?" she asks. "Sexual freedom has now extended to people who never wanted to shake off the old institutions, except to the extent of showing solidarity with friends who did. I have not sought so much choice for myself, and when I found myself with no possibilities except total sexual freedom, I was unhappy. I understood that the San Franciscans' focus on intention—the pornographers were there by choice—marked the difference between my nihilism and their utopianism. When your life does not conform to an idea, and this failure makes you feel bad, throwing away the idea can make you feel better."

Her essay is a must-read, with the caveat that it should not be read by anyone who wishes to avoid graphic descriptions of extreme sexual acts. The lengthy descriptions will distress many readers. But the substance of the essay transcends those scenes, as evidenced by the fascinating exchanges it has prompted in the blogosphere. The primary participants (linked in order if you want to follow their thought-provoking conversation as it unfolded) are Rod Dreher, Noah Millman, Alan Jacobs, (Noah Millman and Rod Dreher again) and Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry.

All of them grapple, at least in part, with what our response ought to be to the explicit acts described. Put bluntly, a group of San Franciscans crowded into a basement to watch and participate as a diminutive female porn actress (who consented very specifically to all that followed) is bound with rope, gagged, slapped, mildly electrocuted, and sexually penetrated in most every way. The tenor and intensity of the event can't be conveyed without reading the full rendering. The object of all that abuse describes it afterward as physically uncomfortable at times, but intensely pleasurable throughout. She departs extremely happy and eager to do it again.

Was the consent of all participants sufficient to make the porn shoot a morally defensible enterprise? Alan Jacobs says no. People like the director and actress "are pursuing, consciously or not, absolute degradation, and are publicly debasing sexuality in the process," he writes. "They are immensely destructive to themselves and to others; they becloud the image of God in which they were made." As he sees it, their behavior is uncivilized. If you claim otherwise, he argues, "you have reduced the content of civilization to a single element: consent."

Rod Dreher agrees. Acknowledging that the Marquis de Sade conceived of humiliating and being humiliated for sexual pleasure long before today's San Franciscans, he posits that such behavior is becoming more acceptable due to the absence of a strong moral framework to push back against it. "You can have whatever you desire," he writes. "If you choose hell, then we will call it good, because it is freely chosen, and brings you pleasure." He worries that "the result is chaos and nihilism" and the idea that "the only way to find transcendence is to yield to one's desires." For Dreher, "affirming human dignity, and walling off the most destructive impulses within individual and collective human beings, requires condemning this pornography and perversity."

Yet America's secular individualism offers "no firm ground on which to stand to condemn this barbarism," Dreher continues, and "no basis to call it barbarism." He marvels that history's most free, wealthy people "use their liberty to degrade each other and to choose to be degraded." Why does he care? "I have to live in a world—and, more to the point, raise children in a world—in which perversity like this is available, via the Internet, to more and more people," he explains. "I have to raise children in a world in which human sexuality and the general idea of human dignity is degraded by pornography. I have to live in a world in which utopians are working very hard to tear down the structures of thought and practice that harnessed humankind's sexual instincts and directed them in socially up-building ways. I have to raise my kids in a world that says when it comes to sex, there is no right and no wrong, except as defined by consent."

***

Before returning to the question, "Are some kinds of sex intrinsically degrading, even if they're consensual?" I'd like to press Jacobs and Dreher on their treatment of consent as a cultural lodestar. It seems to me that they understate its importance and dismiss its adherents without giving them their due. Consent isn't enough to guarantee that sexual behavior is moral. Adultery, the deliberate conception of unwanted children, the careless spread of H.I.V.—all could happen in consensual encounters. As those uncontroversial examples suggest, the people who truly think consent is the only thing that matters in sexual conduct are a tiny minority, even in San Francisco....

"Sex convention at Du Burns Arena Cancelled"

on Thursday, 16 May 2013. Hits 763

Fox 45 Baltimore

An erotic conference planned for this weekend has been cancelled.

Organizers of the "Touch of Flavor" event says its vendors are losing thousands of dollars for an event they describe as adult-only and educational.

"When you do kink, it's bondage, role play and power exchange - those would be going on but there wouldn't be any sort of intercourse, oral sex things like that," said Susan Wright with the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom.

http://foxbaltimore.com/news/features/top-stories/stories/sex-convention-at-du-burns-arena-cancelled-19712.shtml#.UZWXT8oSrWN

 

An erotic convention set for this weekend at the Du Burns Arena in Canton has been cancelled. Organizers of the "Touch of Flavor" event say it's vendors are losing thousands of dollars for an event they describe as adult only and educational. "When you do kink, its bondage, role play, and power exchange - those would be going on but there wouldn't be any sort of intercourse, oral sex things like that," said Susan Wright with the National Coalition of Sexual Freedom. But arena management says the public facility would still have to be open, so kids could register for camp or use the bathrooms. "The event is fine as it is. If it were a trade show selling products but when you bring in nudity and possible sexual acts, it doesn't work for our facility and doesn't work for us around kids," said Alex Jacobs from Coppermine Management. The "Touch of Flavor" organizers have now teamed up with the National Coalition of Sexual Freedom and they have filed a lawsuit for breach of contract. The contract was signed last October under the Ed Hale Group, but Coppermine took over management in January. "It is our contention that Ed Hale did not have the authority to book something like this is was outside the scope of what he was permitted to do," said Coppermine attorney Susan Green. Organizers for the event say they were forward about what the event entailed from the beginning. "There was nobody trying to hide anything, it was fully out there on the table exactly what kind of conference this was," Wright said. "Touch of Flavor" organizers plan to reschedule the event as soon as they find a venue to host it.

Read More at: http://foxbaltimore.com/news/features/top-stories/stories/sex-convention-at-du-burns-arena-cancelled-19712.shtml#.UZWXT8oSrWN
An erotic convention set for this weekend at the Du Burns Arena in Canton has been cancelled. Organizers of the "Touch of Flavor" event say it's vendors are losing thousands of dollars for an event they describe as adult only and educational. "When you do kink, its bondage, role play, and power exchange - those would be going on but there wouldn't be any sort of intercourse, oral sex things like that," said Susan Wright with the National Coalition of Sexual Freedom. But arena management says the public facility would still have to be open, so kids could register for camp or use the bathrooms. "The event is fine as it is. If it were a trade show selling products but when you bring in nudity and possible sexual acts, it doesn't work for our facility and doesn't work for us around kids," said Alex Jacobs from Coppermine Management. The "Touch of Flavor" organizers have now teamed up with the National Coalition of Sexual Freedom and they have filed a lawsuit for breach of contract. The contract was signed last October under the Ed Hale Group, but Coppermine took over management in January. "It is our contention that Ed Hale did not have the authority to book something like this is was outside the scope of what he was permitted to do," said Coppermine attorney Susan Green. Organizers for the event say they were forward about what the event entailed from the beginning. "There was nobody trying to hide anything, it was fully out there on the table exactly what kind of conference this was," Wright said. "Touch of Flavor" organizers plan to reschedule the event as soon as they find a venue to host it.

Read More at: http://foxbaltimore.com/news/features/top-stories/stories/sex-convention-at-du-burns-arena-cancelled-19712.shtml#.UZWXT8oSrWN
An erotic convention set for this weekend at the Du Burns Arena in Canton has been cancelled. Organizers of the "Touch of Flavor" event say it's vendors are losing thousands of dollars for an event they describe as adult only and educational. "When you do kink, its bondage, role play, and power exchange - those would be going on but there wouldn't be any sort of intercourse, oral sex things like that," said Susan Wright with the National Coalition of Sexual Freedom. But arena management says the public facility would still have to be open, so kids could register for camp or use the bathrooms. "The event is fine as it is. If it were a trade show selling products but when you bring in nudity and possible sexual acts, it doesn't work for our facility and doesn't work for us around kids," said Alex Jacobs from Coppermine Management. The "Touch of Flavor" organizers have now teamed up with the National Coalition of Sexual Freedom and they have filed a lawsuit for breach of contract. The contract was signed last October under the Ed Hale Group, but Coppermine took over management in January. "It is our contention that Ed Hale did not have the authority to book something like this is was outside the scope of what he was permitted to do," said Coppermine attorney Susan Green. Organizers for the event say they were forward about what the event entailed from the beginning. "There was nobody trying to hide anything, it was fully out there on the table exactly what kind of conference this was," Wright said. "Touch of Flavor" organizers plan to reschedule the event as soon as they find a venue to host it.

Read More at: http://foxbaltimore.com/news/features/top-stories/stories/sex-convention-at-du-burns-arena-cancelled-19712.shtml#.UZWXT8oSrWN

"Canton 'Touch of Flavor' sex festival canceled by Du Burns arena"

on Thursday, 16 May 2013. Hits 380

The Baltimore Sun

A weekend festival in Canton that promised classes on bondage, role play and other sexual techniques has been canceled after the new operators of the Clarence H. Du Burns Arena idecided the erotic exposition was not appropriate at a facility also used for children's sports practices.

The organizers of the Touch of Flavor event sued the arena's managers this week, saying that their contract was breached. They also made an unsuccessful bid for a restraining order that would have let the festival go on.

The two-day event was to have featured classes on the use of hot wax, sex-dungeon safety and "Rope Bondage You Can Actually Use."

"We feel like there's been a great interest due to books and things that have come out," said Cassie Fuller, one of the organizers. "We wanted to provide education to people to do these things safely, so they can have fulfilling emotional and physical relationships."

Fuller pointed to the success of the book "Fifty Shades of Grey" as an example of the mainstream popularity of BDSM — bondage, domination and sado-masochism. Fuller said she is looking for other venues to hold the event at a later date.

But Susan Green, a lawyer for the arena's operator, Coppermine Fieldhouse, said the company did not think the arena was an appropriate place to have the event.

"The company doesn't have any judgment about what they want to do. ... We absolutely pass no judgment," Green said. "We do, however, feel that they can't do it in close proximity to children."

Coppermine took over the operation of the arena early this year, and the event organizers had originally contracted with the previous operator last fall.

The two sides dispute the precise details of their arguments and what the sticking points were.

"The entire position of Coppermine has been a moving target," said Stanford Gann Jr., the festival organizers' attorney.

Green said the event could leave Coppermine exposed to lawsuits. Event organizers said they were considering serving alcohol, and Green said she was concerned that the combination of drinking and bondage could leave Coppermine on the hook.

"There were so many liability issues in hosting such an event," she said. ...

"Defendant: 'Lizzi' Marriott died during BDSM sex act"

on Tuesday, 07 May 2013. Hits 746

Foster's Daily

A Dover man charged with strangling Elizabeth Marriott to death allegedly told police he killed her during the course of a consensual sex act involving erotic asphyxiation.

Thirty-year-old Seth Mazzaglia, of Dover, is facing first- and second-degree murder charges in connection with Marriott's death. He is accused of strangling Marriott with a rope inside his apartment on Mill Street on Oct. 9, 2012.

Police say after initially lying about the encounter, Mazzaglia admitted to his involvement during an interview at the Newington Police Department on Oct. 12, 2012. His statements to police were recounted in a police affidavit attached to an arrest warrant in the case.

The affidavit was among hundreds of pages of information unsealed Monday at the circuit court in Dover. Foster's Daily Democrat, the New Hampshire Union Leader and The Portsmouth Herald had all petitioned the court for access to the records, which had remained shielded from public view for more than six months.

The release followed Mazzaglia's indictment on murder charges in April by a Rockingham County grand jury.

According to the search warrant affidavit, Sergeant Joseph Ebert of the New Hampshire State Police Major Crime Unit questioned Mazzaglia on Oct. 12. Mazzaglia initially recounted a “variety of stories” about how Marriott died, according to the affidavit, all of which involved BDSM (bondage sadomasochism) exploration “gone too far.”

In one early version of the story, Mazzaglia allegedly told police he arrived home on Oct. 9 and “immediately sensed something was wrong.” Mazzaglia claimed a Rochester couple was present, as well as his live-in girlfriend, Kathryn McDonough, and Elizabeth Marriott. Mazzaglia said he remembered seeing a line across Marriott's throat, and said he believed that “someone had used their hands to manually strangle her,” according to police.

He later allegedly admitted to using a rope to strangle Marriott himself during what he described as a consensual sex act. Mazzaglia said he was playing strip poker with Marriott and his girlfriend on Oct. 9 when the three of them began talking about BDSM, according to the affidavit. Mazzaglia said the conversation “eventually led to a consensual sexual encounter involving autoerotic asphyxiation.” ...

"Get ready for a little '50 Shades' - Boise style"

on Friday, 03 May 2013. Hits 529

WBOI2

Get ready for a little "50 Shades" with a local twist. 50 Shades is a series of erotic best-selling books based on what can only be described as "alternative sexual practices."

Dozens and dozens are involved in the BDSM lifestyle locally. BDSM can stand for bondage, discipline, dominance, submission, sadism, and masochism.

You can see the interest in the BDSM lifestyle by going to the website Idaho BDSM. On the message board talk of looking for discipline are scattered and real.

KBOI 2News reporter, Tami Tremblay, talked with a Boise man and his partner about the lifestyle. We will call them by their stage names, Eibon who is a writer and Siren who is a chemist.

"Well I have had these thoughts for awhile but didn't believe they were realistic," Eibon said. "I thought it was just something you could read about."

"I've always been interested in it, but I grew up in a smaller town so it wasn't really an option," Siren said.

They met on what they call a "vanilla" dating website and have been together for a year practicing BDSM.

"I like the fact that I can just let go and not have 20,000 things on my mind," Siren said. "I'm focused on one thing. It's a very liberating sort of feeling to finally be who you are." ...

"Students talk BDSM in Fifty Shades of Grey dialogues"

on Friday, 03 May 2013. Hits 498

The Diamondback

Students in Stamp Student Union’s Colony Ballroom last night prepared themselves for a conversation many had never before dared to discuss  in a public setting — kinky sex.

The lecture and panel discussion, led by feminist pornographer and sex educator Tristan Taormino, aimed to debunk myths about BDSM presented in the erotic romance novel, Fifty Shades of Gray, as well as teach students about having safe sexual experiences.

 

 

Jenna Beckwith, sexual health program coordinator at the University Health Center, said she recognized a need for such an event when she saw the influence Fifty Shades was having on students’ sex lives.

“I think that in my realm of work, where students come to me with their sexual health concerns, I saw that with the popularity of Fifty Shades, kinky sex seemed to be the trendy thing to do,” Beckwith said. “The popularity of this book really brought to light a lot of misconceptions and misinformation that young people were having about sexuality. We wanted to open up a space for students to explore their identities and ask questions about this topic in a safe place.”

During the discussion, sexual health experts and university faculty exposed false stereotypes described in the novel, such as the idea that all people who engage in BDSM were abused at one point, so they express that trauma in their sex lives. The book’s main characters perpetuate the belief, but that’s largely untrue, said Tamara Pincus, a clinical social worker who spoke on the panel.

“Kink is very stigmatized, and it’s important that students see that we are just regular people like everybody else,” Pincus said. “Most people know that they are kinky at a young age, and it’s just part of how people develop.” ...

"Working Out the Kinks: How an Update to the Psychiatric Bible Is Redefining Sexuality and Morality"

on Wednesday, 24 April 2013. Hits 1309

Details.com

This May, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) will publish its first update since 2000; it is the DSM-5—the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. It may not seem like a big deal to the layperson, but the new edit will forever change the definition of kinky sex and is likely to trigger a wave of political, legal, and pharmaceutical debates.

Previously, the DSM defined all "non-normative" sexual behavior (acts not solely focused on the genitals or breasts) as paraphilias (a.k.a. kinks), from foot fetishes to sexual sadists. According to Susan Wright, spokesperson for the advocacy group the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom, the DSM-5 will differentiate between two kinds of kink: that which is happily enjoyed by healthy people who like kinky sex (paraphilias) and that which causes "distress" or "harm" to others (paraphilic disorders).

"The new language will have repercussions in psychiatry, in legal settings, and also in our understanding of what kinky sex is," says Wright, who saw original drafts of the proposed language. She hopes it will validate healthy people who enjoy kinky sex—and set them apart from the mentally ill.

"Kink is sometimes just about a power exchange or role play," she notes. Practitioners of BDSM (bondage, discipline, sadomasochism) and S&M play with intense sensations that cause extreme pleasure, not harm. These are usually consensual acts. "The people who do it nonconsensually," Wright says, "such as sexual sadists and psychopaths, or even someone in the kink community who steps over the line and goes too far, should be arrested."

The ultimate significance of this edition lies in its reach: Not only will the book help psychiatrists diagnose patients, it will also aid judges, lawyers, police, physicians, clinicians, and policy-makers. Misinterpretation by those outside the medical field, however, is a very real possibility, and a big deal, say, if you lose a custody battle, get evicted from your home, lose your job, or are simply reviled because of your sexual predilections. (It's not inconceivable, for example, that a parent's fondness for BDSM could be raised in a family-court child-custody battle and used against him or her as proof of being "unfit" or something.) But the DSM-5's new language, designed to clearly distinguish sexual fetishes from mental illnesses, could obviate these kinds of judgments. Remember: Social stigma around BDSM and kink has resulted in a tremendous amount of discrimination in the past. And the DSM defined homosexuality as deviant until 1973.


Read More http://www.details.com/blogs/daily-details/2013/04/working-out-the-kinks-how-an-update-to-the-psychiatric-bible-is-redefining-sexuality-and-morality.html#ixzz2RQK0NQh8

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