Beatrice Stonebanks wants to teach you how to be a corporate dominatrix
San Francisco Bay Guardian Online
All too often in the workplace, women fight to hide their sexuality. In Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In, the controversial feminist-treatise-of-the-moment on combating sexism in the corporate world, Sandberg references a tech worker who goes so far as to remove her earrings before coming to work, so fervently does the employee wish to minimize her gender lest it distract her male cohorts.
Beatrice Stonebanks takes a different tack. A sales consultant for 25 years now, and a member of the San Francisco BDSM scene for 16, she strode into a partners' meeting at her job in 2010 and wrote two words on the dry erase board for all to see. They were: corporate dominatrix.
"In BDSM you have to know how to negotiate, otherwise you're going to get hurt." Ensconced under the fluorescent lights of my office, Stonebanks is entirely at home among the cubicles and boardrooms in her black skirt and floral blazer. She makes her living applying the take-charge skills she learned playing in dungeons with her husband to office culture.
Did her white board assertion consternate her coworkers? Tear rifts in officeland reality? Stonebanks says, to the contrary, it was a natural connection on her part that has led to increased office performance.
"The more domineering I became, the better the results," she says, smiling. "If I could produce the numbers, they didn't care about my tactics."
One year ago, she began teaching classes on those tactics to the kink community. Stonebanks is the editor of the BDSM education group Society of Janus' newsletter, a publication playfully dubbed Growing Pains. At home, she is a 24/7 loving dominant to her submissive husband, a role reflected in the take-charge manner in she fields my interview questions and guides our dialogue about her methodology.
There are obvious differences between the two worlds she straddles. For example — and I can testify to this firsthand because she was kind enough to bring both for our in-house Guardian photoshoot — the skirt she wears to teach her "Corporate Dominatrix Training 101: How to Use Sex and Power to Increase Sales" class is several inches shorter than the one she sports to, you know, use sex and power to increase sales.
But the long and short of the matter is that both successful BDSM and boardroom activities hinge on clear assertion of self and healthy communication. Both employ, or should employ, negotiation, safe words, execution, and after-care. "It scales," Stonebanks affirms. ...
The exact wording of the new DSM is being kept under strict wraps until its publication. But proposed changes discussed online by the American Psychiatric Association researchers who worked on the new edition suggest that foot fetishists and bondage aficionados who hoped to get out of the book altogether won't see that wish come true.
Instead, unusual sexual fixations, or "paraphilias," will likely get their own category as odd, but not necessarily signs of mental illness. If, however, a person is distressed by a fetish — or if that fetish harms others — he or she will likely be eligible for a diagnosis of a "paraphilic disorder." [Hot Stuff? 10 Unusual Sexual Fixations]
"This was a way of saying it's OK to have a benign paraphilia," said Ray Blanchard, a psychiatrist at the University of Toronto and chair of the working group on sexual and gender identity disorders for the DSM-5. "That does not automatically give you a mental disorder."
Other psychiatrists argue that even leaving benign paraphilias in the DSM goes too far. Sexual fixations that cause harm and distress can be dealt with under other diagnoses, they say, ones that don't stigmatize people who enjoy non-mainstream but harmless sexual activities.
"I've heard people at meetings talk about 'those paraphiliacs,' 'those people,'" said Alan Shindel, an urologist and specialist in sexual problems at the University of California, Davis Health System. "I think that's always a dangerous road to go down when you're talking about othering people in that way."
Psychiatrists define paraphilias as unusual objects of sexual arousal, ranging from the mundane and typically harmless (foot fetishism) to the universally reviled (pedophilia, or attraction to children). The current DSM, the DSM-IV-TR, doesn't consider paraphilias problematic unless they cause distress to the self or harm to others.
The proposals and discussions posted online by the American Psychiatric Association suggest the new DSM will take that DSM-IV-TR qualification further, separating the notion of paraphilias from paraphilic disorders. Turned on by obscene phone calls or spanking? You've got a paraphilia. But unless your paraphilia is causing you some sort of dysfunction or distress, it's not a mental disorder, according to DSM-5. If the paraphilia does cause distress or harm, it becomes a paraphilic disorder.
The DSM-5 may also, for the first time, clearly define "paraphilia" (previous incarnations have simply listed odd sexual targets). Blanchard and his group proposed a definition describing paraphilia as "any intense and persistent sexual interest other than sexual interest in genital stimulation or preparatory fondling with phenotypically normal, consenting human partners between the ages of physical maturity and physical decline."
It's a definition that casts a wide net. In one study, published in 2011 in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, a whopping 62.4 percent of 40- to 79-year-olds in a German sample reported at least one sexual interest that would qualify as a paraphilia. About 60 percent of the time, men reported simply fantasizing about this unusual interest, but 44 percent had incorporated it into their actual sexual behavior.
In that study, researchers found the most common paraphilia was voyeurism (spying on an unknowing person), followed by fetishism (sexual fixation on a nonliving object). [The Sex Quiz: Myths, Taboos & Bizarre Facts] ...
Those arguing for "marriage equality" at the U.S. Supreme Court this week should be ashamed of themselves.
They're just as guilty of discrimination as those dastardly conservatives still bitterly clinging to their guns and their religion. Why no argument for polygamy, polyamory and other forms of diversity? Why are they only defending their exclusive definition of diversity?
How dare those seeking to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act signed by President Clinton, or Proposition 8 ratified by the people of California, stop at just redefining marriage to include two consenting adults of the same gender. Why do these people believe they have the authority to draw a moralistic line against any consenting adults, and thus force their moral standard upon the rest of us?
Besides, society's views on these other progressive forms of relationship diversity are shifting, and shouldn't we always base our concept of right and wrong off what we see on TV, just like our gender-neutral maternal units taught us. Who better to consult on moral matters than the huddled masses that paid money to see all those Saw and Hostel movies? For example, there is a popular reality show on basic cable called Sister Wives about the lost art of polygamy. Showtime is airing a trailblazing show on the multiple wedded bliss of polyamory....
Polyamory is getting a lot of airtime in the media these days. It’s quite remarkable, really, and it represents a major shift over the last five to ten years.
The problem—and it’s hardly surprising—is that the form of poly that’s getting by far the most airtime is the one that’s as similar to traditional monogamy as possible, because that’s the least threatening to the dominant social order.
Ten years ago, I think my position was a lot more live-and-let-live. You know, different strokes for different folks. I do poly my way, you do it your way, and we’re all doing something non-monogamous so we can consider ourselves to have something in common that’s different from the norm. We share a certain kind of oppression, in that the world doesn’t appreciate or value non-monogamy. We share relationship concerns, like logistics challenges and time management and jealousy. So we’re all in this together, right?
Today, though, I’ve come to the conclusion that I have much stronger Feelings about this. I mean Feelings of serious squick, not just of YKINMKBYKIOK*. Feelings of genuine offense, not of comradeship. Fundamentally, I think we’re doing radically different things. The poly movement—if it can even be called that, which is debatable for a number of reasons—is beginning to fracture along precisely the same lines as the gay/lesbian/queer one has. (You could argue it has been fractured along this fault line forever, but it hasn’t always seemed quite as crystal-clear to me as it does right now.)
(*Stands for “your kink is not my kink but your kink is okay,” a common phrase used among perverts to basically say we don’t all have to like doing a thing in order for that thing to be acceptable.)
At its most basic, I’d say some people’s poly looks good to the mainstream, and some people’s doesn’t. The mainstream loves to think of itself as edgy, sexy and cool. The mainstream likes to co-opt whatever fresh trendy thing it can in order to convince itself that it’s doing something new and exciting, because that sells magazines, event tickets, whatever. The mainstream likes to do all this while erecting as many barriers as it can against real, fundamental value shifts that might topple the structure of How the World Works. In this case, that structure is the primacy of the couple.
The media presents a clear set of poly norms, and overwhelmingly showcases people who speak about and practice polyamory within those norms. I’ll refer to this as polynormativity. (I don’t think I’m quite coining a term here, but not far off, as most of the paltry seven hundred-ish Google hits I can find for the term are about obscure legalese I don’t understand. I kinda wish it was already a thing, frankly. So, uh, my gift to you.)
Here are the four norms that make up polynormativity as I see it.
1. Polyamory starts with a couple. The first time I came across the term “poly couple” I laughed out loud. It seemed to me the most evident of oxymorons—jumbo shrimp, friendly fire, firm estimate, poly couple. But lo and behold, it’s really taken root, and nobody seems to be blinking. Polyamory is presented as a thing that a couple does, as opposed to a relationship philosophy and approach that individual people ascribe to, as a result of which they may end up as part of a couple but—because poly!—may just as well be partnered with six people, or part of a triad, or single, or what have you. With this norm, the whole premise of multiple relationships is narrowed down to what sounds, essentially, like a hobby that a traditionally committed pair of people decide to do together, like taking up ballroom dancing or learning to ski. So much for a radical re-thinking of human relationships. So much for anyone who doesn’t come pre-paired.
2. Polyamory is hierarchical. Following from the norm that poly begins (and presumably ends) with two, we must of course impose a hierarchy on whatever else happens. Else, how would we know who the actual real couple is in all this? If you add more people, it might get blurry and confusing! Thus, the idea of primary relationships and secondary relationships emerges. This is what I call hierarchical poly. ...
Can mentally ill people consent to sadomasochistic sex? Can anyone consent to abusive and degrading sexual acts?
Connecticut's highest court has decided to take up those questions in the case of a Greenwich woman suing a man she alleges had an abusive sexual relationship with her daughter, who had multiple mental and physical ailments. Arguments before the state Supreme Court are scheduled for Wednesday.
While sadomasochism was glamorized in the popular 2011 book trilogy "Fifty Shades of Grey," the practice has long been on questionable legal ground.
Some lawyers believe people can't consent to being assaulted or abused under common law, while others say established legal principles provide sexual rights to most people, including elderly people in nursing homes and the mentally ill. There are few court rulings, however, dealing directly with BDSM, short for bondage, discipline, dominance/submission and sadomasochism.
In the Connecticut case, Mary Kortner sued fellow Greenwich resident Craig Martise in 2006, saying her daughter could not have consented to sadomasochistic and abusive sex acts with him because of her mental state. A state jury, however, found in favor of Martise in 2009, concluding there was a sadomasochistic relationship but no proof that Kortner's daughter couldn't consent.
"This was a shocker to everybody who was watching it," Kortner said. "All the allegations were true. He was guilty."
Caroline Kendall Kortner, who died in 2010 at age 39 from an undisclosed illness, had been diagnosed with clinical depression, borderline personality disorder, bulimia and anorexia, and she tried to commit suicide twice, according to court documents. She also had a stroke in 2001 that left her partially paralyzed from the waist down and incontinent, court records say. ...
In a severe threat to online freedoms in the region, the European Parliament is set to vote in the next week on "a ban on all forms of pornography in the media."
The European Parliament will vote Tuesday on a proposal that could lead to a blanket ban on pornography in any forms of media with potentially wide-ranging implications for freedom and expression in the 27-member state bloc.
Passage of the proposal, "Eliminating gender stereotypes in the EU," would allow the EU to help secure the rights for those across the gender spectrum, particularly women. While the report states that there is an "increasingly noticeable tendency...to show provocatively dressed women, in sexual poses," it also notes that pornography is becoming mainstream and is "slipping into our everyday lives as an evermore universally accepted, often idealized, cultural element."
But if adopted, the proposal could infringe certain civil liberties in the 500 million strong population.
Christian Engström, member of the European Parliament (MEP) for the Pirate Party, said on his blog that the "devil is in the detail," warning that the wording in an older resolution from 1997 could lead to "statutory measures to prevent any form of pornography in the media." ...
Controversial Gainesville Pastor Terry Jones plans to protest a sexually themed event at a downtown Orlando nightclub, his political organization said in a statement this week.
Firestone Live on North Orange Avenue is hosting a "Pansexuality Fetish Party" on March 16, according to its website.
This week, Jones' "Stand Up America Now" group announced protests to "tell [President Barack] Obama, the liberals, and those seeking to destroy marriages and over-sexualize children... that they aren't going to take it, that those types of things aren't going to fly" in Orlando.
The protest will take place at the corner of Amelia Street and Orange Avenue at 3 p.m. this Saturday and again on March 16. ...