Coming into Kyle Patrick Alvarez’s The Stanford Prison Experiment with only a vague knowledge of the real-life psychological study on which the film is strictly based(with most of the dialogue taken directly from transcripts), I was struck with an immediate question about a current-day discourse. Since the experiment — which saw college students “enacting” prisoner and guard roles and embodying the predetermined power dynamics with frightening aplomb — took place in 1971, how does the increasing visibility and normalization of BDSM culture in recent years impact the discussion surrounding the study? Indeed, it won’t take long, even for the least creative of Googlers, to see that there’s already been an… interesting confluence of the two (which, for your benefit, I won’t hyperlink to). You’ll also find one perfectly non-pornographic article making the same connection.
The film, as a relatively faithful representation of the experiment (with particular scenes selected and structured for the sake of good filmmaking), ultimately provides much fuel for this question, as it’s released over 40 years after the experiment, when the first thing the phrase “playing prisoner” brings to mind is “sex dungeon.” These connotations are especially resonant with the recent mainstreaming of (heavily diluted) BDSM in Fifty Shades of Grey. The interplay of the experiment and BDSM gives way to a more general question about the curious magnetism of polarized power.
The Stanford prison experiment saw psychologist Dr. Philip Zimbardo set up — and then fill — a simulated prison in the basement offices of the Stanford Psychology Department. He selected 24 students to participate in the study, and after questioning them extensively on whether they’d prefer to be a guard or a prisoner, flipped a coin to determine which role to assign them. Ultimately, neither their preferences nor their nature — as perceived by themselves or by the people running the experiment — had any bearing in the role they’d play. (One obvious but noteworthy difference between this and BDSM is that people who engage in sexual role-play typically choose their sometimes-fluid roles based on proclivity.)
The “guards” were dressed appropriately and given wooden batons, while the “prisoners” were draped in feminizing (interestingly, everyone in the experiment was male) smocks with identification numbers on them. The “guards” were instructed not to physically harm any of the “prisoners” whatsoever, and supposedly signed a contract that contained that regulation — but Zimbardo, the only person who had any say in what constituted crossing a line, became just as embroiled in the pyramidal system he’d set up as his subjects. (Zimbardo self-described as the prison “superintendent,” while his research assistant was the “warden.”)
Soon, at least in their minds, “guards” became guards and “prisoners” became prisoners: means of psychological torture were devised, with guards deriving pleasure from preventing prisoners from sleeping, making them defecate in buckets, locking them in solitary confinement, and sexually humiliating them. One of the most unbearable scenes in the film isn’t one that involves shouting or conflict — it’s one that’s set so deep into the pacification of inmates that it finds the guards calmly forcing them to enact the motions of anal sex with one another.
A shocking notion about the experiment is the idea that any of them could have quit (and lost their pay of $15 a day — the equivalent of $88 today) at any time. Even those who ultimately left the experiment due to trauma did so through a system of imaginary parole — indicating that they’d so thoroughly inhabited their temporary identities that the only way they could conceive of breaking them was within the same vocabulary. As per Zimbardo’s website:
When we ended the hearings by telling prisoners to go back to their cells while we considered their requests, every prisoner obeyed, even though they could have obtained the same result by simply quitting the experiment. Why did they obey? Because they felt powerless to resist. Their sense of reality had shifted, and they no longer perceived their imprisonment as an experiment. In the psychological prison we had created, only the correctional staff had the power to grant paroles.
Much as a safe word indicates, within sexual power play, that a line has been crossed and the activity needs to stop, the prisoners were given a similar option. Thus, apart from, perhaps, duration (but even that’s questionable, as even the most vanilla of BDSM tales, Fifty Shades, reveals scenarios where the roles of master and slave are sustained not just during coitus) and the aforementioned method of selection, it’s initially hard to find much difference at all between the pretend dynamics of S&M and those of the experiment — even down to the way each prisoner was “arrested” at their own home and charged with armed robbery, as though in some form of verbal foreplay. ...
For the first time ever, "Love a la Carte," a "do-it-yourself" (DIY) motion picture, extends the cinematic experience for its audience with the creation of a real world mobile application and online polyamory dating website. Leading the way for micro-budget indy filmmakers in breaking new ground to entertain audiences is Emmy award winning writer-producer-director and Love a la Carte, LLC CEO, Tim McSpadden. "The movie 'Love a la Carte' is an honest comedy about cheating monogamists keeping their marriage together, for better or worse, with an online polyamory dating website," says McSpadden. "Conceiving a real-life website and mobile app of the same name that is mercilessly satirized in the movie was the next step for the 'Love a la Carte' brand."
The cheating lifestyle continually spawns schadenfreude headlines and heated debates. Philandering politicians and celebrities propagate the mobile hook-up culture, heroic athletes allegedly deflate footballs to win games and salacious online dating websites generate millions of dollars promoting adultery. Exposing via cinema the nuanced justifications some monogamists make for sampling unauthorized polyamory is fertile ground for a comedy-fantasy. "There are 3 versions to every story you hear about why someone cheats: Their version, your version and the truth," McSpadden says. "Our 'Love a la Carte' movie shows you how the internet has impacted having affairs and why this lifestyle might be affecting your own relationship right now. Our dating website is where you can experience firsthand what was lampooned in the movie. Our mobile app is how you can stay connected with this brand of entertainment - all for free."
Audiences can watch the DIY movie "Love a la Carte" for free for 30-days on Amazon Prime Instant Video or with their subscription to the service. The movie is also available on iTunes/Apple TV and Google Play which is also where the "Love a la Carte" mobile applications can be found and freely downloaded. To find "love now" and contact other "Love a la Carte" lovers in their area, people can sign up for free on LovealaCarte.com. The website is also a landing point to find other links connected with the movie, such as watching the film along with the cast and for other news worthy articles connected to the "Love a la Carte" experience.
Sexologist Dr. Martha Tara Lee called the movie "Entertaining & Refreshing." Mandy Payne, a Top 10 ranked Amazon Hall-of-Fame reviewer (out of more than 26 million reviewers) gave "Love a la Carte" 5-stars on Amazon Prime Instant Video and said its "a gritty story about the realities of marriage and midlife, all the while never losing a steady undercurrent of dry humor." Winner of the "Most Original Screenplay" award at the 2014 Universal Film Festival, "Love a la Carte" also played at the Cannes Film Festival market & American Film Market the same year. The soundtrack for "Love a la Carte" was engineered by 2014 Grammy nominee Russ Marsden of Big U Music in Phoenix, Arizona. It features 17 songs from recording artists across the globe such as VH-1's jump start ASCAP songstress Janice Kirkwood and the Phoenix New Times weekly "Best Up & Comer of the Year," Youceff Kabal. Also taking a turn as an actor in the movie is Raj Suri, who produced Doritos' 2014 million dollar winning Super Bowl commercial. ...
Until late last Thursday, Armstrong State University's sexual misconduct policy stated that students with disabilities couldn't consent to sexual activity, making any such activity rape.
The policy had been in effect since Sep. 8, 2014, but on Thursday — following questions from the Washington Examiner — the university updated its policy, calling the original wording an error.
Original policy: "In addition, persons under the age of 16 and persons who have a physical and/or mental impairment are unable to give consent."
Updated policy: "In addition, persons under the age of 16 and persons who have a physical or mental impairment and are unable to communicate are unable to give consent." (Changes in bold.)
Deidra Dennie, Armstrong's Title IX coordinator, told the Examiner last Thursday that the original policy had been corrected but had not been uploaded to the website at the time. "I apologize that our website was not kept up to date with the actual policy in circulation," she said.
Allison Hersh, Armstrong's director of marketing and communications, told the Examiner that it was never the university's "intent" to suggest that students with physical disabilities could never consent to sex.
"Our intent was to protect individuals with physical impairments that could prevent them from consenting or denying consent," Hersh told the Examiner. "The intent was not to imply that all physically disabled people are incapable of providing consent." ...
A new app has launched aimed at reducing false allegations of rape by filming consent before having sex.
Users of We-Consent record 20-second clips naming who they're about to have sex with.
The app only works if the camera detects human faces and if both people involved are clearly heard saying "yes".
However, support group Rape Crisis says that although the app has good intentions it "throws up concerns".
Katie Russell, the national spokeswoman for Rape Crisis in England and Wales, told Newsbeat: "Someone saying 'yes' to sex on camera does not necessarily prove that they have given their consent.
"Consent must be fully and freely given by someone with the capacity to do so.
"Video footage might not capture whether someone has been threatened, bullied or intimidated into saying 'yes' to sex and, if they have, then they have not fully or freely given their consent, even if they've said the word 'yes' out loud.
"In an abusive or controlling relationship, someone might be forced or manipulated into being filmed 'consenting' to sex.
"The concept seems to assume and suggest that 'false allegations of rape' are a common problem that young people need to be worried about; they're absolutely not.
"In fact, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has looked carefully at false allegations of rape and concluded that they are 'very rare'."
The most recent CPS study, carried out between January 2011 and May 2012, found there were 121 suspects whose cases involved allegedly false rape complaints.
Of these, 35 were prosecuted, 25 for perverting the course of justice and 10 for wasting police time. ...
Last week over on Raise the Horns Jason has been talking about being a polytheist. It got me to thinking about my own relationship to polytheism. Poly directly translates from the Greek as “many”. In our society “poly” is in opposition to “mono” as a concept. The choice is between one and many. I choose many. In my life there are many gods, many loves, and many choices. My worldview has evolved into one where a diversity of answers is the default, rather than the exception to the rule.
Being a Druid makes polytheism the obvious choice for me, grounded in my theology, personal experience, and the lore left to us by the ancient pagans. I believe in a myriad of Powers and Spirits that exist with us as part of the world in ways that are not always clear, but like Jason and many others, I have come to understand that the gods have agency, or the ability to think, take action, and create as well as the ability to form relationship. In my spirit work I have relationships with many deities and spirits. Some are mentors, some are remote figures like stern distant relatives, some are friends, and sometimes the relationship can become sexual or romantic. I’m not a godspouse, so I can’t speak to that, but I have had intense trance experiences where sexuality was a part of what I did. The thing is, all of these are relationships that have meaning for me. They blend and change over time, just like my relationships in the physical plane.
In my tradition we study ancient proto-Indo-European culture because so many of the gods and goddesses we worship evolved from this linguistic root. We can only know what linguists and archeologists have deduced from the puzzle of common root words and pottery fragments. These people lived long before written language. *Ghosti is one of those words linguists have discovered. When you see an asterisk in front of a word it means that this was never a real word; it’s a word that linguists have created by comparing many related languages. This particular word is really, really old, and seen in many languages all over the Eurasian continent. It is the word from which both “guest” and “host” evolved. It is a word that encapsulates the sacredness of relationship.
*Ghosti has deepened my understanding of all my relations, both with people and with other Beings. All relationship is sacred; in every moment I am both the guest in someone else’s experience and their host in mine. I do not control them, own them, or get to say what they do. Not even my husband.
o now we get to the polyamory. You were waiting for it weren’t you? Some of you, dear readers, were probably envisioning orgies and never ending sex parties, right? It’s okay, I get it. It’s not really like that though. Okay, maybe once in a great while it is. A little bit. Beltane is fun. Now let’s move on.
I’ve identified as polyamorous for most of my adult life. My husband and I have been part of a stable quad relationship for almost three years now. We live and work together. We are raising our kids together. Beyond that there are sometimes lovers outside the quad, and metamors. Those are my lover’s lovers. Often those relationships deepen into good friendships. I have relationships with all these people in one respect or another. ...
Q. My wife and I have an open marriage. Can I be charged with adultery even though she allows me to sleep with other women?
A. Military swingers beware: A spouse's consent to sleep with other men or women will not save you from a conviction on the charge of adultery in violation of Article 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
Adultery, an offense unique to the military, occurs when a service member has sexual intercourse with someone who is not his or her spouse or who is married to someone else. This conduct must be service discrediting or prejudicial to good order and discipline. You'll notice that this offense is triggered by sexual intercourse, regardless of whether it is consensual.
In the 2013 case U.S. v. David J.A. Gutierrez, the appellant, an Air Force technical sergeant, tried to fight an adultery charge by arguing that he and his wife had an open marriage and she consented to his sexual activities outside their union. He argued that "adultery requires a victim spouse and that a spouse who consents is not a victim," according to the U.S. Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals.
But the court rejected this argument that a spouse's consent can be used as a defense to an adultery charge. On appeal, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces earlier this year affirmed Gutierrez's adultery conviction, stating: "Participation of the appellant's wife in the offense is immaterial to the question presented, which is whether the government presented legally sufficient evidence at trial to sustain the conviction."
While a service member cannot count on a spouse's consent to defeat an adultery charge, it could be beaten by showing the sexual affair that grew out of the open marriage was not open or notorious. In the 2012 case U.S. v. Gemayel A. Jones, the U.S. Army Court of Criminal Appeals noted that "although open and notorious conduct may be service discrediting, wholly private conduct is not generally service discrediting."
In that case, the court set aside an adultery specification, finding that the adulterous activities between Jones, an Army specialist, and another junior enlisted soldier who was not his wife, did not have "a divisive or detrimental impact on their units" and there was insufficient evidence showing their relationship was open or notorious. ...
NCSF hopes to collect thousands of signatures and plans to submit our petition in September prior to the next meeting of the American Law Institute which is considering making changes in the Model Penal Code provisions relating to sexual assault.
NCSF has urged the ALI Committee to treat BDSM under a category they define as “sexual contact” even if there is no contact with the breasts or genitals. Under the ALI’s draft proposal, “sexual contact” is not a crime if consent is given for such contact. If consent is not given, sexual contact is a misdemeanor, not a felony. Such treatment of BDSM—as not a crime if consensual and as a misdemeanor if nonconsensual—would be fully consistent with the concept that BDSM is intended to be a mutually pleasurable activity rather than an act of violence. If a rape is committed in a BDSM encounter then it can be prosecuted as felony sexual assault and the fact that BDSM activities were also included will reduce the confusion for prosecutors and courts. Judgment can be made solely in the context of whether there was consent for each act that was committed.
A further benefit of our proposal would be that a person who is injured in a nonconsensual BDSM incident would have the shelter of “rape shield” rules, which prohibit introduction of evidence of prior acts and provides the victim anonymity. This protection applies to complaints in sexual assault cases, but not in criminal assault cases. People who are assaulted in a BDSM context typically choose not to report what happened to the police because they will be outed as kinky by the public court documents and they may even face media exposure if their assailant is charged with criminal assault rather than sexual assault.
But first we need to persuade the ALI to agree with our proposal, or at least something like our proposal.
Petition to the American Law Institute:
Consent should be a Defense for BDSM activities
I urge the American Law Institute in its consideration of proposals to revise the Model Penal Code (MPC) provisions relating to sexual assault, to provide in the MPC that prosecutions arising from BDSM (bondage, discipline, Dominance & Submission and sadomasochism) conduct be pursued as “sexual contact” rather than as criminal assault. I believe this is appropriate because consensual BDSM is intended to be a mutually pleasurable erotic activity and not a violent assault by one person against another. Criminal prosecution may be appropriate if consent is not given, but consent should be allowed as a defense.
National Consent Month embraces the freedom of expression that comes with informed consent.
Join us by dedicating one of your events or workshops during the month of September to consent. Let us know the date of your event, and we'll put it on our calendar and publicize it on our social media.
Get your “Got Consent?” T-shirts, mugs and dog tags in the NCSF shop!
Submit photos of your Consent Month celebration to our Consent Photo Contest. We’ll post the photos and award the winner top billing on our Consent Month website for the rest of the year. You’ll also be featured in an NCSF media campaign about Consent Month.
Consent Month is proudly sponsored by the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom and the Arizona Power Exchange.
Thank you for celebrating September as Consent Month!