"It was like, here I am, outed as a supposedly sexually impulsive rich girl who's into kink."
At 17, Alissa Afonina was a bright, studious college student. But that year, on a drive with her mother and her mom's then-boyfriend, the car she was riding in sped around a curve and flipped three times; Afonina hit her head, suffering four lesions to the frontal lobe of her brain. The accident changed her life forever.
After the accident in 2009, Afonina battled exhaustion, depression and anxiety. She dropped out of college and struggled to find or keep a job. Her frontal lobe injury also caused her to become more sexually promiscuous — a common side effect of frontal lobe injuries — but in turn, her relationships became purely physical obsessions and she lost her social support system. To cope with her new personality and to make ends meet, Afonina became a professional dominatrix under the pseudonym Sasha Mizaree.
After years of medical testing and analysis, Afonina and her mother went to trial, seeking compensation for their injuries. In late 2014, a judge agreed the driver (her mom's then-boyfriend) had been going too fast and was thus negligent; heawarded Afonina nearly 1.5 million Canadian dollars. To her, the award was a vindication for people with invisible disabilities everywhere.
But when media outlets started picking up her story, Afonina was horrified: they claimed she was a sex-obsessed woman who only won her case because she was a sex worker, completely devaluing the struggles of brain injury sufferers everywhere. They also outed her; overnight, her real name had become immutably linked to her sex work identity.
Now, in her first major interview since the case, Cosmopolitan.com spoke to Afonina about her life after the crash, her work as a dominatrix, and how she's learning to deal with media, fame, and disability.
After the accident, when did you begin to realize that something was different?
I felt different right away, really fuzzy; [the doctors] had said I had a concussion at first. They said, "This is normal — you're going to feel fuzzy, you're going to feel out of it." My mom was definitely noticing more anger in me. I felt depression; I felt anxiety, including social anxiety. That was really new to me — I was completely a social butterfly before that, and then, all of a sudden, I just had no social life.
I didn't know that I actually had a brain injury until I did an MRI about a year after it happened. I found out from the doctors, like, "Hey, your symptoms happen to be not your fault! You're not lazy, you're not fucked up, but in fact, these are very consistent with a frontal lobe brain injury." That was kind of big news at the time.
Were you interested in kink and BDSM before your accident?
No, it wasn't something I practiced or knew anything about. I was kind of goth, but I wasn't kinky or sexual before the accident. I didn't really have sex in high school, and I wasn't somebody that dated much.
During your trial, it was mentioned that you experienced an increased interest in sex and sexuality after the accident, and the media has made a big deal of that detail. What was your sexuality actually like?
I remember being completely into this guy that I was dating, just completely obsessed with him; this was a new feeling all of a sudden — an addictive kind of need for this guy's attention and touching him. I began to notice that my whole self-presentation and my personality had become sexualized, to the point where I didn't feel like there was anything else to me. And if I didn't have a partner to be obsessed with, I felt empty. Everything felt dull and boring, and the only thing that made me alive was flirting with men. When you're not experiencing pleasure in things, that's like dying on the inside.
Whenever I did get into any relationship — and that's a generous word for the kind of interactions I've had with men — I wasn't able to form any loving relationship. And what I want, at my core, is not casual sex. I want to be loved. …
Guest Blogs do not represent NCSF but are the opinion of the blogger. NCSF provides space for activists to post their opinions in order to get feedback from the kink and nonmonogamous communities on the work they are doing and the information they are providing to the mainstream. Please leave your comments below!
By Lucia Caltabiano
Quite often what I speak on is BDSM 101 or some sort of introductory course on the topic; one to dispel myths and stereotypes. Today however I'm going to focus on the practices of the subculture but more importantly the traditional values. Most people think whips and chains, and then wonder what it has to do with 'traditional values', but before it was about the shock and awe, and before it was about the whips and chains, it was simply a community. One of like minded individuals whose common lifestyle practices were considered at best pathological and at worst criminal. In particular I will focus on the Leather community since this was the step parent that essentially raised BDSM into what became in the 80's and 90's.
Many of the values which some now call the Old Guard kept the community safe, and shielded its participants from scorn. Quite often one had to be invited into the community and started as a sub; a practice meant to create empathy within a member that may one day become a Dom. That person was then trained for however long (months or years) and then could choose if they so desired to be Dom or sub. This system ensured that individual instruction was given, proper orientation as well, and that all members that a person could encounter were vetted participants. The community was one in which common practices led to common identity and in particular when the Leather and BDSM communities separated, the Leather (predominantly gay men and lesbians) were left to care for their own when the AIDS epidemic struck. Ostracized from their families in many cases, Leather men had only the community to rely upon either till they passed or were able to survive.
Through the 1980’s and 1990’s, the BDSM community separated from the Leather community. This led to the evolution of volunteer based education groups. The rate at which people came into the community was slow enough that the system worked. Volunteer based education led to the formation of groups called munches and as the groups grew bigger and bigger, at times they would cater to specific interests. At this stage we set up the infrastructure of the community which rested on the backs of these groups. It’s these groups that are being strained now by the influx of new people.
Now that BDSM has come to be something much different and is well within the public eye, we try to make the best of the situation and see it as an opportunity to find some degree of acceptance. The rise in accidents and ER admissions resulting from sex toy use or sadomasochism gone awry speaks for itself though. People are presented with the general concepts which provide entertainment value; novelty. There is little emphasis on the community though and even when people know that there is a community, there is often so much trepidation that they never venture out; never gain the education or training which the community provides.
In the past, the policy of not speaking or being public protected members and the community, but also contributed to shedding a negative light on it. With no one to step up, conjecture was the best that people had to go on and those that lacked mental faculties and/or were termed sadistic murderers came to be seen as the example, not the exception.
There are as many ways to do BDSM as there are people that do it, but I would argue that the deterioration of traditional values has led to disequilibrium within the community and subculture. I can now walk into the mall and buy my bondage tape in a Spencer's or a pair of cheap handcuffs if I so wish. Next to this though is a grey silk tie and to anyone in the community, the use of silk is discourage because it lacks the texture to create friction and easily slips or tightens.
The 50 Shades craze can't be undone, but now BDSM needs to find its new balance with the world. Or perhaps it’s the other way around. Whichever the case may be, all I can encourage is for people to approach things from a critical standpoint. Safety is what came from traditions propagated by the community, and now it is up to individuals to take their safety in their own hands. To determine if a pair of handcuffs is safe knowing they may have a nickel allergy. To determine if the rubber cuffs right next to them are worth trying knowing that there is no indication on the packaging of whether or not they contain latex. To determine what wax is suitable for play and what is not; here's a hint: nothing but paraffin is ever recommended for beginners. As people venture into these new territories, they'll be presented with more and more questions; both about themselves and what they're doing. Critical thinking and seeking out education is the best step to take in lieu of traditional guidance.
Inside Miss Vera’s Finishing School for Boys Who Want to Be Girls, where anything goes except for your real name.
BY CHADWICK MOORE
Behind Manhattan’s Port Authority Bus Terminal lies a grimy, litter-strewn block of brownstones where a half dozen bums have camped outside an abandoned storefront. The tableau is like a mote of Old New York dust suspended in the neon beams reaching west from nearby Times Square. Since the late 1990s, the New York–based group Crossdressers International, or CDI, has maintained an apartment here.
For its roughly 30 key-holding members, the CDI headquarters serves as a support group and a locker room. There are two rules: no photography and never reveal your male name.
In the entry hall of this low-ceiling garden apartment, there’s a stack of pigeonholes for passing along communications and sometimes love notes to other members. There are two sofas and a television in the living room, a shelf for unwanted clothing, and a bulletin board with announcements and resources. The periphery is lined with lockers and stacks of luggage; members pay a fee to keep their wardrobes here and can come and go as they please.
I’m first introduced to Karen — nervous, small, balding, with a close-cropped horseshoe of hair and a deep, husky voice. She’s standing wigless in a skimpy dress, shuffling through her locker, and won’t look me in the eye. Pointing at my voice recorder, she whispers, “I can’t be on tape. I can’t have people recognizing my voice.” She slips by me, shoulders bowed, to the bedroom, where she stands on a paper towel to put glitter polish on her toenails.
Karen is single, without children, and works as an accountant. “I wish people in my office could see me look like this,” she says. “I’m so boring and dumpy at the office.” She carries two cell phones and uses a back entrance to her apartment building that allows her to ferry her female clothing in and out without the doorman or neighbors seeing. She says she goes out in a dress four or five nights a week, far more than anyone else here tonight — save for Jen, the current president of CDI, and her girlfriend, Michelle, who live full-time as women.
They met through CDI and have been dating a few months. Jen’s story sounds a little apocryphal: She says she became transgender under “very rare” circumstances. “Mine was an accident because of prostate cancer,” she tells me, adding that things became “quite bizarre,” amid the hormone therapy she was receiving during treatment. “I got saturated with estrogen, and that’s when I discovered it. I have not known my whole life like most of the girls in here. Before I was diagnosed, I was pretty much asexual.”
Dues also help pay for things like CDI’s weekly dinner parties, including the one hosted on this recent Wednesday evening. The other eight diners gathered around the card table live outwardly as men except for the handful of times a month when they change how they dress. They’re all sexually attracted to women or to other cross-dressers. They have wives and children. Many have grandchildren. Everyone is around retirement age. They have a taste for skimpy dresses, short skirts, high heels, heavy makeup, and the kind of glittery accessories that usually appeal to teenagers.
“For as long as I remember, I’ve had gender identity issues. About 11 years ago, I was very suicidal,” says one member, who has grandchildren and who asked not to be identified by name. “I started living a double life. I’ve invested 40 years in my marriage. I’m successful at work. I don’t want to walk away from that. My wife has a really hard time. It really turns her off.”
Nancy is a longtime member. She’s not dressed tonight and looks a bit like Jerry Van Dyke with a manicure. “You dress, you go to Macy’s, you go to a Broadway show,” she says. “I’ve been married 34 years. I love my wife. I can’t [fully transition]. It’s not going to happen.”
“The gays aren’t too pleased with us because they think we are like Punxsutawney Phil — you come out on Groundhog Day, and then you go back down the hole,” Nancy adds. Many cross-dressers rely on gay bars as places to feel safe in public, yet that’s usually where the association ends. Nancy claims CDI’s application to take part in New York’s annual LGBT Pride March has been continually rejected in recent years, with organizers telling her each time it was filed too late. ...
Fifty Shades of Grey has everyone in America talking about bondage and sadomasochistic relationships. But how well do Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele reflect the realities of the BDSM lifestyle? To find out, we turned to Em and Lo, a.k.a. Emma Taylor and Lorelei Sharkey, the sex experts behind the advice website EmandLo.com and the book 150 Shades of Play: A Beginner’s Guide to Kink. Here’s what they had to say about Jamie Dornan’s whipping technique, Christian and Anastasia’s heated contract negotiations, and whether practicing BDSM means being (in Christian’s infamous words) “fifty shades of f---ed up.”
Christian’s sex toys check out (except for the cable ties).
Whips, restraints, suspension rigs, spanking benches: These are all actual tools of the trade, and Christian Grey has the best custom-made BDSM equipment that money can buy. “If you have the money to spend, you could absolutely get a room outfitted that looked as gorgeous and high end as that,” says Em. Most practitioners of BDSM don’t own a dozen different high-end canes and floggers, but then again, “most people don’t have their own helicopter,” Em notes. The one unrealistic piece of equipment in Christian’s arsenal is the cable ties that he buys at the hardware store. “Never use cable ties to restrain someone’s wrists or appendages — it’s super dangerous in terms of potential physical damage,” Lo warns.
Discussing limits is important.
The contract negotiation scene is a Hollywood reflection of a reality in BDSM: It’s important to talk about comfort zones and safe words beforehand. “The whole thing with kink is that the more you discuss in advance, the more you can let yourself go in the moment — like, you don’t want to be in the middle of a scene and be like, ‘Oh I forgot to ask, are you cool with bullwhips?’” says Em. The columnists also point out that a submissive contract like Christian’s would not be legally binding, even though Anastasia takes it quite seriously. “Contracts are for fun — it’s role playing,” says Lo. “You’re using it as part of the foreplay.”
Christian’s riding crop technique is pretty advanced, but his bondage skills need some work.
When Christian whips Anastasia with the riding crop, he’s very gentle on her stomach and rougher on her butt, which Em and Lo say is good form. However, they were critical of the loose ropes that tied Anastasia to the bed. “There should be a finger’s width in there, but it’s actually safer to be more securely restrained, because if you wiggle around too much, you can fall off the bed or get into a more dangerous position,” says Em. As for that ceiling-suspension rig, Em and Lo say it’s perfectly safe as long as it’s used for limited amounts of time and the cuffs are easy to remove.
The movie skips over aftercare.
In BDSM, “aftercare” refers to a dominant comforting and caring for a submissive (or vice versa) after an intense sexual experience. “It’s the time when you remind your partner that even though you just tied them up and called them names and hit them, you love them and you care for them and you think of them as an equal person,” says Em. “It’s a way to bring the other person down emotionally, mentally, physically.” Fifty Shades offers a quick glimpse of aftercare when Christian gives Anastasia a bath and carries her to her bed, but for the most part, he neglects this crucial step. ...
Law enforcement investigating fetish business in residential area
WKMG Local News
by Mike DeForest
On her website, self-proclaimed dominatrix Judith DeLucenay promises customers they will reach their "pain threshold" while being subjected to activities such as flogging, torture, electrical stimulation and corporal punishment.
Those fetish activities are conducted in DeLucenay's "dungeon" in Orlando, according to the online advertisement, which reportedly includes a cage in the backyard.
The website shows a photograph of a home on Grant Street, a residential area in the city's SoDo neighborhood located a few blocks west of Boone High School.
Now, as a result of neighbor complaints and a Local 6 investigation, Orlando's code enforcement division and Central Florida's vice squad have launched their own investigations into the business, which does not have a home occupational license.
"It's scary," said Emma Scott, who lives across the street from the house where the dominatrix claims she invites clients to participate in bondage and sadomasochistic activities. "I have a daughter. And God knows what guys are going in there, and who they are, and what they're looking for."
There are no laws in Florida that prohibit consenting adults from hiring a dominatrix for services as long as there is no sexual contact that might constitute prostitution, according to law enforcement officials.
DeLucenay's website warns potential customers "DO NOT ASK FOR SEX," explaining that she will "never perform illegal sexual acts."
The Metropolitan Bureau of Investigation, which focuses on vice-related offenses such as prostitution and illegal adult entertainment, announced that it was investigating DeLucenay's business after Local 6 inquired about the Orlando woman's website. A representative for the multi-agency task force did not elaborate on what concerns it may have.
DeLucenay's home on Grant Street sits less than a half-mile from Boone High School. An MBI representative was not immediately able to say whether a dominatrix business would fit the legal definition of an "adult entertainment establishment," which is prohibited by Florida law from being within 2,500 feet of a public or private school. ...
About 60 students say they will attend the initial BDSM club meeting at Mount Holyoke College, an all-women college in Massachusetts.
Sophomore Caedyn Busche founded the organization, which will educate those who want a safe place to talk about BDSM. BDSM is a variety of erotic practices involving dominance and submission, roleplaying, restraint, and other interpersonal dynamics.
Other colleges in the area have a BDSM club but Busche wanted one on campus. “It’s a huge topic of passion for me,” Busche told the Mount Holyoke News.
Busche hopes to become a sex therapist after college. “I was thinking that this is exactly what I want to do with my life, so why not start it off here at school?” she told the student newspaper.
She said that part of the club’s plan is to hold workshops on topics such as “Bondage 101” and “talking about negotiated relations and polyamory.”
Busche says the club will help educate others about BDSM and kink.
“Especially with ’50 Shades of Grey’ coming out, it’s important for a group like this to meet,” senior Jessica Avery told the Mount Holyoke News. “There needs to be positive dialogues around consent, safety with a partner, proper usage of toys, and basic knowledge of what BDSM/king is outside of the false Hollywood fantasy.” ...
The 19-year-old bio-nuclear engineering student allegedly tied his victim to his dorm-room bed with belts.
By Dennis Robaugh
A 19-year-old Chicago college student raped a freshman classmate after he was inspired to re-enact scenes he saw in the movie “50 Shades of Grey,” according to police and prosecutors.
Mohammad Hossain, 19, a bio-nuclear engineering student at the University of Illinois at Chicago, under questioning by campus police, apparently admitted he’d done “something wrong.”
He brought the woman back to his dorm room Saturday at about 5:30 p.m., according to Cook County prosecutors, and persuaded her to strip to her undergarments for him. Hossain told police the two had been intimate in the past.
Hossain then used belts to bind her arms and legs to his bed, assistant state’s attorney Sarah Karr told a Cook County judge on Monday, and pushed a necktie into her mouth. He blindfolded her with a cap, removed her bra and panties and whipped her with another belt, Karr said. The young woman cried, told Hossain “you’re hurting me,” pleaded for him to stop and repeatedly told him “no,” according to police.
Hossain, however, pressed on with his “50 Shades of Grey” fantasy, prosecutors allege, punching her with closed fists and holding her arms behind her back as he forced himself on her.
Hossain’s roommate returned to the dorm room, but the young man initially wouldn’t let him enter, according to police. His accuser then left the dorm and called police, who tracked Hossain down in another campus building that night.
An hour after the attack, Hossain posted this status to his Facebook page: “I’m finally satisfied — feeling accomplished,” with an eyebrow-raised smiley face. ...
A woman lost her job after her employer—a social services org run by the Catholic Church—found out that she was polyamorous. She sued, claiming that poly is a sexual orientation and that her firing amounted to illegal discrimination, but the court found against her. Sydney Morning Herald:
Justice Salvatore Vasta dismissed the co-ordinator's appeal on the basis it had no reasonable prospects of success. He found being polyamorous was "sexual behaviour" and not sexual orientation, which involved something far more than how one behaved sexually. "Sexual orientation is how one is, rather than how one manifests that state of being. The manifestation of that state of being can take many forms," Justice Vasta said. He rejected the woman's argument that "sexual behaviour" was a subset of sexually orientation saying it could lead to absurd results. "If the contention of the applicant were correct, many people whose sexual activity might label them as sado-masochists, coprophiliacs or urophiliacs could claim that such is more than mere behaviour; it is in fact their very sexual orientation," Justice Vasta said. "If the contention were correct, then the illegal activities of paedophilia and necrophilia may have the protection of the Sex Discrimination Act 1984."
I kicked off a shitstorm when I wrote this in "Savage Love" back in 2012:
Poly is not a sexual identity, PP, it's not a sexual orientation. It's not something you are, it's something you do. There's no such thing as a person who is "a poly," just as there's no such thing as a person who is "a monogamous."
I devoted an entire followup column to poly folks who feel that polyamory is their sexual orientation. Later I offered this clarification:
If all people are naturally nonmonogamous—a point I've made about 10 million times—then from my perspective, polyamory and monogamy are relationship models, not sexual orientations. (And if poly and monogamy are sexual orientations, Lily, wouldn't going solo have to be considered one, too?) That was my point. Poly can be central to someone's sexual self-conception, and it can be hugely important, but I don't think it's an orientation in the same way that gay, straight, or bisexual are orientations.
Some poly writers were mollified, others were not—but I learned that many, many poly folks (but not all) strongly feel that polyamory is a sexual orientation. The writer and kinkster Jillian Keenan, for her part, has argued that BDSM—sadomasochism—is a sexual orientation. ...