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"Weighing Who Gets To Decide Whether Nashville Swingers Club Will Become A Church"

on Monday, 04 May 2015. Hits 698

Huffington Post

By Heidi Hall

MADISON, Tenn. (RNS) Goodpasture Christian School sits on a sprawling, bucolic campus seven miles north of downtown Nashville, where 900 students ready themselves for adult lives of college, career and loving the Lord.


Right next door sits the United Fellowship Center, a planned church where adults will ready themselves to have sex with each other after enjoying a little BYOB togetherness.


It’s the newest incarnation of The Social Club, a whispered-about swingers club in downtown Nashville that left for the suburbs when a building boom took its parking lot. The community went bonkers after zoning hearings revealed the club’s plans to relocate in a former medical office building in Madison — adjacent to Goodpasture and within a mile of an Assemblies of God megachurch.


After months of debate, an emergency city zoning amendment and a state law designed to stop the relocation, the club’s attorney made an announcement: The Social Club would open in its new location as a church.


Protection via the First Amendment effectively silenced zoning complaints — for now. But it sparked conversations about what it means for a secular organization suddenly to label itself a church, and religious scholars seem no more ready to plunge into that debate than American courts have proved to be.


“When I see this case, I do roll my eyes, but I also know Protestant Christians in America don’t own ‘church,'” said Kutter Callaway, assistant professor of theology and culture at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif.


“What is a church, what’s the point of it, and why have we as a society said religious groups are exempt from things other groups aren’t? Those are really core questions. We don’t get to them, because we founder upon the rocks of politics and legalese.”


The church’s attorney, Larry Roberts, makes clear that United Fellowship won’t seek nonprofit status — removing its exposure to a 14-point list that the Internal Revenue Service uses to determine whether an enterprise is religious. Members will pay about $150 a year to belong, plus a per-visit fee, he said.


When The Social Club first announced its plan to move to Madison, remodeling plans for the new space submitted to Metro Nashville’s zoning department labeled two rooms as dungeons. Now, as United Fellowship, those same rooms are labeled “choir” and “handbells.”


Roberts said members can bring their own alcohol, and if they show up and want to have sex, they’ll have to take it off campus. United Fellowship Center doesn’t align itself with any world religion, and its belief system is brief: “Do not steal, do not lie, do not cheat, do not take the life of another, do not commit adultery — without the knowledge and consent of your spouse,” Roberts said.


The debate gives churches the opportunity for some introspection, said Craig Detweiler, a communication professor at Churches of Christ-affiliated Pepperdine University. For example, he asks, when buildings house coffee shops, bookstores or gyms, are those part of the church — or are they not another form of social club?


“The swingers club may be gathering to worship the body,” Detweiler said. “But what does it mean to be the Body of Christ? Maybe we need to redefine why we gather. … Perhaps this is a post-Christendom moment that we’re in.”


After all, he noted, the Apostle Paul advised the Corinthians on how their church should stand out from temples where patrons had sex with prostitutes to get closer to God. ...

"Green Party backs polyamory: Here's how you could benefit from a three-way marriage"

on Sunday, 03 May 2015. Hits 799

Natalie Bennett has told PinkNews her party is open to polyamorous marriages and civil partnerships - how would that work in practice?

The Mirror

By Anna Leach , Federica Cocco

It took decades but eventually gay marriage was legalised here in the UK.


So what's next? How about three-way unions?


The leader of the Green Party was asked if the party would do anything to further the rights of people in three-way relationships, specifically allowing them to marry. And Natalie Bennett said the Greens would be up for legalising three-way marriages.


In fact allowing three way marriages would solve several of Britain’s big social problems


1) Housing has become increasingly expensive. Mortgages would be a lot cheaper if you could share them three ways.


2) Your children’s university fees. The price of higher ed has rocketed up. Getting three earners to contribute could help fund many extra kids through uni


3) In-work poverty – add one extra income and you’ll lift thousands out of poverty.


But it might be a bureaucratic and legal challenge, if the Greens ever manage to get it passed.


Challenge #1: It's expensive because marriage couples enjoy state benefits

Polyamorous unions are illegal in our country unless you are domiciled in a country where polygamous marriage is permitted.

So if you come from one of the countries in blue, you move to the country with your spouse and your second spouse also moves here with, say, an employment or a student visa than congratulations! You're a legally recognised polyamorous household.


This means when you claim Income Support, Jobseeker’s Allowance, Employment and Support Allowance, Pension Credit and Housing Benefit as a three-way married partnership.


HOWEVER you don't get as much money:


"For income-replacement benefits such as income support, income-based jobseeker's allowance and income-related employment and support allowance, the husband and first wife claim as a couple. Subsequent wives receive an additional sum which is less than the single person rate. These benefits are only payable for wives residing in Great Britain."


That's what Chris Grayling - then Conservative Minister for Employment - told Parliament in 2011.


And there are more exceptions: a wife in a polygamous marriage currently doesn't have the right to a state pension on the basis of her spouse’s contributions; while tax credits also recognise polygamous unions, mainstream tax doesn't; once fully rolled out Universal Credit rules will not recognise additional partners in polygamous relationships. ...

"The BDSM version of Facebook is under attack for ignoring women's safety concerns"

on Wednesday, 29 April 2015. Hits 1852

The Daily Dot

by Alana Massey

Listening to people describe their initial discovery of FetLife, the social network for those interested in the BDSM lifestyle, is not unlike listening to the newly converted describe their spiritual awakening. When the website launched in 2007, many who had never disclosed their sexual predilections felt free to do so in what they perceived as a digital safe space. FetLife soon became the home for kinky people seeking like-minded friends and partners, local event listings, and a forum to discuss BDSM in non-judgmental spaces.

But as many users learned last February, FetLife was also the home of an unsophisticated code that left its user data vulnerable to collection and re-publication elsewhere. The incident shed light on a number of FetLife's failures to protect its users. More broadly, the security leak was a reflection of how best practices around safety, privacy, and communication are inconsistently enforced on the site.


The most recent incident started when a man named Mircea Popescu published a blog post titled "The FetLife Meat List—Volume I," which he promised would be the first of several posts featuring a searchable list of female-identified FetLife users under the age of 30. The list contained the FetLife users’ usernames, ages,  preferred BDSM roles, and number of FetLife friends, as well as their sexual orientations and locations. The post also included something of a preemptive FAQ about the list, in which Popescu claims the leak was motivated by a desire to call FetLife to task for “putting up the pretense of a ‘fetish for security,’” a reference to a message that shows up on the site when a user signs on for the first time.


While Popescu’s claims about FetLife’s lax security measures were valid, his decision to target women under 30, identify them as “meat,” and bemoan the “alleged abundance of tail” on FetLife in the post belies less than noble motives. But because he wasn’t actually breaking a law by leaking the information, he has already posted up to Volume IV as of April 25.


Of course, Popescu is not a sympathetic character in this story. But the ease with which he exploited the site’s vulnerabilities and FetLife’s subsequent failure to take meaningful action sheds light on the site’s history of turning a blind eye to abuses of people they claim to support.


While BDSM pops up in mainstream culture from time to time, it still remains largely misunderstood and frequently stigmatized. Until 2013, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders classified a number of BDSM behaviors as inherently pathological, and BDSM remains largely illegal under US law.  Simply having a FetLife account is not necessarily identifying oneself as a practitioner of BDSM, as the site can be used anonymously with non-identifying email addresses and usernames. But it is still a powerful medium for connection.


“FetLife can be hugely important to someone who is feeling isolated. Facilitating community is a huge service. And ‘coming out’ can be a matter of liberation,” says Tanya Bezreh, who studies disclosure and communication in BDSM. “But there are dangers, and it's a question of risk tolerance.” ...

"A tale of two lovers (or three, or four): the truth about polyamory"

on Sunday, 26 April 2015. Hits 1521

The Guardian

by Emer O'Toole

Last summer, at a friend’s birthday, a man sat next to me, explained that he’d heard I was polyamorous and asked if we could talk about it. He proceeded to explain that he’s a poly person at heart, but that his partner would never go for it: that’s why he cheated on her. I asked if he’d tried communicating about the kind of relationship he really wanted. No. He couldn’t. His partner was too traditional, too closed-minded. I asked how he’d feel if she became romantically involved with someone else. This was a moot point – she would simply never do that. Oh dear.


Polyamory is usually described as ethical non-monogamy – that is, non-monogamy with the consent and knowledge of all involved. But, of course, there are infinitesimal interpretations of that. Whose ethics? Which actions need consent? What exactly do we want or need to know?


It’s not always easy to define exactly what polyamory is, but it’s pretty easy to say what it isn’t. Poly isn’t cheating. It isn’t lying. It isn’t a disregard for the agreements you share with the people you love. And it certainly isn’t positioning monogamous people as more blindly traditional or less emotionally evolved than you.


Despite my interlocutor’s unfortunate attempt to use poly identity as an excuse for shitty treatment of his girlfriend, the conversation did raise an interesting question for me. Are some people “poly at heart” while others are fundamentally monogamous? Is poly something you are, or something you do?


As an academic who’s read too much Judith Butler, I tend to consider action and identity in the same breath. I think the actions we perform over time become our identities. There’s no “deep down”, there’s no “at heart” – rather, if you act mean all the time, then you are mean; and if you act kindly, you are kind.


According to this theory of identity, everyone has the potential to be monogamous or polyamorous. But, given that monogamy is socially sanctioned, while there’s much suspicion and judgment around polyamory, it’s interesting that people end up “acting” or “being” poly at all. Perhaps, like sexual orientation, there’s a genetic component to poly preferences. Certainly – whether because of life experience, biological drive or a combination of both – some people are more drawn to polyamory than others.


Serial monogamy characterised my early romantic life, as it does for many people. By 19, I’d already had four “serious” relationships, each lasting between six and 18 months, and each pursued with the unwavering belief that I’d found my one and only true and lasting love (again).


However, around that time, I also had a period of polyamory. I had no word for it but, for a while, I was dating two people, who were aware of each other and who seemed content to date me anyway. “Emer’s got a boyfriend and a girlfriend!” my friends teased, remarkably cool about my queer polyness in an Irish town where the majority would have prescribed immediate and urgent exorcism. And, as lucky as it was that I managed to count some of the most supportive people in Galway as my besties, it’s also pretty interesting that I found my way to something resembling polyamory in the first place. After all, there’d been no signposts: I’d never seen poly relationships on TV or in real life.


Looking back, I wish I’d had a word. And more: some stuff to read – a copy of What Does Polyamory Look Like? or a poly web-comic such as Kimchi Cuddles. I lacked the tools I needed to communicate and behave in loving, respectful ways; to do poly right. And, unsurprisingly, I made a balls of everything. Like monogamy, poly needs work. But, perhaps unlike monogamy, it also helps to have some theory. You can’t just imitate the patterns you see around you. ...

"Is it a church or swingers club posing as a church?"

on Wednesday, 22 April 2015. Hits 1065


By Andy Cordan

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Is it a church or a swingers club posing as a church? That’s the big question posed Monday by the councilwoman who represents the Madison district.


The question comes in the wake of a once-proposed swingers club, The Social Club, filing paperwork to renovate the building to become a church.


News 2 learned more about the church Monday, called United Fellowship Center, and how easy it is to become a minister.


In a March 25 interview with the property owners’ lawyer, Larry Roberts told News 2, “My clients pulled a permit for a church.”


But many are skeptical, including District 8 Councilwoman Karen Bennett.


“Do I really think they are a church? Not really,” she said.


Bennett received an advance flyer for the church, which says it will be honoring all yearly subscribers and members of The Social Club. The flyer for the United Fellowship Center said men are charged $50 and women $20.


It also states the center believes that “we are children of the same universe,” where everyone is welcome, including Christians, Buddhists, Muslims, Jews, agnostics, pagans and wiccans.


The church’s primary belief is to “do only that which is right.”


“If you have researched constitutional law in Tennessee, a church is something you cannot regulate,” the attorney told News 2.


According to Bennett, the owner of the building has become an ordained minister, a process online that takes less than a minute and requires nothing more than a name and password.


“Churches have a lot of rights, but it is also federally regulated,” she said. “They certainly have their right to become a church; they just need to make sure they follow guidelines. ...

"Kinky Competitor To AirBNB Lets Travelers Rent Out Dungeons"

on Wednesday, 22 April 2015. Hits 1126

Huffington Post

By David Moye

AirBNB can get you a cheap deal on a room, but it's a lousy place to find a sex dungeon.

So says Darren McKeeman, the San Francisco-based co-founder of KinkBNB, a "sex positive" alternative to AirBNB set to start business on May 1.
"The business was inspired after a friend of mine had a listing incident with AirBNB," McKeeman told The Huffington Post. "They rejected her place because there were sex toys visible in the photos."
McKeeman immediately realized he could beat AirBNB at their own game by offering kinksters a way to find kink-friendly accommodations in vacation hotspots.
For instance, one listing for a "Kinky West Coast Getaway" on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, promises a fully-stocked seaside cabin, including a custom spanking bench, a St.Andrew's Cross, a naughty sex swing and a professional massage table.
Another listing for a dungeon in Los Angeles says guests can enjoy an orgy-friendly play space with a kitchen and dungeon, but no air conditioner.
McKeeman expects the concept to be a hit, mainly because it makes it easier for kinksters to enjoy their BDSM lifestyle without the hassle that comes trying to take whips, chains or sex toys through TSA. ...

"Is Psychiatry Getting Kinky?"

on Monday, 20 April 2015. Hits 1399

Huffington Post

by M. Gregg Bloche, M.D., J.D.

So slip into those tight leather jeans. That dog collar would look fetching. Add a piercing in a place your mother wouldn't imagine. Or take your lover to a trendy erotic play-space and make lots of fast friends.


Your therapist says it's OK. In fact, she or he might be there. (I know a few therapists who partake.)


The American Psychiatric Association has gotten kinky. Well, not quite -- its annual meetings each May are pretty buttoned-up affairs. But its newest catalog of mental illnesses, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (known as the DSM V) does some unzipping. You can now do whatever, with whomever (consent required, please), on your own or in groups, and be in the pink of mental health -- so long as you don't suffer "clinically significant distress or impairment."


Credit cultural change, kinky lobbyists (the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom pressed the APA to stop diagnosing edgy pleasures), or -- who knows. But the committees of psychiatrists who rethink disease categories when the APA revises its diagnostic manual dropped "fetishes" sans "distress or impairment" from their list of disorders.


If your style of kinky fun is fetish-free (the APA defines "fetishism" as sexual use of "inanimate objects"), the new erotic liberation still has you covered. The DSM used to treat all "paraphilias" (APA-speak for "atypical" sexual practices) as sicknesses; not any more, so long as the fun is distress-free.


So what Christian and Anastasia do in Fifty Shades of Grey is (mostly) healthy, as of the DSM V's May 2013 release date. So are sex parties of the sort enjoyed by Dominique Strauss-Kahn -- the next president of France, until his alleged doings with a hotel housekeeper undid him.


Psychiatry's new sexual willingness came along just in time to save the field from embarrassment. If millions of Americans are getting kinky (or want to), diagnosing kink as disease would expand the ranks of the mentally ill implausibly. ...

"Panel sparks discussion on BDSM, consent"

on Monday, 20 April 2015. Hits 9175

Ball State Daily

by Kara Berg

Some people expressed concern about the definition of sexual consent within Bondage and Discipline, Dominance and Submission, Sadism and Masochism following the recent release of the film adaptation of the "50 Shades of Grey" series.


BDSM is a type of sexual relationship where the partners are either dominant or submissive and it can involve roleplaying and restraint.


At a panel April 14, the Office of Victim Services invited psychologists, students and BDSM advocates to speak about consent.


“Some people may misunderstand and think that when sex includes roleplaying or dominance and submission, that a person can do whatever they want to their partner, but that’s not the case," Allison Wynbissinger, Ball State’s victim advocate, said in an email. "Each party still needs to be able to say yes and agree to what is happening.”


Misconception of abuse


Susan Wright, a spokesperson for the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom, said the biggest misconception people have is thinking BDSM is out of control or harmful to people.


“It’s a game people play,” Wright said. “They set out rules and they agree what kind of game they’re playing and they talk about it beforehand. Most times when people have sex, they don’t really talk about it beforehand. They feel the spark and … they get turned on and they don’t talk about, ‘This is what I like when I have sex’ and, ‘This is what my limits are with sex.’ That’s what people who do BDSM have to do, is talk about it first.”


She said with “vanilla sex,” or traditional sex, consent can be implied, and it isn’t always clear whether there could be coercion or fear involved.


When people come into the “kink community,” as Wright called it, she said they finally learn how to talk about sex, because it is not usually something that is taught.


“We have basically no sex education—how to be responsible, how to make sure you do have consent, how to talk about limits and what you really want,” Wright said.


She said for BDSM relationships, there can be consent for one thing, but not for another, and participants are supposed to respect those limits.


“We have a hard time trying to explain this to law enforcement and say this person was sexually assaulted,” Wright said. “They look at it and say ‘Well, they consented to a spanking, how are we going to be able to convince people that she also didn’t want to be sexually penetrated?’ But really it’s simple—she also didn’t consent to being sexually penetrated.”


Bernard Rhombus*, a speaker at last Tuesday’s panel, said in the BDSM community, consent is emphasized and is something that is constantly talked about.


Rhombus said for people who don’t understand the kink community and base what they know off of misconceptions, they tend to jump to the conclusion that people can’t be assaulted if they willingly enter that lifestyle, but that isn’t true.


“Within the community where everyone is supposed to be very hyper-aware of issues and boundary violation, there could be subtle things that to most people wouldn’t seem like a big deal, but would be considered unforgivable sins within the community inside that framework of protecting everyone,” Rhombus said. ...

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