A BDSM-inspired video game from NYU-Poly professor Robert Yang explores deep questions about consent, sex and technology.
By Brady Dale
Sex is a hot topic in video games these days.
If you haven’t played a video game since R.C. Pro-AM on the NES, that might sound weird to say, but it comes up a lot here in Brooklyn, where one of the main technology hubs is the NYU Game Center, a space where loads of makers are working on games that aren’t just about violence, puzzles or racing, but deal with real human themes.
Then of course there’s the whole #GamerGate controversy, which heavily revolves around sex, gender, objectification and sexualization in video games.
Brooklyn game makers have recently been speaking their minds about sex and human relationships with the games they make. We wrote not long ago about a game jam focused on sex and relationships, and now the NYU-Poly Game Innovation Lab and Babycastles have organized a talk with Parsons and Poly professor Robert Yang, who just did a game about spanking in BDSM as a way to simulate and explore consent in a single-player game that’s also a work of art.
Yang opened his talk with a critique of sex in games right now. In more adult games, where characters do end up having sex, it’s treated as a reward for correct behavior or solving a puzzle of some kind. As Yang puts it, “Sex is kind of a pathfinding problem where we’re trying to navigate this space from point A to point B.” The problem here, Yang says, is that it treats sex as a strategic problem, which he sees as unhelpful and dangerous. ...
The list of disorders ranges from “transsexualism” to “sadomasochism.”
by J. Lester Feder and Susie Armitage
A decree Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev signed on Dec. 29 could ban transgender people from driving cars, along with others diagnosed with a long list of “disorders of sexual preference.”
The provision is part of a broad document outlining the medical conditions that disqualify people from driving or impose limitations on their driving rights. The list of “contraindications” to operating a vehicle includes blindness and epilepsy. But it also references a set of “mental and behavioral disorders” as defined by the World Health Organization, which include “gender identity disorders” such as “transsexualism” and “dual-role transvestism.” The order also encompasses “disorders of sexual preference,” including “sadomasochism,” “paedophilia,” and “exhibitionism.”
This provision seems to be a small step in the Russian government’s ongoing campaign against LGBT people, which began with the adoption of the so-called “homosexual propaganda” ban in 2013. The new rule, which implements a law titled “On Road Safety,” relies on the World Health Organization’s most recent manual for classifying illnesses, formally known as the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, commonly called the ICD-10.
The decree states that the listed mental and behavioral disorders can preclude driving if they are “chronic and prolonged,” with “serious” or “frequently exacerbated” symptoms. It covers a wide range of conditions on the IDC-10’s list of mental and behavioral disorders, including dementia, schizophrenia and mood disorders, but excludes others such as eating disorders, certain sleep disorders and nymphomania.
The ICD-10 does not classify homosexuality as a “disorder of sexual preference,” however, though someone who wishes to change their sexual orientation or gender identity “because of associated psychological and behavioural disorders” can be diagnosed as having a condition called “egodystonic sexual orientation.” Russian authorities often enforce provisions in a way that is much broader than a strict interpretation would allow, however, and this is unlikely to matter if officials seek to use this rule to prevent gays, lesbians, and bisexuals from driving.
The Association of Russian Lawyers for Human Rights said the decree “demonstrates bias against certain individuals and groups of citizens, as well as significantly restricting the rights and freedoms of citizens as a whole.” ...
On his character in Fifty Shades of Grey "In the course of researching this character, I have seen the reality very closely. I can tell you from an alarmingly first-hand perspective it's not altogether sexy. But I've been in a dungeon with a lukewarm beer while a dominant has had some fun with his submissive and it was very playful and jovial and not at all dark and serious. There was a lot of laughter…"
On filming the sex scenes "Your dignity is intact as much as it's all tucked away in a little flesh-coloured bag... As a guy you put all your essentials in a little bag and you tie it up like a little bag of grapes and it's tucked away. Its quite a peculiar thing to do every day."
On S&M "I'm an extremely liberal person, I don't give a f***. If people are into that they're into that. By the way, if people make such a hoo-hah about the violence against women aspect of it, it's far more common for men to be the submissive. And it's consensual! There's weirder shit than that. I think plane spotting is far weirder than S&M. That I really don't get. I can understand why people are into S&M, but standing outside Heathrow Terminal 5 waiting for Ryanair to come in?" ...
The Good Men Project site censors any discussion of Kink, BDSM or Fetish Sexuality from my popular column.
by Galen Fous
The Good Men’s Project’s views on what defines sex-positive expression by good men and women, and what does not, was made clear to me recently. They censored my featured column on GMP, The Sex Positive Male. I was told I could no longer include any content referring to D/s-BDSM, Kink or Fetishsexuality.
This censorship occurred despite their editorial claim that the Good Men Project’s mission is to have “the conversation no one else is having.” They further emphasize exactly how open-minded they consider themselves to be. They declare how important it is to be open to more than one view about what constitutes good –“the question of what is good opens the door to huge philosophical implications. Where does goodness start and where does it end? Who is the judge of what is good?”
Well apparently the “who” in this case are the same people, who despite the above claim, ARE afraid of having me include this particular conversation no on else is having about kink and BDSM.
I was warned and even criticized by a number of peers who felt the Good Men Project took too narrow a view of mature healthy masculinity and sexuality when I first took on the column last April.
From my view as a sex-positive writer and advocate for sexual authenticity, honesty, education and research, the GMP had a significant audience to write for. I took them at their word about their stated intention. As long as they did not restrict what I could write about I was happy to offer my sex-positive views. I felt they were welcoming my professional experience and insights about the broad spectrum of sexual desire emerging in the culture globally, and its potential for conscious, empowering and healing expression.
Due to the strong response, I was invited to write an on-going featured column two times per month under “The Sex Positive Male” byline. My column was going to run on Saturdays to avoid NSFW status. I submitted my second column, “Is the Problem Sex/Porn Addiction or Sexual Dishonesty?” and got this reply from my editor at the time…
“After reading your latest installment today, I realized the caliber of content–message, depth, etc.– needs to be a weekday spot. In general weekends are slow traffic for us, and too, a good place to put NSFW content. But the quality of what you are writing deserves weekday attention. LOVE the depth of your material.”
In subsequent columns I focused on growing interest and news emerging about Kink, D/s-BDSM and Fetishsexuality, embodiment, sexual intimacy, sexual healing and other conscious sexuality topics. As a member of both the conscious sexuality and kink communities for over 15 years, and as a Transpersonal psychologist I had helped hundreds of individuals and couples maneuver the complexities of conscious engagement of their kinks. I felt I could offer a reasoned perspective about healthy practices to support the exploding, uninitiated interest in Kink generated by Fifty Shades of Grey and later the Jian Ghomeshi incident. My focus was always on conscious expression, sexual honesty, negotiated consent, embodiment, empowerment, healing past trauma and shame, and deepened intimacy and connection with partners.
The response to my column and messages to me privately have been exceedingly positive, encouraging and often outright grateful for bringing Kink so straightforwardly into the conversation.
I was very impressed that GMP had an expansive enough if not enlightened view to recognize the validity and prevalence of kink oriented sexuality. So it was a shock to receive a cease and desist order direct from the publisher.
“It is with regret that I tell you that from now on we will not be able to run sexually explicit content, and that includes references to graphic sex, kink, BDSM, fetishes and sexually suggestive pictures. You are welcome to contribute non-sexual content, of course…”
Of course…not! This sanitization of a significant dimension of human sexuality from GMP is equivalent to banning any content relevant to gay or lesbian sexuality 50 years ago. It is a slap in the face to anyone who identifies as a Fetishsexual just as it would have been to be excluded from writing relevant content for homosexuals back then. …
2014 has been a year of progress for NCSF and for people who are kinky and nonmonogamous. The national conversation about gay marriage, consent, and even Fifty Shades of Grey are transforming mainstream attitudes. The change in the American Psychiatric Association’s DSM-5 stating that BDSM is a healthy form of sexual expression has also had a significant impact on both the courts and public opinion about kink.
Education Outreach Project
The NCSF Board Members and presenters gave Education Outreach Project workshops and tabled at 36 events in 2014 (compared to 22 in 2013), with a focus on consent discussions, BDSM & the Law, and distributing literature such as Kink is Okay and Finding Kink Aware Medical Care.
The groups and events where NCSF presented included: Arizona Men of Leather, Arizona Power Exchange, Atlanta Poly Weekend, BDSM Writers Con, Behind Closed Doors, Beyond The Love, CatalysCon East, Catalyst Art & Cultural Space, Center for Sex Positive Culture, CLAW, COPE, CPI/The Mark, Dark Con, Dark Odyssey Winter Fire, Dark Odyssey Surrender, Desert Dominion, DragonCon, Floating World, Folsom Street East, Future of Monogamy and Non-Monogamy, International Mr. Leather, Kinkfest, Leathermen’s Discussion Group, MSDB Bizarre Bazaar, Paradise Unbound, Poly Living Conference, Polyamory Political Activism Conclave, Portland Leather Alliance, SMART, Society for Sex Therapy & Research 39th Annual Meeting, Southwest Leather Contest, Spanksgiving, Thunder in the Mountains, Up Your Alley - Dore Alley, Winter Wickedness, and the Woodhull Sexual Freedom Summit.
NCSF also exhibited at the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT) 47th Annual Conference on June 4-8th, in Monterey, California. NCSF helped organize a panel presentation on “Social Organizations and BDSM Communities,” moderated by Neil Cannon, PhD, DST and Russell Stambaugh, PhD, DST. The panel was attended by 115 of the 550 participants, and raised over $4,000 for AASECT. The panelists were experienced and articulate kink organizers on the West Coast: Race Bannon, Janet Hardy, Demitri Moshanyii, Richard Sprott, Anna Randall, and Jim and Montaine who run a dungeon-themed B&B in Monterey.
Jim Fleckenstein was the lead presenter on “The Fountain of Youth! The Association of an Open Relationship Orientation with Health and Happiness in a Sample of Older Adults,” a workshop discussing the key findings from the Loving More and NCSF internet survey, the largest-ever sample of self-identified polyamorists.
The NCSF booth in the Exhibit Hall gave away 50 free copies of What Psychology Professionals Should Know About Polyamory, courtesy of a grant by Alan of Polyamory in the News as well as brochures on NCSF’s projects and programs. Nearly 150 copies of NCSF’s new Kink is Okay! brochure were given away, describing the changes in the DSM-5 that depathologized BDSM.
Kink Aware Professionals
Over 1,200 people accessed NCSF’s Kink Aware Professionals database in 2014 to find a lawyer, therapist or other professional. Recognizing the need for more kink aware professionals in KAP, NCSF joined forces with GayLawNet, a free referral database of gay-friendly attorneys, which began offering a Kink Aware Professional category for their lawyers to self-identify as kink aware.
Incident Reporting & Response
To assist in educating professionals, NCSF published What Professionals Need to Know About BDSM by Lauren Moore, Tamara Pincus & David Rodemaker. This pamphlet was written to help professionals meet culturally competent ethical standards in work with those of our underserved population.
NCSF received 184 requests for assistance in 2014 through Incident Reporting & Response. 40% of IRR requests dealt with criminal issues. 20% were child custody/divorce. 14% were requests for information on kink and non-monogamy from professionals including: academics, social services, vanilla nonprofit organizations & events, authors, merchant services, and insurance brokers. 11% were group issues, primarily assisting in handling adversarial members, outreach to law enforcement, or managing negative media incidents.
NCSF launched our 50 Shades of NCSF campaign featuring four palm cards and a resource page. Two of the palm cards are geared toward vanilla people who may be interested in kink while the other two have information on consent and the law. These palm cards were sent to 68 groups for distribution during the upcoming launch of the Fifty Shades of Grey movie.
In December, NCSF also broadcast a media kit through PR Newswire entitled “NCSF: Are you ready for the Fifty Shades of Grey movie?” that targeted reporters and offered story ideas about kink and non-monogamy. The PR was reposted on 137 websites, including Reuters and the Associated Press, and was viewed by over 1,000 journalists in the first 24 hours.
Susan Wright gave 32 interviews in 2014 to reporters from mainstream media to blogs and podcasts. The 2014 interviews included: The NY Times, NY Magazine, Atlantic Monthly, CNN, Playboy, Bay Area Reporter, Slate, Jane XO, Alternet, andtwo Huffington Post Live appearances.
Barak and Sheba of AdventuresinSexuality.org, a long-time Coalition Partner of NCSF, joined the media team and will be giving interviews on kink and non-monogamy. NCSF also published 15 Guest Blogs by experts in various fields, up from five Guest Blogs posted in 2013. Jsin created several podcast PSAs about NCSF tailored to specific niches – leathermen, pansexual and vanilla-ish – as well as promotional videos to accompany the 50 Shades of NCSF campaign.
NCSF ran two surveys in 2014: the Consent Violations Survey and the Mental Health Survey. The results of both will be available in early 2015. The Consent Violations Survey collected 4,600 responses and the results will be given to law enforcement, prosecutors, victim services and health care professionals to help them understand the experiences of kinky people and provide better quality service.
The Mental Health Survey collected over 800 responses. NCSF is working with researchers at Sam Houston University’s Department of Psychology and Philosophy who will ultimately compare our response set to two other sample populations – one college-aged and the other LGBT.
The Consent Counts program continued its educational mission as well as providing Amicus (“friend of the court”) Briefs in relevant legal cases. The Navy and Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals twice accepted NCSF’s amicus brief in the case of Gregory T. Miles, Lance Corporal, U.S. Marine Corps. NCSF advised the court that prosecutors are avoiding the Supreme Court decision, made in Lawrence v. Texas, that moral judgment is not a basis for criminalizing consensual sexual conduct, and that consensual sex should only be criminalized if that conduct is injurious or goes against a valid societal interest. NCSF also argued that military law is out of sync with U.S. Constitutional law and societal mores, especially when it comes to consensual sexual behaviors.
As part of the revamping of NCSF’s policies and procedures this year, the NCSF Board created the Ombuds Committee in June and appointed Desmond Ravenstone, James Huesmann and Bjorn Paulee. The Ombuds Committee handles complaints and concerns regarding the conduct of NCSF officers and staff, and the operations of NCSF institutions. The NCSF Ombuds Committee was established as an Advisory Committee, as per NCSF bylaws, to review coalition administration and activities, assuring ethical and effective fulfillment of NCSF’s mission and goals. Board Member Fil Vocasek is the Board Liaison to the Ombuds Committee.
Adventures in Sexuality, a NCSF Coalition Partner, donated $500 at their COPE conference in October.
CPI/The Mark, a Coalition Partner, donated $1,000 to NCSF in October.
Behind Closed Doors, the annual conference by Baja Arizona Leather, a Supporting Member of NCSF, raised $300 by passing the hat at their Sunday key note speech.
House of Decorum, a NCSF Coalition Partner, raised $1,296 at their annual fetish ball, held this year in Asheville, NC.
The Red Chair, a NCSF Coalition Partner, donated $744 that was raised at their annual NCSF fundraiser and Halloween Masquerade. This year’s theme was Steampunk! Airship Pirates and Gypsies running wild, with great carnival games and events.
The SFCitadel sponsored a Holiday Dance in the Dungeon for NCSF that raised $913 in December. The event was supported by the Leathermen’s Discussion Group, 15 Association, Society of Janus and the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.
The New Mexico Leather League donated $621 to NCSF in November.
Min-KY, a NCSF Coalition Partner, raised $580 for NCSF in October.
Spanksgiving, the annual fall event by STL3, a Coalition Partner of NCSF, raised $320 through their ice-bucket challenge at the opening ceremonies against Jason (NCSF Board Member), James (NCSF’s Ombuds Committee) and the lovely Tink.
The Tides Foundation donated a $1,500 grant to NCSF! The board of directors thanks Tides, as well as the anonymous donor who nominated NCSF for this grant.
'All About Sex' show will feature the outspoken Cho along with Heather McDonald, Marissa Jaret Winokur and Tiffanie Davis
NY Daily News
BY MARIANNE GARVEY, BRIAN NIEMIETZ AND OLI COLEMAN
Margaret Chohas found a new way to talk sex.
The comedian, always happy to make her private business everybody’s business, will star on TLC’s new chat show “All About Sex” along with comic Heather McDonald,actress Marissa Jaret Winokurand sex and relationship counselor Tiffanie Davis Henry.
“It’s really an advice show about sexuality, and women’s sexuality in particular,” Cho told Confidenti@l. “I’m the representative for alternative sexuality, polyamory, sex toys. I’ve been part of the alternative sex community for my entire adult life. That’s my arena.”
Doesn’t she find it slightly incongruous to be chatting about sex on a network that features theDuggarsin all their virginal glory? “Maybe those people really need to learn about vibrators so you can hold your boyfriend’s hand but still have a good time,” Cho theorizes. “The thing about sexuality is it doesn’t necessarily have to be in a relationship. My feeling is that women are not taught enough about how to be orgasmic and how to learn about their bodies’ needs. Really, this show for me is way less about sex in context of a relationship ... it’s more about finding yourself sexually.”
It’s a difficult time in Cho’s life right now. She recently announced she was separating from artistAl Ridenour,her husband of 11 years. They were in an open relationship, but Cho says that’s not the reason for the marriage’s demise: “The totally sad truth is that sometimes people grow apart … it’s sad for me, I’m learning to live without him, and it’s really painful.”
She’s still an advocate of polyamory and plans to talk about it on the show.
“Opening up your relationship is very risky and a very mature decision, and it needs to be really negotiated,” she said. “I think it’s one of the hardest ways to have a relationship, and the most rewarding.” ...
A number of essayists, at Slate and elsewhere, have criticized the affirmative consent policies that are increasingly being adopted at universities across America. The basic idea underlying these policies is that “s/he didn’t say no” should not be an acceptable excuse for initiating unwanted sexual contact. It raises the bar from “no means no” to “yes means yes.” For sexual conduct to be acceptable, each participant must understand that their partner(s) are actively and continuously agreeing that the experience should continue.
I share some concerns about how these policies are being implemented. In particular, they will remain irrelevant as long as rape investigations are handled by university officials who are biased against admitting that sexual assaults happen on their turf and who lack adequate training to be effective as either investigators or victims’ counselors and advocates, let alone both. However, I do not agree that the affirmative consent standard is the problem. The problem is that it is not universal.
If you observe the way Americans tell stories about sex—in porn, romance novels,popular movies, song lyrics, even in our ineffective abstinence-only sex-ed classes and our schoolyard gossip—it becomes clear that part of our tacit understanding of “good” sex is that it is spontaneous, initiated by a strong male and yielded to by a compliant female. We actively discourage communication. A real man knows intuitively when his woman is ready and how to please her. Asking, or even worse getting told what to do, is a turn off and a threat to his masculine identity. On the flip side, only sluts know so much about sex that they come on to a man, or can describe what they want. These stereotypes set the stage for young people to hurt each other—they’re part of the foundation of what activists describe as rape culture. They must be directly targeted and dismantled.
One advantage of having aberrant desires is that it forces you to learn to articulate what you want, which is a valuable skill for anyone, in or out of the bedroom. Even if your tastes are completely “normal” and you’re looking for a long-term monogamous partner, shedding embarrassment about discussing sex frankly, and conquering fears of rejection, will improve your sexual and romantic life. When you have a new flame, you can find ways to hint at what you want in flirty conversations, or by pointing at examples of pop culture or literature that model what you’re into, or even by sharing porn. You can tell funny stories about past encounters, if you’ve had any. If somebody’s threatened by the idea that you have a sexual past, or thinks it makes you a slut, you’re well rid of them. (If you don’t have a sexual history, you can still share what you’ve learned from exploring your sexuality on your own. And if you haven’t even spent time discovering what you enjoy on your own, then you’re probably not ready to have a partner.) Learning about each other’s histories and fantasies should be a fun way to build intimacy, long before any clothes come off. Once you’re getting hot and heavy, consent can be sexy:
(Playful voice) “I saw that look. Are you thinking about [X]?”
“If you’d like me to [Y], honey, you’re gonna have to beg.”
“Ohhh, you gorgeous thing ... I want you to [Z]!”
The California affirmative consent law explicitly acknowledges that even nonverbal cues—appreciative moaning or physically “leaning in” to a partner’s touch—can constitute affirmative consent. There have been legitimate criticisms of the law—in particular, it may be problematic to create a different standard for campuses than for the rest of the state, and for college students than for everyone else. The larger problem, though, is that we train young people to expect, and act on, the lower standard. ...