This past weekend I attended International Mr. Leather, one of the biggest leather and fetish events in the world, held every year in downtown Chicago. I was in attendance both as a member of the media and as curious spectator. IML had granted me media passes for Full Disclosure, the sex-positive podcast I host, meaning I was granted a lot "behind the scenes" access to events.
If you've never been to IML, it's a four-day long event that features kink-friendly parties and social gatherings, culminating in a beauty pageant-esque competition of leather title holders from across the world to be International Mr. Leather.
Much like the leather community in general, IML is overwhelmingly represented by gay males. While leather fetishes are by no means exclusive to gay men, the amount of women I encountered at the event could more or less be counted on two hands, as compared to the thousands of men I saw.
But the more time that I spent at the event, the more I had to question whether or not the ratio of men to women I saw was truly representative of those within the leather community, or whether or not there was some sort of institutionalized segregation of women.
The majority of the events at IML were headquartered at the Marriot's downtown Chicago location. Security was positioned at every entrance to the hotel along with signs that warned any passerby that the hotel was closed for a private event. As many of us stepped outside during the weekend to use our cellphones, at no point did I ever see security stop a man, be he dressed in a leather harness, t-shirt or peacoat.
But I did very clearly see security stop a woman, admonishing her that this was a private adult event taking place.
"Yeah, I know. That's exactly what I'm here for," she replied.
Most of the debauchery doesn't take place at the IML-sponsored events, but rather in the private hotel rooms of guests at the Marriot. While some of the parties I was invited to were private, closed-door events, others literally had an open door policy, allowing people to wander in and out of the room freely.
I was with my female friend at the time when we were invited to one such party on the 46th floor (the top floor) in a massive suite. Upon entering we found encompassed in near complete darkness, illuminated only by the glow of the city night's lights which the room overlooked. It was also exceptionally humid -- I'd estimate there were about 150 bodies crammed into the suite, doing pretty much everything your imagination will let you.
But despite the relative anonymity that darkness afforded, it only took five minutes before my friend was asked to leave.
"You can't be here. You're a woman," she was told.
My friend is a naturally shy and reserved person who's recently expressed an interest in the kink and BDSM community. While IML seemed like an opportune time to explore these interests, she was nervous about doing so -- intimidation, internal struggle and fear of rejection are frequent barriers when it comes to people openly exploring their own sexuality.
I stepped in, approaching the man who was kicking her out. It was unclear whether this man was the actual tenant of the suite or one of the hundred-plus strangers who had entered into the room and felt threatened by the presence of a woman.
"She's not causing any trouble. She's with me," I said.
"This is a party for men. Women aren't allowed," he retorted.
"We'll leave. But I'm just curious -- how do you define a man?"
This summer, millions of people will crowd into theaters to watch the latest Paranormal Activity. They’ll visit Coney Island to ride the new Thunderbolt. They’ll challenge their friends to chili-dog-eating contests and guffaw at jokes about the digestive results. Why do we enjoy aversive experiences, from horror flicks to roller coasters to spicy foods to gross-out humor? Scientists are discovering that such enjoyment comes not from the raw experience itself, but from our reflections on our pain.
Paul Rozin of the University of Pennsylvania has done the most to elucidate what he calls “benign masochism.” Three decades ago he wrote about people’s enjoyment of chili peppers. (He found that for many, the preferred level of hotness is just below what’s unbearable.) “I presented the idea in the 1980s, but nobody noticed,” he said — with a few exceptions such as Paul Bloom’s How Pleasure Works. So he decided to reintroduce it in a more systematic way. In a paper published last year in Judgment & Decision Making, he and his collaborators provided the most thorough survey of unpleasant experiences to date. ...
... The common thread in our enjoyment of hot peppers, dark humor, and all the rest is a salient understanding that no real danger is afoot. A few years ago, a study by Eduardo Andrade and Joel Cohen explored the importance of a “protective frame” reminding us that an experience is safe. Two groups of subjects, those who love horror movies and those who avoid them, watched a scene from Salem’s Lot while continuously rating how happy they were and how scared they were. In one experiment, everyone simply watched the film. Both groups equally reported being scared, but the horror fans were simultaneously happy, while the non-fans were made unhappy by the mayhem. Then, in another test, horror lovers and haters first read short biographies of the actors, and while watching the scene they saw photos of the actors next to the film. The tweaks offered a protective frame reminding viewers: It’s just a movie! This time, both groups found joy in being scared.
No discussion of this subject would be complete without a mention of sadomasochism. A meta-analysis by Joseph Critella and Jenny Bivona of 20 studies found that between 31 and 57 percent of women have erotic rape fantasies. What psychologically separates these scenarios from actual rape is that they’re fantasies, and women know they’re fantasies. It’s hard to enjoy domination if you don’t ultimately trust your partner. Having a “safe word,” besides adding real protection, can enable pleasure even when it goes unused.
Other researchers have studied various aspects of the metacognitive process that extracts joy from misery. Most notably, the economist George Loewenstein wrote that mountaineers enjoy their dangerous adventures in part because of a sense of mastery. The realization that you can weather pain and fear and still conquer your environment brings a sense of control and self-confidence.
Recently, Werner Wirth and colleagues showed that when watching Hotel Rwanda, sadness was associated with not just a sense of mastery over negative feelings but also a sense of personal growth and the feeling that important life values had been illuminated. In the lingo, sadness reduced hedonic value and raised eudaimonic value, trading happiness for meaningfulness. Relatedly, Mary Beth Oliver and Arthur Raney found that preferences for nonfiction, drama, and sci-fi movies are negatively correlated with the desire to have fun while watching a movie, but are positively correlated with a desire for meaning — reflection and a challenged worldview.
And sometimes, unpleasantness appeals simply for its novelty. Anat Keinan and Ran Kivetz have looked at “collectable experiences”: many people choose unusual activities (e.g., staying in an ice hotel) over pleasurable ones (staying at a Marriott in Florida) as a way to build their “experiential CV,” thus feeling productive. In other words, it seems we want to map and master the full range of potential human experience.
A SWINGERS’ club in Limerick city, pitched as “the home of Irish erotica”, has been “inundated” with job applications, with many highly skilled professionals seeking part time work at the club.
The club, called i-kandi in the Eastway Business Park, is advertising for a ‘shift operator’ in their premises for 20 hours a week, and has received over 100 applications, with more continuing to come in on a daily basis.
The job advert has appeared on the Department of Social Protection website, and prompted one local citizen to contact the department to call for it to be taken down, as he believed it should not be on a Government website due to the “sordid” nature of the business.
However, the advert has remained on their site for a number of weeks and the owners of the business insist what goes on behind their doors is just “harmless fun”, contrary to some people’s perceptions.
One of the company directors said he found the number and calibre of candidates coming forward “astonishing”.
“Honestly, we have been inundated with applications from very highly qualified people looking for work, from engineers to law graduates. It’s a very sad state of affairs to think that so many highly skilled people are looking for part time work,” director Eamon Ryan told the Limerick Leader.
He continued: “The calibre of people we get is very high indeed. We are very grateful for our employees, both past and present, and we do our best for them in any way we can. It’s a win–win situation. We get very qualified, indeed over qualified people, and they in turn get a flexible, part-time job that’s non-stressful, and conducive to furthering their degree or study programmes. We treat our employees very well, we don’t do minimum wage either, and many of our employees have been with us for a long time,” he said.
He said the five-year-old club, which operates seven nights a week and attracts customers from across the country and beyond, is “just like any other night venue” in some senses, “just more ‘European’ in nature”.
“Our customer base is more national and international rather than local. We attract an eclectic mix, of mainly foreigners, into the fetish, and swingers’ club scene. People get to dress a lot more risqué at our venue than at a regular club, but it’s all just harmless fun.
“Our clients tend to find the standard cookie-cutter drinking and rugby scene somewhat boring. We offer a refreshing alternative for mainly home sick foreigners, and a growing number of Irish people that have had their eyes opened up on holiday abroad,” he said.
Mr Ryan said they have never had any anti-social behaviour incident at their venue, which he attributes to the age profile, international make-up of their clients, and also as the club is not largely focused on drinking. ...
Most couples will go to great lengths to make their partner’s sexual fantasies a reality. E.L. James’s Fifty Shades of Greytrilogy has become a hit among both the younger and older crowd, as it has encouraged people to explore their sexual identity and sexual desires, even if they may seem unorthodox. The erotica novel has already been blamed for people stuck in handcuffs, practicing more bondage and sadomasochism, and even the rise in sexually transmitted infections (STIs) among the over-50 crowd.
While the novel has surfaced the concept of becoming “more explorative” in the boudoir, it has led to more recklessness in between the sheets. Doctors have seen a drop in the use of condoms and a rise in STIs. The "Fifty Shades of Grey effect," according to Dr. Charlotte Jones, chairwoman of the British Medical Association's GP Committee, is to blame for the rising rates of chlamydia, syphilis, and gonorrhea, among the greyfurs. “When it comes to forgetting about safe sex we always think of the vulnerability of young people, but there’s the Fifty Shades of Grey effect where older people are being more explorative but not necessarily remembering to use a condom,” said Dr. Jones, The Independent reported.
The novel has sold more than 100 million copies since it was published in 2011 and is being made into a film set for release on Valentine’s Day next year, starring Jamie Dornan in the role of billionaire Christian Grey. Although the main characters are thought to be in their twenties, Jones suggested some older people appeared to have been inspired to be more adventurous in between the sheets. “Anyone, of any age, going into new relationships should be thinking about safe sex and particularly the role of condoms,” she said.
This is supported by figures from Public Health England that show among those aged 45 to 64, there were 19,896 cases in 2011 and 20,445 in 2012, an increase of nearly three percent. STI rates have tripled over the decade in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, among 45- to 65-year-olds. ...
The man charged with killing a Massachusetts coed became enraged when she denied his sexual advances, snuck up behind her and choked her with a rope before raping her, prosecutors said at the opening of his trial on Wednesday
Seth Mazzaglia, 31, is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Elizabeth “Lizzi” Marriott. He has said she died during rough consensual sex and his lawyers argued that his then-girlfriend was responsible for Marriott’s death.
Marriott, of Westborough, Massachusetts, was a 19-year-old student at the University of New Hampshire who was lured to Mazzaglia’s apartment by his girlfriend, Kathryn “Kat” McDonough, on Oct. 9, 2012.
During opening statements, the prosecution painted a lurid picture of Mazzaglia as sexually dominant and said he took Marriott by force when she wouldn’t come to him willingly.
Assistant Attorney General Peter Hinckley said that Mazzaglia asked Marriott for sex after playing a game of strip poker at the apartment he shared with McDonough.
“Lizzi said ‘no,’” Hinckley said.
Mazzaglia then said he was going to have sex with McDonough while Marriott watched, Hinckley said.
“She rejected the master again, in his home, where he got whatever he wanted sexually,” Hinckley said. “So he took what Lizzi denied him.”
Hinckley said Mazzaglia put on gloves, walked to the back of the couch where the two young women were watching a movie and slipped a rope around Marriott’s neck.
“He yanked back hard and Lizzi never had a chance,” Hinckley said. “The defendant struck quick, without warning and with absolutely no mercy. Lizzi had time to let out a quick, terrifying cry but had time for little else. He choked her for minutes until she could no longer deny him.”
Then, Hinckley said, Mazzaglia raped her as McDonough watched.
Marriott’s body was thrown into the Piscataqua River and has not been recovered.
At face value the proliferation of BDSM and fetish-themed websites appears to be a boon for webmasters, but getting into the pain game requires a lot more than slapping down some rough content.
Webmasters looking to cash in on what seems to be an ever-increasing interest in BDSM sites may be in for a bit of a shock.
Although the market is humming with new sites, blogs and conferences popping up regularly – thanks to the ad nauseum popularity of the “Fifty Shades” phenom that shows no signs of ending anytime soon — it’s not enough to simply gather some bondage content and watch the fetish folks beat a path to the door.
The BDSM niche today requires some keen massaging. Sites like DDF Network’s HouseOfTaboo.com has added a glamour model angle, while Crygasm.com — that claims it approaches extreme topics in a safe way — drills down into a micro niche that operator Stewart explains at first blush might seem to be very extreme pain based content, but in fact it is porn for women aimed at showing the sexual catharsis many women feel when using the power of an orgasm to overcome feelings of self-doubt, stress or other negativity. “The result is a site that appeals to both hardcore BDSM extremists and very casual softcore porn curiosity seekers as well,” he said.
This kind of laser focus is essential in the burgeoning yet restrictive market segment that’s being embraced more and more with fans worn out by over-saturated vanilla and free Internet porn.
Even the big guns need to dance to the tune of change. Kink.com founder Peter Acworth told XBIZ that revenue from BDSM recorded content on the Internet is slowly decreasing for the fetish giant, a trend that started a few years ago despite the company’s efforts to revive sales and reduce costs. “The profit margins are not what they used to be,” Acworth said.
But Kink has a plan that involves “re-platforming” Kink.com to reinvigorate sales by including the ability to bundle content arbitrarily (via performer, via tag, etc.) so it will be possible to subscribe or “follow” a performer and receive all of his/her content. Kink will also be tagging all of its content with BDSM toys used, and will be entering the novelty market in a more serious way (i.e. fans will be able to buy items used in shoots), according to Acworth.
And although the knee-jerk reaction by those new to the genre would be to push the limits of content to new extremes in order to titillate new paying customers, Acworth said in fact his company may be “retiring” some of its most extreme lines in favor of appealing to a more mainstream audience.
Kink’s also investing time and effort in KinkLive.com, which he said is growing nicely and is expected to continue over the next few years.
Another Internet giant and genre pioneer, Wastleland.com’s Colin Rowntree agrees that the current marketplace for BDSM continues to be strong, but it’s "different" than it was just a few years ago.
“Due to a lot of ever-evolving restrictions by the credit card associations on what can and cannot be shown in an S&M film, a lot of the ‘extreme’ content producers found it very difficult to create realistic and compelling BDSM content and moved over into simply "rough sex" genres,” Rowntree explained. The change in some ways has actually decreased competition and has, “thankfully” taken BDSM film making back towards its roots of "safe, sane and consensual,” according to Rowntree.
But some companies are still pushing the envelope — perhaps to get the edge others don’t want to touch. And terms like "slave,' tortured," "humilated," "brutal" and more are often bandied about on a site to lure in customers. ...
When I checked my email that Monday afternoon and saw the message titled “Kardinal Kink—New Group Approval,” I froze and stared at my screen as if it were a bomb and that email was its timer.
“New Group Approval?”
No, that doesn’t mean anything by itself, I reasoned. It probably means “new group decision” or something. I was too scared to assume we had made it—that Kardinal Kink was now an official student group—and my staring match with this message quickly turned into an episode rivaling my showdown with Stanford’s admission email.
With that in mind, when I finally opened the email and saw the word “congratulations!” in bolded font, I practically started sobbing at my desk.
We did it.
Kardinal Kink’s journey to VSO status was a long one, and definitely a loud one in the last few months. For those involved in our community, kink was a thing we were continually thinking and rethinking to understand better the culture of consent, body-positivity and trust that we took part in—but for Kardinal Kink to become official, we had to get Stanford to understand us. And at first, that requirement towered over our heads.
Kardinal Kink began as a place for kinky Stanford students to meet each other in real life. It didn’t have a formal structure or strong advocacy goals—but it was a haven for those first few members. Kink hadn’t ever been an integral part of the Stanford community, and having a safe space to meet, chat, and talk about their lives without fear of judgment or repercussions was incredibly important for the first few members of the young group.
But why did we have to meet in secret? Why was this an underground group? Why couldn’t we have filed for VSO status in the very beginning?
The truth of the matter is that kink was (and still is) very much misunderstood. The sensationalized media representations of dominatrices, naked politicians, latex and leather—BDSM porn, essentially—are the most accessible representations of kink for most people, and this is troublesome because it leaves out the most important parts of what makes kink kink. People know the safewords but not the negotiations that set them up; people know the floggers and whips but not the people who they are used by and on; people know the ropes and collars but not the complicated interactions and communication that goes on in-scene around bondage and everything else.
That is, people see kink as actions and not as a community or a culture—and when your identity is reduced to just a handful of actions, it makes coming out even harder. What does coming out about kink even look like?
When your best friend tells you “I’m gay,” they’re telling you a lot more than who they want to have sex with. (Shoutout to queer asexual people!) Most of the time “gay” is just a specific way of talking about love, attraction, desire—and it has its own culture attached to it as well, whether or not people want to become involved with it.But when your best friend tells you they’re kinky, that culture and community don’t immediately come to mind.
“You like to hit people?” or “I don’t understand why you needed to tell me details of your personal life,” someone might say in disgust. But in the same way that being gay is about more than sex, kink is more than kinky acts.
Kardinal Kink’s mission statement defines kink as the following:
A community looking to build on the historical cultures of BDSM, Leather culture and sex-positivity towards a modern movement celebrating consent, sexual and sensual freedom, and the identities and communities centered on these ideas. We define kink as being broader than just specific acts or identities, focusing more on ways of understanding cultures of consensual intimacy unexplained by the prevailing narrative of “sex.”
Kink is about consent—about trust.
But that idea wasn’t too out there, especially not to Stanford students who only knew kink through media. Who knows what would happen if they met an actually kinky person,right?
There was a pretty big reason for Kardinal Kink members to stay anonymous –to not out themselves. Public opinions on kink are incredibly unaccepting, reflected in the fact that fetishism, cross-dressing and BDSM were only just taken out of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in 2013. Last year. On campus, there were hardly any resources for students with questions about BDSM, polyamory or so on, let alone a community of peers. Coming out as kinky on campus for many people meant and still means shooting their careers in the foot. ...
A jury has found an Indianapolis man accused of drugging and then raping his ex-wife while she's asleep guilty of rape and criminal deviate charges.
The verdict was reached at around 3 a.m. today after two days of trial and hours of deliberation. David Wise, 52, was charged in 2011 after the woman told police she found three sex videos of her in her ex-husband's cellphone. The woman, 36, said she has no memory of the sex, of consenting to it and of the videos being taken.
The Indianapolis Star is not identifying the woman because it typically does not identify people who are or may have been victims of sexual assault.
In a testimony Monday, the woman said there had been times during her marriage to Wise when she woke up feeling like her body had been "messed with." She also said she had woken up without any underwear on and without any memory of taking it off. She told detectives Wise had been drugging her since 2005 and she, at one point, woke up in the middle of the night with a pill dissolving in her mouth, according to court documents.
"We felt very confident that he was guilty of all counts," Marion County Deputy Prosecutor Courtney Curtis said. "We felt strongly about (the woman's) testimony."
Deliberation began shortly before 9 p.m. Tuesday night and took nearly six hours, Curtis said.
She said the woman is pleased with the jury's decision.
"(She) has a lot of emotions. Obviously, she feels relieved," Curtis said. "She is sad because this was her husband and the father of her two children. But she feels vindicated that what she went through was worth it."
Since the case began three years ago, defense has questioned the authenticity of the videos.
"Is the video actually what the state says it is? Can you trust this video footage?" Wise's attorney, Indianapolis defense lawyer Elizabeth Milliken asked the jury during her opening statement Monday. "Is David Wise actually the perpetrator?" ...