Smokey the Bear in a cheerleader outfit dances on a table; a pair of snow-white Grimm’s Fairy Tale wolves nuzzle noses, near a black dragon with motion-detecting video pupils. It’s “drag queens vs. furries” night at San Francisco’s maze-like DNA Lounge, but aside from a guy wearing a pompom wig, it’s a neon safari on hind legs.
I’m looking for a purple giraffe named Zarafa. Amid the Grimm’s Fairy Tale wolves nuzzling and about a dozen dogs, cats, foxes, and raccoons, Zarafa stands apart. He discovered the furry fandom at age 52 and now can’t imagine life without it. I thought he might be able to explain furriness, not as a niche subculture, but as an identity—one that for most of his life he’d never had a word for.
After a long and winding search through balconies, stages, bars, dance floors, and back, I finally spot him through the crowd. He extends a squeaky paw, leading me through winding bars and balconies to a quieter room. Contrary to his Kewpie doll eyes and sparkly blue mane, he’s sweaty and a little matted from partying. Walking behind a giraffe at a furry party feels like being Freddie Prinze Jr. in a teen movie: The seas part, dudes give him fist-bumps, girls grind on him and stop him for photos as a club version of “I Just Can’t Wait to be King” blasts out from the main stage and the whole place goes bonkers. On the dance floor, I’m literally jumping up and down, because looking at a big smiling Bambi-eyed giraffe with a sparkly blue mane has that sort of effect on you.
Yellow light-up cat eyes emerge out of the darkness, belonging to a cheetah whose paw is waiting for the drop. I’d heard of Spottacus’s beautifully tailored high-tech suits, but it’s impossible to appreciate until you see him move; unlike the standard mascot silhouettes, the thick, realistic Steiff-like fur fits like a second skin. He is magnificent. There’s even something a little sexy about watching a giraffe sidle up and lock hips with an antelope, and the suits, with their broad shoulders and big hands, add some physical heft.
The suits are hot, and furries need to surface for air. But just steps outside the club, the magic fades. Having been warned about excess hugging, I’m surprised to notice that the other furries are a little standoffish. Everybody’s been burned by the press at some point; Zarafa says Fox News once ran the word “FREAK” over a clip of his face, and everyone’s quick to insist that it’s not all about sex, even though I never bring it up.
On cue, a French guy in a leather jacket quietly asks me to explain what’s going on with the suits. I tell him to ask the furries standing in front of us. He refuses. I turn to a white cat in a plaid-skirted schoolgirl uniform, who explains that animal anthropomorphism is a part of who she is. “Yeah, but, you, like, woke up one day and decided this was a thing?” he asks.
The conversation trails off, and soon Spottacus is scrambling to save his tail from some vomit on the street: an occupational hazard. Soon Zarafa experiences one, too; he overheats and faints, sinking in slow motion to the concrete.
We have to break a furry rule: taking off his head.
“Quick!” the cat shouts, and five dogs are on it. The face underneath couldn’t be farther from a cartoon; it’s angular, etched with lived experience, grayish and more threadbare. He reminds me of my uncle or my dentist, but it’s hard to picture him as a “Bob” or “Jim.” ...
Imagine Piper from Orange is the New Black hangs out with the ensemble from RENT except they are all into BDSM and identify with some characters from Transparent- You'd get "Incredible Girl".
We are making a 30 minute pilot for a series called "Incredible Girl" about a Southern Baptist young woman who realizes that her life doesn't make sense for her anymore and finds she belongs in the BDSM (or S&M) community.
”Fifty Shades of Grey” was more KINKY for some than others and I surmise those shocked were living the missionary lifestyle.
Wikipedia defines the concept of KINK in a very understandable way: a deviation or “kink” in normal and standard “straight” sexual behavior. Since the word “standard” is defined using the words moral, acceptable, and desirable, it’s easy to understand why OTHER THAN ‘NORMAL’ sex is growing in a culture where religion is slowly diminishing in popularity.
BDSM has probably been around since the beginning of civilization. I could define how the term came to be including Marquis de Sade and Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, but a blog by “Slutty Girl” is much more comprehensive: click here for that.
The Kama Sutra is a well-known Hindu text and proof that kinky behavior has been around much longer than some would like us to think. It was written in BCE, and contains what many call “safety rules” of BDSM while others think it is a Kama “love” Sutra “manual.”
Interestingly, the Wall Street Journal says the writing has more to do with psychology and the art of maintaining/keeping a relationship than it does sex. Nevertheless, a “feature film” is coming out soon, about a brothel specializing in Kama Sutra techniques.
A couple hundred years after the sex manual, the people of Pompeii seem to be using some of its techniques. Erotica from that period shows flogging, and a lot more. I could show you but Huffington Post has already compiled the best examples of ANCIENT KINKY and EROTIC art.
Kinky sex existed, usually hidden before the 1970s until Betty Page became the iconic BDSM pinup girl, fostering the beginning of kinky naughtiness in film.
Tampabay.com lists “Last Tango in Paris” (1972) as a must-see for those interested in submission and dominance, or Quills, starring Kate Winslet.
The point is, BDSM and kinky sex haven’t BECOME popular, it has evolved so that people no longer have to hide the fetishes that were once considered deviant and abnormal. We now live in a world that encourages us to fulfill desires as long as they are legal and as the Kama Sutra says: do it only with people “who enjoy such things.” ...
I spend my life being as honest and transparent as possible. I, like many other Black gay men, have felt the brunt of the stigma attached to a skin pigment or sexual preference that we simply cannot change. We, of all people, have no right to judge anyone based on how they love, who they love, or how they choose to take ownership of their bodies. As a self-proclaimed sex-positive gay man, I must admit that the Leather and BDSM community was quite an intimidating topic to take on.
That was until I met 2016 Leatherman of Color, Khalid El-Bey, who happens to be an unassuming gentle giant - in leather chaps.
When he approached me a few months ago about raising money for my organization Black, Gifted & Whole, I was both confused and flattered. I didn't think we would be the type of organization he would be interested in supporting. I had an unsubstantiated theory floating around in my peanut head about who and what the leather community represented. My own fear of what others thought of my body prohibited me from being as sexually free and affirming as they. The fact that my body had been compromised countless times as a child crippled my sexual liberation.
As an openly HIV-positive Black gay man living in DC, I had to check my respectability politics. This is where the brightest of the bright shine, where the political savvy call Capitol Hill home. Who you're seen with and where you work are qualifiers for friendship. Should you dare to deviate from the proposed agenda of successful Black gay men here, you might as well pack up your Camry and head back to your humble beginnings. For this reason alone, I celebrate people like Khalid, who say that I can love my body, eroticism and the lives of those most impacted by HIV--all at the same damn time.
Most gay men have heard of Onyx, but not many Black gay men. Why do you think there may be a disconnect between the Black gay community and the leather community?
We celebrated our 20th Anniversary in Chicago, IL during what was called BlackOut20 (BOXX) in the fall of 2015. We are a leather fraternity founded and operated by men of color yet we are open to anyone who is interested in the fellowship of our brotherhood. ONYX’s mission is to be an informational and social organization that addresses issues specific to people of color who choose to project the positive aspects of the leather lifestyle and support our community and economic initiatives. Our motto is: "Educate, Explore, and Empower."
I feel that many in the Black gay community initially think that we are a sex club and/or that leather is for only white people. ONYX has a long standing reputation within the leather community with members both nationwide and internationally.
For the record, is the longest existing leather club for people of color and is known for its hospitality and infamous annual ONYX leather dance at International Mr. Leather (IML) Weekend in Chicago and our cocktail party at Mid-Atlantic Leather (MAL) in Washington, DC. ONYX is the longest existing leather club for people of color and is known for its hospitality and infamous annual ONYX leather dance at International Mr. Leather (IML) Weekend in Chicago and our cocktail party at Mid-Atlantic Leather (MAL) in Washington, DC. ...
Remember the opening club scene in Blade? Imagine that, but instead of men in short-sleeved bowling shirts and Kangol hats, you have guys in rubber jock straps and stilettos. Women in corsets and pasties rather than capri pants and pleather jackets. Fire eating, angle grinding, and sex acts instead of human blood raining from the ceiling and Wesley Snipes attacking a load of vampires with a shotgun.
That place is Torture Garden, where a guy getting a blowjob by the bar or a woman whipping a man tied to a St. Andrew's Cross is all part of an average night out. Started in 1990, the iconic fetish club—the largest of its kind in Europe—is throwing a big party this weekend in Elephant & Castle to celebrate 25 years of torture.
My first experience of Torture Garden was in 2003, when the club took over the Brixton Academy for another birthday ball. The main floor overflowed with bums, tits, and gimps strapped into figure-hugging rubber, leather, latex, and spandex, in traditional fetish black to bright and bolder colors.
In the couple's room (the main "play" area), I wandered around with a guy I was casually dating. We were two young gay guys looking on incredulously as hundreds of people in various states of undress made out, sucked, and spanked one another. From mild make outs to full-on butt whacking, the unapologetic indulgence of it all was arousing and entertaining—the kink having an almost Carry On aspect to it.
My previous experiences of "sex in clubs" were either horrid dark rooms in tacky Gran Canaria gay clubs, or the full-on fuck fest of London's queer fetish scene, which was usually far too extreme for my tamer vanilla tastes. By contrast, Torture Garden was—and still is—playful, cheeky, and sexy. And, of course, extreme if you want it to be. But above all: It's fun.
I lost my friend in the playroom and came across a table where a woman—naked bar her heels and a diamante bra—was fucking a guy. She was beautiful, and he was incredibly fit. I wasn't sure which of them I found more of a turn on. A crowd gathered around, a mix of guys and girls watching. Some of them other couples, kissing. Nobody took advantage. They just watched the guy and girl fuck, while the couple clearly appreciated the attention. I didn't perceive her as acting whorish or slutty, or any of the other names society likes to throw at women who openly enjoy their sexuality. She was completely in control, of the guy and of her audience.
To really comprehend Torture Garden's uniqueness, you have to understand where the club came from and why it's so impressive that it's still here, over 25 years later. In fact, that it still exists at all is something of miracle. ...
The open relationship between Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre is frequently and wrongly written off. Such arrangements have women-friendly roots
by Laura Smith
“People have had open marriages for ever … But they never end up working long-term.”
That statement by the biological anthropologist Helen Fisher must have been news to Simone de Beauvoir, the famously non-monogamous French feminist existentialist.
Fisher’s pronouncement, quoted in the New York Times recently, would also be questioned by the numerous celebrities said to have “arrangements”, and the half million or so of Fisher’s fellow Americans giving polyamory a try.
De Beauvoir considered her open relationship with Sartre the “one undoubted success in my life”. In terms of longevity, they had about half of us beat: their relationship, which allowed for affairs while they remained essential partners, lasted 51 years until Sartre’s death in 1980. Now, 30 years after De Beauvoir’s death, many of the criticisms of polyamory are rooted in the same stifling beliefs about female sexuality that she strove to dismantle in her day.
Take for example, the bias that “women only open up their relationships to please variety-seeking men”, which Anna North admitted was often assumed to be the case in an article on why we should be less “freaked out” by polyamory. In a piece for the New Yorker, Louis Menand argued that Sartre was a “womaniser” and De Beauvoir a “classic enabler”, going so far as to suggest that she feigned bisexuality to please him, and that parts of The Second Sex were written as a plea to him, reducing one of the 20th century’s greatest intellectual works to a marital squabble. De Beauvoir’s biographer, Deirdre Bair, argued that she was “subservient” to Sartre, and Hazel Rowley, in Tête-à-Tête, leaned heavily on scenes of De Beauvoir crying in cafes. But at the core of the assumption that non-monogamous women are doing what men want – not what they want – is a more pervasive assumption about female sexuality: it is men who have complex sexual needs, not women.
But as Libby Copeland argued, polyamory has woman-friendly roots: “Free love rejected the tyranny of conventional marriage, and particularly how it limited women’s lives to child-bearing, household drudgery, legal powerlessness, and, often enough, loveless sex.”
In an article on straight poly-relationships in Seattle, Jessica Bennett writes that, “the community has a decidedly feminist bent: women have been central to its creation, and ‘gender equality’ is a publicly recognised tenet of the practice”.
The actress Mo’Nique says that her open relationship was her idea. Simone de Beauvoir didn’t see herself as a tag-along polyamorist either. Attracted to both men and women, her open relationship meant that she didn’t have to choose between them. She felt the “urge to embrace all experience”, saw the ability to act on desire as essential to liberating oneself from male sovereignty, and was seeking to answer the question that we still grapple with today: “Is there any possible reconciliation between fidelity and freedom?” Polyamory, according to Copeland, was not just about sex, but about “remaking one’s own little corner of the world”, a terrifying prospect to those who want the world to remain the same, especially when it comes to established gender roles. ...
Our vision begins with our desires. - Audre Lorde.
What vision do you have for your intimate relationship future?
What if you had a choice to structure, quantify, and love without another’s manufactured design?
With generous intention, this symposium celebrates the unique way that we love and relate. With enthusiasm, we express our relational intimacy, emotional capacity, and sexual fluidity with tenacity and fervor. The consequence of inhibition and oppression is to be held captive by socially constructed parameters. Our symposium aims to educate, expose, and disseminate the knowledge and expertise of the authors of Designer Relationships, national speakers, community organizers, mental health practitioners, and creative spirited individuals who have lived and advocated for surpassing those parameters.
Your celebratory experiences occur on July 22-23, 2016 in Dallas, Texas. Our Saturday Night Keynote Speaker is innovator and educator Tristan Taormino. Our Friday Night Opening Speaker is very talented speaker and galvanizing force Joe Kort PhD and our Saturday Afternoon Jazz Brunch Speaker is the brilliant and very powerful force within black sexologist and sex therapy community, James Wadley PhD. Our symposium’s name “Designer Relationships” is inspired by the book of the same name, Designer Relationships: A Guide to Happy Monogamy, Positive Polyamory, and Optimistic Open Relationships, which was written by multi-award winning authors, Mark Michaels and Patricia Johnson. The author’s approved our symposium using the name and both of the authors agreed to attend our symposium as our Banquet Q&A panelists! Our Friday Night Entertainment is Dem Damn Dames Burlesque Troupe with featured sensual, fluid, and gender bending performers: Tifa Tittlywinks, Onyx Fury, and Chess Shires.
The Alternative Sexualities Health Research Alliance (TASHRA), a San Francisco non-profit community research organization, announces that on April 1st, 2016 it will launch the first ever national survey to examine the impact of kink sexuality on health and healthcare usage.
Why the survey?
Patients who engage in non-traditional sexual practices, including kink, BDSM, and fetishes (see terminology, below), have been largely ignored by healthcare providers and clinical researchers. TASHRA’s research strives to explore the interaction between kink and health, and specifically to describe the physical and mental health of the kink population, their use of healthcare, and their experiences engaging with the healthcare system.
TASHRA’s pilot study (manuscript in review), was a qualitative study based in the San Francisco Bay Area, conducted from 2013-2015. The study concluded that patients have genuine healthcare needs relating to their kink practices and identities, and that they wish to “come out” to their clinicians about their kink sexuality. However, only 38% are out to their current primary care clinician, with most citing fear of stigma as the reason for their non-disclosure.
TASHRA’s pilot study was conducted in a single urban setting, and the results should be generalized with caution. As a qualitative study, the results serve to bring salient issues to light, but do not provide statistics relating to the frequency of the findings, nor do they permit comparisons between subgroups of study participants.
The next step in TASHRA’s research agenda, then, is to distribute a survey to a national kink population, which will allow us to quantify the impact of kink on both physical and mental health, and examine nation-wide issues of healthcare access, specifically as they relate to the experience of healthcare-related stigma.
TASHRA will be recruiting U.S. adults, 18 years and older, who practice at least one non-traditional sexual behavior or fetish, including but not limited to: bondage/discipline, sadism/masochism, domination/submission, sexual role-play, or sexual objectification.
The survey is available online at: http://tinyurl.com/kinkhealth. It will be advertised at kink conferences and community events across the country, along with kink-oriented social media sites and Facebook.
More about TASHRA:
TASHRA is a community-based organization whose mission is to improve the physical and mental health of people who engage in BDSM, kink and sexual fetishism. This is achieved by conducting community-based research, educating healthcare professionals and patients, and by fostering the development of kink-friendly healthcare services.
TASHRA was started in 2012 by Jess Waldura, MD, Richard Sprott, PhD, and Anna Randal, MPH MSW. Jess Waldura, MD, is a family physician, HIV provider, and researcher at UCSF. Richard Sprott, PhD, is a developmental psychologist and director of the Community-Academic Consortium for Research on Alternative Sexualities (CARAS). Anna Randall, MPH MSW, is a clinical sexologist and researcher in private practice. TASHRA is guided and supported by a Community Advisory Board consisting of 16 kink-identified community members.