Last summer, I started a long-term project on consent within the Fifty Shades of Grey series as seen through BDSM and marriage contracts. Only halfway through the summer did I pay attention to reactions to the topic.
It was only after people unexpectedly failed to laugh or joke about my research that I realized I expected them to mock my work. I would be comforted if I could say these reactions center on the text alone: Fifty Shades is what it is, and the pop culture hive-mind long ago decided to create a meme of derision against the series and anyone who engages with it.
But these reactions go beyond the typical excuse of discomfort about my type of research, because being ridiculed for my obviously intensive project is only the least of my worries as a sex positive advocate. I have had to defend myself against misguided first impressions without shaming those who make choices similar to the stereotypes thrown against me. I have had to manage a mix of shame and anger when someone made joking insinuations about my personal life for months based on the fact that I write this column.
And I know I am not alone. Too many times, I have heard similar struggles from friends, classmates and strangers in and outside of campus who are passionate about sexual or romantic health. They understand that the very nature of their advocacy puts them in potentially uncomfortable, unwanted, unsafe situations.
Similar situations pop up with most advocacy work. When there is something to fight for, you occasionally encounter people or situations against which to argue. For now, I am concerned most with the response to activism surrounding sexual or romantic health. It is disturbing that the very act of talking about and advocating for these issues exacerbates the very threat of sexualized, intimate violence. Even if it is supposedly part of the job, how can it be fair that those in vulnerable positions are asked to open themselves up to even more vulnerability?
An incident I believe highlights the urgency of this issue occurred between me and a classmate last year. I mentioned my work with this column and my racialized, classed sex positivity. The student asked me about it, and we had a good conversation about porn even though he held views different than mine. However, he kept asking me about porn, called me out in class about my opinions, and forced me to defend myself after I felt we had exasperated the topic. Because I think of myself as an educator and because I was socialized through violence to always answer questions from men, I kept answering even though I found myself growing uncomfortable.
A friend checked in with me and told me something I had not considered: I could say no to his questions. That it’s okay to feel uncomfortable, even as an advocate. I realized that being made to talk about porn and sex with him brought up the feelings of embarrassment, being trapped, inability to say no, and frustration that I associate with sexual harassment. I had convinced myself I did not deserve to feel upset because the intention in our conversation was education, not a sexual or romantic pursuit.
The exchanges did not escalate to harassment. I recognize my participation in creating the situation, and I still do not completely blame him for it. That check-in helped me start saying no and tell him I was uncomfortable, and he understood the situation and backed off. But this recognition does not excuse my emotional toil, justify his obliviousness and rudeness or indicate that the situation would not have escalated the point where I felt harassed. ...
The BDSM porn purveyor Kink.com that has been operating in the Armory Building since 2007 may soon be cracking its last whip in the Mission. It’s not leaving because of the rising cost of real estate; it’s because of the cost of producing porn.
Last week, the Planning Department released a preliminary review of a plan submitted by Peter Acworth, CEO of Kink.com and the Armory Building’s owner, that would convert the building’s production studios into office space. If approved the proposal would create more than 100,000 square feet of office space in the Civil War-era building on 14th and Mission.
In an email message to Mission Local, Acworth explained that recent and upcoming legislative changes creating stricter health regulations in adult films have made the production of hardcore pornography prohibitively expensive in California. Acworth says that he may move the production arm of Kink.com to Nevada and rent out the Armory for office use.
“The fact is that new regulations threaten to essentially criminalize the production of hardcore pornography in California,” Acworth said. “Measure B in L.A. county was just the start, and now we face AB 1576 and new draft CAL-OSHA regulations that are being proposed.”
Assembly Bill 1576, which was introduced in January, would amend the California Occupational Safety and Health Act with provisions specifically for adult films. If approved, studios would have to provide documentation that all performers use condoms during scenes involving penetrative intercourse and that all performers are tested for STIs every 14 days.
“These new regulations are not yet in place and we are disputing them,” Acworth said in his email. “We hope to prevail on the basis that our protocols include strict, mandatory testing and/or mandatory condoms for all our shoots, and based on the fact that there has not been an on-set transmission of HIV in the U.S. since 2004 on any set where testing was required — not just at Kink.com but anywhere in the industry.”
Earlier this year, two performers named Cameron Bay and Rod Daily contracted HIV during the time they were also working for Kink.com. According to Kink.com spokesman Mike Stabile, Bay was offered a condom but declined to use one during her shoot and Daily, Bay’s boyfriend at the time, used condoms during all his scenes. Acworth has stated previously that he was confident these performers were infected through encounters in their personal lives and not on set, in part, because all their scene partners tested negative following shoots with Bay or Cameron.
However, in an interview with the Huffington Post, Bay has described a more complex situation in which she felt subtle pressure not to use condoms and was severely injured while on set. Her contraction of HIV led to a brief national moratorium on porn shoots. ...
...In recent years, the internet has done for alternative sexuality what it did for comic fans, anime otaku, and gamers—uniting like-minded but geographically distant subgroups and revealing the “fringe” to be larger and far more passionate than anyone had expected. And considering how deeply nerd subculture permeated fashion, film, and television, you have to wonder if the sexual fringe can even accurately be called a fringe at all.
An American study found that more than 40 percent of millennials think that traditional marriage is becoming obsolete, while OKCupid data indicated that more than 34 percent of its users have had a same-sex sexual experience or would like to. The numbers are similar regarding threesomes, according to an ABC survey.
Gen Y’s much-discussed hyperconnectivity, constant communication, and desire for gratification on their own terms actually puts them in a prime position to become a generation of sex nerds. They can figure out the parameters of their relationships on an individual level and eschew conventional sexual and romantic codes in favor of ongoing discussion about their own needs and interests, and the needs and interests of their partners.
But it’s not just young people. The slow mainstreaming of alt sex and love is picking up speed. How much longer can we classify BDSM as a niche interest while Fifty Shades books and paraphernalia fly off shelves nationwide? Sure, it's not exactly an ideal introduction to BDSM, but it implies a large-scale interest in kink across North America, the UK, and elsewhere.
And if a single trashy trilogy can ignite global interest in an allegedly “deviant” sexual subculture, what else are people interested in? How can they access it? Are they already doing so, in quiet corners of the internet after the kids have gone to bed? Are body-positive threesomes the new functional bum-bags? Is queer-friendly feminist tumblr porn the next Star Wars?
Modern society has come far in the last several decades in progressing towards tolerance, and perhaps even acceptance, of individuals who may not look or act the way the statistical majority does in terms of sexual and gender expression. Having said that, human consciousness remains overwhelmingly confined by rigid heteronormative definitions of sexual orientation and gender identification that reinforce binary stereotypes and the pathologization of individuals who identify outside of the mainstream. Research on the subject of BDSM (Bondage, Discipline, Sadomasochism) has historically pathologized BDSM practitioners by focusing on nonconsensual interactions that incorporate elements of sexual sadism or masochism as defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders [(DSM) American Psychiatric Association, 2013; Pitagora, 2013]. However, over the past two decades, BDSM desire and expression have increasingly been considered an atypical but naturally occurring variation of human sexuality that appeals to 5 to 14% of the general population (Masters, Johnson, & Kolodny, 1995; Janus and Janus, 1993). As of the latest iteration of the DSM in 2013, critics have raised arguments for the removal of the Paraphilic Disorders section, based on a lack of objective research to support its inclusion, as well as the section’s poorly written and conflicting diagnostic criteria; it has been suggested that the disorders remain included in the DSM-5 largely for historic and/or political reasons (Federoff, Di Giocchino, & Murphy, 2013; Moser, 2013).
It is heartening to see a trend toward the depathologization of atypical sexual orientations and gender identifications, as indicated by the removal of homosexuality from the DSM over a span of 30 years, and the changes to gender-based disorders that are following suit (Drescher, 2010). It stands to reason that the Paraphilic Disorders section in the DSM-5 would follow the same trajectory, given that the diagnoses were similarly created using culturally-based criteria with no basis in scientific evidence for its inclusion (Federoff, Gioacchino, & Murphy, 2013; Moser, 2013). While the change in cultural and academic perception of atypical sexual and gender expression is a long and arduous process, there seem to be signs of progress that lend a glimmer of hope to those in these fringe communities, indicating that societal tolerance and acceptance is on the horizon. For those with the end goal of equality in terms of sexual expression, this is a promising prospect. However, for those who want more than to be included in the status quo, acceptance and tolerance is not enough.That is to say, repurposing atypical sexual and gender expressions so that they fit into the mainstream idea of what is acceptable does little to further the sexual evolution of society as a whole. This line of reasoning presents a conundrum: Is the fight for sexual freedom merely about access to rights for sexual minority individuals, or also about questioning structures that limit the potential of human freedom for everyone?
In the interest of full disclosure—a concept that is a central tenet among BDSM practitioners (Pitagora, 2013)—it should be noted that the above question was appropriated from LGBT social justice activist Urvashi Vaid (2012), who proposes that equality is not necessarily the ideal end goal for those situated in the margins of sexual orientation and gender identification. Instead, a higher order goal might be to employ the inherent truths in such atypical desires and identifications in order to debunk the currently entrenched heteronormative binary systems of sexuality and gender expression. By shedding light on the way that those who practice BDSM subvert stereotypical gender roles in consensual and negotiated sexual interactions, a world of possibility could be exposed for those mired in rote sexual behaviors enacted within the constraints of societal expectation. The question asked another way: Might an evolution of human sexual behavior be possible for all individuals, no matter how mainstream and conforming, by learning from those who deviate from the sexual norm? …
Dulcinea will be presenting the entirety of this paper at the Woodhull Sexual Freedom Summit, August 14-17 in Alexandria, VA.
Washington D.C. – NCSF has filed an amicus brief in a military case involving a marine who engaged in a consensual threesome and because of that was convicted of adultery, attempted consensual sodomy and indecent conduct, a "crime" based solely on undefined sexual conduct inconsistent with "common propriety."
In its brief, NCSF points out that military law is out of sync with U.S. Constitutional law and societal mores, especially when it comes to consensual sexual behaviors. Dick Cunningham, NCSF's Legal Counsel who prepared and filed the brief, said, "This is an important case in which we have challenged ways in which courts have criminalized consensual sexual conduct in what we regard as direct violation of the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark sexual freedom decision in Lawrence v. Texas."
Lawrence held that non-injurious consensual sex among adults cannot be criminally prosecuted, and that moral disapproval is not a sufficient justification for a criminal law. In this case, the military court used a spurious "public sex" argument to evade the Lawrence ruling.
Filing legal briefs is an important part of NCSF’s mission in its attempts to decriminalize consensual adult sexual behavior. NCSF awaits the decision of the military court on whether its amicus brief will be accepted. To view NCSF's brief and case legal documents on this case, visit https://ncsfreedom.org/who-we-are/about-ncsf/item/715.html
The National Coalition for Sexual Freedom held its annual Coalition Partner meeting in Nashville, TN from March 14-16, 2014. The Coalition Partners voted in the new Board of Directors for NCSF, approved the 2014 budget, and brainstormed on NCSF’s projects and goals for the coming year.
“The annual meeting gives NCSF's Coalition Partners the opportunity to tell the board where our focus should be in the coming year,” says Chairman Kevin Carlson. “It’s also their time to give us feedback on how we’re conducting the day-to-day business of NCSF. The Board and staff of NCSF are now re-energized and eager to continue the good work of NCSF.”
The CP representatives approved the new Financial and Control Policies which have an emphasis on transparency and accountability. The CP reps created an Ombuds Committee which will be responsible for reviewing actions by NCSF board and staff members. The CPs also received a full report on the forensic financial review and the results of the investigation into the theft of funds from the NCSF, and determined the next steps the Board should take in pursuing the restitution of those funds.
The CPs were eager to explore new ways of integrating NCSF programs with membership services and outreach efforts. They heard reports on the NCSF projects and programs including:
·The success of the DSM Revision Project in helping to ensure that kinky people are no longer misidentified as mentally ill by the American Psychiatric Association;
·Kink Aware Professionals list gained 200 professionals in the past year and totals nearly 1,400 professionals;
·The Media Outreach Project gave over 42 interviews on consensual kink and nonmonogamy;
·The Education Outreach Project and Consent Counts Project gave 28 presentations;
·NCSF’s Facebook page hit 1,000 Likes.
Keira Harris received NCSF’s Volunteer of the Year Award for her work as Volunteer Director. Keira has created a volunteer program that is successful in filling the needs of NCSF’s projects and programs. Because NCSF is an all volunteer organization, Keira’s work is critical to its success.
NCSF thanks CPI-The Mark for hosting CP representatives, NCSF board members and staff at their party on Saturday night, and at the Sunday afternoon presentation on BDSM & the Law presented by Judy Guerin, Dick Cunningham and Susan Wright. NCSF also thanks Mercury and Samantha for organizing the annual meeting and welcoming everyone to Nashville.