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"Is the Family of the Future Polyamorous?"

on Tuesday, 15 March 2016. Hits 395


By Oliver Bateman

When it comes to marriage, three is still a crowd. But that might be changing sooner than we think. According to a 2015 Gallup poll, a small-yet-growing percentage of Americans report that they find the concept of plural marriage "morally acceptable," while polyamorous relationships are increasingly receiving mainstream media coverage. A 2014 Newsweek article even estimates that there are more than 500,000 openly polyamorous families living in the United States today.


Of course, not everyone is thrilled with the prospect of polyamory becoming more socially acceptable, particularly the remaining conservative jurists on the Supreme Court. Writing in dissent in the 2015 Supreme Court decision that made same-sex sexual activity legal throughout the United States, Chief Justice John Roberts, wrote that the legalization of same-sex marriage "would apply with equal force to the claim of a fundamental right to plural marriage," echoing anti-same-sex marriage arguments Justice Antonin Scalia had made years before.


The rise of polyamory (as well as the possibility of a more liberal replacement for Scalia, who passed away in February) begs the question: Will multiple-partner relationships eventually become the norm? And if so, what would actually change from a legal perspective?


When discussing plural relationships, it's important to note that polygamy (usually understood by to mean polygyny, or the taking of multiple simultaneous wives) is often conflated with polyamory, a term that refers to the practice of maintaining intimate, consensual relationships with two or more people.


While there are many differences between the two — for starters, polygamy is usually religious in nature and refers to a man having multiple wives, while polyamory is secular and refers to people of all genders having multiple partners — both polygamists and polyamorists live on the fringes of society. In fact, despite increasingly visible activism and public recognition, individuals in polyamorous unions remain outside the mainstream of American life, in part thanks to cultural discrimination against alternative lifestyles.


"Our entire system is geared toward the nuclear family model, two biological parents," Sandy Peace told Mic. Peace is a California psychologist and sex educator who has done extensive work with people involved in the polyamory community. "Many polyamorous families don't 'come out' to neighbors and school administrators because of concerns about prejudice and misunderstanding."


Yet there are also "real logistical problems" that are posed by polyamorous unions from a legal perspective. Peace said that issues related to divorce and custody in particular are complicated.


"Lawyers who are motivated to secure a better custody arrangement for the non-poly parent could make an issue of poly relationships, stressing that they are having a negative impact on the child's development," she said.


Although plural marriage is illegal, meaning that those in polyamorous unions do not receive the insurance or social security benefits that most spouses are entitled to, many polyamorous couples aren't particularly anxious for legal recognition.


Whether or not plural marriage should be legalized is "debated within our own community, similar to the gay community — there are people who don't believe we should go after plural marriage, and there are those who do," Robyn Trask, the executive director of the polyamory support organization Loving More, told U.S. News & World Report in 2015. ...

Guest Blog: Judges Still Cannot Accept a Right of Privacy for BDSM

on Monday, 14 March 2016. Hits 538

A look at Lawrence v. Texas and Doe v. George Mason U

By Richard O. Cunningham, Esq.

NCSF Legal Counsel


In Doe v. George Mason University, the District Court judge’s discussion of BDSM and of Lawrence v. Texas—which is an opinion, not a ruling—is yet another example of how a number of courts have twisted and turned to avoid applying Lawrence to sexual practices of which they morally disapprove. These decisions have involved BDSM, polyamory and even sodomy—which was, of course, the specific practice that was prosecuted in the Lawrence case.


The fact is that Lawrence was explicitly based on a fundamental ruling that applies broadly—but with some ambiguities—to non-injurious, non-commercial sexual conduct.  The constitutional right of privacy, the Lawrence court stated, prevents criminalization of intimate sexual practices unless there is a sufficient societal interest that needs protection by a criminal statute.  The court went on to hold—and this is the crucial point that the District Court judge ignores in Doe v. George Mason—that moral disapproval is not a sufficient societal interest.


But Lawrence, like most Supreme Court decisions, is a lengthy opinion that contains language which, although it in no way detracts from the basic ruling, can be twisted by the moralists to find ways to continue to prosecute the same sexual acts.  Thus courts have misused the Lawrence court’s references to “public sex,” or to the exchange of money, or to physical harm—all to justify the criminalization of “private, consensual conduct,” a criminalization which Lawrence explicitly condemns.


It is important not to oversimplify the issues and frame the debate in a context favorable to the sexual bigots. For our purposes, the question is whether the right to privacy contemplated in Lawrence protects people who engage in BDSM absent non-consent or serious physical injury.  We contend that it does.  This approach enables us to focus the courts and public opinion on the fact that prosecutions growing out of BDSM conduct—whether for assault or trafficking or other crimes—are based on precisely what the Lawrence court found impermissible—namely, moral disapproval.


The judge in Doe v. George Mason sets up a “straw man” when he states the issue as whether there is a “constitutional right to BDSM.”  Lawrence does not specifically mention BDSM, but instead establishes a broad principle that the right of privacy protects “private, consensual conduct” which includes BDSM as certainly as it includes same sex conduct.


It is also important to note that the Lawrence ruling says that conduct may be criminalized if necessary to protect a sufficient societal interest. That is why NCSF argues, and has had success arguing, that only BDSM cases involving serious physical injury warrant criminal prosecution if the activity is consensual.  Such an argument is both legally sound and appeals to the public’s sense of fairness and respect for privacy and personal dignity. NCSF is working effectively on this basis with legislators, lawyer groups, prosecutors and others, and is filing amicus briefs in key appeals related to cases involving alternative sexuality practices.


Of course we should continue emphasizing the general principle of Lawrence that a right of privacy protects sexual conduct unless there is a sufficient societal interest to warrant criminalization. But the balance between that right of privacy and the alleged “societal interests” claimed by our opponents to warrant prosecution will differ from one sex practice to another. Thus, for example, this argument will be different for BDSM than for polyamory.


NCSF is making real progress by presenting these issues in the proper way. An over-broad argument that “we can perform any sex acts we want” or that “BDSM is constitutionally protected in any circumstances,” won’t win over the courts or the legislators. And an over-broad strategy plays into the hands of our opponents, who want to portray us as perverts who want no rules in any situation that would prevent people from doing anything they want to do.


This District Court’s decision is nothing new, and there is no need—and a real downside—for focusing our battle on that opinion, incorrect and illogical as it is.


"Consent Accidents and Consent Violations"

on Sunday, 13 March 2016. Hits 462

Make Sex Easy

by Charlie Glickman

I was at a discussion group recently and someone shared a term that I hadn’t heard before: consent accidents. This is a really valuable nuance in the ongoing conversations about consent and nurturance culture because it recognizes that there’s a difference between a consent violation and a consent accident.

A consent violation happens when someone chooses to ignore or cross someone’s boundaries. People do that for a lot of reasons, including selfishness, arrogance, not caring about their partner, getting off on harming someone (which is distinct from the consensual experience of BDSM), or being somewhere else on the douchebag-rapist spectrum.

Consent accidents, however, are different because they happen because of error, miscommunication, misunderstanding, or not having all the information. That doesn’t make it less painful. If you step on my toes, it hurts whether it was an accident or on purpose. But how I approach the situation and what we do to resolve it might look very different.

There are some really big challenges for navigating this. First, if something happens that leaves you feeling hurt, it can really difficult to know the difference between accident and violation. That might be because of past experiences, wounds, triggers, or trauma which can amplify the hurt. It might be because it’s often difficult to know what someone’s intentions and motivations are. And in a world that excuses perpetrator’s actions and blames victims by saying things like “they didn’t mean to do it,” it can be incredibly hard to stand up for yourself.

Another difficulty is that identifying where things went awry is really hard when you’re feeling hurt. Pain, fear, anger, shame, sadness, and grief are all ways that you might feel when your consent isn’t attended to, whether it’s an accident or a violation. Any of those emotions, individually or in combination, can make it hard to see the situation with clarity, to talk about it with compassion for yourself and your partner, and to hold each of yourselves accountable for your choices and actions.

On the flip side, if you tell the other person what happened, they’ll also have their emotional reactions. Shame, in particular, tends to make us either attack the other person by blaming them or attack ourselves by giving up our right to our feelings and needs. If your partner gets defensive, they might try to dodge responsibility, take on all the blame, or attack you. Those are pretty common ways of reacting to shame, and most of us have done them at one point or another. Unfortunately, they also dovetail with victim-blaming, gaslighting, and the many other ways in which people who have been assaulted or abused get silenced.

Since it can be really difficult to identify what happened and know whether an event was a consent accident or violation, I’m really happy to have discovered this flow chart that Josh Weaver developed (used with permission). This was specifically designed for BDSM scenarios, so the acronym in the blue rectangle might not be familiar to you. WIITWD = What It Is That We Do (I think there’s a typo in the flowchart). ...

"This BDSM Consultant Teaches Famous Actors How to Use Whips"

on Sunday, 13 March 2016. Hits 312

Vice UK

By Julia Alsop

Growing up, Olivia Troy dreamed of being just like Xaviera Hollander, the high-class call girl who ran 1960s New York's busiest brothel and wrote a best-selling memoir called The Happy Hooker. When parents and teachers asked her what she wanted to do when she grew up, she said madam.


Troy's childhood fantasy didn't come to fruition, but sex is still her professional domain. For the past decade, Troy has become a career BDSM expert, consulting for TV shows, film sets, and Broadway plays to help actors and writers get it right when it comes to portraying kink on screen or stage. Her resume includes advising Paul Giamatti about the submissive he plays on Showtime's Billions and training actors on the Zach Braff-starring Broadway play Trust, and she's currently working on the forthcoming movie The Books.


A native New Yorker, Troy began exploring BDSM in her mid-twenties after an acquaintance confessed his shoe fetish to her at a company holiday party. They spent the rest of the night holed up in a corner while he pointed out women's shoes and explained what makes a hard stiletto so sexy. Her interest piqued, she began going to fetish parties, reading BDSM literature, and practicing the art of domination. At the time, she was a freelance lifestyle writer covering food, music, and relationships. But her curiosity for BDSM led her down the rabbit hole, and she eventually set up her own private dungeon.


Now in her mid-30s, Troy practices her kink personally, professionally, and legally with her business Kink on Set. At her consulting studio in New York's Flatiron District, she teaches actors, writers, and private clients how to play and punish. The studio is a BDSM enthusiast's dream, with over £62,500 worth of equipment she often rents out to production crews. Recently, I sat down with Troy among her whipping benches, puppy cages, and gimp masks to talk sex and power, on set and off.


VICE: Can you tell me about how someone becomes a BDSM consultant? What does the job actually entail?

Olivia Troy: Like a lot of the things I've gotten into in life, I fell into this unintentionally. It was 2010, I was practicing as a domme, and a colleague of mine was helping out with the Broadway play Trust, about a guy who goes to see a professional dominatrix who turns out to be his high school classmate. She wanted to show the crew what a real dungeon looks like and how to handle some of the equipment, so she brought one of the producers and three of the principle actors over to my space.


I ended up talking to the actors and coaching them on everything, from things like how to handle a flogger to how create that dominant presence. From there it snowballed, mostly via word of mouth.


What do you mean by dominant presence?

Like, how you talk to a submissive: the tone of voice you use, the different cues you use. When you talk, you talk with intention; you speak with purpose. The idea is to seduce, to be very clear and active. [A dominant presence] is very much about owning your power. There are no questions when I speak to someone. The language is very decisive. ...

"How normal are you in bed"

on Friday, 11 March 2016. Hits 502

A new survey finds most of us get off to things psychiatrists may not approve of.

Mens Fitness


Worried that your deepest darkest fantasies aren't exactly "normal?" According to traditional psychology, they might be more average than you thought. What's more: your partner is probably right there with you: A new study in The Journal of Sex Research found that what psychiatrists classify as abnormal sexual preferences are actually very common.


Researchers from the University of Montreal surveyed a diverse group of over 1,000 people in Quebec on what sexual acts they do and don't enjoy. The catch? Their options were the intimacy interests deemed "paraphilic," or atypical by the bible of mental disorders, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).


Some of the interests that qualified: exhibitionism (enjoying watching others have sex), voyeurism (enjoying others watching you), fetishism (sexual arousal from inanimate objects or body parts), frotteurism (dry humping), sexual masochism (pleasure from receiving pain or ridicule), sexual sadism (pleasure from giving pain or ridicule), and transvestism (excitement from wearing clothes of the opposite sex).


Worried that your deepest darkest fantasies aren't exactly "normal?" According to traditional psychology, they might be more average than you thought. What's more: your partner is probably right there with you: A new study in The Journal of Sex Research found that what psychiatrists classify as abnormal sexual preferences are actually very common.


Researchers from the University of Montreal surveyed a diverse group of over 1,000 people in Quebec on what sexual acts they do and don't enjoy. The catch? Their options were the intimacy interests deemed "paraphilic," or atypical by the bible of mental disorders, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).


Some of the interests that qualified: exhibitionism (enjoying watching others have sex), voyeurism (enjoying others watching you), fetishism (sexual arousal from inanimate objects or body parts), frotteurism (dry humping), sexual masochism (pleasure from receiving pain or ridicule), sexual sadism (pleasure from giving pain or ridicule), and transvestism (excitement from wearing clothes of the opposite sex). ...

Participants needed for Qualitative Study

on Friday, 11 March 2016. Hits 380

Vanilla and Kink: Married Couples in Which One Partner Identifies as a Part of the BDSM Culture and the Other Partner Does Not.

Looking for a legally married couple:

· At least 18 years of age

· Married for at least 1 year (including open-marriage and other variations)

· Male and female partnered marriage

· Speak and write English language fluently

· One partner self-identifying as a part of the BDSM culture/community for at least 1 year and the other partner self-identifying as not specifically BDSM (including vanilla, kinky but not identifying as BDSM, etc. )

· Not currently pregnant or experiencing psychosis or suicidal ideation

Due to the limited time and resources, this particular study focuses the above specific population. Future research will include a variety of types of committed relationships, sexual orientations, etc.

For questions or interest in participation, contact:

Catherine Meyer, MA, LMFT #88224

This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Supervised by Hao-Min Chen, Ph.D.

This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Goal of this study is to understand how married couples communicate and negotiate the rules, roles, and expectations about their sexual relationship when one partner identifies with the BDSM culture and the other does not.


All identifying information will be kept confidential.

This research is endorsed by CARAS.

NCSF Announcement on the George Mason University case

on Thursday, 10 March 2016. Hits 2217

NCSF counsel has carefully analyzed the opinion of U.S. District Court Judge T. S. Ellis III in John Doe v. George Mason University. Contrary to what is being said by some people on the internet, the issues actually decided by the Judge had nothing to do with the constitutionality or legality of BDSM. That subject appears only in a throw-away section of the opinion in which the Judge, having already decided the case in favor of the BDSM practitioner who had been wrongfully expelled from the university, decided to give vent to his displeasure with BDSM and with Lawrence v. Texas, and to state his own totally wrong interpretation of Lawrence.

At the outset of the opinion, the Judge announced that he was going to decide two issues. First, did the University use the constitutionally-required procedures in expelling Mr. Doe? He ruled that the University did not. Second, was Mr. Doe’s right of free speech violated by taking action against him for telling his girlfriend privately that he might commit suicide? The Judge ruled that Mr. Doe’s free speech rights were violated. On these grounds, and only on these grounds, the Judge ordered Mr. Doe to be at least temporarily reinstated at George Mason

After all of this, the Judge noted that Mr. Doe had argued earlier in the case – but not for purposes of this decision – that he had a constitutional right to practice BDSM. Then, without any pretense of issuing any order on this issue, the Judge gave vent to his own views on BDSM and Lawrence v. Texas.

There is now no procedure by which the subject of BDSM will be addressed in any further court proceedings. The student, Mr. Doe, cannot appeal this decision because he won. The University might appeal, but only on the procedural unfairness and free speech issues.

NCSF regrets that Judge Ellis felt it necessary to articulate his dead-wrong view of Lawrence. This is but one more example of a judge giving expression to his own moralistic and uninformed displeasure concerning BDSM. But it is entirely what lawyers call dictum. It creates no precedent and does not even have any effect on this case.

For more information, contact NCSF at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

"Best and Most Beautiful Things Premieres at SXSW"

on Wednesday, 09 March 2016. Hits 345

Huffington Post

by Xaque Gruber

One of the year's most touching documentary films, Best and Most Beautiful Things, makes its world premiere this month at SXSW. A provocative and joyous coming of age portrait of precocious 20 year old Michelle Smith of rural Maine, she's both legally blind and diagnosed on the autism spectrum, but the film does not pander to that. She bursts off the screen as someone immensely relatable. You'll want to know her. This is a powerful, affecting journey into a young woman's mind as she searches for connection and empowerment by exploring life outside the limits of "normal" through a "fringe community."

I had the pleasure of speaking with the film's Executive Producer, Kevin Bright, who has succeeded in navigating the waters of both TV (he was Executive Producer of Friends) and film (his previous documentary work includes directing the 2007 film about his vaudevillian father, Who Ordered Tax?). Kevin executive produced the film with Claudia Bright.

Xaque Gruber: What was it about this project that attracted you? How did it find you?


Kevin Bright: My involvement with the project began in 2009 when I started a filmmaking class for students at the Perkins School for The Blind in Watertown, Massachusetts. Michelle Smith was in that first class and was part of a group that made an award winning film Seeing Through the Lens. I loved the impact the film had on these students, giving them the power to tell their stories to the world. Our director, Garrett Zevgetis, was a volunteer at Perkins who at that time was making a short film about the impact of Helen Keller on current Perkins students. After seeing an early cut, my recommendation was to focus the film on Michelle as a "modern day Helen Keller". Garrett filmed Michelle - it was a 20 minute short that became a feature film and now here we are with a premiere at SXSW.


XG: Let's talk about Michelle Smith. She is legally blind, on the autism spectrum and lives in rural Maine - with those details she seems plucked from a Stephen King novel. She's bound to win over many fans and hearts. Tell me what it was like working with her and do you see any of yourself in Michelle?


KB: Michelle is an inspiration to me. She could roll over and be a victim of her disability, instead she embraces it and challenges the rest of us to step out of our comfort zone and be open to different people and life styles, "unlearning normal" as Michelle says. Everyone falls for Michelle because she draws you in, makes a connection, but sometimes, can really shock you. Pity is not what she seeks, it is not in her vocabulary. ...

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