"Though I’d been learning to embrace my life in a wheelchair—a result of cerebral palsy—going without touch, or even access to my own body, was taking a toll."
BY ANDREW GURZA
I’d never considered the price of intimacy until I hired a sex worker. Though I’d been learning to embrace my life in a wheelchair—a result of cerebral palsy—going without touch, or even access to my own body, was taking a toll. Even so, I didn’t come to my decision lightly. I was worried about shame, stigma, and fear, and concerned I’d pay for time and still not get what I needed. I spent weeks quieting the voices in my head telling me that using the services of a sex worker was not a good idea. Would this be the only way I could find intimacy? Would someone even want to do this with me, or would he only view it as a charitable opportunity to help a cripple? Despite all these questions, I sat in my apartment reflecting on my nearly year-long celibacy. It was time to take care of myself.
After scouring site after site with rows and rows of horny men holding their hard-ons, I found David. His smile was warm, inviting, and intriguingly devious all at once. He was older than me, in his mid-40s, and his photos showed off a powerful body, a strong charisma, and an undeniable charm. I’d often felt physically invisible within the mainstream LGBT community, but David possessed everything I longed for.
I sent David a cursory email, telling him that I was interested in using his services, but that I had never done this before, that I was nervous. I also casually explained as best I could that I lived with a disability and used a chair. He emailed back some hours later, letting me know that he had experience working with clients with disabilities. David wrote bluntly: “If I’m unsure of something, I’ll just ask.” It was a refreshing change from all the guys who tripped and tumbled over their discomfort.
We ironed out the logistics—a time, a location, a fee. Knowing that my sexuality would be broken down into a succinct session was daunting, and it took away from the fantasy and spontaneity I had dreamed of. But this, perhaps, was the cost of getting what I wanted, what I needed. David gently reminded me that I was paying for his time, and whatever happened happened. On our very last exchange, just a day before we’d meet, he called and asked me a simple question, though one I have never been asked before: “What do you want?”
Shyly and nervously I outlined my likes and dislikes as well as my abilities. I wanted kissing. I craved body contact. I couldn’t bottom for him because of my spasticity and tight muscles. I’d need help undressing and being put in bed. I paused, smiled. My needs were at the forefront.
On a rainy, blustery Saturday afternoon, my iPhone blinked with the message that David was in my lobby. I looked at myself in the mirror: a long-sleeve shirt, cozy winter sweats, a baseball cap. I headed downstairs in the elevator. When the door opened, I recognized him immediately. “Hey there! How are you?” he said, giving me a big hug as if we were long-lost friends. I kept watching him, in part because I still couldn’t believe this was happening, and because he looked really good in those tight blue jeans and that leather jacket.
A sexy man was in my house. We made small talk, waiting for someone to strike. He led himself into my bedroom and asked me about the transfer device I use to get into bed. I told him he would have to lift my legs while I held on to two gymnastic rings fastened to a hydraulic lift in my ceiling. I continued babbling, watching him get closer to me, taking off his coat, revealing a tank top and thick, muscled arms. He then straddled my chair, bent down, and kissed me. As I reached and pawed at him—my limbs flailing, not wanting to miss an inch—he stopped me. He looked into my eyes, past the rejection and pain caused by other lovers, and spoke with a firm honesty. “It’s OK.”
David drank in my disability and I dared not stop him. He lifted me out of my chair and held me in his arms. He grabbed me, cradled me, and kissed me. I curled up into him so he could feel the scars, curves, rods, and contractures that inform my disability. I felt sexy. He took off my shirt, and together we revealed my skin. As he moved down my body, and took off my pants and shoes, I worried what he would do when he saw my leg bag and my toes, which curled into each other. But David made this act of care exciting and real for me. When I was finally naked with him on the bed—my body going into spastic fits as a result of CP—I started to tense even more as I neared climax. In a piercing moment of release, I felt my two identities collide: queer and crippled came together in a surge of pure, uncomplicated pleasure. ...
Over the past few years, sexual assault has gone from something in an after-school special to a very real problem plaguing college students across the country. While it’s a widely accepted truth that parents and teachers must do a better job teaching young people, and in particular young men, about sexual consent, every time an assault happens, we are reminded of how badly these young men need coaching on what to do when the lines may be blurred.
Never has the need for this coaching become more apparent than two weeks ago, when the news of former Stanford athlete Brock Turner’s crime, in which he assaulted an unconscious woman behind a dumpster, sickened the nation. In her powerful statement, Turner’s victim reveals that “the night after it happened, he said he thought I liked it because I rubbed his back. … Never mentioned me voicing consent, never mentioned us even speaking, a back rub.”
Is it possible Turner had never explicitly been taught the importance of getting a clear “yes” from a partner? Or did he learn but chose to ignore it? The victim’s account got me thinking: How many men in this country know better, and how many just don’t know at all?
With Turner’s case as the catalyst, I set out to capture a snapshot of the way men were taught about the concept of consent, and when they learned it. Through Twitter, Facebook, and email, I was able to connect with 48 guys, aged 18 to 49, in the U.S., Canada, and the U.K. about when or if they formally learned about consent—and the numbers paint a grim picture of the state of sex education. Of the 48 surveyed, more than three quarters said that before college, they hadn’t even heard the word “consent” or been given an explicit explanation of how you must ask for a partner’s permission. And of the remaining 11 who said they were taught about consent, most reported learning from parents or siblings.
Paula Madrigal was not surprised by my findings. She’s the assistant director of a sex education program at Buffalo State University in New York, and each year she meets young men and women embarking on their adult lives. In a 2015 episode of the podcast This American Life called “Birds & Bees,” you can hear Madrigal begin a conversation with her students about the concept of consent.
“It doesn’t sound right, it’s like you’re messing up the mood if you ask [for consent],” one student comments on the podcast. But Madrigal says that she has far bigger concerns than teens worrying about the mood.
“From what we have seen, it doesn’t appear as though they are familiar with what the basic premise of what consent even means,” Madrigal told me in a phone conversation. And by the time they reach her workshops in their late teens, many students—particularly the male students—aren’t able to see why this lesson is so profound.
Madrigal recognizes an education gap between the sexes about consent. But even more pronounced, she said, is the perception gap. “Statistically, men are typically the perpetrators [of sexual assault], and women are statistically the victims. So it’s almost natural that once you start talking about this, men are going to get defensive…It’s not so much from an educational standpoint, it’s that they start to personalize things. They’re not necessarily looking at the larger picture.”
A culture of male entitlement
For many of the men I spoke with, the void created by the absence of formal education on consent and how to treat a partner was filled in by their peers—and the result was rampant misinformation, and a culture of dangerous male entitlement.
Richard, 33, who grew up in the Bay Area, says he could remember when he started attending house parties in 8th grade, where drugs, alcohol and unsupervised spaces were readily available. This was the period of time when boys like him were becoming men, their sexuality awakening, and their views toward women were being molded—in other words, the time when a conversation about consent would have been crucial. ...
On the rooftop of an empty building in Zagreb, Dino Helvida carefully pierces his client Kaitlin's torso, legs and face before putting hooks through her skin.
Shortly after, he suspends her from a metallic frame, her heavily tattooed body dangling horizontally in the air.
Helvida, 27, is a professional piercer and body suspension expert from Bosnia Herzegovina, who for the last six years has been hanging up the bodies of those brave enough to partake in what is an extreme form of body piercing, sometimes for hours.
The process is carefully done, and in this case Helvida works with his girlfriend Zorana. It involves first piercing the skin with needles, putting through metallic hooks, which are then attached to a thin rope to lift the suspendee off the ground.
"You can do one hook or you can do 100. You have different hooks for different positions and different hooks for different body parts," Helvida told Reuters.
"So everything is really calculated and it's safe."
It took Helvida around an hour to prepare Kaitlin, visiting Zagreb from the United States, for suspension. Devotees say the practice gives them a huge sense of well-being, and Kaitlin did not complain of discomfort once.
"It is painful. Piercing is painful, it's just like regular piercing," Helvida said. "Every time it's a new piercing and the wound heals really fast, it can heal in two weeks. I had hooks in my forehead and nobody can tell I had them." ...
Ofcom decides that Pandora Blake’s dreamsofspanking site was not a video-on-demand service and is therefore not subject to censorship
by Damien Gayle
A feminist pornographer has hailed a victory for freedom of expression after she won her appeal against an order that had forced her to take down a sadomasochism fetish website
Pandora Blake, from London, said she believed she was targeted by the Authority for Television on Demand (Atvod) watchdog because she spoke out publicly against rules on porn deemed “harmful to minors”.
Now, after Ofcom ruled that Blake’s website, dreamsofspanking.com, did not fall under Atvod’s remit, she is free to reinstate its content. “Now I’ve won my appeal I feel vindicated,” she said. “The war against intrusive and oppressive state censorship isn’t over but this decision is a landmark victory for feminist porn, diversity and freedom of expression.”
“If you look at [Atvod’s] archive, the sites they were ruling against, a lot of them were run by women,” Blake said. “It did really feel like they were upholding a kind of patriarchal sexuality.”
Atvod, a quango which regulated video-on-demand websites, was stripped of its powers earlier this year. It had been widely criticised for acting against sites outside its remit and, after new rules were introduced in 2014 banning some sex acts in pornography, free speech campaigners also said it disproportionately acted against websites run by women.
Blake had been among those who spoke out publicly against the Audio Visual Media Services regulations (AVMS), which in 2014 banned the depiction of sex acts that were judged morally damaging or life-threatening, including face-sitting, female ejaculation and spanking that leaves marks. She appeared in panel discussions on Newsnight and Women’s Hour opposing the new rules.
She says she was placed under investigation by Atvod soon after. In August 2015, after a five-month inquiry, she was forced to censor her website, which Atvod ruled had breached rules in three areas: a failure to pay regulatory fees, a lack of effective age controls to restrict access to over-18s, and the broadcast of harmful material.
Atvod’s investigation into her work had been traumatic, Blake said. “Making porn was part of an act of self-acceptance for me, to say I’m not ashamed and to reach out to other people who share the same sort of fantasies,” she said. “As a result, the films that I was making did show very honestly the sort of play that I enjoy in real life, it does include quite heavy impact with things like belts and canes – always consensual, but it does leave welts and bruises that might take a few days to heal.” ...
OkCupid is playing around with a new feature designed to add complexity to its Tinder-esque "Quickmatch" function, called Flavors. OkCupid "Flavors" group matches by a shared personality trait, giving users more information to swipe on than just a picture. The way it works is, every day, OkCupid reveals three different "flavors" to choose from in your Quickmatches. Some have weirdly obtuse punny names like "Incisor Trading" (people who are into biting) and "Grand Old Partiers" (Republicans who like to drink... yeesh), while others are more straightforward, like "Kinky Nerds" and "Hipster Vegans."
Personally, I don't like the Quickmatch function on its own. The whole point of being on OkCupid instead of Tinder is that it allows users the latitude (via character limit-free profile sections) to get really specific about who they are and what they want. If you play with Quickmatch on a mobile device, all you get to swipe on is a user's photos. You don't even get access to the person's username to read their profiles unless you match.
And, based on my personal experience of getting far more mysterious "someone liked you" notifications (unless you both match, being able to see who liked you is a premium profile-only feature) than visitors who are looking at my profile, it seems like lazy, Tinder-conditioned folks are using the Quickmatch feature more than doing the actual work of scrolling through profiles and writing thoughtfully referenced messages. But I can't see who likes me, and I'm not interested in favoriting a user based on a photo alone to generate a so-called "match." The Flavors feature seems to be trying to address this at least a little bit.
OkCupid published its analysis of what Flavors were most effective and why they think that is, and, unsurprisingly, "Kinky Nerds" was the most engaged-with flavor. Here's why that worked better than something like "Best in Show":
Overall, Flavors that spoke to personality traits fared better compared to groups that were curated based on an opinion. For instance, Best In Show (stylish dog owners) performed poorly as owning a dog and being fashionably-savvy doesn’t reveal someone’s characteristics. But personality-rich categories like Kinky Nerds (high on the kinky and nerdy axes) and Hipster Vegans (high on the hipster axis, have specific diet preferences) performed better, as those produced a consistent ‘type’ of person. ...
A BRISTOL man has been convicted of raping a woman during a Fifty Shades of Grey-style relationship of bondage and domination.
Ryan Kennedy was convicted of the rape of two other women over an eight-year period.
The 28-year-old was cleared of three other charges - two of rape and one of attempted rape - but the jury at Gloucester Crown Court failed to reach verdicts on eight other sex charges against him.
The jury of 10 women and 2 men was discharged after three days of deliberation and the prosecution was given two weeks to decide whether to have a retrial on the unresolved charges.
Kennedy, of St Michael's Hill, had denied raping a total of five women.
He was alleged by the prosecution to be "controlling and manipulative man" who dominated the women and took over their lives.
During the trial the jury was told that a 28-year-old Bristol woman who had initially willingly entered into a Fifty Shades-style relationship involving bondage and whipping with Kennedy.
He had told her to use a system of "safe words" based on traffic lights - "green" for go, "amber" for caution and "red" for stop - to make sure he did not do anything without consent while she was tied up.
But the court heard that he changed the rules to stop her from being able to object to sexual acts and simply ignored other victims when they told him to stop.
The court was told Kennedy also tried to take over the women's financial affairs and social lives.
Ten of the charges against him were of rape, one of attempted rape, two of assault by penetration and one of causing a woman to engage in sexual activity without consent.
Kennedy was convicted of raping the Bristol woman.
He was found guilty of one charge of anally raping a 27-year-old woman from Middlesex but cleared on a second similar charge against her.
He was also convicted of raping a 24-year-old woman from Bath.
Kennedy was acquitted of raping another 24-year-old woman, from London, and of the attempted rape of a 24-year-old from Gloucestershire.
After discharging the jury from reaching verdicts on the eight outstanding charges, Judge Jamie Tabor QC remanded Kennedy in custody to await a decision from the Crown Prosecution Service on whether to seek a retrial.
Afterwards the CPS said in a statement: "The case involved victims who had all been in relationships with Ryan Kennedy, which very quickly became controlling and abusive. ...
The word "Fetish" is emblazoned on the cover of this month's Numéro magazine, while Katie Holmes and Claudia Schiffer both don leather and lace
by DANA KRUSPE
The word "Fetish" is emblazoned on the cover of this month's Numéro magazine, while Katie Holmes and Claudia Schiffer both don leather and lace with a side of kink on the covers of Vogue Spain and Germany. A pattern seems to be emerging...
Lately there has been a flood of fashion editorials that dive into the world of fetish and fantasy, where the dominatrix rules (and don't forget the occasional sexy maid). Fashion and pop culture have come together for the perfect storm with sinister fall collections from labels like Louis Vuitton (remember his show was titled "Fetish"), Givenchy and Alexander McQueen, while Rihanna is loving S&M, and Lady Gaga performs in Gianni Versace's bondage collection. It's no surprise that fashion editorials are experiencing the trickle down effect.
Thierry Mugler once described fashion as a "very cruel...very demanding mistress," and we couldn't agree more. It's an apt description and helps to explain why the dark world of fetish and fashion have always been, well, bedmates. Masks, PVC, whips and latex don't have much of a place in real life but since when was high fashion concerned with practicality and reality? The fashion editorial is the perfect place to be a little naughty.
In celebration of sin we'd like to take a look back on the dominatrix and her partner, the submissive, in fashion photography. Caution: Fetish, riding crops, and nudity ahead.
Though only peripherally connected to fashion photography proper (he acted as mentor to Guy Bourdin in the 1950s), it's clear that Man Ray's influence has been felt. His photographs ranged from women portrayed as objects (a violin, a coathanger) to these more wanton and erotic images.
The Guy Bourdin mistress from the 1970s was often high gloss and precisely positioned, giving her an almost clinical quality. Don't let that fool you, though, these ladies are clearly up to no good. ...
Exploring one of the most popular — and dangerous — trends of our generation.
by Kelsey Lawrence
This May, a 20-year-old Texas man was charged with the 2014 death of his prom date, who didn't wake up the next morning after a night of allegedly "rough" sex. Though her death was exacerbated by the alcohol and hydrocodone in her system, Eddie Herrera choked Jacqueline Gomez while having sex, and, due to the drugs and "deep hemorrhaging" around her neck, she died in her sleep that night. Yet despite the inherent risks of engaging in increasingly physical sexual activity, our generation is clearly captivated by it.
In Pornhub's 2015 Year in Review, a comprehensive look at the search analytics of their users worldwide, one of the most interesting statistics went relatively unnoticed. Ranking just under "lesbian" and "solo male," women are searching categories like "hardcore," "rough sex," and "bondage" significantly more often than men. The "rough sex" category alone was viewed by women 106 percent more often than men last year. Under "top gaining searches" for both men and women, the term "hard rough" was searched 454 percent more often in 2015 than in 2014.
Our porn habits aren't necessarily indicative of what we want IRL, but if we're watching rougher porn, does that mean our generation, generally speaking, is having rougher sex? And, furthermore, what do we even mean when we say "rough sex"? Cosmopolitan.com spoke to six Millennials and a sex therapist to investigate whether twentysomethings are playing harder in bed — and, for the first generation to have access to porn since before we even knew what sex was, what that actually looks like. Okay, we're not knocking on apartment doors with a postcoital census poll, so we can't exactly prove whether Millennials are, in fact, getting rougher. But we can look at some common themes to examine where our boundaries tend to be and explore what seems to be the most dominant trend: a disturbing lack of education surrounding consent to these activities.
ARE WE GETTING KINKIER?
Dr. Gloria Brame, sex therapist and author of Different Loving Too: Real People, Real Lives, Real BDSM, doesn't necessarily believe people are kinkier than they've been in previous generations, because she believes those desires to be inherently genetic.
"We're all wired for different things," Dr. Brame tells Cosmopolitan.com. "Some people are always going to be more intrigued by intensity. People in BDSM communities will say it's the internet that's transformed BDSM ... I think that's because it allowed people who might previously have had a tiny fantasy to suddenly realize, 'Wow, does that mean I have the potential to be kinky?'"
In 1953, a Kinsey Institute study found that 55 percent of females and 50 percent of males had experienced an erotic response to being bitten. Clearly, desires for rougher play have always existed in some incarnation. We're also undoubtedly influenced by what we see around us. A University of Arkansas study from 2010 showed that 88 percent of the scenes from 50 top-selling porn videos contained a variety of aggressive acts, from spanking to gagging.
Whether or not these desires are innate, it's undeniable that we've experienced a culture shift of rough sex and BDSM culture permeating mainstream media. As evidenced by the success of the (arguably misinformed) Fifty Shades of Grey and even the trendiness of bondage-inspired clothing, elements of BDSM have become increasingly commonplace. Rihanna's 2010 song "S&M" featured copious whips-and-chains references. Even a recent commercial for pistachios featured a dominatrix seemingly, um, making a pistachio submit to her command. So while humans have likely always had kinky desires, there's no question those desires are more widely accepted and embraced by pop culture today. ...
...Lack of Consent and Education
Of all the themes that arose while reporting this story, this was the most disturbing. Robin, 23, described a one-night stand who tried to choke her during sex without asking first. "It was not OK with me by any means," she says. "Would it have been OK with me if, instead, they were a long-term partner? Most likely." But BDSM activity, even when consensual, can still be prosecuted under state criminal laws, according to the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom. In March, a federal court in Virginia ruled that there is "no constitutional right" to engage in even consensual BDSM.
There's a lot of interesting, valuable discussion surrounding consent and BDSM scenes on FetLife forums and through talks sponsored by the NCSF. Much of that conversation, however, may not reach young people who are experimenting without really becoming part of that community. Eddie Herrera's 25-year sentence for choking his girlfriend is proof of what can happen when these acts go wrong (and it is all too easy for something to go wrong).
We also tend to think of consent in the steps leading up to sex. But even if you're already in bed with someone, asking for consent needs to continue, particularly when playing around with anything that could potentially hurt someone. Kristin, 24, has had experiences with an ex-boyfriend who didn't seek her consent before trying things like name-calling and anal sex. Several months into the relationship, he all of a sudden started calling her a "dirty slut" and attempting anal sex — all with no warning. "It was the most unchill situation I've had with a partner I was actually dating," she says. "I most definitely stopped him and asked what the heck was up. It shifted the entire dynamic of the relationship, unfortunately." ...