When women in pop culture stray from the prescribed “good girl” into the most extreme bad girl—the sex addict—their interest in BDSM is typically equated with their addiction. By contrast, men are usually portrayed as hopelessly addicted to XXX images, preferring porn to people. Are male sex addicts fundamentally different from female ones, shackled to the Internet while women are shackled by handcuffs? If not, why does popular culture portray them in these two different ways? And what does this say about how women’s sex, desire and pleasure are not only portrayed but policed in our culture?
In films, male sex addicts focus on pornography, such as Adam Sandler’s role in the just-released film Men, Women and Childrenin which he and his son, played by Travis Trope, share this addiction. (Other recent movies in which guys OD on porn include Shame, Thanks for Sharing and Don Jon.) This development coincides with the ease of access to Internet porn, allowing anyone with a smartphone or laptop to have it.
These onscreen portrayals, along with similarly alarming nonfiction articles, offer up modern porn as a dangerous siren luring unsuspecting horny men into the abyss, never to connect with a real-live human woman again. Witness a 2011 New York magazine article about male porn use in which a 41-year-old man named Perry said, “I used to race home to have sex with my wife….Now I leave work a half-hour early so I can get home before she does and masturbate to porn.” The idea of watching porn by yourself for pleasure—and even masturbating!—gets diverted into making porn into a vice men should avoid if they want to have a healthy relationship.
Whereas men’s onscreen libidos get subsumed to porn, women sex addicts in such film classics as Nymphomaniac and The Piano Teacher go down a kinky path of no return. For these heroines, their pathology is part and parcel of their interest in masochism (though in The Piano Teacher, Erika does have a penchant for porn). The repeated linking of women’s interest in BDSM—bondage/discipline, domination/submission, sadism/masochism and other kinky play—with being unable to control that interest adds up to the idea that women just can’t get enough of whips and chains. Just as men’s brains apparently shut off when faced with naked bodies, women can’t think rationally in the face of a sexy Master, which simply isn’t true in the real world.
“There is no evidence that kinky women are more likely to be sexually compulsive. Just because someone has more sex than another person doesn’t mean they’re addicted, either,” says Susan Wright, spokesperson for the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom. “It’s derogatory to say someone is more likely to be out of control about their sexuality because of the frequency of their desire or because they like to do BDSM. In fact, most people who are nonmonogamous or kinky have learned how to communicate better with their partners to be sure everything is going OK. That’s the opposite of the self-harm model of sex addiction.”
Basically, “safe, sane and consensual” (a mantra for many in the BDSM world) doesn’t compute in the vanilla mindset of the world at large. Therefore, the idea of willingly wanting to give up some aspect of control of your life, whether it’s what you wear, when you orgasm or what kind of paddle is used on you, is deemed “abnormal.”
The recent popularity among women of the BDSM romance novel Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James, which has sold over 100 million copies worldwide, led to media interest in the topic, much of which expressed a lingering suspicion of kinky sex as dangerous—but in all the wrong ways.
In fact, it’s hero Christian Grey, who tells heroine Anastasia Steele that he’s never had vanilla (nonkinky) sex before, who can fairly be said to be the BDSM “addict.” Yet he at least has a serious, long-term interest in these sexual activities. Anastasia is doing it primarily because she loves him and wants to please him. Does this make her a love addict by default? It’s unclear, but the idea that a woman would consent to an act like spanking or bondage is seen as suspect. One Forbes commentator wrote, “Do middle-aged women, the main audience for this book, really view the threat of violence as an aphrodisiac?”
Well, no, because BDSM takes place within the framework of consent and violence doesn’t. But you wouldn’t know that from much of the Fifty Shades handwringing, which will surely reach a fever pitch when the movie version (starring Jamie Dornan and Dakota Jackson) hits the big screen February 15.
The very nature of certain BDSM activities—especially some of its psychological aspects—are red flags for an addiction model that doesn’t have, pardon the pun, room for shades of gray. Women’s interest in BDSM per se is often taken as a sign of sex addiction, whether or not the activity is causing a problem in their lives, says Margaret Corvid, a writer, activist and professional dominatrix. “If a woman reports a sex addiction, her interest in a particular kind of sex is often tagged as the problem: She is likely to be advised by a healthcare provider to drop the kink, rather than to manage it so it doesn’t negatively impact her life.” ...
The victim woke up in her car parked in Buffalo, not knowing how she had gotten there.
But she remembered all too clearly the horrific abuse she had just survived, allegedly at the hands of a Lewiston man now charged with a long list of felonies, from first-degree kidnapping to aggravated sexual abuse and obstruction of airway, according to police.
Iver J. Phallen, 67, a retired businessman, used ropes, handcuffs “and other devices” to bind, choke, beat and abuse the 24-year-old Niagara County woman over a period of about 20 hours, police said.
And he told the victim he had brutalized other women in the same way.
Tuesday, Lewiston police urged anyone who knows Phallen or who may have been victimized by him to contact the authorities immediately.
“We believe there may be more, yes,” said Lewiston Police Sgt. Frank Previte.
“We’re requesting that if any individuals have had personal contact or dealings with Phallen, or have any information regarding this case, they contact the Lewiston police or state police,” Lewiston Police Chief Christopher Salada said.
At a news conference Tuesday afternoon at the Lewiston Police Department, investigators outlined what they believe happened at Phallen’s townhouse on Carriage Lane.
New York State Police Lt. Kevin Reyes, of the Bureau of Criminal Investigation, said it was not a chance encounter between Phallen and the young woman on Thursday.
“We believe it was a prearranged meeting and they were going to a known location,” Reyes said.
Police said the victim worked at the Colonie Lounge, a strip club and cigar bar on Hertel Avenue in North Buffalo, but authorities made a point of saying that her place of employment wasn’t relevant to the case.
The meeting between Phallen and the woman was initially consensual.
“And then it changed,” Previte said. “Phallen used ropes and other devices to asphyxiate her. It was against her wishes.”
The attacks occurred in a soundproof room at Phallen’s townhouse, and the room’s windows were covered with heavy blankets, authorities said.
“There was a vast collection of devices. It was methodical and all prepared in advance,” a member of law enforcement said, adding that there is no reason to doubt Phallen’s claims of encounters with other women.
“Over a 20-hour period, he subjected this victim to all kinds of physical and emotional abuse in dehumanizing her. It was torture, akin to being a POW,” the source said.
The victim told police that on different occasions throughout Thursday and into that night, Phallen choked her, rendering her unconscious.
“There was sadomasochism and BDSM (bondage, discipline and sadomasochism). There was physical injury against her, and all of it was conducted against her will,” Previte said.
Part of the “discipline” segment of BDSM, police explained, involves physical abuse and restraining the victim to render her helpless.
During the ordeal, Phallen bragged to the woman of past encounters during which he had physically mistreated other women, she told police. ...
More than 19 states including Hawai‘i have legalized gay marriage in the past decade due to increased public awareness and changing social views on what constitutes a romantic relationship. While this is great news, Americans are still strongly opposed to the idea of romance between more than two people. Here are a few guidelines on experimenting with ethical non-monogamy, or polyamory.
NOT JUST WILD ORGIES
Polyamory comes from the Greek words for “many” and “love” and refers to maintaining loving, intimate relationships with more than one other person. While sex is generally a natural part of romance, polyamory is more than just hooking up with various people. Swingers contrast with polyamory, focusing on sexual encounters over close relationships.
Love isn't scarce like natural resources and doesn't diminish as people are added to a relationship. Each relationship is unique and can have many or few rules, depending on the people involved. For instance, "polyfidelity” refers to a closed group of three to four individuals who may cohabitate over an extended period of time. Another group of polyamorous people may have a "condom contract" with each other – specifying under what conditions a new person may be added to the barrier-free group, if at all. Regular testing for sexually transmitted diseases after new partners enter the relationship is important and free in the state of Hawai‘i. Condom or barrier use is also a good idea for new partners.
While there is nothing wrong with traditional monogamy, it's historically been presented as the only option in life. In reality, there exists a diverse spectrum of relationship possibilities to explore beyond the typical single, dating and married option.
HONESTY AND JEALOUSY
The most important aspect of polyamorous relationships is honesty between partners. Jealousy can be a destructive force in all relationships, romantic or otherwise, stemming from fear of the unknown – fear that a lover may leave or that one is insufficient.
Open and frank discussion about topics like goals, desires and sexual boundaries can solve serious problems before they start by reassuring participants that their needs are being met and that everyone is comfortable.
Polyamory doesn't permit the ability to “cheat” on a partner at any time, as cheating implies deceit or dishonesty. If anyone involved isn't fully informed of and consenting to the existence of the other participants, then it's not truly a polyamorous relationship.
POLYAMORY AND THE LAW
Last year, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill into law, allowing children to have three or more parents or legal guardians to reflect changing family structures. This is progress, but the status of households with multiple adults is ambiguous in the other 49 states. Furthermore, children could potentially be separated from the persons they know as parents. ...
Want to question a partner's sobriety before giving consent for sex? There's an app for that.
It's called Good2Go, and its launch comes days after California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill that defines when "yes means yes" and requires all state colleges to adopt a "affirmative consent" policy. The app, which is free to download on iTunes and Google Play, targets college-age adults and includes a sobriety questionnaire that asks users who they're sleeping with, when they're doing it, and how drunk or sober they are.
Lee Ann Allman, the app's creator, told Slate the inspiration for Good2Go came after she talked with college students about sexual assault on campuses across the country. "(They) are very aware of what's happening, and they're worried about it, but they're confused about what to do," she said. Since "kids are so used to having technology that helps them with issues in their lives," Allman believes the app will ultimately remind college student that consent to sex should be affirmatively given and revoked at any time.
The app claims to be "easy to use" and only one partner needs to download the app to use it. The Daily Mail documented how the app works:
To use Good2Go, users must launch the app, before handing the phone to their potential partner. Using a euphemism for sex, the app then asks the person: 'Are we Good2Go?', before offering them three choices: 'No, thanks,' 'Yes, but... we need to talk,' and 'I'm Good2Go.' If the individual chooses 'No, thanks,' a black screen pops up reading: 'Remember! No means No! Only Yes means Yes. BUT can be changed to NO at anytime!.' Meanwhile, the 'Yes, but... we need to talk' option leads to a pause, during which the couple are given time to discuss their mutual interest in sex.
The final choice, 'I'm Good2Go,' sends the user to a second screen, which asks them how intoxicated they are: a) 'Sober,' b) 'Mildly Intoxicated,' c) 'Intoxicated but Good2Go' or d) 'Pretty Wasted.' If the individual picks 'Pretty Wasted,' they are then informed that they 'cannot consent' to sexual activity and are instructed to hand the phone back to their potential partner....
Dean and Cristy Parave, from Florida, have been married for seven years and are devout Christians.
Cristy, 44, is bisexual. She indulges in extra-marital sex with the consent of Dean, 50.
She told Barcroft Media: “I don’t think God would be mad at what we are doing. At first I was conflicted but the more we looked at it, the more it makes sense to us. Dean and I are both in agreement with this lifestyle, so we’re not committing adultery.
“God put people on the earth to breed and enjoy each other. I feel God is always with me and he has put us here for a reason.”
The couple also enter bodybuilding competitions.
“I’ve always been adventurous when it comes to sex,” Christy said. “The sex between my first husband and I was miserable. I was undersexed before I met Dean but now we do it twice a day. It’s incredible.”
They were introduced to the world of sex-swapping after a chance encounter in Home Depot.
“A couple approached me in Home Depot out of nowhere and asked if we were swingers,” Christy said. “I was so naive I thought they were talking about swing dancing. I said, ‘I used to love to but my husband doesn’t, I’d love to get him lessons.’ Cristy then invited a friend over, and the two women surprised Dean in the shower.
Dean was an alcoholic and a drug addict before he converted to Christianity. He told Barcroft: “For me every day used to involve a case of beer and a bottle of Jack Daniel’s. After my fifth arrest for driving under the influence I begged God for help. I should have been looking at 10 years, but the judge sentenced me to just 10 months in prison. For me that was a sign.”
After he release, Dean built a 40-foot cross in his back yard and vowed to spread the word of God. “I turned my life around, began bodybuilding, and now I try to live pure,” he said. “God has put me here to spread his word and our lifestyle community is a great place to do it.” ...
As the saying goes in New Orleans, let the good times roll.
And at no time is that mantra on display more than during the Naughty in N’Awlins, an annual swingers convention.
Roughly 1,300 swingers from across the country, some who have been married for years and have children, gathered in New Orleans last month for a convention that took over a luxury hotel for four days.
Bob Hannaford, who has made a business around the swinging lifestyle with events like these and a number of cruises, put the convention together. He and his staff of 45 people replaced tables and chairs in conference rooms with beds to create “playrooms” -- a dungeon room, a bondage room and a sensual magic room just to name a few.
An introductory sex toy class, an introduction-to-bondage class, naked speed dating and body painting were just some of the 20 seminars the convention offered, not to mention the 25 wild themed parties, such as the red-dress charity party.
In true New Orleans fashion, the convention was kicked off with a first-ever Swingers Pride parade down Bourbon Street.
The convention is not just about bringing the swinging community together, Hannafold said, but it makes a statement about their lifestyle choice.
"I just want to live in a world where people accept us," Hannaford said. "We just want to live our lives, make our own choices. What we do in private is our own business and there’s a lot of people who do kinky things in private. Most people don’t want to tell people about it, but I’m here to tell the world, 'I’m a kinky guy, you gotta accept me.'"
Hannaford knows swinging isn’t for everyone, but while critics of the swinger lifestyle say it’s just an excuse to cheat on your partner, he believes it can actually help make a marriage stronger....
While tabling for my group, Alternative Sexualities at Duke, I had a conversation with a friend about sexual identity. “What is the purpose of your group?” they asked me, wondering what we covered that the Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity did not. I told them that the purpose was to provide a safe space for people who identify as sex-positive, polyamorous or kinky to discuss their sexual orientation. They looked at me, confused. “Is that a sexual orientation?”
LGBTQIA. That’s an important acronym, and a huge focus of attention in the media today. But most people are unaware that there are sex-positive, polyamorous and kinky communities, and they often face discrimination and legal issues. Let’s start with sex-positivity.
“It’s the cultural philosophy that understands sexuality as a potentially positive force in one’s life, and it can, of course, be contrasted with sex-negativity, which sees sex as problematic, disruptive, dangerous. Sex-positivity allows for and in fact celebrates sexual diversity, differing desires and relationships structures, and individual choices based on consent.”
The discrimination associated with sex-positivity is, unfortunately, usually aimed at young women. In popular culture, sex negativity is commonly manifested as “slut-shaming,” the act of creating a double standard by condemning the actual or presumed sexual behavior of women. But it extends further than that. A sex-negative culture exists and is endemic in many American institutions, particularly in advertising. The sex-positive community is one that promotes sexual equality for men, women and intersex people. But it’s not just an abstract community and it’s not a theoretical, sexually utopian society that exists in a sexological cloud. The National Coalition for Sexual Freedom exists to promote sex positivity and sexual freedom, and there are events all over the world that cater to people who identify as being sex-positive.
Polyamory is extremely difficult to describe, because it takes so many different forms. Morethantwo.com defines polyamory as,
“…the non-possessive, honest, responsible and ethical philosophy and practice of loving multiple people simultaneously. Polyamory emphasizes consciously choosing how many partners one wishes to be involved with rather than accepting social norms which dictate loving only one person at a time.”
Many people confuse polyamorous relationships with open relationships, but they’re very different. An open relationship is typically based around the idea that sexual exploration and self-discovery should not be inhibited by the confines of a traditional two-person relationship. Polyamory is much more than that. It can be two guys and a girl, it can be two girls and a guy, it can be three guys, three girls or a few genderless folks. There are, however, some legal issues that arise, because polyamory is not traditional and thus not fully accounted for legally. Before you get your panties in a bunch, allow me to point out that polyamory is not like the show "Sister Wives." Consenting adults, who all love each other and want to be together, enter into polyamorous relationships.
PsychologyToday lists the greatest issues facing polyamorists as child custody, corporate morality clauses that often result in job termination, housing and state law. Only two parents can be the legal guardians of a child. A person can be fired from their job if their employer views their polyamorous relationship as immoral. Housing regulations often prohibit so many adults living under one roof. Simply crossing state lines can make some marriages illegitimate, which leads to issues in respect to Power of Attorney. If you’re in a polyamorous triad, and you’re lying in a hospital bed, shouldn’t both of your spouses be allowed to visit you? It may seem like a far-fetched scenario, but many polyamorists feel they do not reserve the same rights as many Americans.
The kink community is perhaps one of the most highly stigmatized alternative communities, although the popularity of the "50 Shades of Grey" series has helped bring the community into the light. Many people found the sexual practices described in those books to be arousing, and perhaps a magnified version of many sexual practices common to “vanilla” couples, or couples that aren’t kinky. Those furry handcuffs? They might just be your introduction into the world of BDSM—Bondage & Discipline, Dominance & Submission and Sadism & Masochism.
It seems harmless, right? Consenting adults should be allowed to engage in sexual acts that the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom describes as “safe, sane, and consensual.” ...
Inside an unmarked warehouse in downtown San Francisco, a woman greets guests with a riding crop. She is not there to beat them, but to initiate them with a set of firm and binding rules. A chart posted on the wall reads:
State your boundaries.
Play safely and consensually.
Have sensible safe sex practices.
Respect our space and each other.
Don’t linger unaccompanied in play spaces.
Don’t cruise aggressively.
Don’t get too intoxicated.
Don’t take photographs.
Don’t use your cellphone.
Don’t gossip about what goes on here.
Using the riding crop as a pointer, she lays out the basics for guests entering Mission Control’s Kinky Salon, a monthly San Francisco sex party that dates back to 2003. “Kinky Salon is a global movement that promotes sexual liberation by hosting community gatherings where sex is integrated into the social fabric of the events,” reads the Kinky Salon manual, a guidebook to on how to safely construct a sexual play world where no one gets hurt. That means a strict set of boundaries.
The rules are the portal at Kinky Salon. After guests pass this point of initiation, they enter the warehouse—a two-story adult playground. Upstairs are performances, a DJ, and arts activities like portraiture and body painting. There are low-slung couches, people dancing, and a BYOB bar with a bartender who doles out your own liquor. It’s just a really good party. The play space where the actual group sex scene takes place is downstairs, tucked away in a corner.
There are rules about consent, about how to solicit sex, how to negotiate for something different, how to say no. There are rules about protection, about fluid exchange, about staring, about drunkenness. The rules that dictate the boundaries of this seemingly boundariless space are the same rules that people often break in mainstream society: You have to ask before you touch. You can’t get extremely drunk. You have to honor when someone says “no.”
Rules and group sex have gone hand in hand for decades. The more risqué the sexual party, the tighter the guidelines, particularly in the BDSM world where partygoers consent to physical pain. “The space, people’s bodies are sacred,” Kinky Salon co-founder Polly Whittaker, aka Polly Superstar, recalls from her many years in the BDSM and fetish scene. “You do not talk while someone is having a scene, you don’t laugh, you don’t stare … They’ve created this incredibly strict structure because what they’re doing there is working through some really heavy shit and they need safety for that.”
“Kinky Salon is only one step away from the super strict rules of BDSM and there’s a reason for that,” Whittaker goes on, “which is that I think that women, particularly women in our culture, are not trained to state their boundaries.” The usual script that guides the more typical sexual encounter is replaced by a new one. In setting limits, edges, and rules of play, the possibilities for safely exploring new sexual horizons and thresholds become tangible.
Group sex parties run the gamut and are available for all types of people. The New York scene, which just last month opened a Kinky Salon, joining their list of hosted parties in Copenhagen, Austin, Berlin, Portland, New Orleans, and London, has its fair share of parties across the board. There are the parties just for single heterosexual couples, like Bowery Bliss, a weekly swingers party in lower Manhattan, for which “The term couple refers to a Male and Female. Two men are NOT considered a couple.” At others, like Submit in Brooklyn, a party for “women and trans folk” interested in all types of BDSM play, “There’s a shower, a boot black station, slings, a cross, bondage set-ups, beds, peep holes, and more.” One Leg Up requires their guests to leave together if they arrive together, and Chemistry, another Brooklyn scene, asks a series of questions to pre-screen their guests like, “What is your favorite non-sexual hobby?” or “What role does sexuality play in your life?” School of Sex’s Behind Closed Doors party requires an application and has four cardinal rules:
Ladies make the rules
No means no
Men cannot approach women
In constructing a separate world around non-monogamous sex, these parties are building small behind-the-scenes exits to dominant cultural expectations. The rules define the new sexual paradigm that guests willingly enter. ...