This year's Mid-Atlantic Leather may have been the largest yet, eagerly embracing newcomers and veterans alike
by Doug Rule
Over 3,000 people attended Mid-Atlantic Leather, held last weekend at the Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill. “It was definitely one of our largest, if not thelargest,” says Patrick Grady, chair of the event, which originated 41 years ago.
The second largest leather and fetish event in the U.S., MAL has grown even in the five years since it moved to the Hyatt. Certainly, it’s an eye-opening experience for any newcomer, as well as for those veterans, such as Mauro Walden-Montoya, Mr. MAL 1996, who haven’t been to MAL since the move. Walden-Montoya and his husband flew in from Albuquerque, N.M., arriving late Friday evening.
“Just watching his face as we walked in was priceless,” Walden-Montoya says of his husband, who was attending his first big leather event. “Like a kid in a candy store mixed with a shocked nun — the emotions across his face were hilarious. You just look down and there’s this sea of black leather and naked butts and beautiful men with no shirts.” Soon enough he got a kick out of another sight: His husband wandering the hotel in a jockstrap, “which he never thought he’d do in his life.”
Jerry Overby was another first-time attendee relishing in the kind of freedom MAL allows, even encourages. “It was pretty dreamy, a complete eye-opener,” says the young Virginia native, who had no previous experience with leather or kink but opted to go after a friend invited him to join. “I lost a lot of my shyness. I would have never been caught dead in public in my underwear, or even without a shirt on.” At this year’s MAL, Overby walked around wearing just a harness and a jock. “It was a super-friendly environment. Everyone was so chill. There was no judgment at all.”
The weekend “was a huge success,” Grady says. “Lots of happy people and good energy everywhere. There were no problems, no issues at the hotel.” In fact, the hotel’s new general manager, who was on site all weekend, called Grady on Monday morning “to thank us and to thank our guests for coming. The hotel received lots of compliments from our guests.” ...
To celebrate the launch of Kink University, we went looking for the kinkiest city in America, and were shocked by what we found. It wasn't the old stalwarts that surprised us — we had a pretty good idea that New York and San Francisco would make the list — but the breadth and diversity of our United States of Kink this year did. We looked at 50 major American cities, ranking them for total kink population (as measured by active members on kink social network Fetlife), the percentage of the population that identifies as kinky, the number of kink-aware professionals (therapists, doctors, lawyers) listed on the NCSF's excellent resource directory, and by the porn purchases of their inhabitants, using data from Kink.com.
Along the way, we came across some interesting side notes. Would you have guessed that El Paso has the smallest kinky population of any major American city? Or that in tiny Harrisburg PA, over 10% of the population identifies as kinky? We found thriving kink outposts in Tampa, a thriving dungeon scene in Atlanta, and porn lovers just about everywhere. (To keep statistical noise to a minimum, we limited it to cities with populations over 500,000.)
The State of Our Kinky Union is strong, we're happy to report. Welcome to the 10 Kinkiest Cities in the United States 2015. ...
Alaska has a tightening kink community made up of people living alternative lifestyles that range from discomfort with mainstream society to unconventional sex practices. But they have struggled to find spaces in which to gather. Now, after a lengthy tenant dispute and thousands of dollars worth of property damage, the Alaska Center for Alternative Lifestyles–ACAL– is ready to open it’s doors.
“Our stairwell, when we finish staging, will be full of pride-flags from across the lower-48,” explains Sahra Shaubach as she shows off the staircase leading into the 2000 square-foot basement she rents in downtown Anchorage, formerly the site of the Kodiak bar. ”Those will include Bear pride-flags, and GBLT pride flags, of course the Leather pride flag, the Trans pride flag and so on and so forth.”
ACAL is meant to solve a years-long problem of where people interested in unconventional sex can get together for events.
”You name it, we’ve rented it,” Shaubach explains. ”We’ve done this out of restaurants after they’ve closed, we’ve done this out of convention halls, we’ve done this out of hotels–we’ve rented entire floors of hotels and done theme rooms. We’ve rented basements, we’ve rented empty houses. And we’ve been doing it with the respect of the greater community in Anchorage, I believe. We haven’t had anyone call the cops and say ‘Oh my god the perverts are screaming next door.’”
“Kink community” is the umbrella term covering everything from bondage and leather aficionados to erotic artists and exotic hula-hoopers. Though Alaska’s kink community is dwarfed by cities in the Lower-48, it is far more widespread than the uninitiated may realize. In the last two decades, different groups like The Northern Lights Dungeon Society and Alaska Dark Realms organized coffee meet-ups and dinners nicknamed “munches.”
“It was just amazing to realize that people across the board–young, old, fat, ugly, educated, not, your doctors, your lawyers, your school teachers, your single mothers, your college students–everybody shows up to those munches,” Shaubach recalls from when she began getting involved eight years ago. ”If you saw us sitting at a restaurant–20, 25, 30, 40 of us–you would have no idea we are Alaska’s alternative community. We look like the people you’d see at Fred Myers.”
Shaubach pounced on the opportunity to rent out the basement in the old Kodiak, even though it meant cleaning up years of broken furniture, trash, and remnants of people crashing when they had nowhere else to go. Upon seeing the space for the first time in two years, the landlord wept. Shaubach and volunteers organized “work frollicks”–a borrowed Amish term–to haul trash, paint, clean, and disinfect the industrial kitchen on the top floor. It took months, but the results are impressive. The rambling chambers of the basement are primed for activities: a tiny stage surrounded by tables, studded leather straps to hang donated art, and “playrooms” holding a few daunting apparatuses.
“There’ll also be a large padded table here that also has a cage that goes underneath it,” Shaubach explained, pointing inside her favorite room. It was filled with supplies and equipment, including an X-shaped St. Andrew’s Cross and wooden stocks affixed to a spanking bench.
“Forgive me if this is a little bit suburban,” I asked, “but what is the table and what are the cage for?”
“Umm,” Shaubach paused, a smile spreading over her face, ‘there’s so many options for a table and a cage!”
Alaska’s kink community numbers in the hundreds, and is committed enough that Shaubach can finance the costs of rent and upkeep by collecting membership fees.
“It’s like having a Sam’s Club Card,” said Shaubach, “you don’t get the groceries for free, but you definitely get a discounted rate for being a member.”
$120 s a year buys access to the space, along with priority rates on workshops and educational events on eclectic topics like knot-tying. ...
Bob Bashara, a man described as an S&M “master,” was sentenced Thursday to spend his life in jail, with no parole eligibility, for the killing of his spouse, Jane Bashara, found strangled to death in January of 2012. Last month, Bashara was declared guilty on all five counts – first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder, solicitation of murder, obstruction of justice and witness intimidation.
Writes USA Today on Jan. 15: “In sentencing Bob Bashara for his role in his wife's 2012 murder, Wayne County Circuit Judge Vonda Evans had strong words, calling Bashara a predator and said that long before Jane Bashara's death, she ‘was mentally and emotionally destroyed’ by her husband.”
Jane Bashara’s body was found inside of her Mercedes SUV, which was discovered in an alley on Detroit's east side. Prosecutors successfully argued that Bob hired a local handyman, identified as Joseph Getz, to strangle his wife. As a motive, investigators said Bashara was involved in a heavily masochistic relationship with a woman named Rachel Gillett and another woman.
Lorraine Engelbrecht, Jane’s mother, spoke directly to Bashara at his sentencing hearing, leveling strong words against her daughter’s killer. “Every day I live, I want to think about you rotting in jail and someday burning in hell,” she said, adding to the court: “Why didn't he just go and live his scummy, dungeon life and leave my daughter and my grandchildren alone?”
Bashara, for his part, continued to maintain his innocence, telling the judge that he loved “my Jane dearly and have done absolutely nothing to harm her. I did not murder her. I did not conspire with anyone.” Bashara then spoke directly to his mother-in-law, telling her: “I will never, ever stop fighting for justice and the truth until my hands are raw, blood comes from eyes and I take my last breath.”
Wayne County Circuit Judge Vonda Evans didn’t buy it, telling Bashara: “Today there will be justice for Jane… I have no mercy on you,” and adding that “the only person you ever loved was yourself.”
According to the Detroit Free Press, Bashara “addressed the court about issues he had with his murder trial, including his lawyers, media coverage and prosecutors, who he said made him look like a ‘monster.’ He then asked for a mistrial, which was denied.” ...
A month later, the club applied for a permit to use the Lentz Drive building for a private club.
Such a use would be allowed on the property, which is zoned as "office general," said Bill Herbert with Metro Zoning.
"A club is a facility that is open only to members and their guests," he said. "The key point here is that a club cannot be open to the general public. That's the dividing line."
The club provided one email response to repeated Tennessean inquiries. In that message, the club said only that 14 acres were purchased north of Nashville but that a lease would keep the club on Division Street until June 2016.
But public records and the club's own newsletters to members say something different.
On its public website, the club announced a Feb. 11 moving date.
And in newsletters obtained by The Tennessean, club founder George "Al" Woods touted a new space that's twice as large at 22,000 square feet, and expected to be ready in time for Valentine's Day and for a 35th anniversary party on March 28.
"It is not a rumor anymore," the club announced, describing a bar, couples rooms, a love swing and other themed rooms for members. The club would be nonsmoking and open from 7 p.m. until 2:45 a.m.
The club's application, though, hasn't advanced. Zoning officials and the fire marshal await a more detailed plan, which will need to be reviewed. Depending on the occupancy, for example, the building might require renovations such as sprinklers, if the former medical office doesn't already have a sufficient system.
Zoning review could take a month or more.
"They are not in a position to get a permit to open," Herbert said. ...
Fans are devastated after Bizarre magazine, the British publication celebrating alternative culture, announced it would be closing next month.
For nearly two decades, Bizarre's covers starred tattooed girls in latex, stories of monsters and vampires, punk porn, weird photos and avant-garde art - but February's issue will be its last.
The magazine for people who "dare to be different" sometimes featured a warning sticker saying "don't buy if you're easily offended". It launched in 1997 but is closing with its publisher blaming falling sales in the digital age.
Bizarre has been considered a home to subculture around Britain and a place where "freaks" could indulge in non-mainstream passions like fetish sex, extreme body art and macabre music, films and literature.
It also covers political and human rights news, such as censorship, sex offences, terrorism and bigotry.
It campaigned to raise awareness of discrimination against alternative culture in 2007 after the murder of Sophie Lancaster, whose "gothic" clothes were thought to have led to her killers targeting her.
In its heyday in the early 2000s, Bizarre sold over 100,000 copies per issue, but at the last count in 2013 it was shifting barely 11,000. ...
Erotica stores and sex-freedom groups see a surge of interest when film version of best-selling book opens next month
NY Daily News
BY JUSTIN ROCKET SILVERMAN
Bondage is the new black.
Good news for those who made a New Year’s resolution to heat up the bedroom — 2015 is poised to be the year that BDSM finally goes mainstream.
And it’s all thanks to the erotic film adaptation of “Fifty Shades of Grey,” which hits theaters Feb. 13.
“The ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ book changed the public’s perception of BDSM from something scary and unknown to something that couples could do together to spice up their sex life,” says Susan Wright, a spokesperson for the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom. “The movie version will undoubtedly reach an even bigger audience.”
It tells the story of an incredibly innocent college student named Anastasia Steele, who gets swept up by megarich but troubled fetishist Christian Grey. After losing her virginity to him in what Grey calls “vanilla sex,” Steele signs up to be his erotic slave in what she calls his “Red Room of Pain.”
And fans can’t get enough.
“People who read the book came in asking for kegel balls, butt plugs, leg restraints and little whips,” says Lolita Wolf, manager of BDSM boutique Purple Passion in Chelsea. “Sometimes a husband would come in with a list from his wife of things he had to pick up.” ...
Asking your partner to tie you to the bedpost, telling them to slap you hard in the throes of lovemaking, dressing like a woman if you are a man, admitting a fetish for feet: Just a few years ago, any of these acts could be used against you in family court.
This was the case until 2010, when the American Psychiatric Association announced that it would be changing the diagnostic codes for BDSM, fetishism, and transvestic fetishism (a variant of cross-dressing) in the next edition of its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), published in 2013. The new definitions marked a distinction between behavior—for example, playing rough—and actual pathology. Consenting adults were no longer deemed mentally ill for choosing sexual behavior outside the mainstream.
The change was the result of a massive effort from the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (NCSF), an advocacy group founded in 1997 “to advance the rights of and advocate for consenting adults in the BDSM-Leather-Fetish, Swing, and Polyamory Communities.” At the time, these types of sexual behavior, by virtue of their inclusion in the DSM, were considered markers of mental illness—and, as a result, were heavily stigmatized, often with legal repercussions. In family court, an interest in BDSM was used as justification to remove people’s children from their custody.
“A sexual sadist practices on non-consenting people,” explains NCSF founder Susan Wright, while “someone who is kinky is having consensual enthusiastically desired sex.” The problem with the earlier DSM: It didn’t draw a distinction between the two. A 1998 survey from the NCSF found that “36 percent of S&M practitioners have been victims of harassment, and 30 percent have been victims of discrimination.” As a result, the organization’s website says, “24 percent [have lost] a job or a contract, 17 percent [have lost] a promotion, and 3 percent [have lost] custody of a child.”
“We were seeing the DSM used as a weapon,” says Race Bannon, an NCSF Board Member and the creator of Kink-Aware Professionals, a roster of safe and non-judgmental healthcare professionals for the BDSM and kink community. (The list is now maintained by the NCSF.) “Fifty Shades [of Grey] had not come along,” says Bannon, an early activist in the campaign to change the DSM. “[Kink] was still this dark and secret thing people did.”
Since its first edition was published in 1952, the DSM has often posed a problem for anyone whose sexual preferences fell outside the mainstream. Homosexuality, for example, was considered a mental illness—a “sociopathic personality disturbance”—until the APA changed the language in 1973. More broadly, the DSM section on paraphilias (a blanket term for any kind of unusual sexual interest), then termed “sexual deviations,” attempted to codify all sexual preferences considered harmful to the self or others—a line that, as one can imagine, is tricky in the BDSM community.
The effort to de-classify kink as a psychiatric disorder began in 1980s Los Angeles with Bannon and his then-partner, Guy Baldwin, a therapist who worked mostly with the gay and alternative sexualities communities. Bannon, a self-described “community organizer, activist, writer, and advocate” moved to Los Angeles in 1980 and soon became close with Baldwin through their mutual involvement as open participants in and advocates for the kink community. “I’m fairly confident that I was the first licensed mental-health practitioner anywhere who was out about being a practicing sadomasochist,” Baldwin says.
The pair was spurred to action after the 1987 edition of the DSM-III-R, which introduced the concept of paraphilias, changed the classifications for BDSM and kink from “sexual deviation” to actual disorders defined by two diagnostic criteria. To be considered a mental illness, the first qualification was: ‘‘Over a period of at least six months, recurrent, intense sexual urges and sexually arousing fantasies involving the act (real, not simulated) of being humiliated, beaten, bound, or otherwise made to suffer.’’ The second: ‘‘The person has acted on these urges, or is markedly distressed by them.’’
“1987 was a bad shift,” Wright recalls. “Anyone who was [voluntarily] humiliated, beaten, bound, or any other alternate sexual expression was considered mentally ill.”
With the new language, Baldwin says, he quickly realized that laws regarding alternative sexual behavior would continue to be problematic “as long as the psychiatric community defines these behaviors as pathological.” ...