When exes and relatives call social workers on BDSM-loving moms and dads, the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom is there to help.
The Daily Beast
by Katie Zavadski
Like many women, Samantha likes kink. Unlike many women, she lost custody of her children over it.
In July 2013, Samantha’s ex-boyfriend told social services that her dominant-submissive relationship with her new boyfriend was harmful to the children.
A social worker backed up the ex-husband’s proofless allegations, even outlandish ones where he claimed their eldest son had been hung from the ceiling by his wrist, and removed the children.
Samantha asked a court to order a second evaluation and waited for months. In the meantime, she contacted the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom for help. NCSF is a volunteer-run nonprofit that strives to connect kinky, poly, and “other” parents with the legal resources they need to fight custody battles and the like.
In that case, NCSF spokesperson Susan Wright said she called a local LGBT and got references for queer-friendly lawyers for Samantha. She vetted them before passing them along. Wright even called case workers in Samantha’s county and urged a second evaluation.
Within weeks, social services took back their evaluation of abuse: the kids, they said, should be reunited with their mother.
Often, parents like Samantha are pursued by an ex-partner or another relative who claims the parents’ their sexual proclivities are harmful to children. Judges decide what is in “the best interests of the child,” and parents who are sexual sadists, masochists, or who have multiple romantic partners can easily arouse suspicion.
“We’re leaving this really vague standard of ‘the best interests of the child’ up to subjective interpretation,” said Brooklyn-based lawyer Diana Adams, one of the kink-aware professionals who works with NCSF.
But Adams said individual trial judge decisions can be very difficult to appeal. Saying that a judge was biased or used poor judgment is not enough—in many areas, the standard for appeal is error. ...
Mary, a petite woman in a black dress, rolls back the sleeve of Ryan's T-shirt to reveal his newly-scarred flesh.
"Wow, so cool!" she says, examining the still-fresh cuts he's made that form a lattice on his bicep. Then, without a word, she starts slapping him. She's gentle at first, just quiet little flirty ones to the cheek, but they get louder and sharper as she screws up her face and starts properly laying into him, genuinely trying to inflict as much pain as possible. Soon, couples from the surrounding tables stop talking to clap and cheer her on.
Given that we're in a north London gastropub with wrought-iron staircases and ceiling beams—the kind of place where adult men who try to one-up each other with microbrewery trivia might meet up to be awful—this behavior seems particularly odd. But tonight is the venue's monthly fetish speed-dating event. Having a girlfriend already, I'm not here to get slapped repeatedly by a stranger in front of an enthusiastic crowd. But I figured it could be a good place to get a succinct overview of London's fetish scene—a series of four-minute encounters with as many subs, doms, pay pigs, sneaker destroyers and scally gear fetishists as possible, all in a venue without loud music or an aroused naked man locked in a cage distracting everyone there.
I've never been to a fetish speed-dating night before, so I was initially unsure of the dress code—whether I'd look like a nark in a sea of latex and cock cages—but the event's website informed me that smart-casual was fine and that above all I should "be myself." When I arrive I'm greeted by Miss Jo, the organizer, who has run kink clubs in London for the last 20 years. Eating olives out of a ramekin with a cocktail stick, she is jolly and welcoming, putting everyone at ease. She gives me a white sticker to write my name on and tells me to have a good time.
What I've always disliked about the idea of speed-dating is its rote, inauthentic, ruthless nature. Like it or not, you'll be judged heavily on your fitness as a potential sexual partner. If no one enjoys the mental image of you naked, you mope off with no phone numbers, left to get really insecure about your weird neck on the night bus home. But with fetish speed dating there's another layer—after all, your kinks have to match those of the person you're attracted to. And what if the kink you're into is simply too niche for the vanilla nerds who've turned up on the night? ...
"Place your hands below your husband's foot?" Surely a controversial statement in Shakespeare's time, in today's world it is hopelessly misogynistic. Unless... What if Katharina is a submissive in search of her Dominant? What if Bianca is a Dom auditioning subs?
With the success of "Fifty Shades of Grey," BDSM is front and center in the public consciousness, but is still largely misunderstood. Broads' Word Theatre sets Shakespeare's outdated Taming of the Shrew in a BDSM dungeon, where the all-female cast investigates the dynamics of power and submission with a modern fearlessness.
Tell me... what is your fantasy?
Katharina (Jen Albert) is the older sister of Bianca (Tara Donovan). Although Bianca has several suitors - including Lucentio (Dana DeRuyck), Gremio (Marti Hale) and Hortensio (Esther Mira) - her father Baptista (Lacy Altwine) won't let her marry until the notoriously difficult Katharina finds a husband. Enter Petruchio (Dawn Alden), who embraces the challenge.
As a life-long lover of Shakespeare's "Taming of the Shew" and now a fan of the "Fifty Shades of Grey" trilogy, I was certainly wondering how the two could be combined. Well it appears to be much easier than I thought given the exciting new production of "Fifty Shades of Shrew" at the Lounge Theater. The all-female cast, most members of the production company Broads' Word Theatre, uses the Bard's exact text and makes it come alive in the most creative BDSM connotations possible by just using a different emphasis on words and actions that promote such fun activities as spanking, Master/Submissive games, handcuffs, and other elements which are discussed for the uninitiated by latex-clad Mistress Kara before the play begins.
Standouts in the cast are Dawn Alden as the overly macho Petruchio, Jen Albert as Master wanna-be Katharina, Lacy Altwine as huffy Baptista, and Marti Hale as Bianca's jilted suitor Gremio. Tara Donovan begins the show as apparently super submissive Bianca until she meets her match in Lucentio (Dana DeRuyck)and discovers how fun it is to lead him around. Quite comical and very fun to watch! ...
The rumors are true: author EL James is writing another book in the worldwide hit series, Fifty Shades of Please God Not Again. The new book, to be released this summer, will be written not from the point of view of original protagonist Anastasia, but from the perspective of the domination-happy and ultra-rich Christian Grey.As if women don’t hear enough about what sex counts as “good” from real assholes, now we’re going to have to contend with the perspective of a fictional one as well!
The book, desperate not raise reader expectations beyond mind-numbing obviousness and mediocrity, will be called, “Grey: Fifty Shades of Grey as Told by Christian.” Riveting.
Yes, I realize I’m in the minority here – over 100m copies of the so-called erotica series have been sold, and the movie adaptation broke records with its $81.7m dollar opening weekend. But its popularity can’t change the horrific combination of bad writing, BDSM myths and the charming notion that most women secretly want a bossy rich guy to stalk them and smack them around a bit.
The book series focuses on the life of Anastasia Steele, a hapless college senior who bites her lip a lot and meets a fabulously wealthy CEO who’s into BDSM. But as Emma Green wrote earlier this year in The Atlantic, “Fifty Shades eroticizes sexual violence, but without any of the emotional maturity and communication required to make it safe.”
As several experienced BDSM practitioners emphasized to me, there are healthy, ethical ways to consensually combine sex and pain. All of them require self-knowledge, communication skills, and emotional maturity in order to make the sex safe and mutually gratifying. The problem is that Fifty Shades casually associates hot sex with violence, but without any of this context.
The biggest problem with the sex in Fifty Shades isn’t the violent sex: it’s the normalization of the lack of communication between the participants in that violent sex that is dangerous for both BDSM neophytes and experienced practitioners.
And it doesn’t get better for the BDSM community: eventually Christian comes to believe his penchant for sexual domination is due to childhood abuse and gives it up – a further mischaracterization of BDSM as an emotional problem that needs to be cured. Anastasia gets an end to the kinky sex she never really seemed that into but almost allowed to happen to her and a bordering-on-traditional marriage with children. The sexual politics stink: BDSM isn’t a sign of illness and no one should consent to sex they don’t really like and wish they didn’t have to put up with. ...
Leaders of the Puppy Community Initiative on Facebook, have gathered together to create a “Code of Conduct” for pups and handlers to take in consideration in public spaces. As the puppy community has grown and their cultural concepts are solidifying more and more, there are some who are stepping up to ensure that a good time is had by all-both Pup community members and non.
The purpose of the Puppy Community Initiative according to their Facebook page – “This is to find ways we can work within our community and be able to interact better at all community events and interact better with other aspects of the Leather/Kink Communities.”
Simon Copland was 16 when he came out as gay. Now – with two partners – he faces a much more difficult coming out
by Simon Copland
This is my coming out story. My second one. When I was 16 years old, I first came out as gay.
Coming out then was hard but this time is much harder. This revelation is something I am more fearful about, but I have to come out.
I am polyamorous.
I am dating two people at the same time – James and Martyn. They are both fully aware of and happy with the arrangement and are able to follow suit by dating or having sex with other people if they wish (as am I).
My partner James and I have been together for nine years. We met on a drunken night during my first week at university. James was in his third year and I had turned 18 the week before.
Straight off the bat James suggested we should be in an open relationship, meaning we’d be allowed to have sex with other people if we wanted. At first I didn’t like it but I agreed. At the time I felt I had little to lose.
James and I moved in together a year later and for many years we rarely acted on our agreement – there was only the occasional hookup. But the arrangement was always there. It was an acknowledgement that we could be sexually attracted to other people and act on that, yet still love and be in a relationship with one another.
Over time I grew more comfortable about it and slowly we developed our understanding of these ideas. When we moved to Brisbane a few years ago we became friends with others in polyamorous relationships. We each developed crushes and realised, in practice, that we could have feelings for other people yet still love each other.
Then came Martyn. James’s friend first, Martyn lives in Edinburgh – they met through roller derby circles and connected on Tumblr.
When visiting Edinburgh last year James, Martyn and I caught up for a drink. By the time James and I got home to Brisbane, Martyn and I were chatting on Facebook and Skype on a regular basis.
Soon James was calling him my “Scottish boyfriend” and not long later Martyn and I made that official. Martyn visited us in Australia and now I am spending the year in Edinburgh living with him.
Over the past year I have faced the same anxiety and fears as I did as a nervous gay teen. But coming out as poly has required vastly more explanation – not only have I faced the fear of people reacting badly, I have faced a barrage of questions about “how it works”. So here is the simple explanation:
My relationships are based on a simple philosophy – there is no limit to the amount of love we can feel for other people. Loving someone does not diminish the love we have for others. Just because I love vanilla ice cream doesn’t mean I can’t love chocolate ice cream as well. ...
There was the time when, 19 and naïve, I was guilt-tripped into entirely unwanted physical intimacies with a much older married man. And the time, three or four years later, when I went to visit an on-and-off long-distance boyfriend and quickly realized that it was over for me—but he assumed we were still on, and I didn’t have the nerve to say no to sex. And the time I told a man, “Look, I’m not going to sleep with you,” and it was taken as “try again in a couple of hours.”
When they happened, my view of these encounters ranged from “a mistake” to “it’s complicated.” It still does—even though, these days, we are encouraged to reinterpret such experiences as sexual violations. To many feminists, stories like these are evidence of a pervasive, misogynistic rape culture. “Kids see movies where there’s an aggressor who gets pushed away, but keeps trying until the girl relents,” writes advocate, author, and filmmaker Kelly Kend. “This is a rape dynamic that has been played off countless times as just how it works.” Canadian feminist author Anne Theriault laments “the still-pervasive and very flawed idea that if she doesn’t say no, it’s not rape”—clearly referring not just to attacks involving violence or incapacitation (for which few would demand a verbal “no” as proof of rape), but encounters in which a woman yields to unwanted overtures.
To me, this crusade against “rape culture” over-simplifies the vast complexity of human sexual interaction, conflating criminal sexual acts like coercion by physical force, threat or incapacitation—which should obviously be prosecuted and punished whenever possible—with bad behavior.
Was I a victim? Even in the first incident, in which the man knowingly pressured me into something I didn’t want, I could have safely said no. Consent for bad reasons is still consent; despicable behavior is not always criminal. (Getting guilt-tripped into giving money to a freeloading friend is not robbery.) In the second instance, it would be an infantilizing insult to deny my responsibility for a mutual misunderstanding. In the third, what happened was not only consensual but wanted; my initial “no” was sincere, but it was mainly an attempt to stop myself from acting on an attraction against my better judgment.
Besides, I know that sometimes the roles were reversed. There was the ex-boyfriend I thought I was seducing in the hope of getting him back—only to realize, the one time he finally said no harshly enough, that it had been more pressure than seduction. There was the man who told me it was too soon for us to get involved, and said, “we shouldn’t be doing this” more than once the evening we first went to bed. If I were to claim victimhood, I would either have to admit to being a perpetrator as well, or fall back on a blatantly sexist double standard.
Forty years ago, feminist reformers successfully challenged the discriminatory treatment of rape complainants, from the requirement of physical resistance to attacks on a woman’s “unchaste character.” Feminist advocacy also deserves credit for clarifying that forced sex is always rape, even in a relationship. (I am talking here about being forced by physical violence, restraint or threats, or subjected to sexual acts while physically helpless.) But the anti-rape activism that emerged in the 1990s and has surged on college campuses and on the Internet in recent years goes far beyond that. Today, it not only embraces an absolutist version of “no means no” in which any hint of reluctance must halt further attempts at sexual intimacy. The movement also insists that only a clear (and probably sober) “yes” means yes.
Sometimes, the movement’s supporters claim that the new rules amount to little more than common sense: don’t have sex with someone who isn’t a willing partner. (In practice, a male student at California’s Occidental College was recently expelled over sex with a partner who was willing and enthusiastic, but apparently too intoxicated to think clearly.) ...