1. How many people do BDSM? There’s only one good random-sample survey on this question. It was taken in Australia a decade ago. Nearly 20,000 people between the ages of 16 and 59 were interviewed by phone. In the whole sample, 1.8 percent of men and 1.2 percent of women answered yes to the question, “In the last 12 months, have you been involved in B&D or S&M?” (The question went on to explain, “That’s bondage and discipline, sadomasochism, or dominance and submission.”) Among respondents who were sexually active, the BDSM minority barely increased, to 2 percent of men and 1.4 percent of women. Among those who had a sexual partner in the previous year, the figure was 2.2 percent of men and 1.3 percent of women.
That’s roughly equivalent to the sexually active gay population, as measured by similar self-reporting. In the Australian survey, the authors reported “less than 2 per cent of men and women” said they’d “had sex with a same-sex partner in the past year.” The percentage of respondents who said they’d ever had a gay sexual experience (not just in the last year) was higher—6 percent of men, 9 percent of women—and presumably the same is true of BDSM. In the Dutch study, for instance, 448 respondents accessed and completed a BDSM survey through a website devoted to personal secrets. Of these, 3 percent “indicated having had previous BDSM experience.”
2. Is it an orientation? Previously, I argued that homosexuality is fixed (an orientation) but that BDSM is flexible (a lifestyle). Kinksters replied that BDSM, too, is an orientation. What do the data show? Mostly flexibility. In a study of Finnish BDSM enthusiasts, 27 percent “endorsed a statement suggesting that only sadomasochistic sex could satisfy them,” but only 5 percent “no longer practiced ordinary sex.” Furthermore, 40 percent had changed their “preference” or “behavior” (in the authors’ words) from sadism to masochism or vice versa. In another study, conducted in southern California, “32% of the sample indicated that BDSM play occurred less than half the time they spent in sexual activity with partners, and just 11.2% indicated that BDSM play was their only form of sexual activity.” The core group, dedicated to BDSM, seems vastly outnumbered by dabblers.
3. Is it physically dangerous? That depends on what you’re doing. In the Finnish study, bondage and flagellation were standard: More than 80 percent of the sample had done them in the preceding 12 months. The riskier stuff was far less common: piercing (done by 21 percent of the sample), skin branding (17 percent), hypoxyphilia (suffocation games, also known as breath play—17 percent), electric shocks (15 percent), and knives or razor blades (13 percent). The California study found a similar pattern: Bondage, flogging, and spanking were standard (more than 80 percent had done them), but other practices—“fire play” (20 percent), “piercing play” (20), cutting (14), branding (9), and scarification (5)—were rarer. Some potentially dangerous activities were surprisingly common—“electric play” (42 percent), “knife scenes” (40), and “breath play” (27)—though in many cases, the implements were probably just props. It looks as though about 20 percent of these folks are actually cutting, burning, zapping, or partially suffocating each other.
That’s a minority, but it’s still worrisome. In the Finnish sample, those who said they’d previously suffered sexual abuse—23 percent of the women, and 8 percent of the men—were particularly problematic. According to the authors, “Visits to a physician because of injuries obtained during sm-sex were significantly more common among the abused respondents (11.1%) than among the non-abused respondents (1.8%).”
BDSM community leaders preach the importance of “safe words”—prearranged signals that the restrained, flogged, or dominated participant can use to withdraw consent and stop the action. In the Finnish study, 90 percent of the sample said they “sometimes” incorporated such words in their encounters. But less than half did so “without exception.” That, too, is a problem. ...
SAGINAW — The family of Alanna Gallagher, who was found murdered and wrapped in a tarp last week, addressed for the first time speculation swirling about their home life.
Miles McDaniel, listed on the six-year-old's obituary as one of Alanna's two fathers, explained that he, Karl Gallagher and Laura Gallagher are in a "polyamorous" relationship and co-parent the family's children.
"Anybody who knows the family knows there are three parents in the family," McDaniel said. "Talk to school; talk to the church."
McDaniel made the statement following a marathon question-and-answer session with investigators at the Saginaw Police Department.
He said he was requested to come down, and spent the afternoon and early evening hours on Tuesday talking about Alanna.
"There were a lot of questions," McDaniel said. "I think they might be cross-checking answers given by Laura and Karl when they did interviews."
Police have said since last week that no one in the family is a suspect in the murder case, but details in a search warrant first obtained by News 8 on Monday showcased a long list of items — more than 100 — that FBI and other investigators removed from the family home. ...
Last weekend Facebook removed dozens of BDSM-related pages from the site. The group BDSM Against Censorship lists nearly 100 groups affected by the ban, but there are unquestionably more groups and pages that have not made the list. Since last weekend a few of the groups have successfully gone through the process of petitioning for reinstatement, but the vast majority have not.
Fegatofi describes how she learned about the fate of her group. “The only notice I received was a little bubble notice saying it was unpublished and could be appealed, which I have done. The reason was a vague reason saying I violated Facebook regs by having nude, lewd or violent sexual pics posts. Which I did not!”
In a post on their Facebook page, Woman, Action & the Media explains they were not responsible for the Facebook crackdown, “We’ll say this again clearly: WAM! is fully in support of consensual BDSM pages, and have told Facebook explicitly that we oppose their crackdown on these pages. Please ask anyone claiming to attribute a quote to the contrary to us to provide a source for those quotes. They are false, plain and simple.”
Whether the BDSM groups and pages on Facebook were collateral damage from a campaign about violence against women or a decision by Facebook corporate to cut down on adult content, the results are the same; many groups will never return and all BDSM groups on Facebook are at risk from this point forward. If owners of BDSM pages and groups decide to stay on Facebook then they must assume that their groups can be shuttered at any time. ...
Supreme Court decisions on marriage unlikely to directly impact status of polygamy, other multiperson relationships
The U.S. Supreme Court could rule any day on challenges to two laws blocking legal recognition for same-sex marriages – the federal Defense of Marriage Act and California's voter-approved Proposition 8 – but advocates for polyamorous couples say "marriage equality" for that minority group is unlikely in the immediate future.
Anita Wagner Illig, a longtime polyamory community spokesperson who operates the group Practical Polyamory, is unsure of the direct impact of a ruling that would legalizes same-sex marriage nationwide.
Until recently, she noted, "the polyamory community has expressed little desire for legal marriage," but now more options seem possible in the future. "We polyamorists are grateful to our [LGBT] brothers and sisters for blazing the marriage equality trail," Illig said.
Illig believes there is indeed a "slippery slope" toward legal recognition for polygamy if the court rules in favor of nationwide same-sex marriage, an argument typically invoked by anti-gay marriage advocates. "A favorable outcome for marriage equality is a favorable outcome for multi-partner marriage, because the opposition cannot argue lack of precedent for legalizing marriage for other forms of non-traditional relationships," she said.
But Illig concedes, "there will be quite a lot of retooling of the legal system necessary to establish marriage equality for marriages of more than two people. A marriage of two people of the same sex requires a lot less in terms of adapting today's systems, such as Social Security, for example, to accommodate it."
"It is hard to predict" the possible legal side-effects of the Supreme Court rulings "since [the cases are] about official recognition rather than criminalization," George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley told U.S. News.
Turley is representing the polygamist Brown family, which has four wives and one husband, in their challenge to Utah's cohabitation law. The Brown family stars in TLC's "Sister Wives," which records the family's day-to-day life, as well as their flight from Utah to Nevada after local authorities began to surveil them and openly mull felony charges. ...
But it generated a seven-year legal battle so bitter it ended up in federal court.
And when it was finally done Thursday evening, Gold Coast resident Kim O’Brien didn’t get a single cent out of the multi-millionaire ex-husband she’d sued for allegedly holding her against her will as a “sex slave.”
A jury took just four hours to reject the 52-year-old’s claims that wealthy Wisconsin businessman Kevin Anderson, 57, intentionally emotionally abused her and tied her up, gagged, beat and raped her during an unwanted introduction to the world of bondage, submission and sadomasochism on their California honeymoon in 2005.
The four men and four women jurors instead found it more likely that O’Brien was a “gold digger... motivated by greed” who’d enjoyed kinky sex and had lied about the abuse, as Anderson’s lawyer argued.
O’Brien — who endured repeated innuendos during the two-week trial suggesting she was a prostitute, and was shown naked, bound, blindfolded and spanked in humiliating photos displayed for jurors — pursed her lips and raised her eyebrows as the verdict was announced.
Wearing dark sunglasses, she quickly left the courthouse without comment. Her ex-husband had already returned to Wisconsin and was not in court to hear the verdict.
Earlier Thursday, lawyers for both sides told competing accounts of the couple’s deeply dysfunctional romance, which began when they met in Aspen, Colo., in 2000, saw Anderson shower O’Brien with luxury gifts and expensive trips before he proposed in a Michigan Avenue church in 2005, and ended in divorce soon after.
Representing O’Brien, Dean Dickie said during his closing argument that “whenever there is an allegation or an accusation between a man and a woman about what happened in the privacy of their bedroom ... inevitably it turns into ‘it was all the woman’s fault, and the man was the victim of something that was made up.’”
He said O’Brien had been “psychologically scarred” by being violently held to the terms of a “slave contract” that required her to address her husband as “master” and parade around the house naked, adding that other women would be at risk if Anderson was not held liable.
But representing Anderson, Charles Cole said O’Brien’s account was “a fantasy — it’s a movie script.”
Arguing that O’Brien had lured Anderson into sadomasochism as part of a pre-planned “setup” to later sue him, Cole showed a large naked photo of an apparently unhurt and smiling O’Brien taken hours after the alleged honeymoon assault. ...
What do you call it when a husband beats his wife with a paddle for disobeying him? Some would say domestic abuse. These people say he’s doing God’s work.
The Daily Beast
On a pain scale of one to 10, Chelsea ranks the epidural-free birth of her child as a six. Her husband’s spankings? Those are an eight.
First, he uses his hands for “warm-up” slaps. Then comes a combination of tools based on the specific infraction. The wooden spoon is the least severe; for the worst rule-breaking—like texting while driving (“It could kill me,” Chelsea admits) or moving money between accounts without his permission—she’ll be hit with something else: a hairbrush, a paddle, or a leather strap.
But this isn’t domestic abuse, Chelsea says. This is for Jesus.
Chelsea and her husband Clint, who asked that I use only their first names, belong to a small subculture of religious couples who practice “Christian Domestic Discipline,” a lifestyle that calls for a wife to be completely submissive to her husband. Referred to as CDD by its followers, the practice often includes spanking and other types corporal punishments administered by husbands—and ostensibly ordained by God. While the private nature of the discipline makes it difficult to estimate the number of adherents, activity in several online forums suggests a figure in the low thousands. Devotees call CDD an alternative lifestyle and enthusiastically sing its praises; for critics, it’s nothing but domestic abuse by another name.
Clint was in the room while I talked to Chelsea. They do everything together, including running their blog, Learning DD, which chronicles their exploration of domestic discipline. When Chelsea gets flummoxed by a question, she asks Clint for guidance in a voice so high-pitched that it belies her 28 years: “Honey, how long does the spanking usually last?” (About 5 minutes, Clint says.)
He has left bruises, Chelsea says, but it’s rare, and she attributes them to anemia.
You don’t have to be a Christian to practice domestic discipline, although many of its practitioners say they believe that domestic discipline goes hand in hand with their faith. Specifics of the practice vary by couple, though CDDers all seem to follow a few basic principles. Foremost, that the Bible commands a husband to be the head of the household, and the wife must submit to him, in every way, or face painful chastisement. ...
Jurors were given a peek Wednesday at a sex-slavery contract and documents outlining the basics of sadomasochism in a Gold Coast woman’s lurid lawsuit against her former husband.
Kimberley O’Brien, 52, is suing 57-year-old Kevin Anderson in federal court, claiming he lured her into a violent marriage in which he was the master and she was the slave — allegedly raping her on their honeymoon and leaving her suffering panic attacks.
Anderson denies he sexually assaulted O’Brien and says any sadomasochistic sex was consensual.
On Wednesday, O’Brien took the witness stand as her attorney, Dean Dickie, displayed love letters from Anderson on a projector. In one greeting card, Anderson told O’Brien in 2000: “hope I can make you smile for ever.”
But the letter also showed a strain in their new relationship — about five years before they were married — with Anderson writing: “I don’t know why you don’t call me since I feel as though you don’t love me.”
O’Brien testified that she was avoiding Anderson because she discovered he was still married while dating her.
After showing the love letters, Dickie displayed documents that Anderson allegedly downloaded on his computer in 2002 to research sadomasochism. One of them, titled “Slave Rules,” had a handwritten star next to the passage: “Whenever Master speaks, even when I am speaking, I am to immediately become silent so I may be able to listen intensely to what He has to say.” ...
Being abstinent from drugs and alcohol doesn't mean forsaking fun. A thriving community testifies that kink and sobriety go together like a fist in a leather glove.
What's the link between BDSM—the catchall term for bondage, discipline, domination/ submission, sadism and masochism—and sobriety?
Can you be clean and sober and still engage kinkily? For those who identify as clean and kink-friendly, the answer is a resounding "Yes, please (may I have another?)." The connection is being borne out as supportive communities of like-minded people are springing up around the country.
The issue goes beyond physical safety; as one woman told me, "who wants to be flogged by a drunk guy?" While a number of interviewees reported they have attended play parties—often in private homes—where alcohol and drugs abound, most organized play parties frown on, or explicitly forbid, such substances and often turn away players who show up intoxicated. (This is also a common complaint of professional dominatrices, who often have to turn away drunks.)
Mollena Williams—a BDSM educator and the co-author of the guidebook Playing Well with Others—founded San Francisco's Safeword, which offers a "12-Step modeled approach to recovery for kink-identified people." She began the group in 2007 in response to her lukewarm reception at traditional AA meetings. She recalled that her tastes were considered to be incompatible with her sobriety: "People are often ready to attribute your desires to do kink or BDSM as part of your addiction." She added that many 12-steppers "equated that high you experience within a scene as a result of a dry drunk. I was accused of substituting one drink for another. They didn't see that for me Kink and Leather were the last bastions of my sobriety!"
The majority of interviewees emphasized the positive effect BDSM has had on their sobriety, going far beyond the realm of the dungeon or kinky world. Theener, a 35-year-old New Yorker who's been kinky since she got a birthday spanking in 2004, feels like she had to "learn how to be kinky all over again" after getting sober in 2008.
"You have to learn how to have fun without alcohol and drugs being the center of your fun," she said. "When I wasn't sober, I wasn't interested in spaces like [S&M club] Paddles and [support and information group] Lesbian Sex Mafia meetings because there wasn't booze. I had to appreciate later that those places were alcohol free." ...