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"Is the Family of the Future Polyamorous?"

on Tuesday, 15 March 2016. Hits 354

Connections.Mic

By Oliver Bateman

When it comes to marriage, three is still a crowd. But that might be changing sooner than we think. According to a 2015 Gallup poll, a small-yet-growing percentage of Americans report that they find the concept of plural marriage "morally acceptable," while polyamorous relationships are increasingly receiving mainstream media coverage. A 2014 Newsweek article even estimates that there are more than 500,000 openly polyamorous families living in the United States today.

 

Of course, not everyone is thrilled with the prospect of polyamory becoming more socially acceptable, particularly the remaining conservative jurists on the Supreme Court. Writing in dissent in the 2015 Supreme Court decision that made same-sex sexual activity legal throughout the United States, Chief Justice John Roberts, wrote that the legalization of same-sex marriage "would apply with equal force to the claim of a fundamental right to plural marriage," echoing anti-same-sex marriage arguments Justice Antonin Scalia had made years before.

 

The rise of polyamory (as well as the possibility of a more liberal replacement for Scalia, who passed away in February) begs the question: Will multiple-partner relationships eventually become the norm? And if so, what would actually change from a legal perspective?

 

When discussing plural relationships, it's important to note that polygamy (usually understood by to mean polygyny, or the taking of multiple simultaneous wives) is often conflated with polyamory, a term that refers to the practice of maintaining intimate, consensual relationships with two or more people.

 

While there are many differences between the two — for starters, polygamy is usually religious in nature and refers to a man having multiple wives, while polyamory is secular and refers to people of all genders having multiple partners — both polygamists and polyamorists live on the fringes of society. In fact, despite increasingly visible activism and public recognition, individuals in polyamorous unions remain outside the mainstream of American life, in part thanks to cultural discrimination against alternative lifestyles.

 

"Our entire system is geared toward the nuclear family model, two biological parents," Sandy Peace told Mic. Peace is a California psychologist and sex educator who has done extensive work with people involved in the polyamory community. "Many polyamorous families don't 'come out' to neighbors and school administrators because of concerns about prejudice and misunderstanding."

 

Yet there are also "real logistical problems" that are posed by polyamorous unions from a legal perspective. Peace said that issues related to divorce and custody in particular are complicated.

 

"Lawyers who are motivated to secure a better custody arrangement for the non-poly parent could make an issue of poly relationships, stressing that they are having a negative impact on the child's development," she said.

 

Although plural marriage is illegal, meaning that those in polyamorous unions do not receive the insurance or social security benefits that most spouses are entitled to, many polyamorous couples aren't particularly anxious for legal recognition.

 

Whether or not plural marriage should be legalized is "debated within our own community, similar to the gay community — there are people who don't believe we should go after plural marriage, and there are those who do," Robyn Trask, the executive director of the polyamory support organization Loving More, told U.S. News & World Report in 2015. ...

"Consent Accidents and Consent Violations"

on Sunday, 13 March 2016. Hits 391

Make Sex Easy

by Charlie Glickman

I was at a discussion group recently and someone shared a term that I hadn’t heard before: consent accidents. This is a really valuable nuance in the ongoing conversations about consent and nurturance culture because it recognizes that there’s a difference between a consent violation and a consent accident.

A consent violation happens when someone chooses to ignore or cross someone’s boundaries. People do that for a lot of reasons, including selfishness, arrogance, not caring about their partner, getting off on harming someone (which is distinct from the consensual experience of BDSM), or being somewhere else on the douchebag-rapist spectrum.

Consent accidents, however, are different because they happen because of error, miscommunication, misunderstanding, or not having all the information. That doesn’t make it less painful. If you step on my toes, it hurts whether it was an accident or on purpose. But how I approach the situation and what we do to resolve it might look very different.

There are some really big challenges for navigating this. First, if something happens that leaves you feeling hurt, it can really difficult to know the difference between accident and violation. That might be because of past experiences, wounds, triggers, or trauma which can amplify the hurt. It might be because it’s often difficult to know what someone’s intentions and motivations are. And in a world that excuses perpetrator’s actions and blames victims by saying things like “they didn’t mean to do it,” it can be incredibly hard to stand up for yourself.

Another difficulty is that identifying where things went awry is really hard when you’re feeling hurt. Pain, fear, anger, shame, sadness, and grief are all ways that you might feel when your consent isn’t attended to, whether it’s an accident or a violation. Any of those emotions, individually or in combination, can make it hard to see the situation with clarity, to talk about it with compassion for yourself and your partner, and to hold each of yourselves accountable for your choices and actions.

On the flip side, if you tell the other person what happened, they’ll also have their emotional reactions. Shame, in particular, tends to make us either attack the other person by blaming them or attack ourselves by giving up our right to our feelings and needs. If your partner gets defensive, they might try to dodge responsibility, take on all the blame, or attack you. Those are pretty common ways of reacting to shame, and most of us have done them at one point or another. Unfortunately, they also dovetail with victim-blaming, gaslighting, and the many other ways in which people who have been assaulted or abused get silenced.

Since it can be really difficult to identify what happened and know whether an event was a consent accident or violation, I’m really happy to have discovered this flow chart that Josh Weaver developed (used with permission). This was specifically designed for BDSM scenarios, so the acronym in the blue rectangle might not be familiar to you. WIITWD = What It Is That We Do (I think there’s a typo in the flowchart). ...

"This BDSM Consultant Teaches Famous Actors How to Use Whips"

on Sunday, 13 March 2016. Hits 265

Vice UK

By Julia Alsop

Growing up, Olivia Troy dreamed of being just like Xaviera Hollander, the high-class call girl who ran 1960s New York's busiest brothel and wrote a best-selling memoir called The Happy Hooker. When parents and teachers asked her what she wanted to do when she grew up, she said madam.

 

Troy's childhood fantasy didn't come to fruition, but sex is still her professional domain. For the past decade, Troy has become a career BDSM expert, consulting for TV shows, film sets, and Broadway plays to help actors and writers get it right when it comes to portraying kink on screen or stage. Her resume includes advising Paul Giamatti about the submissive he plays on Showtime's Billions and training actors on the Zach Braff-starring Broadway play Trust, and she's currently working on the forthcoming movie The Books.

 

A native New Yorker, Troy began exploring BDSM in her mid-twenties after an acquaintance confessed his shoe fetish to her at a company holiday party. They spent the rest of the night holed up in a corner while he pointed out women's shoes and explained what makes a hard stiletto so sexy. Her interest piqued, she began going to fetish parties, reading BDSM literature, and practicing the art of domination. At the time, she was a freelance lifestyle writer covering food, music, and relationships. But her curiosity for BDSM led her down the rabbit hole, and she eventually set up her own private dungeon.

 

Now in her mid-30s, Troy practices her kink personally, professionally, and legally with her business Kink on Set. At her consulting studio in New York's Flatiron District, she teaches actors, writers, and private clients how to play and punish. The studio is a BDSM enthusiast's dream, with over £62,500 worth of equipment she often rents out to production crews. Recently, I sat down with Troy among her whipping benches, puppy cages, and gimp masks to talk sex and power, on set and off.

 

VICE: Can you tell me about how someone becomes a BDSM consultant? What does the job actually entail?

Olivia Troy: Like a lot of the things I've gotten into in life, I fell into this unintentionally. It was 2010, I was practicing as a domme, and a colleague of mine was helping out with the Broadway play Trust, about a guy who goes to see a professional dominatrix who turns out to be his high school classmate. She wanted to show the crew what a real dungeon looks like and how to handle some of the equipment, so she brought one of the producers and three of the principle actors over to my space.

 

I ended up talking to the actors and coaching them on everything, from things like how to handle a flogger to how create that dominant presence. From there it snowballed, mostly via word of mouth.

 

What do you mean by dominant presence?

Like, how you talk to a submissive: the tone of voice you use, the different cues you use. When you talk, you talk with intention; you speak with purpose. The idea is to seduce, to be very clear and active. [A dominant presence] is very much about owning your power. There are no questions when I speak to someone. The language is very decisive. ...

"How normal are you in bed"

on Friday, 11 March 2016. Hits 437

A new survey finds most of us get off to things psychiatrists may not approve of.

Mens Fitness

BY RACHAEL SCHULTZ

Worried that your deepest darkest fantasies aren't exactly "normal?" According to traditional psychology, they might be more average than you thought. What's more: your partner is probably right there with you: A new study in The Journal of Sex Research found that what psychiatrists classify as abnormal sexual preferences are actually very common.

 

Researchers from the University of Montreal surveyed a diverse group of over 1,000 people in Quebec on what sexual acts they do and don't enjoy. The catch? Their options were the intimacy interests deemed "paraphilic," or atypical by the bible of mental disorders, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).

 

Some of the interests that qualified: exhibitionism (enjoying watching others have sex), voyeurism (enjoying others watching you), fetishism (sexual arousal from inanimate objects or body parts), frotteurism (dry humping), sexual masochism (pleasure from receiving pain or ridicule), sexual sadism (pleasure from giving pain or ridicule), and transvestism (excitement from wearing clothes of the opposite sex).

 

Worried that your deepest darkest fantasies aren't exactly "normal?" According to traditional psychology, they might be more average than you thought. What's more: your partner is probably right there with you: A new study in The Journal of Sex Research found that what psychiatrists classify as abnormal sexual preferences are actually very common.

 

Researchers from the University of Montreal surveyed a diverse group of over 1,000 people in Quebec on what sexual acts they do and don't enjoy. The catch? Their options were the intimacy interests deemed "paraphilic," or atypical by the bible of mental disorders, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).

 

Some of the interests that qualified: exhibitionism (enjoying watching others have sex), voyeurism (enjoying others watching you), fetishism (sexual arousal from inanimate objects or body parts), frotteurism (dry humping), sexual masochism (pleasure from receiving pain or ridicule), sexual sadism (pleasure from giving pain or ridicule), and transvestism (excitement from wearing clothes of the opposite sex). ...

"Best and Most Beautiful Things Premieres at SXSW"

on Wednesday, 09 March 2016. Hits 294

Huffington Post

by Xaque Gruber

One of the year's most touching documentary films, Best and Most Beautiful Things, makes its world premiere this month at SXSW. A provocative and joyous coming of age portrait of precocious 20 year old Michelle Smith of rural Maine, she's both legally blind and diagnosed on the autism spectrum, but the film does not pander to that. She bursts off the screen as someone immensely relatable. You'll want to know her. This is a powerful, affecting journey into a young woman's mind as she searches for connection and empowerment by exploring life outside the limits of "normal" through a "fringe community."

I had the pleasure of speaking with the film's Executive Producer, Kevin Bright, who has succeeded in navigating the waters of both TV (he was Executive Producer of Friends) and film (his previous documentary work includes directing the 2007 film about his vaudevillian father, Who Ordered Tax?). Kevin executive produced the film with Claudia Bright.

Xaque Gruber: What was it about this project that attracted you? How did it find you?

 

Kevin Bright: My involvement with the project began in 2009 when I started a filmmaking class for students at the Perkins School for The Blind in Watertown, Massachusetts. Michelle Smith was in that first class and was part of a group that made an award winning film Seeing Through the Lens. I loved the impact the film had on these students, giving them the power to tell their stories to the world. Our director, Garrett Zevgetis, was a volunteer at Perkins who at that time was making a short film about the impact of Helen Keller on current Perkins students. After seeing an early cut, my recommendation was to focus the film on Michelle as a "modern day Helen Keller". Garrett filmed Michelle - it was a 20 minute short that became a feature film and now here we are with a premiere at SXSW.

 

XG: Let's talk about Michelle Smith. She is legally blind, on the autism spectrum and lives in rural Maine - with those details she seems plucked from a Stephen King novel. She's bound to win over many fans and hearts. Tell me what it was like working with her and do you see any of yourself in Michelle?

 

KB: Michelle is an inspiration to me. She could roll over and be a victim of her disability, instead she embraces it and challenges the rest of us to step out of our comfort zone and be open to different people and life styles, "unlearning normal" as Michelle says. Everyone falls for Michelle because she draws you in, makes a connection, but sometimes, can really shock you. Pity is not what she seeks, it is not in her vocabulary. ...

"Did Airbnb delete this woman’s account because she’s a sex worker?"

on Tuesday, 08 March 2016. Hits 347

Fusion

by Ethan Chiel

 

Julie Simone had heard wonderful things about Airbnb. “So many of my friends, when I was at [the Adult Entertainment Expo] in January, had used Airbnb and were like, ‘It’s really great, that’s who you should use when you travel, because y’know, you can cook your own meals, it’s cheaper than a hotel,'” she told me over the phone, quickly adding, “That’s why I tried it, because I can probably rattle off like ten sex workers that I know that rent from them.”

 

So Simone signed up for Airbnb for a trip to New York she’s making soon. She found a comfortable apartment in Queens and got a notification that her host had confirmed the booking. But then, an hour later, she got a nasty surprise: the company told her it didn’t want her as a customer.

Simone (her professional name) suspected the problem was her job: she is a dominatrix, as well as a pornographic actor and director, and has been for years.

 

Along with an apology for inconveniencing her and an assurance she’d be refunded, the email from Airbnb read as follows:

 

We wanted to reach out to you regarding your Airbnb account. After a routine review, and given information uncovered pursuant to online public records, we have determined that it is in the best interest of Airbnb, and for the users on our site, to deactivate your account permanently. We realize that this may come as a disappointment and that you may have questions regarding this determination. We hope you understand that this decision is exercised at our sole discretion and that we are not obligated to provide an explanation as to the action taken against your account, nor are we liable to a user in any way with respect to deactivating or canceling his or her account.

 

Simone told me that she has good credit and no criminal record, so she is convinced that her status as a porn star and sex worker is the reason she was rejected. A spokesman for Airbnb told me that he couldn’t on the specifics of the case “[f]or privacy reasons,” and added that, “As a general matter we constantly review our platform to ensure that the use of listings are in line with what our hosts and guests both expect.” (AirBnb did not immediately respond to a request for comment on how they handle discrepancies between users’ legal names and other aliases, professional or otherwise, in their background checks.) ...

 

"Federal Court Rules You Have No Constitutional Right to Engage in 100% Consensual Rough Sex"

on Tuesday, 08 March 2016. Hits 570

The Free Thought Project

by Matt Agorist

The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia released its decision in the case of Doe v. George Mason University et al. and, for some reason, they felt compelled to weigh in on whether there is a constitutional right to engage in consensual BDSM sex. Their answer is, ‘no.’

In the case of Doe v. George Mason University et al., a George Mason student was expelled for allegedly having sex with a woman without her consent because he failed to stop their BDSM sex after his partner said the ‘safe word.’

The plaintiff alleged that the George Mason University administration “‘disregarded’ the BDSM context of the relationship and how it ‘affected matters like consent and related issues’ and treated a BDSM relationship as ‘per se sexual misconduct,’” and thus violated his right to engage in consensual sexual activity as well.+

There is no question, forcing sex on an unwilling partner is rape and is reprehensible in any capacity. However, the court’s ruling went on to address consent as well.

In their decision, the court addressed the entire practice known collectively as “BDSM,” which is an acronym for the acts it entails, namely bondage, discipline, dominance, submission, sadism, and masochism.

The court found that banning or outlawing consensual BDSM is justified as it will ‘protect’ any future participants who may be harmed by their decision to engage in such acts.

“A legislative restriction on BDSM activity is justifiable by reference to the state’s interest in the protection of vulnerable persons, i.e. sexual partners placed in situations with an elevated risk of physical harm,” stated the ruling.

The slippery logic used by the court for their justification, in this case, is dangerous. The court claims since there is no deeply rooted history in BDSM, then the federal government has every right to ban it, in spite of the act being entirely consensual. ...

"No constitutional right to engage in consensual BDSM sex"

on Monday, 07 March 2016. Hits 335

Washington Post

By Eugene Volokh

Besides the interesting free speech and due process holdings, the federal district court’s decision in Doe v. Rector & Visitors of George Mason Univ. also discusses whether there is a constitutional right to engage in consensual BDSM sex. No, says, the court, rejecting the view that Lawrence v. Texas creates a general constitutional right to adult noncommercial sexual autonomy.

 

The plaintiff student was expelled for allegedly having sex with a woman without her consent, by refusing to stop a BDSM sexual act when his sexual partner said the safe word. But his claim was that, in adjudicating the case, the university administration “‘disregarded’ the BDSM context of the relationship and how it ‘affected matters like consent and related issues’ and treated a BDSM relationship as ‘per se sexual misconduct,’” and thus violated his right to engage in consensual sexual activity as well. This gave the court occasion to consider whether there is such a right; here is how the court responded:

...In this respect, the conclusion … that there is no deeply rooted history or tradition of BDSM sexual activity remains relevant and important to the analysis. Also relevant and important to the analysis is the absence of a history of impermissible animus as the basis for the restriction at issue here. Sexual activity that involves binding and gagging or the use of physical force such as spanking or choking poses certain inherent risks to personal safety not present in more traditional types of sexual activity. Thus, as in Cruzan and Glucksberg, a legislative restriction on BDSM activity is justifiable by reference to the state’s interest in the protection of vulnerable persons, i.e. sexual partners placed in situations with an elevated risk of physical harm.

 

Accordingly, consistent with the logic of Lawrence, plaintiff has no constitutionally protected and judicially enforceable fundamental liberty interest under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to engage in BDSM sexual activity.

 

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