Just let me take care of you,” the hero whispers, choking back a growl as he pushes the heroine down face first on the bed.
“You are what we call a natural sub,” he says, tracing the paddle across her ass. “Are you ready to submit for my pleasure?”
The heroine nods her head shyly, her cheeks apple-bright. “Yes,” she says, “I want to belong only to you.”
When 50 Shades of Grey exploded in 2012, I was editing erotic romance novels five days a week in a cramped pink building in South Austin. 50 Shades made “BDSM” the most marketable term in the romance/erotica industry, and it made my already uncomfortable job a living hell.
I began working for Harpy Publishing1 out of desperation; I had just left New York for Austin and needed steady paycheck while I applied for graduate programs. You have a sense of humor, I reminded myself when I received my first assignment: to calculate the number of explicit words in a novella where a virginal witch experienced her first orgasm at the stroke of midnight.
Yes, I was put off when I found out all books featuring F/F romance were automatically assigned to the lowest (least bought) imprint and specifically tagged so that our readers could avoid them. And yes, it was immediately clear that casual misogyny abounded in these books: supporting female characters only appeared so the heroine could defeat them, and the hero would always choose the “good girl” over “the slut.” But I need a paycheck, I reasoned. I am not their audience.
We are not their audience, my friend Shannon and I would repeat over our third (or fourth) glasses of wine at 6 p.m. on a Tuesday.
It’s easy to convince yourself you are “taking something too seriously” when what’s offending you doesn’t hit close to home. The books that poured into our office post-Christian Grey were another matter entirely. Suddenly, the paranormal shape-shifters searching for their forever mate were doing so with handcuffs in hand.
Reading them was like spending eight hours with a muddy, inexpertly placed boot on my chest. It was hard to breathe; it was hard to go home and ever, ever feel clean.
When I came out at 24, sometimes it was also necessary to come out as kinky, although I didn’t have exactly the right vocabulary for it then. Feminine-appearing and soft-spoken, I am not most people’s idea of a Domme. When I started at Harpy, I was a total novice, still trying to reconcile my desires with how I saw myself in the world. At the beginning of my job, when I was reading only one BDSM-themed manuscript every few weeks — books written by women familiar with kink — I felt as if we were sharing a secret. This, I thought, this might be me. ...
Slave Elizabeth stared into my face with unwavering brown eyes “You’ve been to a bar, right?”
“Yes,” I answered.
“And you’ve had alcohol, right?” She looked me up and down.
“And if a random guy hit on you, you wouldn’t just go home with him, right?”
“Same rules apply here. It’s no different than a bar. Trust your gut and stick to what you’re comfortable with and everything will be fine.”
I nodded. I was preparing to enter a pop-up dungeon in the heart of downtown Anchorage. Slave Elizabeth’s directness was comforting.
The fifth annual Northern Exposure conference—currently Alaska’s biggest BDSM educational event with three full days of classes and lectures—had begun earlier, at 10 a.m. This Friday night “play party” offered a safe space where participants were invited to engage in erotic fun and explore techniques they’d learned in conference workshops like “Care and Feeding of the Submissive” and “Interrogation and Abduction.”
Slave Elizabeth and her Master, Todd, stood outside with me, the blacked-out dungeon doors behind us, talking expectations. For some reason she’d taken a likening to me and wanted to make sure I felt safe. Master Todd barely said a word.
“Sometimes people get in over their heads,” Elizabeth said with some concern. “They get excited by what they’re seeing or doing, and being in pain releases endorphins, which create what we call a ‘head space’ or a ‘sub space’. It’s similar to being high. I like to remind people that their decisions can be influenced by that feeling.”
“What do you do when someone gets in over their head?” I asked.
She looked off, thinking through the question before turning back to me. “There’s nothing we can do. You have to know your limits, know what you can handle.” ...
Polyamorists believe their time has come. But the fact is that Americans continue to see infidelity as an evil.
When the fight for gay marriage began to gain traction back in the early years of the last decade, social conservative critics usually went beyond denying that marriage could be redefined to include same-sex couples. Many of them argued that homosexuals were much less inclined than heterosexuals to valorize the ideal of monogamy. Allowing gays and lesbians to marry would therefore introduce a polyamorous option into the institution, and adultery would come to be viewed as an acceptable option for all marriages.
A spate of recent articles explicitly making the case for polyamory would seem to vindicate those conservative predictions and worries.
The latest example appeared a few days ago in The New Republic (reprinted from the New Statesman). Three and a half years into a relationship with a woman, author Rosie Wilby finds that "other people act as our kindling. Love breeds love." The experience leads her to ask rhetorically: What if we all came to view "our relationships as a pyramid structure with our primary partner at the top and a host of lovers, friends, spiritual soul mates, colleagues, and acquaintances beneath that?"
That's the polyamorist ideal, which Wilby defines as "consensual multiple loving connections, some sexual, some not, in a myriad of combinations and hierarchies." And, she insists, it's far better for everyone involved (including children) than the serial monogamy that she sees practiced by many straight and gay couples alike, leading to high rates of separation, divorce, and broken homes. "Instead of serial relationships one after the other," perhaps it would be better to foster "parallel ones running alongside one another." And anyway, we already act this way, fantasizing about sex with friends and acquaintances, making emotional connections with people other than our spouses or partners, sometimes cheating on them outright. So "why pretend" we're more monogamous than we really are?
A social conservative would probably note, correctly, that Wilby's essay is perfectly congruent with, and even seems to follow of necessity from, the sexual ethic currently sweeping the Western world — one in which the only valid moral consideration in a sexual relationship is individual consent. In such a moral universe, there is no reason not to embrace a polyamorous lifestyle. And since most human beings will find themselves emotionally and physically attracted to multiple people in the course of their lives, monogamy would seem to be doomed.
There's just one problem: There is not one shred of evidence to support that prediction.
Consider: In a poll conducted just last year, Gallup found that 91 percent of Americans disapprove of marital infidelity.
That's right. In a highly sexualized age awash in technological temptations and dominated by a nonjudgmental sexual ethic that increasingly encourages men and women to do whatever feels good, nine out of 10 Americans judge cheating to be wrong. That's higher than the rate of disapproval for human cloning and suicide. ...
A man told police a woman who had agreed to take $2,000 in exchange for taking part in an explicit video in which her head would be shaved took off with the cash before the cameras rolled.
Daniel Robertson said the woman had answered a Craigslist ad and he had picked her up at the bus station on Airport Road.
He said they went to LaQuinta Inn on W. 21st Street and she signed a contract and was given the money.
He said she then showered. However, she afterward apparently became frightened and bolted from the room, leaving her bags behind. He said the bags contained only some clothing and $2 in cash. There was no ID for the woman in the bags.
He said the woman bit him on the hand when he tried to stop her. Police said he had several marks on his hand.
Police said Robertson "was not forthcoming on what he had done to frighten her."
He said the film was intended for a fetish website and was to be "sexual in nature."
Police concluded that the woman "may not have been told the full extent of what he wanted from her."
As a professional dominatrix, I tie people up, spank them or humiliate them. Their joy is to submit to me; mine is the power rush of that control
I’m grateful for Fifty Shades of Grey. It is low-grade, escapist smut, filled with misconceptions and wildly inaccurate portrayals of BDSM but as the French dominatrix Catherine Robbe-Grillet has said, it has “opened up new possibilities that did not exist before” to its female readers.
As a professional dominatrix and lifelong kinkster, I welcome this but also offer a warning. While Fifty Shades can be hot, it is designed to arouse, not educate, and in doing so it leaves out the things that differentiate BDSM from abuse, as the newly previewed film trailer has highlighted.
Foremost among these is consent. Consent isn’t merely the absence of a no, a contextless acquiescence. For the kink inclined, it’s explicit and ongoing. Consent can make anything within the bounds of safety and reason fair game – from an hour’s experimentation with handcuffs and a riding crop to a considered, long-term agreement to cede a great deal of your personal power to someone else.
It may be awkward to sit across from someone and admit you like a good spanking, but communication undergirds safe kink. Being open to talking about mutual likes, dislikes, needs and limits gives you and your potential partner the confidence to explore more fully when play begins. Over time, respected consent builds trust, which is what unlocks the true intensity and power of kink.
Consent must be informed. Before play, you should know what you’re getting into and with who. Thus, we kinksters have something else that is absent in Fifty Shades – a community. At regular casual meetups (called munches) and at organised play parties staffed with experienced monitors, we get to know each other. We teach and learn the skills of BDSM; there are practical lessons, such as caning or rope bondage, and intangibles such as negotiating a play or screening a new partner. We watch each other’s backs, freely offering a listening ear or frank advice. Our community is far from perfect, and it’s often a tall order for a socially anxious person – or one with a sensitive job or home life – to meet in public. But we give what has been a private practice an institutional memory and we self-police to keep bullies and predators out. ..
OHIO COUNTY, W.Va. -- A Washington County, Pa., couple could soon face indecent exposure charges in Ohio County after neighbors say a woman was walking a naked man on all fours on a leash. It happened Tuesday morning around 9:30 near Roney's Point in Ohio County. Sheriff’s deputies say they got several calls about the couple, but when they arrived to the scene the couple was clothed.
Officers say the two admitted to participating in the act and to "having a kinky sexual relationship." The couple was said to be visiting a friend on U.S. 40. The Ohio County Prosecutor's Office is reviewing the matter.
Monogamy is rare, no matter what we might tell ourselves. We need a new currency of commitment.
by Rosie Wilby
Back in April, Helen Croydon’s New Statesman article entitled “Screw The Fairytale” sparked quite some heated debate from vociferous defenders of the ideal exclusive lifelong partnership. I too have faced occasionally challenging and often fascinating questions as I have toured my comedy show posing the question: Is Monogamy Dead? Yet I’ve come to realise that so many of us define fidelity along emotional rather than sexual lines, it becomes almost impossible to say with authority that anybody at all is monogamous... unless we can read minds.
I conducted an anonymous online survey as research for my show asking what behaviours would be considered infidelity. 73 out of 100 respondents thought that falling in love with someone else with no sexual contact still counted, 31 per cent selected staying up all night talking to someone else, while a scary 7 per cent decided that merely thinking about someone else was unacceptable. How you would police this I don’t know.
Perhaps the only way to remain truly faithful would be to lock yourselves into a sealed box and both stay there without interacting with any other human beings. Yet this would be torture. Human connections are the lifeblood and oxygen that aid our emotional survival. Even the most fleeting kindnesses and flirtations with strangers enhance our wellbeing. These brief moments of love feed our key relationships. Three and a half years in, my girlfriend and I might not always find it easy to generate huge sexual energy in a vacuum on our own. But if we go off into the world and connect, communicate, flirt with and enjoy other people, become energised by them and then come back together, our passion can still burn strongly. Other people act as our kindling. Love breeds love. It isn’t a finite resource that we need to hide away in the attic.
I asked my ex, now good friend, if she would ever have an open relationship and she said, “no, I don’t think I could do that” then after a pause and a smile, “but what about love affair friendships?” She went on to describe an impenetrable fortress of female friendship, her own group of best mates who’d known each other since school and had supported and loved each other through almost all of their lifetimes. They sounded far more bonded to, and in love with one another, than their respective husbands. It struck me that we don’t have the language to reflect the diversity and breadth of connections we experience. Why is sex the thing we tend to define a relationship by, when in fact it can be simple casual fun without a deep emotional transaction? Why do we say “just friends” when, for some of us, a friendship goes deeper? Can we define a new currency of commitment that celebrates and values this? Instead of having multiple confusing interpretations of the same word, could we have different words? What if we viewed our relationships as a pyramid structure with our primary partner at the top and a host of lovers, friends, spiritual soul mates, colleagues and acquaintances beneath that?
This isn’t a million miles away from the central ideas of polyamory – consensual multiple loving connections, some sexual, some not, in a myriad of combinations and hierarchies. It was a new word and world to me, yet when I interviewed a few polyamorous women (meetings had to be scheduled months ahead due to their ridiculously hectic romantic and social diaries) it struck me that they weren’t behaving so differently to anyone else I knew. Yet instead of shrouding some of their most intimate connections in secrecy as many of my “monogamous” friends have to, boundaries and priorities were honestly negotiated and declared. ...