When the doors to your bedroom, and what you do inside, are thrown open for the world to see; when your sex life becomes fair game for speculation, it can change everything.
As you probably know by now, Demi Moore has filed for divorce from her husband Ashton Kutcher, amidst allegations that he cheated on her repeatedly, including on their wedding anniversary. People magazine reports that “sources” claim that Moore was willing to tolerate some infidelity, but that his flaunting of his affairs, in ways that made tabloid headlines, became inexcusable. While People doesn’t come right out and say they had an open relationship, that is the implication. Whether it’s true or not, the idea highlights a reality whether you’re famous or not: there exists an aspect of our sex lives and how we present them, that’s public, and an aspect that’s private. For some they may be one and the same, but for others, they are two very different but overlapping pieces of our erotic puzzles.
This item of gossip caught my eye, because it gets at the heart of the ways sex occupies both the public and private spheres, often straddling them, moving from one to the other at our whim. Some of us like to let it all hang out (raising my hand) and some of us prefer to keep people guessing, but even if you count yourself among the latter, your sex life is still fair game for speculation.
Especially when it comes to taboo topics we fear might get us in trouble, many people, even those who’ve publicly staked a claim to sexuality, are not comfortable being so “out there.” Three writers who’ve written books about sex have asked me to remove YouTube videos of them reading at my former reading series In The Flesh, because they feared repercussions at work or in their relationships. Potential erotica authors frequently query me concerned about privacy issues around pseudonyms, because were their erotica persona to become public, they too could lose jobs, friendships and respect. We may like to think we are living in an anything-goes era when it comes to sex, but we aren’t quite there yet. I wonder what our world would look like — and if couples like Moore and Kutcher would still be together — if we were less judgmental and more open to an array of sexual desires. Instead, topics like crossdressing, bisexuality, and BDSM still trigger shame in many people. I get the need for secrecy, especially if it’s about a topic that one fears (or is sure) will be misunderstood, all the more so with something like role-playing, which has the potential to reveal so much about who you are as a person, not just what you like to do.
It’s not just those with a secret life, who want to stay under wraps, who are affected by these double standards; recently, I found myself making assumptions about someone else’s sex life. Susie Bright posted an interview on her blog she conducted with sex educator and Opening Up author Tristan Taormino, and I was surprised to read about her own jealousy issues. “I am often too quick to say ‘YES’ to my partner’s request to do something with someone else. It’s like I want to facilitate his pleasure and happiness and not be jealous, so I jump right to ‘Sure, that’s great! Go for it!’ without actually thinking it through,” said Taormino. Of course it makes sense that even Taormino would have dealt with “some major doozies,” in her words, when it comes to jealousy, but I, myself, fell into the trap of thinking along the lines that since she’s an expert on the topic, she never faces the same trials and tribulations as the rest of us.
Anyone even marginally in the public eye, not just those of us who work in the field of sexuality, is going to be subject to some speculation, whether to your face or not, about what your sex life is like. That curiosity is natural, but it can create a gap between other people’s fantasies about our sex lives (or perhaps our own idealized visions of them) and reality. This begs the question of whether we’re secure enough in our own sexual desires to not care about what others might project onto us.
It makes sense that what we might tolerate within the confines of a relationship might not be something we can tolerate out in the open, where we are subject to judgment and prejudice. Sadly, I suspect many people still hear “open relationship” and process it as “nonstop orgy seven nights a week,” even though it may more likely mean a once-in-a-while hookup, or several dedicated relationships (or perhaps you are enjoying that nonstop orgy, and more power to you!).
The nuances of polyamory are still not quite accepted, even though we know that the divorce rate in the United States is extremely high; cheating seems more understood, at least as a necessary evil, than actually doing the work of negotiating some variation of nonmonogamy. Plus, if you’re in a heterosexual marriage, the default assumption is that you are monogamous; I know plenty of couples who from the outside look like the typical man and wife, and reap all the benefits of societal blessings as such, but practice nonmonogamy. I’m not criticizing that arrangement, but I would love to see more famous and non-famous folks acknowledge the challenges of relationships generally, open and otherwise. Yet when they do, they’re skewered with I-told-you-so scolds, like Chelsea Handler’s not-so-smart quip to Piers Morgan, “They probably had a lot of threesomes that led to twosomes without Demi and that leads to a divorce.” The notoriously sexually conservative tabloid Hollywood Life did their best to sound aghast about this utterly sensible quote by Angelina Jolie: “I doubt that fidelity is absolutely essential for a relationship…It’s worse to leave your partner and talk badly about him afterwards. Neither Brad nor I have ever claimed that living together means to be chained together. We make sure that we never restrict each other.”...
After surrendering their vibrators and porno DVDs, the stars of VH1?s “Sex Rehab with Dr. Drew” have chain-smoked their way through three long, sexless weeks of treatment. The motley crew of pseudo-celebrities — including a porn star, a beauty queen and an obscure rock musician — have stripped their emotions bare in nationally broadcast group therapy, tearfully sharing stories of past abuse, anonymous sex, hours upon hours of smut surfing and, above all else, consuming shame. But here’s a question that the show, which ended its first season Sunday night, never bothered to ask: Are these people really addicts?
Since the term was coined in 1983, “sex addiction” has become so embroidered in our self-help vocabulary that most of us stopped questioning it. The term gets bandied about whenever Bill Clinton logs extracurricular time with an intern or Eliot Spitzer gets caught having sex in his socks or David Duchovny separates from his wife. Recently “Sex Rehab” host Dr. Drew Pinsky madeheadlines by suggesting that Tiger Woods has a sex addiction. It’s become the go-to defense for extramarital affairs (I’m not an asshole; I’m an addict!) and been sold to “Oprah” viewers eager to diagnose their porn-loving husbands as both addicts and assholes.
Patrick Carnes, the leading expert in sex addiction, defines it as “any sexually related, compulsive behavior which interferes with normal living and causes severe stress on family, friends, loved ones, and one’s work environment.” But here’s the tricky part: What’s the difference between the symptom of a compulsive disease and a disease itself? Repeatedly lathering up in the sink is a sign of OCD. We don’t call those people hand-washing addicts, now, do we? Unlike most addictive substances, sex can’t be smoked, snorted or mainlined. The term isn’t recognized in the DSM (the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), the bible of therapists everywhere (although along with other controversial diagnoses, like those relating to gender identity, sex addiction is being debated for a new version). But for many sex educators and sex-positive experts, hearing the term spoken about so casually, so frequently, is nothing short of maddening.
“People can behave in compulsive, self-destructive ways,” popular Savage Love columnist Dan Savage writes in an e-mail. “It is possible to fuck too much, or fuck too many people, or fuck your life up fucking. But sex isn’t a chemical substance. It’s not a drug.”
Addiction experts argue it’s the hit of dopamine delivered during orgasm that is abused. (Similar arguments are used to explain gambling and shopping addictions.) But equating those “powerful hoo-haa endorphins,” as Savage puts it, with harder substances like crack is “just ye olde sex negativity on display.”
Other skeptics take issue with the model for sex addiction diagnosis. An online test designed by Carnes casts a wide, sweeping net in its search for signs of the condition. Anyone who enjoys regular masturbation, has a porn collection, or indulges in an active fantasy life will likely be labeled a potential addict … potentially in need of Patrick Carnes’ services.
Richard Siegel, a licensed sex therapist, says he frequently comes across “normal, healthy college-aged guys” who have been unfortunately convinced by “flimsy pop psychology” tests that they are sex addicts for simply masturbating every day. When “Sex Rehab” star Nicole Narain, she of the Colin Farrell sex-tape fame, went on “The Joy Behar Show” in November, she complained about staying in bed all of one day to masturbate. This gave longtime sex writer (and former Salon columnist) Susie Bright a good laugh. “It is of the same tradition of hair growing on your palms from masturbating too much! It’s a werewolf fantasy,” she said.
Says Savage, “We live in a culture that’s torn between titillation and condemnation — that’s Dr. Drew’s whole shtick, actually. Titillate and condemn, condemn and titillate.”
The sex addiction world does indeed seem scolding and puritanical at times. Carnes’ screening test asks whether your sexual behavior has “hurt anyone emotionally,” whether you have used sex and “romantic fantasies” as “a way for you to escape your problems” and whether you “feel controlled by your sexual desire.” Pain, fantasy, desire — these are all normal parts of sexuality. Similarly, the test asks about paying for everything from a dating site to a dirty magazine. As for having a healthy and moderate interest in polyamory, swinging, BDSM, strip clubs, bath houses? Fuhgettaboutit. The truth, says Savage, is that “sex addiction” is merely a clinical euphemism for “sex they disapprove of for moral reasons.” As Dr. Marty Klein, a sex therapist and the author of “America’s War on Sex: The Attack on Law, Lust and Liberty,” once wrote: “These people are missionaries who want to put everyone in the missionary position.” ...
A swingers’ group’s plan for an event at a local gentlemen’s club has drawn the attention of municipal officials who say it may violate local regulations.
Strip Club Takeover (SCTO), a group that organizes get-togethers at such clubs for swinging couples and others, has rented Club Champagne on Crown Point Road for a Dec. 3 event. An Internet announcement of the “December 3 Takeover,” as it is dubbed, seemed to indicate what is planned may cross the line as far as local officials are concerned.
Both West Deptford Township Administrator Eric Campo and police Chief Craig Mangano said Tuesday they and others must determine whether the “Takeover” should be allowed, provided organizers don’t cancel it themselves.
“We’re in the process of reviewing that with the police department and the zoning office,” Campo said.
The announcement for the event was emailed by a source to the Times, Campo and others.
“SCTO is here to give you exactly what you want ... food, BYO, strippers and SEX all under one roof!” it said in part.
“You must be on the guest list to enter the door,” it said elsewhere, adding that “it is imperative that we all make sure to keep this hush hush!”
SCTO also told potential guests of hotel reservation discounts connected to the event.
Tickets to the Takeover, scheduled for 8 to 11 p.m., are $60 per couple and $40 per single female.
Several exotic dancers are also scheduled for the Takeover, the announcement said.
While Champagne — surrounded by the oil tanks of the shuttered Sunoco refinery — is BYOB, SCTO warned guests, “If you are bringing hard liquor, please be discreet in how you carry it to the door.”
Campo said he, Mangano and others are reviewing a January 2009 state Superior Court Law Division order regulating what is allowed inside the club.
“It governs what activities can take place within,” Campo said. “There are limitations. And we need to investigate whether there are violations. At face value, there may be.” ...
Donald MacPherson — publisher of the Soho Journal who once mulled a run for Community Board 2 chairperson — pleaded guilty last Wednesday to 45 counts of grand larceny, insurance fraud and other crimes in an elaborate $82 million Hamptons mortgage fraud scam.
Prosecutors described it as the most massive mortgage fraud case in Suffolk County’s history. Up to 60 homes were involved, mostly on Long Island’s East End.
According to the Southampton Press, MacPherson’s trial was set begin on Mon., Nov. 14, two days before he accepted his plea.
In July, former Suffolk Legislator George Guldi pleaded guilty to being part of the five-person mortgage fraud along with MacPherson. The five were charged in March 2009 with stealing millions of dollars from lenders between 2002 and 2007. ...
MacPherson’s wife, Carrie Coakley, 41, who was also implicated in the mortgage fraud ring, has not entered a plea and remains charged with first-degree grand larceny and scheme to defraud in the first degree, the spokesperson said. Her next court date is Dec. 5.
Coakley — who is a dominatrix, according to the D.A. — is accused of recruiting straw buyers for the scheme at The Dungeon, the Manhattan S&M club where she was in charge. In the end, 17 individuals total were indicted in the scheme.
Newsday reported that it took almost an hour and a half for MacPherson to answer questions last Wednesday about the various ways he swindled banks in properties in Southampton.
He reportedly said he paid the straw buyers a fee of $10,000, assuring them he would make the mortgage payments on a particular house. But he instead retained the mortgage proceeds and allowed the house to go into foreclosure.
Newsday said that MacPherson admitted that he inflated his income and that of his straw buyers, and that he falsely reported that some of the buyers were employed in high-level jobs in companies he owned. ...
A ‘Spanksgiving’ event that explores bondage and sexual masochism has been singled out for law enforcement, its organisers claim.
STL3 from St. Louis, Missouri said its event in Fairview Heights, Illinois has been unfairly targeted by the council demanding its vendors buy permits.
The council had originally said it did not have to pay, as it is a non-profit organisation.
But the group claims after the council carried out more research into its activities, they demanded vendors buy permits.
City council members have argued the requirements were announced weeks ago – long before they heard of the convention.
The group is holding ‘a three day adult educational seminar and play party’ this weekend for 250 people at the Four Points by Sheraton in Fairview Heights.
The convention, which explores bondage, discipline, sadism and masochism in sexual relationships, includes seminars entitled The Joy of Polygamy, Slutty Sex for Real Relationships, Rope 101 and Needles.
endors required to purchase permits include Ms. Martha’s Corset Shop and Bill Stevenson, Whipmaker.
Susan Wright, the spokeswoman for the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom, said organisers want to cooperate fully with the city and plan to obey all state and city laws.
But she added: ‘What is being asked of this conference that is not being asked of other conferences?
‘You can't just enforce it against one group and not another. Did other conference vendors have to pay this fee? It's because of the nature of the event.’
Council member Sandy Baldwin said the city recently decided to enforce the permits and sent letters to all hotels.
She said they are not specifically targeting ‘Spanksgiving’, but simply enforcing existing codes.
‘I would prefer to not have this kind of event in our city, there's no doubt about that,’ Baldwin said. ‘But I also understand, legally, when your hands are tied, we can only make sure the laws on our books are being followed.’
She added that one rule did not stand for all non-profit organisations.
‘I think there's a difference between a Girl Scout cookie and a sexual toy paraphernalia,’ she said. ‘When you sell Girl Scout cookies, that money is put back into the Girl Scouts. It's going back into the community.’ ...
When you find it, the desire to jump into the deep end of the BDSM pool can be irresistible. The excitement of new found friends, playmates and activities can drive a submissive off track and into dangerous situations for mind, body and soul. In this letter to my submissive friends, I offer some advice to avoid the pitfalls during your adventures.
I am so excited for you! It’s such a thrill to watch you blossom into your own sexuality and forge ahead with erotic explorations. For too many years you’ve denied your desires and then struggled to come to terms with them. Now, as you’ve discovered there are others like you; a community of people who enjoy the same things you do, you radiate with the joy of finding acceptance and common ground, a place where you could be heard and let’s not forget, get hot play.
I know you’re about to rush out the door for a play date, but would you take a moment and hear me out? I know everybody and everything you’re encountering seems exciting and wonderful, but will be potential pitfalls, heartaches and dangers along the way. I’m your friend so I’d like to do my best to help you avoid them.
Remember, whatever desires, roles or labels we take on, we’re people first. Respect yourself, respect others and choose to be with those who respect you for all that you are. Even the most gloriously degenerate and depraved play must start from a place of mutual respect and return to that afterwards.
You didn’t get this far in life by being a doormat; so don’t let people walk all over you just because they say they can. You are powerful. Choosing submission from a place of power is beautiful. Find a person who appreciates and treasures that. You’re like a hot-blooded racehorse; under sleek beauty simmers great energy. But you get to choose who will take your reigns, so don’t let just anyone take control, or you’ll get taken for a ride. Be choosy — you’re worth it....
Organizers of a sex convention this weekend say they are being unfairly targeted after aldermen said the city will check if event vendors have permits.
STL3 Inc. has organized a "Spanksgiving" conference from Friday to Sunday at the Four Points by Sheraton hotel for about 250 people who will explore bondage, discipline, sadism and masochism in sexual relationships.
Ward 1 Alderman Norm Miller informed the public at a City Council meeting on Tuesday that he received a call from a concerned citizen about the event.
Miller questioned whether event vendors would need permits and if the city would get sales tax revenue from sold merchandise.
"We have no idea what's going on in there. We have no idea what's being sold," Miller said.
National Coalition for Sexual Freedom spokeswoman Susan Wright, on behalf of a national advocacy group that partners with STL3 Inc., said the conference will have classes and social activities as well as vendors who sell sex toys and other merchandise.
Wright said organizers want to cooperate fully with the city, and plans to obey all state and city laws. But Wright also questions the timing of the enforcement.
"What is being asked of this conference that is not being asked of other conferences?" Wright said. "You can't just enforce it against one group and not another. Did other conference vendors have to pay this fee? It's because of the nature of the event."
Wright said event organizers were not notified by the city about the permits until Wednesday and the hotel was not aware of the requirements.
Ward 5 Alderwoman Sandy Baldwin said the city decided in recent weeks to enforce the merchant ordinance and sent letters to all hotels and motels in the city.
The city is not targeting "Spanksgiving" specifically, but making a push to enforce existing codes, Baldwin said. She added that though she is personally against the event, she recognizes the group's rights.
"I would prefer to not have this kind of event in our city, there's no doubt about that," Baldwin said. "But I also understand, legally, when your hands are tied, we can only make sure the laws on our books are being followed."
Baldwin also said the city will monitor the area to ensure there's no activity outside the hotel and none of the trailers on the hotel parking lot display graphic images.
According to the city's "Hawkers, Peddlers & Itinerant Merchants" ordinance passed in August 1990, merchandise vendors need to have a city-issued license to operate and applicants must have an Illinois sales tax number.
The permit fee is $50 per event and good for seven consecutive days. Those who violate the ordinance could be fined from $150 to $500 a day.
The ordinance also states that "Charitable, Service, Church Organizations, City sponsored functions and Non-Profit Hobby Clubs shall be exempt from any fees incurred as a result of this legislation upon review by the Mayor."
The city would not make nonprofit groups such as the Girl Scouts get permits, Baldwin said.
"I think there's a difference between a Girl Scout cookie and a sexual toy paraphernalia. When you sell Girl Scout cookies, that money is put back into the Girl Scouts. It's going back into the community."
STL3 Inc. is a registered nonprofit corporation with the Missouri Secretary of State and Internal Revenue Service....