Even after reading Rolling Stone’s recent article “Tales From the Millennials’ Sexual Revolution,” you might not have realized it was about polyamory. It was easy to miss. In several thousand words, the term appeared only one time. And no one could be blamed if the phrase that author Alex Morris chose in its stead caused even more confusion: “The New Monogamy.” Huh?
But despite the understandable confusion, Morris’ article was, at least in part, about polyamory. Novel terminology aside, it was the same old story about nontraditional relationships.
While well researched and amply quoted, Morris’ article engaged in an old, ugly trend of mischaracterizing polyamory as some kind of newly emerging phenomenon, discovered by Morris while investigating a “new sexual revolution.”
It isn’t that Morris’ profile was explicitly hostile, or even all that wary of non-monogamous arrangements. Rather, the well-intentioned reporting falls victim to an old laundry list of misapprehensions. Polyamory, according to Morris and countless other writers who have taken on the topic, is about frivolity and sex. That’s why it fits in an article that also deals with teenage promiscuity statistics and typical head-scratching over the vagaries of “hookup culture.”
I understand: Sex sells. Youth sells. Transgression sells. Package all three together and you’ve got a hot story.
But misleading stories about polyamory do a disservice, both to the immense diversity of polyamorous practice in this country and to readers who might be genuinely interested in exploring that diversity.
So, if I may temporarily take the dangerous step of speaking for my community, here are some common misunderstandings that have come out of these stories, and some clarifications for future stories:
Polyamory isn’t a trend among young people. It never was. Among the non-monogamous, there is everything from the youngish hipsters Morris profiles to long-standing domestic families with mortgages and children. Some are even on Social Security. The only common thread is deviation from strict, traditional fidelity.
Polyamory doesn’t entail a particular relationship structure. I’ve seen everything from the so-called open relationship to groups of three or more partners -- but for whom any outside entanglement would be a form of infidelity. And everything in between. The point is that those in every relationship get to figure out what works best for them. ...
This generation is radically rethinking straight sex and marriage, but at what cost? In Part One of a two-part series, Rolling Stone goes under the covers in search of new approaches to intimacy, commitment and hooking up. Read more: http://www.rollingst
By Alex Morris
By the end of their dinner at a small Italian restaurant in New York’s West Village, Leah is getting antsy to part ways with her boyfriend Ryan, so that she can go meet up with her boyfriend Jim. It’s not that she means to be rude, it’s just that Jim has been traveling for work, so it’s been a while since she’s seen him. Ryan gets this. As her “primary partner” and the man with whom she lives, he is the recipient of most of Leah’s attention, sexual and otherwise, but he understands her need to seek companionship from other quarters roughly one night a week. Tonight is one of those nights, and soon Leah will head to Jim’s penthouse apartment, where the rest of the evening, she says, will probably entail “hanging out, watching something, having sex.” “She’ll usually spend the night,” Ryan adds nonchalantly, which gives him a chance to enjoy some time alone or even invite another woman over. He doesn’t have a long-standing secondary relationship like Leah (“I’ve actually veered away from doing that”), but he certainly enjoys the company of other women, even sometimes when Leah is home. “I like everyone to meet each other and be friends and stuff,” he explains.
When Leah and Ryan met at a wedding four years ago, they didn’t expect to develop this type of arrangement. Neither of them had had an open relationship before, though it was something that Leah had contemplated. “I remember the first night, I was telling him about my difficulty with monogamy,” she says. “I don’t know why I felt the need, but it must have been on my mind a lot.” In almost every relationship she’d had, she’d found herself cheating, though she didn’t know if this was a character flaw or a problem with the conventional system. For his part, Ryan was unfazed. “I was just trying to get into your panties,” he says to her, laughing.
Because they started off dating long-distance (Ryan was living in Colorado at the time), it was understood that they would not be exclusive: They initiated a policy Leah describes as “don’t ask, don’t tell.” But when Ryan moved to New York and began living with Leah a year and a half later, he assumed they would transition immediately into monogamy. “I thought, ‘All right, the long-distance shenanigans are over now, we’re moving in together, and it’s time to have a real go at this,’” he says, taking a sip of his beer. He was therefore surprised when the first thing Leah gave him after the move was a book called The Ethical Slut, considered to be a primer on how to handle a non-monogamous relationship.
Certainly, open heterosexual relationships are nothing new. Even the term “open relationship” seems like a throwback, uncomfortably reminiscent of free-love hippies, greasy swingers and a general loucheness so overt as to seem almost kitsch. But Leah and Ryan, 32 and 38, respectively, don’t fit these preconceived ideas. They’re both young professional types. She wears pretty skirts; he wears jeans and trendy glasses. They have a large, downtown apartment with a sweeping view and are possessed of the type of hip hyperawareness that lets them head off any assumptions as to what their arrangement might entail. Moreover, they see themselves as part of a growing trend of folks who do not view monogamy as any type of ideal. “There’s this huge group of younger people that are involved in these things,” says Ryan – an observation that seemed borne out of a monthly event called “Poly Cocktails,” held at an upstairs bar on the Lower East Side a few weeks later, in which one would have been hard-pressed to realize that this wasn’t your run-of-the-mill mixer (a guy who’d wandered in accidentally must have eventually figured it out; he was later seen by the bar grinning widely as he chatted up two women).
In fact, Leah and Ryan are noticing a trend that’s been on the radar of therapists and psychologists for several years now. Termed “The New Monogamy” in the journal Psychotherapy Networker, it’s a type of polyamory in which the goal is to have one long-standing relationship and a willingness to openly acknowledge that the long-standing relationship might not meet each partner’s emotional and sexual needs for all time. Or, more specifically, that going outside the partnership for sex does not necessitate a forfeiture of it. “I was at a practice where we would meet every week, six to eight therapists in a room for teaching purposes and to bring up new things coming into therapy that weren’t there before,” says Lair Torrent, a New York-based marriage and family therapist. One of the things all the therapists had noticed over the past few years was “that couples – and these are younger people, twentysomethings, maybe early thirties – are negotiating what their brand of monogamy can be. They are opening up to having an open relationship, either in totality or for periods of time. I have couples that have closed relationships or open relationships depending on how they feel about the relative health of their relationship. It’s not so dogmatic.” ...
Local BDSM porn company Kink.com has faced growing pressure from the state legislature and regulatory agencies to use condoms on its shoots, and now, the company may confront a lawsuit from a performer who faced an HIV scare in the porn industry last year. A demand letter obtained by SF Weekly shows that an "aggrieved former employee" of Kink.com is seeking restitution for nearly 25 alleged violations of California Labor Code, including one pertaining to bloodborne pathogens.
The demand letter goes on to state that the former employee attended a shoot "wherein there was no exposure control plan, untested audience members participated, and other illegal acts and omissions occurred."
The letter also describes the porn industry's current database for STD testing, known as PASS, as a direct violation of California law. This database, the letter asserts, freely shares performers' legal names and personal medical information, including STD test results.
Kink spokesperson Mike Stabile says, "The letter is not only disingenuous, it's demonstrably false across the board, and we're absolutely fighting it."
As Kink.com faces legislative and regulatory pressure -- and a potential lawsuit -- it appears the company may pack up and leave San Francisco. Uptown Almanac reported that Kink.com, currently headquartered at the Armory in San Francisco's Mission district, had filed paperwork with the city's planning department to convert the building to office space.
The Armory, a historic building that housed the U.S. National Guard during the early 20th century, was purchased by Kink.com's founder and CEO Peter Acworth in 2006 for $14.5 million. But this is not the first time Acworth has proposed renovations to the Armory -- in 2007, he floated the idea of converting a portion of the building to condos, complete with webcams so voyeurs could watch the occupants online, and, more recently, he renovated the Armory's Drill Court for use as a community center.
However, the current proposal to convert the building to office space stems not from a desire to innovate the way porn is made, but rather to keep production the same.
As SF Weeklypreviously reported, Kink.com and other local pornography companies have faced increasing pressure to require performers to wear condoms while filming. In February, Kink.com was fined $78,710 by the California Occupational Safety and Health Administration; the majority of the fine related to the lack of condom use on set. (A $3,710 portion of the fine was incurred due to other workplace safety hazards.) The complaints that initiated Cal-OSHA's investigation were filed by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation on behalf of several performers. Kink.com is currently appealing the fines.
Stabile says, "Kink has always left the decision to use a condom up to the performer. Some of performers regularly use them, but most prefer not to, for the same reasons that other people choose not to. They can be uncomfortable, something that's magnified on a long shoot."
The Cal-OSHA fines come in the wake of a 2012 Los Angeles law requiring condom use on porn sets (the law was also backed by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation). Since condom use became mandatory, the porn advocacy organization Free Speech Coalition reported a 95 percent drop in adult film permit applications in LA County, indicating that filmmakers are moving away from Los Angeles. Lawmakers are also pushing for a statewide law to require condoms in pornography -- California Assembly Bill 1576, which would require condom use in adult films made throughout the state, cleared the Assembly Labor Committee last week in a 5-0 vote.
Michael Weinstein, president of AIDS Healthcare Foundation, praised the vote, stating, "AB 1576 expands and broadens worker protections for all California's adult film workers on a statewide basis." The bill will soon be considered by the Legislature's Arts, Entertainment, Sports, Tourism and Internet Media Committee. ...
Last summer, I started a long-term project on consent within the Fifty Shades of Grey series as seen through BDSM and marriage contracts. Only halfway through the summer did I pay attention to reactions to the topic.
It was only after people unexpectedly failed to laugh or joke about my research that I realized I expected them to mock my work. I would be comforted if I could say these reactions center on the text alone: Fifty Shades is what it is, and the pop culture hive-mind long ago decided to create a meme of derision against the series and anyone who engages with it.
But these reactions go beyond the typical excuse of discomfort about my type of research, because being ridiculed for my obviously intensive project is only the least of my worries as a sex positive advocate. I have had to defend myself against misguided first impressions without shaming those who make choices similar to the stereotypes thrown against me. I have had to manage a mix of shame and anger when someone made joking insinuations about my personal life for months based on the fact that I write this column.
And I know I am not alone. Too many times, I have heard similar struggles from friends, classmates and strangers in and outside of campus who are passionate about sexual or romantic health. They understand that the very nature of their advocacy puts them in potentially uncomfortable, unwanted, unsafe situations.
Similar situations pop up with most advocacy work. When there is something to fight for, you occasionally encounter people or situations against which to argue. For now, I am concerned most with the response to activism surrounding sexual or romantic health. It is disturbing that the very act of talking about and advocating for these issues exacerbates the very threat of sexualized, intimate violence. Even if it is supposedly part of the job, how can it be fair that those in vulnerable positions are asked to open themselves up to even more vulnerability?
An incident I believe highlights the urgency of this issue occurred between me and a classmate last year. I mentioned my work with this column and my racialized, classed sex positivity. The student asked me about it, and we had a good conversation about porn even though he held views different than mine. However, he kept asking me about porn, called me out in class about my opinions, and forced me to defend myself after I felt we had exasperated the topic. Because I think of myself as an educator and because I was socialized through violence to always answer questions from men, I kept answering even though I found myself growing uncomfortable.
A friend checked in with me and told me something I had not considered: I could say no to his questions. That it’s okay to feel uncomfortable, even as an advocate. I realized that being made to talk about porn and sex with him brought up the feelings of embarrassment, being trapped, inability to say no, and frustration that I associate with sexual harassment. I had convinced myself I did not deserve to feel upset because the intention in our conversation was education, not a sexual or romantic pursuit.
The exchanges did not escalate to harassment. I recognize my participation in creating the situation, and I still do not completely blame him for it. That check-in helped me start saying no and tell him I was uncomfortable, and he understood the situation and backed off. But this recognition does not excuse my emotional toil, justify his obliviousness and rudeness or indicate that the situation would not have escalated the point where I felt harassed. ...
The BDSM porn purveyor Kink.com that has been operating in the Armory Building since 2007 may soon be cracking its last whip in the Mission. It’s not leaving because of the rising cost of real estate; it’s because of the cost of producing porn.
Last week, the Planning Department released a preliminary review of a plan submitted by Peter Acworth, CEO of Kink.com and the Armory Building’s owner, that would convert the building’s production studios into office space. If approved the proposal would create more than 100,000 square feet of office space in the Civil War-era building on 14th and Mission.
In an email message to Mission Local, Acworth explained that recent and upcoming legislative changes creating stricter health regulations in adult films have made the production of hardcore pornography prohibitively expensive in California. Acworth says that he may move the production arm of Kink.com to Nevada and rent out the Armory for office use.
“The fact is that new regulations threaten to essentially criminalize the production of hardcore pornography in California,” Acworth said. “Measure B in L.A. county was just the start, and now we face AB 1576 and new draft CAL-OSHA regulations that are being proposed.”
Assembly Bill 1576, which was introduced in January, would amend the California Occupational Safety and Health Act with provisions specifically for adult films. If approved, studios would have to provide documentation that all performers use condoms during scenes involving penetrative intercourse and that all performers are tested for STIs every 14 days.
“These new regulations are not yet in place and we are disputing them,” Acworth said in his email. “We hope to prevail on the basis that our protocols include strict, mandatory testing and/or mandatory condoms for all our shoots, and based on the fact that there has not been an on-set transmission of HIV in the U.S. since 2004 on any set where testing was required — not just at Kink.com but anywhere in the industry.”
Earlier this year, two performers named Cameron Bay and Rod Daily contracted HIV during the time they were also working for Kink.com. According to Kink.com spokesman Mike Stabile, Bay was offered a condom but declined to use one during her shoot and Daily, Bay’s boyfriend at the time, used condoms during all his scenes. Acworth has stated previously that he was confident these performers were infected through encounters in their personal lives and not on set, in part, because all their scene partners tested negative following shoots with Bay or Cameron.
However, in an interview with the Huffington Post, Bay has described a more complex situation in which she felt subtle pressure not to use condoms and was severely injured while on set. Her contraction of HIV led to a brief national moratorium on porn shoots. ...
...In recent years, the internet has done for alternative sexuality what it did for comic fans, anime otaku, and gamers—uniting like-minded but geographically distant subgroups and revealing the “fringe” to be larger and far more passionate than anyone had expected. And considering how deeply nerd subculture permeated fashion, film, and television, you have to wonder if the sexual fringe can even accurately be called a fringe at all.
An American study found that more than 40 percent of millennials think that traditional marriage is becoming obsolete, while OKCupid data indicated that more than 34 percent of its users have had a same-sex sexual experience or would like to. The numbers are similar regarding threesomes, according to an ABC survey.
Gen Y’s much-discussed hyperconnectivity, constant communication, and desire for gratification on their own terms actually puts them in a prime position to become a generation of sex nerds. They can figure out the parameters of their relationships on an individual level and eschew conventional sexual and romantic codes in favor of ongoing discussion about their own needs and interests, and the needs and interests of their partners.
But it’s not just young people. The slow mainstreaming of alt sex and love is picking up speed. How much longer can we classify BDSM as a niche interest while Fifty Shades books and paraphernalia fly off shelves nationwide? Sure, it's not exactly an ideal introduction to BDSM, but it implies a large-scale interest in kink across North America, the UK, and elsewhere.
And if a single trashy trilogy can ignite global interest in an allegedly “deviant” sexual subculture, what else are people interested in? How can they access it? Are they already doing so, in quiet corners of the internet after the kids have gone to bed? Are body-positive threesomes the new functional bum-bags? Is queer-friendly feminist tumblr porn the next Star Wars?
Hey Ma! I’d like you to meet my boyfriend…and my girlfriend…and my slave.
There was a time when coming out as any shade in the queer spectrum was a terrifying prospect. It still can be for many, but deviating from the heterosexual norm is more understood and accepted now than it has ever been. What remains quite difficult share, especially with family, is that you are kinky or polyamorous.
Me? Eh, I tell everyone everything. My family doesn’t just know I’m kinky –they know I’m a professional Dominatrix. Compared to that, polyamory is a walk in the park, as was telling the clan that I like girls.
But does your family really need to know about your sex life? Well, technically, no. If it’s just sex, there’s not any absolute reason to share. Family and more traditional friends don’t necessarily want to know that you and your partner frequent swinger parties, or that you like to tie each other up in kidnapping role play scenes. If, however, you have serious a relationship with someone who is not your primary partner, or have a strong Dom/sub or Master/slave dynamic, if can feel heavy hiding that from the people closest to you.
Sharing something so important to you, knowing that they may not understand or accept it, can be scary. When I first read “The Ethical Slut” at age twenty, my mind was blown. I was psyched to be made aware of this possibility, that I wasn’t terrible for wanting to date more than one person at a time. I was electric when I called a good friend from high school to tell her about it. Though skeptical, she agreed to give it a read, so I popped it in the mail and anxiously awaited her response.
A few days later, she called and I immediately could tell she was agitated. She’d only gotten a few pages in and refused to continue. The very concept angered and upset her. She took it as an excuse for people to cheat, despite my protestation that it, instead, fosters intense honestly between partners. While she accepted my exploring this path, she wanted nothing to do with it. She asked me never to mention it to her again, and I didn’t. When I told her I was kinky, however, she was thrilled and wanted to hear all about it. Other friends and family were accepting of the poly, but disgusted by the kinky.
Why do our loved ones sometimes take such an issue with our lifestyles? Well, I believe there are two main reasons. First, they are worried about us. They cannot comprehend it, and worry for our safety and health. More partners can mean more heartache and more exposure to STIs, and kinky relationships can sometimes literally involve pain. Their concern is understandable, but it is our job to help them try to discern what it means to us, and the joy it can bring us.
The second, more difficult reason they can have a tough time accepting our alternative lifestyles is that they are offended by the very idea of it. They may see our polyamory as an affront to their monogamy. Perhaps they fear that if their partner knew of this possibility, they would also want to give it a go. They may find kink in general to be abhorrent, and think something is wrong with you if you like to participate in BDSM. They might see this power exchange as genuinely insane behavior, especially if you are a bottom/sub/slave.
So why come out in the first place? Well, you certainly don’t have to, and choosing to keep these things to yourself is absolutely a valid and legitimate choice. Do keep in mind, however, that as more people do come out as kinky or polyamorous, the more accepted it will be. Aunt Hilda may think anyone who participates in these lifestyles is totally nuts, until she actually knows someone who does. Once there is a human face on it, it’s not just a wacky concept. They can actually see how it works, and how fulfilled it makes you feel. ...
A dominatrix who whipped cross-dressing men while they were chained up and gagged has been fined for a serious breach of health and safety rules.
But it’s nothing to do with the way she physically treated her clients.
Lorraine White, 41, was fined £8,000 for breaching fire safety rules at her Stockport sex dungeon.
Magistrates heard how the firemen were unable to get into the building after a blaze broke out there.
Once they finally did gain access they found a trove of handcuffs, chains and other restraining devices in the basement.
Crews were called to the building on Vauxhall industrial estate, Greg Street, on October 30, 2012 after a maintenance man reported a basement fire.
They struggled to gain access to the Medusa club due to the locked doors but eventually they managed to enter and discovered the sex dungeon.
The fire had been sparked by a leaking gas heater.
When questioned, White admitted she had no idea she was responsible for fire safety arrangements. There was only one manually operated fire alarm and one fire exit was permanently locked.
Fire investigators found several canisters of nitrous oxide, laughing gas - also know as 'hippie crack' - which White’s clients used to get high. Elizabeth Dudley-Jones, prosecuting, said: ‘She was asked what would happen if there was a fire when her clients were under the influence of the gas and restrained.
‘She said she had not considered it.’
Ms Dudley-Jones said White was asked about the activities in the club. ‘She said nothing was too severe. Slight bondage, possibly a mask or gag. It involved a lot of humiliation, doing domestic work and dressing up in women’s clothes.’
White, a former beautician, from Chaseley Road, Salford, pleaded guilty to four charges of fire safety rules, including failing to carry out a risk assessment, install suitable fire alarms, maintain emergency exits, or install emergency lighting.
She was fined £5,000 for the offences and ordered to pay £3,000 costs and a £120 victim charge.
White, who earns £1,100 a month from the business and spent £10,000 refurbishing her smoke-damaged dungeon, agreed to pay the sum at £100-a-month. ...