Although media coverage of the Fifty Shades series has died down, the book remains at the top of bestsellers lists. But the readers driving the series' popularity may surprise some. While shopping in a bookstore recently, one of us watched a mother and her young teenage daughter giggle secretively together as they placed something in their baskets... two copies of Fifty Shades of Grey. The expected demographic for the Bondage Discipline Sadomasochism (BDSM) series was married women over age 30. However, given the intense media coverage and the books' immense popularity, they have found a fan base in a much younger demographic.
Much of the media attention thus far has focused on the BDSM relationship between the two main characters. What's missing, though -- in the media, probably in our book clubs and certainly in our conversations with our teenage daughters -- is a discussion of a serious and dangerous aspect of their relationship.
Let's be clear: We're not talking about BDSM. Our concern is that the interaction between the characters outside the bedroom has been ignored.
From the beginning of the series, Christian Grey's need to control Ana Steele is unmistakable. He gives her a laptop and BlackBerry so she can be instantly available and shows up at her house when she doesn't respond quickly enough. He flies thousands of miles to her mother's house, unexpected and uninvited. The examples go on and on. These events are explained away as romantic, as products of Christian's intensity, his wealth, his need to control, his childhood abuse. But they are not romantic, nor are they justifiable. They are hallmarks of intimate partner violence (IPV).
Christian's actions exemplify two specific types of IPV: intimate partner stalking and coercive control, both common forms of violence against women. Intimate partner stalking includes repeated and unwanted contact or attention that causes the victim to fear her own safety or the safety of others. Over 16 percent of women have experienced stalking during their lifetimes, and two-thirds of those have been stalked by an intimate partner, such as a boyfriend, spouse or girlfriend. Although alarming, these rates likely underestimate the actual prevalence, as most instances of IPV are not reported to the police. The most common form of stalking is repeated and unwanted phone calls or text messages; Christian's first gifts of a laptop and BlackBerry may not be coincidental. Ana responds with a combination of negative and positive feelings and ultimately accepts his behaviors. This ambivalence can be common in victims of IPV, and it in no way makes the behavior acceptable.
While the series is replete with examples of stalking, Christian's other method of IPV is coercive control. The purpose of coercive control is to gain power in the relationship, to assert dominance, or to change the behavior of others. Christian is forthcoming that control -- including control of Ana -- is of utmost importance to him; it is impossible to find a chapter in the series that does not include an example of coercive control. ...
I was wondering what you think about the Folsom Street Fair, the annual gay leather/fetish/BDSM street fair in San Francisco. Do you think it is still a socially relevant display? Or do you think that in this time when we are fighting for civil rights and equality that it does more harm than good?
— Better Displaying San Francisco
I'm pretty sure that the Folsom Street Fair remains socially relevant — and highly so — to folks in the leather/fetish/BDSM scene in San Francisco. It's also relevant to anyone who believes in freedom of sexual expression. (For an idea of what Folsom looks like, and to see the scale of the thing, search for "Folsom Street Fair" on YouTube.)
And it's important to emphasize that the Folsom Street Fair, which took place last weekend, isn't exclusively gay. Thousands of straight kinksters attend every year. About the only difference between the straight attendees and the queer ones is that no one claims that the kinky straight people at Folsom make all heterosexuals everywhere look like sex-crazed sadomasochists. (For the record: Sex-crazed sadomasochists are my favorite kind of sadomasochists.)
Straight people, of course, aren't fighting for their fundamental civil rights. Kinky straights can marry in all 50 states, after all, and no one is pledging to kick kinky straights out of the armed forces or to write anti-kinky-straight bigotry into the US Constitution. So maybe it's not the same — maybe it's not as politically risky — when straight people come out in bondage gear, leather chaps, and pony masks. But straight people are a big part of Folsom, too.
But you didn't ask about kinky straight people. You wondered if the Folsom Street Fair was harming the struggle for LGBT equality.
The Folsom Street Fair has taken place on a Sunday in September in San Francisco every year since 1984. Pride parades have been taking place on a Sunday in June in cities all over the country since the early 1970s. And every year, we hear from concern trolls about the damage that's supposedly being done to the LGBT rights movement by all those drag queens, go-go boys, dykes, and leather guys at Pride or Folsom or International Mr. Leather.
But everyone acknowledges — even our enemies — that the gay rights movement has made extraordinary strides in the 43 years since the Stonewall Riots in New York City. We're not all the way there yet, we have yet to secure our full civil equality, but the pace of progress has been unprecedented in the history of social justice movements. The women's suffrage movement, for example, was launched in the United Sates in 1848. It took more than 70 years to pass the 19th Amendment, which extended the vote to women. In 1969, at the time of the Stonewall Riots, gay sex was illegal in 49 states. Gay sex is now legal in every US state, gay marriage is legal in six states and our nation's capital (and in all of Canada), and gays, lesbians, and bisexuals can serve openly in the military. (The armed forces still discriminate against trans people.) And we've made this progress despite fierce opposition from the religious right, a deadly plague that wiped out a generation of gay men, and — gasp — all those leather guys at Folsom and the go-go boys and drag queens at Pride.
We couldn't have come so far, so fast if Folsom or pride parades were harming our movement. And I would argue that leather guys, dykes on bikes, go-go boys, and drag queens have actually helped our movement, BDSF. They demonstrate to all people that our movement isn't just about the freedom to be gay or straight. Our movement is about the freedom to be whatever kind of straight, gay, lesbian, bi, or trans person you want to be. And freedom, as Dick Cheney famously said, means freedom for everyone — from pantsuit-wearing POS sellouts like Mary Cheney and Chris Barron to kinky straight people and hot gay boys in harnesses.
I don't think it's a coincidence that cities with big pride parades and events like Folsom are more tolerant and more accepting of sexual minorities than cities that don't have big gay parades and fetish street fairs. If an event like Folsom were actually counterproductive, BDSF, you would expect San Francisco to be less tolerant and less likely to back equal rights for sexual minorities, not more likely.
And finally, BDSF, any attempt to shut down the Folsom Street Fair — or to ban drag queens, go-go boys, dykes on bikes, or leather guys from pride parades — would be so poisonously divisive that it would do more harm to our movement than a thousand Folsom Street Fairs ever could. ...
Newly unsealed court documents reveal that a rare criminal libel investigation launched against a New Westminster resident this summer relate to alleged defamatory statements made online against an RCMP officer mired in a scandal over sexually explicit photos and other members of the force.
The B.C. Civil Liberties Association, which together with media outlets fought to unseal the records, is questioning why a criminal investigation was needed when defamation issues are normally handled through civil channels.
“The idea that a bunch of people with guns can take away your computer if you say the wrong thing on the Internet is anathema to free speech and democracy,” David Eby, the BCCLA’s executive director, said on Friday.
“Here, somebody was punished without proof of wrongdoing. He lost all his computers and had a search warrant executed at his house by armed police.”
A statement posted on the B.C. RCMP’s website says the search warrant was “a step in the collection of evidence” stemming from allegations of criminal behaviour by several individuals.
“The investigative team was tasked with investigating all aspects of several allegations and to follow investigative leads regardless of where those leads took them. This is what is expected in criminal investigations,” the statement said.
Eby says the resident who was the subject of the Aug. 18 warrant told the association that 10 RCMP and New Westminster police officers took part in the search of his home.
According to the 71-page document in support of the search warrant, defamatory statements were published on the Erotic Vancouver website by a Daniel Fawkes and in various Twitter messages posted on the account of@De_Fawkes. Investigators traced the comments to an IP address belonging to a Grant Wakefield and police suspected his computer might contain evidence related to the defamatory statements.
The targets of the allegedly defamatory statements were RCMP members Cpl. Jim Brown and Sgt. Farid Siddiqui, both of the Coquitlam detachment, and retired police officers Insp. Fred Biddlecombe and Sgt. Darryl Pollock.
In July, Brown came under heavy scrutiny after The Vancouver Sun and other media reported that the officer appeared online in photographs depicting scenes of sexual bondage and dominance.
The RCMP announced at the time that the Coquitlam detachment first became aware of the staged photos back in December 2010. Because the images appeared on Brown’s personal flash drive, a code of conduct review by his superiors resulted in a warning and the matter was concluded, court documents say.
But in March of this year, a new investigation was opened after police learned the photos of Brown were online.
The court records state that the investigation was prompted after an individual, identified as “Informant A,” came forward to police with allegations against Brown and his “BDSM lifestyle” (bondage, dominance, sadism and masochism). Much of what this informant told police was blacked out in the records obtained this week.
In early July, knowing that media outlets were now aware of these photographs, a code-of conduct investigation was ordered against Brown with the Richmond RCMP tapped to lead the investigation.
In a public statement at that time, Assistant Commissioner Randy Beck said that while the force recognized an individual’s rights and freedoms when off duty, he was “personally embarrassed and very disappointed” that the RCMP would be linked to photos of that nature.
Days later, the court records state, yet another code-of-conduct investigation was launched against Brown because of the discovery in his briefcase of DVDs containing sexual images depicting Brown, and other items. Brown had previously been ordered not to bring such images to work, but Brown said he was only warned to be “mindful” about bringing such material to work, according to the documents. ...
Mistress Cyan first encountered BDSM at a party in the early '80s, following months of correspondence with the hostess, whose PO Box she found in a personal ad in a long-defunct fetish magazine called Encore.
"It was like, wow," she recalls. "There's loads of people tied up. They've got this woman inverted, okay, and this guy's dropping hot wax between her legs, and she's screaming, and I'm thinking, I gotta go... my God, how am I ever gonna explain if this place gets raided?"
But she stayed. Or rather, he stayed, and fell down the rabbit hole. Back then, Cyan was a married man, the director of operations for a $3.5 billion corporation that manufactured housewares and woodenware, with a company car, an expense account and two young sons. Thirty years later, at age 58, this stunning transgender powerhouse is the most respected professional dominatrix in Los Angeles, plus the founder and executive producer of DomCon, an annual convention in LA and Atlanta; a bondage model who has appeared on shows like Nip/Tuck and Las Vegas; a regular guest speaker at UCLA; a community leader commended by the city of West Hollywood for her Thanksgiving and Christmas charity slave auctions; and the owner of Sanctuary, a 7,000-square-foot commercial dungeon near LAX, which employs forty women and boasts nine themed playrooms named after Greek goddesses.
Circulating one of Sanctuary's weekly fetish parties a few Saturdays ago, she embraces old friends and giggles with newcomers, surveying the tattoos, corsets, feathers, nudity and meaningful stares. A spaghetti-strap dress in black crushed velvet rests on her slight, 124-lb frame as she monitors activity that can be sexual but can't be sex, resolving problems swiftly and calmly, with a soothing but firm poise, her patent leather red platforms amplifying the authority of her usual five feet ten inches.
The night before she'd gone to bed at 4 a.m., and at 5:30 a.m. her phone erupted with Hole's "Celebrity Skin" (I'm all I wanna be / a walking study / in demonology). When she picked up, she learned her sister-in-law was going into labor. After spending the entire day at the hospital, Cyan wonders aloud whether she's too tired to "play" with anyone tonight. ...
The 29th annual Folsom Street Fair will be an exhibition of kinktastic fun, filled with leather daddies, eager submissives and more than 250 vendors and exhibits displaying all that the Bay Area has to offer in BDSM. But don’t strap on your ball gag just yet — there’s much to learn before heading to your first Folsom Street Fair.
The fair, which will grace San Francisco’s SOMA neighborhood with its presence Sept. 23, spans 13 city blocks between 7th and 12th streets and seven hours, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Estimated attendance for this year is 40,000 people coming from all over the world.
It’s kind of a big deal.
But never fear, Folsom newbies, your kink guide is here with some tips and tricks to get you ready for your big trip to the fair.
First, your outfit. Keep in mind that Folsom Street Fair is one of the only opportunities that some kinksters get to come out of the closet and show their true colors, so there’s going to be a whole lot of fetish wear — everywhere. The fair marks the end of Leather Week in San Francisco, so there’s definitely going to be a lot of leather.
If you’re a virgin to leather, this might not be the best time to take it out for a spin. Remember San Francisco’s freak summer that happens at the end of September? It tends to hit the fair with full force. Unless you know how to wear it, opt for just a leather harness and some booty shorts instead. Or forget the leather entirely and wear something else in the fetish realm, like a corset or assless chaps. What you wear can reflect your role and kink, so be careful to put in some research before you toss on a collar.
Don’t bring too much with you. It might not seem like a lot, but hauling around heavy gear or a large bag over the course of a hot day is not going to help you have fun. Just grab some cash, a phone and some water, and you’ll be good to go for the whole day.
While you’re at the fair, you’re going to see everything. Yes, everything, and maybe even some things your twisted mind has not yet realized existed. Consider it a learning experience and stash the memories in your spank bank or keep them locked up to use on a partner later. ...
While the mainstream BDSM community has always drawn lines over what is and is not OK (drinking blood, for instance, isn’t cool because of the potential to spread diseases), the definition of edge has changed over time. In the 80s and 90s things like scat play, age play, puppy play, and suspension were no-nos but they now occur semi frequently at kinky events. (Well, scat play is a little more rare because, ew.) Attitudes about what should be forbidden seems to have shifted thanks to people getting better educated. The internet spawned more discussions about sexual ethics, more how-to guides, and more adult sex ed in general. (Don’t you just love the kind of sex ed that results in more and better sex rather than paranoia about STDs?) All of this might have encouraged some of the edgier elements of the BDSM world to explore some dangerous-sounding fun.
“So the edgeplay we do is called consensual non-consent, aka rape play, aka no safewords,’” says Madeline to her audience. She talks lovingly about their rape play. She swears that it keeps their long-term relationship tender and fresh, and likewise, their trusting relationship allows them to do rape play.
Z says that knowing how to do rape play with your partner comes down to knowing your partner. He compares it to selecting a birthday present. “You ask yourself, What do they already have? What do they need? What do they keep bringing up?” It is about observation, which Z says is the flip-side of communication and just as important.
All of this is especially edgy given some recent controversy within the BDSM community. Inspired by the UK’s Consent Culture campaign run by feminist BDSM activists Kitty Stryker and Maggie Mayhem, many people have started coming forward about rape and sexual abuse within their local BDSM scenes in the past year. And in most cases these stories were initially tucked under the rug, never dealt with properly by community leaders. “We were frustrated at how people weren't really talking about issues of consent being violated and when people did it was dismissed as drama. This is really dangerous because BDSM is largely illegal [in the UK], so going to the police isn't really an option,” Kitty told me.
Over on the FetLife threads devoted to the topic, members started calling out abusers by name. The site initially banned this practice, and then the CEO and founder of FetLife, John Baku was called out for sexual assault on Tumblr. During the height of all this, the Harvard Crimson (of all places) pointed to the “glorification of edgeplay” as part of the problem.
I asked Kitty if she thinks it is harder to navigate consent in rape-play. “I think between consenting adults whatever you want to play is fine, but if you are taking it so seriously that you are forgetting you can walk away—or if you can’t walk away—that is not OK,” she replied. She also pointed out that this takes a massive amount of trust. “Do you really trust this person to not only break your limits but put you back together afterward?” Perhaps the Crimson was slightly off. Rather than glorifying it, the BDSM community might be headed in the direction of eradicating the idea of “edge” altogether. That way, the focus can be on how to communicate consent—rather than labeling acts “good” or “bad.” ...
All signs indicate that "Fifty Shades of Chicken," a new cookbook parodying erotic novel "Fifty Shades of Grey" cookbook, is the real deal.
We can't get over the hilarity of the description on the book's web site:
If Fifty Shades of Grey left you hungry and lusting for more (more, more!), then sink your teeth into this naughty tale of a young, free-range, and very fresh chicken who, like Anastasia Steele, finds herself at the mercy of a dominating man; in this case, a kinky and very ravenous chef.
These fifty chicken recipes, each more seductive than the last, will make every dinner a turn-on.
According to a description on its Amazon page, the book features recipes with names like "Dripping Thighs," "Sticky Chicken Fingers," "Vanilla Chicken," "Chicken with a Lardon," "Bacon-Bound Wings," "Spatchcock Chicken," "Learning-to-Truss-You Chicken," "Holy Hell Wings" and "Mustard-Spanked Chicken." ...
Groups that work to eradicate domestic violence and help survivors are protesting magazine behemoth Conde Nast over the lastest cover of Vogue Hommes International, on which the cover model is being choked. Supermodel Stephanie Seymour is held from behind by hunky Marlon Teixeira, whose face is rapturous as one hand reaches around to choke her neck and the other reaches around to grab her breast.
This truly disturbing image of a woman being choked sends a dangerous message to anyone who sees this magazine – that choking is a sign of passion rather than of violence.
Choking is a huge predictor of future lethality. A 2008 Journal of Emergency Medicine study of murders of women in 11 cities found that 43% of women who were killed by intimate partners had experienced at least one previous episode of choking before being killed. That is why, in 2010, New York State made choking a violent felony, and advocates, prosecutors, police officers and survivors throughout the State have embraced the law as a way to save women’s lives.
As a feminist and someone who cares passionately about ending violence against women, I agree with them that it is a sexualized violent image. I do believe that sexualized violent images desensitize people to the problem of violence; Kanye West’s gratuitously sexual and violent music video for “Monster” sickened me because it was just scantily-clad, bloodied and decapitated women writhing everywhere. In Kanye’s video, the implication was that the women were all massacred by the various monsters; they had no agency in their situation. Take, for instance, when Kanye raps while holding a dead woman’s severed head in his hand.
But I can’t condemn the violent depiction on this Vogue Hommes International cover as harshly as these groups do. I look at this cover and I do see “passion” in it (to use the same phrase as the anti-domestic violence groups). Maybe it’s because choking sexually arouses me personally, but when I look at the image I see consensual kinky sex and BDSM behavior. Stephanie Seymour is being choked, yes, but the look on her face is one of release/abandonment to me, not fear of a violent partner. I get the vibe that she and the model were acting out a passionate sexual moment, that she had agency in the situation. I don’t get the vibe from their sexy poses or the looks on their faces that the image is implying Seymour is being harmed or manhandled, despite the hand on her neck. These anti-domestic violence groups may have erred in their thinking because BDSM imagery — choking, whipping, spanking, pinching — is not mainstream. But just because it’s not mainstream doesn’t mean it’s abuse.