Not only is BDSM far more common than you might think, it’s also far less of a red-flag when it comes to health and psychology
by Rose Eveleth
Would you let somebody you were in a relationship with tie you up? If you said yes, you’re not nearly as unusual as you might think.
It turns out that Americans are actually far more into BDSM than the rest of the world seems to be. According to a 2005 survey by Durex, 36 percent of adults in the United States use masks, blindfolds and bondage tools during sex. Worldwide that number is only 20 percent. Melanie Berliet at Pacific Standard reports that the trend isn’t new, either — a study from 1953 found that 55 percent of women and 50 percent of men liked being bitten, and a 1999 study said that 65 percent of university students dream about being tied up.
Although these preferences are relatively common, people still feel the need to hide them, Beliet reports:
But in spite of the evidence that BDSM is commonplace—normal, even—those who openly adhere to the lifestyle are frequently marginalized. Susan Wright, founder of the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom, has written at length about the risks of disclosing one’s affiliation with BDSM, including discrimination, violence, job loss, and legal obstacles surrounding child custody. It seems not even the famously progressive Girls creator, Lena Dunham, is immune to stigma’s reach. When discussing 50 Shades in the January 2014 issue of The Believer, Dunham said, “I don’t have an elicit [sic], confused relationship to my sexuality, so I don’t need a book like that right now in my life….”
IN 1993, when Antioch College introduced its “ask first” policy — mandating that students solicit permission for every intimate advance, including kissing — the policy was widely derided.
Once the stuff of “Saturday Night Live” parody, “consent” today is proudly emblazoned on T-shirts, underwear and condom wrappers.
Through activism that happens as often on YouTube and Twitter as on the main green, foot soldiers in the consent movement are encouraging fellow classmates to ask first and ask often before engaging in sexual activity. Their mission is to make consent cooler than Antioch did. The movement’s slogan: “Consent is sexy.”
It isn’t always an easy sell. Today, as it was decades ago, the butt of the joke is the awkward formality of the ask. Sayda Morales co-founded All Students for Consent at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Wash., last year. She hears from students: “Do I have to ask if I can move one inch closer? Do I have to ask if I can move my left hand one inch on their buttocks?”
But it doesn’t have to take on the air of a contract signing, she tells them. When she stands in front of the freshman class, she tries to keep the conversation light. “Consent is necessary,” she says, “and it’s fun.”
Getting consent should be just one part of a frank conversation about what is and isn’t O.K. during sex, she says, and can enhance the sexual experience rather than stifle it.
Ms. Morales says she shrugs off student giggles. “At least they’re talking about it,” she says.
Sometimes it pays to play on the mockery. In 2012, Rebecca Nagle and Hannah Brancato created a website advertising a supposedly new line of Victoria’s Secret underwear. True to form, they were frilly, lacy and kaleidoscopic. But instead of “sure thing,” the thongs were decorated with fiats like “no means no” and “ask first.” Before everyone picked up on the prank, the website went viral.
The two activists — through their Baltimore organization, Force: Upsetting Rape Culture — have been at the forefront of a new, edgier tone in consent advocacy. Their group held workshops at 10 colleges last year, educating students on how to spread the anti-rape message. Campus groups are trumpeting their message through “Consent Days,” and sometimes weeks, filled with panels, group discussions and consent-branded T-shirt and condom giveaways. ...
Polyamory and the potential for new ways of loving
The McGill Daily
I always dreaded having to play the game. Soon after coming out I entered a relationship with the first guy I hooked up with, and when we finally broke up almost two years later I felt lost and helpless in a world of single, gay men I knew nothing about. We attempted making our relationship an open one in the last few months we were together, which in hindsight was just a vain attempt to make a failing relationship work. Although he saw a few other guys, causing surges of jealousy for me in a confusing and turbulent time for both of us, I was always afraid to leave the cocoon of our comfortable yet dysfunctional situation.
Now, months later, despite continued qualms about immersing myself in the dating scene, as a single 20-year-old gay male in a city with a large queer population, I know that this is my time to experiment. I need to see what works for me as I figure out what it is I want from my relationships.
The media obsesses over the ways relationships are changing because our generation tends to communicate using social media and texting. We resist labels and commitment, and have a proclivity for casual hook-ups over serious, committed relationships. For queers, the likelihood of experimenting with polyamory adds to the complexity of the dating scene.
Despite having more straight than queer friends, it seems more of my queer friends have experienced, or at least considered, open relationships. It’s probably because the essence of queerness implies challenging, avoiding, and questioning traditional gender norms and social relations. I’m sure straight people engage in polyamory as well, but I personally haven’t met too many who are into that sort of thing.
In some ways, I sometimes feel this invisible pressure that as a queer person in this day and age, a successful polyamorous relationship is the rainbow-covered, glittery, golden peak I should be striving for. Given the benefits of polyamory, I understand why.
I remember a great conversation with a queer friend who has been in a successful, albeit sometimes challenging, open relationship. We discussed how being able to see other people while still having a committed relationship can mean fulfilling different sexual desires and preferences. Different people can provide you with different pleasures and help you discover different sexual practices and preferences. Polyamory can definitely limit the potential for boredom in a relationship, making things more fun and dynamic.
If you’re able to make it work and strike a balance, a successful open relationship can mean a much more interesting and challenging sex life. For a sexual young adult, what could be more attractive than that?
Of course, given the dimensions that seeing other people adds to a relationship, it can mean a lot of hard work and commitment in figuring out what makes you and your partner comfortable. Based on my own experiences, and what I’ve heard and seen from friends, nothing is more pivotal to an open relationship than communication. ...
Two summers ago, women were glued to Fifty Shades of Grey, and the novel had women asking their partners to explore unchartered sexual fantasies. Many claimed that the racy BDSM novels helped them to explore their sexuality and be more open with what they desired from their partners. Others just called it “mommy porn.” There was also a speculation that the racy novels would cause a baby boom, according to Digital Spy. However, according to a recent survey, many women are more inclined to revert back to “vanilla sex,” or, in other words, they are ready to hang up their whips and put away their handcuffs; women are craving intimacy.
The Swedish intimate lifestyle designers, LELO, conducted the LELO Global Sex Survey and found that women are no longer opting for the kinkier sex toys and gadgets anymore. “Kinkier ‘novelty-based’ liaisons between the sheets reached a plateau this year, strongly suggesting couples realized that going ‘Grey’ just wasn’t quite right,” according to a press release.“Sales of whips and hand cuffs have reached a plateau, while sales of couples’ massagers have increased by 82 percent.”
One reason for this might be that women have had two years to live out their kinky desires and 80 percent of women have said that their fantasies didn’t live up to their expectations — they were still missing a human connection. LELO believes that one reason might be women are unable to achieve an orgasm even with these stimulants is because “women are still unable to reach orgasm without direct clitoral stimulation, something that also explains why couples have overtaken singles as the biggest category of sex toy owners.”
Using these toys can help, but independently, they might just be a waste of time. “Sex toys are a great idea for couples; they are not only a fantastic way to spice up your sex life together, but they work,” said sex author Dr. Ian Kerner in the press release. “They help women reach the heights of orgasms that are usually difficult for most.”
Another reason might be that women need to feel a sense of security before sexual satisfaction or an orgasm can be reached. According to Dr. Justin Lehmiller, author of the blog, The Psychology of Human Sexuality. "It does seem to be the case that people who love their partners have somewhat more satisfying sex and, at least among women, more consistent experiences with orgasm.” ...
If you haven’t heard of the infamous novel “50 Shades of Grey” by E.L. James, get your uncultured butt to the library or nearest bookstore. Prepare to be awed — and by awed, I mean confused, disgusted and maybe a little angry.
I’m going to admit with absolutely no shame that I haven’t read “50 Shades of Grey.” However, I’ve read enough plot synopses, summaries and critical examinations that I feel justified in shouting my contempt — or writing it for all of you to read reverentially.
Let’s all jump on the hate train.
“50 Shades of Grey” is an erotic romance novel that follows characters Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey in their adventures of love, hate and kinky sex. Throughout the series, Christian introduces Ana to the world of BDSM — or, well, he haphazardly drags her into it with no explanation other than a contract stating, among other things, that he’s going to anally penetrate her whether she wants it or not.
The author markets Ana and Christian’s romance as a healthy BDSM relationship. However, it is anything but. Rather, Christian engages in emotional and physical abuse. He is also a manipulative scoundrel.
Now let’s talk 50 Shades of Healthy BDSM. BDSM is a complicated abbreviation that stands for a number of terms: BD for bondage and discipline, DS for dominance and submission, and SM for sadomasochism. It has become somewhat of a blanket term for a number of sexual kinks, including leather, gags, power play and restraint, not to mention all that its letters imply.
Take a moment to forget all the weird porn you’ve seen because what the Internet might label BDSM is probably ignorant and horribly misguided. Healthy BDSM lifestyles operate on three doctrines: safety, sanity and consent. These key concepts distinguish BDSM from abuse and rape, and when ignored can turn a night of fun debauchery into frightening violation. Do I need to mention that “50 Shades of Grey” never adheres to the aforementioned tenets?
To elaborate on the doctrines, let’s start with consent. Both partners must explicitly communicate their consent and willingness to participate prior to sex acts, and both also have the power to stop them at any point. If the participants agree that “no” doesn’t necessarily mean “no,” they employ a safe word: a word or phrase that can be said to completely stop the other party’s actions or indicate undesired discomfort. ...
Please take this survey even if you’ve never had a consent violation. We want to know what are your power exchange and sexual identities? Are you “out” about being kinky? How often do you go to BDSM groups and online communities?
NCSF will use these results to help perform its advocacy, such as helping law enforcement, prosecutors and health care professionals understand the experiences of kinky people and provide better quality service.
Only takes 5-20 minutes to complete!
This survey is anonymous and your privacy is guaranteed by Survey Monkey, a secured survey hosting website. NCSF does not have access to any identifying information about the participants.
Last year, our Ethics and Religion Talk panel weighed in on whether sexting, or sending explicit photos of oneself via text message, was akin to adultery.
Now, the panel weighs in on whether two consenting, married adults who are "swingers" engage in such a lifestyle with other consenting adults are adulterers.
I am fully aware that private intimate behavior between consenting adults may be legal or illegal, depending on the jurisdiction.
However, it is not the intent of this column or its panelists to analyze or explain the law. In fact, often we don't care whether the behavior we are asked about is legal or illegal. We wonder whether, according to our religious/ethical system, it is moral.
It might be illegal in some or all states — nonetheless, we might be of the opinion that it is moral; or, as in the case of this week's question, it might be legal (at least in most states/locations). Nonetheless, we might be of the opinion that it is immoral.
This week's question is:
"If a married couple engages in a 'swinging' lifestyle with other consenting married couples, is this considered adultery?"
Howard Earle, Jr., the senior pastor of the New Hope Baptist Church, responds:
"Scripture explicitly teaches that sex is reserved for a man and woman who are married. To reduce marriage to strictly a relationship between the husband and wife only is a critical mistake. Genesis states that the two (Adam and Eve) shall become one flesh. God joins a man and a woman together first and foremost for His glory. The vow that a couple makes to each other is first a promise to God. Therefore, any deviation from His standard is a violation of His Law and regarded as an insult. Because God's standard does not make allowance for our consent in this matter, a swinging lifestyle is adulterous behavior."
Sandra Nikkel, Ministry Coordinator of the Grand Rapids East Classis and Pastor of the multicultural Ministry at Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church, responds:
"Wow, I have a hard time answering this question. Even though I know that this ‘swinging’ lifestyle really exists I don’t see how this kind of activity benefits anyone in the long run —those who are involved or those who are close to the ones involved in it. I can’t even imagine how children would feel to know that their parents are involved in this lifestyle and what about parents, siblings, etc....
Editor's note:Janet W. Hardy, a writer, editor and consultant, has published 11 books, including the best-selling, "The Ethical Slut: A Practical Guide to Polyamory, Open Relationships and Other Adventures." She has taught workshops about alternative sexualities and relationships all over the world.
(CNN) -- I grew up in the early 1960s in an affluent suburb on the East Coast. Every child I knew went home to a family that looked like mine: a mom at home waiting for us, and a dad who showed up a few hours later in time for dinner.
How tempting it is to remember such households as an ideal and universal norm. But they were rarely ideal, and they were never universal.
Let's not discuss the stresses that affected those nuclear families. Let's just talk about the innumerable people who, by virtue of race, background, health or circumstance, could not -- or did not want to -- live in such families.
Instead, they lived in single-parent households, in households with two men or two women, in extended families of grandparents and aunts and grown siblings, in households where multiple adults pooled money and skills to make ends meet, and in many other configurations.
Back then, it never occurred to the people I knew to call those configurations "families." Today, in a more tolerant era, that old standard of the nuclear family is still encoded in our laws and our tax code, as well as in the antiquated and judgmental phrase "family values."
Among my own circle of acquaintances, I hold many "alternative families" close to my heart:
-- A man and two women who have been raising their two children together from infancy through high school.
-- Three men who have shared a loving household for nearly 20 years.
-- A "core couple," married for many decades, who have consistently surrounded themselves with long-term, live-in lovers.
-- Two couples who share a duplex and a busy and intermingled sex life.
-- A long-partnered gay man and lesbian woman who together brought a third, lesbian woman into their household because the female half of the pair missed that part of her life.
There are as many configurations of genders, ages and numbers as you can imagine. These are families as surely as any family you've welcomed into your neighborhood. They share property, raise children, tend to their homes and communities.
Last month, in a case involving the plural family portrayed on the reality show "Sister Wives," a Nevada judge overturned a ban against cohabitation, enabling consenting adults to form whatever style of household meets their desires and needs. He refused, however, to overturn the part of the law that banned plural marriages.
Most Americans, when they think of plural marriage, associate it with the one-male, multifemale households of a rebel offshoot of Mormonism and of some contemporary Muslim cultures -- popularly known as "polygamy" (many spouses of both sexes), but more accurately called "polygyny" (many wives). However, these polygynous marriages represent only a fraction of the ways in which adults form families.
Many people rightly feel some concern about religious polygyny's history of abuse and nonconsent and might feel that anti-plural marriage laws are necessary to prevent such exploitation. However, strong laws already exist against forcing anyone into sex or marriage of any kind -- vigorous enforcement would surely suffice to protect the unwilling in a plural marriage recognized under the law.
More problematic, of course, are issues such as child custody, inheritance, hospital visitation, etc., when more than two parties are involved. It is clear that the current legal structure of marriage cannot readily accommodate this problem. For that reason, the Nevada judge's ruling was probably correct, at least for now.
One solution for the future, though, might be to designate "marriage" as a social institution with no legal standing and to create "civil union" as a legally recognized subtype of business partnership, available to anyone who is willing to make the appropriate commitments. ...