...How prevalent is swinging? It's not something that is routinely tracked by academics with big budgets for data collection. The largest study, conducted in 2000 by Bellarmine University sociologists Curtis Bergstrand and Jennifer Blevins Williams, found that 84 percent of swingers are married couples or in relationships and had been together for a little more than 10 years.
Among swinging couples, marital happiness averaged 78.5 percent, compared with 64 percent of the general married population. Women on average are 31 when they embrace the lifestyle, while men are 35. Religious? Seventy-two percent belong to religious institutions, compared with 61 percent in the general population.
Michelle Golland, a Los Angeles sex therapist, said she thinks swinging is increasingly popular in part because of the importance couples place on having positive attitudes toward sex.
"We have a higher expectation for intimacy, for sex. We are healthier, stronger," she said. "I want to stay young and sexual in my heart. I want my husband to want me that way."
And swinging helps boost the sexual connection of some couples, she said.
"But this is not to solve a problem," she said, stressing that couples should be comfortable and happy with each other sexually before joining the lifestyle. "It's to experience something that is hot, erotic, interesting, and keeps your sexual life together alive and growing."
Bitti said the lifestyle includes emissaries from nearly every demographic — cops, teachers, CEOs and the rest of us. And where the caricatured swinger is a potbellied, middle-aged dolt out for some easy action, the reality is less unsettling, she said. Adults of all ages participate, looking good matters, and players tend to have good jobs and fertile imaginations.
She prefers the term "sexually social" to swinger. It seems more approachable and friendly, she said.
Like other swingers, Bitti calls people who are outside of the lifestyle "vanilla" and laments that her multiflavored approach to relationships remains relatively subterranean.
"We are just about being who we are, but we are all living in the closet. People are worried about losing their jobs, their kids," said Bitti, who along with her husband is so enthusiastic about the lifestyle that they are one of the lead couples on a Playboy Channel show called "Swing."
Bitti is so very out about the lifestyle, in part, to help drag it closer to the mainstream.
The stigmas still thrive, even in Colorado, but they appear to be eroding, said Denver sex therapist Neil Cannon.
"There are more people who are willing to find more creative solutions to how to make their marriage or relationship work," he said. "It's hard for some people to get all of their needs met in one relationship. In America, everybody assumes we are monogamous and that's the only way to live."
Exploring the lifestyle is not for everybody, he said. For one thing, concerns about sexually transmitted diseases alarm many people. Practicing what Cannon calls "safer sex" is simply imperative. Also, jealousy renders many people incapable of letting a spouse run off with others for romps between the sheets.
Those who succeed, he said, tend to bask in their partner's joy, regardless of whether it bubbles up from a career triumph or a sexual escapade with another adult.
And many of those who thrive in the lifestyle appreciate places such as Squirrel Creek. ...
In Rhode Island, by an oversight of the criminal code indoor prostitution was legal until just recently; in Reno Nevada it’s still legal. Next door in California, anyone convicted of prostuitution could face up to one year in prison and $1,000 fine. Las Vegas and Atlantic City used to be the only places you could gamble in the United States. In Colorado and Washington State, recreational marijuana is now legal, whereas in nearby Idaho, you can do up to 1 year for possession of any amount of Marijuana. The point is, while the feds are slowly getting into the game, the majority of vice crime – drugs, gambling, and yes, sex, are regulated and prosecuted at the state level.
What does this mean for an aspiring professional dom? It means you need to know the laws where you intend to work. In some states, working as a professional dominatrix, even if there is no sex, can leave you vulnerable to charges of prostitution, whereas in some states, fee-for-service sado-masochism is explicitly excluded from prostitution. Let’s compare the laws of Massachusetts with New York. In Massachusetts, the prostitution statute, MGL 272 S. 53A, begins “Whoever engages, agrees to engage or offers to engage in sexual conduct with another person in return for a fee…” The statute doesn’t define “sexual conduct,” however in a case, ?Com. v. Lavigne (1997) 676 N.E.2d 1170, the court wrote that in deciding whether or not something was “sexual conduct,” a judge could look at the “entire circumstances..apply common understanding…and could draw inferences and conclusions based on common sense and life experience.” In other words, the judge can just.. kinda… decide. Of course, in deciding, the judge looks at the definition of “sexual conduct” in other Massachusetts laws, like in the obscenity statute, where the definition includes “flagellation or torture in the context of a sexual relationship” (MGL 272 S. 31). In other words, in Massachusetts, working as a professional dom does leave you vulnerable to laws against prostitution.
So what about New York? In New York, just like in Massachusetts, a person is guilty of prostitution if that person “engages or agrees or offers to engage in sexual conduct with another person in return for a fee.” NY Penal Law 230.00. Similar to Massachusetts, “Sexual Conduct” is not defined for this particular statute – and so in deciding whether or not something is “Sexual Conduct,” a court would look to case law. However in New York, there’s a nifty case, State v. Georgia A., 621 N.Y.S. 2d 779 (1994) which held explicitly that “sado-masochistic acts such as foot licking, spanking, domination and submission do not appear to fit within category of “sexual conduct” referred to in prostitution statute.” So if you’re in New York, working as a professional dom does not necessarily leave you vulnerable to laws against prostitution. Go New York! ...
There aren't 50 shades of nuance about the book-to-movie Fifty Shades of Grey, which began filming recently in Vancouver, British Columbia. People view the saga as the guilty pleasure that reignited a flame in sexless marriages or as the glamorization of abusive relationships, all shrouded in the cloak of a Harlequin romance.
The book's release and the hotly anticipated movie release in February 2015 raise questions about whether Fifty Shades is good or bad for relationships, women's empowerment or sexual liberation. These discussions are important but certainly not new. After all, BDSM has been in the limelight for many years with films such as 2002's The Secretary, starring Maggie Gyllenhaal and James Spader, as well as Rihanna's 2011 pop hit "S&M."
But there is an important question that has not captured public attention. Is Fifty Shades good or bad for the individuals who engage in BDSM (Bondage and Discipline, and/or Sadism and Masochism) in real life? It is unclear how many people in this country voluntarily engage in BDSM, but a handful of studies suggest that 5 percent to 10 percent of the American population participate in these practices.
In my view, the asymmetries of power, wealth, age and sexual experience magnify the vulnerability of a young virginal female who, at times, was afraid to say "no" to her partner and unable to end the relationship without him showing up at her house unannounced.
But underneath these concerns is one that is just as important, if not more important: consent. The notion of consent is taken very seriously in the BDSM community, even though mainstream entertainment completely disregards it. The BDSM subculture, or "community," as individuals refer to it, treat the infliction of pain as a learned skill in terms of using "toys" such as a bullwhip and understanding how to use communication to maximize a moment of pleasure.
For those who read the Fifty Shades trilogy, we know that consent made a cameo appearance. The male protagonist, Christian Grey, presented his prospective submissive, Anastasia Steele, a contract that established limits on what they would and would not do during their partnership. Later in the plot, however, Christian disregards the contract and says "lovers don't need safe words" and even more directly, "screw the contract."
This storyline may be exciting for those who love a good trashy romance. But this portrayal of consent is inaccurate to the way the vast majority of individuals in the BDSM lifestyle actually talk about and "do" consent.
As a lawyer and a cultural sociologist, I study how individuals and groups develop rules and norms around consent. As part of my research at Northwestern University, I studied the BDSM community over a 21-month period, attending events and private clubs where I interviewed 52 individuals who participate in these activities. These events range from $200 for a weekend or with a club membership fee starting at $25 per month. Anyone can attend as long as the person is 18 years old and have a valid government-issued ID. In some cases they must also agree to be subject to a criminal background check.They must also play by the rules.
But it's not just about playing safely. BDSM is a community devoted to explicit consent and communication. My research consistently shows that there are detailed rules to obtain consent. There are books, web sites, orientations at BDSM clubs and seminars that look like conference panels - all stressing the importance of consent. Even long-term relationships adhere to an ethic that people need to articulate what he or she does and does not want physically or emotionally at that particular time.
The ethic of consent pervades this subculture. The importance of explicit consent also defines the BDSM community with credos such as "Safe, Sane and Consensual" and "Risk Aware Consensual Kink" plastered on brochures and stickers. ...
Leigha Fleming passed away on December 19, 2013, after a longstanding illness. She was 43 years old. Leigha received a wound that became infected in August 2012, and suffered through numerous operations before she finally succumbed to the infection.
We would like to remember all the hard work Leigha did for NCSF as Chairman from 2008-2013, and as Incident Reporting & Response Director for nearly 12 years. At various times Leigha was also the Executive Director, Treasurer, and Legal Education Outreach Program Director since she started volunteering for NCSF in 2000.
Leigha personally helped thousands of individuals, groups and businesses who suffered discrimination and persecution due to their interest in BDSM, swinging and polyamory. Those people who she touched will never forget that she was there to help them when they needed it the most.
Leigha devoted a large part of her life to making sure that NCSF ran smoothly and that our volunteers and staff were doing their jobs. She took great pride in the fact that she played a key part in putting NCSF’s infrastructure on a solid footing. The staff and Board members of NCSF will certainly feel the loss with Leigha gone.
As many people suffer the loss of someone considered a friend or even mentor, we hope to celebrate all the good that Leigha propagated in her lifetime, and we are grateful for the positive changes she so frequently inspired.
Leigha regretted at the end that she had little time left and no way to make restitution to NCSF. Her last words to NCSF were: “I am sorry.”
A federal District Court judge in Utah sides with the right to privacy and religious freedom.
The American Prospect
by Scott Lemieux
Last week, a federal District Court judge in Utah struck down a law used to prosecute members of polyamorous relationships. Predictably, some conservatives immediately brought up the slippery slope to legalized adult incest and legal "teen sex cults." However, the decision is a very rational and straightforward application of core principles of the right to privacy and religious freedom.
It is crucial to understand, first of all, that Judge Clark Waddoups's decision in Brown v. Buhman did not "legalize bigamy." The lawsuit was brought by the reality television star Kody Brown, who lives in a polyamorous relationship with four women but is only legally married to one. Brown did not even contest Utah's limitation of marriage to couples, and Judge Waddoups deferred to a Supreme Court precedent dating back to the 19th century holding that bans on bigamy are constitutional. Rather, the decision concerns an unusual, extraordinarily broad provision of Utah law under which "[a] person is guilty of bigamy" if "the person purports to marry another person or cohabits with another person."
The problems with this statutory language under the right to privacy most recently re-established in Lawrence v. Texas should be obvious. On its face, the law would prohibit not only informal consensual polyamorous relationships—problematic in itself—but any kind of intimate cohabitation between unmarried partners. Based on Lawrence's recognition of the fundamental right consenting adults have to engage in same-sex relations, it is very hard to argue that this section of the Utah statute doesn't violate the right to privacy guaranteed by the 14th Amendment.
Defending the statute, the state of Utah made an argument essentially similar to the argument made by former Virginia Attorney General (and failed gubernatorial candidate) Ken Cuccinelli in defense of his application of Virginia's patently unconstitutional band on "sodomy." As Judge Waddoups put it, Utah argued that " much of the Statute’s usefulness, apparently, lies in the State’s perception that it can potentially simply charge religious polygamists under the Statute when it has insufficient evidence of other crimes." But like Cuccinelli's attempt to prosecute a man guilty of creepy—but not actually illegal—sexual solicitation of much younger women under a broad-based sodomy prohibition, this stated application is inconsistent not only with the right to privacy, but the rule of law. The right recognized by Lawrence does not forbid Utah from issuing multiple simultaneous marriage licenses to the same individual, banning nonconsenual sex, or banning sex between adults and children. If someone in a polyamorous relationships is guilty of any of these offenses, they can be prosecuted under specific statutes banning bigamy, sexual assault, and/or statutory rape. If Utah does not have sufficient evidence to prosecute someone of these specific offenses, they have no business punishing them under a broader statute. Allowing a law like this to remain on the books has the same problems as allowing rarely enforced laws banning sodomy on the books: it's an invitation to prosecutorial abuse inconsistent with the fundamental protections of the 14th Amendment. ...
Is being kinky, and a feminist something I should withhold from conversation even if its relevant?
XOJane, I've found myself struggling for the last year with personal, but conflicting interests. I strongly consider myself a feminist, yes I could be more well read in the history, and politics, but that's pretty much where my allegiances are. My feminism isn't the root of the issue, it's my realization and passion being kinky!
In college, I had taken Philosophy of Sexuality, and for an essay I was assigned to debate if BDSM was a perversion. More specifically if Sadomasochistic sexual encounters were a perversion. For the first that semester I was stumped. I could only see it from one point of view, that of course it wasn't a perversion, if there was complete communication and consent. That was a break through point in my sexuality, realizing this was why I've always felt unsatisfied, or uncomfortable. I identity as submissive sexually. Naturally thats the best way to label it, at least with in the Kink community. As a human, and a feminist I believe in equality in all aspects. Striving for that equality in my sexuality, has lead me to find the healthiest, most balanced sexual relationships for me have incorporated S&M, because communication is extremely key to that whole experience.
But here's the breaking point, How do identify as a feminist, and a submissive at the same time?
I feel like I'm betraying my feminist beliefs by enjoying something that from the outside seems very misogynistic. I'm feeling guilty, and confused about the whole matter. I can't stop being ether. I've gotten poor reactions when my interest in BDSM has come up around other feminists. (I've been part of a group of very strong minded, feminist artists.) ...
Maybe polygamy. Maybe also polyamory — multiple-parties marriages. (Not to be confused with “swinging,” the polyamorists emphasize.)
Religious conservatives, better take your tranquilizers. Gay activists — the religious conservatives’ nemeses — scoff at the prospect of such developments. A “red herring” aimed at impeding their agenda, they say.
But the fact is, how do you support gay marriage — which we have supported and do support — and then oppose polygamy and polyamory?
On the basis that they depart from long tradition? That hasn’t slowed down the gay marriage movement, has it?
A federal judge in Utah already has ruled that laws banning polygamy violate the First Amendment. Other cases no doubt will be joining it in the legal appeals pipeline.
And don’t look now, but the polyamorists are agitating openly for acceptance, as they have been quietly doing so for several years now. They have a convention planned in April at the Philly airport Embassy Suites, with workshops, seminars and all the usual works.
They have websites and 501(c)3 advocacy organizations and bloggers. There’s even a big ongoing academic study focusing on them.
“Relationship choice” is their battle cry.
Gay marriage is soooo yesterday. Polygamy and polyamory are going to be the new hoo-ha and turmoil. Count on it.
Does that somehow put traditional marriage at further risk? Given the percentages, not likely. A UCLA study estimates America’s gay population at under 2 percent, and the polygamists and polyamorists are likely even smaller demographics. ...
A federal judge has struck down parts of Utah’s anti-polygamy law as unconstitutional in a case brought by a polygamous star of a reality television series. Months after the Supreme Court bolstered rights of same-sex couples, the Utah case could open a new frontier in the nation’s recognition of once-prohibited relationships.
Judge Clark Waddoups of United States District Court in Utah ruled late Friday that part of the state’s law prohibiting “cohabitation” — the language used in the law to restrict polygamous relationships — violates the First Amendment guarantee of free exercise of religion, as well as constitutional due process. He left standing the state’s ability to prohibit multiple marriages “in the literal sense” of having two or more valid marriage licenses.
Judge Waddoups, who was appointed by President George W. Bush, wrote a 91-page decision that reflects — and reflects upon — the nation’s changing attitude toward government regulation of personal affairs and unpopular groups. The Supreme Court supported the power of states to restrict polygamy in an 1879 decision, Reynolds v. United States.
Judge Waddoups made clear that the Brown case was not an easy one for him, writing, “The proper outcome of this issue has weighed heavily on the court for many months.” He noted the shifts in the way the Constitution has been interpreted over the past century to increase protection for groups and individuals spurned by the majority.
“To state the obvious,” Judge Waddoups wrote, “the intervening years have witnessed a significant strengthening of numerous provisions of the Bill of Rights.” They include, he wrote, enhancements of the right to privacy and a shift in the Supreme Court’s posture “that is less inclined to allow majoritarian coercion of unpopular or disliked minority groups,” especially when “religious prejudice,” racism or “some other constitutionally suspect motivation can be discovered behind such legislation.”
The challenge to the law was brought by Kody Brown, who, along with his four wives and 17 children, stars in “Sister Wives,” the reality television show. The family argued that the state’s prohibition on cohabitation violated its rights to privacy and religious freedom. The Browns are members of the Apostolic United Brethren Church, a fundamentalist offshoot of the Mormon Church, which gave up polygamy around 1890 as Utah was seeking statehood.
The judge cited the decision in Lawrence v. Texas, the 2003 Supreme Court case that struck down laws prohibiting sodomy. He quoted the majority opinion by Justice Anthony M. Kennedy that stated the Constitution protects people from “unwarranted government intrusions into a dwelling or other private places” and “an autonomy of self that includes freedom of thought, belief, expression and certain intimate conduct.”
In a statement, Mr. Brown said he and his family were “humbled and grateful for this historical ruling from the court today.” He noted that “many people do not approve of plural families,” but “we hope that in time all of our neighbors and fellow citizens will come to respect our own choices as part of this wonderful country of different faiths and beliefs.” ...