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"Playing Prisoner: Does BDSM Culture Complicate Our Understanding of ‘The Stanford Prison Experiment’?"

on Tuesday, 21 July 2015. Hits 601



Coming into Kyle Patrick Alvarez’s The Stanford Prison Experiment with only a vague knowledge of the real-life psychological study on which the film is strictly based(with most of the dialogue taken directly from transcripts), I was struck with an immediate question about a current-day discourse. Since the experiment — which saw college students “enacting” prisoner and guard roles and embodying the predetermined power dynamics with frightening aplomb — took place in 1971, how does the increasing visibility and normalization of BDSM culture in recent years impact the discussion surrounding the study? Indeed, it won’t take long, even for the least creative of Googlers, to see that there’s already been an… interesting confluence of the two (which, for your benefit, I won’t hyperlink to). You’ll also find one perfectly non-pornographic article making the same connection.


The film, as a relatively faithful representation of the experiment (with particular scenes selected and structured for the sake of good filmmaking), ultimately provides much fuel for this question, as it’s released over 40 years after the experiment, when the first thing the phrase “playing prisoner” brings to mind is “sex dungeon.” These connotations are especially resonant with the recent mainstreaming of (heavily diluted) BDSM in Fifty Shades of Grey. The interplay of the experiment and BDSM gives way to a more general question about the curious magnetism of polarized power.


The Stanford prison experiment saw psychologist Dr. Philip Zimbardo set up — and then fill — a simulated prison in the basement offices of the Stanford Psychology Department. He selected 24 students to participate in the study, and after questioning them extensively on whether they’d prefer to be a guard or a prisoner, flipped a coin to determine which role to assign them. Ultimately, neither their preferences nor their nature — as perceived by themselves or by the people running the experiment — had any bearing in the role they’d play. (One obvious but noteworthy difference between this and BDSM is that people who engage in sexual role-play typically choose their sometimes-fluid roles based on proclivity.)


The “guards” were dressed appropriately and given wooden batons, while the “prisoners” were draped in feminizing (interestingly, everyone in the experiment was male) smocks with identification numbers on them. The “guards” were instructed not to physically harm any of the “prisoners” whatsoever, and supposedly signed a contract that contained that regulation — but Zimbardo, the only person who had any say in what constituted crossing a line, became just as embroiled in the pyramidal system he’d set up as his subjects. (Zimbardo self-described as the prison “superintendent,” while his research assistant was the “warden.”)


Soon, at least in their minds, “guards” became guards and “prisoners” became prisoners: means of psychological torture were devised, with guards deriving pleasure from preventing prisoners from sleeping, making them defecate in buckets, locking them in solitary confinement, and sexually humiliating them. One of the most unbearable scenes in the film isn’t one that involves shouting or conflict — it’s one that’s set so deep into the pacification of inmates that it finds the guards calmly forcing them to enact the motions of anal sex with one another.


A shocking notion about the experiment is the idea that any of them could have quit (and lost their pay of $15 a day — the equivalent of $88 today) at any time.  Even those who ultimately left the experiment due to trauma did so through a system of imaginary parole — indicating that they’d so thoroughly inhabited their temporary identities that the only way they could conceive of breaking them was within the same vocabulary. As per Zimbardo’s website:


When we ended the hearings by telling prisoners to go back to their cells while we considered their requests, every prisoner obeyed, even though they could have obtained the same result by simply quitting the experiment. Why did they obey? Because they felt powerless to resist. Their sense of reality had shifted, and they no longer perceived their imprisonment as an experiment. In the psychological prison we had created, only the correctional staff had the power to grant paroles.

Much as a safe word indicates, within sexual power play, that a line has been crossed and the activity needs to stop, the prisoners were given a similar option. Thus, apart from, perhaps, duration (but even that’s questionable, as even the most vanilla of BDSM tales, Fifty Shades, reveals scenarios where the roles of master and slave are sustained not just during coitus) and the aforementioned method of selection, it’s initially hard to find much difference at all between the pretend dynamics of S&M and those of the experiment — even down to the way each prisoner was “arrested” at their own home and charged with armed robbery, as though in some form of verbal foreplay. ...

""Love a la Carte" Movie Launches New Mobile App & Polyamory Dating Site"

on Tuesday, 21 July 2015. Hits 5689


For the first time ever, "Love a la Carte," a "do-it-yourself" (DIY) motion picture, extends the cinematic experience for its audience with the creation of a real world mobile application and online polyamory dating website. Leading the way for micro-budget indy filmmakers in breaking new ground to entertain audiences is Emmy award winning writer-producer-director and Love a la Carte, LLC CEO, Tim McSpadden. "The movie 'Love a la Carte' is an honest comedy about cheating monogamists keeping their marriage together, for better or worse, with an online polyamory dating website," says McSpadden. "Conceiving a real-life website and mobile app of the same name that is mercilessly satirized in the movie was the next step for the 'Love a la Carte' brand."


The cheating lifestyle continually spawns schadenfreude headlines and heated debates. Philandering politicians and celebrities propagate the mobile hook-up culture, heroic athletes allegedly deflate footballs to win games and salacious online dating websites generate millions of dollars promoting adultery. Exposing via cinema the nuanced justifications some monogamists make for sampling unauthorized polyamory is fertile ground for a comedy-fantasy. "There are 3 versions to every story you hear about why someone cheats: Their version, your version and the truth," McSpadden says. "Our 'Love a la Carte' movie shows you how the internet has impacted having affairs and why this lifestyle might be affecting your own relationship right now. Our dating website is where you can experience firsthand what was lampooned in the movie. Our mobile app is how you can stay connected with this brand of entertainment - all for free."


Audiences can watch the DIY movie "Love a la Carte" for free for 30-days on Amazon Prime Instant Video or with their subscription to the service. The movie is also available on iTunes/Apple TV and Google Play which is also where the "Love a la Carte" mobile applications can be found and freely downloaded. To find "love now" and contact other "Love a la Carte" lovers in their area, people can sign up for free on The website is also a landing point to find other links connected with the movie, such as watching the film along with the cast and for other news worthy articles connected to the "Love a la Carte" experience.


Sexologist Dr. Martha Tara Lee called the movie "Entertaining & Refreshing." Mandy Payne, a Top 10 ranked Amazon Hall-of-Fame reviewer (out of more than 26 million reviewers) gave "Love a la Carte" 5-stars on Amazon Prime Instant Video and said its "a gritty story about the realities of marriage and midlife, all the while never losing a steady undercurrent of dry humor." Winner of the "Most Original Screenplay" award at the 2014 Universal Film Festival, "Love a la Carte" also played at the Cannes Film Festival market & American Film Market the same year. The soundtrack for "Love a la Carte" was engineered by 2014 Grammy nominee Russ Marsden of Big U Music in Phoenix, Arizona. It features 17 songs from recording artists across the globe such as VH-1's jump start ASCAP songstress Janice Kirkwood and the Phoenix New Times weekly "Best Up & Comer of the Year," Youceff Kabal. Also taking a turn as an actor in the movie is Raj Suri, who produced Doritos' 2014 million dollar winning Super Bowl commercial. ...


"University updates policy stating that students with disabilities cannot consent to sex"

on Monday, 20 July 2015. Hits 491

Washington Examiner


Until late last Thursday, Armstrong State University's sexual misconduct policy stated that students with disabilities couldn't consent to sexual activity, making any such activity rape.


The policy had been in effect since Sep. 8, 2014, but on Thursday — following questions from the Washington Examiner — the university updated its policy, calling the original wording an error.


Original policy: "In addition, persons under the age of 16 and persons who have a physical and/or mental impairment are unable to give consent."


Updated policy: "In addition, persons under the age of 16 and persons who have a physical or mental impairment and are unable to communicate are unable to give consent." (Changes in bold.)


Deidra Dennie, Armstrong's Title IX coordinator, told the Examiner last Thursday that the original policy had been corrected but had not been uploaded to the website at the time. "I apologize that our website was not kept up to date with the actual policy in circulation," she said.


Allison Hersh, Armstrong's director of marketing and communications, told the Examiner that it was never the university's "intent" to suggest that students with physical disabilities could never consent to sex.


"Our intent was to protect individuals with physical impairments that could prevent them from consenting or denying consent," Hersh told the Examiner. "The intent was not to imply that all physically disabled people are incapable of providing consent." ...

"Rape Crisis has 'concerns' over smartphone app which films sexual consent"

on Monday, 20 July 2015. Hits 441


A new app has launched aimed at reducing false allegations of rape by filming consent before having sex.

Users of We-Consent record 20-second clips naming who they're about to have sex with.

The app only works if the camera detects human faces and if both people involved are clearly heard saying "yes".

However, support group Rape Crisis says that although the app has good intentions it "throws up concerns".

Katie Russell, the national spokeswoman for Rape Crisis in England and Wales, told Newsbeat: "Someone saying 'yes' to sex on camera does not necessarily prove that they have given their consent.

"Consent must be fully and freely given by someone with the capacity to do so.

"Video footage might not capture whether someone has been threatened, bullied or intimidated into saying 'yes' to sex and, if they have, then they have not fully or freely given their consent, even if they've said the word 'yes' out loud.

"In an abusive or controlling relationship, someone might be forced or manipulated into being filmed 'consenting' to sex.

"The concept seems to assume and suggest that 'false allegations of rape' are a common problem that young people need to be worried about; they're absolutely not.

"In fact, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has looked carefully at false allegations of rape and concluded that they are 'very rare'."

The most recent CPS study, carried out between January 2011 and May 2012, found there were 121 suspects whose cases involved allegedly false rape complaints.

Of these, 35 were prosecuted, 25 for perverting the course of justice and 10 for wasting police time. ...

"Dandelion Seeds: Polytheism and Polyamory are a Natural Combination"

on Friday, 17 July 2015. Hits 380


by Melissa Hill

Last week over on Raise the Horns Jason has been talking about being a polytheist.  It got me to thinking about my own relationship to polytheism.  Poly directly translates from the Greek as “many”. In our society “poly” is in opposition to “mono” as a concept. The choice is between one and many. I choose many.  In my life there are many gods, many loves, and many choices.  My worldview has evolved into one where a diversity of answers is the default, rather than the exception to the rule.

Being a Druid makes polytheism the obvious choice for me, grounded in my theology, personal experience, and the lore left to us by the ancient pagans.  I believe in a myriad of Powers and Spirits that exist with us as part of the world in ways that are not always clear, but like Jason and many others, I have come to understand that the gods have agency, or the ability to think, take action, and create as well as the ability to form relationship.  In my spirit work I have relationships with many deities and spirits.  Some are mentors, some are remote figures like stern distant relatives, some are friends, and sometimes the relationship can become sexual or romantic.  I’m not a godspouse, so I can’t speak to that, but I have had intense trance experiences where sexuality was a part of what I did.  The thing is, all of these are relationships that have meaning for me.  They blend and change over time, just like my relationships in the physical plane.

In my tradition we study ancient proto-Indo-European culture because so many of the gods and goddesses we worship evolved from this linguistic root.  We can only know what linguists and archeologists have deduced from the puzzle of common root words and pottery fragments.  These people lived long before written language.   *Ghosti is one of those words linguists have discovered.  When you see an asterisk in front of a word it means that this was never a real word; it’s a word that linguists have created by comparing many related languages.  This particular word is really, really old, and seen in many languages all over the Eurasian continent.  It is the word from which both “guest” and “host” evolved.  It is a word that encapsulates the sacredness of relationship.

*Ghosti has deepened my understanding of all my relations, both with people and with other Beings.  All relationship is sacred; in every moment I am both the guest in someone else’s experience and their host in mine.  I do not control them, own them, or get to say what they do.  Not even my husband.

o now we get to the polyamory.  You were waiting for it weren’t you?  Some of you, dear readers, were probably envisioning orgies and never ending sex parties, right?  It’s okay, I get it.   It’s not really like that though.  Okay, maybe once in a great while it is. A little bit.  Beltane is fun. Now let’s move on.

I’ve identified as polyamorous for most of my adult life.  My husband and I have been part of a stable quad relationship for almost three years now.  We live and work together. We are raising our kids together.  Beyond that there are sometimes lovers outside the quad, and metamors. Those are my lover’s lovers.  Often those relationships deepen into good friendships.  I have relationships with all these people in one respect or another. ...

"Ask the Lawyer: 'Open' marriage as defense vs. adultery charge"

on Thursday, 16 July 2015. Hits 459

Military Times

by Mathew B. Tully

Q. My wife and I have an open marriage. Can I be charged with adultery even though she allows me to sleep with other women?


A. Military swingers beware: A spouse's consent to sleep with other men or women will not save you from a conviction on the charge of adultery in violation of Article 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.


Adultery, an offense unique to the military, occurs when a service member has sexual intercourse with someone who is not his or her spouse or who is married to someone else. This conduct must be service discrediting or prejudicial to good order and discipline. You'll notice that this offense is triggered by sexual intercourse, regardless of whether it is consensual.


In the 2013 case U.S. v. David J.A. Gutierrez, the appellant, an Air Force technical sergeant, tried to fight an adultery charge by arguing that he and his wife had an open marriage and she consented to his sexual activities outside their union. He argued that "adultery requires a victim spouse and that a spouse who consents is not a victim," according to the U.S. Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals.


But the court rejected this argument that a spouse's consent can be used as a defense to an adultery charge. On appeal, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces earlier this year affirmed Gutierrez's adultery conviction, stating: "Participation of the appellant's wife in the offense is immaterial to the question presented, which is whether the government presented legally sufficient evidence at trial to sustain the conviction."


While a service member cannot count on a spouse's consent to defeat an adultery charge, it could be beaten by showing the sexual affair that grew out of the open marriage was not open or notorious. In the 2012 case U.S. v. Gemayel A. Jones, the U.S. Army Court of Criminal Appeals noted that "although open and notorious conduct may be service discrediting, wholly private conduct is not generally service discrediting."


In that case, the court set aside an adultery specification, finding that the adulterous activities between Jones, an Army specialist, and another junior enlisted soldier who was not his wife, did not have "a divisive or detrimental impact on their units" and there was insufficient evidence showing their relationship was open or notorious. ...

"Sexual fetish research shows there are few limits to erotic desire"

on Tuesday, 14 July 2015. Hits 515

Shoes, catheters, even pacemakers and dacryphilia: academics have made it their duty to study the ever-expanding catalogue of things that turn people on

The Guardian

by Marc Abrahams

On 28 October 2004 we humans took a giant step towards cataloguing all of our sexual fetishes. An Italian/Swedish research team, led by Claudia Scorolli at the University of Bologna, downloaded data from hundreds of online fetish discussion groups and spent the next three years analysing their haul. Then they published a study in the International Journal of Impotence Research: Relative Prevalence of Different Fetishes.


Many fetishes concern body parts, the catalogue reveals. Feet and toes lead the list, followed in order of frequency by body fluids (blood, urine, etc), then body size (slim, stout, short, tall, whatever) and head hair. The least coveted bits by fetishists are nails, nose, ears, neck and, in last place, body odour.


Other fetishes documented centre on objects associated with the body. Stockings, skirts, footwear and underwear are the most popular. The list eventually dribbles out, with some – but few – people erotically craving nappies, hearing aids, catheters and, dead last, pacemakers. Only two people are tallied as having a sexual preference for pacemakers. The catalogue does not specify whether the pacemakers are inside people, or in their boxes, or not.


Psychiatrists also do this kind of research, assaying the range of raunch to decide what – to their professional satisfaction – should be officially considered a fetish. The profession’s bible of treatable and billable conditions, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), must be kept up to date.


In the world of psychiatry, the big name in fetish definition maintenance is Kafka – Dr Martin P Kafka, of McLean hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts. In the wake of the Scorolli fetish survey – performed by non-psychiatrists, and thus of questionable use to mind doctors – Kafka published two studies updating the fetish situation for his professional peers.


The Kafka writings appeared in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, in 2010, with the titles The DSM Diagnostic Criteria for Fetishism and The DSM Diagnostic Criteria for Paraphilia Not Otherwise Specified.


Paraphilia is a word that some psychiatrists find fascinating. It means “the experience of intense sexual arousal to atypical objects, situations, or individuals”. In the old days, people called it “sexual perversion” or “sexual deviance”. Kafka inspects what he calls the “not otherwise specified” categories of paraphilia: telephone scatologia (obscene phone calls), necrophilia, zoophilia, urophilia, coprophilia and partialism. Google at your own risk. ...

"'Can I put my hand there?': New York law changes the rules of the college hook-up"

on Monday, 13 July 2015. Hits 2978

By Marnie Eisenstadt

What if you had to ask if it was okay

to put your hand on the other person's butt during foreplay? What if you had to

ask again before touching her breast? What if there was a law that said you had

to do this?


In New York, there is now on all college campuses. A bill signed into law July 7 requires both parties to obtain consent for sex and each nibble and caress that sometimes paves the way. The law applies only on college campuses. At its heart is a simple concept: instead of "No Means No," it's "Yes Means Yes."


It switches the dynamic of consent in what could be an empowering way. The hope is that by changing the power structure of the hook-up and making it law, college sexual assaults will decrease. The legislation, proposed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and called "Enough is Enough," was passed unanimously by the state Legislature.


It's difficult to find fault with the law's goal of reducing sexual assault. But some, including feminists and legal scholars, say laws like New York's overstep, and risk turning into a criminal someone who honestly misread a sexual cue. And the laws ask college students to turn into a contract what is often a fumbling dance for otherwise sophisticated adults.


The law is not a criminal one, but violating it could result in criminal charges, as well as disciplinary action by the school. Colleges in New York have until September of 2016 to comply by re-rewriting their conduct codes and policies.


New York and California are the only states with affirmative consent laws, and they only apply to college campuses. But there is a movement to make the same laws apply for everyone. The American Law Institute, which helps write the nation's criminal codes, is in the process of re-writing the sexual assault penal code to incorporate "Yes Means Yes."


As Lady Gaga penned an essay with Cuomo in Rolling Stone to gain support for New York's college law, two dozen legal scholars, including retired federal Judge Nancy Gertner, wrote a memo warning against the dangers of such laws.


In Syracuse, Mayor Stephanie Miner, a lawyer, refused to sign on as a supporter while Syracuse University Chancellor Kent Syverud penned an op-ed in support of it.


A hook-up contract?


No matter what precautions you take, the hook-up now poses serious legal risks: "You look at the legal system we're building and it's incredible risky to hook up with someone you're not married to," said Peter Lake, director of the Center for Excellence in Higher Education Law and Policy at Stetson University in Florida.


"It changes the rules of the game. It gives the game rules," Lake said.


The national push for restrictive rules and laws comes at a time when attitudes and practices around sex are becoming riskier, Lake said.


And the New York and California laws don't address binge drinking on college campuses, except to say that a person cannot give consent if they are under the influence.


Lake and some other legal scholars have said the laws threaten to make it much easier to falsely accuse someone of rape and sexual assault.


Lake said college students are already figuring out the work-around to the rules to avoid being caught up in sexual assault allegations. They've realized that it's much less risky to hook up with someone who doesn't go to your school. "It's hard to investigate on another campus," Lake said.


There is a movement to extend the same consent rules to everyone. The draft sexual assault law being written by the American Law Institute would make sex without express consent a misdemeanor anywhere. The institute, made up of legal scholars and judges, writes draft penal codes that are often adopted by states and the federal government. ...

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