Remember the opening club scene in Blade? Imagine that, but instead of men in short-sleeved bowling shirts and Kangol hats, you have guys in rubber jock straps and stilettos. Women in corsets and pasties rather than capri pants and pleather jackets. Fire eating, angle grinding, and sex acts instead of human blood raining from the ceiling and Wesley Snipes attacking a load of vampires with a shotgun.
That place is Torture Garden, where a guy getting a blowjob by the bar or a woman whipping a man tied to a St. Andrew's Cross is all part of an average night out. Started in 1990, the iconic fetish club—the largest of its kind in Europe—is throwing a big party this weekend in Elephant & Castle to celebrate 25 years of torture.
My first experience of Torture Garden was in 2003, when the club took over the Brixton Academy for another birthday ball. The main floor overflowed with bums, tits, and gimps strapped into figure-hugging rubber, leather, latex, and spandex, in traditional fetish black to bright and bolder colors.
In the couple's room (the main "play" area), I wandered around with a guy I was casually dating. We were two young gay guys looking on incredulously as hundreds of people in various states of undress made out, sucked, and spanked one another. From mild make outs to full-on butt whacking, the unapologetic indulgence of it all was arousing and entertaining—the kink having an almost Carry On aspect to it.
My previous experiences of "sex in clubs" were either horrid dark rooms in tacky Gran Canaria gay clubs, or the full-on fuck fest of London's queer fetish scene, which was usually far too extreme for my tamer vanilla tastes. By contrast, Torture Garden was—and still is—playful, cheeky, and sexy. And, of course, extreme if you want it to be. But above all: It's fun.
I lost my friend in the playroom and came across a table where a woman—naked bar her heels and a diamante bra—was fucking a guy. She was beautiful, and he was incredibly fit. I wasn't sure which of them I found more of a turn on. A crowd gathered around, a mix of guys and girls watching. Some of them other couples, kissing. Nobody took advantage. They just watched the guy and girl fuck, while the couple clearly appreciated the attention. I didn't perceive her as acting whorish or slutty, or any of the other names society likes to throw at women who openly enjoy their sexuality. She was completely in control, of the guy and of her audience.
To really comprehend Torture Garden's uniqueness, you have to understand where the club came from and why it's so impressive that it's still here, over 25 years later. In fact, that it still exists at all is something of miracle. ...
The open relationship between Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre is frequently and wrongly written off. Such arrangements have women-friendly roots
by Laura Smith
“People have had open marriages for ever … But they never end up working long-term.”
That statement by the biological anthropologist Helen Fisher must have been news to Simone de Beauvoir, the famously non-monogamous French feminist existentialist.
Fisher’s pronouncement, quoted in the New York Times recently, would also be questioned by the numerous celebrities said to have “arrangements”, and the half million or so of Fisher’s fellow Americans giving polyamory a try.
De Beauvoir considered her open relationship with Sartre the “one undoubted success in my life”. In terms of longevity, they had about half of us beat: their relationship, which allowed for affairs while they remained essential partners, lasted 51 years until Sartre’s death in 1980. Now, 30 years after De Beauvoir’s death, many of the criticisms of polyamory are rooted in the same stifling beliefs about female sexuality that she strove to dismantle in her day.
Take for example, the bias that “women only open up their relationships to please variety-seeking men”, which Anna North admitted was often assumed to be the case in an article on why we should be less “freaked out” by polyamory. In a piece for the New Yorker, Louis Menand argued that Sartre was a “womaniser” and De Beauvoir a “classic enabler”, going so far as to suggest that she feigned bisexuality to please him, and that parts of The Second Sex were written as a plea to him, reducing one of the 20th century’s greatest intellectual works to a marital squabble. De Beauvoir’s biographer, Deirdre Bair, argued that she was “subservient” to Sartre, and Hazel Rowley, in Tête-à-Tête, leaned heavily on scenes of De Beauvoir crying in cafes. But at the core of the assumption that non-monogamous women are doing what men want – not what they want – is a more pervasive assumption about female sexuality: it is men who have complex sexual needs, not women.
But as Libby Copeland argued, polyamory has woman-friendly roots: “Free love rejected the tyranny of conventional marriage, and particularly how it limited women’s lives to child-bearing, household drudgery, legal powerlessness, and, often enough, loveless sex.”
In an article on straight poly-relationships in Seattle, Jessica Bennett writes that, “the community has a decidedly feminist bent: women have been central to its creation, and ‘gender equality’ is a publicly recognised tenet of the practice”.
The actress Mo’Nique says that her open relationship was her idea. Simone de Beauvoir didn’t see herself as a tag-along polyamorist either. Attracted to both men and women, her open relationship meant that she didn’t have to choose between them. She felt the “urge to embrace all experience”, saw the ability to act on desire as essential to liberating oneself from male sovereignty, and was seeking to answer the question that we still grapple with today: “Is there any possible reconciliation between fidelity and freedom?” Polyamory, according to Copeland, was not just about sex, but about “remaking one’s own little corner of the world”, a terrifying prospect to those who want the world to remain the same, especially when it comes to established gender roles. ...
DirecTV's new series You, Me, Her is testing the limits of television with its push for threesomes and beyond.
Created by John Scott Shepherd, the show hopes to normalize polyamory and “unconventional relationships” in the culture.
Shepherd confirmed to The Contenders Emmys panel Sunday that the show aims to paint polyamory in a realistic way. The average person such as the viewer could find himself or herself in this atypical situation, he said.
Perhaps not surprisingly, You, Me, Her was inspired by an article in the raunchy Playboy magazine.
“I think people are going to be very surprised,” said Faia of her new role. “The show’s not about sex, it’s about connection and relationships."
Faia said she was aware of the nature of the show’s theme, but she hoped the audience could accept it.
“I think a lot of people have this expectation of what this show is going to be,” she said. “You see this guy, who’s married, who is possibly maybe having a threesome with these two women but I think it is so different from that. It’s totally told from a unique perspective. It’s about the average joe, this suburban couple that are really falling for this girl and she is falling for them.”
Faia said the show is not only funny but also relatable. She refrained from mentioning the commonness of polyamory in the United States, which is estimated to be around 4 percent of the population. ...
Cohabitators are outlaws again, but Utah says it won't go fishing.
A three-judge federal appeals court panel on Monday handed a setback to the burgeoning polyamorous rights movement, reversing a lower court ruling that decriminalized polygamous cohabitation in Utah.
The case was brought by the five-spouse Brown family of "Sister Wives" reality TV fame after local authorities openly investigated them for violating a state law against multispouse living arrangements. The family intends to appeal the latest ruling, their attorney Jonathan Turley said in a statement.
The Browns are fundamentalist Mormons who argue the U.S. Constitution allows them to live according to the teachings of their faith. They fled Lehi, Utah, in January 2011 after a deputy Utah County attorney quipped the family "made it easier for us by admitting to felonies on national TV."
In 2013, the family won a first-of-its-kind ruling from U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups, who ruled the First Amendment protected the Browns from such a ban and that – in light of the 2003 Supreme Court decision shielding consensual same-sex sodomy from state laws – such a prohibition also violates the Constitution's Due Process Clause.
The law challenged by the Browns says "a person is guilty of bigamy when, knowing he has a husband or wife or knowing the other person has a husband or wife, the person purports to marry another person or cohabits with another person." Waddoups ordered "or cohabits with another person" be deleted and narrowed the meaning of "purports to marry" but allowed a ban on multiple marriage licenses.
Like most other polygamists, Kody Brown only is legally married to his first wife, Meri, though he has children and lives with each of the four women. The family currently lives in Nevada.
On appeal, state officials argued the Browns had no right to sue, as the Utah County Attorney's Office had adopted a policy mooting the case in 2012, after the lawsuit was filed but before Waddoup's ruling. The prosecutor's office policy allows for prosecution of bigamy only under two conditions: when someone remarries without dissolving their first marriage or when bigamous couples or unwedded cohabitators are "also engaged in some type of abuse, violence or fraud."
Though Waddoups dismissed the policy as an attempt to avoid a ruling on the Browns' claims, the appeals court judges found the policy did moot the case and overturned Waddoups' ruling without consideration of the consitutional issues. ...
The singer said she is “unafraid” of any criticism of her lifestyle
By ALISTAIR FOSTER
Vaults singer Blythe Pepino says she is happy to talk about being polyamorous and does not consider it to be “a big deal”.
The 30-year-old, who fronts the London-based electronica group, is in relationships with a man, a woman and another couple and insists she is “unafraid” of any criticism of her lifestyle.
Vaults — whose other members are Ben Vella and Barney Freeman, both 35 — have clocked up almost 20 million YouTube views without releasing an album.
Ellie Goulding, Alt-J and Bastille are among their fans and they had a song on the soundtrack to 50 Shades Of Grey.
Pepino said: “I’m quite a free person when it comes to relationships. I’ve got more than one relationship and as far as I’m concerned, that’s fine. Because in my world I’ve been living like this for quite a long time, it’s not that big a deal. I’m big into open communicationand honesty between people and in relationships. I think a lot of people find that a crazy idea, but it’s not really if you just look into it. ...
Polyamory can come with many partners and many misconceptions. Newsy's Cody LaGrow asks a polyamorous unit what it's really all about.
By Cody LaGrow
Caroline is married to Josie. Caroline is also in a committed relationship with Adam. They share one house and two kids, and they all call the shots under the same roof. This is a polyamorous relationship.
Polyamory, the philosophy or state of being emotionally and sexually involved with more than one person at the same time, comes with many misconceptions. Caroline, Josie and Adam cleared up questions many may have about polyamory.
Newsy's Cody LaGrow: Do you think monogamy is unrealistic?
Caroline: "No. I hate the idea of polyamory and monogamy being pitted against each other. Obviously, one thing that makes polyamory different than monagamy is, in theory, you are having sex with multiple partners. But it's not just about sex. You are loving multiple partners. And that's really what polyamory is about. It's about love. And that expression of love usually leads to sex."
Cody: How often do you hear that you're having your cake and eating it, too?
Josie: "You hear it ... and that it's just different. I think a lot of people view us as these weirdos on the fringes of society, but to us, it feels weird to not have a choice. And just sort of default to monogamy because that's what everybody does."
Adam: "I found that monogamy, sort of, constrained my ideas about love. Like, I needed to find the one person for me. That is a huge thing to go about doing."
Caroline: "What do we in society call 'the one'? The one romantic person in your life, the one sexual person in your life, your best friend, the one person who is going to give you financial security, the one person who is going to give you family security, who you're going to have children with, who you're going to build all of these things with. And I think in a lot of societies and a lot cultures, we rely on more than one person to do that." ...
While it's tough to tell exactly how many people participate in a polyamorous relationship (that is, one that involves having more than one partner), it seems to be on the rise—or, at least, getting its time in the spotlight. According to a national Avvo.com study from June 2015, about 4 percent of the U.S. population admits to being in an open relationship, which equates to about 12.8 million people. Yep, million. So if you find yourself feeling curious about polyamory, and how to have a healthy polyamorous relationship, know that you're not alone—and read on to get the most important tips experts say everyone needs to know. (Related: 8 Things Men Wish Women Knew About Sex)
It's Not a "One Way or the Highway" Situation
First of all, there are many different kinds of polyamorous relationships, so it's important to know exactly what it is. "Polyamory is a state of open-heartedness and open-mindedness about having multiple simultaneous relationships," says Anya Trahan, relationship coach and author of Opening Love: Intentional Relationships & the Evolution of Consciousness. "Intimacy might mean sex and romantic connection, or it could mean a deep emotional or spiritual connection."
That open-mindedness is the key to a successful polyamorous relationship—and likely why so many people are now admitting to at least experimenting with it. "Many people across the globe are becoming wise to the [notion] that love is not bound by gender," says Trahan. When that happens, "we begin to question other things that are considered 'normal,' like the idea that the only way to have a healthy, intimate relationship is between only two people."
Which, if you stop to think about it, can make a lot of sense for someone. With approximately 38 percent of marriages ending in divorce from 2000 to 2014, according to the CDC, Trahan says a lot of people are broadening their horizons, so to speak. And Elisabeth Sheff, Ph.D., relationship consultant and author of The Polyamorists Next Door: Inside Multiple-Partner Relationships and Families, says it's a way for people to have more of their emotional and physical needs satisfied. "You're getting more needs met, and different needs met with different partners," she says.
It's Not Just About Sex
While it's easy to jump to the conclusion that people in polyamorous relationships love to have as many varied sexual experiences as they can, both Sheff and Trahan say that usually isn't the case. "Media tends to portray poly in a sensationalist way, unfortunately focusing narrowly on drama and sex," says Trahan. "But the poly people I know are deeply spiritual people, people who are compassionate, conscientious leaders in their community." Sheff agrees, noting that those practicing polyamory tend to crave more than sex in a relationship. Whereas people who tend to be a part of the swinging community, for example, are more focused on physical gratification, she says. ...
The spiritual path will burn away all illusions, including the sexual kind. The good news is that something better is reborn in the ashes.
by JESSICA GRAHAM
Mel was tall and lanky with short dark hair, good tattoos, and a black motorcycle. I wanted her bad. Lucky for me I was in an open relationship with my partner and he was all for it. It had been a long time since I had gone for a bad girl like Mel. I figured since it was just going to be a fling, it didn’t matter that a truck full of red flags were dropped on the first date, the biggest of which was the dopamine rush coming on hard and fast like a fat line of cocaine after a long time sober. I knew I was in trouble the first time I smelled her salty skin and felt her nicotine stained fingertips on my throat.
I wasn’t practicing polyamory, per se, and my partner was my top priority. I’ve always been fluid when it comes to monogamy, depending on the relationship I’m in and how I’m currently feeling. I’m sure my poly friends probably cringe and call me a swinger. I prefer to think of myself as a free spirit. Since I wasn’t looking for another serious relationship, I needed to keep my feelings in check for the sexy butch I was drooling over. This meant getting mindful about lust.
You know the way it goes. Constantly checking your phone, even on the freeway, thinking you see the object of your desire everywhere you go, dreaming about them, the extreme highs and lows that come with seeing or not seeing them. The throes of a new relationship make most of us temporary drug addicts looking for the next fix. I didn’t want to get carried away with this culturally acceptable insanity. Lucky for me, as a meditation practitioner, I had all the tools to observe this crazy ride without climbing on it.
So I let the affair run its course (trust me, it burnt out quick—I’m not a kid anymore), while I deconstructed and carefully explored the activity of my body and mind. At first I fell into the lust trap and caused some trouble with my partner. But soon I was able to ride the wave of new relationship energy like a pro. It was absolutely comical how the chemicals would flood my system and my mind would start to swirl when I got a text from her. Pretty soon the experience became something I could just watch without getting involved in. Those sensations and thoughts were just impermanent activity and they were certainly not me. How could they be if I was witnessing them?
This wasn’t the first time I’d had the insight that I am not my mind or my emotions. Each time that insight deepens, I experience a period of disillusionment. It had happened with my career, with habits, and so on. Basically I see the emptiness in the experience and I “lose” it. That’s to say I lose my attachment to it and my ability to get a fix from it. When I saw through the self who viewed herself as an actor, my acting career crumbled. Once I knew that my enjoyment of a film or a big piece of chocolate cake was simply a collection of thoughts and emotions, I lost my taste for them as well.
This can be a painful and scary part of spiritual development. It can feel like nothing is enjoyable or meaningful. I often have meditation students report that they feel depressed and apathetic during this stage. My first meditation teacher sat me down after few classes and told me, “Meditation is going to ruin your life.” He wasn’t joking. The cost of waking up is everything. With each awakening I’ve “lost’ a little more, but I wouldn’t want to give any of it back.
So here I was getting mindful about the off-the-hook sexual attraction I had for Mel. I didn’t really consider that I was in the process of screwing up my sex life, just like I had once screwed up my career, and my love of cake. The road to hell is paved with good intentions I suppose. By the time my bad girl fling had run out of steam, my sex drive was plummeting overall. Sex just didn’t seem that important anymore. Thanks to good old mindfulness, sexual disillusionment had kicked in. ...