Jurors need to hear why some people choose to engage in extreme and often painful sex acts so that they will be able to make informed decisions in the upcoming trial of a southwest Missouri couple accused of forcing a woman to be a sex slave for several years, defense attorneys told a federal judge Thursday.
For Edward and Marilyn Bagley to get a fair trial, jurors will need at least some understanding of the fringe sex subculture they belong to, in which people derive pleasure from the use of "safe words," dog collars, whips, chains and even electroshock devices, their attorneys said.
"A lot of the conduct described in the government's case is extreme for a lot of people in mainstream society," said Susan Dill, Ed Bagley's attorney.
She said it's important for jurors to know what is considered normal and what is considered extreme in the bondage, dominance, sadism and masochism — or BDSM — community. To disallow testimony about those norms "would be extremely prejudicial," she said.
U.S. District Judge Dean Whipple seemed uneasy at times as defense attorneys and prosecutors debated how much detail jurors should hear at trial about kinky sex acts. He asked Dill if he should ask potential jurors if they take part in BDSM activities during jury selection, to which she responded he should.
"Jesus," Whipple replied, sighing.
The senior judge questioned whether the Western District of Missouri court is the proper place to define and publicize standards for the BDSM subculture, and was surprised when the prosecution told him evidence in the case included thousands of images of sex acts.
"Pictures?" Whipple said. "You have pictures?"
The woman was 16 in 2002 when she moved into the Bagleys' mobile home on the outskirts of Lebanon, a rural community 140 miles southeast of Kansas City, prosecutors said. She lived with them until 2009.
The couple contends that the woman asked to be Edward Bagley's sex slave after she turned 18 and that she willingly engaged in BDSM sex acts with him and others. Defense attorneys say she voluntarily danced at strip clubs during the time she lived with the couple.
Prosecutors allege that the woman was forced to be a sex slave, and say Ed Bagley committed numerous acts of torture and mutilation against her, including whipping and electrically shocking her, locking her into a dog cage and forcing her head underwater or pouring water on her face. They contend that he forced her to strip at clubs.
Four men who pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges said they engaged in or watched the sexual torture of the woman at the Bagleys' home. ...
It's a club where you might, in fact, use a club: Harvard University has joined the small but growing roster of U.S. colleges that have approved official student organizations devoted to kinky sex.
Harvard administrators were to formally approve the group, Harvard College Munch, on Friday, The Harvard Crimson reported. The recognition means the group, which has grown to 30 members since its informal founding earlier this year, can officially meet on campus to discuss issues related to the bondage-discipline, dominant-submission, and sadism-masochism communities, known collectively as BDSM.
More important, its founder told the newspaper, speaking under the pseudonym "Michael," is that the move bestows "the fact of legitimacy."
While Harvard's club drew widespread attention this week, it's far from the only BDSM club officially recognized by, or at least tolerated at, U.S. colleges.
At the University of Minnesota, Kinky U is Student Organization No. 2370. It meets weekly — after office hours "for maximum safety and confidentiality" — to discuss "topics related to kink and the kinky community."
At Tufts University in Medford, Mass., Tufts Kink started meeting this semester.
"I think there’s a number of students who feel sort of isolated and alienated, and I think it's very powerful for them to have just a place where they can express themselves and a place where they can make friends," co-founder Anschel Schaffer-Cohen told The Tufts Daily. ...
The expected go-ahead by the Committee on Student Life will entitle Munch to meet for lunch or dinner on campus, promote gatherings on school grounds and apply for grants from the school's Drug and Alcohol Peer Advisors organization, the paper said.
Once an informal gathering for like-minded individuals to discuss their proclivities in the bedroom without fear of being judged, Munch now has "institutional support" to provide reassurance for its members, its anonymous founder "Michael" said in the story.
One member told the Observer that she had been hit with a riding crop, a belt and canes in a private Munch get-together. "Floggers are my favorite," she said.
There is historical precedent. The Iowa State University student government funded a bondage club in 2003, calling it a triumph for diversity, one publication reported.
Now S&M clubs are increasingly popular at elite institutions as "50 Shades Of Grey" climbed the bestseller list, the Observer said. Columbia, Tufts, MIT and Yale have them, though the story did not say whether they were officially recognized. Assault cases from within some groups have sprung up as well, the paper said. ...
Without an expert witness, Kansas City jurors might not understand how someone could consent to some extreme sadomasochistic behavior, a lawyer told a federal judge Thursday.
U.S. District Judge Dean Whipple said at the end of a hearing that he would rule soon on whether the court will pay for an expert witness on that culture for defendants Edward and Marilyn Bagley.
The couple will go to trial early next year on charges that they sexually enslaved a young woman for several years in their Lebanon, Mo., mobile home.
Lawyers representing the Bagleys have argued that the young woman consented to the relationship and that it conformed to the practices of those who adhere to the bondage, discipline and sadomasochism, or BDSM, lifestyle.
Lawyer Susan Dill, who represents Edward Bagley, said a defense expert would help alleviate the “ick factor” for jurors, who could be asked to view photos and videos of some very extreme sexual practices, such as waterboarding, electric shock, piercings and mutilation.
“They need to be educated by an expert that while this behavior seems extreme to you, a lot of people enjoy it and practice it safely,” Dill said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Cynthia Cordes already has retained her own expert on the BDSM lifestyle but has said she will withdraw his testimony on the issue if other testimony on the acceptable standards of the subculture is ruled inadmissible.
“It comes down to consent,” Cordes said, “whether the victim consented or not.”
If the standards and practices of the culture loom large at trial, Cordes said, she will argue that the Bagleys discussed BDSM with the victim as a “veil” to engage in sexual torture.
Whipple appeared concerned that BDSM issues could permeate even the most technical areas of the case, perhaps requiring lawyers to write a jury instruction defining what is acceptable conduct for a BDSM practitioner.
“I don’t think (federal court in) the Western District of Missouri should be the forum for publicizing the standards for the BDSM lifestyle,” Whipple observed.
Dill said such a jury instruction would not be necessary. She even speculated that potential jurors could include several BDSM adherents.
That raised another issue for the judge.
Whipple asked whether he should ask about that in jury selection.
“Yes,” Dill replied.
Whipple exhaled: “Jesus …”
Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/2012/11/29/3939293/judge-to-rule-on-expert-witness.html#storylink=cpy
What do General Petraeus and Christian Grey have in common? Clue: it's not a predilection for complex bondage knots, unless that's another security secret yet to be revealed. Nor is it the know-how to work a uniform to nefarious ends, unless you count Christian's Ken doll-dressed-by-Calvin-Klein-style as a uniform choice. Rather, it's a narcissistic predilection for exploiting power to procure sex.
As Camille Paglia had the wherewithal to point out more than 20 years ago, "Sex is power...in Western culture there are no non-exploitative relationships." But regardless of a person's propensity for gagging a lover whether physically or metaphorically, a real-life BDSM love affair can create the kind of emotional pain most readers of the Petraeus scandal or the booming erotica market will never encounter. Despite our daily diet of sex and scandal, it's a taboo that still needs telling.
In my work as a sexual politics journalist and sexual liberties campaigner, I had always defended the BDSM and kink communities against charges of unsound, destructive desire.
Indeed, I'd already worked as a professional dominatrix - and one with stringent ethics - encouraging partnered clients to share their kinks with wives and girlfriends, never agreeing to requests where I suspected the masochism provided more than a temporary mental release, and creating a service of charitable domination to offset my sporadic socialist guilt at my hourly rate (which in any event was offset by the fact I was only domming to fund my unpaid media internships.)
My professional experience had taught me that there was nothing innately depraved or damaging about BDSM if done responsibly; it was simply another way to generate an erotic thrill, and an age-old, ageless, non-gender specific one at that.
But when I fell in love with a man who more than loosely fitted the stereotype of twisted kinkster and embarked on a deleterious D/s relationship with him, my politics were thrown into sharp, personal relief.
We had what would appear on the surface to be a casual arrangement. More accurate might be the term 'anti-relationship'. Eschewing phone calls, emails or text messages, apart from when he contacted me to find out my availability, Sebastian and I met once a week, sometimes for pre-coital drinks, sometimes for post-coital brunch, but always for a night of kinky sex.
Hair-pulling and rough play soon progressed into genital spanking, face-slapping, forced oral, and being held down while he penetrated me. Instinctively I trusted him and his kink experience made him a consummate 'player'. Bar a few sensual bruises, nothing he did ever left any lasting physical harm. Nor did the complex role plays and overpowering lead to any lasting psychological distress - well, not at least until I we introduced one of Sebastian's darker fantasies into the bedroom, which required me to enact cutting his cock off with a pair of scissors. Then the play become infused with distress, as I struggled to pretend to harm the man I was by now in love with; a man who had made it very clear he didn't love me.
I was but a prop helping to recreate all he most desired, and most feared. Afterwards he would be full of contempt and loathing for the pair of us. "Taking his pain", as the BDSM expression goes, was about far more than being pinned down while he slapped me.
Of course, it wasn't BDSM that was the problem, but Sebastian's emotional leprosy. Or perhaps the BDSM just unleashed feelings so complex that neither of us could get a handle on them. Either way, the BDSM was a vehicle for emotional chaos, a vehicle which intensified the psychic pain of his demons and my unrequited love. ...
On Monday the New York Observer ran a sensational story about BDSM sex clubs popping up in the Ivy League. They can be found at Harvard, Columbia and Yale -- all Ivies -- as well as Tufts, MIT and the University of Chicago. The group at Harvard is called Munch.
"The popularity of 50 Shades of Grey has accelerated a mainstreaming of the BDSM subculture already underway — the initials stand for bondage, discipline, sadism and masochism—and the trend has been especially pronounced in our more elite institutions of higher learning," the Observer writes.
E.L. James' bestselling trilogy began as a fantasy, fan fiction written to imagine a version of "Twlight's" characters all grown up and in adult situations. "50 Shades of Grey" and its sequels have engendered other fantasies among readers, some of whom have found an outlet on their college campuses.
The university clubs are intended to be a safe space for experimentation. As the Observer puts it, "the scene’s mantra — 'safe, sane and consensual' — is heard so often it might as well be translated into needlepoint." But sometimes fiction and fact have intersected in uncomfortable ways. A representative from Columbia's group says that for all their safeguards, when it comes to sexual play that involves dominance and submission, the line about what constitutes consent can blur.
A safer way to experience "50 Shades" on campus might be to enroll in a class. One at American University is about the E.L. James trilogy and its cultural importance. The course description reads, "The Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy is a publishing phenomenon that has dramatically impacted American culture and sexual health. Using the series as a case study, this course examines the interplay of sexuality, health, public relations and marketing. Topics covered include feminism, addiction, social media marketing, sexual expression versus sexual repression, targeting the mom demographic, domestic violence, literary criticism, and relationship and identity forming." ...
KC Playroom, a swingers club that stopped holding its private parties in a Shawnee industrial building last month, apparently has returned under “new ownership.” And Mayor Jeff Meyers, for one, said the news “disgusts me.”
“We have some great friends who are taking over the KC Playroom so you all can still have a place to party,” the club recently reported on an Internet site it has used to promote previous parties.
The site also announced that a “Fishnet and Heels” party would be held last Saturday night at the club, which it described as being “in the Johnson County area, very close to I-35 and I-435 with hotels two miles from the club.”
The exact location was not provided. But on Saturday night, cars were parked outside the building at 7007 Martindale Road, where previous KC Playroom parties were hosted, and an outdoor smoking area similar to those set up for the previous gatherings was visible.
“I thought that was over with,” Meyers said after learning KC Playroom might be resuming parties at the site, which is within a couple of blocks of a Montessori preschool and several residences.
Meyers added that he had been informed the activities that took place at previous KC Playroom parties went “way beyond dancing.”
“I just don’t know how that could be considered legal myself,” Meyers said. “That’s why there’s been an awful lot of people looking at it.”
The club, referred to as a “sex club” in an email City Manager Carol Gonzales sent to members of the Shawnee City Council in July, has been under investigation by the city for more than a year.
Gonzales said in the July email that following “investigative and legal research,” the city concluded “it is a private use of a privately owned building, therefore subject to building and fire codes, but not other regulations applicable to businesses.”
Three months later, a resident using the name “Bob Smith” emailed city officials to complain that “nothing has been done to have this business licensed and permitted.”
“Mr. Smith, actually quite a bit has been done,” Gonzales responded in an Oct. 24 email. “Other agencies have already been brought in and are also looking into issues that fall within their purview.”
Gonzales added in the email that city officials had been told KC Playroom would close at the end of the year.
Following subsequent media reports about the club by The Dispatch and KCTV5 News, the area business owner who was operating KC Playroom said he would close it immediately. In addition, the Martindale Road space was listed for lease on Craigslist, seeming to indicate that the club would no longer be an issue in Shawnee.
Now that it appears to be back, Ward 4 Councilman Mickey Sandifer said, “I do not like it at all. And I will check into this.” ...
San Francisco may be getting ready to shed its image as a city where anything goes, including clothing.
City lawmakers are scheduled to vote Tuesday on an ordinance that would prohibit nudity in most public places, a blanket ban that represents an escalation of a two-year tiff between a devoted group of men who strut their stuff through the city's famously gay Castro District and the supervisor who represents the area.
Supervisor Scott Wiener's proposal would make it illegal for a person over the age of 5 to "expose his or her genitals, perineum or anal region on any public street, sidewalk, street median, parklet or plaza" or while using public transit.
A first offense would carry a maximum penalty of a $100 fine, but prosecutors would have authority to charge a third violation as a misdemeanor punishable by up to a $500 fine and a year in jail. Exemptions would be made for participants at permitted street fairs and parades, such as the city's annual gay pride event and the Folsom Street Fair, which celebrates sadomasochism and other sexual subcultures.
Wiener said he resisted introducing the ordinance, but felt compelled to act after constituents complained about the naked men who gather in a small Castro plaza most days and sometimes walk the streets au naturel. He persuaded his colleagues last year to pass a law requiring a cloth to be placed between public seating and bare rears, yet the complaints have continued.
"I don't think having some guys taking their clothes off and hanging out seven days a week at Castro and Market Street is really what San Francisco is about. I think it's a caricature of what San Francisco is about," Wiener said.
The proposed ban predictably has produced outrage, as well as a lawsuit. Last week, about two dozen people disrobed in front of City Hall and marched around the block to the amusement of gawking tourists and high school students on a field trip. ...