Emily and Paul hate when people ask how they met. "Through friends," they usually say, and it's not entirely untrue. What they're leaving out, however, is that those friends are their ex-husband and ex-wife, respectively, and that sometime during orgasm-filled weekends of swinging among the four of them, Emily and Paul fell head over heels for each other, divorced their spouses and lived happily ever after. It's not your typical love story.
Emily was 23 when she married her high school sweetheart, Mark, in 2001. By 2003, the couple was engaging in threesomes with an old college friend, Amanda, unbeknownst to her husband. That husband was Paul. (All names used in this story are pseudonyms.) Eventually, Amanda and Emily roped Paul into the fun by giving him a threesome of his own. And, sometime after that, the couples started switching.
This was a new experience for Paul but old hat for Emily, who'd been living in an open relationship with Mark. It had begun while he was deployed.
"At first, I'd make out with guys, and I'd tell him about it," she says, "and he was, like, 'Eh, whatever.' He'd be upset a little bit, but it was kind of OK. But then I gave him permission to do the same. That's when he started messing around with Amanda," she continues, "which evolved into them having sex."
In other words, no concrete boundaries were set to dictate what would fly in their arrangement and what wouldn't. Instead, it was almost as if each party took turns upping the ante.
To a degree, threesomes with other women had been Emily's way of buying more sexual freedom. "A little bit of it was putting money in the bank," she says. "As in, 'OK, I'll do this for you, but in the future, I want to do things with other guys.'?"
Eventually Paul became the guy Emily did those things with, unaware that his wife had already been a sexual guest in Emily's marriage.
Upon looking back, neither Emily nor Paul can quite remember how he learned the backstory. "I think you told me," Paul tells Emily, causing her to chuckle.
"That doesn't sound like me," she says.
"Well, I think you slipped," Paul replies.
When she did, Paul was angry: at Amanda for cheating, and at Mark — a man he called a friend — for nailing his wife behind his back. But here's the rub: By the time the secret came out, Paul had already developed feelings for Emily. He didn't want to stop seeing her.
Which is, of course, where the waters got extremely murky. Each pair stayed married, but the four continued to swing regularly. It began to run their lives.
"It was all-consuming," Emily says. "It was like drugs."
Why such an addiction? "Because it feels like the first time you fall in love," she says.
Of course, she was falling in love. With Paul. ...
She also knows about Valentine's Day for polyamorists from personal experience. Pincus lives in Northern Virginia with her two children, her husband and one of her husband's girlfriends. Her husband also has one other girlfriend and Pincus has two boyfriends.
It sounds like a complicated group of people to share a box of chocolates and a candlelight dinner with every Feb. 14. Is it?
HuffPost DC:What does it mean to be in a polyamorous relationship?
Pincus: We are open and honest about having multiple relationships with multiple people. My poly family consists of me and my husband. We've been married for nine years. One of my husband's girlfriends lives with us, so she also helps out with childcare and house work, and that kind of stuff. And we also have outside relationships on top of that.
We were non-monogamous for the last four years or so. But we didn't start having real intense poly relationships until about a year ago. I'd experimented with being poly before. For my husband it was totally new. ...
Mistress Bardot and friends take us on an erotic tour
Mistress Bardot slides into the latex nun habit, her gloved hand smoothing the veil against her cheekbone. She emerges from backstage, charmingly steps into the crowd, and greets friends who traveled thousands of miles to see her.
The Mistress begins her ascension to the stage, gracefully parting the kinky people like a sexual sea. Bardot's intuitive eyes scan the room—her beaming, cherry-painted smile hinting at secret pleasures.
She ushers a lucky redheaded schoolgirl to the fore, and enjoins her to kneel. Bardot's bouncy laugh calls attention to the naughty scene about to transpire. The crowd swells with expectation.
Welcome to the Fetish Ball.
There are dozens of fetish groups and organizations in Minnesota, some dating back as long as 40 years. According to FetLife, the global kink social network, there are nearly 12,000 registered fetish practitioners in our state. You wouldn't know it from looking at us, because the citizenry hardly wear their sexual peccadilloes on their long sleeves.
Wright works to dispel stereotypes and fight stigmas associated with the fetish lifestyle. Media coverage of sex is often sensationalized or made out to be a joke, Wright says, and because of antiquated laws, consenting adults with alternative lifestyles aren't protected against discrimination.
If you are adventurous enough to think up something kinky, it's probably happening in Minnesota, maybe right next door as you're reading this.
But this isn't a story about sex. It's a story about love. ...
Not only do dungeons thrive in the East Bay; they're also largely above ground.
East Bay Express
In the old days — "old" meaning pre-Internet — members of the BDSM community had to find one another in newspaper personal ads, using heavily coded language. A hypothetical example: "Leggy blond trapped in body of middle-aged secretary. Really into The Story of O." Nowadays, bondage geeks meet on the web, do PayPal transactions, and even post "dominatrix" as a profession on their OkCupid profiles. Not to mention that some of them actually do subscribe to the term "geek." Many are even out to their friends and families.
The scene certainly isn't what it used to be, particularly in the sexually progressive Bay Area. For one thing, it's gone above ground. Although most BDSM workers still keep mum about the location of their services, they're at least easy to track on the Internet. Most reputable dungeons have websites, and some — like the long-running fetish playground Fantasy Makers — have their own e-stores and gift certificate packages. Many advertise in web portals Eros Guide, while others use local newspapers. Fetishists who want to play for free have an easy time going that route, too. A North Bay-based "daddy" who goes by the name "Big Poppa" said it's pretty easy to meet like-minded people at social events, and arrange play dates on the spot. Moreover, members of the BDSM community often meet through chat forums, Facebook groups, or online dating services, where it's now okay to be up-front about your proclivities.
BDSM work still exists in a legal gray area, since state law prohibits the selling of "lewd acts" — meaning physical contact with genitals, buttocks, or breasts. But many people in the scene have found ways to circumvent the law by prohibiting sex, using coded language, and keeping their brick-and-mortar addresses under wraps. Generally, they also vet the clientele fairly thoroughly, requesting references or a hefty deposit for first-timers. ("Police aren't going to put down $50 just to make an arrest," said one domme who does, indeed, have sex with her clients.) Such precautions have enabled them to render BDSM a viable cottage industry, and by extension, a visible subculture. ...
Sex addiction fuels movies and headlines, but despite this, writes Rachel Hills, it remains poorly understood
If 2011 was the year of the Hollywood hook-up, with casual-sex flicks such as No Strings Attached and Friends with Benefits, 2012 seems set to be the year of the sex addict. Thursday sees the release of Shame, the critically acclaimed portrait of sex addiction starring actor Michael Fassbender. A recent Newsweek cover reported an "epidemic" of the condition, saying it was leaving a trail of destroyed marriages, careers and self-esteem in its wake. Then there is Thanks for Sharing, a new sex-addiction comedy starring Gwyneth Paltrow, due out later this year.
Sex addiction has been a media constant for several years now, thanks to serial philanderers such as Tiger Woods and Charlie Sheen. But the new breed of sex-addiction-fuelled pop culture is darker than its cynical predecessors, concerned with putting the condition on the map as a real and serious illness.
Take Shame, for example. Fassbender's Brandon might be tall and chiselled, but his life is far from enviable. Deliberately isolated, Brandon interacts only with his sleazy boss, his emotionally fragile younger sister (Carey Mulligan), and the carousel of women he brings into his bedroom. Sex comes easily to him when it is paid for or anonymous, but he falters at even the faintest flicker of intimacy. By most people's standards, Brandon has a lot of sex with a lot of different people. But is he an addict? And if so, what does that mean? ...
Proponents of the addiction theory will tell you that their model is morally neutral. Where the tabloids lambast serial cheaters for their sins, those who refer to it as an addiction seek to de-stigmatise the behaviour, explains addiction specialist Robert Mittiga, director of the GATS counselling and treatment program in Adelaide. "It's really not a moral issue. It's a serious illness," he says.
But even medical science isn't value free. Remember that as recently as the early 1970s, the American Psychiatric Association still classified homosexuality as a mental illness. Similarly, deciding who and what qualifies as a "seriously ill" sex addict and what is simply a "healthy expression of human sexuality" means drawing boundaries with highly moralistic implications. How much masturbation is too much? How many partners is too many? Is there a difference between using sex as a panacea for your frustrations and being chemically dependent on it?
Not to mention that the science of sex addiction is contested in itself. The term has been rejected for inclusion in the 2013 edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the psychiatrists' bible. And the sex addiction screening test (SAST), one of the main tools used to diagnose sex addiction, has been criticised by high-profile sex researchers such as Dr Petra Boynton and Dr Marty Klein for being too broad and ambiguous. "All the SAST really diagnoses is high libido," says David Ley.
At times, the long list of types of sex addiction can read like an excerpt from a 19th-century catalogue of sexual deviance. Cheating, swinging and BDSM? All symptoms of sex addiction. Having sex with someone of your own sex when you think you're straight? Sex addiction. Rape and paedophilia? They're often a manifestation of severe sex addiction, too, says Robert Mittiga. Even telling sexual jokes or hugging too much can be a sign that you're a secret sex addict, according to some sources. ...
A federal judge has ruled there's sufficient evidence to allow a polygamous family made famous by a reality TV show to pursue a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Utah's bigamy law.
U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups on Friday dismissed Utah's governor and attorney general from the case, but allowed the suit to proceed against Utah County Attorney Jeffrey Buhman, the Deseret News and Salt Lake Tribune report.
Buhman threatened to prosecute Kody Brown and his four wives – Meri, Janelle, Christine and Robyn – after the TLC show "Sister Wives" debuted in September 2010, but his office has not filed charges.
The family sued Buhman, Gov. Gary Herbert and Attorney General Mark Shurtleff in July 2011, claiming Utah's bigamy statute violates its constitutional rights to due process, equal protection, free exercise of religion, free speech and freedom of association.
Waddoups, in his 21-page ruling, wrote that he dismissed Herbert and Shurtleff from the case because Shurtleff assured the Browns that they wouldn't be prosecuted. Shurtleff has a policy of not prosecuting consenting adult polygamists as long as they're not committing other crimes.
But the judge wrote that Buhman conducted interviews with the news media that made it clear he intended to investigate and prosecute the Browns. The fact that no charges have been filed does not matter, he added.
"The entirety of actions by the Utah County prosecutors tend to show either an ill-conceived public-relations campaign to showboat their own authority and/or harass the Browns and the polygamist community at large, or to assure the public that they intended to carry out their public obligations and prosecute violations of the law," Waddoups wrote.
There's reason for the Browns to believe they could face prosecution in Utah County, the judge continued, and that could have a "chilling effect" on their ability to practice their First Amendment rights in the state.
But the Browns must show that there's a real and viable threat to their constitutional rights for the lawsuit to hold up in court, Waddoups wrote.
Brown moved his wives and 16 children from Lehi to the Las Vegas area in January 2001.
Buhman said he had not yet reviewed the ruling and was not prepared to comment.
Women in the bondage and kink scene are speaking out about sexual assaults in the community, and calling for change
Maggie Mayhem is dressed like a kinky dictator. Standing onstage at San Francisco’s Center for Sex and Culture, her olive-green military cap and knee-high-heeled boots belie the vulnerable subject at hand.
“The first time I was ever raped,” she starts, her throat tightening around her words, “it was actually on a date with somebody from my local S/M community.”
The 27-year-old sex educator and fetish model has never before publicly shared the story of her sexual assault, but the purpose of this evening’s event, a “consent culture” fundraiser, is so that she can start telling it, again and again. Her mission, along with fellow activist and sex worker Kitty Stryker, is to raise awareness about what they say is widespread abuse within the BDSM community and a tendency for players to either turn a blind eye or actively cover it up. They’ve developed a workshop meant to combat the problem and want to take it on the road.
We’re talking about real abuse here, not the “consensual non-consent” that the scene is built around, as Mayhem’s story of her first assault makes clear. As an 18-year-old member of a kinky student club at the University of California, Berkeley, Mayhem helped raise money to bring a prominent BDSM educator to campus for a workshop. Afterward, he singled her out for a private “play date” and she was flattered. “I thought this was the best person I could start to learn from,” she says.
The scene that they negotiated was “fantastic,” Mayhem says, but then things took a turn. “I found myself tied up and unable to get away when that individual decided that he was going to have sex with me,” she says, tears welling in her eyes, “even though we’d specifically negotiated against it, even though I was saying that it needed to stop, and even though he was not wearing a condom at the time.”
For the most part, she kept the experience to herself, but on the rare occasions when she did tell people in the community about it, she says, “I got one response … which was people saying [things like], ‘I don’t do drama. This is a respected person in the community. I’m very sorry that you had a miscommunication during your scene that made it not very fun for you, but I don’t want to hear about it.’”
As she pushed deeper into the scene, trying to put this experience behind her, she had countless more encounters where her boundaries were blatantly ignored. As she gained experience, she started to talk more confidently and openly about these experiences – but, again, she got the “I don’t do drama” line. At the same time, she realized that such abuse was prevalent: “It started to look more like a systemic issue,” she says. As Stryker wrote last year in an essay for Good Vibrations magazine, ” I have yet to meet a female submissive who hasn’t had some sort of sexual assault happen to her.”
BDSM has long been a target of criticism from outsiders, but these two are devoted members of the scene. Stryker argued in her essay, “I Never Called It Rape,” that the community is so “focused on saying how BDSM isn’t a cover for abuse that we willingly blind ourselves to the times that it can be,” she wrote. “How on earth can we possibly say to society at large that BDSM is not abuse when we so carefully hide our abusers and shame our abused into silence?” ...