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?” ...
WO years ago yesterday, clean-cut family man and multi-millionaire Herman Rockefeller vanished. His remains were found later in a Glenroy back yard. He was killed when he visited the Hadfield home of Bernadette Denny and Mario Schembri for a sexual tryst. Schembri and Denny are now in jail, but the case lives on for its revelations about sordid sex with strangers, the swingers scene and Mr Rockefeller's double life. A new book revisits the crime.
ON Monday afternoon, while the homicide police are driving towards the Prius left in a country lane, Vicky Rockefeller receives a call at home that she probably wishes she hadn't answered. A woman she doesn't know has rung and wants to speak to her.
Liza Honeywell (name has been changed) is a 52-year-old interior designer and mother who has been married to the same man since she was 29.
Before she was married in 1986, she was in a relationship with Herman Rockefeller. The couple had met in late 1982 at a party in Toorak. At that time, Liza was a 25-year-old student at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology where she was finishing her interior design degree.
Herman was the same age as Liza and told her that he had just returned from completing a law degree at Harvard University.
The couple started a relationship that night. It lasted for three years, or on and off for 27 years, depending on which definition of relationship is employed.
Liza was at home in the affluent Melbourne seaside suburb of Brighton when her husband rang her, urging her to turn on the television and find a news broadcast. She did and was confronted by a photograph of Herman Rockefeller and the image of his wife and brother conducting a police media conference.
She learnt that Rockefeller had been missing since the Thursday before.
Liza's husband asks her if she wants to go to the police, and she replies that she will have to call Herman's wife first. The situation is delicate, but his disappearance overrides any sensitivity she otherwise may have hidden behind.
Liza tells Vicky Rockefeller that she has kept in touch with Herman and received a call from him the night he went missing.
Vicky asks her caller if she was "the person who went to Hong Kong with him". Liza replies that she was and asks Vicky if she "knew of the other phone that Herman had". Vicky knows nothing about any other phone so she takes the number from Liza.
The phone number and Liza's details are quickly passed on to the investigating police. There will be plenty of time later, after Herman is found, to process the fact that he has been seeing another woman.
Detectives Woltsche and Wiseman drive from the homicide offices to meet Liza in Brighton. Her husband has come home from work early to support his wife. ...
GOP presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich told his ex-wife there was plenty enough of him to go around, she claims in a bombshell ABC News interview.
According to ABC, which will air the segment on "Nightline" Thursday -- two days before the critical South Carolina primary -- Marianne Gingrich said when Gingrich admitted to a six-year affair with a Congressional aide, he asked his wife if she'd share him with the other woman, Callista, who's now his bride.
"And I just stared at him and he said, 'Callista doesn't care what I do,'" Marianne Gingrich told ABC. "He wanted an open marriage and I refused."
There's more -- much more:
According to ABC, Marianne says Gingrich was romping with current wife Callista in the Gingrichs' bed -- all the while simultaneously trashing then-President Bill Clinton for a lack of moral leadership. Marianne also says Gingrich told her Callista would help him win the presidency.
Gingrich moved for divorce just months after Marriane was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis: "He also was advised by the doctor when I was sitting there that I was not to be under stress. He knew," she told ABC.
The former House speaker left his first wife, Jackie, as she underwent cancer treatment. His liaison with Marianne began while he and Jackie were still married.
College is a time of experimentation and Isla Vista has its reputation for wild nights and debauchery. But some of its wildest antics occur behind the doors of the people you would least expect. A common saying, “It’s the quiet ones you’ve got to look out for,” holds true for the kinkiest of the Gauchos. The population has created a community of their own: Kink University Fetish Fellowship, the only club of its kind on campus.
The five-year-old organization stresses the importance of safety and communication when practicing BDSM, an acronym for Bondage & Discipline/Domination & Submission/Sadism & Masochism. Their goals are to educate people and build a community around BDSM and kink. At weekly meetings they introduce different topics, such as the use of electricity, needleplay and bondage during foreplay.
Demonstrations are also held, when possible, by a local physician or knowledgeable practitioner of various BDSM acts, to exhibit techniques and safety precautions to ensure a pleasurable experience.
Popular crime shows, such as “CSI” and “Law & Order,” often depict kinky fetishes negatively, with situations of autoerotic asphyxiation gone wrong or crime scenes with a body left in bondage. KUFF’s aims to inform kinky students on how to prevent such unfortunate situations and to rectify the common misconceptions associated with kink by the media. One of the messages KUFF stresses for those who try BDSM is that it should be “Safe, Sane and Consensual.”
“IV is notorious for drunken and unsafe sex,” said the club’s Vice President. “If there is any alcohol in your system, you cannot legally give consent.”
Communication is key for kink, and safe words help partners understand their limits. ...
HJA client Michael Peacock acquitted by unanimous jury verdict
6th January 2012
The trial of Michael Peacock for six counts of distributing obscene DVDs under the Obscene Publications Act 1959 concluded today with an acquittal.
The jury, which had watched large parts of the ‘hard core’ male-on-male DVDs took under 2 hours to find Mr Peacock not guilty.
Mr Peacock had been advertising the DVDs online and selling them from his flat in Brixton. Officers from SCD9 (the former Obscene Publications Squad of the Met) saw the adverts and operated an undercover test purchase. Six DVD’s featuring various sex acts including ‘fisting’ and BDSM were deemed by police to be obscene and Mr Peacock was prosecuted.
Myles Jackman, a solicitor at Hodge Jones & Allen, with a specialist interest in obscenity law, commented: “The jury’s verdict is a significant victory for common sense suggesting that the OPA has been rendered irrelevant in the digital age. Normal jurors did not consider representations of consensual adult sexuality would deprave and corrupt the viewer.”
Senior Criminal Partner, Nigel Richardson, acting for Mr Peacock, stated that “from the outset Michael has displayed an enormous amount of courage in contesting these charges. The jury’s verdict vindicates his decision to challenge this arcane and archaic legislation. The result is also a testament to [HJA crime partner] Sandra Paul’s persuasive advocacy.”
The trial continues today of Michael Peacock, who has been charged under the Obscene Publications Act 1959 for distributing DVDs featuring various sex acts including fisting, so-called "water sports", and BDSM.
Peacock's defence is being conducted by law firm Hodge Jones & Allen whose lawyer Myles Jackman has blogged about the case here.
In essence, the prosecution have to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the DVDs distributed by Peacock are such that their effect would be "to tend to deprave and corrupt persons who are likely, having regard to all relevant circumstances, to read, see or hear the matter contained or embodied" in the DVDs. Whether the DVDs would tend to deprave and corrupt any such person is a question of fact for the jury, who presumably have had to watch the DVDs as part of their compulsory jury service and not be depraved or corrupted in the process.
Obscenity is a curious criminal offence, and many would say that it now has no place in a modern liberal society, especially when all that is being portrayed in any "obscene material" are the consensual (if unusual) sexual acts between adults. That said, the Crown Prosecution Service has decided it is in the public interest to prosecute Peacock over these products, and the judge and jury are (rightly) obliged to apply the law to the facts which are determined by trial. Accordingly Peacock may well be convicted and, if so, faces up to five years imprisonment.
Whatever the outcome, R v Peacock may well turn out to be an important test case on the boundaries of obscenity law. As Jackman says: ...
Professional dominatrices (dominant women who submissive men hire for consensual sadomasochism) are not a recent addition to the workforce; before her death in 1836, a London-based dominatrix named Theresa Berkley operated an early 19th century equivalent of what would be called a BDSM (bondage, domination, sadism and masochism) dungeon today. Submissive men went to Berkley’s establishment to be chained up, whipped, birched and caned, and she enjoyed a loyal clientele. But in Berkley’s day, professional domination was very underground; for that matter, it was very underground as recently as the 1970s and 1980s. But with BDSM having become increasingly visible (at least a more softcore version of BDSM), professional domination has become increasingly plentiful. And in the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression of the 1930s, more and more women have (according to well-known professional dominatrices like Mistress Nina Payne in New York City and Mistress Bella Vendetta in Massachusetts) been looking to professional domination as a possible source of income. ...
Susan Wright, president/founder of the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (a BDSM rights organization), said that the majority of women who get into professional domination do so on a part-time or freelance basis—and she has found that many college students and single mothers like professional domination because of the flexible hours.
“A lot of women who go into pro-domination are looking for something to help bridge the gap,” Wright observed. “There are some women who go into pro-domination services and really feel a calling for it; it’s something they intend to make their long-term career. But I think the percentage of women who feel that way is smaller than the percentage of women who are looking for something to help bridge the gap. I think there is a larger percentage of women who are looking at it as something to do part-time or something to do until their career gets started. You find a lot of students doing it, and women in the arts are drawn to pro-domination services because they can do that part-time and still have time to devote to their art. It’s something they can do to make money without having to work a 40-hour week, and it’s also good for single mothers for that reason; they can spend more time with the kids.”
Wright added that women who get into professional domination also like the fact that they won’t be having vaginal intercourse with clients (unlike prostitution) and won’t be asked to take their clothes off (unlike stripping). Being a pro-domme typically involves restraining and torturing naked men, but the dominatrix, unlike the submissive, keeps her clothes on during sessions.
In the past, many people in the adult entertainment industry (which includes everything from Internet porn to BDSM-related activities to stripping to phone sex) claimed that adult entertainment was recession-proof or at least recession-resistant. But BDSM, like other areas of erotic entertainment, has been feeling the economic pinch—and Wright said that the economic downturn has been making professional domination both more competitive and more crowded. “I think it’s a double-edged sword,” Wright explained. “When the economy is tough and people are looking around for part-time jobs or alternate careers, I think you will have more women becoming pro-dommes and seeing it as a way to make a lot of money very fast—particularly if they’re trying to go to school. But the other side of that is that in a bad economy, there is less spending money—which means there is less demand for pro-domination services.” ...
SALT LAKE CITY -- Reality TV stars Kody Brown and his four wives say they just want one thing: to be left alone.
As authorities investigate them for bigamy, the TLC "Sister Wives" family is asking a federal judge to overturn part of Utah's bigamy law because it bans them from living together and criminalizes sexual relationships between unmarried consenting adults.
"What they are asking for is the right to structure their own lives, their own family, according to their faith and their beliefs," said Jonathan Turley, their attorney, adding that the lawsuit is about privacy – not polygamy.
The case in federal court in Utah, however, could open up the possibility that a way of life for tens of thousands of self-described Mormon fundamentalists could be decriminalized.
While all states outlaw bigamy, some like Utah have laws that both prohibit having more than one marriage license at a time and also ban adults from living together and having a sexual relationship.
The latter provision could include same-sex couples, unmarried heterosexual couples and those, like the Browns, who do not have licenses but have created within their homes a marriage-like relationship.
Turley, a noted constitutional expert, argued that, under previous U.S. Supreme Court rulings, such as one that struck down Texas' sodomy law, private intimate relationships between consenting adults are constitutionally protected.
The lawsuit doesn't aim to challenge Utah's right to refuse to recognize plural marriage, nor are the Browns seeking multiple marriage licenses, Turley said. ...