Listening to people describe their initial discovery of FetLife, the social network for those interested in the BDSM lifestyle, is not unlike listening to the newly converted describe their spiritual awakening. When the website launched in 2007, many who had never disclosed their sexual predilections felt free to do so in what they perceived as a digital safe space. FetLife soon became the home for kinky people seeking like-minded friends and partners, local event listings, and a forum to discuss BDSM in non-judgmental spaces.
But as many users learned last February, FetLife was also the home of an unsophisticated code that left its user data vulnerable to collection and re-publication elsewhere. The incident shed light on a number of FetLife's failures to protect its users. More broadly, the security leak was a reflection of how best practices around safety, privacy, and communication are inconsistently enforced on the site.
The most recent incident started when a man named Mircea Popescu published a blog post titled "The FetLife Meat List—Volume I," which he promised would be the first of several posts featuring a searchable list of female-identified FetLife users under the age of 30. The list contained the FetLife users’ usernames, ages, preferred BDSM roles, and number of FetLife friends, as well as their sexual orientations and locations. The post also included something of a preemptive FAQ about the list, in which Popescu claims the leak was motivated by a desire to call FetLife to task for “putting up the pretense of a ‘fetish for security,’” a reference to a message that shows up on the site when a user signs on for the first time.
While Popescu’s claims about FetLife’s lax security measures were valid, his decision to target women under 30, identify them as “meat,” and bemoan the “alleged abundance of tail” on FetLife in the post belies less than noble motives. But because he wasn’t actually breaking a law by leaking the information, he has already posted up to Volume IV as of April 25.
Of course, Popescu is not a sympathetic character in this story. But the ease with which he exploited the site’s vulnerabilities and FetLife’s subsequent failure to take meaningful action sheds light on the site’s history of turning a blind eye to abuses of people they claim to support.
While BDSM pops up in mainstream culture from time to time, it still remains largely misunderstood and frequently stigmatized. Until 2013, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders classified a number of BDSM behaviors as inherently pathological, and BDSM remains largely illegal under US law. Simply having a FetLife account is not necessarily identifying oneself as a practitioner of BDSM, as the site can be used anonymously with non-identifying email addresses and usernames. But it is still a powerful medium for connection.
“FetLife can be hugely important to someone who is feeling isolated. Facilitating community is a huge service. And ‘coming out’ can be a matter of liberation,” says Tanya Bezreh, who studies disclosure and communication in BDSM. “But there are dangers, and it's a question of risk tolerance.” ...
Last summer, at a friend’s birthday, a man sat next to me, explained that he’d heard I was polyamorous and asked if we could talk about it. He proceeded to explain that he’s a poly person at heart, but that his partner would never go for it: that’s why he cheated on her. I asked if he’d tried communicating about the kind of relationship he really wanted. No. He couldn’t. His partner was too traditional, too closed-minded. I asked how he’d feel if she became romantically involved with someone else. This was a moot point – she would simply never do that. Oh dear.
Polyamory is usually described as ethical non-monogamy – that is, non-monogamy with the consent and knowledge of all involved. But, of course, there are infinitesimal interpretations of that. Whose ethics? Which actions need consent? What exactly do we want or need to know?
It’s not always easy to define exactly what polyamory is, but it’s pretty easy to say what it isn’t. Poly isn’t cheating. It isn’t lying. It isn’t a disregard for the agreements you share with the people you love. And it certainly isn’t positioning monogamous people as more blindly traditional or less emotionally evolved than you.
Despite my interlocutor’s unfortunate attempt to use poly identity as an excuse for shitty treatment of his girlfriend, the conversation did raise an interesting question for me. Are some people “poly at heart” while others are fundamentally monogamous? Is poly something you are, or something you do?
As an academic who’s read too much Judith Butler, I tend to consider action and identity in the same breath. I think the actions we perform over time become our identities. There’s no “deep down”, there’s no “at heart” – rather, if you act mean all the time, then you are mean; and if you act kindly, you are kind.
According to this theory of identity, everyone has the potential to be monogamous or polyamorous. But, given that monogamy is socially sanctioned, while there’s much suspicion and judgment around polyamory, it’s interesting that people end up “acting” or “being” poly at all. Perhaps, like sexual orientation, there’s a genetic component to poly preferences. Certainly – whether because of life experience, biological drive or a combination of both – some people are more drawn to polyamory than others.
Serial monogamy characterised my early romantic life, as it does for many people. By 19, I’d already had four “serious” relationships, each lasting between six and 18 months, and each pursued with the unwavering belief that I’d found my one and only true and lasting love (again).
However, around that time, I also had a period of polyamory. I had no word for it but, for a while, I was dating two people, who were aware of each other and who seemed content to date me anyway. “Emer’s got a boyfriend and a girlfriend!” my friends teased, remarkably cool about my queer polyness in an Irish town where the majority would have prescribed immediate and urgent exorcism. And, as lucky as it was that I managed to count some of the most supportive people in Galway as my besties, it’s also pretty interesting that I found my way to something resembling polyamory in the first place. After all, there’d been no signposts: I’d never seen poly relationships on TV or in real life.
Looking back, I wish I’d had a word. And more: some stuff to read – a copy of What Does Polyamory Look Like? or a poly web-comic such as Kimchi Cuddles. I lacked the tools I needed to communicate and behave in loving, respectful ways; to do poly right. And, unsurprisingly, I made a balls of everything. Like monogamy, poly needs work. But, perhaps unlike monogamy, it also helps to have some theory. You can’t just imitate the patterns you see around you. ...
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Is it a church or a swingers club posing as a church? That’s the big question posed Monday by the councilwoman who represents the Madison district.
The question comes in the wake of a once-proposed swingers club, The Social Club, filing paperwork to renovate the building to become a church.
News 2 learned more about the church Monday, called United Fellowship Center, and how easy it is to become a minister.
In a March 25 interview with the property owners’ lawyer, Larry Roberts told News 2, “My clients pulled a permit for a church.”
But many are skeptical, including District 8 Councilwoman Karen Bennett.
“Do I really think they are a church? Not really,” she said.
Bennett received an advance flyer for the church, which says it will be honoring all yearly subscribers and members of The Social Club. The flyer for the United Fellowship Center said men are charged $50 and women $20.
It also states the center believes that “we are children of the same universe,” where everyone is welcome, including Christians, Buddhists, Muslims, Jews, agnostics, pagans and wiccans.
The church’s primary belief is to “do only that which is right.”
“If you have researched constitutional law in Tennessee, a church is something you cannot regulate,” the attorney told News 2.
According to Bennett, the owner of the building has become an ordained minister, a process online that takes less than a minute and requires nothing more than a name and password.
“Churches have a lot of rights, but it is also federally regulated,” she said. “They certainly have their right to become a church; they just need to make sure they follow guidelines. ...
AirBNB can get you a cheap deal on a room, but it's a lousy place to find a sex dungeon.
So says Darren McKeeman, the San Francisco-based co-founder of KinkBNB, a "sex positive" alternative to AirBNB set to start business on May 1.
"The business was inspired after a friend of mine had a listing incident with AirBNB," McKeeman told The Huffington Post. "They rejected her place because there were sex toys visible in the photos."
McKeeman immediately realized he could beat AirBNB at their own game by offering kinksters a way to find kink-friendly accommodations in vacation hotspots.
For instance, one listing for a "Kinky West Coast Getaway" on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, promises a fully-stocked seaside cabin, including a custom spanking bench, a St.Andrew's Cross, a naughty sex swing and a professional massage table.
Another listing for a dungeon in Los Angeles says guests can enjoy an orgy-friendly play space with a kitchen and dungeon, but no air conditioner.
McKeeman expects the concept to be a hit, mainly because it makes it easier for kinksters to enjoy their BDSM lifestyle without the hassle that comes trying to take whips, chains or sex toys through TSA. ...
So slip into those tight leather jeans. That dog collar would look fetching. Add a piercing in a place your mother wouldn't imagine. Or take your lover to a trendy erotic play-space and make lots of fast friends.
Your therapist says it's OK. In fact, she or he might be there. (I know a few therapists who partake.)
The American Psychiatric Association has gotten kinky. Well, not quite -- its annual meetings each May are pretty buttoned-up affairs. But its newest catalog of mental illnesses, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (known as the DSM V) does some unzipping. You can now do whatever, with whomever (consent required, please), on your own or in groups, and be in the pink of mental health -- so long as you don't suffer "clinically significant distress or impairment."
Credit cultural change, kinky lobbyists (the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom pressed the APA to stop diagnosing edgy pleasures), or -- who knows. But the committees of psychiatrists who rethink disease categories when the APA revises its diagnostic manual dropped "fetishes" sans "distress or impairment" from their list of disorders.
If your style of kinky fun is fetish-free (the APA defines "fetishism" as sexual use of "inanimate objects"), the new erotic liberation still has you covered. The DSM used to treat all "paraphilias" (APA-speak for "atypical" sexual practices) as sicknesses; not any more, so long as the fun is distress-free.
So what Christian and Anastasia do in Fifty Shades of Grey is (mostly) healthy, as of the DSM V's May 2013 release date. So are sex parties of the sort enjoyed by Dominique Strauss-Kahn -- the next president of France, until his alleged doings with a hotel housekeeper undid him.
Psychiatry's new sexual willingness came along just in time to save the field from embarrassment. If millions of Americans are getting kinky (or want to), diagnosing kink as disease would expand the ranks of the mentally ill implausibly. ...
Some people expressed concern about the definition of sexual consent within Bondage and Discipline, Dominance and Submission, Sadism and Masochism following the recent release of the film adaptation of the "50 Shades of Grey" series.
BDSM is a type of sexual relationship where the partners are either dominant or submissive and it can involve roleplaying and restraint.
At a panel April 14, the Office of Victim Services invited psychologists, students and BDSM advocates to speak about consent.
“Some people may misunderstand and think that when sex includes roleplaying or dominance and submission, that a person can do whatever they want to their partner, but that’s not the case," Allison Wynbissinger, Ball State’s victim advocate, said in an email. "Each party still needs to be able to say yes and agree to what is happening.”
Misconception of abuse
Susan Wright, a spokesperson for the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom, said the biggest misconception people have is thinking BDSM is out of control or harmful to people.
“It’s a game people play,” Wright said. “They set out rules and they agree what kind of game they’re playing and they talk about it beforehand. Most times when people have sex, they don’t really talk about it beforehand. They feel the spark and … they get turned on and they don’t talk about, ‘This is what I like when I have sex’ and, ‘This is what my limits are with sex.’ That’s what people who do BDSM have to do, is talk about it first.”
She said with “vanilla sex,” or traditional sex, consent can be implied, and it isn’t always clear whether there could be coercion or fear involved.
When people come into the “kink community,” as Wright called it, she said they finally learn how to talk about sex, because it is not usually something that is taught.
“We have basically no sex education—how to be responsible, how to make sure you do have consent, how to talk about limits and what you really want,” Wright said.
She said for BDSM relationships, there can be consent for one thing, but not for another, and participants are supposed to respect those limits.
“We have a hard time trying to explain this to law enforcement and say this person was sexually assaulted,” Wright said. “They look at it and say ‘Well, they consented to a spanking, how are we going to be able to convince people that she also didn’t want to be sexually penetrated?’ But really it’s simple—she also didn’t consent to being sexually penetrated.”
Bernard Rhombus*, a speaker at last Tuesday’s panel, said in the BDSM community, consent is emphasized and is something that is constantly talked about.
Rhombus said for people who don’t understand the kink community and base what they know off of misconceptions, they tend to jump to the conclusion that people can’t be assaulted if they willingly enter that lifestyle, but that isn’t true.
“Within the community where everyone is supposed to be very hyper-aware of issues and boundary violation, there could be subtle things that to most people wouldn’t seem like a big deal, but would be considered unforgivable sins within the community inside that framework of protecting everyone,” Rhombus said. ...
Though we might try to frame it in more rational, objective terms, design culture is really nothing more than a highly complex, super-developed system of driven-by-object fetishism. It's a world where objects take on meanings and significances far beyond the sum of their material form. Where things inert and external to us resonate deep within our psyche. As designer or consumer, we are drawn towards sensations – the sheen of a particular texture, a particular colourway, the way a particular door swings. We've all had it, that moment when we feel a desperate attraction to a thing, an uncontrollable desire for… it, whatever that 'it' might be.
In the everyday world these sensations are the subtext of objects. But in the explicit world of fetishes – the world of sex and kink – these tendencies come to the surface. Or rather become the surface. Here, trajectories of desire and the objects intersect without any need to sublimate. Desire is desire, not the circuitous set of relationships that usually flow around design. Here design gives (silicon) form to desire. These forms are, most often, highly specific and, it must be said, strange.
Browse the fetish section of specialist outlets and you'll find a world of strange anachronisms. It's a world of faux-medievalness, of studded leather and dungeons, of stocks and pillories, of old fashioned schoolroom discipline embodied by the cane, the obscure world of equestrianism represented in harnesses and riding crops, early 20th century warfare in gas masks and uniforms, anachronistic healthcare in medical play.
Think of the kink.com mansion. In 2006, the BDSM internet pornography producer bought the huge San Francisco Armory, a building whose castle-like appearance once related (perhaps) to its original use as an arsenal for the National Guard. If its aesthetic once suggested the grand history of military fortification, its architectural fantasy of medievalism, castles and prisons coupled with its dilapidated state was ripe for repurposing as BDSM backdrop. Architectural history here is not dry academia but a playground ripe with association for sexual fantasy.
It's a mixed-up set of references for sure, a whirlwind tour through medieval punishment devices, feudalism, Tom Brown's schooldays, stately homes and primitive chemical warfare. They are references that are almost exclusively fetish scene-centric and all things from a long-vanished past. The past seems to have a much stronger hold on our kinky psyche than the future.
It's the same at the more vanilla end of the spectrum, too. Think of the way the underwear of the past has been recycled as a high-end product rich with contemporary ideas of desire. The stockings and corsets of, say Agent Provocateur, are the reality of the past recast as the fantasy of the present. What was once everyday practicality is remade as contemporary exception. Are these things intrinsically sexy? Or have all those buckles and clips gained an erotic charge they never had in their original incarnation? Or, have we, like Pavlov's dog, simply been conditioned to find these things sexy?
We could ask the same of so much of the fantasy wardrobe. Cosplay basics such as school uniforms that are unlike school uniforms, nurses' outfits that certainly don't comply with contemporary NHS heath and safety standards. And French maids? How on earth did the image of French domestic service gain such global cultural traction? Very few of us, I would imagine, have any experience or even knowledge of the source of this fantasy. So why would these images resonate quite so deeply as they seem to?
Maybe it's exactly the distance these images and scenarios have from everyday life that makes them ripe for re-imagining. Their contemporary redundancy and distance from everyday life allows our fetish fantasy imagination to re-inhabit them, provides the space for us to play out roles that are distinct from our normal life and to play out scenarios that would be entirely unacceptable elsewhere. It's their rootedness in other spaces that imbues them with theatrical possibilities.
But there's a greater bite to this world than just roleplay. The distance also provides something else: a safe, contained space where we can play out issues that are very much a part of real life. ...
Report concludes that “management knew or ought to have known” about inappropriate behaviour by former radio host.
The Toronto Star
By: Jacques Gallant
CBC said it had “severed ties” with two senior executives Thursday as it released an independent report that said management “condoned” inappropriate behaviour by former radio host Jian Ghomeshi.
Former head of radio Chris Boyce and HR director Todd Spencer had been on leaves of absence since January.
“Management knew or ought to have known of this behaviour and conduct and failed to take steps required of it in accordance with its own policies to ensure that the workplace was free from disrespectful and abusive conduct,” reads the report from employment lawyers Janice Rubin and Parisa Nikfarjam.
“It is our conclusion that CBC management condoned this behaviour.”
Ghomeshi, who was fired last October, faces seven counts of sexual assault and one count of overcoming resistance by choking. His next court date is April 28. His lawyer says he intends to plead not guilty.
CBC president Hubert Lacroix described the findings as “troubling and disappointing” when speaking to reporters after the report’s release.
“As we have said from the outset, we are, and remain, committed to creating a workplace where safety and respect for one another is a fundamental attribute and non-negotiable,” he said.
“To the extent that standard has not been met, on behalf of this organization, I offer a sincere and unqualified apology to our employees and to Canadians, who have a right to expect a higher standard from their public broadcaster.”
The report found that, in a “small number of cases,” Ghomeshi’s behaviour constituted sexual harassment in the workplace. ...