Just in time for Pride: Yesterday, the City filed its response to a lawsuit recently filed by ten men who were present at the Atlanta Eagle the night it was improperly raided by the Atlanta Police Department. See, I say "improperly" because it's been established several times over — in a previous settlement, an outside investigation commissioned by the city, as well as an investigation report prepared by the APD itself — that officers involved in the raid did NOT follow procedure. And certain APD procedures that were followed were later deemed unconstitutional by a federal judge.
In its response to this most recent lawsuit, the City basically says that the raid was not improper. Here's the dumb-or-brilliant part: They've phrased it so they're not necessarily arguing that NO ONE'S rights were violated or that the police didn't act inappropriately toward SOME PEOPLE — just not these particular plaintiffs.
Here are some highlights from the response (just to clarify, "City Defendants" includes the officers who conducted the raid, several of whom have already been fired for their role in the raid and the subsequent coverup): ...
Attorney Dan Grossman told CL today that he expected the City would argue damages — yeah, we were wrong, but how much is that hour spent lying on a filthy barroom floor really worth? — but didn't expect they'd argue the raid itself was acceptable.
In an emailed statement he said, "These statements directly contradict the conclusions of the city's two formal investigation reports, which found widespread violations of the patrons' constitutional rights."
Grossman describes the argument as "frivolous," and says bringing it before a judge could expose the City to sanctions — and paying the plaintiff's legal fees.
UPDATE: City spokesperson Sonji Dade acknowledges that the city's answer to the new lawsuit may sound incongruous with the court settlements it has previously made, but says it reflects standard legal practice.
"There are plaintiffs named in this new suit that the city hasn't yet confirmed were present in the Eagle that night," she says. "The legal strategy at this point has to be to deny the allegations and go from there."
If that sounds to you like the city will eventually settle most of these cases, too, we'd agree.
She’ll beat you. She’ll bite you. And she can get you locked up for 15 to life.
Former state prosecutor Alisha Smith, a k a the feared dominatrix Alisha Spark, looked ultra-demure in a black pants suit accented by a coquettish pink blouse yesterday as she and her bad-ass lawyer, Gloria Allred, complained that, for the first time in pursuing her dual passions -- doling out justice while beating willing butts -- she’d been manhandled.
Smith abruptly quit her $78,825-a-year job battling securities fraud for the state Attorney General’s Office, she announced at a press conference at the Friars Club.
This after being suspended without pay last month when her bosses learned from The Post about her frisky nocturnal ministrations.
Famous in the S&M world for her skillful spandex-clad spankings, Smith, while not denying her freaky ways, says she did not make money trolling the dungeons while working for the state’s top law-enforcement official, a job she’s held since 2002.
A standing executive order prohibits AG’s office employees from taking in $1,000 from any other source.
As if to show she has not a whit of shame about her extracurricular high-jinks, Smith brought two photos of herself to the press conference in which she’s dressed as her alter ego -- in a low-cut pink spandex get-up for Valentine’s Day, black spandex for Halloween.
“It’s very fashionable for young women to wear latex,’’ Allred said, bungling the name of the material for one that’s even more kinky. “Marc Jacobs has shown latex on the runway for fall and winter 2011. Katy Perry also wore it.’’
Even these pix are tame compared with the skin-tight, see-through dress and heart-shaped pasties in which Smith was photographed at a recent fetish event.
Yesterday, Smith was righteously angry about her career malfunction.
“All of [the AG’s] actions towards me have been extremely disturbing because I have never accepted any money or payment from any outside source for anything while I have been employed by the New York Attorney General’s Office,’’ Smith said.
Allred also took a swipe at her bosses. “Very quickly, and without checking with Ms. Smith to determine if the story about to run was true or false, and without providing any hearing to Ms. Smith, the New York Attorney General’s Office suspended her without pay.’’...
In a press conference yesterday with high-powered attorney Gloria Allred at her side, Assistant State Attorney General and accused money-for-lashings dominatrix Alisha Smith resigned her post, but not before criticizing her employer for a breach of public decency. "All of [the AG's] actions towards me have been deeply disturbing because I have never accepted any money or payment from any outside source for anything," Smith said.
According to ABC, she later displayed two photos of her in spandex outfits, and Allred suggested that "Employers do not have the right to go on fishing expeditions into an employee private sexual activities and an employee should not have to sacrifice their privacy about their sex life in order to keep a job," except when people are dumb enough to share on Facebook.
Smith, who is allegedly known as "Alisha Spark" in the BDSM community, was praised by then-Attorney General Cuomo back in 2009 for helping to win a $5 billion settlement from Bank of America and others for securities fraud. Allred said Attorney General Schneiderman's office was investigating Smith because of a "source" in a New York Post article that told the paper she received payment for her services, which is illegal unless first cleared with her employers.
"The AG…called her in and asked her numerous questions about her private sexual activities, inquiring about whether or not she only brought boyfriends into her bedroom and what she did with them," Allred said. Smith, 36, has been suspended without pay from her $78K/year job for a month, and she and Allred haven't yet decided whether to sue the AG's office or the Post. Shneiderman's press secretary released a one-sentence statement on the matter: "Prior to the conclusion of the investigation, this office received the employee’s letter of resignation. The resignation was voluntary and accepted.” The AG's office also insists that the claims against Smith were serious and warranted investigation.
The Post's Andrea Peyser writes in typical fashion, "…she’s unemployed. Considering the bruising the kinky one inflicted on the reputation of the state, it’s for the best." Judging other (highly professional and effective!) people for their BDSM activities in New York in 2011? Oh, that's a paddlin'.
@WickedGrounds is closed today. We are very sorry for any inconvenience.
That tweet went out two Wednesdays ago. It was at once cryptic and unsurprising. On the one hand, it might just mean what it said: Wicked Grounds was closed for the day. On the other, it could mean something more, because the city's only kink-oriented coffeehouse had suffered financially since its opening. The fact that it was still open at all was because of an enormous effort by regular clientele to raise funds. (The owners had announced it would close at the end of April.) When the tweet went out, everyone froze for a minute, wondering whether the axe had finally dropped.
Once the baristas started posting on Twitter and Fetlife about finding new jobs, it seemed very clear: Wicked Grounds was closed for good -- and with it an important hub of San Francisco's BDSM community.
I can't pretend to have journalistic objectivity on this subject. For the past two years, Wicked Grounds has been central to my social life in the city. When it opened, I wrote it up for CarnalNation, the website where I worked at the time, and when it looked like it would close, I participated in the fundraisers to keep it open. A lot of my writing has been done sitting at one of its tables while people openly practiced bondage knots a few feet away. My main response to its closing is a profound sense of grief and loss.
Those feelings are even more acute because the story of Wicked Grounds says so much about the state of San Francisco's sexual subculture. Just getting the café's doors open in 2009 was a community effort. Before the first coffee was poured, people volunteered their help to get the space into shape. Co-owner Ryan Galiotto (who was joined by his wife Rose White) acknowledges that they probably wouldn't have been able to open without that assistance.
But as much as that says something about the fundamental decency of our local pervs, the closing of Wicked Grounds also shows a real problem: Kinksters are fighting tooth and nail to keep community spaces. It's not just one coffeehouse. ...
I believe most modern Americans have a very low capacity for pleasure. I don't just mean sex. I mean being tactile, receiving touch, feeling the wind rush past your body, swimming, getting in bed at night and rolling around in your clean sheets for a few minutes. Tactile pleasure makes us more whole. I believe we all need sensual touch every day.
It's highly important for me to tune into the subtleties of sensation in my body. It's transformational, and I can bring it into my life 24/7, from writing an article to having a business meeting. I can be present and involved, wanting to expand everything I do to its most delicate and exquisite place -- because that's what I practice during sex. As I just suggested, there are other ways to find that capacity, but sex works for me.
Unfortunately though, as a society, it appears we're going virtual. There are so many ways to communicate these days via electronics that I believe we're going to see a rise in very sophisticated teledildonics -- people remotely controlling devices to stimulate a partner somewhere far away. Stuff like that is already starting to happen.
Also, S and M practices are popular, because people in this culture are constantly craving the next level of excitement, a bigger dopamine rush in the brain. That neural reward circuit is addictive, which is why so many westerners are into compulsive cycles of smoking, drinking, drug taking, internet surfing, multitasking, fast driving, and just pushing the edges all the time, looking for sharper highs. So people's sexuality gravitates to harder faster stronger. "Give me something edgier, more out there."
Neo-Tantric practices are edgy in a different way. When you move backwards into subtle areas of breath, softer presence, sensual touch, those kinds of practices are expandable for a lifetime. You can get more and more detailed and minute with what you're exploring. You can look for a new erogenous zone under the eye or on the neck, or it suddenly dawns on you to try using both your hands in some different way when you're touching your partner, or to get your partner to move energy by brushing energy away from their genitals up to their chest. And then they get the idea, "Oh that feels different! I've got to breathe deeper and expand into this . . ." So you're always in new territory!
Now someone who's really into BDSM might say you can always find more territory there as well. Well, fine, but at some point, doing that, you're going to be playing with seriously dangerous edges. Whereas with tantra, the scary edges are more likely to move you into kundalini experiences, or profound states of consciousness, or super-deep intimacy where you don't know where your body went, where you've gotten so involved in the lovemaking that your boundaries have dissolved and you don't know whether it's you or your partner who's having the orgasm....
Every once in a while, someone will ask me a question about something BDSM-related that I feel “done with”; I feel like I did all my thinking about those topics, years ago. But it’s still useful to get those questions today, because it forces me to try and understand where my head was at, three to seven years ago. It forces me to calibrate my inner processes. I often think of these questions as the “simple” ones, or the “101? questions, because they are so often addressed in typical conversation among BDSMers. Then again, lots of people don’t have access to a BDSM community, or aren’t interested in their local BDSM community for whatever reason. Therefore, it’s useful for me to cover those “simple” questions on my blog anyway.
Plus, just because a question is simple doesn’t mean the question is not interesting.
One such question is the “BDSM versus sex” question. Is BDSM always sex? Is it always sexual? A lot of people see BDSM as something that “always” includes sex, or is “always sexual in some way”. In the documentary “BDSM: It’s Not What You Think!“, one famous BDSM writer is quoted saying something like: “I would say that eros is always involved in BDSM, even if the participants aren’t doing anything that would look sexual to non-BDSMers.”
But a lot of other people see BDSM, and the BDSM urge, as something that doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with sex — that is separate from sex.
I see two sides to this question: the political side, and the “how does it feel?” side. Both sides are intertwined; when it comes to sex, politics can’t help shaping our experiences (and vice versa). I acknowledge this. And yet even when I try to account for that, there is still something deeply different about the way my body feels my BDSM urges, as opposed to how my body feels sexual urges. I don’t think that those bodily differences could ever quite go away, no matter how my mental angle on those processes changed. ...
SPACES: Sex Positive Autonomous Coalition for Environmental Sustainability. The wordy acronym may not roll off the tongue, but with this project, former Slug Elias Martinez and current UCSC student Aaron White hope to create a buzz and get people talking.
The work-in-progress is a multipronged project focused on promoting not only sex positivity but practices that are environmentally sustainable. For example, by making — and teaching how to make — vegan, “upcycled” (a term meaning repurposed from other objects) sex toys, SPACES is showing support for sexual freedom and eco-friendly practices with leather-free products.
“We decided to create an organization that addressed more of the needs and issues that we saw needed [to be] addressed,” White said. “When you have sex positivity, you are more open to the idea of sex. It doesn’t necessarily mean you engage in it, but you support people who are having it.”
Martinez and White make their products, including floggers, whips and harnesses, from extensively sterilized used bike parts, like inner tubes.
“It’s something that I’m really good at, and I really like making vegan alternatives,” Martinez said. “Our products are as good or better than the leather products in the market now.”
White said their products are user-tested and improvements are made based on feedback. They are not currently making products for penetration and have no plans to begin making them.
In the past Martinez and White have worked both independently and collaboratively on various workshops on topics such as queer anarchy and BDSM (bondage, discipline, sadism and masochism). White said he’d like to see these workshops continued.
Both Martinez and White said they hope to see several large-scale projects come to fruition, including a database identifying what businesses are queer-friendly “safe spaces.” White said while there are regional networks of queer-friendly businesses, there is nothing on the national level.
“Creating a national registry insures businesses are staying true to their word and remaining queer-friendly,” White said. ...
Beyond the Bedroom is described by co-organizer Dan Powers, aka Daka-Dan, as an October 16 educational event about sex. But police in Lakewood, where Beyond the Bedroom was originally scheduled to take place, weren't so sure, due in part to a possible live demonstration of orgasmic meditation, not to mention a BDSM class and videos featuring female ejaculation.
"They didn't say we couldn't hold the event there," Daka-Dan recalls. "But they did say if any of the presenters did anything illegal, they'd be arrested, and me and my partner" -- pro-polyamory nonprofit Loving More's Robyn Trask -- "would be arrested, too."
Steve Davis, spokesman for the Lakewood Police Department, puts it differently, maintaining that only what he refers to via e-mail as "live sexual acts" were described as forbidden. But Daka-Dan and Trask were freaked out enough to relocate Beyond the Bedroom to Westminster anyhow.
According to Daka-Dan, "Beyond the Bedroom is a spinoff of what used to be called the Sex Show or the Sex and So Much More Show. That event was half adult-entertainment and half adult-sex education -- and the combination didn't work that well for the adult-education part.
"A lot of people didn't know education was available; they came for the porn. And even though they were appreciative of the education, it was hard to do a meditation-type class about slow orgasms when a screaming-orgasm event was happening onstage. So my wife at the time and I decided to put together an all-education event, with presentations about everything from relationships and how to communicate better to the wilder side of the lifestyle -- swinging, polyamory, and other things people might not have heard about but would want to learn more about."
With that in mind, Daka-Dan began looking for a hotel at which to base Beyond the Bedroom, and he eventually settled on the Sheraton at 360 Union in Lakewood. He says the sales manager at the Sheraton was kept fully informed about what would be taking place, and his fellow organizers went out of their way not to offend the sensibilities of other guests -- by, for instance, arranging for vendors of products such as dildos and vibrators to be located in a side room to which members of the general public wouldn't have access. ...