I recently realized that the benefits I get from practicing yoga—peace, energy, strength—I also get from another activity: BDSM. With yoga, when I hit the mat, nothing else matters. I am no longer a student, I don’t have homework or responsibilities. I just go through the motions, shift poses as I breathe in and out, move my body, push it further. In BDSM, I identify as a “bottom,” which means that in a scene—the space and scenario in which my partner and I play—I’m not necessarily submissive, but I am on the receiving end of pain and/or sensations. BDSM is a vital force in my life, part of my sexual identity, though not always sexual. It’s something I need on a regular basis, much like exercise.
According to a research team studying the science of BDSM at Northern Illinois University, it makes sense that yoga and bottoming have similar benefits, especially when it comes to altered states of consciousness. NIU’s team, led by professor of social and evolutionary psychology, Dr. Brad Sagarin, had participants put into pairs for a scene with one person topping and the other bottoming. Using questionnaires, cognitive testing (specifically the Stroop test), and saliva samples to measure the stress hormone cortisol before and after the scenes, Sagarin’s team concluded that both tops and bottoms enter into (different) altered states of consciousness.
For tops, this state is called “flow” (or here, topspace). Kathryn Klement, a doctoral candidate in the social psychology program at NIU, says, “In topspace, individuals feel like they are in the moment and [aware of their] next steps. While people in subspace report feeling sort of dreamy and out of it, people in topspace are very focused and driven.”
While flow is an altered state of consciousness, it doesn’t affect one’s cognitive functioning as much as a bottom's state of altered consciousness, called “transient hypofrontality” (here, subspace). Arne Dietrich originally proposed the transient hypofrontality hypothesis and investigated it as runner’s high. He suggested it was possibly analogous to meditation, and other mind states, such dreaming, hypnosis, and various drug highs. Klement explains that “when we engage in certain activities, our brain has to redirect bloodflow to certain parts based on priorities.” She added that the theory of transient hypofrontality suggests that “during this altered state, there is reduced bloodflow to the part of the brain which handles a lot of executive function, like working memory, attention, and temporal integration.”
This state was also reflected when researchers found that bottoms' cortisol levels went up during the scene (as their bodies responded to stress), but their self-reported levels of stress went down. “This is why,” Klement says, “people in such an altered state report effects of time distortion, disinhibition from social constraints, and changes in focused attention.” Other subjective experiences of subspace include reduction of pain; feelings of floating, peacefulness, living in the here and now; and little active decision making. ...
Love doesn’t just come in pairs. Is it time that marriage laws come to recognise the fact?
By Melissa Hogenboom / Pictures by Olivia Howitt
As a child Franklin Veaux recalls hearing his school teacher read a story about a princess who had a tantalising dilemma. Two male suitors had been wooing her and she had to choose between them. Franklin wondered why she could not choose both.
This early insight was revealing. Franklin has to this day never stuck to one relationship at a time. “I have never been in a monogamous relationship in my life. When I was in high school I took two dates to my senior prom. I lost my virginity as a threesome.”
Today he lives with his long-term girlfriend in a home he shares with her other boyfriend. Occasionally his partner’s teenage daughter also stays over. He is also in four other long-distance relationships, people he sees with varying degrees of frequency.
Franklin and his girlfriends are what’s called polyamorous or “poly” as the community tends to call it. Being poly simply means you can be in more than one relationship, with the full support and trust of however many partners they choose to have.
Polyamory does not feature in any census tick box but anecdotal evidence suggests that it is on the rise. Some are even calling for it to be recognised by law following the legalisation of gay marriage in the UK and the US. All this raises of the question of whether the future of love may be very different from our current conceptions of romance.
But love has always been the same, right? A man falls for a woman, they get married, pop out a few children and stay together in a harmonious and monogamous relationship for life.
Sorry romantics. This wasn’t, and still isn’t, always the picture of love. Polygamy – where more than one spouse is allowed – was the norm for many of our hunter-gatherer ancestors. Monogamy started flourishing when our ancestors began to settle down. A preference for it then appears to have arisen, among many other reasons, for economic purposes.
As many as 83% of societies around the world allow polygamy
It made it easier for fathers to divide and share valuable commodities such as land with their children. Monogamy later got hijacked by romantic love by idealistic 19th Century Victorians. “The idea of sexual exclusivity started emerging fairly late in the game,” says professor of law Hadar Aviram at UC Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco, US.
Even today monogamy is the minority relationship style around the world. Cultural estimates suggest that as many as 83% of societies around the world allow polygamy.
Now there is a fairly new player in the relationship game, at least as far as the public are concerned. In the last two decades, sociologists, legal scholars and the public have shown great interest towards polyamory and it’s making them reassess the very nature of romance.
The word polyamory was first coined in the 1960s and literally means “many loves” in Latin. That’s exactly what it is, but talking to poly individuals makes it quickly apparent that there is no one way to be poly. There are no immediate rules. Some people, like Franklin have live-in partners with additional liaisons outside the home. Others have a mixture of short and long-term relationships.
Some live in a big group with their partners and their partner’s other partner(s), so called “family style polyamory”. You get the idea. The one thing they all have in common is openness, understanding, trust and acceptance from all involved.
As you might imagine these kinds of relationships take a lot of work to maintain, so being poly is far from an easy option. For starters, to keep more than one relationship going, small logistical matters require a lot of communication. “Our relationships are a lot more challenging,” says Eve Rickert, one of Franklin’s long distance partners and co-author of their polyamory book More than Two. ...
Welcome to Louisiana, where women who are old enough to vote and join the military have just been declared children under the state law, at least when it comes to sex and certain forms of employment.
Why? Ostensibly, it has to do with sex trafficking. Under the new law, "sex trafficking victims" ages 18-20 cannot be convicted of prostitution. Sounds reasonable, right? But Louisiana law already declares that sex-trafficking victims—of any age—are to be excluded from prostitution charges ("No victim of trafficking ... shall be prosecuted for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked"). What the new law actually does is declare all 18- to 20-year-old sex workers as de facto trafficking victims, even if they're workin 100 percent willingly and independenty. No matter if there's no "trafficker" exerting force or coercion, Louisiana law considers them victims, rather than perpetrators, of a crime.
So Louisiana just effectively decriminalized prostitution for 18-to-20 year olds? That's the positive spin we can put on it.
Conversely, however, the state has made anyone who works with or helps young-adult sex workers—a friend who gives them a ride, escort agency owners, other sex workers, and their clients—into folks guilty of the crime of human trafficking. And not knowing the age of the "victim" is no defense.
Those convicted must register as sex offenders and spend a minimum of 15 years in prison. The law, which takes effect August 1, allows for a maximum sentence of up to 50 years. So a 20-year-old woman working in the sex trade independently—posting her own ads online, running her own website, arranging appointments with clients, keeping any money she makes—cannot be charged with prostitution, but anyone who books an appointment with her could face a lifetime on the sex-offender registery and a mandatory minimum prison sentence of over a decade.
The age of consent in Louisiana, by the way, is 17-years-old. Fourteen, 15, and 16-year-olds can legally consent to sex with someone up to age 17. But if a 17-year-old attempts to pay an 19-year-old for sex, they could spend 50 years behind bars. ...
For growing numbers of people, monogamy just doesn't work. So what happens when you throw out the rule book? Tanya Sweeney meets the couples in love with polyamory
Much as its name suggests, polyamory is the practice of engaging in multiple sexual relationships with the consent of everyone involved. It's a different entity to 'swinging' (which is simply sex with different partners), or having a bit on the side (most polyamorous people see their partners as equal in terms of love).
Catalina Vieru, a 29-year-old European Voluntary Service worker from Dundalk, first heard the word 'polyamory' six years ago. As it happens, she was already in an open relationship with another man.
"I never felt like I could be monogamous," she explains. "With my ex-partner, we decided that the safest for us would be to have a sexually open relationship, meaning that it was okay for both of us to date or have sex with others, as long as we didn't get involved emotionally.
"During that time, I started wondering about what would happen if I'd allow myself to develop feelings also.
"After we broke up, I started dating a woman and we talked a lot about polyamory and we started dating different people and creating different bonds. What helped a lot (and still does) was a very real, authentic communication.
"We've been together for two years," she adds. "At the moment, I am also involved with three more people and a couple, and I have a different type of connection, all very special, with each of them."
Certainly, Catalina could be onto something: it's not likely that one lover will fulfill all needs (romantic, intellectual, sexual, emotional), and having different lovers to fulfil different needs sounds like a good way of getting most needs met. And, contrary to popular belief, a poly relationship can be every bit as loving, honest and committed as a monogamous one.
Part of the power of polyamory, say its practitioners, is that honesty, respect and communication are paramount to keeping the wheels of the relationships greased. Polyamorous people aren't oversexed or promiscuous, and no one is cheating or coercing a partner into a relationship they don't want. There is no need for clandestine encounters or affairs, because everyone in a poly relationship is on the same page.
Monogamous relationships aren't without their complications, certainly, but the fact that three or more people are involved in a poly relationship means that the interpersonal combinations are plentiful.
There is a 'V' (one person is the 'hinge', and has two lovers who aren't romantically involved with each other), a 'triad' or 'quad' (a relationship between three or four people). A 'W' denotes a fivesome in which two lovers have their own separate lovers.
"I do believe they all have the same potential of being as honest or dishonest as the monogamous relationships," says Catalina.
"If you nurture a safe space for all the people involved to feel supported, listened to, respected and valued, then you will have a committed and honest relationship, regardless of its type."
IT engineer Balazs Balogh, 31, originally from Hungary but living in Galway, became aware of the concept through a web-comic, and found his mind sufficiently 'blown'.
"Up until that point I believed I came up with the whole thing, then I discovered there's a worldwide community with more or less the same idea," he explains.
"My first tries were far from perfect; in hindsight they were rather set up to fail as my partners weren't explicitly poly themselves while being okay with the general concept.
"That's how we learn I guess.
"I'm married and have two kids, so that forms a foundation to build on," he adds. "I usually meet my other partners separately, and have time dedicated just for them.
"We've had a partner living in with us full time for a few weeks once, and I still hold that time dear. If people would've seen it they would be surprised how 'ordinary' it all was.
"One thing that particularly stuck with me was when they were cooking together while having a chat, it was so heartwarming I could've watched them for hours. There's this saying that gets thrown around a lot by poly people that by loving more, love doesn't run out, but multiplies. I felt exactly that."
That's not to say that complications don't arise: "Some poly people say they just don't feel jealous and never did - God, I wish I was like that, because feeling envious or jealous is really not fun," Catalina reflects.
"I think most of my current partners feel the same way. Once we get emotionally involved with someone, we start feeling envious when that person is seeing other people and spends time with them. I deal with it by being very self-aware and knowing that envy appears because of my fears and it has nothing to do with my partner or their partner." ...
In a decision that begs to be characterized as “First Amendment gone wild,” an appeals court has all but struck down a 1988 law that requires pornographers to maintain records showing that actors aren’t underage. For good measure, the court said it violated the Fourth Amendment to require the documents to be available anytime for government inspection. These twin holdings are both plausible applications of recent Supreme Court doctrine. But the results are so absurd that they call out for review by the highest court itself.
The laws in question appear in section 2257 of the Child Protection and Obscenity Enforcement Act of 1988. They arose from Congress’s desire to fight child pornography when the First Amendment has been interpreted to protect adult pornography, including depictions in which an adult actor is presented as underage.
The 2257 laws essentially require anyone making sexually explicit films to keep records documenting the identity and age of all performers. The records in turn must be available for inspection by the attorney general of the U.S. “at all reasonable times.”
Since 1988, these laws have applied without causing any crisis for constitutional free speech or privacy. In 2012, free-speech advocacy groups acting on behalf of pornographers brought a challenge to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit -- and lost. But in 2015, the Supreme Court decided a major free-speech case as well as an important Fourth Amendment case. Buoyed by new hopes, the challengers returned to the courts.
They were right to do so: The Third Circuit reversed its 2012 holding on both fronts. The free-speech holding is probably the more shocking, so I’ll start with that.
The plaintiffs’ core argument was that, under a 2015 decision called Reed v. Gilbert, the 2257 laws are not content-neutral, and therefore must be subjected to what the courts call strict scrutiny. That means the law must be justified by a compelling state interest, and must be narrowly tailored to that interest. This standard is so high that in the free-speech context, it is almost always fatal to the law. Holding that strict scrutiny is necessary is almost (but not quite) a holding that a law is unconstitutional.
In 2012, the Third Circuit had held that section 2257 was content-neutral because the purpose of the law was to protect against child pornography. That was correct under then-existing precedent.
But the new Third Circuit opinion says that the 2015 Reed case should be read to say that purpose is irrelevant to content neutrality. The Reed case said that a sign-display ordinance in an Arizona town wasn’t content-neutral because it created different rules for different signs. The Third Circuit held that section 2257 is similarly not content-neutral, because it applies only to sexually explicit speech.
The government tried to save the statute under a doctrine that the Supreme Court has only ever applied to adult theaters and nude dancing. That doctrine says that when speech or expressive conduct is regulated for its “secondary effects” not its content, it can be subjected to lower level scrutiny known as “intermediate” -- much easier to survive.
The court flatly rejected the invitation to extend the secondary-effects doctrine to other free-speech contexts. It said, somewhat plausibly, that doing so would endanger much free speech, because the government could almost always say its goal wasn't to ban some type of speech but the effects of the speech. ...
It wasn’t always Fred Hoverman’s intention to sell sex toys. Originally he was a mechanical engineer. A combination of boredom with his work and a desire to enhance people’s lives through pleasure prompted a career switch.
In 2012, Hoverman opened Kink Shoppe, the 2016 Reader’s Choice Shopping & Style winner for both Women’s Clothing and Giftware, at 126 Market Street. The high-end adult boutique aims to welcome customers for an experience that is comfortable and educational.
Some considered quaint, tourist-heavy Old City to be a surprising location for a store that sells vibrators and bondage gear. Hoverman was excited to set up in this neighborhood and says, “It encompasses everything I love about Philly in general: history, culture, great shops & restaurants.”
Previously the space served as a gallery and Kink Shoppe honors that legacy by maintaining an open floorplan and showcasing the work of local artists on the walls. There’s also the store’s contribution to First Fridays, where patrons are invited inside for wine samplings and product demonstrations.
Initially there was hesitation from some residents, concerned about the stigma associated with adult businesses, but Kink Shoppe’s community involvement, product quality and educational focus ultimately won them over.
Commitment to sexuality education drives Hoverman’s business practices. “Sex is seen as taboo, but we've created a safe space for people to explore and learn,” he says, “whether it be taking a class we offer or just coming to ask questions about the products and being able to get a knowledgeable response.”
This commitment to making customer visits an educational opportunity starts with the store’s hiring process. “Our staff includes well-tenured members of the industry and individuals degreed in teaching and human sexuality,” says Hoverman. “Everyone goes through a training period when they learn about products, safety, and how to interact with customers. We also provide resources for our employees to increase their knowledge, including books and free access to our own classes.”
So they feel more receptive to learning, patrons are first giventhe space to comfortably warm to the store. Customers are greeted when they arrive, but given an opportunity to peruse the shelves without pressure. The employees make themselves available for questions, to provide information about the products, and make suggestions based on the person’s needs. Some customers want very little input while others want an experience that’s more akin to personal shopping. The mission is to make shopping an illuminating, stress-free experience that customers will want to repeat. ...
e first time you heard the word “Oneida,” it was probably in the context of silverware. Perhaps it was before a Christmas dinner, when your mom or grandmother instructed you get out the “good silver” made by Oneida Limited. Even though it was only silverplate rather than sterling, your family probably stored it in a velvet-lined wooden case. Or maybe you saw an ad depicting an elegant table set with Oneida flatware while flipping through the pages of “Good Housekeeping” or “Better Homes and Gardens.” You might also have encountered Oneida while watching “The Price Is Right,” enthralled by the model wowing a studio audience when she opened a chest of gleaming Oneida cutlery for the contestants to bid on.
In fact, Oneida is the name of a First Nations tribe that occupied much of upstate New York long before it was called upstate New York. Given those deep roots, along with its later symbolism as the brand of flatware most associated with American middle-class aspirationalism and traditional gender roles, it’s doubly ironic that Oneida Limited actually emerged from a 19th-century polyamorous communist Christian utopia known as the Oneida Community.
Founded in 1848, and in operation for just over three decades, the Oneida Community was profoundly revolutionary for its time, paving the way for advances in women’s and workers’ rights. At the commune headquartered on the Oneida River in upstate New York, women cut their hair short, ditched the corset, and did the same work as the men. Everyone worked four to six hours a day, and no one accumulated any material possessions—not furniture, not fine clothing, and certainly not silverware.
Most scandalously, commune members engaged in a system of “complex marriage,” believing that loving, open sexual relationships could bring them closer to God. They believed the liquid electricity of Jesus Christ’s spirit flowed through words and touch, and that a chain of sexual intercourse would create a spiritual battery so charged with God’s energy that the community would transcend into immortality, creating heaven on earth.
Ellen Wayland-Smith, a descendant of members of the Oneida commune, delves her into family’s history in her new book, Oneida: From Free Love Utopia to the Well-Set Table. Oneida’s early enterprises included canning fruits and vegetables and manufacturing animal traps, chain link, and silk sewing thread. It was Wayland-Smith’s great-great-grandfather, Charles Cragin, who in 1877 suggested the community start making spoons at its colony in Wallingford, Connecticut, near the rushing Quinnipiac River. The original polyamorous religious commune broke up in 1880 and reorganized its assets into a corporation. In the 1890s, Oneida Community, Limited, started to drop its other products to focus on the cutlery market. For roughly 100 years, the silverware corporation—which was eventually renamed Oneida Limited—thrived under the leadership of the Community’s descendants. However, the 2000s weren’t kind to Oneida, so its executives had to file for bankruptcy in 2006 and sell the brand, which is owned by a houseware conglomerate now.
Wayland-Smith’s book begins in July 1948, when Oneida Limited flatware manufacturer celebrated the Community’s 100th birthday and the company’s reputation as—forgive the pun—a “sterling” example of American industry. On a grandstand outside the original community’s 93,000-square foot Victorian brick home called the Mansion House in Oneida, New York, the crowd enjoyed a soprano and organist performing “The Star-Spangled Banner,” the crowning of a “Silver Queen,” and a string of circus and daredevil acts. At the end of the day, attendees danced to the music of Jimmy Dorsey’s orchestra. At the festivities, the company touted its patriotism and contributions to American capitalism, as well as its devotion to social equality and the golden rule. What attendees didn’t know was that a truckload of papers documenting the Oneida Community’s spiritual-sexual experiments had—just a year before—been taken to the Oneida town dump and set on fire.
“The burning of the papers, which happened in 1947, included original members’ diaries, letters, and the community notes and logs in terms of their sexual practices,” Wayland-Smith explains. “All of these sensitive materials were in that collection. The Oneida descendants knew about the burning, obviously. At the time, they had people knocking at their doors, trying to get access to these papers, and they thought, ‘You know what, we’re going to put an end to this for good.’ In some ways, they were intensely private people.”
Fortunately for Wayland-Smith, previous Oneida chronicler Spencer Klaw, and anyone else who wants to dig into the community’s history, it wasn’t all lost. While the large archive accumulated by Oneida descendant, George Wallingford Noyes, was burned, other family members held onto diaries and letters. Those, along with the myriad publications like books and newspapers the Oneida Community put out into the world, are now housed at the Oneida Community Collection at Syracuse University.
Oneida began—as most utopias do—with the vision of one charismatic leader, in this case, a preacher named John Humphrey Noyes. Born to a well-off family in Putney, Vermont, in 1811, Noyes, an awkward and introverted redhead, grew up lamenting his feelings of sexual frustration. When his religiously devout mother sent him to a tent revival in fall of 1831, the 20-year-old virgin discovered he could channel all his erotic energy into Christianity. ...
There are many forms of consensual non monogamy, ways which people in a relationship negotiate sex and intimacy outside of traditional norms. From car keys in the middle of the room swinging through hand-fasted triads, to relationship anarchy, people have been saying for a while now that there are other ways of doing relationships. Of course, as many advocates of polygamy will point out, traditional depends on where you are standing, and there are a number of cultures across the world who have had different models of how adult relationships can work
Whatever someone calls their way of doing relationships, they encounter the same questions, preconceptions and stereotypes from monogamous people.
1. You must be sex mad!
Some forms of consensual non monogamy are based around sexual encounters, swinging for example. In swinging single people and couples believe that sex is not just reserved for those with whom you have an emotional bond. However, many swingers will only “play” (a term which highlights the easy going, light hearted attitude taken to sex) with those they have built some form of an emotional relationship with. There are very few hard and fast rules around swinging, other than the golden rule of consent.
Many non monogamous people however do not see their relationships as about more sex, but more love, that is what polyamory means after all — “many loves.” For them the idea that they are just looking for more sexual partners is hurtful, it’s about love, emotional connection, not bed hopping. A joke in policy circles is that you need google calendar more than you need a bag of sex toys!
2. I could never have an affair
So often people confuse being unfaithful with polyamory, and its probably the statement which causes more anger than any other. Poly, or whatever form of consensual non monogamy someone practices, is consensual, but people seem to skim over the all important “c word.” If you are deceiving a partner, going behind their back, it’s not polyamory, it’s not consensual for all parties involved. If you ever want to see sparks fly, mention those on poly forums and sites who claim to be poly, but without the consent of their partners. Whilst it is of course difficult if you realize after marriage that you and your partner have different views on monogamy, the ethical solution is to talk, and negotiate. I know from my client work that this is not as impossible as some might suppose. If you are meeting others without the consent of your partner, its a lot of things, but it is not poly.
3. It must be wonderful to never get jealous.
There are some people who don’t seem to get jealous. There are far more people who know that jealousy is a destructive emotion, which eats away at our joy and happiness. Choosing non monogamy does not mean you do not get jealous, there isn’t a handy switch you can turn off. For many poly people it’s about accepting that jealousy isn’t a positive emotion, and working through their feelings rather than giving full reign to them. They may well be jealous, but, they choose not to let the emotion control things. The lovely polar opposite of jealousy is compersion, a beautiful concept, pleasure in a partner’s relationship with another. ...