2014 has been a year of progress for NCSF and for people who are kinky and nonmonogamous. The national conversation about gay marriage, consent, and even Fifty Shades of Grey are transforming mainstream attitudes. The change in the American Psychiatric Association’s DSM-5 stating that BDSM is a healthy form of sexual expression has also had a significant impact on both the courts and public opinion about kink.
Education Outreach Project
The NCSF Board Members and presenters gave Education Outreach Project workshops and tabled at 36 events in 2014 (compared to 22 in 2013), with a focus on consent discussions, BDSM & the Law, and distributing literature such as Kink is Okay and Finding Kink Aware Medical Care.
The groups and events where NCSF presented included: Arizona Men of Leather, Arizona Power Exchange, Atlanta Poly Weekend, BDSM Writers Con, Behind Closed Doors, Beyond The Love, CatalysCon East, Catalyst Art & Cultural Space, Center for Sex Positive Culture, CLAW, COPE, CPI/The Mark, Dark Con, Dark Odyssey Winter Fire, Dark Odyssey Surrender, Desert Dominion, DragonCon, Floating World, Folsom Street East, Future of Monogamy and Non-Monogamy, International Mr. Leather, Kinkfest, Leathermen’s Discussion Group, MSDB Bizarre Bazaar, Paradise Unbound, Poly Living Conference, Polyamory Political Activism Conclave, Portland Leather Alliance, SMART, Society for Sex Therapy & Research 39th Annual Meeting, Southwest Leather Contest, Spanksgiving, Thunder in the Mountains, Up Your Alley - Dore Alley, Winter Wickedness, and the Woodhull Sexual Freedom Summit.
NCSF also exhibited at the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT) 47th Annual Conference on June 4-8th, in Monterey, California. NCSF helped organize a panel presentation on “Social Organizations and BDSM Communities,” moderated by Neil Cannon, PhD, DST and Russell Stambaugh, PhD, DST. The panel was attended by 115 of the 550 participants, and raised over $4,000 for AASECT. The panelists were experienced and articulate kink organizers on the West Coast: Race Bannon, Janet Hardy, Demitri Moshanyii, Richard Sprott, Anna Randall, and Jim and Montaine who run a dungeon-themed B&B in Monterey.
Jim Fleckenstein was the lead presenter on “The Fountain of Youth! The Association of an Open Relationship Orientation with Health and Happiness in a Sample of Older Adults,” a workshop discussing the key findings from the Loving More and NCSF internet survey, the largest-ever sample of self-identified polyamorists.
The NCSF booth in the Exhibit Hall gave away 50 free copies of What Psychology Professionals Should Know About Polyamory, courtesy of a grant by Alan of Polyamory in the News as well as brochures on NCSF’s projects and programs. Nearly 150 copies of NCSF’s new Kink is Okay! brochure were given away, describing the changes in the DSM-5 that depathologized BDSM.
Kink Aware Professionals
Over 1,200 people accessed NCSF’s Kink Aware Professionals database in 2014 to find a lawyer, therapist or other professional. Recognizing the need for more kink aware professionals in KAP, NCSF joined forces with GayLawNet, a free referral database of gay-friendly attorneys, which began offering a Kink Aware Professional category for their lawyers to self-identify as kink aware.
Incident Reporting & Response
To assist in educating professionals, NCSF published What Professionals Need to Know About BDSM by Lauren Moore, Tamara Pincus & David Rodemaker. This pamphlet was written to help professionals meet culturally competent ethical standards in work with those of our underserved population.
NCSF received 184 requests for assistance in 2014 through Incident Reporting & Response. 40% of IRR requests dealt with criminal issues. 20% were child custody/divorce. 14% were requests for information on kink and non-monogamy from professionals including: academics, social services, vanilla nonprofit organizations & events, authors, merchant services, and insurance brokers. 11% were group issues, primarily assisting in handling adversarial members, outreach to law enforcement, or managing negative media incidents.
NCSF launched our 50 Shades of NCSF campaign featuring four palm cards and a resource page. Two of the palm cards are geared toward vanilla people who may be interested in kink while the other two have information on consent and the law. These palm cards were sent to 68 groups for distribution during the upcoming launch of the Fifty Shades of Grey movie.
In December, NCSF also broadcast a media kit through PR Newswire entitled “NCSF: Are you ready for the Fifty Shades of Grey movie?” that targeted reporters and offered story ideas about kink and non-monogamy. The PR was reposted on 137 websites, including Reuters and the Associated Press, and was viewed by over 1,000 journalists in the first 24 hours.
Susan Wright gave 32 interviews in 2014 to reporters from mainstream media to blogs and podcasts. The 2014 interviews included: The NY Times, NY Magazine, Atlantic Monthly, CNN, Playboy, Bay Area Reporter, Slate, Jane XO, Alternet, andtwo Huffington Post Live appearances.
Barak and Sheba of AdventuresinSexuality.org, a long-time Coalition Partner of NCSF, joined the media team and will be giving interviews on kink and non-monogamy. NCSF also published 15 Guest Blogs by experts in various fields, up from five Guest Blogs posted in 2013. Jsin created several podcast PSAs about NCSF tailored to specific niches – leathermen, pansexual and vanilla-ish – as well as promotional videos to accompany the 50 Shades of NCSF campaign.
NCSF ran two surveys in 2014: the Consent Violations Survey and the Mental Health Survey. The results of both will be available in early 2015. The Consent Violations Survey collected 4,600 responses and the results will be given to law enforcement, prosecutors, victim services and health care professionals to help them understand the experiences of kinky people and provide better quality service.
The Mental Health Survey collected over 800 responses. NCSF is working with researchers at Sam Houston University’s Department of Psychology and Philosophy who will ultimately compare our response set to two other sample populations – one college-aged and the other LGBT.
The Consent Counts program continued its educational mission as well as providing Amicus (“friend of the court”) Briefs in relevant legal cases. The Navy and Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals twice accepted NCSF’s amicus brief in the case of Gregory T. Miles, Lance Corporal, U.S. Marine Corps. NCSF advised the court that prosecutors are avoiding the Supreme Court decision, made in Lawrence v. Texas, that moral judgment is not a basis for criminalizing consensual sexual conduct, and that consensual sex should only be criminalized if that conduct is injurious or goes against a valid societal interest. NCSF also argued that military law is out of sync with U.S. Constitutional law and societal mores, especially when it comes to consensual sexual behaviors.
As part of the revamping of NCSF’s policies and procedures this year, the NCSF Board created the Ombuds Committee in June and appointed Desmond Ravenstone, James Huesmann and Bjorn Paulee. The Ombuds Committee handles complaints and concerns regarding the conduct of NCSF officers and staff, and the operations of NCSF institutions. The NCSF Ombuds Committee was established as an Advisory Committee, as per NCSF bylaws, to review coalition administration and activities, assuring ethical and effective fulfillment of NCSF’s mission and goals. Board Member Fil Vocasek is the Board Liaison to the Ombuds Committee.
Adventures in Sexuality, a NCSF Coalition Partner, donated $500 at their COPE conference in October.
CPI/The Mark, a Coalition Partner, donated $1,000 to NCSF in October.
Behind Closed Doors, the annual conference by Baja Arizona Leather, a Supporting Member of NCSF, raised $300 by passing the hat at their Sunday key note speech.
House of Decorum, a NCSF Coalition Partner, raised $1,296 at their annual fetish ball, held this year in Asheville, NC.
The Red Chair, a NCSF Coalition Partner, donated $744 that was raised at their annual NCSF fundraiser and Halloween Masquerade. This year’s theme was Steampunk! Airship Pirates and Gypsies running wild, with great carnival games and events.
The SFCitadel sponsored a Holiday Dance in the Dungeon for NCSF that raised $913 in December. The event was supported by the Leathermen’s Discussion Group, 15 Association, Society of Janus and the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.
The New Mexico Leather League donated $621 to NCSF in November.
Min-KY, a NCSF Coalition Partner, raised $580 for NCSF in October.
Spanksgiving, the annual fall event by STL3, a Coalition Partner of NCSF, raised $320 through their ice-bucket challenge at the opening ceremonies against Jason (NCSF Board Member), James (NCSF’s Ombuds Committee) and the lovely Tink.
The Tides Foundation donated a $1,500 grant to NCSF! The board of directors thanks Tides, as well as the anonymous donor who nominated NCSF for this grant.
Does your media agency have resources for these special interest pieces?Contact the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom for interviews and information on kink and open relationships. NCSF is the national advocate for consensual adult sexual expression.
There has been a significant interest in BDSM sparked by the wildly successful Fifty Shades of Grey. Similar topics appeared in recent TV Shows from CSI to House to Desperate Housewives, and even animated shows such as American Dad.
Furthermore many people, married and otherwise, are discovering and practicing non-monogamy. From polyamory to swinging to open relationships, a notable percentage of the public are shifting their relationship parameters in an honest and ethical fashion. These people are taking cues from books like Opening Up and The Ethical Slut, along with TV Shows such as Showtime’sPolyamory: Married and Dating.
A compare and contrast: What the movie got right, what the movie got wrong and what you need to know about kink.
“Who, What & How”
The kink subculture: What its practitioners like to do, and the kind of people who are kinky.
“What is Consent?”
Consent is enthusiastic and informed agreement, without coercion or pressure, and is agreed upon while you’re of sound mind.
Open relationships aren’t just sexy storybook fantasies. Relationships with more than two people take honesty, effort and ethical agreements.
“Persecution of Kinksters”
Job discrimination and child custody challenges result in only one-in-three people being “out” about their involvement in kink.
“Kink is not a Diagnosis”
The American Psychiatric Association agrees that kink is a healthy form of sexual expression.
The NCSF is the national advocate and resource for consenting adults who engage in kink and non-monogamy. The NCSF is a coalition of educational and social groups across America, along with the businesses that serve them and individuals who are kinky. Since its formation in 1997, the NCSF and its programs have significantly changed the way the media, legal and psychiatric professions view kink and non-monogamy.
“Since 1976, Tides Foundation has worked with over 15,000 individuals and organizations in the mutual endeavor to make the world a better place. These include foundations, donors, corporations, social investors, nonprofit organizations, government institutions, community organizations, activists, social entrepreneurs, and more. We break down the walls between entrepreneurs and their efforts to bring positive change to their communities. We are all about new ideas, innovation, and providing the tools to make these great ideas a reality.”
NCSF is proud to join a long list of grantees supported by Tides Foundation - http://www.tides.org/impact/grantees/#c649
“Whenever someone can’t find a lawyer in NCSF’s KAP list, I always refer them to GayLawNet,” says Susan Wright, spokesperson for NCSF. “Many of their gay-friendly lawyers are eager to work with kinky people, and the GayLawNet database is huge.”
NCSF recently started an outreach campaign to the lawyers who have listed themselves on GayLawNet to let them know they can also list themselves on NCSF’s Kink Aware Professionals list:
“GayLawNet has been actively supporting the LGBTIQ community worldwide since the beginning of 1996,” says retired lawyer David Allan, founder of GayLawNet. "This new association with the NCSF is a further development enabling those with diverse expressions of sexuality to obtain sensitive professional advice concerning their legal rights and responsibilities. With recent substantial changes to matrimonial law across the US, those in relationships would be well advised to ensure that they have in place all the necessary legal protections to secure their family's future.”
The KAP referral database is the most-visited resource on NCSFreedom.org, and NCSF is dedicated to growing and improving this list. If you know a professional who is kink-aware or kink-friendly, please suggest they sign up on the Kink Aware Professionals list:
So there you are, in the semi-private exam room at your Doctor’s officeor the Emergency Room, or any other patient care access point... and it’s time to be seen.. The nurse has taken your vitals, checked some general questions, and before leaving the room, asks you to get into a gown. You have removed your clothing and have fitted the stylish blue plaid garment as best is possible. The rough material slides over your front, and you get a sore twinge from those nipple clamps you were wearing last night. Images begin to form in your head, as you reminisce about that fantastic scene from last night and your pulse increases slightly. The door opens, and as the doctor walks in you blanch recalling the purple mosaic of bruises you saw reflected in the mirror this am.
What is the Doctor going to think? Will they turn you in? Will they throw you out? Can you get a straightjacket out of this? What do you say? How do you handle it? Do you tell the truth?
Let’s chat about this one. I have been in healthcare, as a Nurse or a Paramedic, for over 20 years. I have worked in Home Health, in Doctor’s Offices, Psych centers, and at busy ERs and have seen almost everything. Really. I can tell you stories from decades ago about things stuck in places… But, let’s save that for a fun night at a Meet N Greet, and get to some real discussion for now.
I will start off by introducing you to something called The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996. If you read through this Act, you will find that a Doctor, nurse or other healthcare providers (HCPs) can only release records or information that is specific to you or could identify you in any way, if it pertains directly to your care or billing. That’s it. If this info in shared in any other way? That is illegal and prosecutable. It’s actually very serious in the medical field.
The HIPAA laws prevent HCPs from even disclosing immediate family info. For instance? Let’s say Sheba was in the hospital for testing. Let’s also say that I was working for this same facility and had access to the computer systems. Even if she asks me to, it is illegal for me to access her records. Why? Because I am not on her care team and thereby don’t have a “legitimate” reason for taking a peek.
Where are we going with this? Because this law essentially covers Doctor / Patient confidentiality rules. However, there are a couple loopholes that you may want to be aware of. If a Doctor or other HCP feels that there is some form of danger, like you are being threatened, abused, harmed, etc. They are Mandated Reporters. Meaning, if they feel there is that type of issue, they can legally disclose information to Law Enforcement investigators. But this is for your protection.
Now that you are aware of those pieces, we can continue. What is my advice? I always encourage honesty. If you are hurt, or there is something wrong? Be frank and honest about it. Don’t try to make something up that “might” fit what happened.
Let’s say you had a shoulder injury during a rope scene. There are certain things you might leave out, but make sure you don’t leave anything out that contributed to the injury. For instance, while Kinksters may love the terms, "Tied up and fucked," "BDSM," “Rape Scene,” etc... There is no reason to try and bait them by playing, “Shock the Doc.” In situations like this, discretion is the better part of valor. Take time and amend possible inflammatory terms. HCPs are fine with the terms, "Kinky Sex." "I like it a little rough," “Creative Sexual expression,” etc..
Depending on what you were actually doing, you may not have to get into that discussion at all. For instance, if you were doing suspension work you might just let them know you were "experimenting with Rope," and "were being held off the ground by rope around your arm, shoulder, etc..." when you felt XYZ or however it happened. Meaning, you don't have to get into why you were suspended, other than you were playing around with Rope.
Either way, you should always be honest about the how it happened. There is really no reason to get into the why most of the time. ya know? As HCPs, we are very adept at understanding the way the human body looks, acts, and works. We are also aware about the mechanics of damage, trauma and wounds. We have spent years listening to stories, comparing injuries, and calculating facts. We have a very finely tuned intuition, so if something feels out of place? We investigate much more fully.
Just know that even if you are completely honest, you may get a visit from the friendly facility social worker. They may verify that everything is on the up and up, that your participation is consensual, and there is not any abuse going on. However, if the HCPs feel as though you are hiding something, deliberately baiting them, or trying to get a reaction, it may mildly irritate or it may really piss em off. Not a great idea, as they can certainly cause problems for you. If you set off their red flags, there is a good chance it will turn into much more of an inquiry that could involve people with a different looking uniforms and badges.
If you are with your partner? Make sure you are on the same page, and don’t become resentful if they separate you. They just want to make sure this is not domestic violence. So, smile alot, and make sure you both have the exact same story. One of the best stories? Is the one where you shyly admit you like being tied up, and your partner was trying to accommodate you.
Furthermore, if the reason you are at the doctor’s has nothing to do with the bruises on your ass & thighs? Just smile knowingly and say, “It’s consensual, I like it rough.” Then bring them back to the subject at hand, like the sore throat and cough symptoms you are having. If they bring you back to it? Just be factual and direct. Take a “nothing to see here,” attitude.
What to do? Should you come out to your Doctor? In the end that is up to you. However, as I have said, we have seen a lot. I can assure you that handprints don’t look like something accidental. Whip, flogger and cane marks? Hello! Your best bet is to be honest and straightforward. If you can’t or won’t come out to your HCP? Then either make sure you don’t have marks, don’t get injured, or just find another HCP you are willing to share with. It’s your health and your choice.
Several years ago, I raised the question on this blog about whether kink could be considered a sexual orientation. Since that time, the issue has gained traction, due in large measure to the notorious "Fifty Shades Effect". Slate writer Jillian Keenan wrote this blog post in the affirmative, which prompted Huffington Post to do an online video conversation on the subject, and the discussion has been picking up steam ever since.
Of course, no conversation about human sexuality wouldn't be complete without a few folks waving their hands frantically and raising objections. And just saying "kink is an orientation" doesn’t by itself make it true. So, in this blog post, I'll address some of the more common objections to the idea of a kink orientation, and then present a new model of sexual/affectional orientation for consideration.
Objection # 1: Sexual orientation is about gender
Basically this constitutes a tautological argument that, since certain authorities have officially defined sexual orientation as "an enduring pattern of emotional, romantic, and/or sexual attractions to men, women, or both sexes," then anything outside of this definition should not be equated as an orientation by, um, well, definition. Essentially, this is the same as saying that a nontheistic religion is not really a religion because, well, religions must believe in a deity "by definition" – similar to an argument a Texas official used to try to deny recognition for Unitarian Universalist congregations in that state.
Aside from that parallel (and the fact that there are more expansive definitions of sexual orientation) there are two other reasons for overruling this objection. The first is the reality of asexual people, who experience no sexual attraction to anyone. They don't necessarily hate sex – indeed, not all asexuals are celibate – they just don't feel the same way about it as the rest of us. Asexuality is being regarded as a sexual orientation, a sort of "none of the above" category, and the asexual community has asserted that sexual orientation is distinct from affectional or romantic orientation (including an aromantic identity). Which raises the question: How do we reconcile both tying orientation to gender or sex and recognizing an orientation where one may be attracted to neither/none?
The second reason is rooted in a challenge of the gender binary, including the idea that we are strictly divided into "male" and "female" categories of biological sex. Both intersex and genderqueer identities defy such categorization, as well as being distinct from one another (a genderqueer person may be born biologically male or female, yet refuse to accept either gender; an intersex person may not "fit" into medical definitions of male or female biological sex, while presenting and identifying as either or none). Now imagine someone who does not feel attracted to people who present clearly as masculine or feminine, but who does experience attraction to individuals who present as androgynous or genderqueer? Do we create a new gender label for non-male/non-female people, and a new orientational label for people who are attracted to them? What about genderqueer folks who are attracted only to men, or to women, or either one but not other genderqueer people? The fact is that there are people who, recognizing their attraction to multiple genders and not just two, identify as pansexual, polysexual, omnisexual and/or just plain queer. But this raises a question similar to the previous one: How do we reconcile tying orientation to gender or sex when even these categories are not as cut-and-dried as we originally thought?
Objection #2: Sexual orientation is about who you are and/or who you love, not what you do
Okay … In order to address this, I'm going to have to engage in some rather frank mention of sexual/erotic activity. If that offends you, I suggest that you skip over to the last paragraph of this section. That warning now said, let me present a couple of somewhat hypothetical examples. I am a heterosexual cisgender man. My romantic/sexual partners are thus women who are attracted to men (and hence self-identify as either hetero-, bi-, pan-, poly- or omnisexual). Such attraction includes the desire to spend time with one another, to hold hands, to kiss and cuddle, and specifically to engage in vaginal intercourse. Now, if orientation is in no way about "what we do," then how is my desire to put my penis in my partner’s vagina, or her desire to have my penis inside her vagina, separate from each of us being attracted to members of the other sex/gender?
Similarly, I identify as kinky, and more specifically as a dominant or service top. As a hetero kinky dominant male, I am most attracted to kinky women who identify as submissives, bottoms or switches, and who are attracted to men. Our mutual desires may include a whole range of activities including bondage, spanking, fantasy role-play, et cetera. But that raises the question of why we’d want to engage in such play, especially when it meets such strong social disapproval. If "what we do" is not based in "who we are" and who we're attracted to, then why do we fantasize about them?
Folks may be exposed to certain things, but that doesn't necessarily mean they are going to like them; some people hate the taste of cilantro, while others clearly enjoy it. Likewise, people who are exposed to something later in life may enjoy it even when they have been raised to find it distasteful; a generation ago, sushi was considered not just exotic but potentially hazardous and "just plain gross," and even after being more widely embraced there are still Americans who dislike it. So if our gustatory tastes transcend our cultural upbringing, and thus are likely rooted in our individual makeup, then why not our erotic tastes as well? In short, "what we do" depends very much on the totality of who we are.
Objection #3: While some kinksters think their sexual desires are an orientation, others do not.
This may be true, but by the same token, some people do not regard their gender-based attraction as an orientation. The question is what paradigm best explains the range of experiences that people report. For gender-based attraction (gay/lesbian, bisexual, heterosexual) a continuum paradigm not only explains the range of desires, but the relative fluidity with which people perceive and interpret their inner experiences. So a person who is primarily heterosexual with incidental same-gender attractions may engage in same-gender eroticism "experimentally" or "for fun" while still identifying as "straight" or "heterosexual". Also, many non-heterosexual people have often said that, while they were not consciously aware of their same-gender attractions, they were aware at an early age of feeling “different” from other people, making the connection only later on.
Likewise, an individual may experience incidental desires towards certain activities labeled as "kinky" and enjoy engaging with them on occasion or even on a fairly regular basis, yet not consider their desire for kink at the same level as someone with a more deep-seated desire for such interactions. Also, some people may have learned to suppress certain desires or fantasies, or may not have been able to connect a need for intense sensory input and/or role-based relational models with specific fantasies until later in life. Combine this with the significant number of kinksters reporting explicit fantasies or other awareness of their desire at an early age, and we have to consider one of four models:
That kink is not an orientation, despite the strong resemblance of experience with non-heterosexual people;
That kink is “an orientation for some but not for others,” again in spite of the resemblance with gender-based attraction;
That kink is either an orientation like gender-based attraction, suggesting that people have multiple sexual/affectional orientations;
That sexual/affectional orientation is a multifaceted phenomenon, of which both gender-based attraction and kink desires are recognizable elements.
In my mind, this last model is the most parsimonious explanation that fits with the growing body of evidence. And with that said …
A holistic model of sexual/affectional orientation
Alfred Kinsey originally proposed sexual orientation as a two-ended continuum, with exclusive heterosexuality at one end, exclusive homosexuality at the other, and a range of intermediary positions in between. Later researchers, such as Fritz Klein, proposed a more multidimensional paradigm of orientation and identity. The emerging awareness of asexuality as an orientation added even more complexity to the concept of orientation well before members of the BDSM/kink/fetish and polyamory communities began to propose that the orientation model as an explanation behind their respective experiences.
How to bring it all together? Let me propose a metaphorical parallel. Imagine that your understanding of music is based on vocal performance. You recognize a range of vocal types – soprano, contralto, tenor, baritone and bass – with finer gradations within each general category, and even some individuals able to express themselves outside of a single range, or to shift in range over time. But music is not limited to vocal range, just as sexual desire is not limited to gender-based attraction. Even vocalists more often than not perform with instrumental accompaniment, adding another dimension to our experience of music. Thus a holistic model of orientation would embrace the full range of sexual desire and experience, not just gender-based attraction, just as an orchestral score includes layers of vocal and instrumental melodies and harmonies.
With that in mind, we may see gender-based sexual attraction as one dimension of this holistic model, often in line with a gender-based affectional/romantic attraction. Another dimension (or "stave" if we follow the musical metaphor) would be the level of sexual attraction, from asexual through demisexual and onwards; similarly, there would be a dimension for levels of affectional/romantic attraction. BDSM, kink and fetish sexuality would most likely be expressed in multiple staves – intensity and/or type of sensation, attraction to power-based roles, foci of attraction, and so forth. Even monogamy and polyamory may be rooted in a continuum of some type.
Some may object to such a paradigm as overly deterministic, yet I would argue that it provides a balance with individual volition. Each of us has a multitude of desires, just as an orchestral score reveals a carefully harmonized arrangement. How we act upon those desires, and identify with them, is our choice. We may deny some dimension of ourselves at a cost, or we may find a way to express it in accompaniment with others. Thus how our orientation is “scored” provides the foundation for how those desires may be expressed, which relies on (if you'll pardon the pun) how we conduct ourselves in the world.