In a recent article in Modern Poly written by Saul-of-Hearts, a writer, musician and videographer based in Los Angeles and Portland, the idea that polyamory is an orientation, at least for the writer, was put forth. I posted the article titled “Polyamory As Orientation (And Why It Works For Me)” on Facebook and asked my online friends this question: “So what do you think? Is it similar to an orientation or not?”
The range of answers I got was interesting as discussions regarding polyamory often are, especially with my online friends who range from actively polyamorous to staunchly monogamous and everything in between. But one comment stood out and resonated with me the moment I read it. A friend offered this:
The writer assumes that all humans are not naturally capable of a romantic relationship with more than one individual. I don’t like the term poly. Most research into modern hunter/gatherer societies has shown that monogamy is a modern phenomenon and socially constructed for the purposes of property management and inheritance.
Monogamy isn’t an orientation, it’s conditioning.
Poly isn’t an orientation. It is our natural state.
But for those of us who identify as poly and who live a poly life now, or have aspirations to do so, I think adopting the mindset that being poly is a natural state while monogamy is not would serve us well. However, the only caution I would offer is that this stance should not denigrate the decision that some will make to configure their relationships in a monogamous fashion. Just because we might put forth the notion that poly is a natural state does not mean that someone’s choice to be monogamous is wrong or counter to nature, especially if that decision is truly made for reasons that work for the individuals involved and are not the result of social conditioning that makes those people miserable as they try to conform. Poly folks must always value the monogamous among us even as we live our lives in a different fashion. Diversity is the norm and therefore that means that people will decide to configure their relationships in diverse ways also. It’s all good.
With all that said, I guess the most accurate statement I can make is that poly is natural for many people. I contend it’s natural for most people, but the real point I want to make is that it’s most certainly just as natural as monogamy is and perhaps, if social conditioning weren’t a factor, might indeed by the more prevalent form of how we do relationships.
So while I don’t think of myself being polyamorous as an orientation, I do embrace the notion that my poly life is indeed a natural state. It’s certainly more natural for me than monogamy, both in terms of my sexuality and how I bond with others.
Let me know your thoughts about this by posting a comment.
To obtain licensure as a mental health professional, virtually all clinicians go through a process referred to as “supervision.” Having a supervisor is best described as a formal mentoring process requiring hundreds of hours of observation, training and coaching. One problem faced by the kink community is a shortage of therapists that have clinical awareness in basic sexuality, let alone advanced expertise in fetishes, cross-dressing, gender-variance, BDSM and open relationships. For clinicians seeking certification as a sex therapist, finding a supervisor is no easy trick.
One reason NCSF has made such a large commitment to Kink Aware Professionals (KAP) over the years is to facilitate the process for those in the kinky village to locate qualified professionals quickly during a time of need. That’s why I’m a long-time member of KAP, so I can help make a difference.
And that’s one reason why, a few months ago, I became Certified as a Supervisor of Sex Therapy by the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors & Therapists (AASECT). Now, along with being a Certified Sex Therapist, I can supervisor other mental health professionals seeking certification as a sex therapist anywhere in the world via Skype.
Most therapists are kind people with the best of intentions. However similar to physicians, most therapists lack training in the vast nuances of human sexuality. Nothing breaks my heart more than when people tell me they were made to feel bad by their very own therapist who judged them or lacked skill in the way they dealt with the delicate subtleties of sexuality. By supervising the next generation of sex therapists, I really do get to bring sex positive methods of therapy to individuals, couples, families, and villages across the globe.
I first became involved with the NCSF in 2001 when the NCSF filed suit along-side famed fetish photographer, Barbara Nitke, in a case involving censorship and the Supreme Court. I recall feeling deep admiration and respect that a gifted lone artist (Barbara Nitke) and a small but incredibly determined non-profit (NCSF), who stood fast in their values to take on the Attorney General of the United States. It was a stand to keep government out of our bedrooms and although we didn’t win the case, Barbara and the NCSF made a difference. I’ve had a special fondness and affinity for the NCSF ever since.
Neil is in private practice as a Certified Sex Therapist in Denver, Colorado. He is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist and Professor of Marriage & Family Therapy. In addition to a Ph.D. in Human Sexuality, Neil has post-graduate certification in treating LGBT Family Systems. Neil teaches and donates his time lecturing to graduate level counseling students at virtually every leading college and university throughout Colorado. He takes great delight in helping graduate students to embrace sexual diversity rather than be intimidated by it. http://doctorcannon.com/
The entire hotel was given over to a weekend Kinkstravaganza for the happy attendees to celebrate the 8th anniversary of Winter Wickedness (Feb 7-9th) in Columbus, Ohio. Susan Wright represented NCSF at the event, discussing NCSF’s recent financial trouble and the steps being taken to insure that NCSF's finances are transparent and sound.
NCSF thanks Adventures in Sexuality (AIS) for donating $1,000 to the NCSF-Foundation, and the attendees of Winter Wickedness for raising $286 in the Special Raffle for NCSF. In addition, attendees gave donations totaling $70 at the exhibit table where NCSF literature was available along with Got Consent? T-shirts and swag from the Sexual Assault Response Network of Central Ohio (hotline: (614) 267-7020(614) 267-7020https://www.ohiohealth.com/sexualassaultresponsenetwork/)
NCSF will use these results to help perform its advocacy, such as helping law enforcement, prosecutors and health care professionals understand the experiences of kinky people and provide better quality service.
This survey is anonymous and your privacy is guaranteed by Survey Monkey, a secured survey hosting website. NCSF does not have access to any identifying information about the participants.
NCSF faced some difficult challenges in 2013, but the dedicated volunteer staff worked hard to advocate for the BDSM, swing and polyamory lifestyles:
Kink is Okay
The biggest news of 2013 was that the American Psychiatric Association depathologized consensual sadism, masochism, cross-dressing and fetishes in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). NCSF’s DSM-Revision project began in April 2008, to change the DSM criteria that was being used against healthy kinky adults in legal settings, and causing significant discrimination and distress because of the social stigma the APA attached to alternative sexual behavior.
NCSF directly educated the media and the relevant members of the American Psychiatric Association, as well as presenting data through the DSM Revision Petition, signed by over 3,200 people including many mental health professionals, and in letters to the editor published in Archives of Sexual Behavior. Annual data was presented from NCSF’s Incident Reporting &Response program along with the results of two surveys on Violence & Discrimination Against Sexual Minorities conducted in 1998 and 2008.
The Archives of Sexual Behavior has also accepted NCSF’s Letter to the Editor “Kinky Parents and Child Custody: The Effect of the DSM-5 Differentiation between the Paraphilias and Paraphilic Disorders,” describing the decline in child custody cases reported to NCSF that involve discrimination against BDSM practitioners since the proposed DSM criteria depathologizing BDSM was made public in 2010.
NCSF’s Consent Counts discussions continued around the country on the “Consent Statement” that was launched on February 8, 2013 at the Annual Coalition Partner Meeting. This statement was based on Consent Counts discussions and on over 4,000 responses returned on NCSF’s Consent Survey about the concept of risk and people’s attitudes about consent. NCSF also created a 1-page Summary “Policy Statement on Consent.”
In 2013, NCSF launched a Continuing Legal Education workshop as part of the Consent Counts program to educate lawyers and prosecutors about assault laws and how they are used against consenting adults. In addition, a new educational series was launched in Chicago at the Leather Archives & Museum with a presentation entitled “BDSM? Erotic Play? What Are the Legal Risks?” by Judy Guerin, Dick Cunningham andJudge Rudy Serra.
NCSF also created a number of new FAQs in 2013 to help victims and educate professionals about the difference between BDSM and assault. “Consent and BDSM: The State of the Law” is a detailed examination of how BDSM activity, even where clearly consensual, is prosecuted under state criminal laws dealing with assault, aggravated assault, sexual assault or sexual abuse. NCSF’s “Statement on Power Exchange Relationships,” discusses both the ethical and legal concepts that are critical to understanding the meaning and importance of consent in power exchange relationships.
“The Guide for Groups” includes a suggested consent policy, how to deal with consent violations that take place at a group or event, and advice on how to revoke membership or entry to an event without liability. The FAQ “Is This Assault?” explains which consent violations may rise to the level of assault, while “Dealing With Assault” answers many of the common questions kinky survivors have about reporting assault to law enforcement, medical or social service professionals. NCSF also lists hotlines for kink aware victim services associated with the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Projects that are ready to help kinky victims of assault and abuse. And there is a wallet-card that explains BDSM vs. Abuse in terms of consent to help you explain kink to law enforcement and social service professionals.
NCSF’s Board Members and Education Outreach Project presented 22 educational programs in 2013, with a focus on consent discussions and Consent Counts information. NCSF also tabled at events around the country distributing literature such as “Finding Kink Aware Medical Care” and “Finding a Kink Aware Therapist.”
The groups and events where NCSF presented includes: APEX, Beat Me in St. Louis, BOLD Con, COPE, CPI Anniversary Weekend, DomCon/Atlanta, DuckStock (Alternative) CampOut, Evansville MAsT,GLLA, House of Decorum Leather Ball, Incognito Dungeon Facility, KinkLincs, Lifestyles Exchange, Macon Munch Group, Madtown Kinkfest, Nashville Pride, Smokey Mountain Power Exchange, Spanksgiving, Whimper Munch Group, and Winter Wickedness.
NCSF also exhibited at the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT) Annual Conference on June 5-9th in Miami, Florida. NCSF organized the AASECT Alt Sex Special Interest Group Munch that took place Friday evening at the Hilton Miami Downtown hotel that was attended by over 40 AASECT members who were interested in finding out more about BDSM, polyamory and swinging.
Jim Fleckenstein was the lead presenter on What Do Polyamorists Want? A National Survey of an Underserved Population, a workshop discussing key findings from the Loving More and NCSF survey. Susan Wright was the presenter on Understanding Consent in BDSM Practices, a workshop presenting data from the NCSF Consent Counts Survey about consent in a BDSM context.
NCSF also assisted in setting up a BDSM Panel Discussion for AASECT’s Summer Institute in St. Louis by enlisting Coalition Partner STL3, which provided a diverse and knowledgeable panel that discussed aspects of BDSM, community ethics, and related safety and consent issues.
The media team broadened NCSF’s reach into social media, with NCSF’s Facebook page getting 1,000 likes and over 6,500 followers on Twitter. 42 interviews were given to reporters from mainstream media to blogs, including the Associated Press, New York Times, Esquire, The Atlantic, Maire Claire, GQ, the Village Voice, Details,US News & World Report, and two Huffington Post Live appearances. Susan Wright was featured in the E! Entertainment Special, “The Real 50 Shades of Grey,” that aired around the world during 2013.
As usual, NCSF provided media back-up for Folsom Street East, which had to be canceled this year due to the construction project on the block. NCSF also continued its media training program for groups and individuals who wanted to learn how to talk to reporters about kink, polyamory or the Lifestyle. To follow the NCSF Media Updates or get the Media Update Digest, subscribe to NCSF’s newsletter on the website: www.ncsfreedom.org
NCSF Coalition Partner TTB Ventures - Touch of Flavor fought the biggest public battle in 2013. NCSF consulted on their legal and media response, and TTB Ventures handled the media storm with professional excellence. They pursued their case in court and succeeded in getting a settlement that is important for all kink events, proving once again that we can win against discrimination and persecution. Coppermine Field House LLC, the manager of the Clarence "Du" Burns Arena, also issued a statement correcting "any incorrect impressions" about Touch of Flavor and acknowledged that TTB Ventures notified the original management of the nature of the event when the contract was signed.
NCSF also supported Leather & Grace’s efforts to educate Unitarian Universalist ministers, directors of religious education, and congregational leaders about the BDSM communities, the ethical principles, and issues of discrimination and prejudice. Silent Sunday was just one of Leather & Grace’s activist opportunities in 2013.
Though there were problems with NCSF’s Incident Reporting & Response program in 2013, and much of the data for this year has not been recovered yet, some of the cases NCSF assisted on included: providing DSM-5 info for child custody cases, writing a letter to a city attorney on behalf of a swing club, referrals for expert witnesses in cases involving BDSM, advice on getting permits for events, answering questions about organizational issues such as corporate ownership of a 501c7, doing outreach to local police pre-event, and how to deal with someone taking photographs at an event. There were also people looking for lawyers and information on laws dealing with civil and criminal issues including: pro-dommes asking about state prostitution laws, a kinky community center that ran afoul of zoning regulations, and arrests for Domestic Violence that involved consensual BDSM.
The Kink Aware Professionals database is updated on a continual basis, and added nearly 100 professionals in 2013 to bring the total up to 1,224 kink aware professionals that people can directly access when they need help.
NCSF upgraded its website at the end of 2013 to incorporate a new membership function and to upgrade the Kink Aware Professionals database, in particular the search function to make it easier to search for what you need. The KAP database is the most-visited part of NCSF's website and is a hugely valuable tool for people looking for assistance from a doctor, lawyer, therapist or other professional.
The NCSF Fire Recovery Fundraiser in the first half of 2013 brought in $9,233 that went straight to the NCSF-Foundation to fund the purchase of new brochures totaling nearly $4,000.Replacement banners still need to be purchased as well as NCSF’s T-shirt inventory. At the end of 2013, the Board also drafted new Financial and Control Policies for both NCSF and NCSF-Foundation and broadcast them to the Coalition Partners for approval at the Annual Board Meeting in Nashville on March 15-16, 2014.
The Board of NCSF regrets to announce that it appears Leigha Fleming breached her fiduciary duty and diverted at least $60,000 from the NCSF 501(c)4 membership organization for her own personal expenses since September 2011.
Leigha Fleming died on December 19, 2013. Leigha started volunteering for NCSF in 2000, and served as Chairman of the Board from 2008-2013.
The Board of NCSF is acting aggressively to recover as much of the missing funds as possible. A lawsuit is being filed in probate court, and the matter has been referred to law enforcement authorities.
The Board of NCSF has authorized an outside financial review of the books of the NCSF 501(c)4 membership organization, and Stephanie Sassy Lynn has been appointed the new Treasurer. The NCSF-Foundation 501(c)3 account, which received all of the donations for our "Office Fire Fundraiser," was not involved in this matter and continues to be overseen by the Foundation Treasurer, Jim Fleckenstein.
Going forward, the Board is working on ensuring our membership organization is in rigorous compliance with our financial policies and procedures. Several changes have been made to our financial policies to ensure that an opportunity for a repeat of this behavior is not possible, and this situation can never re-occur.
Our volunteer staff members freely give their time, heart and energy to fight discrimination and persecution, and we feel betrayed and devastated. NCSF operates on a small annual budget of $60-70,000 for both the NCSF membership organization and the NCSF-Foundation. We deeply regret the missed activist opportunities that could have been accomplished with the money that is missing.
Regardless of the damage done to NCSF, the work has not gone away. Sexual freedom is not yet a reality, and people still suffer personally and publicly from practicing BDSM, Swing, and Polyamorous lifestyles. NCSF remains committed to moving forward with all of our programs and efforts intact.
Contact NCSF at:
* have ever been in a Leather/BDSM/kink relationship in which you experienced intimate partner abuse, and
* sought help from publicly available domestic violence/intimate partner abuse services, or
* wanted to seek help from publicly available domestic violence/intimate partner abuse services, but did not do so.
The interview will take no more than 2 hours to complete.
Please respond no later than January 10, 2014.
Your participation is voluntary. All responses are confidential. However, there is potential risk of loss of confidentiality in all email, downloading and internet transactions.The final results of this study will be used for research and may also be published in a summary format in a peer-reviewed journal.
The purpose of this interview is to gather information regarding the quality of experiences had by those who sought help from domestic violence/intimate partner abuse service providers, or those who wanted to seek help, but did not do so. The overall goal is to help service providers and outreach educators improve the quality of information, responses and interventions regarding the unique needs and experiences of individuals who live a BDSM, Leather or kinky lifestyle.
Would you be interested in participating in an in-depth face-to-face or telephone interview (to last no more than 2 hours) about your experiences? If so, please contact Dr. Elizabeth Fawcett at
or call 972-742-7717 to set up an interview.
If you have any questions about the interview, please contact Elizabeth Fawcett, Ph.D., M.P.H., at
.This study has been reviewed according to accepted Institutional Review Board (IRB) procedures for research involving human subjects, and approved.If you have questions about the rights of research participants or the way this study is being conducted, you may contact Texas Woman’s University Office of Research and Sponsored Programs at 940-898-3378 or via email at
There is potential risk of loss of confidentiality in all email, downloading and internet transactions.
Please sign NCSF Coalition Partner's Leather & Grace - UUs for BDSM Awareness's Change.org petition. Join us in our call for the UUA to make it clear that their kinky and poly employees also deserve protection!
Petitioning Rob Molla:
In April 2013, a delegation from Leather & Grace ~ Unitarian Universalists for BDSM Awareness met with the Trustees and senior administrators of the Unitarian Universalist Association, to share concerns and engage in dialogue.
One major issue was the work environment at UUA headquarters.Some UUA employees had reported being silenced merely for identifying with alternative sexuality communities, or sharing educational information about kink or polyamory.
In discussing this with Board members and UUA senior administrators, one of the Trustees recommended that a proactive memo be sent to all employees of the UUA, clarifying that the Association’s nondiscrimination policy applies to all sexual identities, including kink and polyamory, and identifying boundaries for appropriate office behavior.Senior administrators responded positively to the idea of sending such a memo.
Since that meeting, the leadership of Leather & Grace has followed up with UUA leadership, and even drafted proposed content for this memo – and still the UUA has not issued a clarifying memo to their staff, nor have they given any reasons why they won't do so.
The UUA and its member congregations have a proud history of inclusion, affirmation, advocacy and education for people of diverse sexual orientations.With the rise in public awareness around BDSM, kink, and other forms of consensual sexual expression, isn’t it time that this progressive faith movement catch up with the rest of society?
Tell the UUA’s Director of Human Resources, Rob Molla, and other top Unitarian Universalist leaders to make it clear that kinky and polyamorous employees have basic workplace protections at UUA headquarters.Sign this petition calling for them to issue a proactive memo as discussed, and to work with groups like Leather & Grace and UUs for Polyamory Awareness to make the UUA a safer place to work for all their employees.
To: Rob Molla, Director of Human Resources, UUA Rev. Peter Morales, President, UUA Rev. Harlan Limpert, Chief Operating Officer, UUA Jim Key, Moderator and Chief Governance Officer, UUA Annette Marquis, LGBTQ and Multicultural Ministries Program Manager, UUA
Make it clear: Alt-Sex UUA employees deserve protections, too!