Though we might try to frame it in more rational, objective terms, design culture is really nothing more than a highly complex, super-developed system of driven-by-object fetishism. It's a world where objects take on meanings and significances far beyond the sum of their material form. Where things inert and external to us resonate deep within our psyche. As designer or consumer, we are drawn towards sensations – the sheen of a particular texture, a particular colourway, the way a particular door swings. We've all had it, that moment when we feel a desperate attraction to a thing, an uncontrollable desire for… it, whatever that 'it' might be.
In the everyday world these sensations are the subtext of objects. But in the explicit world of fetishes – the world of sex and kink – these tendencies come to the surface. Or rather become the surface. Here, trajectories of desire and the objects intersect without any need to sublimate. Desire is desire, not the circuitous set of relationships that usually flow around design. Here design gives (silicon) form to desire. These forms are, most often, highly specific and, it must be said, strange.
Browse the fetish section of specialist outlets and you'll find a world of strange anachronisms. It's a world of faux-medievalness, of studded leather and dungeons, of stocks and pillories, of old fashioned schoolroom discipline embodied by the cane, the obscure world of equestrianism represented in harnesses and riding crops, early 20th century warfare in gas masks and uniforms, anachronistic healthcare in medical play.
Think of the kink.com mansion. In 2006, the BDSM internet pornography producer bought the huge San Francisco Armory, a building whose castle-like appearance once related (perhaps) to its original use as an arsenal for the National Guard. If its aesthetic once suggested the grand history of military fortification, its architectural fantasy of medievalism, castles and prisons coupled with its dilapidated state was ripe for repurposing as BDSM backdrop. Architectural history here is not dry academia but a playground ripe with association for sexual fantasy.
It's a mixed-up set of references for sure, a whirlwind tour through medieval punishment devices, feudalism, Tom Brown's schooldays, stately homes and primitive chemical warfare. They are references that are almost exclusively fetish scene-centric and all things from a long-vanished past. The past seems to have a much stronger hold on our kinky psyche than the future.
It's the same at the more vanilla end of the spectrum, too. Think of the way the underwear of the past has been recycled as a high-end product rich with contemporary ideas of desire. The stockings and corsets of, say Agent Provocateur, are the reality of the past recast as the fantasy of the present. What was once everyday practicality is remade as contemporary exception. Are these things intrinsically sexy? Or have all those buckles and clips gained an erotic charge they never had in their original incarnation? Or, have we, like Pavlov's dog, simply been conditioned to find these things sexy?
We could ask the same of so much of the fantasy wardrobe. Cosplay basics such as school uniforms that are unlike school uniforms, nurses' outfits that certainly don't comply with contemporary NHS heath and safety standards. And French maids? How on earth did the image of French domestic service gain such global cultural traction? Very few of us, I would imagine, have any experience or even knowledge of the source of this fantasy. So why would these images resonate quite so deeply as they seem to?
Maybe it's exactly the distance these images and scenarios have from everyday life that makes them ripe for re-imagining. Their contemporary redundancy and distance from everyday life allows our fetish fantasy imagination to re-inhabit them, provides the space for us to play out roles that are distinct from our normal life and to play out scenarios that would be entirely unacceptable elsewhere. It's their rootedness in other spaces that imbues them with theatrical possibilities.
But there's a greater bite to this world than just roleplay. The distance also provides something else: a safe, contained space where we can play out issues that are very much a part of real life. ...
Report concludes that “management knew or ought to have known” about inappropriate behaviour by former radio host.
The Toronto Star
By: Jacques Gallant
CBC said it had “severed ties” with two senior executives Thursday as it released an independent report that said management “condoned” inappropriate behaviour by former radio host Jian Ghomeshi.
Former head of radio Chris Boyce and HR director Todd Spencer had been on leaves of absence since January.
“Management knew or ought to have known of this behaviour and conduct and failed to take steps required of it in accordance with its own policies to ensure that the workplace was free from disrespectful and abusive conduct,” reads the report from employment lawyers Janice Rubin and Parisa Nikfarjam.
“It is our conclusion that CBC management condoned this behaviour.”
Ghomeshi, who was fired last October, faces seven counts of sexual assault and one count of overcoming resistance by choking. His next court date is April 28. His lawyer says he intends to plead not guilty.
CBC president Hubert Lacroix described the findings as “troubling and disappointing” when speaking to reporters after the report’s release.
“As we have said from the outset, we are, and remain, committed to creating a workplace where safety and respect for one another is a fundamental attribute and non-negotiable,” he said.
“To the extent that standard has not been met, on behalf of this organization, I offer a sincere and unqualified apology to our employees and to Canadians, who have a right to expect a higher standard from their public broadcaster.”
The report found that, in a “small number of cases,” Ghomeshi’s behaviour constituted sexual harassment in the workplace. ...
In the interest of supporting consensual kink and not abuse, it is time to advance the conversation about alternative sex.
The Alternative Amory and Kink Union at San Jose State University is an anonymous, supportive space for students to explore the world of kink and polyamory through educational and explorational discussions in meetings and informative panels given by credentialed professionals. It has been a campus-recognized club for two years.
“It’s a community that understands,” said Cassie Lawrence, who uses an alias to identify herself. “It seems intimidating, it really does, but it’s a journey. We want to encourage people to check it out.”
Club host Ryan Ventura said it uses alternative amory as an umbrella term to encompass both monogamous kink and polyamorous relationships.
He said this term truly addresses everyone in whatever form they choose to express their relationships.
“I end up using polyamory … I feel like that’s a catch-all phrase, but if you look in the dictionary it’s not,” Ventura said. “There’s so much diversity in how a relationship can develop–emotionally, romantically, physically, sexually–and once you add up the number of people involved it gets really complex. It’s alternative amory.”
Ventura said the majority of meetings are discussion-based, and he identifies as a host instead of a president because he is essentially just hosting the conversation. Lawrence is a co-host and moderator.
“We try to alternate our meetings so we’ll have one where we focus on a kink topic and one where we focus on alternative amory,” Ventura said.
Lawrence said various titles are used to identify a person’s role in a relationship involving bondage and discipline, dominance and submission and sadomasochism or BDSM.
“Ninety-five percent of the time, labels are for convenience,” Lawrence said. “We’re not just going to be sitting there dressed in leather, holding whips and floggers. We’re normal people too and we want to be a bridge between the community of SJSU and the community of South Bay kink.”
Ventura said the book-turned-movie “Fifty Shades of Grey” sparked mainstream interest in kink and related lifestyles. To increase its presence on campus, the group held a panel on the book in November prior to the film’s release.
“We thought, ‘We should probably do a panel on that because there’s going to be a huge influx of people who don’t really know what this is about,’” Ventura said. “It is a gross misrepresentation of what kink is.”
The number of students involved in the club has varied since its first meeting. For those not comfortable attending meetings in person, they can participate in conversation online, where there is a much larger presence.
“My initial approach to running the organization was no online access, no member list, no nothing,” Ventura said. “We found just through membership numbers that was way too extreme. There were people who were probably looking for a resource and had no idea how to find it.”
Ventura said he may not know everyone personally, not even their real name, but that is what kink is about. Many members fear
persecution and choose to be identified by an alias.
“I’d say a little more than half of them will go by their real name in meetings, but we have a rule, what you would call the Vegas rule,” Ventura said. “What happens here, stays here.”
According to the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom, people who practice kink are persecuted in high numbers. In a 2008 survey pool of 3,058 respondents, 37.5 percent indicated they experienced any combination of harassment, violence and/or discrimination based on their sexual expression or a perception thereof. ...
Libraries change, but librarians keep helping people find the weird information they need.
The Washington Post
By Hammad Rauf Khan
No job is without its perils, and for a college librarian today, one of those just might be having an associate dean overhear you explaining to a student how to create a more accurate BDSM scene for a photo shoot inspired by “Fifty Shades of Gray.”
“So BDSM is all about control and in part humiliation, you might want to put a collar and a ball gag in her mouth,” I was explaining as the dean walked by. She stopped and looked at me.
It was awkward, but part of my job as a librarian is to help patrons research a topic, whatever that topic might be. Google has many people convinced that librarians are no longer necessary — probably the same people who predicted our demise when the personal computer was first introduced. Yet we librarians are still here, providing free resources, information and computer access to our communities. The profession is evolving, of course: adapting to new technology and, more significantly, being reshaped by culture.
Which is why I have fielded an inordinate amount of requests at the reference desk for information about BDSM, and why I have seen job postings for positions including Hip-Hop Librarian and Wine Librarian. When it comes to the subject material of “Fifty Shades,” none of our librarians have the background to easily service such requests (or at least none of our librarians care to admit they do). We could easily send them out to the darker corners of the Web for information, but it’s our duty to find our patrons legitimate Web sites and resources they can cite, without judgment or embarrassment.
I always enjoyed the atmosphere of the library and being surrounded by the greatest work of fiction, science, poetry and art. I began volunteering at my local library during high school and was promoted to circulation assistant while I attended college. I discovered that, beyond being around books, I was passionate about research, helping people find information and promoting information literacy. Although libraries have changed, this part of being a librarian has not. ...
Elton Davis is a 53-year-old farm-raised Iowan, a separated husband and father of two, a self-described cultural worker and job coach. And he's a member of Des Moines' bondage, domination, sadism and masochism or "kink" community.
I've known Davis in different contexts, but until he approached me recently, upset that I gave what he felt was a black eye to a community he thinks is already misunderstood, I didn't know he was part of what he calls that "fringe." He was willing to put a face on it because, "if you shine a light on something, it becomes less scary."
This column is typically more concerned with people's rights than with their intimate behaviors, but at times those can involve overlapping or conflicting interests. In a February piece, I shared a former member's concerns about CIPEX, a local club for people with fetishes, because of one board member's past and questions about whether policies were always properly enforced. But it's important to sift through the secrecy and stigma and one person's experiences to acknowledge the importance of the club's mission to its community. Because no adult deserves to feel persecuted or shamed for practices he or she engages in with other consenting adults.
Davis says CIPEX is educational, and it aims to foster "a safe, sane and consensual practice of BDSM." Those are also criteria spelled out by the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (https://ncsfreedom.org). By sane, Davis means it wouldn't include anyone who, for example, was abused as a child and is perpetuating a self-destructive pattern. Safe refers to specified rules that he says are taught and modeled. Members also can make "safe calls" to a CIPEX board member before having an encounter with someone they don't know well. If the member doesn't check back in, the board member will follow up — even with calls to police. Davis says any sexual assault or rape reported in the kink community results in police calls. "If you pick someone up in a bar, I don't know anyone that provides (those safety controls)," he said of the general population.
And by consensual, he's not talking about the sort of situation depicted in "Fifty Shades of Grey," with its billionaire dominant man and inexperienced submissive college woman. Davis calls the male character "extremely unhealthy, mentally unstable and obsessive," and said it isn't clear if the student even gave her consent.
In his experience, Davis says: "Couples negotiate with each other. They are honest to a fault." He says these kinds of relationships involve a greater level of trust than others he has had. "One person is assuming control. One is relinquishing control. Either one can stop at any time if one is uncomfortable." ...
A&E confirmed Monday it has canceled a controversial reality TV show following swingers in Warren County's Hamilton Township.
The buzz about the program's fate began circulating late Sunday after the network did not air the third episode in the "Neighbors with Benefits" series Sunday night.
Entertainment Weekly TV critic Gillian Telling believes viewers simply couldn't be sold on the show's premise. "As we learned, it's not an easy lifestyle to lead," she said.
Telling told the Enquirer that she doesn't know the ratings or the reasoning behind the cancellation, but that the universal pan the show received was possibly the cause.
David Wiegand, TV critic for the San Francisco Chronicle, told the Enquirer the show's immoral tone was the reason for its demise.
"Although TV is awash with sleazy reality shows, this one was offensively sleazy. You add that to the already existing glut of reality shows and your chances of survival diminish significantly."
Wiegand added, "I saw one episode and I'd like to say it was a new low, but, in fact, it was just this week's new low."
Brian Lowry of Variety disagreed the show died because it was immoral. Its demise probably was all about the numbers, he said.
"I'm not sure that's unique to reality shows," Lowry wrote to the Enquirer. "But in this case I'd say the show was put on to be provocative, and if it didn't deliver commensurate ratings then it wasn't worth the headaches. Being trashy tends to be more acceptable when it works."
Tony and Diana McCollister, who were portrayed as the leaders of what's described as a thriving swinging culture in their Thornton Grove neighborhood, posted messages on Facebook and Twitter late Sunday indicating the show would not air and deferring all questions to A&E officials.
"#?NeighborswithBenefits won't air this Sunday. Please direct all questions to A&E. We LOVE our fans & hope to be back on the air soon!" read the couple's social media posts.
A&E officials declined to provide details on why the show, which drew national criticism from both conservative groups and critics, was canceled. ...
Defenders of extreme sexual behaviour are blinding themselves to the dark side of S&M, writes Eilis O'Hanlon
by Eilis O'Hanlon
As the country still struggles to make sense of the murder of Elaine O'Hara by a man she met through an adult website, Ryan Tubridy's radio show called on Emily Power Smith, "Ireland's first clinical sexologist", to enlighten 2fm listeners about BDSM, a range of sexual practices involving bondage, domination, sadism and masochism.
She immediately reassured him that there's nothing sinister about consenting adults including BDSM as part of a healthy sex life. Between 10 and 14pc of people are said to have done so in some form.
The devil lies in those three words. "In some form." There's a huge difference between a bit of spanking and light bondage, and the more extreme practices which Smith defended last week on the grounds that "the people who are giving the pain will be trained and they will be very boundaried (sic) and very caring".
"Trained by…?" wondered Ryan unsurely, trailing off.
"Trained by other professionals," his guest replied, in what may well be the most ridiculous use of the word "professional" ever. "Maybe a dominatrix." Oh well, that's all right then.
It got worse. "For blood-letting and knife play," Smith continued, "the people who do that ethically are very highly trained."
At this stage, Ryan should have been trying to pin down this bizarre notion of "training", but such is our collective fear of appearing judgemental when it comes to sex that it never even seemed to occur to him to suggest that blood- letting might not be a valid lifestyle choice, or that those who fool themselves into thinking it's just harmless, kinky fun should cop on.
When did it become so hard to say that you really shouldn't cut women?
It's difficult to even define what consent means in this context, when the relinquishing of power to another is already so advanced that the boundaries start to break down. Emily Power Smith effectively said as much in a video on the Irish Times website, in which she spoke of the point of so-called "knife play" being not such to damage the other person but "may be more about just pushing them to the limits on a psychological level".
If your alarm bells aren't going off as you read that, then perhaps you need new alarm bells. Pushing someone to their psychological limits is already damaging them.
Abusive relationships, as Smith herself says in the same video, often "begin with the psychological torment and wearing down of a person, so by the time it gets physically violent that person doesn't have as much judgement as somebody else, or as they might have had before they entered the relationship. It can be difficult for them to gauge if they're being abused."
Exactly. And isn't that where the more extreme forms of BDSM lead? ...