Responsible BDSM practitioners realize, perhaps more acutely than anyone else, that “yes” is not enough. We could all learn something from this stigmatized community, if only we’d talk more openly.
The first time I learned about safe words, I’d just been spanked.
“If we ever do something you don’t like, just say ‘red’ and I’ll stop,” my boyfriend told me later that night, as I squirmed on a hard chair during dinner. “You know that, right?”
I did not know that, actually.
“Like red light, yellow light, green light?” I asked.
My boyfriend—let’s call him John—nodded.
“Exactly,” he said.
I was 17 years old. John, my first boyfriend, was 24. (In the country where we lived at the time, that combination was perfectly legal.) We were young. We didn’t know anything about responsible BDSM even as we explored our kinks together. How were we supposed to learn? Neither of us owned a laptop, and I wasn’t about to research our unusual sexual fixation from a public Internet café. John and I were merely following our impulses into murky—and potentially dangerous—territory.
Consent is critical in every sexual expression. But those boundaries and responsibilities are heightened in kink. And they’re not always obvious. After all, it was only after a spanking—one of many—that John finally thought to introduce a safe word into our play. Before that, it would have been entirely possible for our consensual and mutually satisfying encounters to cross the line into assault. When hurting your partner as he or she cries and begs you to stop is part of the fun, how do we know where the fun stops? Can the foggy edge of kink teach us anything about sexual consent in general? ...
...The isolation of stigma also leaves kinky assault survivors with few ways to report crimes without exposing themselves to the victim-blaming, scorn, and condescending pity that are directed at sexual minorities even under the best of circumstances.
“There is such a strong stigma against BDSM that even people within the community are afraid to reach out and learn how to do things safely,” says Susan Wright, the spokesperson for the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom. “They’re more afraid of being ‘outed’ than they are of being assaulted. That stigma creates a haven for predators.”
It’s a cruel and dangerous cycle. To fight prejudice and misconceptions, we defend ourselves and our community. But the need to incessantly remind people that kink is not abuse makes it hard to admit that kinky relationships—just like vanilla relationships—sometimes do become abusive. When we’re made to feel that we must defend ourselves, we become afraid to perpetuate the stigma against us by calling out abuse. (Even FetLife.com, ground zero for sexual fetishists online, has refused to blacklist known predators in its midst.) One BDSM blogger described abusers in the kink community as “missing stairs” in a familiar house: people who have lived in the house for years avoid the gap automatically, but visitors are at risk of falling through.
A consent advocate and activist for marginalized sexual communities, who asked not to be named, told me that stigma adds an additional layer of risk when it forces BDSM practitioners to express our sexualities from behind the veil of pseudonyms.
“There are major figures in the BDSM community who have multiple restraining orders against them,” she says. “But how would their partners know that? When everyone uses pseudonyms, criminal histories are easy to hide. You can’t look up restraining orders under a fake name.” ...
3 women have come forward to police, investigation in its 'infancy'
Toronto police are asking for the public's help as they investigate former CBC radio host Jian Ghomeshi for what they are calling complaints of "assault and sexual assault" after three women alleged that they were attacked by him.
The investigation is in its "infancy," sex crimes Insp. Joanna Beaven-Desjardins said Saturday. None of the allegations has been proven.
She called on anyone with any evidence that could help the investigation to contact police and said potential evidence would include videos, photos or online messaging.
She encouraged any potential further victims to contact police as well — either to file a report, discuss their options or seek counselling.
"Even if they don't want to report but they want to talk to us, we welcome that," Beaven-Desjardins said at news conference.
Over the past week, several women have spoken with either the Toronto Star or CBC and claimed they were in some way attacked by Ghomeshi during romantic encounters. The majority of the women spoke with the media anonymously and, at the time, none of them had filed a police complaint.
When "I want you to tie me up and spank me" just feels awkward.
by Margaret Corvid
So, you've got some kinks. For years, you have kept them locked safely away in your brain. Now you've screwed up your courage and you're ready to tell your partner about your kinks. As a professional dominatrix and a lifelong kinkster, I am well versed in the ways of the kinky disclosure, and I am here to help you move from horny hopes to real-life kinky action.
1. Before you begin, be relaxed and confident. As celebrated advice columnist Dan Savage has often said, coming out about your kinky interests shouldn't be like disclosing a cancer diagnosis. Most of us with kinks have disclosed them to a previous partner, only to be met with shock or disgust. That experience leads us to approach telling our partners with some nervousness, but unfortunately that can set you up for failure. Nerves and worries spread easily, particularly to someone who knows you well, so bring up your kinks when you're feeling especially good about yourself.
2. Be simple, sober, and calm. When you're talking about your kinks at first, have the conversations sober, with your clothes on, and when the two of you are not having a raging fight. You should both be in a good mood and have a little bit of time free to discuss this stuff. It's not necessarily a conversation you need to schedule in advance, but it's an important one; give it the space, time, and care it deserves.
3. Tell your partner the sexiest parts about your kinks — and what they might get out of them. Whether your kink is getting tied up and spanked, or pegging your partner with a strap-on penis, when you roll it out, you should make your kinks sound as tempting and delightful as you know them to be! Temptation and delight, of course, are a two-way street. When your partner is indulging your kinks, they are also getting something in return — namely, a hot, horny, and responsive you. Kink, fetish, and BDSM are intense, and even someone who doesn't have a longstanding interest can get off on that delicious intensity. Say something like, "When you spank my butt, it turns me into a horny, wet she-devil who is ready to jump on your dick!" That's likely to go down well.
This week several women came forward and accused radio host Jian Ghomeshi of sexual assault. But the Canadian star insists they were all consensual BDSM encounters. Does his defense have merit? We take a closer look at consent and kinky sex.
NCSF's Susan Wright joins Huff Post Live with Kitty Stryker (Consent Culture) and Margaret Corvid to talk about Consent in the World of BDSM.
One woman, actor Lucy DeCoutere, alleges she was slapped and choked without her consent.
Eight women from across Canada now accuse former CBC host Jian Ghomeshi of abusive behaviour ranging from allegations of beating and choking without consent, to workplace sexual harassment.
The allegations the Star is probing range from 2002 to the present.
One of the women, popular Canadian television actor Lucy DeCoutere, has agreed to be identified. DeCoutere, who plays Lucy on Trailer Park Boys , recalls an incident in 2003 when she alleges Ghomeshi, without warning or consent, choked her to the point she could not breathe and then slapped her hard three times on the side of her head.
“He did not ask if I was into it. It was never a question. It was shocking to me. The men I have spent time with are loving people,” said DeCoutere, who, when she is not acting on the television show, is a captain in the Royal Canadian Air Force in New Brunswick.
Ghomeshi, 47, was fired Sunday from his job as host of Q , a flagship radio show of the publicly funded broadcaster. Ghomeshi has alleged in a lawsuit filed the next day that CBC made a “moral judgment” that his practice of a bondage-sadism sex life was wrong. He is suing the CBC for $55 million for defamation and breach of trust and the corporation has said it will “vigorously” defend itself against Ghomeshi’s lawsuit.
The Star has presented Ghomeshi, his lawyers and his public relations staff with the allegations in this story and they have yet to respond.
He met some of the women during his 2012 tour to promote 1982 , his best- selling memoir about a year in high school in Thornhill. Others he met at film festivals, at music or CBC events, or at the CBC workplace.
Two of the women who allege they were physically assaulted also say that before the alleged assaults in his home he introduced them to Big Ears Teddy, a stuffed bear, and he turned the bear around just before he slapped or choked them, saying that “Big Ears Teddy shouldn’t see this.”
One of the new women to come forward is a woman in her mid-20s who was a CBC producer in Montreal who dreamed of being on Q . He met her at one of his book signings. Ghomeshi allegedly took her to his hotel room, threw her against the wall and was very “forceful” with her. She said she performed oral sex “to get out of there.” The woman, who still works in the media but not at CBC, said she decided not to complain about his behaviour because she feared he was too powerful.
“I felt like Jian was CBC god,” she told the Star in an interview. She is the second CBC woman to come forward with allegations of sexual harassment by Ghomeshi. The CBC has announced they are investigating the first case, where Ghomeshi allegedly told a CBC staffer he wanted to “hate f---” her.
Generally, the stories the women have told the Star describe a man obsessed with his image and power, and someone who they say has little or no respect for barriers.
Over the course of the Star’s investigation, women who say they were victimized said they did not feel comfortable putting their name to the allegations. Some say they feared retaliation from Ghomeshi, online harassment and a negative impact on their careers.
DeCoutere said it was time for someone to speak publicly about the matter.
She first met Ghomeshi at a barbecue at a Banff television festival in 2003. They chatted and, in time, she visited Toronto and they had dinner at a restaurant on the Danforth. She recalls him telling her how famous he was and “how lucky you are to be with me.” They went back to his house in Riverdale. DeCoutere said they began making out and then she alleges he pushed her against the wall, choked her with his hands around her neck and then slapped her three times. ...
Thanks to a revealing Facebook post by former CBC radio host Jian Ghomeshi, kink, specifically BDSM (bondage, domination, sadism and masochism) is in the spotlight.
The CBC fired Ghomeshi, 47, on Sunday after it received information the network said “precludes” it from retaining the popular host of its “Q” radio show.
Ghomeshi’s post was meant to preempt the publication of an investigation by the Toronto Star, which shared the allegations of three women who maintain they were sexually assaulted by Ghomeshi, and one who alleges he sexually harassed her at work.
Kink figures heavily into this story. Ghomeshi maintains the CBC fired him because it wanted to distance itself from elements of his private, consensual sex life the network found unsavory.
“I’ve been fired from the CBC because of the risk of my private sex life being made public as a result of a campaign of false allegations pursued by a jilted ex girlfriend and a freelance writer,” Ghomeshi wrote in the same post in which he informed his fans he was suing the CBC for $50 million for wrongful termination. “Sexual preferences are a human right.”
But members of the kink community, such as Andrea Zanin, have been reluctant to back Ghomeshi. Some voiced concerns the former host is using kink and the public’s general ignorance of the subject as a shield for criminal behavior. This is not necessarily a story about whether a Canadian broadcaster has the right to dismiss its most high-profile talent over the details of his sex life — which Howard Levitt of the Financial Post maintained it does. Rather, they said, this is a story about consent.
Zanin is a PhD candidate at York University, where she’s pursuing a degree in gender, feminist and women’s studies. She blogs at Sex Geek and bills herself a “pervert.” On Monday, Ms. Magazine republished her blog post on Ghomeshi and the allegations against him. Zanin deftly picks apart the idea Ghomeshi was targeted by the CBC or by the women who talked to the Star for being kinky: ...
Canadian radio host Jian Ghomeshi has interviewed some of pop culture's biggest names, from Barbra Streisand, Joni Mitchell and Dan Rather to Lena Dunham and Zach Galifianakis, and that's just in the past few months.
His CBC Radio show, "Q with Jian Ghomeshi," is one of the most popular in the network's history, making him a bona fide celebrity in a country that takes pride in its public radio. It aired on more than 180 public radio stations in the United States, prompting the Washington Post to call it "the most popular new arts and culture radio show in America" in 2013.
Still, the 47-year-old was far from a household name in the United States when he posted a lengthy screed on his Facebook page Sunday accusing the CBC of firing him for his "private sex life." He said the dismissal came after he shared details of his sex life with his former employers to head off a smear campaign by "jilted" exes accusing him of nonconsensual kinky activity.
The combination of Canadian celebrity, an iconic Canadian institution and allegations from anonymous women produced what one columnist called "a Canadian sex scandal the likes of which we haven't seen in decades." The size of Ghomeshi's star and the seriousness of the allegations makes this bigger than your run of the mill celebrity sex scandal, with implications beyond Canada.
Two major issues reside at the heart of the scandal: a $55 million lawsuit against the CBC in which Ghomeshi alleges that he was fired for his sexual proclivities, and anonymous allegations reported by the Toronto Star from three women accusing Ghomeshi of sexual violence and nonconsensual BDSM activity. The CBC released a statement saying the decision was "not made without serious deliberation and careful consideration" and declined to comment further.
Ghomeshi denies the allegations and says any sexual activity between him and the women, kinky or not, was consensual.
"Let me be the first to say that my tastes in the bedroom may not be palatable to some folks. They may be strange, enticing, weird, normal, or outright offensive to others," he said in his Facebook post. "But that is my private life. That is my personal life. And no one, and certainly no employer, should have dominion over what people do consensually in their private life."
By bringing BDSM into the mix through his Facebook post, Ghomeshi ignited conversation in legal circles and the kink community over whether the "kinky defense" will prevail in his lawsuit and the court of public opinion.
The scandal is of particular interest to the kink community, who say it raises two common topics of concern in their world: discrimination over sexual activity, and the gray area between consensual activity and assault in BDSM.
Others worry about the potential for the "kinky defense" to be misappropriated and used as a shield for rape and assault.
"It hits on a lot of important aspects that BDSM faces," said Susan Wright, spokeswoman for National Coalition for Sexual Freedom, an advocacy group that promotes tolerance of sexual minorities. "Rarely do you have an instance where so many things come together. ...
This weekend, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation sparked a national sex conversation when it dismissed popular radio host Jian Ghomeshi. In a Facebook post, Ghomeshi claimed he was fired because his participation in consensual BDSM had come to light and corporation executives “said that this type of sexual behavior was unbecoming of a prominent host on the CBC.” A few hours later, the Toronto Star published an article alleging that Ghomeshi was let go because he had a history of assaulting women—not for consensual kink. As Amanda Marcotte noted in Slate, “Accusations of dating violence, sexual abuse, and sexual harassment, if true, are all good reasons for the CBC to terminate its relationship with Ghomeshi. … The only issue that matters … is whether or not there was consent.”
Even if you don’t believe Ghomeshi is a victim here, it’s worth recognizing that he articulated one of the biggest fears in the BDSM community: the possibility of being exposed and fired for our consensual (but stigmatized) sexual practices is a very real concern for many kinky people. In 2008, a Canadian man claimed that he was denied a chauffeur’s permit because of his involvement in BDSM. (In Canada, even unquestionably consensual BDSM falls into a legal gray area; its Supreme Court has ruled that adults cannot consent to bodily harm. Meanwhile, Canada fiercely protects the “right” of parents to inflict a non-consensual act of BDSM on their kids, but I won’t rant about that again.) In the United States, a U.N. weapons inspector was pressured to resign after a Washington Post article outed him as a participant in a BDSM organization. And in Britain, a woman was dismissed from her job after she wore a silver BDSM collar to work—an item, she claimed, that was a token of her beliefs and therefore comparable to religious jewelry.
These high-profile cases are a taste of what less-visible kinksters fear could happen to them. In the United States, it’s perfectly legal for an employer to dismiss an employee because he or she participates in private BDSM, even when the practice has no effect on their job performance. Many employment contracts have so-called “morality clauses,” which stipulate that an employee can be fired for participating in leisure time activities that are “immoral,” distasteful, or stigmatized. But even without morality clauses, kinksters worry.
“For a lot of us, it wouldn’t take a morality clause to lose a job for being kinky,” said a young academic who fears that if his sexual identity were exposed, he’d be excluded from tenure-track positions. “I definitely worry about sharing my kink with vanilla [i.e., non-kinky] significant others, because if a relationship ever ended badly, there would be nothing to stop someone from outing me.”
Dan Kozma, a D.C.-based attorney who specializes in employment discrimination law, told me that there are only four instances where employees are protected from unfair termination: if the employee is covered by a collective bargaining agreement, such as a union contract, which requires “just cause” for termination; if the employee has an individual contract of employment for a specific period of time; if an employee has refused an order to break the law; or if the employee falls into a category that is protected on the basis of race, sex, religion, national origin, or disability status. But none of those exceptions protects employees from being fired merely because a supervisor finds his or her consensual, private sexual behavior to be distasteful.
“If you’re terminated for kink in the United States, I don’t know of anything that will protect you,” said Kozma.
Susan Wright, the spokeswoman for the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom, said that union membership sometimes protects kinksters, polyamorous people, swingers, and other sexual minorities from losing their jobs. But in some industries, such as education and health care, even union membership can’t guarantee job security.
“If you’re a teacher, forget it,” said Wright. “It doesn’t matter if you’re in a union. If you’re kinky, and someone exposes you, you’re out.” (Although there must be some kinky teachers who have been outed to sympathetic colleagues and kept their jobs, kinksters who work in education tend to be some of the most conscious about keeping their private lives hidden. One submissive male teacher told me that he and his wife are extra careful to ensure that any marks left on him by their sex play won’t be visible at work.)
Stigma and the associated fears of employment discrimination prevent most kinky people from publicly discussing this issue. But anecdotes from a NCSF survey that documented kinky people’s experiences, including those in the workplace, highlight the situations kinksters fear. ...