On September 6, 2014 Melinda Phoenix was overjoyed to welcome her first son Oliver into the world.
But it wasn't just her husband Jonathan Stein, 32, from Oakland, California, who shared her joy in the delivery room. Incredibly his second wife Dani, who was also pregnant, was beside them to witness it too.
And just 35 days later on October 11, it was Melinda's turn to offer her support to 30-year-old Dani in the delivery room, when she gave birth to Jonathan's second baby, a beautiful baby girl named Ella Lynn.
Jonathan, Dani, and Melinda are a polyamorous family, which means that they all believe in having more than one partner.
The trio and their two children all live under the same roof, with all three parents sharing every aspect of parenthood, from nighttime feeds to diaper changes.
'It might seem strange to a lot of people, but to us it makes perfect sense,' Melinda, 28, who runs her own healing company, East-West Collaborative Health, told Daily Mail Online. 'We all love each other and it was our dream to fall pregnant at the same time.
'Unlike conventional couples who are sleep deprived when a newborn comes along, there are three of us to take it in turns on the night shift. We breastfeed each others babies, split the finances three ways and the housework too.
'Even sex is great as if one person is not feeling up for it, then there are two other people to choose from.'
Dani added: 'We compliment each other perfectly as our parenting styles are so different.
'Whereas I'm a bit paranoid and constantly worrying about germs and if the babies are breathing, Melinda is the opposite.
'We just need a bigger bed, as we are all co-sleeping with the babies as well and at the moment the only way Jonathan fits is if he lays horizontally at the bottom of the bed.'
Until Dani met Melinda in 2008, Melinda had only been in monogamous relationships with men, while Dani had enjoyed relationships with both men and women.
But after meeting at a music festival, the pair knew they were destined to spend the rest of their lives together. ...
A short one today as my life is currently very complicated and conspiring against my preference to spend all of my days working out what to blog. But do you know what isn’t complicated?
It’s been much discussed recently; what with college campuses bringing in Affirmative Consent rules, and with the film of the book that managed to make lack of consent look sexy raking it in at the box office. You may not know this, but in the UK we more or less have something similar to ‘affirmative consent’ already. It’s how Ched Evans was convicted while his co-defendant was not – and is along the lines of whether the defendant had a reasonable belief that the alleged victim consented. From the court documents it appears that while the jury felt that it was reasonable to believe that the victim had consented to intercourse with the co-defendant, it was not reasonable to believe that she’d consented to intercourse with some random dude that turned up halfway through (Evans). The issue in the UK isn’t traditionally in the way it’s dealt with in court, but in the way it has been investigated – new guidance was recently issued to try to improve this.
It seems like every time an article is written about consent, or a move made towards increasing the onus on the initiator of the sex to ensure that the person they are trying to have sex with, you know, actually WANTS to have sex with them, there are a wave of comments and criticisms.
It seems a lot of people really, REALLY don’t get what ‘consent’ means. From the famous “not everybody needs to be asked prior to each insertion” to the student that (allegedly) thought he’d surprise his partner with some non consensual BDSM to that fucking song to almost every damn comment on any article by anyone that suggests that yes means yes; it seems people really have a problem understanding that before you have sex with someone, and that’s every time you have sex with them, make sure they want to have sex with you. This goes for men, women, everyone. Whoever you are initiating sexytimes with, just make sure they are actually genuinely up for it. That’s it. It’s not hard. Really.
If you’re still struggling, just imagine instead of initiating sex, you’re making them a cup of tea.
You say “hey, would you like a cup of tea?” and they go “omg fuck yes, I would fucking LOVE a cup of tea! Thank you!*” then you know they want a cup of tea.
If you say “hey, would you like a cup of tea?” and they um and ahh and say, “I’m not really sure…” then you can make them a cup of tea or not, but be aware that they might not drink it, and if they don’t drink it then – this is the important bit – don’t make them drink it. You can’t blame them for you going to the effort of making the tea on the off-chance they wanted it; you just have to deal with them not drinking it. Just because you made it doesn’t mean you are entitled to watch them drink it.
If they say “No thank you” then don’t make them tea. At all. Don’t make them tea, don’t make them drink tea, don’t get annoyed at them for not wanting tea. They just don’t want tea, ok?
They might say “Yes please, that’s kind of you” and then when the tea arrives they actually don’t want the tea at all. Sure, that’s kind of annoying as you’ve gone to the effort of making the tea, but they remain under no obligation to drink the tea. They did want tea, now they don’t. Sometimes people change their mind in the time it takes to boil that kettle, brew the tea and add the milk. And it’s ok for people to change their mind, and you are still not entitled to watch them drink it even though you went to the trouble of making it.
If they are unconscious, don’t make them tea. Unconscious people don’t want tea and can’t answer the question “do you want tea” because they are unconscious.
Ok, maybe they were conscious when you asked them if they wanted tea, and they said yes, but in the time it took you to boil that kettle, brew the tea and add the milk they are now unconscious. You should just put the tea down, make sure the unconscious person is safe, and – this is the important bit – don’t make them drink the tea. They said yes then, sure, but unconscious people don’t want tea.
If someone said yes to tea, started drinking it, and then passed out before they’d finished it, don’t keep on pouring it down their throat. Take the tea away and make sure they are safe. Because unconscious people don’t want tea. Trust me on this.
If someone said “yes” to tea around your house last saturday, that doesn’t mean that they want you to make them tea all the time. They don’t want you to come around unexpectedly to their place and make them tea and force them to drink it going “BUT YOU WANTED TEA LAST WEEK”, or to wake up to find you pouring tea down their throat going “BUT YOU WANTED TEA LAST NIGHT”.
Do you think this is a stupid analogy? Yes, you all know this already – of course you wouldn’t force feed someone tea because they said yes to a cup last week. Of COURSE you wouldn’t pour tea down the throat of an unconcious person because they said yes to tea 5 minutes ago when they were conscious. But if you can understand how completely ludicrous it is to force people to have tea when they don’t want tea, and you are able to understand when people don’t want tea, then how hard is it to understand when it comes to sex?
Whether it’s tea or sex, Consent Is Everything.
And on that note, I am going to make myself a cup of tea.
*I actually said this word for word to a friend in the early hours of Sunday morning after a warehouse party. Tea. It’s fucking brilliant.
Guest Blogs do not represent NCSF but are the opinion of the blogger. NCSF provides space for activists to post their opinions in order to get feedback from the kink and nonmonogamous communities on the work they are doing and the information they are providing to the mainstream. Please leave your comments below and go to the blogger’s website to join in the conversation!
When we talk about Christianity, the conversation doesn’t usually jump right to sex. At least not fun sex. If we do touch on the subject, it’s probably in reference to that scene from the Exorcist with that possessed girl…and what she does with a cross. But in all serious, sex is important to Christian couples. So long as you’re heterosexual and married, you’re encouraged to have as much of it as you want.
The ladies over at Christian Nympohs even go so far as to blame Satan for gaps in their orgasmic history. But sex for the purposes of procreation is one thing. Recreational sex is another. So how do sex toys factor into the marriage bed?
The site Sex Within Marriage offers an explanation even the most strident atheists could accept. In response to the Bible’s silence on sex toys, they say, “Logically, there is one basic guideline I think we should use: Any toy should be used to enhance the relationship with your spouse. If it detracts from it, or becomes the focus, or your relationship becomes dependent on it, then it’s harming you, not helping. Get rid of it.” Fair enough.
Christian sex toy retailers aren’t really so different from the rest. They do steer away from selling porn or products that are packaged with “inappropriate images,” but something is better than nothing, right? There’s always room to expand.
So if it hasn’t been made clear, the Christian sex industry is out there. And it stretches a lot further than we may have thought. Listed below are some of the most unexpected toys offered. ...
By protecting the identities of people with a history of abusive behavior, FetLife.com leaves members of the BDSM community vulnerable to harm.
by DAVID Z. MORRIS
The Fifty Shades of Grey books have unleashed a wave of mainstream interest in kinky sex since their arrival in 2011. The film version, which hit theaters on February 14, will probably trigger a second surge. But the kink community is less than enthusiastic about that.
“I’m not looking forward to it,” says Autumn Lokerson, a BDSM blogger and self-identified submissive.
That’s because Lokerson has seen many Fifty Shades converts dive headfirst into BDSM, without taking much time to educate themselves about the elaborate rules, rituals, and culture that have developed over decades. Her main concern is that newbies can put themselves in danger. All those rules—summed up by the oft-repeated community mantra "Safe, Sane, Consensual"—are vital to making risky practices like bondage and the infliction of pain safer.
Also worrisome is that many dipping a toe in the waters of BDSM will start exploring through FetLife, which, with more than 3.5 million members, is the most popular social networking site for kinksters. FetLife lets members discuss issues, explore their desires, and arrange offline events and dates. But Lokerson and others have long contended that FetLife does an inadequate job of safeguarding its users, and even creates a false sense of safety in the community—primarily, by preventing identification of abusive members.
Just as the rest of society has more openly confronted the ugly reality of rape, the BDSM scene has had to acknowledge that "Safe, Sane, Consensual" is often more of an ideal than reality. In 2011, Kitty Stryker, a blogger and longtime member of the BDSM community, spoke out about having her negotiated boundaries repeatedly violated by people she trusted. This triggered a flood of similar accounts across blogs, message boards, and discussion threads.
In 2013, these anecdotes were backed up by a survey by the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom, a group that works for the legal protection of alternative sexual practices. The survey found that 30 percent of people who participated in BDSM had had their pre-negotiated boundaries violated by a partner.
Revelations of abuse also frequently surface on FetLife. But these discussions are seriously limited—Fetlife doesn’t allow users to name their abusers. In a 2012 forum thread titled “Confessions: TRIGGER WARNING,” dozens of members accused others of violating their consent, using their FetLife screen names. However, FetLife administrators quickly emailed the user who started the thread, requesting that all usernames be removed. The thread can still be viewed in its anonymized version by registered Fetlife users.
Many of the stories shared on FetLife are horrific. One user shared this message from a FetLife admin regarding accusations against a high-ranking community member, whose username is here replaced with [Tribe Leader]:
My name is Maureen, and I’m writing to let you know that we’ve removed a post you made in your status referring to [Tribe Leader] that said: “[Tribe Leader] has anally raped a person who was bound and gagged and unable to resist” I’m very sorry, but I’m afraid we don’t allow criminal accusations to be made anywhere on Fetlife against another member : (
The frowny face is a nice touch.
Fifty Shades of Grey sparks wide interest in erotic subculture
By Li Lin
"I love being dominant, and the feeling of power I have in our sexual role-playing games," says 28-year-old Ada Ling, a certified nurse who lives and works in Beijing.
"[And] I love being trampled by her, especially when she's wearing high heels," her 26-year-old boyfriend, university tutor and graduate student Xiao Wu explains.
Xiao and Ling met roughly two years ago on a BDSM message board. While in the popular imagination, BDSM most often evokes images of skintight leather suits and whips, practitioners of BDSM usually define it in relational terms - as forms of erotic play based on control and uneven power dynamics.
In the wake of the release of Fifty Shades of Grey, which depicts a young woman's sexual awakening and initiation into the world of BDSM, the erotic subculture has been garnering considerable attention around the world.
Although neither the film nor the best-selling trilogy of novels by EL James upon which it is based have been officially released on the Chinese mainland, a frenzy of interest around BDSM has nevertheless developed in the country.
"For me, BDSM is like a secret garden, in which I'm totally liberated to be my true self," said Xiao. "The feeling of being controlled excites me."
BDSM is a compound acronym that combines "bondage and discipline" (B&D), "dominance and submission" (D&S) and "sadism and masochism" (S&M).
One partner will usually assume the role of the "dominant," who wields control over his (her) "submissive" partner.
In Ling and Xiao's relationship, it is Xiao who usually adopts the role of the submissive.
"I get a kind of mental pleasure from being humiliated, tied up, and even punished, such as being spanked on my side or whipped on my back," he explained.
Ling said that common scenarios in their BDSM role-plays included Roman queen and servant, police officer and prisoner, and dog owner and dog.
In China, numerous headlines for articles related to Fifty Shades of Grey have described BDSM as a form of "sexual perversion," and some social media users have even questioned whether it is a form of sexual abuse.
Peng Xiaohui, a sexologist at Wuhan-based Central China Normal University, rejected such characterizations outright. He noted that essential to BDSM was the idea of mutual, informed consent.
"Consent in BDSM is crucial," said Peng.
"The level of stimulation is discussed and agreed upon in advance. Also, there always has to be a unique 'safe word,' which is a word or gesture to signify a limit if one of the partners wants to stop."
Sexual abuse, on the other hand, is "arbitrary and reckless, intended to hurt the victim, and constitutes a criminal offence," said Peng. ...
"It was like, here I am, outed as a supposedly sexually impulsive rich girl who's into kink."
At 17, Alissa Afonina was a bright, studious college student. But that year, on a drive with her mother and her mom's then-boyfriend, the car she was riding in sped around a curve and flipped three times; Afonina hit her head, suffering four lesions to the frontal lobe of her brain. The accident changed her life forever.
After the accident in 2009, Afonina battled exhaustion, depression and anxiety. She dropped out of college and struggled to find or keep a job. Her frontal lobe injury also caused her to become more sexually promiscuous — a common side effect of frontal lobe injuries — but in turn, her relationships became purely physical obsessions and she lost her social support system. To cope with her new personality and to make ends meet, Afonina became a professional dominatrix under the pseudonym Sasha Mizaree.
After years of medical testing and analysis, Afonina and her mother went to trial, seeking compensation for their injuries. In late 2014, a judge agreed the driver (her mom's then-boyfriend) had been going too fast and was thus negligent; heawarded Afonina nearly 1.5 million Canadian dollars. To her, the award was a vindication for people with invisible disabilities everywhere.
But when media outlets started picking up her story, Afonina was horrified: they claimed she was a sex-obsessed woman who only won her case because she was a sex worker, completely devaluing the struggles of brain injury sufferers everywhere. They also outed her; overnight, her real name had become immutably linked to her sex work identity.
Now, in her first major interview since the case, Cosmopolitan.com spoke to Afonina about her life after the crash, her work as a dominatrix, and how she's learning to deal with media, fame, and disability.
After the accident, when did you begin to realize that something was different?
I felt different right away, really fuzzy; [the doctors] had said I had a concussion at first. They said, "This is normal — you're going to feel fuzzy, you're going to feel out of it." My mom was definitely noticing more anger in me. I felt depression; I felt anxiety, including social anxiety. That was really new to me — I was completely a social butterfly before that, and then, all of a sudden, I just had no social life.
I didn't know that I actually had a brain injury until I did an MRI about a year after it happened. I found out from the doctors, like, "Hey, your symptoms happen to be not your fault! You're not lazy, you're not fucked up, but in fact, these are very consistent with a frontal lobe brain injury." That was kind of big news at the time.
Were you interested in kink and BDSM before your accident?
No, it wasn't something I practiced or knew anything about. I was kind of goth, but I wasn't kinky or sexual before the accident. I didn't really have sex in high school, and I wasn't somebody that dated much.
During your trial, it was mentioned that you experienced an increased interest in sex and sexuality after the accident, and the media has made a big deal of that detail. What was your sexuality actually like?
I remember being completely into this guy that I was dating, just completely obsessed with him; this was a new feeling all of a sudden — an addictive kind of need for this guy's attention and touching him. I began to notice that my whole self-presentation and my personality had become sexualized, to the point where I didn't feel like there was anything else to me. And if I didn't have a partner to be obsessed with, I felt empty. Everything felt dull and boring, and the only thing that made me alive was flirting with men. When you're not experiencing pleasure in things, that's like dying on the inside.
Whenever I did get into any relationship — and that's a generous word for the kind of interactions I've had with men — I wasn't able to form any loving relationship. And what I want, at my core, is not casual sex. I want to be loved. …
Guest Blogs do not represent NCSF but are the opinion of the blogger. NCSF provides space for activists to post their opinions in order to get feedback from the kink and nonmonogamous communities on the work they are doing and the information they are providing to the mainstream. Please leave your comments below!
By Lucia Caltabiano
Quite often what I speak on is BDSM 101 or some sort of introductory course on the topic; one to dispel myths and stereotypes. Today however I'm going to focus on the practices of the subculture but more importantly the traditional values. Most people think whips and chains, and then wonder what it has to do with 'traditional values', but before it was about the shock and awe, and before it was about the whips and chains, it was simply a community. One of like minded individuals whose common lifestyle practices were considered at best pathological and at worst criminal. In particular I will focus on the Leather community since this was the step parent that essentially raised BDSM into what became in the 80's and 90's.
Many of the values which some now call the Old Guard kept the community safe, and shielded its participants from scorn. Quite often one had to be invited into the community and started as a sub; a practice meant to create empathy within a member that may one day become a Dom. That person was then trained for however long (months or years) and then could choose if they so desired to be Dom or sub. This system ensured that individual instruction was given, proper orientation as well, and that all members that a person could encounter were vetted participants. The community was one in which common practices led to common identity and in particular when the Leather and BDSM communities separated, the Leather (predominantly gay men and lesbians) were left to care for their own when the AIDS epidemic struck. Ostracized from their families in many cases, Leather men had only the community to rely upon either till they passed or were able to survive.
Through the 1980’s and 1990’s, the BDSM community separated from the Leather community. This led to the evolution of volunteer based education groups. The rate at which people came into the community was slow enough that the system worked. Volunteer based education led to the formation of groups called munches and as the groups grew bigger and bigger, at times they would cater to specific interests. At this stage we set up the infrastructure of the community which rested on the backs of these groups. It’s these groups that are being strained now by the influx of new people.
Now that BDSM has come to be something much different and is well within the public eye, we try to make the best of the situation and see it as an opportunity to find some degree of acceptance. The rise in accidents and ER admissions resulting from sex toy use or sadomasochism gone awry speaks for itself though. People are presented with the general concepts which provide entertainment value; novelty. There is little emphasis on the community though and even when people know that there is a community, there is often so much trepidation that they never venture out; never gain the education or training which the community provides.
In the past, the policy of not speaking or being public protected members and the community, but also contributed to shedding a negative light on it. With no one to step up, conjecture was the best that people had to go on and those that lacked mental faculties and/or were termed sadistic murderers came to be seen as the example, not the exception.
There are as many ways to do BDSM as there are people that do it, but I would argue that the deterioration of traditional values has led to disequilibrium within the community and subculture. I can now walk into the mall and buy my bondage tape in a Spencer's or a pair of cheap handcuffs if I so wish. Next to this though is a grey silk tie and to anyone in the community, the use of silk is discourage because it lacks the texture to create friction and easily slips or tightens.
The 50 Shades craze can't be undone, but now BDSM needs to find its new balance with the world. Or perhaps it’s the other way around. Whichever the case may be, all I can encourage is for people to approach things from a critical standpoint. Safety is what came from traditions propagated by the community, and now it is up to individuals to take their safety in their own hands. To determine if a pair of handcuffs is safe knowing they may have a nickel allergy. To determine if the rubber cuffs right next to them are worth trying knowing that there is no indication on the packaging of whether or not they contain latex. To determine what wax is suitable for play and what is not; here's a hint: nothing but paraffin is ever recommended for beginners. As people venture into these new territories, they'll be presented with more and more questions; both about themselves and what they're doing. Critical thinking and seeking out education is the best step to take in lieu of traditional guidance.
Inside Miss Vera’s Finishing School for Boys Who Want to Be Girls, where anything goes except for your real name.
BY CHADWICK MOORE
Behind Manhattan’s Port Authority Bus Terminal lies a grimy, litter-strewn block of brownstones where a half dozen bums have camped outside an abandoned storefront. The tableau is like a mote of Old New York dust suspended in the neon beams reaching west from nearby Times Square. Since the late 1990s, the New York–based group Crossdressers International, or CDI, has maintained an apartment here.
For its roughly 30 key-holding members, the CDI headquarters serves as a support group and a locker room. There are two rules: no photography and never reveal your male name.
In the entry hall of this low-ceiling garden apartment, there’s a stack of pigeonholes for passing along communications and sometimes love notes to other members. There are two sofas and a television in the living room, a shelf for unwanted clothing, and a bulletin board with announcements and resources. The periphery is lined with lockers and stacks of luggage; members pay a fee to keep their wardrobes here and can come and go as they please.
I’m first introduced to Karen — nervous, small, balding, with a close-cropped horseshoe of hair and a deep, husky voice. She’s standing wigless in a skimpy dress, shuffling through her locker, and won’t look me in the eye. Pointing at my voice recorder, she whispers, “I can’t be on tape. I can’t have people recognizing my voice.” She slips by me, shoulders bowed, to the bedroom, where she stands on a paper towel to put glitter polish on her toenails.
Karen is single, without children, and works as an accountant. “I wish people in my office could see me look like this,” she says. “I’m so boring and dumpy at the office.” She carries two cell phones and uses a back entrance to her apartment building that allows her to ferry her female clothing in and out without the doorman or neighbors seeing. She says she goes out in a dress four or five nights a week, far more than anyone else here tonight — save for Jen, the current president of CDI, and her girlfriend, Michelle, who live full-time as women.
They met through CDI and have been dating a few months. Jen’s story sounds a little apocryphal: She says she became transgender under “very rare” circumstances. “Mine was an accident because of prostate cancer,” she tells me, adding that things became “quite bizarre,” amid the hormone therapy she was receiving during treatment. “I got saturated with estrogen, and that’s when I discovered it. I have not known my whole life like most of the girls in here. Before I was diagnosed, I was pretty much asexual.”
Dues also help pay for things like CDI’s weekly dinner parties, including the one hosted on this recent Wednesday evening. The other eight diners gathered around the card table live outwardly as men except for the handful of times a month when they change how they dress. They’re all sexually attracted to women or to other cross-dressers. They have wives and children. Many have grandchildren. Everyone is around retirement age. They have a taste for skimpy dresses, short skirts, high heels, heavy makeup, and the kind of glittery accessories that usually appeal to teenagers.
“For as long as I remember, I’ve had gender identity issues. About 11 years ago, I was very suicidal,” says one member, who has grandchildren and who asked not to be identified by name. “I started living a double life. I’ve invested 40 years in my marriage. I’m successful at work. I don’t want to walk away from that. My wife has a really hard time. It really turns her off.”
Nancy is a longtime member. She’s not dressed tonight and looks a bit like Jerry Van Dyke with a manicure. “You dress, you go to Macy’s, you go to a Broadway show,” she says. “I’ve been married 34 years. I love my wife. I can’t [fully transition]. It’s not going to happen.”
“The gays aren’t too pleased with us because they think we are like Punxsutawney Phil — you come out on Groundhog Day, and then you go back down the hole,” Nancy adds. Many cross-dressers rely on gay bars as places to feel safe in public, yet that’s usually where the association ends. Nancy claims CDI’s application to take part in New York’s annual LGBT Pride March has been continually rejected in recent years, with organizers telling her each time it was filed too late. ...