Meditation and bondage might seem like strange bedfellows, but they actually pair together like milk and cookies.
When you hear the word "bondage," you probably think of pain, humiliation and degradation. You might also think of Dakota Johnson bent over a table getting paddled in Fifty Shades of Grey.
Well, there are more shades of bondage than that. One practice called meditative bondage has nothing to do with sex, violence, misogyny, or whips and chains. It’s about finding Zen, and it’s part of a growing trend I'm dubbing "New Age kink," which combines spirituality with sexuality.
"It's about providing containment for another human being, and it's a conduit for connection,” explains Orpheus Black, a sex educator who teaches private and group workshops in meditative bondage, as well as other aspects of BDSM. “It's a way to feel cared for and tended to, and a method to clear your mind and let go. It's similar to the reason parents have swaddled their babies for centuries — the containment makes them feel safe, secure and taken care of. This is the same idea."
In a meditative bondage session I witnessed, a clothed Orpheus Black stood behind his half-naked wife and "slave" (their words) of 20 years, Indigo Black, and slowly bound the upper part of her body. He tied her arms behind her back with a traditional Japanese bondage rope made of soft cotton. "I only bind as tight as a good hug; this is like an extended hug over time. It's loving, not painful," Black explains. He also sets a meditation timer, and participants typically start at just a few minutes before building up to the maximum 15 minutes. (Any longer and you might get a little numb in your extremities.)
"I only bind as tight as a good hug."
The way he tied and untied Indigo was loving. He caressed her slowly and gently with the soft ropes, letting the rope drape down her body. Once bound, he whispered positive affirmations in her ear with warm breath on her neck, and stroked her arms with a sensual, feather-like touch. "I'd tell her she's beautiful and remind her she's safe and cared for. While we don't engage in sex during this, this is great foreplay for sex and helps open your sexual energy," he says.
The last major element is anticipatory touch. "Where would you like me to touch you?" he asked his bound wife. "My arms," she replied. "This isn't about sexual touch. It's about sensual touch. I pause about 10 seconds before I touch her because that pause heightens the touch and gets her to be more present in her body," he notes. Through this process, you could see Indigo deeply relax and even sway a little as she stood there in a meditative state. When the meditation timer went off, he untied her. (Participants can ask to be untied at any time during the practice, though.) ...
TransferWise is known for its provocative publicity stunts — particularly those involving nudity.
In January 2015, the Estonian money transfer app sent a dozen nearly naked employees running through London to protest banks' "unfair exchange rates." It was at it again in February, leading a 200-strong underwear-only march through Wall Street in New York to celebrate their launch in the US.
Even the founders have had a go: Back in June 2014, Taavet Hinrikus and Kristo Käärmann stripped down to their underpants along with dozens of employees in the City of London to illustrate how, they said, the banks “screw you by charging huge hidden charges.”
But TransferWise is less keen on risqué activities when they're not helping to promote the company.
Dimo Trifonov is the founder and CEO of 3nder, an alternative dating app. It focuses on polyamory, kink, and alternative sexual preferences, describing itself as a "way to date awesome people around you who are kinky, curious and open-minded." (It has also been described as "Tinder for threesomes.") It has 650,000 users — 70,000 of which are in the UK, where Trifonov is based — and handles 3 million messages a month.
However, 3nder's unconventional audience has caused problems for Trifonov, both in his professional and personal life.
TransferWise refused to let the company open a business account because of the "nature of [his] business," according to an email seen by Business Insider, with a customer-service representative classifying the dating app as "adult" content, Trifonov says.
And when a landlord discovered what 3nder is, he backed out at the last minute, refusing to rent to Trifonov, the app developer says. He claims the landlord said: "I don't want this champ in my property" — discriminating against him because of his non-monogomous lifestyle. Cluttons, the estate agents that Trifonov found the property through, did not respond to a request for comment.
Trifonov argues TransferWise is also guilty of "double standards" — presenting itself as progressive while acting just like the banks it seeks to supplant.
Meet the guys behind the No Safeword podcast, the guys behind the YouTube channel Watts the Safeword, and the woman behind the Center for Sex Positive Culture.
by Matt Baume
It was in 1991 that one of Allena Gabosch's friends came to her with a problem. The friend was taking a class on sexuality at Highline Community College, and told her, "We just got to the part about S&M, and it's all wrong. Can you come in and speak?"
Allena was a little taken aback. Sure, she was well known in the kink community. With a friend, she ran the fetishy Beyond the Edge Cafe, located on Capitol Hill where Honey Hole is now. (Back then, there was a dungeon in the basement, and she recalls some guy named Dan Savage regularly coming by to get cookies.)
But she was also unaccustomed to public speaking. Professionally, she was a restaurateur; although she was recognized as a leader in the kink community, it was still just a pastime. The first time she'd ever addressed a group, it was a bunch of students who'd come to hear about healthy food, and her hands shook so hard she could barely pick up a can of tuna.
To make matters worse, sexual anxiety was an integral part of her childhood. She was raised fundamentalist, and as a teen she was forbidden from talking about boyfriends.
But as a young adult, Allena discovered an attraction to kinky sex—what was then referred to as S&M, and today more commonly as BDSM. What's more, she reminded herself, she'd gotten into the restaurant business because she liked nurturing people, and opening eyes about sexual fulfillment could be a way to do that.
"I can do this," she told herself, and she told her friend, "Sure."
"Great," her friend replied. Then she added sheepishly, "Just... don't tell anyone you know me."
Allena laughed as she told me the story. "And I've never looked back," she said.
Although she didn't realize it, Allena was about to embark on an accidental sex-lecturing career that blossomed throughout the 1990s. When Beyond the Edge closed in 1999, she and some friends founded the Center for Sex Positive Culture in the Interbay neighborhood, to educate the public and strengthen Seattle's kinky community.
Now nearly two decades later, the center's mission continues with multiple daily events. Items currently on the calendar: a workshop on incorporating martial arts into sex, a clothing-optional dance party ("Special note: Bring a fun hat!"), an erotic massage class, and an arts and crafts night. Whatever your predilection is, there's a good chance that you can hone it at the center—or if you don't think you have any kinks, that you'll discover one.
Allena is in the process of stepping back a bit from full-time education. She's reduced her involvement with the center, though her schedule remains busy. The week that we spoke, she was scheduled to appear at three colleges, participate in a panel, and present to two groups about senior sexuality. She has a podcast called The Relationship Anarchy Show and a coaching business at EroticCoaching.com. She's also a frequent podcast guest, appearing on shows like No Safeword and Polyamory Weekly.
"I have a personal mission statement," she told me. "Remove shame from sex and bring joy." Her college friend's reluctance to be publicly associated with her S&M talk remains a harsh memory, all these years later. She's seen firsthand that feelings of horror around sexual conversations are instilled in us from the time we're kids.
"It's really scary to go to your mom and say, 'Mom, tell me about anal sex,'" Allena said, and I did not argue. "And what about kink or fantasizing? When I was a kid, I depended on Playboy or Playgirl—when I was young, there was nothing."
She added, "In sixth grade, the boys went to one room and the girls went to another. I don't know what the boys learned about. Girls learned about menstruation." (I experienced a similar lesson, and all I remember of what the boys were taught is that you're not supposed to say "boner" in public.)
The forbidden mystique of sex began to fade for her in the mid-1970s when she was 18 years old and living in Portland. Still a bit wide-eyed and innocent, "I snuck into a gay bar and met an amazing trans woman who let me ask her the most stupid questions," she said. It was the best sex education she'd ever had. ...
Being in love is one of the most amazing feelings you can have. You meet that one person who makes everything in your life so much better. Imagine having that same feeling with not just one person. I can remember all the times I have said, "I wish I could take Joe Schmo number one and Joe Schmo number two and combine them. He would be the perfect partner." The idea of a monogamist relationship does not sound appealing to me. I have done it before and didn't like it. Thinking about relationships in general does not make me super excited. In this moment of my life I may not be interested in the typical relationship of being in a committed relationship, but I am still open to the idea of intimacy and love. I want both of those things.
Polyamory is when you have multiple romantic or sexual relationships and not committed to one partner. I have been very open about this with many friends, co-workers and the men that I have been seeing. Some have looked at me with disgust or have a certain tone in their voice when I explain what being poly means. I personally don't want to feel like I belong to one particular person. I am not saying that I absolutely despise of monogamy and marriage. As a millennial I feel that the idea of marriage is not what it used to be. That is okay. I am all for embracing change. I am not sorry that I am not obsessed with the mainstream culture of saying yes to the dress and epic wedding reception flash mobs. ...
When you dedicate your professional life to working with human sexuality, you know from the beginning that you are working with a lightning rod topic. Have you ever been at a party, and someone casually asks you what you do? When you answer that you are a sex educator, a sex coach, a sex therapist, have you noticed how ears perk up around the room? People are fascinated, and people are opinionated. Like everything to do with the base level of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, everyone has an opinion, and their own private battles, with sex.
We’re also still in the formative stages of an emerging trend – we’re seeing today the explosion in sex related information becoming available to the public at large. We’re seeing a proliferation of helping professionals specializing in sexual concerns. We’re seeing more people undertaking study of sexology in depth and building their knowledge beyond their own experience. Never before has the science of sexology and the knowledge it produces been more available to more people.
This is an extremely positive development. It means that people no longer need to suffer in silence alone. With the Internet in more homes around the world every year, even proximity is no longer a factor – people can access expert advice from professionals worldwide from the comfort of their own homes.
The other side of this coin, though, is that in this field terms are generally not regulated and standards of education vary. This means that, currently, anyone can call themselves a sex educator, a sex coach, or even a sex therapist. What we see now is highly educated and well trained professionals, mixed together under the same professional designators as pick-up artists and folks that have watched a couple of TED talks and decided that they are a sex expert.
This means that, if you are a human sexuality professional, there has never been a more important time to have credentials. You have invested a lot of time and money to develop competency in understanding sexual concerns and working with clients, and you have every right to want to set yourself apart from those that have not. It is therefore essential that you are aware of the sexology credentials available today, and have the information you need to decide which credentials are appropriate for you.
Here is an overview of 6 important sexology credentials available to human sexuality professionals today:
Kink Aware Professionals (KAP) Designation
The National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (NCSF) formed in 1997 with the aim of fighting for sexual freedom and privacy rights for adults who engage in safe, sane and consensual behavior. Today, NCSF has over 50 Coalition Partners, over 100 Supporting Members, and over the years has formed alliances with other organizations that defend sexual freedom rights, including the ACLU, American Association of Sex Educators, Councelors, and Therapists (AASECT), Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality (SSSS), and the Gay and Lesbian Activist Alliance, among others.
A key program of the NCSF since 2005 has been maintaining an online directory of Kink Aware Professionals. While sexologists and sexuality professionals are listed, the directory includes an incredible diversity of professionals – from accountants to doctors to realtors. The Kink Aware Professional designation signals to clients that a professional is accepting of diverse sexualities, forms of sexual expression, and sexual communities. The Kink Aware Professionals directory has grown to include over 800 professionals in the United States, Canada, and worldwide.
To receive the Kink Aware Professional designation, the following is required:
Membership in the NCSF, where there are 3 levels of membership available
Meet ALL requirements listed for Kink Aware Professional designation
To embrace the KAP Statement and to understand and agree to its terms
Once listed, Kink Aware Professionals can display on their own websites this status and membership, to show clearly their acceptance of diversity....
The first thing people always ask when I tell them about my open/polyamorous relationship is ""but what will you tell your children?!" The question always catches me off guard when I hear the panic in their voice, but my response is always the same: "I'll tell them the truth." What else would you tell a child? I find that the overall narrative we have surrounding love, sex, and relationships isn't one that includes the many types of sexualities, the types of relationships, and the types of love that I've found in my own life. I find it to be very limiting, and not a true reflection of what the world is like. So I've chosen to talk about my open relationship with my kids, who are 6 and 7, so that they understand what love and relationships look like for me, for some of my friends, and for other people around the world. My hope is that their ideas about love and relationships are formed without judgment, without boundaries, and that they're both open to possibilities, whatever they might be.
When talking about polyamory with people, I've found that most tend to be hyper-focused on how it affects my children. The first things they want to know are often: Is it confusing for them? Are they secure? I tell them a story about when my daughter was 4 or 5. I was doing her hair, and she asked me, "Mama, when are you going to get a boyfriend?" At the time I did have a boyfriend, but my husband and I hadn't told the kids. I asked her why she thought this, and she responded, "I just want more adults to love me, and I want you to have more people to love you. I want a large family." A few months later when we told the kids that we were seeing other people, but that we obviously cared about them the most, they weren't surprised, shocked, or even upset. I braced myself for something dramatic, but it was probably the most boring conversation we'd ever had together as a family. They just shrieked, "MOM HAS A BOYFRIEND! DAD HAS A GIRLFRIEND!" They got a kick out of that for about five minutes, then moved on to something else. It was the least dramatic moment I could've ever expected.
At the time, I felt like talking about being in open, polyamorous relationships with our kids was "so radical," but now it's just our norm. Granted, polyamorous and open relationships all look different from each other, and our norm might look drastically different than someone else's. There's even a difference between polyamory and being "open." According to Poly-Coach.com, polyamory is the practice of having many loves, and loving many ways. Morning Glory Zell-Ravenheart coined the term in 1990, according to The Guardian, and polyamorists believe it's possible to be romantically linked to more than one person at a time.
My current partner and I fall a bit in between polyamory and being open, but when I was still with my ex-husband, we practiced a true polyamorous relationship. There's a stigma that when you have more than one partner you suddenly go from being a "good, wholesome" person, to a "depraved" one, constantly hosting orgies, or hanging out in dungeons. I never understood how my relationships determined my outward "goodness." I believe that you can have orgies and still maintain healthy relationships with people. Yeah, it takes a lot of work, like it does with any relationship, but it's possible. Love exists in many ways, and in many different forms. It's why I told my kids about polyamory. You can love one, two, or three people, and it doesn't diminish any of your love. It doesn't make it less true, or less real. ...
A few years ago, my husband, Rob, and I converted our traditional marriage to a polyamorous one. It's been remarkably smooth. We're very happy with our choice. And yet eventually we'll probably divorce. Does this mean that polyamory failed us? Not at all.
Like many of our generation, Rob and I are children of divorce, and so when we got married a dozen years ago, we designed a quasi-Buddhist ceremony that made room for the concept of anicca, or impermanence. We wrote our own vows and left out the "until death do we part" and "forsaking all others" stuff: Instead, we spoke about the inevitability of change and pledged to support one another as we continued to evolve.
We meant it, but we had no idea what that might look like. We didn't anticipate that our evolution could involve the desire for sex and relationships with other people.
But that's what happened. In our previous relationships and with one another, we'd both been serial monogamists, but after we finished having babies, we looked around and realized that although many things about our marriage were stellar—close friendship, mutual support and admiration, compatible co-parenting—we weren't ideal for one another sexually. We never really had been. Our libidos don't match; I'm more "sex motivated" of the two of us. Our relationship had thrived despite a lack of romantic chemistry.
This is not an unusual revelation, of course, and in most marriages, it results in screaming matches, or swallowed resentment, or affairs conducted amidst lies and betrayals. But Rob and I didn't see our "problem" that way—we didn't even really see it as a problem. We saw it as a reality, and an opportunity for positive change. We became poly.
I look at it like this: Humans go through multiple phases over the course of a lifetime. It makes sense that our relationship needs shift, too. I wanted kinship, drama, and obsession with someone eccentric in my twenties; equality, worldliness, and stability with someone calm in my thirties; intimacy, attention, and adventure with someone exotic in my forties. Each phase has required partners with different personalities, interests, and energies. As I see it, it's unfair to expect one person to evolve over many decades on a precisely parallel path to my own. Which is why I also believe that we should stop thinking about the end of a marriage as a crisis and start thinking about it as a reality.
Maybe longevity isn't the best indicator of a relationship's success. Why not measure marriages by the level of satisfaction reported, or the self-actualization achievable, or how much the people respect one another even after it's over, rather than as an endurance test? In Gaga Feminism: Sex, Gender and the Edge of Normal,the cultural critic Jack Halberstam calls our culture's infatuation with long-term monogamy "the romance of permanence." In a 2012 interview, Halberstam suggested that rather than have weddings to celebrate the beginning of a union, we instead throw parties to honor milestones like getting through a difficult job loss or health crisis together, or to reward surviving the sleepless years of early parenting, or to cheer an amicable and fruitful separation. ...
A Canadian court has acquitted Jian Ghomeshi, the former CBC radio host who was fired in 2014 amid multiple allegations of sexual assault.
In this case, which involved complaints from three different women regarding incidents in 2002 and 2003, Ghomeshi was charged with four counts of sexual assault and one count of overcoming resistance to sexual assault by choking.
"I am forced to conclude that it is impossible for the Court to have sufficient faith in the reliability or sincerity of these complainants," Justice William B. Horkins of the Ontario Court of Justice says in his published reasoning. "Put simply, the volume of serious deficiencies in the evidence leaves the Court with a reasonable doubt."
"My conclusion that the evidence in this case raises a reasonable doubt is not the same as deciding in any positive way that these events never happened. At the end of this trial, a reasonable doubt exists because it is impossible to determine, with any acceptable degree of certainty or comfort, what is true and what is false."
Each of the three women say they had a violent encounter with Ghomeshi. For example, an account from one woman identified as L.R. in court documents states that she was having a drink with Ghomeshi at his home. Then:
"Suddenly, 'out of the blue,' he came up behind her, grabbed her hair and pulled it. He then punched her in the head several times and pulled her to her knees. The force of the blow was significant. She said it felt like walking into a pole or hitting her head on the pavement. L.R. thought she might pass out. Then, suddenly again, the rage was gone and Mr. Ghomeshi said, 'You should go now; I'll call you a cab.' "
In his ruling, Horkins questions the complainant's reliability, saying that details of her testimony shifted — such as whether she was wearing hair extensions or the kind of car Ghomeshi drove.
The CBC describes a chaotic scene in the courtroom after the ruling. Ghomeshi embraced his mother and sister. Meanwhile:
"A topless female protester jumped in front of Crown prosecutor Michael Callaghan yelling 'Ghomeshi guilty!'
"Police tackled the woman to the ground and took her back inside the courthouse as she struggled and kicked the door. She was handcuffed by police and led into the back of a police cruiser.
"Other protesters outside the courtroom chanted 'We believe survivors.' "
Ghomeshi did not testify in the case. After the CBC fired him, he called it a "moral judgement against his taste for consensual bondage and rough sex," as NPR's David Folkenflik previously reported. ...