When I was a young queer, my local coffee shop was crucial to my existence. The coffee wasn't important; it was the community there that mattered. It was the place I took my first girlfriends on dates and the place I played music in front of an audience for the first time. But in the late 1990s, the coffee culture shifted toward national chain stores, and the small community shops started to disappear.
Despite the decline of mom-and-pop coffee shops, kinky San Francisco transplants Ryan Galiotto and his wife decided to assume the risk of opening one in 2009. But they wanted it to be different from the Chicago shops they had frequented in the early '90s: They wanted to create a place that would cater to the local kink, Leather, and fetish communities. And thus, Wicked Grounds, America's first kink café and boutique, was born. Galiotto describes it as a place where "people don't have to worry about saying the word 'dildo' and offending the soccer mom at the next table," a place where one can kneel to lap up a latte from a dog bowl or enjoy a freshly made waffle inside a cage. Located in the heart of SOMA at Eighth and Folsom streets, the café follows in the footsteps of other kinky businesses that have made their homes in the neighborhood. Though Wicked Grounds has a vibrant community of kinksters who frequent the shop for weekly gatherings called "munches," the place has had a rocky five years — financial hardships, changes in ownership, and even divorce. Galiotto has experienced firsthand the challenges of owning a brick-and-mortar business in this city, sometimes working over 60 hours a week as barista, bookkeeper, and manager. His commitment to the café is unwavering, and he is the first to admit that it is a nostalgic labor of love.
Asked why he has devoted his life to this quirky little coffee shop that sells sex toys and has pictures of naked women in bondage on the walls, he responded with a story about a long-running event at the café, the monthly Littles Munch.
At the Littles Munch, adults who like to engage in age-related role-play socialize, color in coloring books, wear onesies, and drink milkshakes. Galiotto's eyes light up as he recounts the tale: "Early on in the Littles Munch, there was a guy in his 50s, professional, went to work in a suit and tie every day. [When he] came home, he'd switch to a onesie, watch cartoons, and eat his cereal. He heard about us, came and checked out the Littles Munch. He sat at a table away from it, watching it, and eventually felt comfortable enough to go to the bathroom, change into his onesie and join the party." Galiotto wants do more than serve coffee to people in leather; he wants to provide a space to "help people come out of their kinky closets." ...
It was feminists like Budapest who made it hard for people, especially feminists, to come out as kinky in the seventies, eighties, and nineties. With their statements that you are a failure as a feminist if you engage in kink, especially dominance and submission play, they made a lot of kinky feminists feel alone, marginalised, and ashamed. It is hard enough to come to terms with being kinky in the prevailing culture without having your own communities attacking you. People in kink-excluding communities, who have to remain in the closet, live in fear of being exposed as kinky, and feel marginalised, alone, and attacked. Their membership of the community feels conditional upon not coming out as kinky. Endless research studies have shown how damaging it is for LGBT people to remain closeted – surely the same applies to kinksters?
Similarly, the biologically essentialist view of being a woman held by many second-wave feminists made it very hard for those who are gender-variant. Their rhetoric about all penetrative sex being rape obfuscated the issues around rape, made things difficult for lesbians who enjoy penetration, and for heterosexual and bisexual women who enjoy sex with men. Even other lesbians in relationships were attacked for “aping men”.
This is in spite of the fact that kinksters have been part of the queer liberation movement from the outset. In spite of the fact that the BDSM community is very strong on consent (obviously there are some who don’t walk the talk, but that is the case in all communities). The watchwords of kinksters are ‘Safe, Sane, and Consensual’.
The power play in kink involving dominance and submission (D/s) subverts and undermines the power dynamics of conventional power structures. Many people find the role-play aspects of BDSM liberating. All the women I know who are involved in D/s (whether dommes or subs) are powerful women in their own right. And D/s has very little to do with gender, in any case.
The use of pain as a tool for spiritual and psychological transformation is an ancient shamanistic practice, and its effects – psychological, spiritual, and biochemical – are well-understood. There is a reasonable amount of research on this.
In addition, various therapists have written on the psychological aspects of kink, and why it is not harmful for those who enjoy it.
I would argue that kink, polyamory, and monogamy are sexual orientations in the same way as homosexuality, heterosexuality, bisexuality, and pansexuality. That means that for a kinky person to try not to be kinky is just as painful and impossible as for a gay person to try to be straight. ...
Working crisis intervention with adolescents was an area as a counselor I grew to love because of the diversity of clients I would get to interact with on a daily basis.Several years ago my passion for working with children and the area of crisis/trauma would open a new door for my professional and personal awareness.I had the opportunity to work with a young teen from a family who was struggling with what as a counselor I would expect to see in a teenage boy starting middle school, identity issues, bullying, and the usual horrible experience so many teens sadly go through.
However part of my counseling experience has shown that developing a support system is vital when working with children and teens, which is why family therapy is a necessity.During the first intake, we had gone over the typical counseling questions and discussed the importance of family counseling that we start after a couple of individual sessions between me and their son.Mom and Dad were extremely cordial about the process, extremely concerned about their son, and you could see their investment in helping him grow and survive this situation; yet something was still off.There was something mom and dad were holding back, and I could tell they were not ready to bridge that conversation yet.
So what did I do as a counselor? I left it alone.My therapeutic approach to counseling understands that this is a process where the client has to take the lead sometimes.When you work with children and adolescents he or she may be the primary client but the family is the overall client.After all they act as the support in creating environmental changes to help the kid or teen.
As time grew closer for our first family meeting the mother of my client called and asked if her and her husband could meet with me to discuss something important about their family.Now as a counselor at this point I had worked with many diverse families and as a counselor, my experience has always been there is more to learn from my clients then my client can learn from me.One of the first questions the parents asked me during our meeting with just the three of us was what I was required to report to the state about child abuse.As a counselor, this is not usually something you want to hear because you know the time that is going to be involved in having to make a report; however as a counselor who specializes in children and teens it comes with the job responsibilities.
I reminded the parents of the informed consent which we covered during the initial intake that I was required to report any suspicions of child abuse by state law.The questions that followed were similar to that of an academic inquiry on what was considered child abuse within our state.I will admit this had me concerned, and my direct approach was to ask “do you believe your son has been physical, sexually, or emotionally abused in some way?”The mom and dad instantly went to denying any occurrence of abuse, and I admittedly told them I was a little confused about their concern on the child abuse reporting laws for our state.
Dads’ response was “we are polyamorous.”I had in my personal experiences learned about polyamory and fortunately knew through some great resources the terminology; however, I value the importance of report building with my clients, and I wanted to continue building trust with my clients’ family.It was also important to understand what polyamory meant to this family.I was aware that poly can mean and look different to individuals and family units.For the remainder of the hour, we talked about their amazing family which included six adults who their son and other 3 children got to refer to as parents.Mom and dad’s greatest fear was that as a professional, this would be reportable, and they could have their children taken away from them because their life views are one of growth of love among the family unit.Our next family session all 6 adults attended, and it became very apparent to me as a counselor the opportunities we had to work really as an amazing support structure for this teen and help him through this difficult time of his life.
While this is a very short account of my beginning experience working with poly families which I have continued to work with over the past several years, this particular family and several others.However as a counselor it was an important learning experience to remind me the fear and concern which can often be with individuals because of societal expectations.If my life is outside of what society wants what does that mean for me? For my family? For my children?
I also am reminded that there is a need to acknowledge our clients as the experts in what is occurring in their life.This family had lived as a family unit, with their ups and downs, like every relationship for the span of over 20 years before stepping into my office.My job is that of acceptance and protection.There was no harm occurring within the family and if anything this family was making something that “society” driven relationship between two individuals often struggle doing.But as a counselor I had to be willing to learn.
I worked with the family for over a year and during that course of time they educated me on not only their family but resources, books, articles, and even polyamorous meetups in the area with other families and individuals interested in relationships.I had to be willing to grow and because of that and this particular family I believe I am not only a better professional but individual because I stepped outside of my box.
Communication is important, as a professional, as an individual, and as someone considering going to a professional for guidance.We should not be afraid to talk to our professionals about our lifestyles, and likewise as professionals we shouldn’t be afraid to listen to our clients about their lifestyles.We need to advocate continued expression and freedom because we hold the balance in making it “ok” and not a big deal.
I have been pleased and amazed to be able to present this particular client case to colleagues in past trainings who in the beginning struggle with the idea of working with a poly family and often I see many skewed views of what this means for the family and children.However, after we talk about and demonstrate the work we were able to do in family therapy and how the family having multiple parents actually strengthened my work with the teen, colleagues often leave with a changed view.As a professional that gives me hope and I appreciated for the opportunity this particular family had given me to work within the poly community as a counselor.
The James Franco-produced documentary Kink, which provides a glowing portrait of the BDSM porn site Kink.com, is now in theaters. But for some performers, working for Kink can be terrifying.
Her cold, thin fingers wrapped around my jaw like a Vise-Grip. I could feel the fat of my cheeks trying to escape as she held me still to mark me with red lipstick. There I stood, stripped down to nothing but the chafing rope that bound my wrists together and the smudged letters on my forehead: WHORE. I was to be her slave, literally.
It was late in my career and I was already famous with hundreds of movies under my belt, but nothing like this. I’d shied away from the BDSM culture. It scared me. Despite signing paperwork and a checklist of dos and don'ts, I was in way over my head. What I thought I was agreeing to felt a lot different in reality. I was groped by hands I didn't know. There were masked people everywhere, but only the ones wearing wristbands were my approved scene partners. If I balked at an act or found it difficult to perform, I was “punished” for my defiance (which is the nature of a BDSM scene). It felt more like a party for the extras than a professional scene. Experienced as I was, it was new to me. I’d never used a safe word before (and forgot to), so when things became too much to bear and I began protesting, no one listened. The word “No” doesn't work in these types of scenes.
I met my breaking point in this particular scene—halfway through, I had to be untied and calmed down. I was shaking. I felt a catch in my throat when I tried to speak and I could barely keep the tears at bay. I felt like I’d been beat. Yet I was hugged, inundated with compliments, and told how strong I was for being on the receiving end. I was caned, electrically prodded, and slapped around. I didn't feel powerful. In the interim, I had to decide whether I was going to quit or be a professional and finish the scene. After everything I'd gone through, leaving would have made it worthless. So I stayed.
After the scene, I did a brief on camera interview about my experience—a standard company procedure. I nodded my head, smiled, and said all the right things. To me, that interview was also part of the job. It’s also filmed before performers are paid, or at least that's been my experience.
After watching an intense scene that will make your eyes water, it's reassuring to see an interview stating that everyone had a good time. It's that kind of feel-good integrity that Kink.com, one of the most successful BDSM (bondage, dominance, submission, and sadomasochism) porn companies works hard to promote. It's a fascinating company that operates out of the historic San Francisco Armory, offering a variety of productions, tours, live shows, and kinky parties on the upper floor. I can't think of another XXX company quite as diverse or dark that's also so commercially successful. ...
Next time you’re on a trip to a romantic mountain getaway, a ski vacation, or just a trip to that little cabin in the woods, don’t forget the bondage tape, ball gag and OhMiBod. Turns out, people in remote areas are way more curious about bondage than those of us who live in cities and suburbs.
Pornhub Insights, the blog that looks at porn browsing habits to produce such revelations as “America Runs On Anal,” dug into the search terms surrounding BDSM porn. Though bondage accounts for less than two percent of searches — which seems low to us — Americans are clearly curious about dom/sub relationships, if the popularity of 50 Shades of Grey is any indicator.
The blog post has an interactive heat map that shows which states are searching for the above BDSM terms most often. As it turns out, the states most interested in bondage also happen to be states with extremely low population densities, like Wyoming, Oregon and Alaska. This suggests a possible link between sparse populations and an interest in butt plugs, blindfolds and patient restraints.
The correlation isn’t statistically perfect. After all, a couple of states like Nebraska and New Mexico escape the top ten of the bondage-obsessed. Still, states where people live shoulder to shoulder are notably less inclined to go searching for “latex” and “punish.” ...
Forest McMullin has spent a significant portion of his photography career snapping photos of what he calls "fringe social groups." With his camera, he offers an intimate glance into the lives of everyone from incarcerated men in New York to members of religious supremacist groups in Pennsylvania, highlighting -- with a documentary lens -- some often unseen fragments of American culture.
Such is the case in his series "Day & Night." In it, the Atlanta-based photographer captures portraits of men and women who live dual lives. During the day, they are mothers and businessmen in the South who lead "normal" lives -- or, at least, publicly acceptable lives that conform to constructed social norms. At night, however, McMullin's subjects are committed advocates of BDSM (bondage, discipline, sadism, masochism). They are swingers, dominatrixes, and dungeon masters who break through sexual taboos with pleasure.
The project began not long after McMullin moved from New York to Georgia. A few months into living in Atlanta, he came across an article in the local newspaper that described a woman in her 30s who frequented swingers' clubs with her husband. Shocked by how "normal" she looked, and how out-of-place this progressive behavior seemed in the largely conservative South, he decided to investigate. He soon learned that not only were swingers' clubs popular in Georgia, but bondage "dungeons" were as well.
"I began thinking about trying to photograph the men and women involved in going to these clubs," McMullin explained in a statement to HuffPost. "I contacted the owner and operator of the largest dungeon in Atlanta and she invited me to meet with her at her club. I showed her some of my previous work and she agreed to have me come back when the club was open for business and promised to introduce me to some of the patrons."
From there he met with and photographed people old and young, single and married, of various economic and educational backgrounds. Not too surprisingly, McMullin found that the BDSM identity was one of many identities or faces that melded together to create one personality and one person.
"There’s? the? work ?face, ?the? family ?face,? the ?face? with ?friends, ?the? one ?with? strangers," he explains. "Perhaps ?each ?face? is? as? discreet ?as ?a? separate? identity.? With? some,? these? identities? are? nearly ?indistinguishable ?from? one ?to? the? next.? For? others,? they? may? be? radically? different.?"
"When ?it? comes ?to ?sexuality,? the ?discussion ?can ?become ?much ?more? complex," McMullin admits. "We ?may? describe? ourselves? as?male ?or ?female,? straight? or? gay,? bisexual? or ?transgender.? At? their? core,? these ?descriptors? may define, ?to ?some? degree,? sexual? practice ?and ?these? practices? often? define ?how? we? envision ?ourselves,? how? we? want ?others ?to? see ?us, ?and? how ?we ?choose ?to? navigate? the ?world.? It? is? at ?the ?center? of ?our? identity? and ?yet ?it ?is? also? the ?most ?private? expression? of? that? identity.?"
Scroll through a preview of McMullin's series below, a collection of images that challenges the viewer to contemplate our assumptions of normality. Let us know your thoughts on the work in the comments. For more on his photography, check out his profile on Lens Culture here. ...
With the forthcoming adaptation of Fifty Shades of Greyon the way, if you don't know much about the world of BDSM, then you might be interested in checking out the documentary Kink, produced by James Franco and directed by Christina Voros. The film debuted at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year, and we got a saucy tease before the film premiered, but now a full trailer has arrived as the film is poised to hit limited theaters in just a couple days. The doc looks as Kink.com, the Internet’s largest producer of BDSM content, and aims to explore the driving force behind this seemingly misunderstood fetish. There's no nudity or sex in the trailer, but the subject matter alone makes this NSFW. Watch below! ...
It’s summertime, so of course the anti-sex crowd has decided to cool down with a fresh wave of sexual hysteria. The latest panic is that kinky people will lure vanilla children into our sexual hellscape through trendy pop cultural depictions of BDSM, such as Fifty Shades of Grey. This nonsense is annoying, but it’s also nothing new.
It does, however, raise a question that is often discussed in sexual subcultures but rarely mentioned in the mainstream: Is kink a sexual orientation? I think it is—and if I’m right, the pearl-clutching mobs’ concern that fictional depictions of BDSM will lure sexually normative people into our lifestyle are as absurd as the fear that Brokeback Mountain would tempt straight people into the subversive fringe lifestyle it portrays. (Shepherding, of course. What did you think I meant?)
Many people, including Dan Savage—who, to be clear, is a vocal and consistent source of advice, support, and advocacy for kinky people—have questioned whether kink qualifies as an orientation. As Savage argued, “While some kinksters identify strongly with their kinks and are open about their sexual interests, being into baby bonnets or bondage isn't about who you love, it's about how you love.”
That’s more or less true—I suppose BDSM is technically how I love my husband. But, with respect, to reduce the orientation of love to a physical technicality is every bit as reductive (and ultimately inaccurate) as it would be to argue that homosexuality is not an orientation, because penis-in-anus is merely “how” a gay man loves his husband.
Put another way, and with apologies to every relative, teacher, and religious leader who influenced my development: Sexual orientation is far more about who is putting his penis in your butt—or who is spanking me with a belt—than it is about how either activity occurs.
Kink can be such an orienting force that, for many of us, it even overpowers gender. One survey from the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom found that 35 percent of BDSM practitioners identify as bisexual—a rate that is much higher than the 1.8 to 2.8 percent rate reported overall. There are many theories about why bisexuality is so common in the kink community, such as the strong possibility that the kind of people who participate in a BDSM survey are more likely to be open to sexual experimentation. But I have my own theory about this phenomenon.
For years, I identified as bisexual because I’m sexually attracted to both men and women and have acted on that attraction. But in recent years, as I explored my own sexuality more, I’ve realized that’s not quite accurate. I’m not attracted to men or women as a group—I’m attracted to “tops,” or sexually dominant people, as a group; their gender is irrelevant. Many kinky people describe similar feelings.
This orientation doesn’t only, at times, overcome gender; it also overcomes the strong evolutionary human impulse to avoid pain. Perhaps this should go without saying, but kink hurts. It’s physically painful. (Sometimes extremely so.) Anything that can swim upstream of such a forceful tide must be rooted in something more fundamental and legitimate than merely what’s trendy.
The question of whether kink qualifies as a sexual orientation has been a source of friction between the BDSM and LGBTQ communities for a while. A few months ago, rage erupted when a party promoter scheduled a prison-themed event at a local kinky dungeon during San Francisco’s Pride weekend. Although it wasn’t an official Pride event, some said it was disrespectful to the trauma experienced by LGBTQ inmates in the U.S. prison system. The subcultural infighting sparked by that event echoed debates that have simmered for years. ...