Miss Jackie* sits in the back of a dingy Leeds café in England, sipping tea and speaking urgently. She describes herself as a T-girl (a transgender woman) who has been a veteran of the BDSM scene for over 20 years, save for a seven-year break in the early 2000s.
When she returned in 2010, she barely recognized it. Jackie moved to a new town and joined her local munch, an informal pub meetup for the community to socialise and play. "To begin with, the play was very mild, people hardly hit each other. After a while, this couple turned up from one of the other munches in the county, and just seemed to take over," she says. "The woman injured my foot, and flogged me on the back of the head, which is a real no-no. She was falling off her high heels because she was drunk, but she'd more or less appointed herself safety monitor."
This behavior went unnoticed by other, inexperienced members, whose knowledge of BDSM came mostly from internet porn. Jackie shudders when she recounts the couple. "They were pushing limits." The man is now banned from a number of British clubs, after an incident when a woman was tied up and touched without permission.
Miss Jackie soon became aware that much had changed since her departure from the scene. "I was topping for a friend who was a prostitute, and she seemed surprised that I was polite to her afterwards," she says with a tinge of irony. "She didn't realize that was the norm. She'd had experiences in London where people had forced ketamine on her, and kept her against her will for days."
In the BDSM community, to 'grass' or out kink abusers is to isolate yourself. When Jackie appealed to prominent figures to help, she was met with outright hostility. In one email exchange seen by Broadly, one of the country's most influential munch figures told her that any "perceived abuse" was likely just part of a normal master/slave interaction in a power exchange dynamic. "A decent master is not going to want to harm their property on any level," he wrote, much to Jackie's horror.
"I have never been the same person since I first read that," she says. "If a dom breaks the law, it's considered vanilla law, and nobody will acknowledge it." ...
... At the moment, the community is trying its best to self-police. Consent Counts is a network of kink activists aiming to do just that—to open a dialogue and introduce an ethical system of care to the scene. "BDSM subcultures need to develop an ethics of care for ourselves and others, and this can only be achieved through collective efforts and networks of support," a spokesperson explains. "In part this will act as a deterrent from abuse, and show potential abusers that their behaviour will not get buried in the sand and forgotten easily. A collective voice is much more powerful than that of an individual."
The “romance options” are one of the most talked-about aspects of modern RPGs, the anodyne name betraying the fundamentally lifeless simulation of sexual relationships afforded to us by most games. But it’s still tremendous fun, finding the right partner for all your grand adventures. “Partner” in the singular, of course; one of the great conflicts imposed by nearly every RPG is the choice of romantic partner. Which “option” do you choose? To whom will your character be committed, ostensibly for life?
It gets tedious after a while, especially in games like Mass Effect where all romance options are not created equal. Falling in love with Specialist Traynor or Kelley Chambers is quite fun and fascinating, but in spite of being mutually exclusive with all other romance options, they lack the sheer depth of Shepard and Liara’s trilogy-spanning love affair. More than once me and my queer gaming friends have said “why do we have to choose?”
Then along comes Fallout 4 with a ray of radioactive sunshine.
In its unpretentious way, Bethesda has set a new industry standard for dealing with one of the most unexplored dimensions of relationships in video games: polyamory. Simply put, Fallout 4’s romance options are not mutually exclusive. You can flirt with, sleep with, and develop relationships with multiple characters concurrently, with both companions and regular NPCs.
No fuss is made about this; neither preachy treacle nor artificial conflict impede the simple presentation of a world where your character can be unproblematically poly.
Make no mistake: this is a watershed moment in mainstream gaming, and it is very much worth celebrating. Just as we are finally moving away from portraying heterosexual relationships as the default norm in story-based games, so too can we move away from the staid portrayal of monogamy as the only option. But this is also a very preliminary first step, and if developers want to really explore polyamory, there are plenty of interesting routes they can take that will generate realistic conflict and even interesting new game mechanics.
When I told my partner and her other girlfriend about this, I described the situation as one where there was “no drama” for carrying on multiple relationships, to which one quipped, “Oh, so it’s definitely a fantasy then.” What her wry joke was hinting at, of course, is that in the real world polyamory is rarely free of theatrics and emotional anguish. Whole websites and books exist to teach people how to conduct themselves in relationships with multiple partners. Communication, the desiderata of any relationship, becomes an absolute lifeline here; clarity, openness, and a willingness to be constantly vulnerable are all necessary to be happily polyamorous, contrary to those who think it's inherently easier than monogamous relationships due to the supposed lack of jealousy (that doesn't quite go away either). ...
NCSF’s Annual Coalition Partner Meeting will take place March 4-6, 2016, in San Jose, CA.
“The annual meeting gives NCSF's Coalition Partners the opportunity to tell the board where our focus should be in the coming year,” says Chairman Kevin Carlson. “It’s also their time to give us feedback on how we’re conducting the day-to-day business of NCSF. The Board and staff are looking forward to gathering in Silicon Valley with our Coalition Partners to continue the good work of NCSF.”
$220 for additional nights on March 3 or March 6 (15% off of the published rate)
NCSF staff, Board members and Coalition Partner reps are also invited to San Francisco’s Leather Alliance Weekend events taking place throughout the weekend. Saturday evening is the Mr. SF Leather Contest – let us know if you’re interested in attending. San Francisco is about an hour away from San Jose. http://leatherallianceweekend.org/
For more info contact
When Kink.com severed ties with adult film star James Deen, the company’s disavowal was swift and unwavering. Two days after Deen’s ex-girlfriend, Stoya, alleged on Twitter that he had raped her, the San Francisco-based BDSM and fetish porn studio said it would cease all ties with Deen, who had appeared in more than 250 of its films, effective immediately. “Consent and respect are sacrosanct,” the company said in a public statement. “Our performers deserve not only safe sets, but the ability to work without fear of assault. Rape or sexual assault, with or without a safe-word, off-set or on, should never be accepted as a hazard of adult production.”
What has not been previously reported, however, is that Kink is at the center of four lawsuits filed this year that each allege unsafe working conditions with consequences ranging from retaliation to HIV transmission.
The company’s name also came up repeatedly as more women came forward with allegations against Deen. Adult film performer Ashley Fires told the Daily Beast that Deen had assaulted her a communal bathroom at Kink.com. A few days after that, another porn actor, Nicki Blue, told the Daily Mail Online that when she complained on a Kink.com forum about being brutally raped by Deen at a party, her post was deleted. “There’s a lot [Kink] could have done so that it didn’t happen, so that people don’t end up getting raped,” Blue told the Mail. Last week another performer, Lily LaBeau, alleged that Deen assaulted her on a Kink set in 2012. Deen was not scheduled to film and was eventually “ejected” from the shoot. Michael Stabile, a spokesperson for Kink.com, said that as the news unfolded, the company discussed ways to improve its detection of seemingly isolated incidents. Kink.com needs to do a better job, he said, of making sure directors aren’t siloed and making sure that performers know exit interviews after a shoot are confidential and there won’t be any retribution. Stabile said the alleged assault against LaBeau was likely discussed with talent and booking, but “other directors continued to work with [Deen] and had good experiences.”
Of the four suits, three — filed by performers Cameron Adams, Joshua Rodgers, and an anonymous John Doe with the same lawyer, Sandra Ribera — allege that their respective plaintiffs contracted HIV on Kink sets as a result of negligence. (Kink.com maintains that neither Adams nor Rodgers, who were a couple at the time, performed with someone who was HIV-positive.) The fourth lawsuit, filed in June by a different lawyer, is from a former employee of Cybernet Entertainment, the company that operates Kink.com, who claims her managers did not protect her from assault while filming a public bondage segment, and then retaliated against her when she complained about unsafe working conditions.
All four lawsuits are still in the early stages. Kink.com has challeged the legal basis behind all three cases represented by Ribera. A hearing on Kink’s objections will be held in February. Last month, the company filed an answer to the complaint from the ex-employee denying all the allegations.
The courts, or a settlement, will decide the merits of each case. But the filings present a vivid depiction of what life inside the Armory — Kink’s 2.2-acre studio in San Francisco — can be like for some performers. The court documents also address the protocols for BDSM shoots put in place by an industry that has largely been left alone by regulators when it comes to sexual assault and allowed to police itself. Deen’s female accusers have tried to explain the hardships of speaking up when boundaries have been crossed. These cases speak to those challenges.
The complaints describe a working environment in which employees and contractors are pushed beyond their limits and on-set issues are dismissed — an image that’s quite contrary to the one that the company has projected in the wake of the allegations against James Deen. That image also runs counter to Kink.com’s longstanding reputation as the progressive man’s (or woman’s) BDSM site — a company with strong worker protections, and one that “upholds an ironclad set of values to foster an environment that is safe, sane, and consensual,” according to the official synopsis of Kink, a 2013 James Franco-produced, Sundance-approved documentary about the company.
BuzzFeed News contacted several Kink performers, and those who responded said that the allegations detailed in the suits don’t match their own experiences at the 18-year-old studio. Madelyn Monroe, who appears in several Kink videos, told BuzzFeed News that she was “shocked” by the lawsuits, and that Kink.com “follows protocol more than anybody. They’re really on their shit.” Another, Roxanne Rae, told BuzzFeed News in an email that Kink is “the best and most professional company I’ve ever worked for.”
Mona Wales, who has performed in more than a dozen videos for Kink’s Public Disgrace series — including one at the center of the ex-employee lawsuit — said the same. “People are not running around like maniacs raping each other,” she told BuzzFeed News. “That’s just not what goes down in my day-to-day existence. I would not be a part of that community.”
“Kink.com is about the safest place to make a BDSM porn,” she said.
In interviews with BuzzFeed News, Karen Tynan, the lawyer defending Kink.com in all four cases, characterized the lawsuits as frivolous and not reflective of the company’s record as an employer. The suits represented by Ribera were already dealt with as workers’ compensation claims previously filed, said Tynan. “I think that having one employee sue you every 10 to 15 years is a pretty good batting average.” ...
Non-monogamy, polyamory, open relationships: whatever your preferred term, it can be a heavy word to drop at the dinner table.
For many, it conjures up images of swinging 70s’ couples throwing keys in a bowl post-fondue party, or sexual free-for-alls in darkened, Latex-scented nightclubs.
It’s not even something with a stellar track record of media representation, either: when non-monogamy is seen on our screens it’s usually in the context of a cult leader with a throng of brides, each of them clad in neck-high gingham and seeming to have more in common with the Manson family than any modern relationship.
For most of my life I was as monogamous as it was possible to be, almost to a fault. I found that jealousy would frequently rear its head if my partner or crush du jour was so much as spotted in the same room as someone who might chance at a flirt.
Only when I was in my mid-20s did I meet a man who tipped that attitude on its head and told me that although he was as interested in me as I was in him, he was already in a successful open relationship and monogamy was not an option.
My choice was clear: I could either give it a chance and try dating someone who already had a partner, or risk losing them for good.
What I experienced surprised me in the best possible way. While I initially feared I would become a quivering nervous wreck at the thought of my partner with someone else, the openness and honesty we developed assuaged my fears and rid me of my worry of being a “back-up girlfriend”.
At no point did I feel neglected or envious; indeed, I found non-monogamy worked for me better than any relationship formula I’d seen in the past. I got to know my partner’s partner, and we got along well, and while they shared romantic weekends away and dinner dates together I was free to date and hook-up as much as I wanted.
And spoiler alert: I did.
Once I let go of the fears and insecurities I had previously held around relationships, I was granted a fresh perspective on what it meant to be with someone. The more I thought about non-monogamy, the more it made sense to me: the idea that we might meet someone and decide that we want to be with them and only them for the rest of our lives seemed unrealistic at best, and terrifying at worst. ...
Medical Research: What is the background for this study?
Response: Many stereotypes of BDSM (bondage and discipline [B&D], dominance and submission [D/s], sadomasochism [SM],) exist; however, research with practitioners suggests these stereotypes are largely unfounded. Preliminary evidence implies BDSM practitioners are psychologically healthy individuals. This study was conducted to further evaluate these results.
Medical Research: What are the main findings?
Response: Along with other findings, the majority of results indicates practitioners are well functioning. Overall, participants are healthy in the mental, emotional, and interpersonal aspects of their lives. In addition, practitioners are often victims of violence but are not perpetrators of violence.
Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?
Response: Instead of stereotypes, we propose BDSM be thought of as a specialized interest, enjoyed without detriment. Therefore, practitioners should be treated with respect. For health professionals, this can be enacted by providing medical advice on BDSM practice only when requested by the patient or when unsafe activities are readily apparent. Instead, clinicians should remain focused on the presenting concerns.
Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?
Response: Additional research can provide a more detailed understanding of practitioners’ functioning, such as how victimization relates to mental health. Further, future analyses can compare practitioners to other populations to understand how practitioners relate to others.
University of Alabama and University of Central Florida researchers surveyed over 800 kinky people recruited by the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (NCSF) and found they were mentally and emotionally healthy.
"I was curious about the stereotypes from a mental health standpoint and we found that these kinky people are well functioning, with little mental health concerns," says Tess M. Gemberling, M.A., Co-Principal Investigator, University of Alabama. "They also have healthy romantic relationships."
The study, "Psychological Functioning and Violence Victimization and Perpetration in BDSM Practitioners from the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom," also investigated people's preferences for BDSM activities and fantasies, and explored whether violence is perpetuated against kinky people. It joins a growing body of research that refutes the stereotype that people who are kinky are inherently dangerous to themselves and others, which is at the root of the discrimination and persecution that kinky people experience.
"I wanted to explore more about how the stereotypes interface with reality," says Matt R. Nobles, Ph.D., Co-Principal Investigator, University of Central Florida. "Although more than half of the people in this study have been victims of violence or aggression, extremely few had perpetrated such themselves."
In the study, 7.7% of participants reported they had been victims of a BDSM-based hate crime, while 10.2% of participants reported they had been victims of an LGBT-based hate crime.
"Parallel to my work with sexual minorities, my interest is in looking at the nature of identity and mental health in a vulnerable group of people," says Robert J. Cramer, Ph.D., Co-Principal Investigator, University of Alabama. "Contrary to popular perceptions, our study shows kinky persons are largely mentally healthy when it comes to conditions such as depression, anxiety and suicide."
The study also confirms that for these kinksters it's primarily about consensual power exchange, with 98% preferring to take a specific power exchange role during BDSM. The most commonly reported practices were spanking, slapping and biting, and the use of sexual toys and equipment.
"Lawmakers can help by legally recognizing informed consent as the basis of healthy BDSM behavior," says Susan Wright, spokesperson for NCSF. "BDSM is intended to be a mutually beneficial experience that is done by consenting adults."
It was an abrupt and unambiguous declaration to her 226,000 Twitter followers — and her countless more fans. On Saturday, adult actress, writer and entrepreneur Stoya announced on Twitter, “That thing where you log in to the internet for a second and see people idolizing the guy who raped you as a feminist. That thing sucks.” And then, just to be very clear who she was talking about, she added, “James Deen held me down and f__ked me while I said no, stop, used my safeword. I just can’t nod and smile when people bring him up anymore.”
It was a shocking allegation, by one of the most powerful and respected women in the adult industry, against one of its most popular male stars — and a former costar and boyfriend. And the response was immediate. Supporters declared their #solidaritywithstoya, with adult star Joanna Angel saying, “He’s dead on the inside and dead to me. He’s literally the worst person I’ve ever met. That’s all I’ll say for now.” And in a Sunday letter on The Frisky, Amelia McDonell-Parry announced “Why The Frisky Will No Longer Be Publishing James Deen’s Sex Advice Column.” In it, she explained, “I asked him to do an advice column because I liked his directness and his confidence, but most of all, I liked his emphasis on communication, honesty and, most of all, CONSENT. That he has been accused of violating Stoya’s consent, that women I respect have since contacted me directly to say that they know of others to whom he has done the same thing? Well, I’m f__king heartsick over it. This makes it impossible for me to work with him any further, to give him a forum for giving advice that he is accused of not following himself. No amount of good rapport between us or traffic to his columns would EVER supersede the fact that I BELIEVE WOMEN.”
Two years ago, Stoya and Deen appeared to be, as the Village Voice called them, “the Jay-Z and Beyoncé of porn: They don’t quite acknowledge their relationship outright, but they drop glittering clues everywhere they go,” and described Deen as “one of 10 performers on her list of approved male talent she’s willing to have sex with.” In a Vice story she wrote that spring, Stoya didn’t name Deen but said, “Over the course of our relationship, I’ve had multiple conversations with the man I’m dating now about boundaries and feelings. I call him ‘Daddy,’ and as you might suspect, there are aspects of power exchange in our relationship. I am his. My body is his, my mouth, vagina, and a__hole are his — and my heart is his. Awareness and involvement are important to both of us…. I always thank him for each orgasm. In a different but very much equal way, he treats me with the same respect. Through trial and error, this is what we’ve decided works for our relationship.”
In an HuffPo Live interview that June, though, she acknowledged Deen as her boyfriend. And in the same conversation, she answered a question about rape culture, saying, saying that it’s perpetuated not by porn but by “people who don’t understand the difference between right and wrong.” Stoya knows the difference.
In a weekend piece for the Daily Beast, actress Tori Lux shared that “In June of 2011, while shooting at a major porn studio, I was assaulted by James Deen.” She says that while she explicitly told him no, “He proceeded to straddle my chest, pinning down my arms with his knees. Then, he raised his hand high above his head, swinging it down and hitting me in the face and head with an open palm. He did this five or six times—hard—before finally getting off of me.” She says that she “felt pressured to maintain a professional demeanor as this was a major porn set, with other people present and failing to intervene” and that she didn’t report it because “people — including the police — tend to believe that sex workers have placed themselves in harm’s way, and therefore can’t be assaulted. Of course, this claim couldn’t be further from the truth, as being involved in sex work does not equate to being harmed.”
On Sunday, Deen stepped forward on Twitter to say, “There have been some egregious claims made against me on social media… I want to assure my friends, fans and colleagues that these allegations are both false and defamatory…I respect women and I know and respect limits both professionally and privately.”
Meanwhile, Stoya — who says she is taking a social media break for work reasons — seems uninterested in pursuing any legal action over what she says happened. But what she has done has been to issue a decisive message that a woman whose Pornhub bio calls her “a pure alternative sex freak who can’t get enough body slamming with chicks and dicks” is entitled to as much respect for her boundaries as anyone else. What she’s done, potentially, could change her whole industry for the better, and encourage more performers to come forward with their own experiences. As journalist Laurie Penny puts it perfectly, “No means no. No matter what job you do. No matter if he’s your partner. No matter how many times you’ve said yes.” ...