If a woman regrets and later reports consensual acts—BDSM or not—as rape and it comes down to her word against his, then he will lose.
By Leslie Loftis
The “Fifty Shades of Grey” hype has started its saturation run-up to the movie release this week. I expected the music video releases, the Super Bowl commercials. I did not expect the branding promotions.
I am a lawyer. Ever since their first year of law school, lawyers see liability. And in this bondage-for-amateurs fandom that is 50SOG (hat tip to Tracinski for the abbreviation) liability lurks everywhere.
We live in an era of “yes means yes” and “always believe the woman.” Fun or not, consent or not, signed document or not—no man should ever engage in bondage sex behavior. The best of the law doesn’t allow contracts for bodily harm, no matter the parties’ intent. Some of the worst law throws out the constitutional standard of innocent until proven guilty. If a woman regrets and later reports consensual acts as rape and it comes down to her word against his, then he will lose.
In this legal environment, this sort of sex play is high-risk. So I was shocked to learn that mainstream chain Target was selling 50SOG-branded toys. I saw the 50SOG display and my mind immediately went to the McDonalds’ coffee-burn case. They are selling candles…for bedrooms…next to blindfolds. No potential problems here.
Imagine, if you will, a conference call. On this conference call are the public relations and legal departments for the company making the erotic pleasure items Target is selling and for the hospitality management companies of the hotels offering various promotions for 50SOG after-parties.
The PR pitch: “Alright everyone, we have these really great black and purple products—lube, vibrating rings, blindfolds, and hot pourable massage-oil candles—to sell at Target. Then, for the big release, we will team up with the hotels offering 50SOG after-party rooms for couples—or whoever—and sell them the toys for their promotions. They are offering promotional room rates, other bondage toys like handcuffs and paddles, themed drinks like cosmos renamed ‘The Red Room of Pain’—”
The lawyers interrupt, standing up with both arms braced on their desks, leaning over the speaker for the conference call, no longer doing mostly mindless menial tasks that lawyers typically do on conference calls, because the PR people had their full attention at blindfolds and candles and pourable oil. One voice is finally is heard over the clamor of interjections: “Let me get this straight. You want to sell oil candles, as in the items with an open flame and that are a common cause of house fires, especially when placed in bedrooms, and you want to instruct people to pour the melted oil onto their partners, possibly on sensitive areas.
“Furthermore, you want to sell these flaming sex toys next to blindfolds…at Target where impulse dabblers—not actual dominates and submissives, who at least have some previous knowledge and experience with bondage sex play—shop. Then, when the hyped bondage-for-amateurs movie comes out, you want to have these items available at hotels—hotels which have essentially advertised ‘Go see a bondage movie and then come to our establishment for a night while we ply you with drinks, give you implements of restraint and violence, and encourage you to get it on.’ Do I have all that correct?”
The PR team: “Yeah, basically.”
The lawyers: “No. Just no. The products alone are a lawsuit waiting to happen. Hot oil? Doesn’t anyone remember what happened to McDonalds and the coffee? As for the hotels, we could draw up a liability waiver for customers to sign at check-in, but it’d be longer and possibly just as flimsy as the notorious contract from the books that inspired this event movie. (Common law doesn’t allow people to contract for bodily injury. It’s a contract for show. You know that, right?) The waiver would have to cover fires, burns, injuries, and sex crimes.” …
There are plenty of things I like about Fifty Shades of Grey. It's a hot romance novel, which is always good, and it has kinky sex in it, which is even better. But E.L. James fell into the classic stereotype by making Christian Grey the dominant one in the relationship.
Just take look at him: Christian is a sexy 27-year-old billionaire who runs his own business empire. As unbelievable as that is, if you took him at face value and dropped him into any kink club in the country dressed in his Armani suit and grey tie, what would most kinksters think? He's a submissive.
In fact, I'd be more likely to believe that E.L. James' husband -- the middle aged man in tweed in the background -- is the real dominant of her fantasy.
That's because you can't judge a book by its cover when it comes to kink. The surface image doesn't tell the true story because you can't see what's going on in our minds and hearts, and that's where kink really happens.
Submissives are often very powerful in their careers and personal lives. They are good at taking control and getting things done, so when it comes to sex, it's time to let go and let someone else do the work to take them on the fantasy ride of their life. The submissive sits back and just enjoys it.
Pop culture gets it wrong because you can't judge a person's sexuality by what they do. That's why you might see a feminist CEO of a Fortune 500 company who is submissive to her husband, as well as a broke college student dominating men twice her age.
If you dig deeper, many powerful people are sexually submissive because the submissive is the one who is really in control. The submissive can stop whatever's happening at any time. The submissive decides on their hard and soft limits of how it's okay to play.
That's the paradox of kink: the person being stimulated is the one who can stop it at any time. If you don't know that about BDSM, then you don't know what kink is. It has to be consensual. Safewords are key, and people talk about their limits and desires before doing anything together. …
A U.S. grassroots movement is urging people to send $50 to women's shelters rather than see "Fifty Shades of Grey," while a Midwest child protection league argues the film blurs the lines of what is healthy or harmful in sex.
With its whips and chains and a sexual relationship based on domination and submission, the first film in author E.L. James' "Fifty Shades" erotic romance trilogy appears headed for the same kind of runaway success as the books that have sold 100 million copies worldwide.
Its arrival in U.S. theaters on Friday, however, comes in the midst of a national debate about sexual violence and domestic abuse, sparked by high-profile incidents plaguing the National Football League and U.S. colleges last year.
Just four days ago, President Barack Obama appealed to musicians and their fans at the Grammy awards to help stop abuse against women and girls.
To be sure, "Fifty Shades" is a tale of consensual sex between two adults.
Formed out of "Twilight" fan fiction, the story follows naive college student Anastasia Steele, 21, who undergoes a sexual awakening at the hands of seductive 27-year-old billionaire, Christian Grey, a practitioner of bondage and domination.
But some activists say the message is still wrong.
"This is about a seasoned predator who is a stalker and an abuser and sadist, honing in on a much younger woman," said Gail Dines, professor of sociology at Boston's Wheelock College. Dines founded the "50 Dollars Not 50 Shades" campaign that urges people to donate to women's shelters, rather than buy a movie ticket.
"It's a fairy story in the sense of it's not real, but in reality, it's a horror story that many women live."
Dakota Johnson, the actress who plays Anastasia, said people should see the film before coming to that conclusion.
"Everything that Anastasia does is completely her choice and it's consensual and no person is abused in the movie and I think it's kind of a closed-minded outlook," Johnson said at Wednesday's "Fifty Shades" premiere at the Berlin Film Festival.
Director Sam Taylor-Johnson said she feels like "I empower this woman and I give her the final word and the message is very strong.
"That end message is really 'no' when someone crosses a line," she said. ...
It’s no secret the trilogy and impending release of the movie Fifty Shades of Grey has sparked our curiosity of the taboo 6-for-4 deal acronym: Bondage, Discipline, Dominance, Submission, Sadism and Masochism, also known as BDSM or S&M. Kinky sex has been defined not by what it is but by what it’s not, and unfortunately, that means others' misconceptions about couples who follow this lifestyle. BDSM is not only a gateway for sexual experimentation that steers away from “vanilla” sex; it can also lead to physical and mental health benefits.
Americans have been feeding their sexual appetite with BDSM far more than the rest of the world. Thirty-six percent of adults in the U.S. use masks, blindfolds, and bondage tools during sex, according to a survey by Durex, compared to only 20 percent worldwide. Although theAmerican Psychological Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5) considers the elusive fiefdom practice a disorder if it causes people stress or dysfunction in their lives, it can actually enhance overall well-being.
Dr. Sandra LaMorgese, a sexpert, professional dominatrix, fetishist, and a holistic practitioner in mind, body, and spiritual holistic living in New York City, N.Y., believes BDSM can help couples bond and feel at ease. “During BDSM sessions, clients often experience a release of dopamine and serotonin, the brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters. These two chemicals are associated with feelings of happiness, tranquility, joy, self-confidence, emotional well-being, and motivation. In addition, the release of the chemical vasopressin compels people toward feeling bonded to one another,” LaMorgese told Medical Daily in an email.
Here are six other reasons why it may be time to take a pass on vanilla sex.
1. Improves Communication
Couples who practice BDSM tend to fare better than non-kinky couples when it comes to communication. This is because couples are more aware and communicative about their sexual desires that they know the importance of having a discussion. The utility of tools like “safe words” and making a distinction between “play” and otherwise typical relationship interaction is what contributes to the excellent communication between partners.
“BDSM friendly couples require impeccable communication whereas many mainstream relationships communicate about their sexuality as a result of 'inflammation' or challenges that arise. For a BDSM relationship to thrive, it must rely on a foundation of transparency and effective interaction,” Dr. Jeffrey Sumber, a psychotherapist in Chicago, Ill., told Medical Dailyin an email.
2. Increases Intimacy
Adventure in between the sheets can increase intimacy among couples. The fact that many of these activities involve physical risk actually contributes to the level of intimacy that BDSM can produce. Patricia Johnson, award-winning co-author of Partners in Passion: A Guide to Great Sex, Emotional Intimacy, and Long-term Love told Medical Daily in an email: “If someone is going to bind your wrists or tie you to a Saint Andrew’s cross and flog you, there has to be a high level of trust at work. This is also why you should seek instruction before trying anything but the mildest forms of kinky play.”
A 2009 study published in the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior found people who report their SM activities that go well actually show an increase in relationship closeness. This is in conjunction with the displays of caring and affection seen in consensual SM activities. The couples also showed a decrease in cortisol levels. ...
The success of Fifty Shades has opened a Pandora’s box of curiosity into edgier sexual practices, leading some in the kink community to argue that that it’s crossroads in a civil rights struggle
by Kim Wall
Blindfolded on a chair, the woman tenses visibly as the knife flicks open behind her. The man, tattooed, wearing a black velvet vest and gothic boots, pulls her hair to bend her head back. She smiles. He caresses her neck, and then puts the blade to it, hovering it across her body’s thickest and most vital arteries. Continuing downwards, he draws intricate patterns on her décolletage. She moans faintly.
He picks a new knife – sterilized, razor sharp – and slashes off the buttons of her black blouse. The shredded garment falls off. Her jeans follows, until she’s in her underwear. He then grabs a larger blade, and methodically penetrates the first two layers of skin (the third causes bleeding), leaving a symmetry of pink lines across her belly. He kisses her nose and forehead, strokes her glossy red hair (which he, a hairdresser, has spent hours dying), and removes the scarf from her eyes. The scene is over.
The air in the room, a suite of a classy hotel in midtown New York,where I was invited to attend the annual BDSM Writers Conference, is tense. The audience – mostly white, middle aged and female – is spellbound. One woman is so uncomfortable that she moves to a designated safe-person in the back, but remains too intrigued to leave.
Knife-play may appear extreme to those not versed in BDSM fetishes. But it can also be curiously sweet. For Nauttiboy and Troublemaker, together for 15 years and playmates for 10, knives are a path to intimacy. He’s dominant, she’s submissive. He has “trained” her and keeps the key to the collar she always wears. Sometimes they play at their New York home, sometimes in dungeons, but whatever they do invariably follows the three strict commandments of the kink lifestyle: safe, sane and consensual.
Having no intention to cut her (“Don’t harm your toys, or they won’t want to play with you”), Nauttiboy uses a classic ER trick – finger on the point – when removing her clothes to prevent any bloodshed. Just in case, he always carries hospital-grade disinfectant wipes and a first-aid kit. They’ve never had an accident, and the faint scars on Troublemaker’s body are all intentional: souvenirs and badges of honor.
Still, all the mutual pleasure in the world can’t change the fact that the couple’s games remain illegal.
Today, the fetish lifestyle has become fetishized by the mainstream. The 50 Shades of Grey trilogy has sold more than 100m copies worldwide, and author EL James was 2014’s highest-earning author. The film adaptation, to be released this week, became 2014’s most watched trailer within days.
This landslide commercial success opened a Pandora’s box of curiosity into edgier sexual practices, leading some in the kink community to argue that the bestseller marks a crossroads for their civil rights struggle.
“Fifty Shades was our Stonewall moment,” says Susan Wright, author and activist at National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (NCSF), an organisation promoting the rights for all adults engaging in safe, sane and consensual behavior. “Because of it, BDSM has burst into the mainstream media, allowing everyone to start talking about kink. Before, the media coverage of BDSM tended to be more negative, but now you can’t go on the internet without finding a new article about exploring your fetish.”
Even so, the kink community protests that it remains stigmatized and even criminalized. The spectra of the BDSM community – which includes various fringe preferences such as master-slave, dominance-submission, leather, polyamory and a diversity of fetishes – spans from hobby to lifestyle. For professional dominatrices, it is even a job. And these days, it’s also a political movement.
Dr Charley Ferrer – therapist, sexologist and talkshow host – is the mastermind behind the BDSM Writers Conference. Puerto Rican, curvy, wearing black jeans and a glittery top, Ferrer tears up as she recalls her own “coming out”. Losing her teaching job at an east coast college over her sexual orientation (she insists she never revealed it to her students and says the college found out through her book) she turned stigma into gold. Coming out as a “dom”, she reversed racial and gendered expectations of meekness that never fit her (“so many fucking rules! It just had to stop at some point”). As a Latina, woman and mother, kink became her rebellion.
“BDSM is currently where LGBT was 30 years ago,” she says. “Our struggles are parallel to those experienced decades ago when gay people were also thought to be suffering from a ‘mental illness’ that needed to be cured.” …
The blockbuster fantasy has become a movie. What happens now?
by Emma Green
What is a fantasy? From Freud to Ludacris, it's been an elusive idea, suggesting both an escape from reality and an expression of hidden desire. In culture, fantasy works like a mirror: It reflects who we are, but it also shapes what we become.
Love it or despise it, American culture's sexual fantasy of the moment isFifty Shades of Grey. Since Random House bought the rights to the trilogy in 2012, the series has sold well over 100 million copies worldwide. Trailers for the movie adaptation of the first book have been viewed 250 million times, according to an ad aired in early February; it’s expected to gross at least $60 million at the box office in its opening weekend.
And that means the Fifty Shades fantasy is about to become all the more influential. Yes, the story will likely reach an even larger audience, but more importantly, it will be told in a new, visual form. When the movie comes out, the Fifty Shades version of hot, kinky sex will become explicit and precise, no longer dependent upon the imaginations of readers. Early reports say the movie shows at least 20 full minutes of sex, although it's only rated R.
The story is fairly simple. Anastasia Steele, a middle-class senior at Washington State University Vancouver, meets Christian Grey, an incredibly handsome, debonair 27-year-old multi-millionaire CEO. They fall in love, hard and fast. Theirs is a romance full of drama and passion, and they end up living the conventional American fantasy: love, marriage, and a kid.
What’s not so conventional is their sex. Early on in the first book, Ana discovers that Christian has a “dark secret”: He’s obsessed with BDSM—a condensed abbreviation for bondage and discipline, dominance and submission, and sadism and masochism. This is the central tension of the books: Ana loves Christian, but she doesn’t want to be his submissive; Christian loves Ana, but he’s turned on by violent sex.
As several experienced BDSM practitioners emphasized to me, there are healthy, ethical ways to consensually combine sex and pain. All of them require self-knowledge, communication skills, and emotional maturity in order to make the sex safe and mutually gratifying. The problem is that Fifty Shades casually associates hot sex with violence, but without any of this context. Sometimes, Ana says yes to sex she’s uncomfortable with because she’s too shy to speak her mind, or because she’s afraid of losing Christian; she gives consent when he wants to inflict pain, yet that doesn’t prevent her from being harmed.
This is a troubling fantasy in American culture, where one in five womenwill be raped within their lifetime, according to the CDC; where nearly 40 percent of those rapes will happen to women aged 18 to 24; and where troubling evidence of casual attitudes toward rape—such as in 2010 when a number of Ivy League-educated men thought it was okay to chant “no means yes, yes means anal” on their campus—is not uncommon. As images of Ana being beaten by Christian become the new normal for what’s considered erotic, they raise questions about what it means to “consent” to sex. Clearly, consent is necessary; but is it sufficient?
This is a lot to pin on one book, especially since it is neither the first nor the only romance novel to feature kink and BDSM. But it's a book 100 million people chose. It's a movie that has already flooded the Internet with sexy GIFs and endless trailers.
If anything has the power to shape sexual norms, this does. ...
Could you juggle multiple romantic relationships at one time — if each of your partners knew about the others? How about setting up your household as a triad, rather than a couple?
And what do you think of people who do such things?
Chances are, the more you know about the relationship style called polyamory, the more accepting you are of such setups, according to new research. The findings echo what psychologists know about how people respond to gays, lesbians and other sexual minorities: The greater the familiarity, the less severe the stigma.
"If people know even one gay person that they like in their life — a friend, a relative — their attitudes are much more favorable," said study researcher Traci Giuliano, a psychologist at Southwestern University in Texas. Likewise, the study found that "the more aware people were of polyamory, the more positive their attitudes were," Giuliano told Live Science. [5 Myths About Polyamory, Debunked]
Polyamory is often confused with swinging, but the terms are not interchangeable. Unlike swingers, who go outside their primary relationship for sex only, polyamorous people maintain simultaneous romantic ties, all with the consent and knowledge of everyone involved.
It's unclear how many people identify themselves as polyamorous, but a 2013 study in the journal Analyses of Social Issues and Public Policy estimated that between 4 percent and 5 percent of people in the United States are involved in some sort of consensually nonmonogamous relationship.
What's clear is that polyamory is moving out of the underground, with shows like Showtime's "Polyamory: Married & Dating" bringing the lifestyle to a broader audience. However, polyamory remains stigmatized: A 2013 survey of nearly 4,000 polyamorous people found that 28.5 percent had personally experienced discrimination because of their relationship style.
Giuliano was interested in researching this stigma in part from personal experience. Though she is not polyamorous, Giuliano is in a relationship that can seem unfamiliar to some people. She is "not generally attracted to women," Giuliano said, but she fell in love with and is married to a woman.
"This is just so confusing to people," she said. But once people get to know her, she added, they are generally accepting and tolerant.
She said she wondered if the same familiarity effect might benefitpolyamorous people. For the study, she and her colleagues gave 100 people between ages 18 and 63 an online survey about their understanding and attitudes toward polyamory. The researchers found that 60 percent of the respondents knew what the term meant, and 30 percent personally knew someone who had been or was in a polyamorous relationship. ...