Erotica stores and sex-freedom groups see a surge of interest when film version of best-selling book opens next month
NY Daily News
BY JUSTIN ROCKET SILVERMAN
Bondage is the new black.
Good news for those who made a New Year’s resolution to heat up the bedroom — 2015 is poised to be the year that BDSM finally goes mainstream.
And it’s all thanks to the erotic film adaptation of “Fifty Shades of Grey,” which hits theaters Feb. 13.
“The ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ book changed the public’s perception of BDSM from something scary and unknown to something that couples could do together to spice up their sex life,” says Susan Wright, a spokesperson for the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom. “The movie version will undoubtedly reach an even bigger audience.”
It tells the story of an incredibly innocent college student named Anastasia Steele, who gets swept up by megarich but troubled fetishist Christian Grey. After losing her virginity to him in what Grey calls “vanilla sex,” Steele signs up to be his erotic slave in what she calls his “Red Room of Pain.”
And fans can’t get enough.
“People who read the book came in asking for kegel balls, butt plugs, leg restraints and little whips,” says Lolita Wolf, manager of BDSM boutique Purple Passion in Chelsea. “Sometimes a husband would come in with a list from his wife of things he had to pick up.” ...
Asking your partner to tie you to the bedpost, telling them to slap you hard in the throes of lovemaking, dressing like a woman if you are a man, admitting a fetish for feet: Just a few years ago, any of these acts could be used against you in family court.
This was the case until 2010, when the American Psychiatric Association announced that it would be changing the diagnostic codes for BDSM, fetishism, and transvestic fetishism (a variant of cross-dressing) in the next edition of its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), published in 2013. The new definitions marked a distinction between behavior—for example, playing rough—and actual pathology. Consenting adults were no longer deemed mentally ill for choosing sexual behavior outside the mainstream.
The change was the result of a massive effort from the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (NCSF), an advocacy group founded in 1997 “to advance the rights of and advocate for consenting adults in the BDSM-Leather-Fetish, Swing, and Polyamory Communities.” At the time, these types of sexual behavior, by virtue of their inclusion in the DSM, were considered markers of mental illness—and, as a result, were heavily stigmatized, often with legal repercussions. In family court, an interest in BDSM was used as justification to remove people’s children from their custody.
“A sexual sadist practices on non-consenting people,” explains NCSF founder Susan Wright, while “someone who is kinky is having consensual enthusiastically desired sex.” The problem with the earlier DSM: It didn’t draw a distinction between the two. A 1998 survey from the NCSF found that “36 percent of S&M practitioners have been victims of harassment, and 30 percent have been victims of discrimination.” As a result, the organization’s website says, “24 percent [have lost] a job or a contract, 17 percent [have lost] a promotion, and 3 percent [have lost] custody of a child.”
“We were seeing the DSM used as a weapon,” says Race Bannon, an NCSF Board Member and the creator of Kink-Aware Professionals, a roster of safe and non-judgmental healthcare professionals for the BDSM and kink community. (The list is now maintained by the NCSF.) “Fifty Shades [of Grey] had not come along,” says Bannon, an early activist in the campaign to change the DSM. “[Kink] was still this dark and secret thing people did.”
Since its first edition was published in 1952, the DSM has often posed a problem for anyone whose sexual preferences fell outside the mainstream. Homosexuality, for example, was considered a mental illness—a “sociopathic personality disturbance”—until the APA changed the language in 1973. More broadly, the DSM section on paraphilias (a blanket term for any kind of unusual sexual interest), then termed “sexual deviations,” attempted to codify all sexual preferences considered harmful to the self or others—a line that, as one can imagine, is tricky in the BDSM community.
The effort to de-classify kink as a psychiatric disorder began in 1980s Los Angeles with Bannon and his then-partner, Guy Baldwin, a therapist who worked mostly with the gay and alternative sexualities communities. Bannon, a self-described “community organizer, activist, writer, and advocate” moved to Los Angeles in 1980 and soon became close with Baldwin through their mutual involvement as open participants in and advocates for the kink community. “I’m fairly confident that I was the first licensed mental-health practitioner anywhere who was out about being a practicing sadomasochist,” Baldwin says.
The pair was spurred to action after the 1987 edition of the DSM-III-R, which introduced the concept of paraphilias, changed the classifications for BDSM and kink from “sexual deviation” to actual disorders defined by two diagnostic criteria. To be considered a mental illness, the first qualification was: ‘‘Over a period of at least six months, recurrent, intense sexual urges and sexually arousing fantasies involving the act (real, not simulated) of being humiliated, beaten, bound, or otherwise made to suffer.’’ The second: ‘‘The person has acted on these urges, or is markedly distressed by them.’’
“1987 was a bad shift,” Wright recalls. “Anyone who was [voluntarily] humiliated, beaten, bound, or any other alternate sexual expression was considered mentally ill.”
With the new language, Baldwin says, he quickly realized that laws regarding alternative sexual behavior would continue to be problematic “as long as the psychiatric community defines these behaviors as pathological.” ...
A BDSM-inspired video game from NYU-Poly professor Robert Yang explores deep questions about consent, sex and technology.
By Brady Dale
Sex is a hot topic in video games these days.
If you haven’t played a video game since R.C. Pro-AM on the NES, that might sound weird to say, but it comes up a lot here in Brooklyn, where one of the main technology hubs is the NYU Game Center, a space where loads of makers are working on games that aren’t just about violence, puzzles or racing, but deal with real human themes.
Then of course there’s the whole #GamerGate controversy, which heavily revolves around sex, gender, objectification and sexualization in video games.
Brooklyn game makers have recently been speaking their minds about sex and human relationships with the games they make. We wrote not long ago about a game jam focused on sex and relationships, and now the NYU-Poly Game Innovation Lab and Babycastles have organized a talk with Parsons and Poly professor Robert Yang, who just did a game about spanking in BDSM as a way to simulate and explore consent in a single-player game that’s also a work of art.
Yang opened his talk with a critique of sex in games right now. In more adult games, where characters do end up having sex, it’s treated as a reward for correct behavior or solving a puzzle of some kind. As Yang puts it, “Sex is kind of a pathfinding problem where we’re trying to navigate this space from point A to point B.” The problem here, Yang says, is that it treats sex as a strategic problem, which he sees as unhelpful and dangerous. ...
The list of disorders ranges from “transsexualism” to “sadomasochism.”
by J. Lester Feder and Susie Armitage
A decree Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev signed on Dec. 29 could ban transgender people from driving cars, along with others diagnosed with a long list of “disorders of sexual preference.”
The provision is part of a broad document outlining the medical conditions that disqualify people from driving or impose limitations on their driving rights. The list of “contraindications” to operating a vehicle includes blindness and epilepsy. But it also references a set of “mental and behavioral disorders” as defined by the World Health Organization, which include “gender identity disorders” such as “transsexualism” and “dual-role transvestism.” The order also encompasses “disorders of sexual preference,” including “sadomasochism,” “paedophilia,” and “exhibitionism.”
This provision seems to be a small step in the Russian government’s ongoing campaign against LGBT people, which began with the adoption of the so-called “homosexual propaganda” ban in 2013. The new rule, which implements a law titled “On Road Safety,” relies on the World Health Organization’s most recent manual for classifying illnesses, formally known as the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, commonly called the ICD-10.
The decree states that the listed mental and behavioral disorders can preclude driving if they are “chronic and prolonged,” with “serious” or “frequently exacerbated” symptoms. It covers a wide range of conditions on the IDC-10’s list of mental and behavioral disorders, including dementia, schizophrenia and mood disorders, but excludes others such as eating disorders, certain sleep disorders and nymphomania.
The ICD-10 does not classify homosexuality as a “disorder of sexual preference,” however, though someone who wishes to change their sexual orientation or gender identity “because of associated psychological and behavioural disorders” can be diagnosed as having a condition called “egodystonic sexual orientation.” Russian authorities often enforce provisions in a way that is much broader than a strict interpretation would allow, however, and this is unlikely to matter if officials seek to use this rule to prevent gays, lesbians, and bisexuals from driving.
The Association of Russian Lawyers for Human Rights said the decree “demonstrates bias against certain individuals and groups of citizens, as well as significantly restricting the rights and freedoms of citizens as a whole.” ...
On his character in Fifty Shades of Grey "In the course of researching this character, I have seen the reality very closely. I can tell you from an alarmingly first-hand perspective it's not altogether sexy. But I've been in a dungeon with a lukewarm beer while a dominant has had some fun with his submissive and it was very playful and jovial and not at all dark and serious. There was a lot of laughter…"
On filming the sex scenes "Your dignity is intact as much as it's all tucked away in a little flesh-coloured bag... As a guy you put all your essentials in a little bag and you tie it up like a little bag of grapes and it's tucked away. Its quite a peculiar thing to do every day."
On S&M "I'm an extremely liberal person, I don't give a f***. If people are into that they're into that. By the way, if people make such a hoo-hah about the violence against women aspect of it, it's far more common for men to be the submissive. And it's consensual! There's weirder shit than that. I think plane spotting is far weirder than S&M. That I really don't get. I can understand why people are into S&M, but standing outside Heathrow Terminal 5 waiting for Ryanair to come in?" ...
The Good Men Project site censors any discussion of Kink, BDSM or Fetish Sexuality from my popular column.
by Galen Fous
The Good Men’s Project’s views on what defines sex-positive expression by good men and women, and what does not, was made clear to me recently. They censored my featured column on GMP, The Sex Positive Male. I was told I could no longer include any content referring to D/s-BDSM, Kink or Fetishsexuality.
This censorship occurred despite their editorial claim that the Good Men Project’s mission is to have “the conversation no one else is having.” They further emphasize exactly how open-minded they consider themselves to be. They declare how important it is to be open to more than one view about what constitutes good –“the question of what is good opens the door to huge philosophical implications. Where does goodness start and where does it end? Who is the judge of what is good?”
Well apparently the “who” in this case are the same people, who despite the above claim, ARE afraid of having me include this particular conversation no on else is having about kink and BDSM.
I was warned and even criticized by a number of peers who felt the Good Men Project took too narrow a view of mature healthy masculinity and sexuality when I first took on the column last April.
From my view as a sex-positive writer and advocate for sexual authenticity, honesty, education and research, the GMP had a significant audience to write for. I took them at their word about their stated intention. As long as they did not restrict what I could write about I was happy to offer my sex-positive views. I felt they were welcoming my professional experience and insights about the broad spectrum of sexual desire emerging in the culture globally, and its potential for conscious, empowering and healing expression.
Due to the strong response, I was invited to write an on-going featured column two times per month under “The Sex Positive Male” byline. My column was going to run on Saturdays to avoid NSFW status. I submitted my second column, “Is the Problem Sex/Porn Addiction or Sexual Dishonesty?” and got this reply from my editor at the time…
“After reading your latest installment today, I realized the caliber of content–message, depth, etc.– needs to be a weekday spot. In general weekends are slow traffic for us, and too, a good place to put NSFW content. But the quality of what you are writing deserves weekday attention. LOVE the depth of your material.”
In subsequent columns I focused on growing interest and news emerging about Kink, D/s-BDSM and Fetishsexuality, embodiment, sexual intimacy, sexual healing and other conscious sexuality topics. As a member of both the conscious sexuality and kink communities for over 15 years, and as a Transpersonal psychologist I had helped hundreds of individuals and couples maneuver the complexities of conscious engagement of their kinks. I felt I could offer a reasoned perspective about healthy practices to support the exploding, uninitiated interest in Kink generated by Fifty Shades of Grey and later the Jian Ghomeshi incident. My focus was always on conscious expression, sexual honesty, negotiated consent, embodiment, empowerment, healing past trauma and shame, and deepened intimacy and connection with partners.
The response to my column and messages to me privately have been exceedingly positive, encouraging and often outright grateful for bringing Kink so straightforwardly into the conversation.
I was very impressed that GMP had an expansive enough if not enlightened view to recognize the validity and prevalence of kink oriented sexuality. So it was a shock to receive a cease and desist order direct from the publisher.
“It is with regret that I tell you that from now on we will not be able to run sexually explicit content, and that includes references to graphic sex, kink, BDSM, fetishes and sexually suggestive pictures. You are welcome to contribute non-sexual content, of course…”
Of course…not! This sanitization of a significant dimension of human sexuality from GMP is equivalent to banning any content relevant to gay or lesbian sexuality 50 years ago. It is a slap in the face to anyone who identifies as a Fetishsexual just as it would have been to be excluded from writing relevant content for homosexuals back then. …
2014 has been a year of progress for NCSF and for people who are kinky and nonmonogamous. The national conversation about gay marriage, consent, and even Fifty Shades of Grey are transforming mainstream attitudes. The change in the American Psychiatric Association’s DSM-5 stating that BDSM is a healthy form of sexual expression has also had a significant impact on both the courts and public opinion about kink.
Education Outreach Project
The NCSF Board Members and presenters gave Education Outreach Project workshops and tabled at 36 events in 2014 (compared to 22 in 2013), with a focus on consent discussions, BDSM & the Law, and distributing literature such as Kink is Okay and Finding Kink Aware Medical Care.
The groups and events where NCSF presented included: Arizona Men of Leather, Arizona Power Exchange, Atlanta Poly Weekend, BDSM Writers Con, Behind Closed Doors, Beyond The Love, CatalysCon East, Catalyst Art & Cultural Space, Center for Sex Positive Culture, CLAW, COPE, CPI/The Mark, Dark Con, Dark Odyssey Winter Fire, Dark Odyssey Surrender, Desert Dominion, DragonCon, Floating World, Folsom Street East, Future of Monogamy and Non-Monogamy, International Mr. Leather, Kinkfest, Leathermen’s Discussion Group, MSDB Bizarre Bazaar, Paradise Unbound, Poly Living Conference, Polyamory Political Activism Conclave, Portland Leather Alliance, SMART, Society for Sex Therapy & Research 39th Annual Meeting, Southwest Leather Contest, Spanksgiving, Thunder in the Mountains, Up Your Alley - Dore Alley, Winter Wickedness, and the Woodhull Sexual Freedom Summit.
NCSF also exhibited at the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT) 47th Annual Conference on June 4-8th, in Monterey, California. NCSF helped organize a panel presentation on “Social Organizations and BDSM Communities,” moderated by Neil Cannon, PhD, DST and Russell Stambaugh, PhD, DST. The panel was attended by 115 of the 550 participants, and raised over $4,000 for AASECT. The panelists were experienced and articulate kink organizers on the West Coast: Race Bannon, Janet Hardy, Demitri Moshanyii, Richard Sprott, Anna Randall, and Jim and Montaine who run a dungeon-themed B&B in Monterey.
Jim Fleckenstein was the lead presenter on “The Fountain of Youth! The Association of an Open Relationship Orientation with Health and Happiness in a Sample of Older Adults,” a workshop discussing the key findings from the Loving More and NCSF internet survey, the largest-ever sample of self-identified polyamorists.
The NCSF booth in the Exhibit Hall gave away 50 free copies of What Psychology Professionals Should Know About Polyamory, courtesy of a grant by Alan of Polyamory in the News as well as brochures on NCSF’s projects and programs. Nearly 150 copies of NCSF’s new Kink is Okay! brochure were given away, describing the changes in the DSM-5 that depathologized BDSM.
Kink Aware Professionals
Over 1,200 people accessed NCSF’s Kink Aware Professionals database in 2014 to find a lawyer, therapist or other professional. Recognizing the need for more kink aware professionals in KAP, NCSF joined forces with GayLawNet, a free referral database of gay-friendly attorneys, which began offering a Kink Aware Professional category for their lawyers to self-identify as kink aware.
Incident Reporting & Response
To assist in educating professionals, NCSF published What Professionals Need to Know About BDSM by Lauren Moore, Tamara Pincus & David Rodemaker. This pamphlet was written to help professionals meet culturally competent ethical standards in work with those of our underserved population.
NCSF received 184 requests for assistance in 2014 through Incident Reporting & Response. 40% of IRR requests dealt with criminal issues. 20% were child custody/divorce. 14% were requests for information on kink and non-monogamy from professionals including: academics, social services, vanilla nonprofit organizations & events, authors, merchant services, and insurance brokers. 11% were group issues, primarily assisting in handling adversarial members, outreach to law enforcement, or managing negative media incidents.
NCSF launched our 50 Shades of NCSF campaign featuring four palm cards and a resource page. Two of the palm cards are geared toward vanilla people who may be interested in kink while the other two have information on consent and the law. These palm cards were sent to 68 groups for distribution during the upcoming launch of the Fifty Shades of Grey movie.
In December, NCSF also broadcast a media kit through PR Newswire entitled “NCSF: Are you ready for the Fifty Shades of Grey movie?” that targeted reporters and offered story ideas about kink and non-monogamy. The PR was reposted on 137 websites, including Reuters and the Associated Press, and was viewed by over 1,000 journalists in the first 24 hours.
Susan Wright gave 32 interviews in 2014 to reporters from mainstream media to blogs and podcasts. The 2014 interviews included: The NY Times, NY Magazine, Atlantic Monthly, CNN, Playboy, Bay Area Reporter, Slate, Jane XO, Alternet, andtwo Huffington Post Live appearances.
Barak and Sheba of AdventuresinSexuality.org, a long-time Coalition Partner of NCSF, joined the media team and will be giving interviews on kink and non-monogamy. NCSF also published 15 Guest Blogs by experts in various fields, up from five Guest Blogs posted in 2013. Jsin created several podcast PSAs about NCSF tailored to specific niches – leathermen, pansexual and vanilla-ish – as well as promotional videos to accompany the 50 Shades of NCSF campaign.
NCSF ran two surveys in 2014: the Consent Violations Survey and the Mental Health Survey. The results of both will be available in early 2015. The Consent Violations Survey collected 4,600 responses and the results will be given to law enforcement, prosecutors, victim services and health care professionals to help them understand the experiences of kinky people and provide better quality service.
The Mental Health Survey collected over 800 responses. NCSF is working with researchers at Sam Houston University’s Department of Psychology and Philosophy who will ultimately compare our response set to two other sample populations – one college-aged and the other LGBT.
The Consent Counts program continued its educational mission as well as providing Amicus (“friend of the court”) Briefs in relevant legal cases. The Navy and Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals twice accepted NCSF’s amicus brief in the case of Gregory T. Miles, Lance Corporal, U.S. Marine Corps. NCSF advised the court that prosecutors are avoiding the Supreme Court decision, made in Lawrence v. Texas, that moral judgment is not a basis for criminalizing consensual sexual conduct, and that consensual sex should only be criminalized if that conduct is injurious or goes against a valid societal interest. NCSF also argued that military law is out of sync with U.S. Constitutional law and societal mores, especially when it comes to consensual sexual behaviors.
As part of the revamping of NCSF’s policies and procedures this year, the NCSF Board created the Ombuds Committee in June and appointed Desmond Ravenstone, James Huesmann and Bjorn Paulee. The Ombuds Committee handles complaints and concerns regarding the conduct of NCSF officers and staff, and the operations of NCSF institutions. The NCSF Ombuds Committee was established as an Advisory Committee, as per NCSF bylaws, to review coalition administration and activities, assuring ethical and effective fulfillment of NCSF’s mission and goals. Board Member Fil Vocasek is the Board Liaison to the Ombuds Committee.
Adventures in Sexuality, a NCSF Coalition Partner, donated $500 at their COPE conference in October.
CPI/The Mark, a Coalition Partner, donated $1,000 to NCSF in October.
Behind Closed Doors, the annual conference by Baja Arizona Leather, a Supporting Member of NCSF, raised $300 by passing the hat at their Sunday key note speech.
House of Decorum, a NCSF Coalition Partner, raised $1,296 at their annual fetish ball, held this year in Asheville, NC.
The Red Chair, a NCSF Coalition Partner, donated $744 that was raised at their annual NCSF fundraiser and Halloween Masquerade. This year’s theme was Steampunk! Airship Pirates and Gypsies running wild, with great carnival games and events.
The SFCitadel sponsored a Holiday Dance in the Dungeon for NCSF that raised $913 in December. The event was supported by the Leathermen’s Discussion Group, 15 Association, Society of Janus and the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.
The New Mexico Leather League donated $621 to NCSF in November.
Min-KY, a NCSF Coalition Partner, raised $580 for NCSF in October.
Spanksgiving, the annual fall event by STL3, a Coalition Partner of NCSF, raised $320 through their ice-bucket challenge at the opening ceremonies against Jason (NCSF Board Member), James (NCSF’s Ombuds Committee) and the lovely Tink.
The Tides Foundation donated a $1,500 grant to NCSF! The board of directors thanks Tides, as well as the anonymous donor who nominated NCSF for this grant.