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"BDSM Consent"

on Monday, 11 November 2013. Hits 445

The Oxford Student

Talking about sex can be an incredibly frustrating experience. I realised this the other week, when I was telling a friend how turned on I am by boys who are really good at consent. I was trying to communicate how I find the mutual communication of care and concern intensely arousing: something which, I hoped, would be greeted by the fairly unsurprised agreement that, yes, consent is pretty awesome.

Instead, I was greeted with the objection that having to ask for permission ‘kills the mood’. Make no mistake, if expressions of mutual respect and desire are going to kill your mood, then your mood is deeply rapey and you really ought to kill it as quickly and thoroughly as possible. Nothing is more important in sex than the enthusiastic communication of consent, and a total respect for someone’s right to say ‘no’. This might seem fairly obvious, but it hardly takes a glance around at our culture to see how messed up our attitudes to sex are.

Take the stigmatization of BDSM, for example (an acronym which stands for different things depending on whom you ask, but is a general designation for sexual practices involving dominance and submission, bondage and sadomasochism). The great thing about the practice of BDSM is that it foregrounds the necessity of consent in good sex. Robust BDSM consent practices, involving the discussion and clarification of acts that both desire, and the setting of limits not to be crossed, are based on the notion, too rare in ‘normal’, vanilla sexual encounters, that nothing is permitted unless explicitly stated. The pre-packaged and oppressively rigid script that our culture gives us for sexual encounters makes certain desires compulsory and forbids others.

We need to re-examine all the harmful assumptions that are often made in ‘normal’ sex: that there is some kind of natural sexual arc (often employing the odd sporting metaphor of ‘bases’ and a ‘homerun’) beginning with kissing, moving on to foreplay — that is, things that aren’t considered ‘real’ sex — and finally, to use a faintly ridiculous term, ‘full sex’. What is half-full sex like, I wonder? Or maybe just one third sex, two thirds chastity? ...

 

"Life Beyond Therapy: BDSM, Fetish, Leather, Kink

on Friday, 08 November 2013. Hits 608

San Diego Gay and Lesbian News

After the recent Folsom Street Fair, a client said that he saw me on a list of “kink-friendly” therapists. I was intrigued. I wanted to know what that meant, so I Googled “kink” and got: “unusual sexual behaviors or practices.”

 

 

 

To this I reply: Who defines what is “unusual” and “unusual for whom?”

 

 

 

My curiosity piqued, I Googled:

 

 

 

Fetish—an object or a part of the body that arouses sexual desire or is necessary for one to reach full sexual satisfaction.

 

 

 

Leather—a community where people of varying body types are celebrated; a form of self-expression; being proud of your sexuality by displaying it in your (leather) outfit or gear.

 

 

 

BDSM—sexual practices or activities involving bondage, discipline, sadism, masochism or acts or domination and submission.

 

 

 

Ah yes, BDSM. Years ago, as a new therapist, I felt that if I was going to work with the LGBT community, I wanted to know about aspects of the community that weren’t so mainstream. So, I signed up for a workshop on BDSM. It was quite enlightening. I can’t easily summarize it here, but there is so much more to it than I was aware. There were subtleties and nuances that pretty much blew the lid off my Ohio farmboy mindset.

 

 

 

I am ashamed to admit that psychotherapy and psychology have—historically—not been friends to “practitioners of BDSM/Leather/Kink Lifestyles” (the term recommended by the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom). I am adding “fetish” to this community and calling it “the BFLK community.”

 

 

 

Unfortunately, a lot of psychologists still view the BFLK community quite negatively, labeling them as “deviant.” To me, alternatives to traditional sexual behaviors and roles are not deviant, they are different. Just because someone else likes to do something that doesn’t appeal to you doesn’t mean it’s deviant, unhealthy or wrong.

 

 

 

Many of us have never examined the moral codes that we were raised with. Believe me: growing up on a farm in Ohio, I was neither encouraged to experiment with nor explore alternatives to traditional, conservative sexual roles.

 

 

 

After working with clients over the years, I have learned that BFLK can be a practice, a lifestyle, an identity and an orientation. Regardless of how much a person incorporates elements of BFLK into their life, BFLK practitioners deserve respect and sensitivity, which has not always been forthcoming from San Diego’s LGBT community.

 

 

 

Some psychologists label anything BFLK as unhealthy or harmful to your own mental health and that of your partner(s). To me, as a BFLK–friendly psychotherapist, I find that there are many ways to express healthy adult sexuality. For example, you might be tentatively exploring some of your (formerly secret) sexual/erotic fantasies. This exploration could take many forms. It could be as simple as being turned on a bit by the presence of leather or it could involve a major shift in your core sexual identity and lifestyle.

 

 

 

The choice is yours. It’s your life and you get to decide what is “healthy” (or not) for you.

 

 

 

If you decide to bring elements of the BFLK world into your erotic life, I encourage you to find supportive partners who can help you find a safe space to do so and will give you the support you need in your explorations. Thank God for the Internet, where it’s possible to find others who share your unique and specific fantasies and let you know that you are but one of many. ...

 

To this I reply: Who defines what is “unusual” and “unusual for whom?”

My curiosity piqued, I Googled:

Fetish—an object or a part of the body that arouses sexual desire or is necessary for one to reach full sexual satisfaction.

Leather—a community where people of varying body types are celebrated; a form of self-expression; being proud of your sexuality by displaying it in your (leather) outfit or gear.

BDSM—sexual practices or activities involving bondage, discipline, sadism, masochism or acts or domination and submission.

Ah yes, BDSM. Years ago, as a new therapist, I felt that if I was going to work with the LGBT community, I wanted to know about aspects of the community that weren’t so mainstream. So, I signed up for a workshop on BDSM. It was quite enlightening. I can’t easily summarize it here, but there is so much more to it than I was aware. There were subtleties and nuances that pretty much blew the lid off my Ohio farmboy mindset.

I am ashamed to admit that psychotherapy and psychology have—historically—not been friends to “practitioners of BDSM/Leather/Kink Lifestyles” (the term recommended by the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom). I am adding “fetish” to this community and calling it “the BFLK community.”

Unfortunately, a lot of psychologists still view the BFLK community quite negatively, labeling them as “deviant.” To me, alternatives to traditional sexual behaviors and roles are not deviant, they are different. Just because someone else likes to do something that doesn’t appeal to you doesn’t mean it’s deviant, unhealthy or wrong.

Many of us have never examined the moral codes that we were raised with. Believe me: growing up on a farm in Ohio, I was neither encouraged to experiment with nor explore alternatives to traditional, conservative sexual roles.

After working with clients over the years, I have learned that BFLK can be a practice, a lifestyle, an identity and an orientation. Regardless of how much a person incorporates elements of BFLK into their life, BFLK practitioners deserve respect and sensitivity, which has not always been forthcoming from San Diego’s LGBT community.

Some psychologists label anything BFLK as unhealthy or harmful to your own mental health and that of your partner(s). To me, as a BFLK–friendly psychotherapist, I find that there are many ways to express healthy adult sexuality. For example, you might be tentatively exploring some of your (formerly secret) sexual/erotic fantasies. This exploration could take many forms. It could be as simple as being turned on a bit by the presence of leather or it could involve a major shift in your core sexual identity and lifestyle.

The choice is yours. It’s your life and you get to decide what is “healthy” (or not) for you.

If you decide to bring elements of the BFLK world into your erotic life, I encourage you to find supportive partners who can help you find a safe space to do so and will give you the support you need in your explorations. Thank God for the Internet, where it’s possible to find others who share your unique and specific fantasies and let you know that you are but one of many.

- See more at: http://www.sdgln.com/health/2013/11/06/life-beyond-therapy-bdsm-fetish-leather-kink#sthash.i5nkEK3w.dpuf
he recent Folsom Street Fair, a client said that he saw me on a list of “kink-friendly” therapists. I was intrigued. I wanted to know what that meant, so I Googled “kink” and got: “unusual sexual behaviors or practices.” - See more at: http://www.sdgln.com/health/2013/11/06/life-beyond-therapy-bdsm-fetish-leather-kink#sthash.i5nkEK3w.dpuf
After the recent Folsom Street Fair, a client said that he saw me on a list of “kink-friendly” therapists. I was intrigued. I wanted to know what that meant, so I Googled “kink” and got: “unusual sexual behaviors or practices.” - See more at: http://www.sdgln.com/health/2013/11/06/life-beyond-therapy-bdsm-fetish-leather-kink#sthash.i5nkEK3w.dpuf

"Exploring the ‘kinkier’ things in life"

on Monday, 04 November 2013. Hits 454

UConn Daily Campus

The joys, trials and stereotypes of kinky sex in college were among the topics brought up during “Kinky in College,” a panel-led discussion hosted by the student organization DARTS (Diverse Approaches to Relationship Types and Sexualities) in the Rainbow Center on Friday afternoon.

Most of the six panelists preferred not to disclose their names. Rowan, a member of DARTS who hosted the discussion, explained that a person’s future employment and family relationships could be put in jeopardy if that person was revealed to be associated with BDSM.

About 30 people attended the discussion, which Rowan explained was part of an effort to “give people a better understanding of what it means to be kinky.”

“Kink is becoming more of a public phenomenon,” Rowan said. “We’re trying to dispel a lot of myths.”

According to the panelists, many of these myths and negative stereotypes have been propagated through “50 Shades of Grey,” a popular erotic romance novel.

In “50 Shades,” Christian Grey is the dominant, which means that he has control over the sexual situations that take place between him and Anastasia Steele, who submits to Grey’s will as the submissive.

“50 Shades is a romance novel, and romance novels are not necessarily indicative of how sex actually happens,” said a panelist who explained that one of Grey’s problems is his failure to comply with safe words.

Safe words are specific words that are discussed by participants beforehand that act as a means of telling a person to stop what he or she is doing. These are especially important in BDSM scenes in which “no” doesn’t necessarily mean “no.”

The panelists explained that it’s important to distinguish between BDSM scenes and the actual relationship between two or more people.

“It’s bounded by the knowledge that this is not the relationship,” said one of the panelists. “This is the entertainment, this is the fun, this is the sex.”

It’s crucial for participants to communicate ahead of time and this doesn’t happen very thoroughly in “50 Shades.”

“There is not a level of communication within their relationship outside of sex that would carry over to the level of communication that is absolutely necessary during kinky sex,” said Jade, a panelist. “BDSM above everything else is about trust and communication.”

The panel helped define many terms for the audience, such as tops, bottoms, hard limits, soft limits, impact play, play parties and munches.

Tops are people who give sensation during sex, while bottoms are people who receive the sensation.

Soft limits are activities or sensations that a person may not be interested in but that he or she might consent to if a scene happened to entail it. For instance, if a top accidentally drew blood during a scene, although the bottom is not necessarily interested in it at first, he or she might still consent and continue with the scene. Hard limits, on the other hand, are activities that a person would absolutely never consent to. ...

“Invitation to Participate in a Needs Assessment Interview on Intimate Partner Abuse Among Practitioners of BDSM/Leather/Kink Lifestyles”

on Thursday, 31 October 2013. Hits 1323

Posted on October 31, 2013

Eligibility

*Adult, aged 18 or over,

* have ever been in a Leather/BDSM/kink relationship in which you experienced intimate partner abuse, and

* sought help from publicly available domestic violence/intimate partner abuse services, or

* wanted to seek help from publicly available domestic violence/intimate partner abuse services, but did not do so.

 

The interview will take no more than 2 hours to complete.

 

Please respond no later than January 10, 2014.

 

Your participation is voluntary. All responses are confidential. However, there is potential risk of loss of confidentiality in all email, downloading and internet transactions. The final results of this study will be used for research and may also be published in a summary format in a peer-reviewed journal.

 

The purpose of this interview is to gather information regarding the quality of experiences had by those who sought help from domestic violence/intimate partner abuse service providers, or those who wanted to seek help, but did not do so. The overall goal is to help service providers and outreach educators improve the quality of information, responses and interventions regarding the unique needs and experiences of individuals who live a BDSM, Leather or kinky lifestyle.

 

Would you be interested in participating in an in-depth face-to-face or telephone interview (to last no more than 2 hours) about your experiences? If so, please contact Dr. Elizabeth Fawcett at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or call 972-742-7717 to set up an interview.

 

If you have any questions about the interview, please contact Elizabeth Fawcett, Ph.D., M.P.H., at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . This study has been reviewed according to accepted Institutional Review Board (IRB) procedures for research involving human subjects, and approved. If you have questions about the rights of research participants or the way this study is being conducted, you may contact Texas Woman’s University Office of Research and Sponsored Programs at 940-898-3378 or via email at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

 

There is potential risk of loss of confidentiality in all email, downloading and internet transactions.

Unitarian Universalist Association: Make it clear: Alt-Sex UUA employees deserve protections, too!

on Thursday, 31 October 2013. Hits 1281

Please sign NCSF Coalition Partner's Leather & Grace - UUs for BDSM Awareness's Change.org petition. Join us in our call for the UUA to make it clear that their kinky and poly employees also deserve protection!

Petitioning Rob Molla:

In April 2013, a delegation from Leather & Grace ~ Unitarian Universalists for BDSM Awareness met with the Trustees and senior administrators of the Unitarian Universalist Association, to share concerns and engage in dialogue.

One major issue was the work environment at UUA headquarters.Some UUA employees had reported being silenced merely for identifying with alternative sexuality communities, or sharing educational information about kink or polyamory.

In discussing this with Board members and UUA senior administrators, one of the Trustees recommended that a proactive memo be sent to all employees of the UUA, clarifying that the Association’s nondiscrimination policy applies to all sexual identities, including kink and polyamory, and identifying boundaries for appropriate office behavior.Senior administrators responded positively to the idea of sending such a memo.

Since that meeting, the leadership of Leather & Grace has followed up with UUA leadership, and even drafted proposed content for this memo – and still the UUA has not issued a clarifying memo to their staff, nor have they given any reasons why they won't do so.

The UUA and its member congregations have a proud history of inclusion, affirmation, advocacy and education for people of diverse sexual orientations.With the rise in public awareness around BDSM, kink, and other forms of consensual sexual expression, isn’t it time that this progressive faith movement catch up with the rest of society?

Tell the UUA’s Director of Human Resources, Rob Molla, and other top Unitarian Universalist leaders to make it clear that kinky and polyamorous employees have basic workplace protections at UUA headquarters.Sign this petition calling for them to issue a proactive memo as discussed, and to work with groups like Leather & Grace and UUs for Polyamory Awareness to make the UUA a safer place to work for all their employees.

To:
Rob Molla, Director of Human Resources, UUA
Rev. Peter Morales, President, UUA
Rev. Harlan Limpert, Chief Operating Officer, UUA
Jim Key, Moderator and Chief Governance Officer, UUA
Annette Marquis, LGBTQ and Multicultural Ministries Program Manager, UUA
Make it clear: Alt-Sex UUA employees deserve protections, too!

Sincerely,
[Your name]

Sign here:

http://www.change.org/petitions/unitarian-universalist-association-make-it-clear-alt-sex-uua-employees-deserve-protections-too

"Polyamory: Not Harmful to Society"

on Thursday, 31 October 2013. Hits 572

Huffington Post

Recently, in an blog post titled "Gay Marriage: Good; Polyamory: Bad," Eli Lehrer offered his opinion on why polyamory will never be widely accepted. In Lehrer's words, "Gay marriage is, at the very worst, neutral for society while polyamory is pretty clearly harmful to society." But as a polyamorous feminist who is firmly committed to all varieties of social justice, it's important to me to refute what Lehrer sees as the "obvious harms" brought on society by families like my own.

Though Lehrer uses the term "polyamory" throughout his piece, the only form of multi-partner relationships he addresses are those of a fundamentalist, patriarchal variety. Though such relationships clearly do exist -- and are problematic in many ways -- they are not the only form that multi-partner relationships take. Though exact numbers are unknown, it's estimated that between 4 and 5 percent of Americans are in some form of openly non-monogamous relationship, many of them polyamorous. Defined as the practice of romantically loving more than one partner simultaneously, polyamorous relationships do not adhere to a patriarchal, heterosexual "one husband, many wives" model, but instead include every imaginable combination of genders and sexual orientations. Many polyamorous women, like myself, are in loving, committed relationships with multiple men. And a large number of us -- from my observation, seemingly a larger percentage than of the general population -- consider feminist values to be central to our relationships.

Lehrer is also concerned with the social problem of polyamory creating an inherent scarcity of partners. But again, this is only a concern if you assume that polyamory only means one man with many women. But given the reality of modern, egalitarian polyamorous relationship configurations that include one woman with several men, three or more men or women all in a relationship together, quads made up of two men and two women, and many more, it is difficult to imagine how polyamory can create a scarcity of available partners of one gender or the other.

It is of course true that granting legal recognition to polyamorous families would also have the effect of granting legal recognition to patriarchal polygamous families as well. But the unfortunate reality is that many women still live in oppressive, fundamentalist monogamous marriages, and we do not use that as an excuse to eschew marriage all together. The problem is patriarchy itself, not the particular form relationships take. If anything, decriminalization of multi-partner relationships would allow more women in polygamous relationships who are being abused to access social services without fear of punishment.

Though I am living in a life-committed relationship with two men myself, I am not particularly interested in arguing for the legal recognition of polyamorous marriages anytime soon. Like the vast majority of polyamorous activists, I am much more interested in simply increasing social awareness and acceptance of families like mine. Lehrer might be correct that increased acceptance of polyamory would lead more people to live polyamorously, but this is only something to fear if one accepts the premise that polyamory is in fact harmful to society. Increased acceptance of same-sex relationships has obviously not caused people to become gay, but it has lead to more gay and lesbian men and women being able to live openly as who they authentically are. For many of us, polyamory feels like the most authentic way to love and relate to our romantic partners. I believe a vast majority of people will always be more comfortable with monogamy. But the increased visibility of polyamorous relationships will help more of us who do not feel comfortable with monogamy live and love in a way that feels most authentic to us.

If we're going to discuss what's harmful to society, I'd argue that things like racism and sexism and heterosexism and every other form of oppression we live with are far larger threats to the common good than my two partners, my daughter, and me, who have the audacity to live in a modest home in the suburbs together, where we regularly commit such scandalous acts as playing board games, watching Netflix, and cuddling with dachshunds. But ordinary, loving families like mine certainly do suffer when people like Lehrer choose to perpetuate misunderstandings about who and what we are.

No matter how much opponents of polyamory wish to claim that it has nothing at all in common with gay marriage, these alarmist cries about how polyamory will destroy the moral fabric of America sound awfully similar to the discourse surrounding same-sex marriage a decade or so ago. And just as though there has never actually been a serious threat that same-sex marriage would destroy the institution of heterosexual marriage as we know it, we polyamorous folks have no agenda of destroying the institution of monogamy. We only want a future where monogamy as seen as just one possible way among many ways to love, make commitments, and build families.

"Gay Marriage: Good; Polyamory: Bad"

on Monday, 28 October 2013. Hits 689

Huffington Post

Walter Olson has a top-notch blog post over at Independent Gay Forum that describes why increased acceptance of same-sex marriage isn't going to lead to acceptance of polyamory.

I agree with all of his arguments and I'd add one. Gay marriage is, at the very worst, neutral for society while polyamory is pretty clearly harmful to society. The obvious harms of polyamory are likely to prevent its widespread acceptance.

The facts about gay marriage should come first. Now that we've had almost a decade of legal gay marriage, it seems reasonably safe to say that it has no detectable negative social impacts. If it did, say, harm heterosexual marriage or lead to more illegitimacy, that would be an argument against it. But there are no harms. Illegitimacy and divorce are both down from their highs; teen pregnancy is way down.

Meanwhile, only about 3.5 percent of the population identifies as gay indicating (no surprise) that increasing social acceptance of homosexuality is not exploding the number of people who identify as LGBT. Many people, me included, have come to support same-sex marriage because it's socially beneficial. In the long term, most of the impacts of gay marriage seem likely to be good: fewer people in intrinsically unstable "mixed orientation" marriages (leading to even less divorce), more loving two-parent homes for children, and more stable family environments for gay Americans. And these positive social externalities of gay marriage are likely to increase as gay marriage becomes more widespread.

On the other hand, a long social experience with polyamory indicates that the social results are awful. If they're patriarchal and primarily polygamous and limit the economic roles that women can take (as almost all known polygamous societies do) they will doom a lot of people to living in poverty. Self-described "fundamentalist Mormons" and the handful of backward Muslims that Olson mentions almost all live in poverty surviving off of government transfer payments and even crime. Polyamorous societies will, by definition, never have enough mates to go around. Always and everywhere, this has resulted in significant numbers of disaffected heterosexual males who have no hope of finding a mate.

And legitimizing polyamory would increase the number who practice it. Unlike being gay -- which, overwhelming evidence suggests, is not a choice -- polyamory clearly is. Its legitimacy would increase its prevalence.

If any major modern society ever moves towards legitimizing polyamory or anything like it, the social results are likely to be an unmitigated disaster in the short term. And this will create a very strong warning to anyone going down the same path. Gay marriage is increasingly accepted precisely because its results, to date, have been good for society. Polyamory on a large scale would have negative short-term results and that's a good reason to think it's just not going to happen.

"What gay marriage advocates supposedly “must” believe, vs. what they actually do believe"

on Monday, 28 October 2013. Hits 638

Independent Gay Forum

Have you noticed that social conservatives’ notions of what gay-marriage advocates supposedly “must” believe are often very wide of what most actually-existing gay-marriage advocates do believe? Here’s social conservative Mona Charen writing at National Review:

Advocates of gay marriage tend to argue that those in opposition are no better than the drunken thugs who beat up homosexuals outside of bars.

Do they? She gives no examples of which gay marriage advocates draw that uncharitable comparison, let alone enough examples to show that this is the general tendency of argument on our side. Certainly it would be hard to fit Jonathan Rauch’s Gay Marriage: Why It Is Good for Gays, Good for Straights, and Good for America into this category, or Andrew Sullivan’s famous and influential 1989 essay, or the work of John Corvino. Even among advocates less temperate in tone, few are unaware that most current advocates of gay marriage, from President Obama on down, previously took a position against it.

The rest of Charen’s article advances the oft-heard argument that polygamy is next, on the not particularly convincing ground that some magazine (Slate) just ran a piece by some pseudonymous practitioner of polyamory. (Yes, that’s the sure sign of a social movement on the cusp of mainstream acceptance; its spokesmen write pseudonymously). Such pieces have been a staple of reader titillation in the popular culture since well before the 1969 comedy Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice, which has at no point signaled that a serious social movement to introduce polygamy was in the offing.

Like her co-thinker Ryan Anderson, Charen imagines that no one can come up with principled reasons to back same-sex marriage that do not also extend to polygamy. The fact is that there are multiple and distinct principled reasons, which is one reason it’s not that easy to find anyone (let alone everyone) who is enthusiastic about both causes at once. Feminists, for example, surely a powerful influence on these discussions, have their own internally logical and consistent reasons to support SSM and oppose polygamy (which notoriously correlates around the world with weakened status for women, very much in contrast with gay marriage). Social-welfare advocates who know that being married is a powerful predictor of health, happiness and prosperity have often seen merit in same-sex marriage because it extends the hope of marriage to more persons, but have reason to look askance at polygamy since in polygamous cultures more males never find lifelong mates. And so forth for other groups.

Meanwhile, the West actually does have two real-world constituencies for legalized polygamy, both extremely small. One is the minuscule group of old-school Muslim and splinter-Mormon practitioners who typically ground the practice in tradition, divine will, and scripture, and who very often are implacably opposed to same-sex marriage. The other is the not much bigger fringe of polyamorists and free-love advocates, many of whom were at best tepid toward SSM, seeing it as herding gays into bourgeois domesticity. It should go without saying that the second group is unlikely to team up with the first into an effective public movement, nor are the numbers of either likely to grow radically, short of mass immigration from certain pre-modern parts of the world.

Our side is winning on gay marriage for a very simple reason, which is that millions of mothers think, “I didn’t choose for my kid to be gay, but since he is, I hope he settles down with the right person.” I have never, ever heard a mother say “I didn’t choose for my kid to want multiple mates, but since he does, I hope he settles down with the right three or four women.” Isn’t it time writers like Charen and Anderson dropped this trope?

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