I spend my life being as honest and transparent as possible. I, like many other Black gay men, have felt the brunt of the stigma attached to a skin pigment or sexual preference that we simply cannot change. We, of all people, have no right to judge anyone based on how they love, who they love, or how they choose to take ownership of their bodies. As a self-proclaimed sex-positive gay man, I must admit that the Leather and BDSM community was quite an intimidating topic to take on.
That was until I met 2016 Leatherman of Color, Khalid El-Bey, who happens to be an unassuming gentle giant - in leather chaps.
When he approached me a few months ago about raising money for my organization Black, Gifted & Whole, I was both confused and flattered. I didn't think we would be the type of organization he would be interested in supporting. I had an unsubstantiated theory floating around in my peanut head about who and what the leather community represented. My own fear of what others thought of my body prohibited me from being as sexually free and affirming as they. The fact that my body had been compromised countless times as a child crippled my sexual liberation.
As an openly HIV-positive Black gay man living in DC, I had to check my respectability politics. This is where the brightest of the bright shine, where the political savvy call Capitol Hill home. Who you're seen with and where you work are qualifiers for friendship. Should you dare to deviate from the proposed agenda of successful Black gay men here, you might as well pack up your Camry and head back to your humble beginnings. For this reason alone, I celebrate people like Khalid, who say that I can love my body, eroticism and the lives of those most impacted by HIV--all at the same damn time.
Most gay men have heard of Onyx, but not many Black gay men. Why do you think there may be a disconnect between the Black gay community and the leather community?
We celebrated our 20th Anniversary in Chicago, IL during what was called BlackOut20 (BOXX) in the fall of 2015. We are a leather fraternity founded and operated by men of color yet we are open to anyone who is interested in the fellowship of our brotherhood. ONYX’s mission is to be an informational and social organization that addresses issues specific to people of color who choose to project the positive aspects of the leather lifestyle and support our community and economic initiatives. Our motto is: "Educate, Explore, and Empower."
I feel that many in the Black gay community initially think that we are a sex club and/or that leather is for only white people. ONYX has a long standing reputation within the leather community with members both nationwide and internationally.
For the record, is the longest existing leather club for people of color and is known for its hospitality and infamous annual ONYX leather dance at International Mr. Leather (IML) Weekend in Chicago and our cocktail party at Mid-Atlantic Leather (MAL) in Washington, DC. ONYX is the longest existing leather club for people of color and is known for its hospitality and infamous annual ONYX leather dance at International Mr. Leather (IML) Weekend in Chicago and our cocktail party at Mid-Atlantic Leather (MAL) in Washington, DC. ...
Remember the opening club scene in Blade? Imagine that, but instead of men in short-sleeved bowling shirts and Kangol hats, you have guys in rubber jock straps and stilettos. Women in corsets and pasties rather than capri pants and pleather jackets. Fire eating, angle grinding, and sex acts instead of human blood raining from the ceiling and Wesley Snipes attacking a load of vampires with a shotgun.
That place is Torture Garden, where a guy getting a blowjob by the bar or a woman whipping a man tied to a St. Andrew's Cross is all part of an average night out. Started in 1990, the iconic fetish club—the largest of its kind in Europe—is throwing a big party this weekend in Elephant & Castle to celebrate 25 years of torture.
My first experience of Torture Garden was in 2003, when the club took over the Brixton Academy for another birthday ball. The main floor overflowed with bums, tits, and gimps strapped into figure-hugging rubber, leather, latex, and spandex, in traditional fetish black to bright and bolder colors.
In the couple's room (the main "play" area), I wandered around with a guy I was casually dating. We were two young gay guys looking on incredulously as hundreds of people in various states of undress made out, sucked, and spanked one another. From mild make outs to full-on butt whacking, the unapologetic indulgence of it all was arousing and entertaining—the kink having an almost Carry On aspect to it.
My previous experiences of "sex in clubs" were either horrid dark rooms in tacky Gran Canaria gay clubs, or the full-on fuck fest of London's queer fetish scene, which was usually far too extreme for my tamer vanilla tastes. By contrast, Torture Garden was—and still is—playful, cheeky, and sexy. And, of course, extreme if you want it to be. But above all: It's fun.
I lost my friend in the playroom and came across a table where a woman—naked bar her heels and a diamante bra—was fucking a guy. She was beautiful, and he was incredibly fit. I wasn't sure which of them I found more of a turn on. A crowd gathered around, a mix of guys and girls watching. Some of them other couples, kissing. Nobody took advantage. They just watched the guy and girl fuck, while the couple clearly appreciated the attention. I didn't perceive her as acting whorish or slutty, or any of the other names society likes to throw at women who openly enjoy their sexuality. She was completely in control, of the guy and of her audience.
To really comprehend Torture Garden's uniqueness, you have to understand where the club came from and why it's so impressive that it's still here, over 25 years later. In fact, that it still exists at all is something of miracle. ...
The open relationship between Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre is frequently and wrongly written off. Such arrangements have women-friendly roots
by Laura Smith
“People have had open marriages for ever … But they never end up working long-term.”
That statement by the biological anthropologist Helen Fisher must have been news to Simone de Beauvoir, the famously non-monogamous French feminist existentialist.
Fisher’s pronouncement, quoted in the New York Times recently, would also be questioned by the numerous celebrities said to have “arrangements”, and the half million or so of Fisher’s fellow Americans giving polyamory a try.
De Beauvoir considered her open relationship with Sartre the “one undoubted success in my life”. In terms of longevity, they had about half of us beat: their relationship, which allowed for affairs while they remained essential partners, lasted 51 years until Sartre’s death in 1980. Now, 30 years after De Beauvoir’s death, many of the criticisms of polyamory are rooted in the same stifling beliefs about female sexuality that she strove to dismantle in her day.
Take for example, the bias that “women only open up their relationships to please variety-seeking men”, which Anna North admitted was often assumed to be the case in an article on why we should be less “freaked out” by polyamory. In a piece for the New Yorker, Louis Menand argued that Sartre was a “womaniser” and De Beauvoir a “classic enabler”, going so far as to suggest that she feigned bisexuality to please him, and that parts of The Second Sex were written as a plea to him, reducing one of the 20th century’s greatest intellectual works to a marital squabble. De Beauvoir’s biographer, Deirdre Bair, argued that she was “subservient” to Sartre, and Hazel Rowley, in Tête-à-Tête, leaned heavily on scenes of De Beauvoir crying in cafes. But at the core of the assumption that non-monogamous women are doing what men want – not what they want – is a more pervasive assumption about female sexuality: it is men who have complex sexual needs, not women.
But as Libby Copeland argued, polyamory has woman-friendly roots: “Free love rejected the tyranny of conventional marriage, and particularly how it limited women’s lives to child-bearing, household drudgery, legal powerlessness, and, often enough, loveless sex.”
In an article on straight poly-relationships in Seattle, Jessica Bennett writes that, “the community has a decidedly feminist bent: women have been central to its creation, and ‘gender equality’ is a publicly recognised tenet of the practice”.
The actress Mo’Nique says that her open relationship was her idea. Simone de Beauvoir didn’t see herself as a tag-along polyamorist either. Attracted to both men and women, her open relationship meant that she didn’t have to choose between them. She felt the “urge to embrace all experience”, saw the ability to act on desire as essential to liberating oneself from male sovereignty, and was seeking to answer the question that we still grapple with today: “Is there any possible reconciliation between fidelity and freedom?” Polyamory, according to Copeland, was not just about sex, but about “remaking one’s own little corner of the world”, a terrifying prospect to those who want the world to remain the same, especially when it comes to established gender roles. ...
Our vision begins with our desires. - Audre Lorde.
What vision do you have for your intimate relationship future?
What if you had a choice to structure, quantify, and love without another’s manufactured design?
With generous intention, this symposium celebrates the unique way that we love and relate. With enthusiasm, we express our relational intimacy, emotional capacity, and sexual fluidity with tenacity and fervor. The consequence of inhibition and oppression is to be held captive by socially constructed parameters. Our symposium aims to educate, expose, and disseminate the knowledge and expertise of the authors of Designer Relationships, national speakers, community organizers, mental health practitioners, and creative spirited individuals who have lived and advocated for surpassing those parameters.
Your celebratory experiences occur on July 22-23, 2016 in Dallas, Texas. Our Saturday Night Keynote Speaker is innovator and educator Tristan Taormino. Our Friday Night Opening Speaker is very talented speaker and galvanizing force Joe Kort PhD and our Saturday Afternoon Jazz Brunch Speaker is the brilliant and very powerful force within black sexologist and sex therapy community, James Wadley PhD. Our symposium’s name “Designer Relationships” is inspired by the book of the same name, Designer Relationships: A Guide to Happy Monogamy, Positive Polyamory, and Optimistic Open Relationships, which was written by multi-award winning authors, Mark Michaels and Patricia Johnson. The author’s approved our symposium using the name and both of the authors agreed to attend our symposium as our Banquet Q&A panelists! Our Friday Night Entertainment is Dem Damn Dames Burlesque Troupe with featured sensual, fluid, and gender bending performers: Tifa Tittlywinks, Onyx Fury, and Chess Shires.
The Alternative Sexualities Health Research Alliance (TASHRA), a San Francisco non-profit community research organization, announces that on April 1st, 2016 it will launch the first ever national survey to examine the impact of kink sexuality on health and healthcare usage.
Why the survey?
Patients who engage in non-traditional sexual practices, including kink, BDSM, and fetishes (see terminology, below), have been largely ignored by healthcare providers and clinical researchers. TASHRA’s research strives to explore the interaction between kink and health, and specifically to describe the physical and mental health of the kink population, their use of healthcare, and their experiences engaging with the healthcare system.
TASHRA’s pilot study (manuscript in review), was a qualitative study based in the San Francisco Bay Area, conducted from 2013-2015. The study concluded that patients have genuine healthcare needs relating to their kink practices and identities, and that they wish to “come out” to their clinicians about their kink sexuality. However, only 38% are out to their current primary care clinician, with most citing fear of stigma as the reason for their non-disclosure.
TASHRA’s pilot study was conducted in a single urban setting, and the results should be generalized with caution. As a qualitative study, the results serve to bring salient issues to light, but do not provide statistics relating to the frequency of the findings, nor do they permit comparisons between subgroups of study participants.
The next step in TASHRA’s research agenda, then, is to distribute a survey to a national kink population, which will allow us to quantify the impact of kink on both physical and mental health, and examine nation-wide issues of healthcare access, specifically as they relate to the experience of healthcare-related stigma.
TASHRA will be recruiting U.S. adults, 18 years and older, who practice at least one non-traditional sexual behavior or fetish, including but not limited to: bondage/discipline, sadism/masochism, domination/submission, sexual role-play, or sexual objectification.
The survey is available online at: http://tinyurl.com/kinkhealth. It will be advertised at kink conferences and community events across the country, along with kink-oriented social media sites and Facebook.
More about TASHRA:
TASHRA is a community-based organization whose mission is to improve the physical and mental health of people who engage in BDSM, kink and sexual fetishism. This is achieved by conducting community-based research, educating healthcare professionals and patients, and by fostering the development of kink-friendly healthcare services.
TASHRA was started in 2012 by Jess Waldura, MD, Richard Sprott, PhD, and Anna Randal, MPH MSW. Jess Waldura, MD, is a family physician, HIV provider, and researcher at UCSF. Richard Sprott, PhD, is a developmental psychologist and director of the Community-Academic Consortium for Research on Alternative Sexualities (CARAS). Anna Randall, MPH MSW, is a clinical sexologist and researcher in private practice. TASHRA is guided and supported by a Community Advisory Board consisting of 16 kink-identified community members.
In the fall of 2009, I started Bay Area Open Minds a clinician networking group for psychotherapists and psychotherapy students who affirm that sexual and gender diversity are natural expressions of the human experience. Our psychotherapy practices welcome and serve clients who engage in consensual sexual behaviors, including but not limited to kink and polyamory and clients who are gender variant. One of our primary goals was to provide mentorship and community to students seeking support in working with these communities who may not be getting such support in their graduate programs.
We now have over 160 mental health professionals in our thriving group. We have an active listserv where we can seek consultation and referrals. And we have developed a brochure and website so that clients can find clinicians and graduate programs can advertise our group.
We’d love to help other communities to create their own groups. If you’re interested in starting one, here are our recommendations.
1. If you are a student, find a Kink Aware Professional or Poly-Friendly Professional in your community and inquire as to whether they are willing to be a support/contact person to initiate group. It can be very stressful to take this on as a student but immensely helpful to have the support of licensed colleagues.
2. Our approach was to send the announcement to local LGBT therapy groups, graduate programs, local Kink Aware Therapists and Poly-Friendly colleagues who were known to Dr. Kolmes, founder of our group.
3. We got some more visibility through newspapers, at some graduate schools, through Good Vibrations magazine, and social media.
4. The first flyer was a blog post on Dr. Kolmes’s website and a paper announcement posted in public spaces. It read:
Please join our group: Bay Area Therapists Affirming of Diversity in Sexuality
This is a free group for mental health professionals in the Bay Area of California. We offer support, networking, and consultation for Bay Area clinicians and mental health trainees who embrace the full range of sexual expression of consenting adults. Our respective practices explicitly welcome and serve clients who engage in alternative sexual behaviors and relationships, including kink and poly folks.
We offer an email list (no consultation takes place on-list) and meet every other month at a member’s office.
We are especially interested in reaching out to students who may not have mentors or support in their clinical programs around working with sexually diverse populations. Most clinical programs encourage students to explore their cultural identities and offer student groups organized around ethnicity, religion, LGBT-identity, disability, or other cultural affiliations.
But students who are kink or poly-identified or who want to work with these populations may have a more difficult time identifying one another and forming such groups. Many schools still don’t recognize these alternative identities as deserving of non-biased care and respect. We are seeking to bridge this gap. We offer a safe space to connect with other mental health professionals who are affirming of the full range of diverse sexual expression.
Contact me if you would like to get connected with us.
5. Our first meeting had 8 clinicians show up and the group evolved to monthly two hour meetings. Volunteer efforts started with naming of our group and we came up with Open Minds. After 3 years, we formed our Board of Directors and began collecting dues. At that point, we created a logo, website, and brochures.
Our aim was to keep membership fees low so as to make our group accessible to students.
6. Having funding became important because while our local queer therapist group was amenable to our sharing booth space with them at some events temporarily, we needed funds in order to be able to purchase our own booth space and have an independent presence at street fairs.
7. Towards end of the first year with Board of Directors (June, 2012) , we consulted with a Certified Public Accountant for pursuit of non-profit status and submitted forms to the Tax Board to become tax exempt professional organization. When we have funds in excess of $5000, we may apply for non-profit status, or we can donate to community groups to keep our funds in the $5000 range.
8. Over time, we found that there is a strong need for a social and networking component to our group. Additionally, the email list has continued to be a good resource for seeking referrals and information. We have also been able to offer educational offerings such as managing sexual transference and countertransference as well as business networking issues. We also had a discussion on working with mono/poly pairings.
We hope we can encourage other communities to develop similar groups. It is clear that clinicians serving altsex and gender diverse communities can benefit from support and networking.
Join us and help serve as role models to student therapists in your community.
DirecTV's new series You, Me, Her is testing the limits of television with its push for threesomes and beyond.
Created by John Scott Shepherd, the show hopes to normalize polyamory and “unconventional relationships” in the culture.
Shepherd confirmed to The Contenders Emmys panel Sunday that the show aims to paint polyamory in a realistic way. The average person such as the viewer could find himself or herself in this atypical situation, he said.
Perhaps not surprisingly, You, Me, Her was inspired by an article in the raunchy Playboy magazine.
“I think people are going to be very surprised,” said Faia of her new role. “The show’s not about sex, it’s about connection and relationships."
Faia said she was aware of the nature of the show’s theme, but she hoped the audience could accept it.
“I think a lot of people have this expectation of what this show is going to be,” she said. “You see this guy, who’s married, who is possibly maybe having a threesome with these two women but I think it is so different from that. It’s totally told from a unique perspective. It’s about the average joe, this suburban couple that are really falling for this girl and she is falling for them.”
Faia said the show is not only funny but also relatable. She refrained from mentioning the commonness of polyamory in the United States, which is estimated to be around 4 percent of the population. ...
Cohabitators are outlaws again, but Utah says it won't go fishing.
A three-judge federal appeals court panel on Monday handed a setback to the burgeoning polyamorous rights movement, reversing a lower court ruling that decriminalized polygamous cohabitation in Utah.
The case was brought by the five-spouse Brown family of "Sister Wives" reality TV fame after local authorities openly investigated them for violating a state law against multispouse living arrangements. The family intends to appeal the latest ruling, their attorney Jonathan Turley said in a statement.
The Browns are fundamentalist Mormons who argue the U.S. Constitution allows them to live according to the teachings of their faith. They fled Lehi, Utah, in January 2011 after a deputy Utah County attorney quipped the family "made it easier for us by admitting to felonies on national TV."
In 2013, the family won a first-of-its-kind ruling from U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups, who ruled the First Amendment protected the Browns from such a ban and that – in light of the 2003 Supreme Court decision shielding consensual same-sex sodomy from state laws – such a prohibition also violates the Constitution's Due Process Clause.
The law challenged by the Browns says "a person is guilty of bigamy when, knowing he has a husband or wife or knowing the other person has a husband or wife, the person purports to marry another person or cohabits with another person." Waddoups ordered "or cohabits with another person" be deleted and narrowed the meaning of "purports to marry" but allowed a ban on multiple marriage licenses.
Like most other polygamists, Kody Brown only is legally married to his first wife, Meri, though he has children and lives with each of the four women. The family currently lives in Nevada.
On appeal, state officials argued the Browns had no right to sue, as the Utah County Attorney's Office had adopted a policy mooting the case in 2012, after the lawsuit was filed but before Waddoup's ruling. The prosecutor's office policy allows for prosecution of bigamy only under two conditions: when someone remarries without dissolving their first marriage or when bigamous couples or unwedded cohabitators are "also engaged in some type of abuse, violence or fraud."
Though Waddoups dismissed the policy as an attempt to avoid a ruling on the Browns' claims, the appeals court judges found the policy did moot the case and overturned Waddoups' ruling without consideration of the consitutional issues. ...