Atlanta Polyamory Conference is "Bringing Sexy Back"
by Winnie McCroy
Fans of relationship diversity will gather on June 6-8 for the Atlanta Poly Weekend, now celebrating its fourth year. This year’s theme is "Bringing Sexy Back."
"Atlanta Poly Weekend is a celebration of relationship diversity," write organizers. "Successful, intimate loving relationships come not just in couples, but sometimes in triads, quads, and larger networks -- ethically and transparently, with the full knowledge, consent, and well-wishing of everyone involved. That’s polyamory."
The three-day conference will give participants the unique opportunity to attend a wide variety of sessions on everyday poly living, group communication skills, activism and community organizing, radical theory, and more -- in lectures, workshops, discussion panels and sharings of personal experience.
Participants will explore the intersections between the polyamorous community and other sub-cultures and movements, and will discuss mainstream culture’s growing awareness of polyamory and the impact of this awareness both on polyamorous individuals and society as a whole.
Guest speakers include sociologist Dr. Elisabeth Sheff, Ph.D; author and activist Franklin Veaux; Nichole Little, Executive Director of the Sexual Health Education Research & Outreach (SHERO); Dr. Ken Haslam, MD Kinsey Institute; and over 15 others.
The Atlanta Poly Weekend is being presented by Relationship Equality Foundation, a Georgia Non Profit. Sponsors include the Relationship Equality Foundation and the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom. Proceeds from the event will benefit Lost and Found Youth Inc., Atlanta’s only housing facility for Homeless LGBT Youth.
The Atlanta Poly Weekend will be held from June 6-8 at the Holiday Inn Perimeter Chamblee Dunwoody RD, Atlanta, GA U.S.A. Admission is $60 per person.
Cassie Fuller is a teacher. She holds an education degree and has years of teaching experience. One of her favorite things is learning from her students.
No need to call her Ms. Fuller — it’s Madam Cassie to you.
Fuller, 30, is a kink instructor who teaches classes like grappling and struggling, polyfidelity and how to pleasure a woman. She likes to focus on “kinking responsibly.”
She’d like to expand the instruction of kink to those outside the tight-knit, secretive, kink community.
Kink is a softer way of saying BDSM, which Fuller says often has negative connotations. “You say BDSM and people start thinking dungeons and dominatrix. People in kink are your neighbors.” She defines kink as “anything that you add to normal, regular, missionary sex” including “eating strawberries off of your lover” or pulling someone’s hair while kissing them (with consent, of course). ...
Fuller explains that people are beginning to try kink at home, but there isn’t a great way for them to learn how to do so safely. She concedes there are “very good books” on the subject but “a book can’t tell me, ‘Hey this rope is a little too tight.’” She adds that the public is “going to try it with or without the education” and she’d like them to be informed properly on how to kink.
Her Baltimore-based business, TTB Ventures, teaches sexy education classes at kink conferences around the U.S., and began reaching out to the mainstream last year with a conference called Touch of Flavor targeted to people interested in learning about kink. Approximately 400 people attended. She also set up a booth with four other people at Baltimore’s Beer, Bourbon and BBQ festival teaching people how to do a rope tie.
“We had lines of people who were waiting to be tied up by us,” she says.
While interest is high, Madam Cassie’s mission isn’t without challenges. Her first Touch of Flavor conference had to be rescheduled when the venue’s management abruptly canceled the event because of its “adult topics” focus. Twitter and Groupon would not advertise her upcoming Touch of Flavor event in July, due to the content. These kinds of judgments from mainstream institutions are why the kink community remains tightly private about their interactions. ...
People don't necessarily give up their ability to consent to sex — including sadomasochistic encounters — when placed under the legal conservatorship of others because they are considered unable to handle their affairs, the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled Monday.
Lawyers in the case had said they couldn't recall any legal precedents in the country on whether mentally ill and disabled people can consent to sex or sadomasochism.
The state high court's decision came in the case of Greenwich resident Mary Kortner, who filed a sexual battery and assault lawsuit in 2006 on behalf of her now-dead daughter against fellow Greenwich resident and corporate executive Craig Martise.
Kortner said her daughter, who was mentally ill and partially paralyzed from a stroke in 2001, wasn't able to consent to the sadomasochistic sexual relationship she had with Martise over several months in 2003. But a jury determined in 2009 that Kortner's daughter, Caroline Kendall Kortner, was able to consent and found in favor of Martise, a married father of four who was never criminally charged.
Kortner, whose daughter died in 2010 at age 39 from an undisclosed illness, appealed.
The state Supreme Court granted Kortner a new trial on a technicality, saying a letter her daughter purportedly wrote in 2003 about unwanted sexual advances by another man was mistakenly given to the jury for deliberations despite not having been properly admitted into evidence.
Two of the seven justices were against granting a new trial. But the court was unanimous in its opinion that it is up to juries to decide if people are able to consent to sex, and the fact that someone is under a conservatorship doesn't automatically mean they can't consent.
While sadomasochism was glamorized in the popular book trilogy "Fifty Shades of Grey," the practice has long been on questionable legal ground. Some lawyers believe people can't consent to being assaulted or abused under common law, while others say established legal principles provide sexual rights to most people, including the elderly in nursing homes and the mentally ill.
Messages seeking comment were left Monday for Kortner and Martise.
Kortner's attorney, Christopher Burdett, said he disagreed with the court's finding on the consent issue, but he looked forward to a new trial.
"The fact remains that Craig Martise did something absolutely horrendous to Kendall Kortner and probably destroyed the last few years of her life, and he should answer for that," Burdett said.
Martise's lawyer, Philip Russell, said he and Martise are disappointed with the high court's decision, and he's worried about Martise having to endure another trial.
"It's devastating," Russell said. "He's a hardworking guy. He's a solid citizen. And he's worn this scarlet letter now for 11 years."
The start of a murder trial against Seth Mazzaglia last week captured much media attention, including from the national television shows "Dateline" and "48 Hours."
It also included unreported testimony about fetish fairs in Portsmouth, attracted a so-called photo bomber and was attended by Mazzaglia's self-described spiritual adviser.
Mazzaglia's trial began Wednesday in Strafford Superior Court where his lawyers defended against charges alleging Mazzaglia strangled, then raped University of New Hampshire student Lizzi Marriott, on Oct. 9, 2012, after she said no to a threesome with his girlfriend Kathryn "Kat" McDonough.
Prosecutors and defense attorneys said the couple was involved with sadomasochist sexual activity, sometimes involving third parties. During his opening arguments on Tuesday, defense attorney Joachim Barth told jurors that Mazzaglia and McDonough enjoyed role playing through theater, gaming and "even in their sex lives."
Together they'd gone to "BSDM conventions," he said, including one "at the Frank Jones Center in Portsmouth."
While Barth hasn't mentioned the Portsmouth convention again, online archives document a "fetish fair" at the Frank Jones Center on June 29, 2013, and another one there a year earlier. "Produced by the New England Leather Alliance," last year's fetish fair featured more than 35 vendors with "fabulous toys, gear, erotica," as well as "mini classes and demos," it was advertised. The Portsmouth event was promoted as a chance to "mix and mingle with your fellow kinksters."
The advertisement also urged people to "try out your fabulous rope purchases in the Rope Lounge." Just three months after the 2012 fetish fair in Portsmouth, Mazzaglia is alleged to have strangled Marriott with a rope.
Prosecutor Peter Hinckley said during his opening arguments last week that Mazzaglia approached Marriott from behind, placed a rope around her neck, choked her until she was unconscious, then continued to hold the rope for "minutes afterward."
"He struck quick and he struck without warning and without any mercy whatsoever," the prosecutor said. "He didn't let go until she could no longer say no to him." Marriott, he said, let out a "quick cry" before she died, while McDonough did nothing to stop him.
According to an online listing by the New England Leather Alliance, a third annual fetish fair will be held at the Frank Jones Center on July 12. ...
A blockbuster trial involving sex, bondage, murder and a missing body will begin unfolding today, and a media scrum will envelop a small New Hampshire courthouse, as the case carries with it shades of the infamous Amanda Knox trial.
Seth Mazzaglia, 31, is charged with raping and murdering Elizabeth “Lizzi” Marriott — a 19-year-old University of New Hampshire student whose body has never been found. She was also a native of Westboro, Mass.
The case has eerie similarities to the Knox trial, in which Italian authorities originally held tight to the theory that Meredith Kercher — a young exchange student — was sexually abused and killed during a drug- and drink-fueled orgy. Knox, who was allegedly involved, was convicted, acquitted, and re-convicted of the heinous crime. She has appealed.
Today, national media — hungry for a scandal-page cover sheet — will arrive in Dover, N.H., looking for the next “Foxy Knoxy” case.
Court documents depict ?a seedy crime scene in which Mazzaglia allegedly strangled Marriott during a masochistic sexcapade with his then-girlfriend Kathryn McDonough.
“Mazzaglia … admitted that he had used a rope to strangle Elizabeth as part of a sex act,” said Dover police Sgt. Scott Pettingill, in an ?affidavit.
Marriott died soon after, and Mazzaglia dumped her body in the nearby Piscataqua River, according to Pettingill’s affidavit.
McDonough will be a key witness and, as part of a plea deal, will testify that Mazzaglia raped and killed Marriott. She will spend 11?2 to three years in prison, but while the strategy could sting Mazzaglia, it may not be a slam dunk, according to one expert.
“It could be that the defense uses her to introduce some reasonable doubt. What’s her motive? She got an incredibly good deal here,” said Sven Wilberg, a New Hampshire criminal defense attorney not involved in the case. “How can it be a knockout punch, unless it’s undeniable? If it’s just ‘he said, she said,’ it’s a credibility contest.”
Both prosecutors and defense attorneys will introduce evidence regarding the sexual relationship between McDonough and Mazzaglia, which reportedly involved bondage and occasionally inviting others to join the fray.
The lurid details will force both prosecutors and defense counsel to tread carefully.
“Frankly, it’s a concern for both sides. For the state, the issue is whether the jurors would judge the victim differently based on her perceived role in explicit sexual conduct,” said?James Rosenberg,?a criminal defense attorney who once worked for the state’s homicide unit but is not involved in the case. “For the defendant, any ?information regarding other bad acts could bring up the ?issue of prejudice. Perceived?sexual misconduct could prejudice the jury’s view of the defendant.” ...
This past weekend I attended International Mr. Leather, one of the biggest leather and fetish events in the world, held every year in downtown Chicago. I was in attendance both as a member of the media and as curious spectator. IML had granted me media passes for Full Disclosure, the sex-positive podcast I host, meaning I was granted a lot "behind the scenes" access to events.
If you've never been to IML, it's a four-day long event that features kink-friendly parties and social gatherings, culminating in a beauty pageant-esque competition of leather title holders from across the world to be International Mr. Leather.
Much like the leather community in general, IML is overwhelmingly represented by gay males. While leather fetishes are by no means exclusive to gay men, the amount of women I encountered at the event could more or less be counted on two hands, as compared to the thousands of men I saw.
But the more time that I spent at the event, the more I had to question whether or not the ratio of men to women I saw was truly representative of those within the leather community, or whether or not there was some sort of institutionalized segregation of women.
The majority of the events at IML were headquartered at the Marriot's downtown Chicago location. Security was positioned at every entrance to the hotel along with signs that warned any passerby that the hotel was closed for a private event. As many of us stepped outside during the weekend to use our cellphones, at no point did I ever see security stop a man, be he dressed in a leather harness, t-shirt or peacoat.
But I did very clearly see security stop a woman, admonishing her that this was a private adult event taking place.
"Yeah, I know. That's exactly what I'm here for," she replied.
Most of the debauchery doesn't take place at the IML-sponsored events, but rather in the private hotel rooms of guests at the Marriot. While some of the parties I was invited to were private, closed-door events, others literally had an open door policy, allowing people to wander in and out of the room freely.
I was with my female friend at the time when we were invited to one such party on the 46th floor (the top floor) in a massive suite. Upon entering we found encompassed in near complete darkness, illuminated only by the glow of the city night's lights which the room overlooked. It was also exceptionally humid -- I'd estimate there were about 150 bodies crammed into the suite, doing pretty much everything your imagination will let you.
But despite the relative anonymity that darkness afforded, it only took five minutes before my friend was asked to leave.
"You can't be here. You're a woman," she was told.
My friend is a naturally shy and reserved person who's recently expressed an interest in the kink and BDSM community. While IML seemed like an opportune time to explore these interests, she was nervous about doing so -- intimidation, internal struggle and fear of rejection are frequent barriers when it comes to people openly exploring their own sexuality.
I stepped in, approaching the man who was kicking her out. It was unclear whether this man was the actual tenant of the suite or one of the hundred-plus strangers who had entered into the room and felt threatened by the presence of a woman.
"She's not causing any trouble. She's with me," I said.
"This is a party for men. Women aren't allowed," he retorted.
"We'll leave. But I'm just curious -- how do you define a man?"
This summer, millions of people will crowd into theaters to watch the latest Paranormal Activity. They’ll visit Coney Island to ride the new Thunderbolt. They’ll challenge their friends to chili-dog-eating contests and guffaw at jokes about the digestive results. Why do we enjoy aversive experiences, from horror flicks to roller coasters to spicy foods to gross-out humor? Scientists are discovering that such enjoyment comes not from the raw experience itself, but from our reflections on our pain.
Paul Rozin of the University of Pennsylvania has done the most to elucidate what he calls “benign masochism.” Three decades ago he wrote about people’s enjoyment of chili peppers. (He found that for many, the preferred level of hotness is just below what’s unbearable.) “I presented the idea in the 1980s, but nobody noticed,” he said — with a few exceptions such as Paul Bloom’s How Pleasure Works. So he decided to reintroduce it in a more systematic way. In a paper published last year in Judgment & Decision Making, he and his collaborators provided the most thorough survey of unpleasant experiences to date. ...
... The common thread in our enjoyment of hot peppers, dark humor, and all the rest is a salient understanding that no real danger is afoot. A few years ago, a study by Eduardo Andrade and Joel Cohen explored the importance of a “protective frame” reminding us that an experience is safe. Two groups of subjects, those who love horror movies and those who avoid them, watched a scene from Salem’s Lot while continuously rating how happy they were and how scared they were. In one experiment, everyone simply watched the film. Both groups equally reported being scared, but the horror fans were simultaneously happy, while the non-fans were made unhappy by the mayhem. Then, in another test, horror lovers and haters first read short biographies of the actors, and while watching the scene they saw photos of the actors next to the film. The tweaks offered a protective frame reminding viewers: It’s just a movie! This time, both groups found joy in being scared.
No discussion of this subject would be complete without a mention of sadomasochism. A meta-analysis by Joseph Critella and Jenny Bivona of 20 studies found that between 31 and 57 percent of women have erotic rape fantasies. What psychologically separates these scenarios from actual rape is that they’re fantasies, and women know they’re fantasies. It’s hard to enjoy domination if you don’t ultimately trust your partner. Having a “safe word,” besides adding real protection, can enable pleasure even when it goes unused.
Other researchers have studied various aspects of the metacognitive process that extracts joy from misery. Most notably, the economist George Loewenstein wrote that mountaineers enjoy their dangerous adventures in part because of a sense of mastery. The realization that you can weather pain and fear and still conquer your environment brings a sense of control and self-confidence.
Recently, Werner Wirth and colleagues showed that when watching Hotel Rwanda, sadness was associated with not just a sense of mastery over negative feelings but also a sense of personal growth and the feeling that important life values had been illuminated. In the lingo, sadness reduced hedonic value and raised eudaimonic value, trading happiness for meaningfulness. Relatedly, Mary Beth Oliver and Arthur Raney found that preferences for nonfiction, drama, and sci-fi movies are negatively correlated with the desire to have fun while watching a movie, but are positively correlated with a desire for meaning — reflection and a challenged worldview.
And sometimes, unpleasantness appeals simply for its novelty. Anat Keinan and Ran Kivetz have looked at “collectable experiences”: many people choose unusual activities (e.g., staying in an ice hotel) over pleasurable ones (staying at a Marriott in Florida) as a way to build their “experiential CV,” thus feeling productive. In other words, it seems we want to map and master the full range of potential human experience.
A SWINGERS’ club in Limerick city, pitched as “the home of Irish erotica”, has been “inundated” with job applications, with many highly skilled professionals seeking part time work at the club.
The club, called i-kandi in the Eastway Business Park, is advertising for a ‘shift operator’ in their premises for 20 hours a week, and has received over 100 applications, with more continuing to come in on a daily basis.
The job advert has appeared on the Department of Social Protection website, and prompted one local citizen to contact the department to call for it to be taken down, as he believed it should not be on a Government website due to the “sordid” nature of the business.
However, the advert has remained on their site for a number of weeks and the owners of the business insist what goes on behind their doors is just “harmless fun”, contrary to some people’s perceptions.
One of the company directors said he found the number and calibre of candidates coming forward “astonishing”.
“Honestly, we have been inundated with applications from very highly qualified people looking for work, from engineers to law graduates. It’s a very sad state of affairs to think that so many highly skilled people are looking for part time work,” director Eamon Ryan told the Limerick Leader.
He continued: “The calibre of people we get is very high indeed. We are very grateful for our employees, both past and present, and we do our best for them in any way we can. It’s a win–win situation. We get very qualified, indeed over qualified people, and they in turn get a flexible, part-time job that’s non-stressful, and conducive to furthering their degree or study programmes. We treat our employees very well, we don’t do minimum wage either, and many of our employees have been with us for a long time,” he said.
He said the five-year-old club, which operates seven nights a week and attracts customers from across the country and beyond, is “just like any other night venue” in some senses, “just more ‘European’ in nature”.
“Our customer base is more national and international rather than local. We attract an eclectic mix, of mainly foreigners, into the fetish, and swingers’ club scene. People get to dress a lot more risqué at our venue than at a regular club, but it’s all just harmless fun.
“Our clients tend to find the standard cookie-cutter drinking and rugby scene somewhat boring. We offer a refreshing alternative for mainly home sick foreigners, and a growing number of Irish people that have had their eyes opened up on holiday abroad,” he said.
Mr Ryan said they have never had any anti-social behaviour incident at their venue, which he attributes to the age profile, international make-up of their clients, and also as the club is not largely focused on drinking. ...