Sponsored by the Seattle Erotic Arts Festival and the Foundation and Center for Sex-Positive Culture
Tristan Taormino will give the Keynote at the Luncheon from noon to 1 pm. Tristan Taormino is an award-winning writer, sex educator, speaker, filmmaker, and radio host. She is the editor of 25 anthologies and author of eight books, including The Ultimate Guide to Kink and The Feminist Porn Book: The Politics of Producing Pleasure. As the head of Smart Ass Productions, she has directed and produced twenty-four sex educational and erotic films. She is the host of Sex Out Loud, a weekly radio show on the VoiceAmerica Network.
Along with Tristan, other experts including Judge Rudy Serra, consent activist Kitty Stryker, Riddhi Mukhopadhyay, Brett Houghton, Sar Surmick, Jim Duvall, Judy Guerin, Kevin Carlson, Susan Wright and more will headline the Panel Discussions and Workshops:
* Consent & the Law * Consent Activism: Past, Present and Future * Affirmative Consent and College Campuses * Negotiation & Consent * Consent in Power Exchange Relationships * Train the Trainers: How to educate about consent
$50 - All day event with luncheon ticket for Keynote $40 - All day event without luncheon $35 - All day reduced price and students $30 - Luncheon and Keynote ticket $75 – All day event with luncheon ticket and pay it forward*
*Pay it forward allows those who are economically advantaged to assist people who aren't. It's a reminder to all of us that money can create barriers between us. If you need a scholarship to attend, please contact NCSF to find out more -
All tickets include Seattle Erotic Arts Festival admission on Sunday and 15% off the Weekend Pass for the Seattle Erotic Arts Festival.
In early January, law enforcement in the Seattle area seized thereviewboard.net, a website where local sex workers posted advertisements and clients reviewed their services. In related police raids, people who ran and moderated the site were among those arrested and charged with promoting prostitution, a felony.
That was just the most recent salvo in what human rights advocates call an "ongoing war against sex" under the guise of fighting sex trafficking.
Last August, federal and state law enforcement officials in New York City shut down the gay escort site Rentboy.com and charged seven of its employees with promoting prostitution and laundering money. Earlier in 2015, the sheriff of Cook County, Ill., pressured MasterCard and Visa to stop processing financial transactions for backpage.com, a classifieds site, because it published ads for sex workers. (Backpage has since sued the sheriff.) And in 2014, federal authorities shut down myRedbook.com, a California-based site that allowed sex workers to post ads and share tips about doing sex work safely.
These closures represent a crusade to stamp out advertising outlets for sex workers. But that's not how law enforcement portrays it. They claim to be fighting sex trafficking, which federal law defines as the recruitment, harboring, transportation or obtaining of a person for commercial sex through the use of force, fraud or coercion.
Shortly after the Seattle raids, for instance, Bellevue Police Chief Steve Mylett said that his men, working with the King County Sheriff's office and the FBI, had broken up a "well-organized ring promoting sex slavery." Likewise, the Cook County sheriff called backpage.com a haven for pimps and traffickers.
There's one big problem with that narrative: There's little evidence that these web sites abet sex trafficking. But we do know that shutting them down these makes life more dangerous for sex workers.
The ability to advertise online allows sex workers to more carefully screen potential customers, negotiate safe sex (i.e. sex with condoms), and work indoors. Researchers conclude that when sex workers can't advertise online, they are often forced to work on the street, where they are more likely to encounter violent clients. They also are more likely be dependent on exploitative pimps to find customers.
"Now these women have one less safe advertising venue," Savannah Sly, a Seattle sex worker and president of Sex Workers Outreach Project, said after thereviewboard.net was shuttered. Ditto for the sex workers who advertised on Rentboy.com, myRedbook.com and Backpage.com. "What the removal of these advertising sites do is remove low-risk clients from the client pool," Sly added. "And because you have reduced demand, you're more likely to agree to see the guy who is more dangerous."
That appears to be what happened in Sweden, after that country made it illegal to purchase sex services (but not to provide them) in 2000. Sex workers there were exposed to more violent clients when they lost many of their regular low-risk clients. Transactions with remaining clients also became more rushed, so sex workers had less time and ability to negotiate safe sex and assess potentially dangerous clients.
And in the end, criminalizing sex clients in Sweden actually increased the overall number of sex workers, and did not reduce trafficking in the region at all.
Countries that have decriminalized sex work and regulated it to some degree (such as the Netherlands and New Zealand) also report no increase in the sex trafficking of minors and illegal immigrants. At the same time, sex workers in those countries are better able to protect themselves — from physical harm and sexually transmitted diseases. Because they don't fear police harassment, legalized sex workers are also more comfortable working with police to target traffickers and abusive clients. ...
The OkCupid message Mollena Williams received in December 2013 was, in some ways, standard. It was complimentary: “Wow — your profile is great.” It was confident: “I am an artist, very successful (probably member of the top 10 or 20 in my genre in the world).” It was polite, signing off with “warm wishes.”
But something was a bit out of the ordinary, speaking to its author’s interest in domination and submission. The central desire? “I would like to tame you.”
The writer was Georg Friedrich Haas, whose powerfully emotional, politically charged music and explorations of microtonality make him one of the world’s leading composers. His work had brought widespread acclaim, but his personal life was troubled, with three failed marriages in his wake, when he met Ms. Williams, a writer and sex educator who specializes in alternative lifestyles. Shortly after he messaged her, the two began a relationship and were married last fall.
Composers do their work offstage and largely out of the public eye. But all music is influenced by its makers’ personal lives and, in many cases through history, their grappling with sexuality. Tchaikovsky’s struggle with his homosexuality helped create music of agonizing longing.
The Austrian-born Mr. Haas, 62, a music professor at Columbia University since 2013, has recently been increasingly open about the unusual nature of his marriage, which he says has dramatically improved his productivity and reshaped his artistic outlook. He will be the subject of a two-concert American Immersion series on Wednesday and Friday presented by the Austrian Cultural Forum, which includes the American premiere of his “I can’t breathe,” a dirgelike solo trumpet memorial to Eric Garner.
In a joint appearance with his wife, who now goes by Mollena Williams-Haas, late last year at the Playground sexuality conference in Toronto, then in an interview this month in the online music magazine VAN, he has “come out,” as he put it, as the dominant figure in a dominant-submissive power dynamic. Mr. Haas has chosen to speak up, both because Ms. Williams-Haas’s sexual interests are widely known (her blog, The Perverted Negress, is not shy about kink and bondage) and because he hopes to embolden younger people, particularly composers, not to smother untraditional urges, as he did.
The fundamental feature of their relationship is not obviously sexual, Mr. Haas and Ms. Williams-Haas, 46, said in an interview at their airy apartment near Columbia, with expansive views of the Hudson River. “It’s not caning,” he said. “It’s the fact that I need someone who is with me when I work.”
Their marriage can seem, in this regard, distinctly old-fashioned, and not in a Marquis de Sade way. While the terms they negotiated at the start of their relationship do not prevent her from pursuing her own professional and personal life, Ms. Williams-Haas devotes much of her time to supporting the work of a man — “Herr Meister,” she has nicknamed him — for whom a “good day” is one in which he composes for 14 or 15 hours.
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“She makes my life as comfortable as possible,” Mr. Haas said.
Ms. Williams-Haas, who described the situation as feminist because it is her choice, said, “I find intense fulfillment in being able to serve in this way.”
She conceded the discomfort many may feel with a black woman willingly submitting to a white man. “It’s a struggle to say, ‘This is genuinely who I am,’” she said. But she added, “To say I can’t play my personal psychodrama out just because I’m black, that’s racist.”
Mr. Haas said that he felt liberated after what he described as a lifetime’s and three divorces’ worth of suppressing what he once considered “devilish” desires. The change has altered his music in ways both quantifiable and more ineffable. He said that his productivity had roughly doubled since meeting Ms. Williams-Haas, which will delight his fans.
And while his work has not lost its moody, queasy darkness, he identifies a new hopefulness in it. His 2015 opera “Morgen und Abend,” for example, ends with a scene of a dead father unable to communicate with his living daughter. “Before I met you,” Mr. Haas said to Ms. Williams-Haas, “this end would be very desperate. Now this end is full of ‘Yeah, we have to die, we have to leave, but the life of love still remains.’” (Michael White, writing in The New York Times, called the opera “a serious and sober, though ultimately radiant, imagining of what it might be like to die and pass into another kind of sentience.”)
Mr. Haas contrasted the effect on his style to the struggles of Schubert and Tchaikovsky with homosexuality. “What you perceive is not the fact that they desired men,” he said, “but the sadness about the impossibility to make love a reality. And I think that has been part of my music. The fundamental pessimism. You never will get what you want because it’s not possible to get it. That is how my life has changed so intensely.” ...
This past Saturday, February 20th, would have been the 123rd birthday of Elizabeth Holloway Marston. She’s not exactly what you’d call famous, but you’ve probably guessed who she is from the headline and illustration above.
Elizabeth Holloway Marston was a psychologist, and the wife of fellow psychologist William Moulton Marston, who’s credited with creating Wonder Woman. At least, she was one of his wives, depending on how you look at it. She was his legal wife, to be sure, but the two lived with a third partner, Olive Byrne, and each woman bore two of Marston’s children.
Given that it wouldn’t have been safe for the Marstons and Byrne to write or give interviews about their polyamorous lives in first half of the 20th century, there’s a lot we don’t know about the structure of their relationships to each other. A lot of accounts by outsiders make heteronormative assumptions, framing the story as William Marston convincing his wife to let his mistress live with them. But William Marston died in 1947, and the two women lived together until Byrne’s death in the 1980s. We don’t know for sure if they were lovers, but they were certainly partners, and had to have considered each other family.
According to Jill Lepore’s Secret History of Wonder Woman, the family was part of a larger “sex cult” that practiced free love and advocated the superiority of women. Lepore also writes that a third woman, Marjorie Huntley, was an occasional member of their household and helped out with the inking and lettering of Wonder Woman comics.
Elizabeth Holloway Marston was also involved in the production of Wonder Woman, and indeed with her creation. Multiple sources credit her with the idea to make the superhero a woman, including this 1992 profile in the New York Times. It’s hard to know what other ideas were hers, as she and Byrne were clearly close confidantes of her husband. She was also involved with the creation of the polygraph lie detector, for which she similarly receives no credit.
Men receiving all the credit for collaborations with their wives is nothing new; in fact it might be the sharing of credit that’s a recent development. Margret Rey, for example, wrote the Curious George children’s books alongside her illustrator husband H.A. Rey, but only his name appeared on the covers for decades. Then there are even more egregious examples, like the painter Margaret Keane, whose husband took credit for her sole creations until she took legal action.
So if we acknowledge Elizabeth Holloway Marston as a collaborator in the creation of Wonder Woman, it seems entirely unacceptable to let her go uncredited, especially given the nature of the character. For all that we could quibble about the differences between the Marstons’ female-supremacist philosophy and feminism as we know it, Wonder Woman has long been embraced by feminists, down to appearing on the cover of the first issue of Gloria Steinem’s Ms. magazine. Whatever else she is, Wonder Woman was the first major female superhero, and remains one of the most significant.
With Wonder Woman soon to arrive on the big screen, it’s time that we in comics stop feeling uncomfortable with the circumstances of her creation, and the lives of her creators.
Right now, on Wonder Woman media, DC uses the line “Wonder Woman created by William Moulton Marston.” A better choice might be “Wonder Woman created by William Moulton Marston and Elizabeth Holloway Marston.” I’d even consider “Wonder Woman created by William Moulton Marston and Elizabeth Holloway Marston, with Olive Byrne.” There doesn’t seem to be much direct information about what Byrne contributed to the character, but she was certainly another confidante, and a constant presence in the Marstons’ lives throughout that era. One thing we do know is that Wonder Woman’s distinctive wrist cuffs were based on bracelets that Olive wore. ...
As with every type of relationship, intimate partner violence (IPV) can occur in relationships that include consensual BDSM. Now NCSF can educate your local victim service providers about the difference between kink and abuse.
The National Coalition for Sexual Freedom is offering a free, half-day training on how to work effectively with these clients. After completing this interactive workshop, participants will leave with the cultural competency to serve clients who incorporate BDSM into their intimate relationships.
Topics will include:
•BDSM-affirming language to use during intake
•Research about BDSM participants and why they may be reluctant to reach out to service providers
•Composite case studies of situations handled by the NCSF and trained IPV service providers.
On-site training is available for locations in, or within an hour from, the metropolitan Washington, D.C area. Otherwise, training will take place over an online platform like Google Hangouts or Skype. (If on-site training is desired outside the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, requesting agency will be responsible for travel and lodging costs.)
Ashley Haymond brings experience in training development and group facilitation to her work. She has extensive knowledge of the BDSM community and an understanding of the latest research in violence prevention. Ashley is working towards her PhD at the Widener University Center for Human Sexuality Studies.
The National Coalition for Sexual Freedom is committed to creating a political, legal, and social environment in the United States that advances the equal rights of consenting adults who practice forms of alternative sexual and relationship expression. NCSF advances the rights and advocates for consenting adults in the BDSM-Leather-Fetish, swing, and polyamory communities. We pursue our vision through direct services, education, advocacy, and outreach in conjunction with our partner organizations to directly benefit these communities. www.ncsfreedom.org
Pease contact: Susan Wright – 917.848.6544 or email
A lot of people spend their time worrying whether or not their sexual desires and practices fit in with what society deems “normal.” Well, fret not my friends, because that's a hot load of garbage. Some of the allegedly "taboo" sex acts society savagely judges and looks down upon are actually really, really good for your relationships and mental health, and the ones labeled “normal” are the ones that, well, kinda suck. We dug deep into three sexy topics that might be secret to happiness. Enjoy.
Contrary to popular belief, freaky sex is good for you. Seriously.
According to a study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, people who like who like bondage, hot wax, and other Fifty Shades of Grey-style kinks scored significantly higher on various mental health tests than their one-position-lights-off counterparts. That may be hard to believe, considering how nipple clamps don't always seem that sane, but you can’t argue with science.
In that study, 902 BDSM lovers, and 434 non-kinky people were surveyed on their personalities, overall well-being, attachment style, and sensitivity to rejection. Analysis of the questionnaires revealed that those who embraced the kink were less neurotic, more secure in relationships, had a better time dealing with rejection, and were generally mentally healthier than the vanilla participants.
Interestingly enough, BDSM is listed in the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, a.k.a. the psychiatrist’s bible, meaning kinky people are thought to have some sort of mental abnormality. I think we can categorically call bullshit on that one, because people who love so-called "boring" sex are statistically crazier than kinky people. Who knew.
Lead author of the study, Andreas Wismeijer, told LiveScience that BDSM aficionados probably scored higher on the mental health questionnaires because they’re more aware of their sexual desires, and they don’t feel the need hide anything from their partners. We already know that bottling up emotions of any kind, including sexual ones, takes a huge toll on mental health, so it only makes sense that kinky people would have better mental health than those who are potentially sexually frustrated. ...
“I’ve had people think weird things about my sexuality that are absolutely connected to my disability, but the experience was not that I had no sexuality — it was that I had a fucked up sexuality,” says Lyric Seal aka Neve Be, a queercrip writer, performance artist and adult film star, in an interview for Autostraddle. “Many people who work in disability and sexuality media want to make the goal: let’s sexualize disabled people; let’s make sure they know that they have bodies. I’m like, no, it’s more complicated than that.”
Why is it that when navigating experiences of sexual marginalization, we are so often pressured into traps of disavowal? To disclaim, dismiss and deny the messy, fleshy trails our bodies followed before and may seek to travel again? When encountering questions of sex and disability, the overemphasis on whether or not crips have been either desexualized or hypersexualized is a necessary and important social critique, and yet it also enforces the notion that the experience of crip sex only offers insight into the experience of discrimination. Put simply: even within the most sexually progressive circles, people with disabilities are rarely considered experts on anything other than ableism — let alone how to fuck and get fucked.
What follows, then, is a conversation meant to move beyond the erosive architecture of “do they/don’t they”; a conversation bigger than the over-rehearsed scripts about disability and sexuality that lead to predictable, shallow conclusions about oppression and embodiment. Conclusions that measure the worth of disabled people by their capacity to reinstate norms from the periphery rather than provide alternative knowledge from the center.
Wheelchairs, specifically, hold tremendous symbolic power. As the representative icon of disability in an ableist world, the body of the wheelchair (and its user) is overwhelmingly associated with abjection and otherness. Exploring the erotic significance of wheelchairs, though, is not a reactionary move toward inclusion, but an opportunity to refuse the limited choices available for sexual narration. To willingly inhabit a space abandoned by ableism, negated by ableism, so as to disorganize the definitional power of ableism.
To do so, I spoke with three queercrip wheelchair users — Seal (HARLOT Magazine, Slumber Party Series), Stella Palikarova (Deliciously Disabled ) and Bethany Stevens (Crip Confessions) about the meanings of partnership, service, touch, pain, fantasy and more.
Autostraddle: How does romance or sex factor into your relationship with your wheelchair?
Bethany Stevens: My wheelchair is a sexually assistive aid, which sounds like a clinical way to say I try to fuck it and fuck in it. Despite my efforts to figure out how to penetrate myself with bits of it, it never works with the angles of my vagina and the parts of my chair. It works wonderfully to assist in sexual activities with others, people can lean their legs on my chair while I penetrate various body parts. My large wheels are taller than my seat, so people can lean on them as they straddle me so they are not bearing weight on my body.
Lyric Seal: I have two chairs. The power chair is named Gianna and she is metallic Barbie pink. She’s a high crip femme. She is hot and fast and yet a subtle performer. My other chair is Michelangelo. He is more of a lost boy and we’ve adventured for nine years together, so I treat him with a lot of respect. And while I do involve him in the sexual things I do, he’s not a sex toy to me. And someone else cannot use him in the same way that I use him. We can use him as an assistive device in our moment, and we can also use him as a sexy device, but he’s my partner, not someone else’s partner. My relationship to him has been really romantic.
Stella Palikarova: I always refer to my wheelchair as female because she’s fast and efficient. I try to think about ways to make her sexy or ways to make being in the chair sexy. Lap dances are great.
Stevens: I also dance a fair amount, with my chair being stroked as part of erotic dancing. This seems to be titillating to other people, and I think that may be true because the wheelchair frame serves as a visual genital surrogate for my partners — they feel stroked when my hands graze up and down my frame.
Seal: I have choreographed duets and dance pieces with my chair that are primarily about some kind of eternal service relationship. What does it mean to always have an imbalanced relationship or always have a function for someone? People who identify as service bottoms or service tops love that. And I think that being able to anthropomorphize my chair in that way has been really helpful to me in imagining that it doesn’t have to be a burden for someone to be eternally in service to someone else.
Palikarova: You can also incorporate the wheelchair into part of your foreplay. Not everyone transfers out of their wheelchairs for sexual activity based on their disability. For many people the wheelchair is the site of their sexual pleasure. Personally, I like to incorporate the chair into role-play. Like if my chair is my throne or my chariot and my partner is worshiping me in it. I remember playing a sexy game once where my partner’s head was not allowed to be higher than mine. That was fun! ...